MILTON – Town Historian Kim McCartney and independent historian James Richmond have collaborated on a book about the town’s history. Richmond is a member of Milton’s Historic Structures and Places Committee and the author of War on the Middleline, a book about a 1780 British raid in Ballston and Milton. The anticipated release date for their book, Milton, New York: A New Town in a New Nation, is at the end of February 2018.
McCartney says she and Richmond came up with the idea for the book in 2016. Milton’s 225th anniversary was just one year away, and they wanted to do something special to celebrate the milestone.
“We said, ‘We need to do something’,” she says. “And it just morphed and grew into a book.”
Their book focuses on the early years of the town—from the first settlements of the 1770s up until the mid-1800s. They chose that time period because books covering later time periods of Milton’s history have already been written.
“We thought we could look for stories that weren’t as well known and tell a story of the town’s early growth as the new nation was growing,” says McCartney. “We started writing in the fall of 2016. The initial plan was to have the book done in time for our celebration in August of 2017. But it just kept growing, and we kept finding more and more information.”
McCartney relied on many sources of information for her research. She used census data, tax lists, old newspapers, deeds, probate records, and research done by other historians. McCartney and Richmond found themselves overwhelmed by the amount of research involved in the project and enlisted the help of Karen Staulters. She is a member of the town’s Historic Structures and Places Committee and an archivist for the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The book is complete and is undergoing final edits. It has been financed by McCartney and Richmond, and all profits will be donated to the Brookside Museum. Much of the information contained in the book was obtained from records and documents housed at the museum. McCartney also volunteered there before becoming town historian.
When asked what information in the book is likely to surprise readers, McCartney thinks for a moment before answering.
“I think it’s going to surprise in various ways. When you read about government and politics and the fighting and bickering that went on years ago, it is not so different that what goes on today,” she says. “We also think of ourselves as very mobile society, but 225 years ago they didn’t hesitate to pick up and move,” she replied. McCartney says it was very uncommon for a family to stay in one place for generation after generation.
“People may also be surprised to learn that we had slaves in the town of Milton in the early years,” says McCartney. “They came with the early settlers. It caused tension mostly in the churches. At the Old Stone Church, you had a member who owned a slave, and the other members did not approve.”
When asked how the slave story from the Old Stone Church ended, she says. “We don’t know. That’s the sad thing when it comes to African-American history. Even though people could preach that slavery was wrong, they were still held as second-class citizens, and there’s not a lot of documentation about their lives.”
This is the first book for McCartney, a retired critical care nurse, and she admits she felt overwhelmed by the project on many occasions. She says she is ready to take a break from writing and when the time is right, she will resume working on her next book about the Town’s cemeteries.
Until then, she and Richmond will be busy promoting their new book. They plan on scheduling presentations at historical societies and other venues throughout the area.
Contact the Town of Milton Historian’s Office for more information about the book and its availability.