Refreshing Reads for a Sultry Summer

Here is a fresh collection of new books that cover a diverse range of topics. Whether you are looking for religion and spiritualism, one city’s entrepreneurial past, a fictional winery, 200 years of real-life public safety, or a collection of trout boats, we’ve got them all covered right here!


Auburn, New York: The Entrepreneurs’ Frontier

by Scott W. Anderson 

Auburn is located near Owasco Lake, one of the smaller Finger Lakes. Early on in its history, this Central New York city prospered, thanks in part to the waterpower of the Owasco outlet and the convergence of Indian trails that later became highly traveled turnpikes. Beginning with the land speculation following the Revolutionary War and Auburn’s founding in 1793, Scott W. Anderson has written a detailed account of how the geographical and economic influences shaped the city.

The author, an associate professor and chair of the Geography Department at SUNY Cortland, “follows the money” – who and how it was made, and then what they did with it.   Entrepreneurs and capital are studied through the period of commercial and industrial maturation of the 1880s. Through detailed tables, charts, maps and photographs, the overview covers the city’s prosperity and growth before ultimately, lacking visionaries, it faced stagnation.

Topics range from the differences in early development between Auburn and Seneca Falls, to the ingenuity of the Oswego Starch Factory and the economical impact of the Auburn Prison. Illustrations of the city’s grand 19th-century homes recall the wealth achieved by enterprising families. The author examines if such prosperity trickled down to the working classes.

Publisher: Syracuse University Press


Edition: Hardback


The Public Universal Friend

Jemima Wilkinson and Religious Enthusiasm in  Revolutionary America

by Paul B. Moyer

Jemima Wilkinson is one of the most intriguing figures in the Revolutionary War era. Wilkinson was born in 1752 to a Rhode Island Quaker family. After suffering a grave illness in 1776, she proclaimed she had died and was reincarnated as a prophet: the Public Universal Friend. The Friend took on a gender-neutral persona, and her ministry spread throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. Later, she founded a religious community with her followers in the frontier of New York near present-day Penn Yan.

The biography is notable for its scholarly examination of the life and influence over a period of 40 years of “the Comforter,” as Wilkinson referred to herself. Among the topics explored are her beliefs and ministry, her appearance and demeanor, the challenges she encountered as a female religious leader, and conspiracies to rob her of her land holdings during America’s formative period.

Paul B. Moyer, an associate professor of history at The College at Brockport (SUNY), places Wilkinson’s ministry in the context of contemporary religious movements like the Shakers. Both espoused celibacy, which contributed to their decline. Replete with chapter notes and bibliography, this title is carefully indexed. It is an important contribution to the subject.

Publisher: Cornell University Press


Edition: Hardback


Rochester Knockings

by Hubert Haddad; translated from the French by Jennifer Gortz

Open Letter, the University of Rochester’s press for translated literature, published this novel about the Fox sisters and the spiritual movement in America. Translated by a poet and English professor at the university, this fictional work is set during a period when the Finger Lakes Region saw the birth of several important religions.

The two younger Fox sisters grew up in Hydesville, near Newark, where their family had moved from Monroe County. In 1848, sisters Kate and Margaret heard strange “rappings” or “knockings” in the floors and furniture of their farmhouse. At age 12, the youngest Fox daughter, Kate, began communicating with a spirit she called “Mister Splitfoot.” Soon the pair’s experiences with the spirit world became known. Steered by their older sister Leah, they relocated to her Rochester home to give performances for large audiences. Later, they went on tours and met many 19th-century American luminaries.

The sisters’ ascendance to the forefront of the Modern Spiritualism movement and their subsequent fall are widely known. This fictionalized account, told evocatively by Tunisian-born author Hubert Haddad, focuses on American society when death and the afterlife were ever – present in daily life. Occasional overly long sentences thwart the narrative’s flow, but the book is successful at humanizing these intriguing women.

Publisher: Open Letter at the University of Rochester


Edition: Soft cover


Frackin’ Lives

by Art Maurer

This sequel to the author’s first novel Twisted Vines (Winter 2012, Life in the Finger Lakes) will attract more readers who enjoy a tale of love and ambition set in Finger Lakes wine country. The romance has now heightened between Jacqueline (Jackie) Beaveau, a young French woman raised in the Médoc winemaking region following her parents’ death; and Joey O’Donnell, an American whose winemaking aspirations for his ancestral land are marred by bitter family claims.

One underlying conflict involves Jackie’s plans to marry Joey and devote herself to his plans for a winery, despite the objections of Chloé, her controlling French grandmother. Serious arguments arise over speculation that land near Joey’s future vineyard will be subjected to hydrofracking, the controversial drilling for natural gas and its extraction. As Joey’s winery begins to take shape, disputes permeate not only business, but also personal relationships. Matters are complicated by conflicts over gun ownership and the influence of the Catholic Church.

Dramatic events escalate and ultimately threaten the lives and sanity of these multi-generational inhabitants of the idyllic lake country. The steady love and calming nature of Jackie’s American grandmother, Emma, and her spouse, Will, offers balance to those around them, hope for the future, and maybe even a sequel.


Edition: Soft cover


The Gates Police Department: Two Centuries of Public Safety

by William A. Gillette and John M. Robortella

This attractive, well-organized, and copiously illustrated title begins 200 years ago with the constables who first protected Gates, just west of Rochester. It covers the history of the town’s full-time police department, founded in 1960, and its growth as one of the most progressive police agencies in the state.

Like other local history titles authored or co-authored by John Robortello, it contributes significantly to the subject. He and retired Gates Police Officer William Gillette drew on town board minutes and records dating to 1809, along with an extensive archive of photographs and newspapers.

The book offers overviews and personal memories. Fans of true crime stories will enjoy “On Patrol: Cases in the Town of Gates,” which recounts murders, burglaries, a home invasion, and a fire in 1923 in which two children were killed. This last tragedy led to the formation of the Gates-Chili Fire Department.

Sales of the book benefit Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), a nonprofit group that supports relatives of police officers killed in the line of duty.

Publisher: Finger Lakes Historical Press (Canandaigua)


Edition: Hardback


Finger Lakes Trout Boats

by Bill Oben

Before rowboats were made of fiberglass and aluminum, they were handcrafted of wood. A self-described “amateur historian about boats and boat building,” Bill Oben began looking for wooden rowboats in the 1970s. He became a founder and president of the Finger Lakes Boating Museum in Hammondsport. As chairman of the collection committee during the museum’s first 15 years, Oben acquired 115 boats and researched them and their builders.

Trout fishing boats are round-bottomed wooden vessels measuring 12 to 14 feet long. They are designed for ease of trolling fish by trailing a baited line along behind the boat for extended periods.

Eleven individual builders, many active around Keuka Lake, are featured. Some of their family members, plus old newspaper articles, provided the author with details of these “elegant, handmade marine artifacts from a largely bygone era.”

Photographs of watercraft and their makers are accompanied by biographical details, measured diagrams of the boats, and clues to identify individual makers.

In its introduction, the book describes the development of trout fishing in the region. The nation’s first fish hatchery, established in Caledonia, led to fish stocking in the Finger Lakes. As fishing grew and lakeside cottages and resorts multiplied, so, too, did the need for boats.

Edition: Soft cover


story by Laurel C. Wemmett

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