By Chris Mays, Brattleboro Reformer
WILMINGTON — A newly published book of photographs captures the early history of Wilmington in all of its elements.
“Images of America: Wilmington” took more than two years for Julie Moore and her adult son Nathan Moore to put together. The book goes up to the late 1960s and Moore had suggested the potential for a sequel to Nathan if the first sells well.
“It’s been selling wonderfully,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “We actually got another shipment in because we basically sold out of our first order. And we’ve had lots of compliments.”
The book is being sold by the Historical Society of Wilmington for $21.99 at wilmingtonhistoricalsociety.com and Bartleby’s Books. All profits will go to the historical society.
Moore has been a part of the group for at least 15 years. Arcadia Publishing emailed her in 2017 to see if she or anyone she knew would be interested in creating a book about Wilmington for its Images of America series.
Moore said she always wanted to do a book for the historical society and decided to give it a shot.
“Preserving Wilmington history is very important to me,” she said.
Moore said she first had to put together a 10-page proposal about why Wilmington would be a good fit for the series. With Brattleboro and Bennington having books in the series, she thought of Wilmington as “the missing link.”
While Moore had doubts about the proposal being accepted, it was approved nine days after being submitted in January 2018. Then she had to pull together sample captions and photos, and review a contract.
The goal was to have the book published in time for Old Home Week, which was scheduled for August but ended up being postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event is held every decade as a reunion and way for the community to celebrate together.
The book was published Sept. 7.
“Needless to say the project was extremely time consuming and we were very pleased to have the two years to work on it,” Moore said.
The project included strict guidelines — chapters needed to start on the right hand page, and no fewer than 180 images and no more than 240 could be submitted. Moore initially worried she wouldn’t be able to collect enough photos.
“What a joke,” she said, ending up with 198 images for the book and at least another 100 that couldn’t be used. “The photos had to meet the publisher’s specs as well so that meant a lot of work scanning images in and sending for approval.”
Word count was limited to no fewer than 8,000 and no more than 18,000 including chapter titles, introductions, acknowledgements and photo courtesies. Moore said her son did “an awesome job
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keeping under the radar.” They ended up with 17,954 words the day before a deadline in December 2019.
One challenge involved finding a cover photo. As she submitted images, Moore said the publisher kept telling her to keep looking.
Ultimately, the cover image is a view looking west down Main Street with tracks from wagon wheels crossing an iron bridge built in 1888 and Haystack Mountain off in the distance. The small photograph was discovered in an envelope someone had given to the historical at some point.
The project involved looking for rare photos like that one and images that weren’t always of the center of town. Moore said the idea is to show how Wilmington changed over the years.
“To think we had a train that came to town, farms, logging, mills,” she said. “The industry was unbelievable.”
The community went through “some pretty hard times but came out of it,” Moore said, specifically noting the Great Depression and the flood of 1938. “Still, they came back strong.”
The book features serious moments such as fires and when community members searched for five-year-old Judy Adams from the Adams Farm who died after she slid through ice in the Deerfield River in 1947.
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“The incident was one of many examples of Wilmington residents coming together to help neighbors in need,” the caption reads.
The book also has its fair share of fun with images of fairs, celebrations and sports. An early photo of Memorial Hall, which was built in 1902 and is described in the caption as a “social center” for the town,” shows local adults and students performing a play.
Haystack Mountain, where a private ski resort is now based, “is named for its sharp, pointed summit cone that rises to 3,462 feet,” the book states. “The subject of local history, myth, legend and lore that includes vanishing hikes, a `bottomless’ summit lake, and a lost cave, it once hosted a fire tower during the 1920s.”
Moore said she and Nathan tried to make the book flow together. Images are arranged in chapters about landmarks, schooling, life, churches and organizations, country leisure, people, events, traditions, outskirts, and “What Would We Do Without?,” which begins with electricity’s debut in Wilmington in 1894.
At the bottom of page 62 is “just the coolest photo” in Moore’s opinion. A truck is seen parked in the middle of Main Street selling produce.
“Certainly with the traffic today, you wouldn’t have something like that,” Moore said.
Moore and her husband Brian traveled out west, spending two weeks with their son this summer. They were able to finalize material for the book.
“We cannot begin to thank all the people who preserved so many photos, and history over the
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years so that we could accomplish this task for the Historical Society of Wilmington,” Moore said. “Those who shared photos and information to help with the book are greatly appreciated, too.”
Moore expressed gratitude her husband for all his patience with her.
“Because it wasn’t easy doing it from here to Montana,” she said. “It was almost like we had an extra layer of work there because I collected the info and shared it with my son. It was almost like we did everything twice.”
Moore said the project couldn’t have been completed without her son.
“Without his help and love of writing,” she said, “I could have never done it alone.”
She also thanked Harriet Maynard, curator of the Historical Society of Wilmington, for her tireless help.
Maynard said Moore had a determination to complete the project.
“Arcadia had its guidelines so you had to follow those,” Maynard said. “It was all those ups and downs.”
For instance, one guideline involved having photos never before produced. Maynard said if an image was used in an article or town report, it couldn’t be used so Moore reached out to find people who could provide unique pictures.
Maynard described a positive response for the book from the community.
“I thought it was a lot of fun, a lot of work,” she said. “I think she did a very good job, she and her son, and I enjoyed doing it. It’s always fun digging into the past and seeing what you can find.”
Given the shift to digital photography, Moore hopes people will still think about preserving their pictures for future generations. With Old Home Week being postponed and other activities limited due to the pandemic, she also hopes the book will be “a positive for people who have been cooped up all the time and aren’t able to travel.”
“It will give them something to look at,” she said.
She recently sent an order to Switzerland for someone who lived locally earlier.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.
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