Children from the Mohawk Valley, to as far away as Great Britain, have traveled back in time across Upstate New York with the help of Dorothy Stacy. The Sauquoit author's "Erie Canal Cousins" book series has explored the role that the canal played in the history of cities from Albany to Buffalo. She is now setting her sights on a new series aimed at the town of Paris, a town whose first hamlet formed as residents were rescued from the brink of starvation. Our Sarah Blazonis explores the town, and tells us how Stacy plans to open yet another chapter of local history to young readers.
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PARIS, N.Y. -- Three of Dorothy Stacy's lifelong passions are history, writing, and teaching children. So, it makes sense that it was a fieldtrip with her students that finally inspired the retired teach to write her first book.
"I took my first grade class over to the Erie Canal Village in Rome. I took a packet boat ride, which I didn't want to do at first because I didn't really like boats, but it was very exciting and comfortable," remembered Stacy.
From that trip, Rose Stewart was born. Rose is the young protaganist of Stacy's "Erie Canal Cousins" book series. Readers travel with her down the canal from her home in Albany to visit relatives in Utica and beyond, learning about history the whole time.
"It can get boring if you're just reading dates and places in a book. You don't remember them," said Stacy.
The next bit of history that Stacy wants her young readers to remember is that of the town of Paris. She's beginning research on a follow up series to "Erie Canal Cousins" called "Town of Paris Twins". The new books will follow adventures of Rose's children, and of course the history of the town.
While the series will pick up in the 1800s, the town was founded in 1792 after the town of Whitestown split in two. Its name goes back to a difficult time in local history, when a famine left many of the settlers in the Clinton area near starvation. Help came from a Fort Plain merchant in 1789.
"Isaac Paris came in with a whole truckload of food and saved them, so they decided to name the place after him," explained Stacy.
The town was made up of three smaller municipalities along with Paris Hill: Sauquoit, Clayville, and Cassville. Stacy's home is believe to be the former home of one of Sauquoit's first settlers, Spencer Briggs.
"He bought the Bayard Tract, which was all of East Sauquoit. It was 500 acres," said Stacy. "He sold that little by little, and he kept 30 acres for himself for his homestead."
The main occupation was farming, but a local resource helped different industries develop in Clayville, and sent population soaring up to 1,500 residents.
"It was all full of businesses. The thing was, they grew up because of the Sauquoit Creek, because it ran through and it gave a lot of water power," Stacy explained.
Today, the mills and a large chunk of that population are gone, but the history is kept alive by Stacy and others at the town's historical society. Stacy gives historical presentations at the Doolittle Schoolhouse to help bring the history of the area alive for local children, but her new series of books promises to carry that history much further than the Mohawk Valley.
Thousands of copies of "Erie Canal Cousins" have been sold, with some customers ordering from as far away as Europe. But for Stacy, the most gratifying part of her new career has been getting back to the roots of her old one.
"Being a teacher, that part of me really loves getting through to the kids, and the kids are always good," noted Stacy.
Soon, she will present them with a whole new world to explore.