Despite being four villages in two separate countries, the communities along the Lower Niagara have a shared history of life along the river.
“From the Mouth of the Lower Niagara River: Stories of Four Historic Communities,” a recently released book, chronicles this common bond “Commemorating 200 Years of Peace Along Our Border.”
In a compilation that was several years in the making, more than a dozen local authors and contributors in Lewiston, Youngstown and the Ontario communities of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Queenston donated thousands of hours of research and writing to the project, using a $29,000 grant from the Niagara River Greenway Commission.
“It’s a unique writing project, and I didn’t tell people what to write,” said project chairwoman and co-author Gretchen A. Duling, of Youngstown, who headed a committee of four writing teams with principal authors from each community.
Each section of the book on each village “reads differently and has its own culture,” she said. “There are connections between each of us that came up that may or may not have been known before.”
She said that the first group of writers began meeting regularly in 2009, both in the United States and Canada, and that all of the authors live along or near the river. “We are kind of like stewards of the river,” Duling said of the writers’ passion to preserve its history. “Whatever happens out there does impact the quality of our lives.”
Duling is a former music teacher and retired gifted and talented programming specialist in the Williamsville Central School District. She has a doctorate in education from the University at Buffalo and two master’s degrees, one in educational administration from Canisius College and the other in creative problem-solving from Buffalo State College.
When she first began exploring the topic, Duling noticed that there weren’t any binational histories, so she gathered writers she knew from both sides of the border, as well as recommendations for others who may be interested in submitting work for the project.
Others involved in the project included her husband, Dennis C. Duling, who has several degrees, including doctorates in social and biblical studies, and is the author of seven scholarly books on religious study. He acted as an editor and contributor for the Lower Niagara book.
Michelle A. Kratts, an assistant librarian and the genealogy and history specialist at Lewiston Public Library, was one of the Lewiston authors, along with co-author and Buffalo News correspondent Teresa Sharp Donaldson. “I was thrilled to have something published of this magnitude,” Kratts said. As part of her job in geneology, Kratts said, she feels a connection to people of the past from the area. In the book, Kratts focused on the Tuscaroras, the Native Americans of Lewiston. “I think Lewiston history is so strongly influenced by the Native Americans,” Kratts said.
With the renewed interest in the War of 1812 because of the 200th anniversary, Kratts said, she spent time researching and writing about the men of the New York militia who refused to fight in the Battle of Queenston Heights. In most history books, they are portrayed as cowards.
“I’ve never really read where people investigated this and found out what was going on,” Kratts said. “I figured out, in my opinion, why they didn’t fight – and they really were pretty brave to have done what they did. I thought maybe I would have done what they did.”
There will be a book-signing with authors from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday in the Book Corner, 1801 Main St., Niagara Falls.
The book is currently available at 30 locations, including major bookstores and historical associations and online at www.buffalobooks.com. This summer, the book will also be available to visitors in Ontario Park concessions and in New York State parks.
All proceeds from the book are donated to local history museums that helped with the research: the Niagara Historical Museum in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Town of Porter Historical Society and the Historical Association of Lewiston.