The book Our Town – Ilion, New York: A Selective Look at 300 Years of History (self-published, 2022) by Joseph D. Collea, Jr. tells the story of the founding, growth, and development of a small but vibrant Herkimer County community that ultimately gained world-wide recognition and acclaim for the quality of its manufactured products — most notably rifles and typewriters.
The impetus which inspired Joe to write this book stemmed from the fact that very little has ever been written about the village’s past. In all of its long history, only one full-length book had previously been devoted to a telling of Ilion’s story, and that was published in 1977. Several noteworthy booklets were produced in conjunction with the 100th and 150th celebrations of the community’s founding in 1852, but on the whole a place that has had such a long, interesting, and varied saga has been largely ignored by writers.
Each chapter stands alone as a treatise on a particular aspect of Ilion’s history. The subjects selected for inclusion cover a range that crosses a wide spectrum of places, events, and people that collectively comprise the story of the community. Social, political, economic, philanthropic, and recreational aspects of village life are among the topics included. The text is complimented by a variety of period photographs, along with the inclusion of several vintage maps as well as some that were specially-designed for the book.
Joe is a graduate of Ilion High School’s Class of ’65 and went on to earn three degrees from the State University of New York at Albany and did post-graduate work at Cortland State, Syracuse University, and the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He grew up in Ilion where at different times he was a history teacher, coach, class advisor, vice-principal, and principal in the junior-senior high school. Outside of the school, Joe served the village as an elected official when he served three terms as trustee and three as mayor.
Retiring in 2016 after 47 years in public education, Joe now devotes his time to writing. Our Town is his third book. His current projects are those of completing a biography of Ilion’s former major league baseball player Boots Day and beginning research for a second volume that will be a companion to Our Town.
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