BROOKVILLE — David Taylor, a Brookville native, hopes to have a book published in time for Christmas. The topic of the book? Brookville, of course, and some of the surrounding area as well as some Taylor family history thrown in.
The book, which is almost 300 pages, contains more than 300 photographs, some never before published – anywhere, according to Taylor.
What prompted Taylor to publish a book?
“Well, my family’s been around here since the 1830s. So, there’s always been interest in local history but when I came back to town in 1983 to work with the Main Street program I started to collect old pictures and not with any thought of even having a collection in mind but just, you know, I liked them and kept them around,” he said, adding that it was better that he have the photos than somebody threw them out.
“Probably a little over two years ago, with Facebook – and a particular page on Facebook that contains profile photos – I started posting some of mine, and posting them with a little bit of text describing them. And one response that I had came from Jason Geer, who’s a friend of my sons and mine. He has Fox pizza here in town. He sent back kind of a rhetorical question to Facebook saying, ‘Does anybody else think David Taylor ought to write a book, question mark.’”
Taylor said he sat there for a minute after reading the response and thought why not?
“So I continued to write and look for more pictures and research and whatnot and it turned into a 280 page book,” he said, adding “And I’ve had a great time doing it; it’s been great fun.”
While he doesn’t claim to “know everything by any stretch” about Brookville, Taylor says he “learned a lot” as he worked on the project, doing research.
What will readers find?
There is no particular order to the book, he notes, but says, “Page one shows a fabulous picture from the 1890s of Port Barnett – showing the mills, showing Joseph Barnett’s store; showing several members of the Humphrey family who were settlers out there.” Page two features the courthouse, he says. “And then the rest of it is is random.”
Every page has a picture, he says, and many pages have multiple photographs – and profiles. “There are some pictures that have never been published before. One example is the house that sat where DeMans parking lot is now. It was a fabulous 1870’s house that eventually was converted into the Vets Club. And then, the house was torn down and then the Vets Club was built, And now the Vets Club is gone but this is an 1874-1875 house built by W D J Marlin. His brother built the Marlin Opera House.”
Where did the photos come from?
Taylor says it was “strictly luck” that he got the photo because “a descendant of Marlin’s happened to be coming through town and for some reason had heard about me and called and said ‘I’ve got some pictures, would you like to look at them.’
“That’s always a nice find, and those little serendipitous things that you can’t make that up,” he says with a laugh.
“Years ago when McMurrays still owned the Fred Knapp collection of glass plate negatives I was able to borrow those and I did darkroom work at that time and made prints from the negatives. So I had a fair amount (of photos) from that. But then, the internet is a wonderful thing. It just may catch on,” he jokes.
Other photographs came, he said, from people who would post Brookville area photos on a particular internet site. “I would say, ‘Hey I’m doing a book and could I use it and they always said yeah.’ The Jefferson County History Center is also a fabulous resource.
“If your readers haven’t been there, they need to go,” he said.
The JCHC was “kind enough to let me use their photo archives, and I got a bunch of pictures that probably – I certainly have never seen them – have never been published.
“There are postcard views of various things because postcards started in the 1890s and it went up into the 1950s with picture postcards they used to call them.” The postage to mail these postcards was a penny back then “so they called them penny postcards, but there were lots and lots of postcards done from Brookville – some black and whites, some tinted, and I’ve been collecting those for a long time too. It’s like I kind of had a bunch of sources.”
More than a collection of photographs
“There was wonderful oral history that came into this project,” Taylor said. “I say this in the introduction that there are three kinds of sources. Primary sources, which are sources that date from the time something happened like a newspaper article. Secondary sources that look back and write about things that happened like Kate Scott’s history McKnight’s History. And then there’s oral history and oral history is orally transmitted history about something.
“I had a lot of comments that came in, they weren’t oral but they were texted in. And one of the most fun that I found was about the construction of what we used to have in town – the old swinging bridge. It was a suspension bridge from the Memorial Park across to Taylor Street. And if you look at Memorial Park now it’s elevated. And all of that elevation came from when they did flood control back in the 1950s. They took everything and piled it there as flood control and that’s why it’s elevated. Well, it took the swinging bridge out. I had a woman who wrote in and said her grandfather had built it (the bridge), and referred me on to a newspaper article from the 50s that talked about this but that would have been totally lost. And it’s one of those losses that people in Brookville bemoan because they said, ‘Gee, could we get the swinging bridge back.’”
There’s a photo of Dan Smith Candies when it was located across the Redbank River in the book. “It’s interesting because remember Bill Snyder, the architect? His grandfather built that (building that housed Dan Smith’s Candies). I’m guessing 1950 Ford pickup truck is parked in front of the building and it says H.E. Snyder, contractor, on it. That kind of stuff that people have never seen. On that same site, I don’t know if you know the big gray brick house up behind it. It’s a big Victorian. And that house I talk about, and have some old pictures in it but that house had ornamental gardens that came the whole way down to the street where Dan Smith’s is and the family had moved away by that time so they sold off the lawn and Dan Smith built there.
“I used to own the building that the library was in, and that was built in 1848. And I think, ‘Boy, I’d love to have five minutes in 1848, just to stand out in front of that and look down the street and see what the rest of Brookville looked like in 1848. Because that was a mansion, by today’s standards.”
So where has he kept all these photos?
“Boxes and boxes, that’s pretty much it and notebooks and things like that. My postcards are in a three-ring binder with postcard-sized sleeves, so I can keep them organized sort of, I mean I’m not the world’s greatest organizer, but...”
How did he select these 300 photos for the book?
Simple, he chose what photos he liked, first and then pictures that were never published. “But typically if they hadn’t been published before I liked them.
“There’s some family references and there are some family pages in there but again, and I apologize for that in the book, but you know when a family’s been around since 1830 there are stories to be told. So that’s all right. It’s been a fun project. And another fun picture that came down through my family is a picture of a house on the flat of South Pickering Street. Going up the flat up on the bank where there’s now a wall. There was the biggest house ever built in Brookville there. And it was built by my two greats grandfather, who was a lumberman in the 1870s and 1880s. Like a lot of people here (he) did very well.
“He ended up moving to Detroit in the 1890s and became a brewer, but his son moved into this house over South Pickering Street and in 1904 it caught fire and burned. And different tie-ins with history the Pickering Street Bridge had collapsed in 1904, and was replaced by the one that many of us remember, but the older one had gone out in a flood. So the fire wagons couldn’t get around in time to treat this fire. But there’s a fabulous picture of this house. It was at least three stories plus the tower.
“It’s a funny story because – and I mentioned this in the book – he was a lumbermen, made lots of money here, went to Detroit had his brewery, and about in the late 1890s when he would have been in his 60s probably by then, this young guy came to him and wanted” Taylor’s great-great grandfather to invest in an invention that this young man had. Taylor’s ancestor would have nothing to do with it. “And of course, it turned out to be Henry Ford.
“My grandfather who was his grandson talked about that and would just roar with laughter when talked about his his grandfather turning his back on Henry Ford, saying, ‘nah, this will never take.’
“So history is fun, sometimes,” Taylor says.
He was hoping to take his book to commercial printer LaBue in DuBois on Tuesday. He would like to have a book signing event before Christmas at the Jefferson County History Center, where the book will be available once published. For those wanting to make sure they get a copy, there’s a pre publication order form available. People can email Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. And there’s an order form on Facebook. Cost of the book is $50.
Taylor noted that “a lot of people have made comments about what a great project this is and they’re looking forward to it. I’ve got probably 50 pre-orders already which is pretty wild.
Taylor also has some advice for people that have old photos that might show scenes of local towns or of homes from around the area. “Well I, of course, would love to borrow any pictures anybody would like to send. I would encourage them to send it to the Jefferson County History Center because that is our county’s history center. They have a library; they have archives. And there are pictures that once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
He also stressed the need to “identify the back of your pictures. You know I don’t know how many dozens and probably hundreds (of photos) I’ve seen over the years that are really interesting pictures of interesting looking people with no identification.”
Taylor’s book is called “The Way We Were,” which he notes, “that kind of says it all.”