Provided To The Leader | Seen in 1913 are the Weston Engine Company and the Bronson Hotel. Work on the train tracks is in progress and Hamilton Street is lined with bricks during its first paving. The
Jamie Bosket's five summers working at The Depot give him a good background for telling the story of Painted Post, which he does with his new book, "Images of America: Painted Post" due to hit bookstores in late February.
While working on a history degree at SUNY Geneseo, Bosket - who grew up in Painted Post - has spent his summers at the Painted Post-Erwin Museum, commonly called The Depot in reference to its prior use as a railroad depot. Beautifully refurbished several years ago, The Depot has a vast collection of artifacts and photographs on display, detailing centuries of local history.
Last summer, Bosket - The Depot's site manager - and some volunteers were working on a huge collection project sorting through the archives.
"One of the things we had to do was to go through all the images that we owned. We were going through thousands and thousands of images, reorganizing them and cataloguing them," Bosket said. "So I had the opportunity to see all of this stuff first-hand, and I realized that we had a great set of images to give the local history."
Bosket took his idea to Arcadia Publishing, which produces the popular Images of America series. Arcadia started in the early 1990s as a tiny publishing company in New Hampshire, and has since turned out roughly 3,000 local history books of communities from Caribou, Maine, to Malibu, Calif.
Bosket approached Arcadia in part because he was aware of their history series, which includes "Images of America: Corning," written in 2003 by local historians Kirk House and Charles Mitchell.
"This is kind of a complement to Corning," Bosket said.
Bosket wrote six brief chapters, just a couple of pages apiece, which give a thumbnail sketch of Painted Post's growth. But like the other titles in the Images of America series, "Painted Post" is mostly a pictorial.
It contains more than 150 rare, old photographs along with re-prints of postcards, advertisements and maps. Bosket uses the captions underneath the photos to tell much of the story. His book isn't meant to be a comprehensive, detailed historical record, and he does a nice job of hitting the highlights.
"It's an easy read. That's what (Arcadia Publishing) wanted," Bosket said. "They didn't want it to be too dense. They wanted it to be something that the average amateur historian would pick up and say, 'I have an interest in this,' and look through it briefly. It's not going to tire people out."
Bosket goes back to 12,000 B.C., when the glaciers were receding, woolly mammoths and mastodons roamed the forests, and the first Native Americans arrived. He discusses the Seneca Nation, which inhabited Painted Post, and the story of the village's landmark: the red post, carved by the Senecas, which stood where the Indian monument does now.
Most of the book, however, focuses on the 19th and early 20th century, after the Senecas were driven out by colonial armies during the Revolutionary War, ushering in an era of radical change.
Bosket covers the commercial, agricultural and industrial development of Painted Post and Erwin, driven by a prime location at the convergence of several navigable rivers. Thick hardwood forests spawned a thriving lumber industry. A large foundry and machine shop called Weston Engine Co. followed, which would eventually become Ingersoll-Rand, long a driving force. A business district sprang up along Water and Hamilton streets. Plank roads, the Erie Canal, and several major railroad lines shuttled people and goods.
Some of the most powerful images in Painted Post are of two forces that dramatically reshaped the town several times: fire and water. Major fires raged through the village square in 1859, 1873, 1884 and 1896, destroying factories, hotels, shops and homes. Even more powerful, Bosket writes, were the floods that swept through the valley every four years or so, from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. His book has pictures of the devastation from some of the worst floods - 1889, 1901 and 1946.
Painted Post is also splashed with photos of some of the village's most influential people and colorful characters, such as founding father Col. Arthur Erwin; wealthy landowner and businessman Warren S. Hodgman; and Painted Post native Ruth Viola Davis, one of the very first female parachutists.
There are photos of carnivals and parties; and of stoic-looking young men from Painted Post who had just been drafted to fight in World War I. Many of the photos from museum archives have never been seen by the public before.
Tom Dimitroff, a local historian and author, reviewed the book for The Leader and gave a thumbs-up. He noted how difficult it was for Bosket to sort through an incredible amount of material to fit within the extremely limiting format.
As a retired history teacher, Dimitroff thinks books like Painted Post are the best way to give students a sense of history. Start with local history, he said, because it involves things they know and can relate to.
He also finds it remarkable that there are young people like Bosket - who's 21- with a such a strong interest in the past.
"I'm impressed," Dimitroff said. "He's done a wonderful job of selecting images that tell a rich story. And it allows them to be shared in a format that's easily readable, and interesting. It's also affordable, which is another good thing."
Bosket grew up in Painted Post. He will graduate from SUNY Geneseo in the spring, and is currently working at the Genesee Country Village and Museum, near Rochester. He'll return to The Depot this summer, and begin graduate school in the fall.
Painted Post, priced at $19.99, will be available Feb. 28 in local bookstores, and at both branches of the Corning-Painted Post Historical Society: The Depot and the Patterson Inn. It's also available through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or 888-313-2665.