ASIN: B00B1UOE7S Cover Reveal

I’m putting the finishing touches on the second e-book of the Green Crystal fantasy series, which stars Nick Andrews, a 12-year-old boy whom I featured in my previous post. The book, “Day of the Fairies,” is another short story, and it replaces the following books that I published at Amazon from 2013 to 2016:

Trespassing: The Ridgewood Chronicles, Book 2

and Trespassing: A Vree Erickson Novel

The novel moved to another series of books. (More about that in a future post.) As for the new book, I’m aiming for a Halloween release, so stay tuned for more info.

So, before I run off to put on my editor’s cap, here’s the new cover:

Day of the Fairies: A Ridgewood Chronicles Short Story

Okay, time for me to run. Peace, love, and good health, everyone!

ASIN: B00AY2K1H6

In January of 2013, I published an e-book short story at Amazon about a teenage boy who joins up with his friends and sits around a campfire and tells ghost stories. All goes well until hell hounds break up their party and chase the boy off the edge of a cliff. Spoiler: He lives.

The e-book was based on a short story I wrote in my ninth grade Creative Writing class about a teenage girl who camps on a ridge with her friends overnight and sees ghost dogs prowling the countryside.

The story went through several drafts because my English teacher wanted me to consider different points of view and gender relationships. We also studied various dramatic elements, which resulted in the girl dying and returning as a ghost in one version. In another version, a witch saves her from falling off a cliff and they become friends. I finished the course with a dozen drafts of a story that had begun with a girl and some ghost dogs and ended with a boy and some hell hounds.

”Hell hounds” became condensed to “hellhounds” during a rewrite for the 2013 Amazon book and I was happy with the plot and character results. I published more short stories that year and made them a series called “The Ridgewood Chronicles.” Then I took a long sabbatical during 2014 to plan and write a novel.

Self-publishing wasn’t new to me — I’d published several of my stories via desktop publishing, and I’d been making them available in PDF format at my website since the early 1990s. Whenever I made changes to my stories, I republished them as a new edition. But I went a step further with Amazon’s Kindle publishing program: I replaced my short story with the novel with the same title.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I learned that I should have published the novel as a separate book with a different title. But there was no manual at Amazon telling me about the ensuing difficulties of my readers getting the old book replaced by the new one on their Kindle readers. The same applied to when I changed the cover art in 2015. Past purchases stayed unchanged.

So, old readers had my short story and new readers had my novel. When people talked about Night of the Hellhounds, I didn’t know which story they referred to — the short or the long. It was confusing. So, in 2016, I changed the novel’s title to end the confusion. Or so I though, haha. I was wrong.

The book almost became Cursed. Hindsight: I wished I’d not changed my mind. Instead, I titled it Margga’s Curse — a name difficult to pronounce correctly. Margga is pronounced marj-GAH.

Margga’s Curse ran for a year before I took all my books off Amazon’s market. (It’s still available for free at Smashwords, ISBN: 9781311627582, but I plan to take it off that market next year.)

Some people who have the old Kindle versions of this book may hate me when I say this, but I’m publishing a new version of ASIN: B00AY2K1H6 — all brand-new, though it will have its old and original title: “Night of the Hell Hounds” — later this year. It’s a 3,800-word Halloween short story about 12-year-old Nick Andrews who loses his big brother to war. After the funeral, he discovers that his brother had access to magic via a computer program and a green crystal pendant that can send the wearer of the pendant to another dimension of reality. He ends up at a cemetery in Ridgewood where someone has stolen the sacred bones of its protector dogs and turned them into vicious hell hounds. He meets three others trapped with him inside the cemetery. One of those people is Vree Erickson, but she’s a minor character. This is Nick’s story and it’s the first book of the Green Crystal series, even though it’s listed as a Ridgewood Chronicles short story in the subtitle.

Because of Nick’s age and the story’s subject matter, Amazon will likely shove this in its Young Adult Fantasy section. I don’t write to an audience, so I didn’t write this to be a kid’s book. Though I don’t use profanity or explore sexual matter (a reflection of my childhood), I do explore dealing with death and the pain of loss that comes with it, the good and bad of escapism, and the desires of wanting to belong to friendships, wanting to be loved, and wanting to be happy in life.

I’m planning a Halloween release. Stay tuned for more info.

Peace and love!

Judging A Book By Cover

I am trying to understand the reasoning behind the popular talk nowadays among indie authors about how to best present our book covers. Most of the how-to info is very complicated, and most of the advice ends with “Let a professional do it.” The idea is to hook the potential reader before they look inside the book.

I’m an old-school reader and buyer of books that began in the 1960s. Many of my purchases back then were paperbacks because they were affordable. Even in the 1970s when I entered the workforce and had a weekly income, I still bought paperbacks. So did my friends. Often, we went book hunting on Saturday afternoons, hitting the malls in search of our next read.

The covers on paperback books (and hardcovers) were simple in design. It was often the title that caught my eye. If it sounded interesting, I would flip the book over and read the back cover copy. That’s what either prompted me to buy the book or return it to the shelf.

Most online bookstores today have a feature equivalent to the old back cover copy. It’s the short blurb off to the side of the book cover on display. I call it the “What is this book about?” feature. And it’s here where an author either convinces me to buy their book or prompts me to continue browsing.

Beautiful, fancy, exotic book covers and plain, two-tone, neutral ones have never prompted me to buy a book. It has always been the “What’s this book about?” feature.

Look at this Stephen King paperback of The Shining from one of its first runs.

The book’s title attracted me because I asked, “What does the title mean?” The back cover copy gave me a clue and whetted my curiosity. Until then, I had never read a book by King. Neither had my friends. I ended up liking the story so much, I bought his two prior releases, ’Salem’s Lot and Carrie, on a gamble that I would like them too. I did. So did a million other readers.

Compared to today’s indie writing market, if King was an unknown author selling his books at Amazon, and he used the above cover, would you buy it?

Look at the replacement cover of The Shining a few years later during the movie release.

Would you still want to buy it?

I don’t think it’s wise to worry about eye-catching book cover design. I think we should continue to strive at writing as well as we can and to write a compelling “What’s this book about?” feature. If your story is captivating and entertaining, then people will notice, even if you’ve wrapped it in a brown paper bag.

Free Book Offer

My short story e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” is free at Amazon until midnight Pacific time. (Click this link.) It’s a fantasy tale because I enjoy writing fantasy stories. It’s at the top of my list of favorite things to do. Writing fantasy has been a passion for many years because it involves world building. I can get engaged in the creative development until the worlds appear in my dreams. The same is true about my characters. I have even dreamed new ones into my stories.

Over the years, people have asked me about my process of writing a story. I answer with: “I get an idea for a story, it festers in my mind with all sorts of situations, I dwell on my favorites and begin scheming a plot with a look on my face equal to the Grinch ready to steal Christmas from Whoville, and then start writing.” That’s it. No magic. Just an idea that I put into words that become a story.

In all its simplicity, I structure my stories no different than most other writers. I divide my stories into four parts as Act 1, Act 2 first half, Act 2 second half, and Act 3. Each story has a beginning event, an ending event, and a series of high and low events in between the two. Writing those in-between events is the adventure I enjoy the most, though staying on track to reach a good ending can add difficulty to the process. An ending should come naturally—a final piece to the story puzzle that fits nicely with the rest of the pieces, giving us an aesthetic composite. Some writers call this a “perfect ending” and stress over getting it “right.” Writing a “perfect ending” is not something I let ruin the joy I get from writing, though I do take it more seriously than the other parts of story writing.

All story writing involves getting the words written, editing them, and revising the parts until they work together as a whole. I love marrying those parts into a finished story. And I like calling the process a marriage instead of that old military standby: polishing. Polishing is some drill sergeant’s way of saying, “Write, write, write, every day, over and over ad nauseum until you can do it blindfolded, standing on your head.” I don’t do that. And I don’t “polish” my stories as if they were a pair of leather dress shoes. But I do write several drafts—sometimes as many as 10 or more—marrying my story elements into an enjoyable read.

Of course, not only am I marrying the elements to each other, I’m marrying me to the story. I do the same when I read stories by other writers and find I can’t put the stories down until I reach the end. There are others like me—we call ourselves “book lovers” and “author fans.” We love libraries and bookstores, and we collect our favorite stories and hold our favorite writers in high regard. And we dream of someday being a favorite writer to other writers, book lovers, and author fans.

If you read my stories, drop me a line. Tell me what you like and don’t like about my stories. I’d love hearing from you.

My Return To KDP

After a lengthy absence from Amazon’s publishing outfit Kindle Direct Publishing, I took the first Vree Erickson short story “A Night of Hellhounds” from mothballs and made it available again at Amazon.com as a new ebook.

The ebook is 3,000 words and approximately 16 pages long. It is priced at 0.99 US dollars at the US Amazon site and sports a new cover that I had too much fun creating. For this cover, I took away all hellhound and other canine references and concentrated on location—specifically Vree’s fall from the cliffs into Alice Lake.

The book is a quick read, hence the 99-cent price, and is available as an ebook only. I do not plan to publish paperbacks of my single short stories.

Go to amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 for your copy.

Old Dog, New Tricks In May

I’m back in the saddle with my KDP book projects, getting ready to publish my books again at Amazon. I spent the past month learning new publishing techniques that will help ease the burden of being an indie author who self-publishes their books.

First among the list was learning the latest Microsoft Word program after I replaced 2010 with 365. The learning curve was small on that, which carried me onto Amazon’s latest version of Kindle Create. Again, the curve wasn’t too difficult since I last used the program five years ago.

Next on my list was learning to use Inkscape so I can create my book covers for paperback books. I usually use MS Word and an old PhotoDeluxe program for that, but I wanted to learn something new. The curve on that is big, so I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials to ease the process. I have a college BA degree in graphic design that I received in 1990, so I’m a relic when it comes to all the gadgets and their bells and whistles in the digital age. Don’t let me get started on all my failures while using Photoshop twenty years ago. The program was Grand Canyon huge and clunkier than my grandfather’s Model A Ford back then, so I got rid of it and settled on its streamlined and swifter little brother, PhotoDeluxe. Inkscape doesn’t seem as difficult as Photoshop but has plenty of bells and whistles.

During all this excitement, I replaced my Win7 laptop with a Win10 one. I spent a weekend moving files and learning 10’s shortcuts. It was funny when the computer connected to my old 2007 Hotmail account and wanted to use it as my primary email. I’ve been using Gmail for a decade and I forgot all about my Hotmail account after I transferred all my contacts to Gmail ten years ago. It was funny and a little bewildering to see my face from 2007 on my computer’s sign-in screen. Ah, the old gray hair isn’t what it used to be.

In between writing, prepping my books for publication, and getting comfortable with Win10, MS Word 365, and Inkscape, I decided to dive into the deep end of the author pool by downloading Scrivener version 3. More tutorials at YouTube helped me with its steep learning curve and I enjoyed how easy it was to create ebooks and paperbacks ready to send to Amazon’s KDP.

As if I wasn’t busy enough, I created a new author logo.

I plan to use this on my book covers to give them a unique look. I’m tired of seeing plain fonts on covers, so the artist in me took over during one of my book cover design sessions. Although the one pictured is red, I can use any color.

As an experiment, I threw this cover together for the first ebook at my KDP website.

I made it with MS Word and PhotoDeluxe—my old standby method—but I’ll probably use a cover built on Inkscape when I actually publish the book.

So, there you have it, my busy month of May in less than 1000 words.

Have a great June and stay safe.

Peace and love!

Book News, April 2019

Plans continue to rewrite and retool my ebooks at Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I published my first book there in January 2013. Although my main character was a boy named Lenny Stevens, it introduced Vree Erickson and started the ball rolling for her to take center stage in many of the stories that followed.

I based the first book on a short story I wrote in high school in the 1970s called “Ghost Dogs.” I had such a fun time in 2012 going through my old stories, stripping them down to their bare bones, clothing them in newer outfits, and giving them new titles. The book became “Night of the Hell Hounds.” After publication, I knew the story should have been Vree’s, so I rewrote it in 2014 and turned it into a novel. I drove the librarians crazy at Amazon’s partner site Goodreads with all my changes. You can read more about the story and others by searching through my blog’s archives.

I published the following editions of Book 1 at KDP before I took all my books off market:

  • “Night of the Hell Hounds”: A Ridgewood Short Story, first edition, January 7, 2013, 19 pages
  • Night of the Hellhounds: A Vree Erickson Novel, second edition—title and story change, November 15, 2014, 200 pages
  • Margga’s Curse: A Vree Erickson Novel, third edition—title change, January 1, 2015, 200 pages

Please note that I retitled the third edition, Margga’s Curse, to Mergelda’s Curse at Smashwords where it is still available free for download. I will pull it from the market when I finish rewriting it.

At KDP, I published as Steven L. Campbell. The new books will list me as Steve Campbell. And it will have a new title. Its working title is Curse of Myers Ridge, but I don’t know its final title yet.

Other changes include

  • Vree as a middle child instead of a triplet
  • Her father is alive
  • Her grandparents live at Alice Lake
  • The west end of Alice Lakes butts against the cliffs of Myers Ridge

Currently, Vree’s age is in flux. I want her to be 15, going on 16. 16 is when you can get your driver’s license in Pennsylvania and I don’t want her driving yet.

So, it’s off to work at my mundane retail job today before I can continue the joy of rewriting Book 1 tonight.

Godspeed.

A Pencil Illustration of Vree Erickson

Vree

 

 

 

 

 

Future Writing Plans Update

I am planning to write a new book. It will feature a LOST AND FOUND story involving time travel.

Time Travel to the Past:

British physicist Stephen Hawking held a party for time travelers in 2009. No guests showed up — he sent out the invites a year later. Some time travel theorists argue that the guests—perhaps all of them—came to the party, but ‘our Hawkins’ didn’t notice because a parallel universe opened up creating another ‘story-line’ when each guest traveled back in time to attend the party.

Going to the past and creating a parallel universe are two major topics in my book. But unlike the universe ‘our Hawkins’ didn’t notice, my time traveling character gets to interact with her future self, and vice versa. In my book, a pregnant woman goes back in time via a time portal created by nature. Hawking and others have argued that you could never travel back before the moment your time portal was built. If true, she can only go back a few minutes in time to the point when nature created the time portal. But she doesn’t. She goes back seven years.

Hawking and other physicists say traveling to the past is probably impossible. But I write fiction, and I plan to have fun suspending belief—or disbelief—in my book. However, I don’t want to stray too far from the scientific reality, so I plan to use science theories to propel the plot. An early idea had been to use a wormhole as my time travel portal. Many physicists believe in wormholes and not only in a pure mathematical sense. But they are at the quantum scale, which happens to be far smaller than atoms. Either someone or some force of nature in my book would need to inflate a wormhole, or something or someone would need to shrink my pregnant character in order for her to pass through the hole. That’s quite a feat and would need a massive amount of energy—and shrinking someone and then bringing them back to regular size seems too Hollywood cliché and doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to write.

Another idea, put forward by the American physicist Ron Mallet, is to use a rotating cylinder of light to twist spacetime. Anything dropped inside the swirling cylinder could theoretically move around in space and in time. According to Mallet, the right geometry could lead to time travel into the past and the future.

Three things come to mind when I think of a cylinder.

  1. A tunnel;
  2. Point A, the entry; and
  3. Point B, the exit.

A time tunnel has an entry and an exit and needs a lot of energy to make it work. I was 16 when I conceived my first time tunnel/time travel story, The Vanishing. Two of my main characters discussed a theory behind traveling in time:

     Vree turned and faced me. The look on her face was close to accusing. “Humor me. You like reading and watching science fiction, so you must know all about time travel theories. Tell me. Do you truly believe in time travel?”
     I shrugged. “If you mean like being able to pass through holes in space and time, some scientists believe it’s possible. But it’s all conjecture. I’m reading a sci-fi novel about a time tunnel that’s stationary at one end and accelerated at the other end by nuclear matter. The main character just entered the stationary end and went into the future.”
     “What about going backward in time?”
     “I suppose if you entered the accelerated end first. You would be in the future of the tunnel’s stationary end, so you’d go back in time to its moment of creation.”
     “Could lightning be powerful enough to cause a time tunnel?”
     “I don’t know if lightning would cause a time tunnel. But its energy is certainly powerful enough to accelerate one, if one existed.”

The story’s time tunnel was a large sinkhole with crystals in it powered by lightning. The lightning and crystals accelerated time along the top of the sinkhole. Anyone who fell into it went back in time, as long as he or she survived the fall.

Getting back to their proper time was a major problem for my characters. As one character asked, “How does one fall up from the bottom of a sinkhole?”

One partial solution was to create a crystal cave with its roof missing. The cave has two horizontal entry points at opposite ends, and the middle has our swirling mass of energy powered by crystals energized by lightning from the opening above, which is the previous sinkhole. Theoretically, in my fictional world, entry at Point A into the swirling mass, and exit at Point B will send a character to the past. And vice versa, entry at Point B and exit at Point A will send a character to the future.

But how can this giant mass of energy occupy the past timeline so my characters can get back to Point A? Why can’t they simply step through a doorway to the past, and return to their future from the other side of the same doorway?

Perhaps there is no way back.

Aha. Picture this:

The top of an underground crystal cave falls and creates a chimney to the surface. The crystals contain opposite energy that attracts lightning to strike them through the chimney. This creates a new energy strong enough to suspend time. Seven years later, someone—a geologist or spelunker—is underground, enters the energy, and exits seven years in their past. Let’s call this person Karrie Erickson. She is pregnant. She has an accident—a fall, perhaps—and gets amnesia. Someone—a geologist or spelunker—from a neighboring town or city finds Karrie (who has no ID on her) and takes her in their care. Let’s call him Pierce Rickman. Pierce calls Karrie Jane because she is a Jane Doe. She has the baby—Pierce names the baby Sara—and keeps her amnesia. She and Pierce marry.

From this perspective, the moment Karrie goes back in time, she, as the amnesic Jane Rickman, occupies the same timeline of Karrie Erickson for seven years until Karrie goes back in time. At this point, Jane no longer shares the timeline with Karrie.

Meanwhile, the moment Karrie goes back in time, this becomes a point of loss for Karrie’s husband Charles who is without a wife. She is attainable, though, because she is in his timeline, albeit seven years older, with a different name, and in another town or city.

So, Charles visits the town/city—let’s call it New Cambridge—and sees Jane Rickman. He recognizes her as Karrie and follows her home. Pierce refuses him entry and to let him speak to her. He goes to the police and Pierce hides Karrie from him. After a game of cat and mouse, he gets back his wife and a six-and-a-half-year-old daughter.

This is The Vanishing and Kismet, a novel in the works for too many years. Until now.

I plan to rewrite those stories put them together in a new book for 2019. I will defy laws of nature and science with this book. This is fiction, after all. Science fiction. My crystal cave will be a place where time has stopped—or moves extremely slowly. To stop time, the experts say, the energy in the cave has to travel faster than light. And nothing can travel faster than light without gaining infinite mass and energy, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity. That’s a lot of mass and energy, which would kill a person passing through it. But in science fiction, why couldn’t electricity create a place where new laws of physics allow for someone to survive and go back in time?

It certainly deserves pondering by us time-bound beings.

I hope you’ll join me.

Area History, Chapter 10, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

The Corry Building That Wouldn’t Stay Put.

By Beverley Bittner.

It was built by William Brightman in Wayne Township before the Civil War. Brightman’s father was a Methodist preacher and the 32 by 45 foot building was to be a Methodist church. It was located about one mile northwest of Corry beyond Macadam Hill at a fork in the road, one road leading to Carter Hill and the other to Wheelock – on the south side of the fork. It was built of hand-hewn red beech. An old account says, “The whole surrounding neighborhood, regardless of their spiritual condition, whether saved or not, turned out to help” with the building project.

Before it was finished, the church was used as a recruitment post for the Union Army. An eyewitness reported later that so many young men enlisted that the front cross sill gave way and dropped about five feet to the ground below “carrying with it a company of astonished men and screaming women.” (Corry Evening Journal, August 29, 1917)

The great 10 by 14 foot timber was spliced. Many years later, Rev. John Hatch, who was born and raised in Corry, and pastored here from 1914 to 1919, removed the splice and erected an iron pillar under the “long, splintering break,” as he described it. He remarked that the building was so strongly constructed that ‘‘the builders said it could be rolled end over end without damage except to the plaster.”

The First Move

About 1875 the Methodists decided to move the church to North Corry. Special preparations had to be made for the descent down Macadam Hill. With horses and oxen placed behind the building to create a slow descent, the church made it safely to its new location on East Columbus Avenue, across from Pine Grove Cemetery. For the next forty years it was part of the Methodist circuit at that location.

In 1914 the Corry Christian & Missionary Alliance church, which had been meeting in homes and rented store fronts, purchased the lot at the corner of East Washington and Maple Avenue. The Methodists were willing to sell the building. The optimistic CMA group bought it for $1,000 and prepared to move it for the second time.

The Second Move

Rev. Hatch said, “We hired mover Del McEntarfer of Union City to undertake the job.” The move took three weeks, being completed on November 2, 1914 at the cost of$335. “We had fine cooperation from the men of the church,” Rev. Hatch said. “Fred Shrader, Will Rhodes, Bro Harrison, among others.

“We called upon the contractor to see to it that under no circumstances was cursing and swearing to be permitted,” he added. “The building was so much heavier than the mover anticipated that when it was loaded and the horse started the building didn’t move; instead it just straightened out the pulley hook of the great iron block he was using. However, he got a much heavier pulley and hook and with this performed the job.”

“The Fair Association gave us permission to cut forty feet off their shed stables and move them out of the way so we could come across lots and on to their racing track (now Snyder Circle) and up the track to the south end of their premises and down on to Elk Street. Then we came east on Elk to Wayne, down Wayne to Washington and up to the present site.”

Thirty-six electric, telephone and telegraph poles had to be underdug and tilted at an angle to allow the building to pass. Because of the width of the building the workers had to travel in the ditches along the road all the way to Washington Street. On East Washington six huge poles of the Postal Telegraph Company had to be underdug, jackscrewed between the pavement and curb. The poles were 90-feet tall and embedded five feet into the ground. They were tipped at an angle to permit passage of the building.

Because of fire regulations, Rev. Hatch recalled, it was necessary to cover the wooden structure with brick veneer. “It was so cold the bricks had to be heated and salt put in the mortar to prevent freezing.”

A Corry Evening Journal article on August 29, 1917 said, “It is still in splendid condition and not one stick of the original structure had to be replaced when the building was placed upon its present foundation.”

If you happen to drive past the corner of East Washington Street and Maple Avenue, take note of the brick building and give her a salute. From Army recruiting station to church to business offices, the venerable old building has earned our respect.


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Area History, Chapter 9, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Vene Potter’s Trip to Dixie.

By Beverley Bttner.

Vene Potter left Bloomfield Township with two horses, a dog, and a loaded wagon weighing 2,735 pounds. He was bound for a farm in Virginia and a new start in life. His letters home indicate the hardships of the journey and the indomitable pioneer spirit that makes America the greatest country in the world.

Well to begin:

I left Bloomfield for Dixie the 23day of October, 1877. The first day I went 18 miles to the Johnson House. I followed the plank road down nigh Pithole to a large stream, there I turned to my left leaving Pithole to my right hand and went to President where I crossed the river.

The ferryman did not want to take me for fear I had glycerin in the large box, but finally took me over. After we got started Frank started to bark and sure enough I had left him behind. Well I called him and he swam across.

When it got dark I turned the horses in a field and took our coats and made a bed under the wagon and covered up with the sheep skins and went to sleep but it got too cold so I got up and started a good fire close to the wagon and was all right then. Well it commenced to rain at 2 o’clock and rained slowly until 8 in the morning. …

…I found that when they said the roads were good they were bad, if bad they were very bad. I met a man that said they were bad till I crossed the Big Savage. That scared me a little for they had told me they were good and they were bad and now they were savage. …

…Well we got to Johnstown all right, the largest railroad iron manufacturing city in the United States, hemmed in by mountains. There is a large iron furnace at the foot of the mountain with a railroad to fetch iron and coal which is brought direct from the mines to the furnace. It is so steep that a dog could not go up or down. Each mine has a railroad to fetch iron and coal, also a road running on around the mountain where they carry their cinders to get rid of them. I tell you it is a sight worth seeing. …

…I crossed the Potomac at Cumberland, into West Virginia and on to Springfield on the best roads I ever travelled on but I had some very long hills on the mountains so I only got 18 miles or to Springfield that day. Springfield is about as large as Riceville. Two stores, a post office, and one hotel and one barbershop, all of logs. Here it snowed a little.

In the morning Fred would not eat any grain. I asked a man how far it was and he said about 200 miles further. Didn’t that make me open my eyes and ears. A horse that wouldn’t eat and both of them so foot sore that they acted like frozen-footed chickens.

(Potter left the wagon to be shipped by railroad later and continued on to Goochland Court House in Virginia where he met up with the rest of his family who had come another way. It was now November 15, 1877. They continued together to his new farm near Richmond.)

December 31, 1877

I wish you all a Happy New Year and I hope it will be happier for me than one year ago was. One year ago tonight Doc Paine stayed with us all night. Em was sick, the snow was two feet deep and the roads were almost impassable, but here we have not seen snow enough to fill a teaspoon yet although rather cold. It has not froze (sic) enough but what we could plow any day yet this fall.

We finally got the wagon, got it to the store, roads were bad, left part of the load and came on, got here Saturday night and Monday morning we moved one load and the women on to the farm. I had come on ahead and started a fire. Mother got here in time to see the chimney fire which caught in the leaves as the house stands in a grove, there was lots of leaves which burnt pretty lively, but we put it out but had hard work. Well when it got cooled down I kept smelling something and sure enough I had singed my whiskers so that there was one inch of a curl and crisp ring around them; smelt bad.

Well if you are coming box your things and ship them by all means for they will cost you more to buy here than it does there. …

…The team stood the journey well except they got foot sore and leg weary for I had pike roads and very rough at that. The roads after I got to Cumberland was (sic) good but hard as stone for they are small stone and smooth as can be, crossing creeks there are not many bridges but when they can’t cross them they ferry. …

…Now mind me and what I have said and don’t come here and get homesick.

Vene


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Area History, Chapter 8, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Spartansburg: An Historic Village.

By Beverley Bittner, From Steppin’ Out, August 1971.

About thirty miles west of Warren and ten miles south of Corry, in Crawford County, lies the historic village of Spartansburg. About 1837 Andrew Aiken and his brother Aron built a dam across the creek for power, then built a grist mill on one side and a sawmill on the other. In 1846 or 1855 (depending which records you read) the name was changed from Aikenville to Spartansburg. But its history dates back much further.

Abraham Blakeslee was the first white settler to build a log cabin in the township, on the east side of Oil Creek. His wife, Harriet, recalled one of many frightening incidents of that lonely, isolated life. Most cabins at that time were constructed of logs on three sides. The remaining side was hung with animal skins. Harriet was alone in the cabin with her first baby, Seldon, when a Seneca Indian, in full war paint, pulled aside the skins and sat down at her fireside. She offered him a slice of Injun meal bread with maple sugar. He accepted it, ate, then left as silently as he had entered.

Settlers came family by family. Eventually a school was started and churches organized. Spartansburg’s most important industry, the woolen mill, at one time was the largest wool batton mill in Pennsylvania. Later, the Tauber luxury comfort became known all over the United States. In early days almost every farmer kept a flock of sheep and sold the wool to the mill.

Operating at various times in Spartansburg were: an oar factory, a wooden bowl factory, a cigar factory, a tannery, and a mill which turned out beautiful tweed cloth by workmen brought over from Scotland. On a side street still stands the stone house built by the mill owner for his wife who was homesick for Scotland.

In the early 1900’s, the town was at its peak with ten trains daily, its own orchestra, the Clear Lake Band and a newspaper, The Sentinel.

An unidentified historian gives the following account of Spartansburg in its hey-day: “There is the Tauber Woolen Mill which makes the ‘luxury comforts’ and three-quarters of the woolen batting in the United States. It employs thirty men and women. The Spartansburg Creamery supplies butter for the U.S. Navy. The Brooklyn Milling Company furnishes flour, feed, grain for seed, coal, cement and dressed lumber. The Davis and Hyde Mill can also furnish coal, feed, and do your grinding.

“The Shreve Chair Factory employs forty men. Messrs. Dorn and Jackson make cornices, fronts, and tanks. L.L. Hartwell manufactures harnesses. The New Central Hotel is owned by J.A. Haworth; Lake View Hotel is owned by D.W. Higgins.

“William Huff is an extensive shipper of livestock. J.M. McDannell conducts a first class bakery. Dr. Green and Dr. Small are the dentists. Squire Kinney and Squire Hoffman are the legal men. J.E. Winans and James Gates are artists in the line of barber work. The physicians are Dr. F.P. Fisher and G.T. Waggoner.

“Music for all occasions will be furnished by the Clear Lake Band. Leon Morris furnishes groceries and hardware. John Webb also has groceries and hardware. The Messengers and Goldstein will sell you anything in dry goods. A.E. Morton has furniture and is also the undertaker. Rexford and Miller have the drug store and also a jewelery (sic) store and Rexford will repair your watch. Gus Smeltzer will sell you shoes. There are four blacksmith shops.”

(Historical material adapted from A Brief Outline of the History of Sparta and Spartansburg by Ralph Elliott Blakeslee.)


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Area History, Chapter 7, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

Corry’s First Mayor.

By Beverley Bittner, From the autumn, 1979 issue of Reminiscence.

Many men and women walked across the pages of our history in the early days, leaving footprints for historians to ponder over for all time. Familiar names include: Michael Hare, Call and Rihue.

Nothing is known of Call and Rihue, while Hare was famed for his longevity and military exploits. Others include: Amos Heath, who came to our area in 1795; Alexander McDowell, who surveyed the area in 1799; and Amos Harrington, who purchased ninety-three acres from the Holland Land Company in 1858. One month later he sold sixty-six acres to Hiram Cory for $463.

Others who bought land from the Holland Land Company about that time were: Jedediah Mather, George Keppel, Darius Mead, Isaac Colegrove, and Alfred Gates.

And then there was the first mayor of Corry, W.H.L. Smith. He was described as “a large man, a lawyer by education, very positive and somewhat blunt in manners.” He came to Corry in 1861 as a representative of Samuel Downer.

Downer was a successful Boston businessman, intelligent, with a good grasp of politics and a sort of intuition into human nature. Historians say he spoke little but listened much. He showed little ego but was determined to get ahead in the world even as a young man.

In the 1830s Downer was a salesman of high quality whale oil for spindles used in New England textile mills. Industry was expanding. Downer hired two salesmen to help him, paying them fifty percent of their sales. He was soon wealthy and continued to expand his business interests. He began to use kerosene for spindle oil.

When Downer heard about the first successful oil well in Titusville in 1859, he got at idea. If he could build a refinery near the oil fields, he would possess an advantage over his rivals in the oil business.

Downer sent W.H.L. Smith to scout out the land. Corry was a junction of two railroads. Except for a few scattered farmhouses, the only building was a small, wedge-shaped ticket office and eating house near the tracks. All around was swamp covered with huge pine and hemlock trees.

In Downer’s name, Smith purchased fifty acres of land from Hiram Cory. The fifty acres was laid out in town lots, and by Fall 1861, a frame building had been erected as an office for the Downer Oil Refinery. The first refinery was known as ‘‘the Frenchman’s.” It would grow to become the largest in the world in its time.

By Summer 1862, the Downer and Kent Oil Works and several other factories were in business. The Boston House, Gilson Hotel and many private homes were under construction to accommodate the thousands of persons flocking to the city to work or speculate in get-rich-quick schemes. Money was plentiful and real estate sold readily. Fortunes were made and lost overnight.

An old history book describes the Corry scene in 1862:

Corry is one of the wonders of the age in which we live – the creation of the combined effort of oil and steel. Some half dozen locomotives puffing and screaming, long trains of cars laden with oil, barrels standing along the tracks, one of the largest brick refineries, a large hotel, many houses give unmistakable evidence of a prosperous village where but a few months since stood the primeval forest.”

Smith lived in Corry until 1878. As a sign of the respect he enjoyed, he was elected the city’s first mayor in 1866. He served a one-year term.

“A fitting tribute,” said a historian, “after all, the city owes its existence to W.H.L. Smith.” That may be an overstatement, but Smith certainly played his part in the unfolding of Corry history.


About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.