Donlon’s “The Mohawk Valley” discussed at Walter Elwood Museum


Until recently, an important account of the history of the Mohawk Valley that was written in the 1930’s by published author, columnist, and Amsterdam native Hugh P. Donlon, has been unavailable to the general public. Fortunately, Donlon’s work, titled “The Mohawk Valley” is now available in print, thanks to the work of author Dave Northrup and local columnist and radio personality Bob Cudmore. Northrup, Cudmore, and FMCC librarian and former Fulton County historian Pete Betz got together with a small number of interested history enthusiasts at the Walter Elwood Museum on Saturday afternoon to read excerpts from the book and discuss the work’s significance.

According to Northrup, Donlon had submitted the manuscript for the book to both Union College and the NY State education department for publication, but was rejected. Although Donlon went on to publish “Annals of a Mill Town in the Mohawk Valley”, a history of the City of Amsterdam, he was never successful in getting “The Mohawk Valley” published.

Cudmore described his role in the publishing of the book as being the “golden retriever.”

“In other words, I found it, that was my main contribution, because of my newspaper column,” said Cudmore.

Cudmore explained that he frequently quoted Donlon is his newspaper columns, and because of that, Donlon’s son, John, started corresponding by email with him.

“At some point [John Donlon] told me, well you know, I’ve got this manuscript of a book my father wrote back in the 30’s and told me some of the stories involved in it’s creation,” recalled Cudmore.

Cudmore said he then connected John Donlon with Northrup. With the permission of Donlon’s family, Northrup edited the original manuscript and had the book published. Also included in the book is a biography of Donlon, to which Cudmore contributed.

Northrup said, “A fair question to ask is why bring ‘The Mohawk Valley’ into print some eighty years after it was written, and twenty six years after the author passed away. The answer I think, has several parts. They have to do with the personality of Hugh Donlon, his style as a writer, and the characteristics he felt defined the Mohawk Valley.”

In addition to being a history book, Northrup said, “it gives the reader insight into the personality of the author, a man who had a remarkable belief in the significance of his native place and a desire to share that belief with his contemporaries.”

“The book was not written for an academic audience,” said Northrup and added that he believed the intended audience was Donlon’s newspaper column readers.

Betz said that he did not consider himself a historian, because he did not have an exhaustive knowledge of history as some others that he knew of. However, Betz said, “I don’t think Hugh Donlon would ever consider himself a historian in the formal sense either. I think Hugh was, as you say, very much a communicator…his words flow, flow well.”

Museum director Ann Peconie added, “I like how Hugh Donlon talks about the valley…in the way he writes, as a person. I really love that, I don’t think you see that in any history books…the whole book is written in the first person, that the valley is a person. And I love that. That shows to me his love for the valley.”

Cudmore also discussed his most recent publication “Lost Mohawk Valley,” which includes 22 archival photos from the museum and interviews with former factory workers to recount Amsterdam’s former carpet mill culture. Both books are available at the Walter Elwood Museum’s gift shop.

Audio from the discussion can be heard here:

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.