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The new book The Bear Tree and Other Stories from Cazenovia’s History (USYRC, 2021) by Erica Barnes and Jason Emerson looks at the historic lakeside village of Cazenovia, Madison County, in the scenic Finger Lakes region, one of the jewels of Central New York.
Cazenovia is a town founded by wealthy men, and much of what has been written about it has focused on the elite and the grand lake-shore mansions in which they lived. In contrast, the new book by Erica Barnes and Jason Emerson chronicles the story of everyday Cazenovia: the fascinating people, places, and history of this 225-year-old community.
The Bear Tree and Other Stories from Cazenovia’s History explores the unheralded, inaccurately told, and long-forgotten tales of the town. Readers will encounter historical characters such as elephant and lion tamer Lucia Zora Card, “The Bravest Woman in the World”; educator Susan Blow, “The Mother of American Kindergarten”; Civil War soldier William Madge who escaped from Confederate prison; and World War I soldier Cecil Donovan, whose letters home vividly depicted the experience of war for those awaiting his return in Cazenovia.
The book examines tales that involve not just the greater Cazenovia area — Cazenovia village and town, towns of Nelson and Fenner — but adjacent towns as well, including Chittenango, Pompey, DeWitt, and Syracuse. Many of the people and subjects involved had an effect well beyond Cazenovia, some of national and international significance. Cazenovia has connections to four U.S. Presidents: Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt who visited Cazenovia, and local residents who knew, met, and served in the military with the two greatest presidents — George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Cazenovians also played major roles in national and world conflicts, including the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War I.
Erica Barnes compiled the “Years Ago in History” column for the Cazenovia Republican newspaper for four years; contributed research, writing and planning to the 225th anniversary exercises for the village of Cazenovia in 2018; and is a current schoolteacher.
Jason Emerson was the editor of the Republican for seven years and is an award- winning historian who has written or edited seven previous books on American history.
Together they dug through local, regional and national archives, and numerous volumes of the Cazenovia Republican and previous village newspapers, to reveal new information about the history of their community.
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