By Beth David, Editor
How many times have you heard that a house has a story to tell? How many times have you heard, “If these walls could talk”? How many times have you wondered what went on inside a house that has a plaque attached to it. You know the kind, the ones that have a family name on it with a date at least 100 years old.
Beth Luey discovered that she was wondering about many of the same things after she moved to Fairhaven and joined a walking tour of the town center. She decided she should do a little research and collect some of those stories.
The result is “House Stories: The Meanings of Home in a New England Town,” the first book of a new imprint of University of Massachusetts Press, “Bright Leaf Books,” which publishes “insightful and entertaining books about New England” for a popular audience.
“Any house more than 100 years old has got to have at least one good story,” said Ms. Luey. “And it was a way to get to know the town.”
The well-researched, 10-chapter book includes the usual suspects, such as Henry Huttleston Rogers, Joshua Slocum, and Manjiro Nakahama. But it also includes some little known bits and pieces about some characters you think you know, and a few you may not know about at all.
In chapter one, “The Minister and the Maid,” Ms. Luey recounts a story steeped in innuendo and vague guesses. She delves into history, writing about Manjiro Nakahama, the Nye Lubricants story, and the often-ignored legal problems of Joshua Slocum.
Written in an easy style that nonetheless shows the depth of Ms. Luey’s research and ability to shine a light where some may prefer darkness, “House Stories” will truly delight local history buffs and those who simply believe that everyone (or every house) has a story to tell.
Ms. Luey said the story of her own house (above-mentioned minister and maid, ahem), was one of the big surprises. After all, the plaque just says he was a minister.
After learning more, “I thought, ‘you dirty old man,’” said Ms. Luey.
She said she was pleasantly surprised by the story of Captain Winsor and his second wife Emily, who accompanied him on his trips. Not that he would ever let it be known from his writing, said Ms. Luey. She said he never mentioned her in his logs. But her journals were available and he wrote letters.
“They don’t write about the same things,” said Ms. Luey. “So that was pretty cool.”
She said she chose the houses after hearing from somewhere, anywhere, a story and just chose the ones that appealed to her.
She’s already working on another group of houses throughout Massachusetts that will be split up into two books, east and west.
“I learned a lot, had a good time,” said the retired editor and scholar. “So what more can you ask?”
In addition to being available from the Millicent Library, “House Stories” is available from the publisher at http://www.umass.edu/umpress/ title/house-stories or from Amazon. com and other retailers. The paperback is $24.95, the hard cover is $90.
Ms. Luey will be holding a book signing and reading during the Manjiro Festival on Saturday, 10/7, when she will read the Manjiro chapter at the Millicent Library at noon.
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