Keepers of Our past: Local Historical Writing in the United States, 1820s-1930s

By David J. Russo | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Repeaters

An indication of the growing popularity of local historical writing after the Civil War was the presence of antiquarians who wrote or served as compilers for a number of different local histories antiquarians who can suitably be called "repeaters." In New England, the work of Dr. William B. Lapham in Maine, Rev. Josiah Temple in Massachusetts, and Rev. Samuel Orcutt in Connecticut was a consequence of the desire of those with a personal and remunerative interest in producing local history to do so on a continuing basis. Officials of some towns decided to hire outsiders when inhabitants did not undertake the task. Even though outsiders, Lapham, Temple, and Orcutt respected the individuality of New England towns and resisted the temptation to reduce local historical writing to a set formula, sometimes, indeed, drawing on the earlier or on-going antiquarian endeavors of the inhabitants themselves.

Dr. William B. Lapham launched his career as a local historian with his history of Woodstock, Maine, in 1882.(1) "Though reared elsewhere, . . . [and] having labored under the disadvantage of living at a distance from the town while the work was going on," Lapham was anxious to display his connections with the place: his wife and mother were both natives, and his maternal grandfather was among the earliest settlers. Lapham found that Woodstock was a typical, or at least unexceptional town in that it was founded after the period of Indian warfare, was without resources for manufacturing, and thus remained a peaceful, agricultural village.(2) In Lapham's hands, local history served the same purpose as it had before the Civil War. Lapham arranged the contents of his history into a brief, annalistic treatment, followed by topical accounts of the churches, schools, military, post office, hotels, traders, physicians, lawyers, mills, family sketches, and so on a combination like those that appeared in the more comprehensive local histories written before the Civil War.

Lapham's antiquarian efforts started in a typical manner, notable only in that he was not a native of the community whose history he wrote.

-125-

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Keepers of Our past: Local Historical Writing in the United States, 1820s-1930s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in American History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Copyright Acknowledgments vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • PART I The Early Antiquarians 7
  • Chapter 1- The Early Setting 9
  • Chapter 2- The New England Pioneers 27
  • Chapter 3- Their Histories 43
  • Chapter 4- Elsewhere: John F. Watson 63
  • Part II- The Later Antiquarians 77
  • Chapter 5- The Later Setting 79
  • Chapter 6- Town Historians 91
  • Chapter 7- City Historians 109
  • Chapter 8- Repeaters 125
  • Part III- Formulaic Local History 147
  • Chapter 9- Local History as a Publishing Venture 149
  • Chapter 10- Local History as an Editorial Project 165
  • Chapter 11- Local History as Literature 183
  • PART IV The Coming of the Academics 189
  • Chapter 12- Amateurs and Academics 191
  • Conclusion 205
  • Notes 215
  • Bibliography 255
  • Index 275
  • About the Author 282
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