December 8, 2021

Society publishes new book on county’s history

60 years of story to tell

Shenandoah Briere/Staff Reporter

Jean Edwards, left, and Elizabeth Wavle-Brown look at some of the stories and photos in the newest book on Cortland County’s history. The book called “A Journey Through Time: Cortland County 1958-2018” took about three years for the co-authors to write and put together. The book will be available for purchase Sept. 8.

It’s been 60 years since the Cortland County Historical Society published a book on the county’s history. Some things haven’t changed.

“Agriculture is still so important here,” said author Elizabeth Wavle-Brown. “The industry itself has changed, but the fact that we are still a rural farming community has not changed.”

The new book titled “A Journey Through Time: Cortland County 1958- 2018,” co-written by Wavle-Brown and Jean Edwards, goes on sale Sept. 8 and details what has happened in the county over the last six decades breaking down the chapters with questions like “How do we play?” or “How do we eat?”

The book follows a previous book titled “Cortland County Sesquicentennial 1808-1958,” which encompassed 150 years of county history.

So, what else hasn’t changed?

Discussions are still going on regarding what to do about Main Street in Cortland.

‘A Journey Through Time: Cortland County 1958-2018’

What: Book launch
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 8
Where: CNY Living History Center, 4386 Route 11, Cortlandville
Where to get it: The book will be available at the Cortland County Historical Society, 25 Homer Ave., Cortland.
Price: $45, with a 10% discount at the book launch.
Online: Check out interviews with county residents on the Cortland County Historical Society’s Youtube page.

“There’s been many initiatives over the years with the underlying concern about merchants leaving downtown,” Wavle- Brown said.

Parts of the county are also still getting infestations of animals, they noted. It was once crows, Brown said and most recently it was rats at Dexter Park in Cortland.

But things have changed over the years, too, they said. Bald eagles are back in both Taylor and Marathon and the Amish community has been growing since it first came to the county in 2010. It’s up to 50 families now and has two schools.

While there has also been a decline in a number of major businesses over the years, smaller ones have popped up — and a lot of breweries, Wavle-Brown said.

The book, which took three years to put together, was the idea of historical society member John Mandarano.

“He suggested it and initially it was like, ‘hmm that would be a lot of work’ and then we decided it really needed to happen because we’ll lose some of this history if we don’t do it now,” Edwards said.

The book includes:

  • 220 stories.
  • More than 1,000 photographs.
  • 22 pages of color photographs.
  • 52 pages of ads.

The way the book goes about telling Cortland’s history is also different that the sesquicentennial book.

“We tried to get people to write their own stories because they would obviously know more than we would,” Wavle- Brown said. And people did — 125 people shared their stories and photos.

They also changed the book’s structure to answer questions like “Who are we?” rather than just being broken down by categories like business, religions or schools.

The book includes more photos, the authors said, noting they probably took more than 6,000 before deciding which to use. One of Edwards’ favorites is a photo of a cow on the cover.

“We tried to go with more pictures because when I see people looking through this book they’re flipping through looking at the pictures initially, anyway,” Edwards said.

The 430-page book is also 130 pages longer than planned.

They said interest in the book has been phenomenal, with 200 people seeking to buy one. The organization printed 300 copies using Cortland Press & Carbon Copies and will continue printing books until sales slow down.

However, Tabitha Scoville, the director of the historical society, said she doesn’t think that will happen until the end of the year.

Money from the sales will go to support the historical society.

“This is a pretty big fundraiser for us,” Wavle-Brown said.

“Initially we’ll use it to keep printing books,” Edwards added.

The authors hope people will read the book and want to take a trip to discover the same beauty they saw.

“For us it was just a real joy to get out and see the county and I think a lot of people don’t get out there to travel and see what great stuff there is here and so we tried to make this really positive,” Wavle-Brown said.