My first ‘review’

“Marquette at St. Marie”

It has been a good week. I got my first official review. OK, so it’s not really a review, since it involved only one chapter, but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

My book tracing the history of “Old Princeton,” 1848-1938, is progressing more slowly than I would like, but I’ve tried to keep my oversized nose to the grindstone since returning from Australia.

I have been able to avoid until this week continuing to fact-check downtown plaques on the City of Princeton’s Historical Walking Tour, developing blog items or spending too much time on Facebook chatting about local history photos.

For the most part, I’ve been able to dodge those distractions and get a solid first draft done on several more chapters. (The book has gotten way out of hand and now includes 50 chapters and as many pages as a Harry Potter book! My editor will have her work cut out for her. )

Even before I went to visit my son and his family, I had asked several people, including a couple of Princeton Historical Society members, to preview chapters for me. I won’t mention their names because they might take some flak from members on the society board who have vowed to not let me research (they used the term “paw through”) their files because they’re upset that I’ve publicized the errors on about a dozen plaques.

The response to the chapters has been positive and helpful. They have caught typos, questioned spellings of names and asked for documentation on a couple of facts that correct previous local histories. And they’ve provided helpful new information!

I knew Chapter 2, “The Legend of the Cross,” would be difficult to write because it is based so much more on faith than fact. That’s choppy waters for a historian. I also knew there are people in Princeton who have done a lot of research on St. Marie and the legend. So, I decided to get opinions from both local and nonlocal experts.

The first person not from Princeton to see the cross chapter was Ruth D. Nelson, author of “Searching for Marquette: A Pilgrimage in Art.” She is a college art teacher and teaches a class on “Searching for Marquette.” She is on the staff of the library at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois.

I first asked Ruth about a photo I’ve been seeking. She responded quickly, provided the photo above and said she’d like to read what I had! I sent her my draft and got a reply in just a few days.

It’s only a few sentences, but it’s a wonderful testimonial that I will share with pride when it comes to promoting the book:

“This is a beautiful piece. You did an amazing job-such a rich history. Makes me want to go back and visit! … Surely, your book will be a welcome addition to the state’s history.”

So, thank you, Ruth! As I said, you made my week.

I am always encouraged to find people who care about history. In this day of “alternative facts,” when truth seems to no longer matter in Washington or small-town America, it’s refreshing to find others who agree that history is important, and it’s even more important to get it right.

If you have an interest and knowledge in a specific era or topic involving Old Princeton, please let me know. I probably have a chapter you can read and help me improve. Also, I’m on the hunt for good local photos from that era. Tina Zodrow recently sent me a beautiful photo taken in 1907 of local pioneer Martin Manthey that will definitely make it into the book.

Thanks, again, for reading and caring about local history.


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