Theft Of Pages From Cleveland's Yates Co. History Saved Them For Posterity.Some unknown person who helped themselves to five partially printed sections of Cleveland's Yates county history "saved" the second volume for posterity, because all other copies were burned in a fire. The location of three of these precious volumes is known and one of them is being preserved at Cornell University.
The interesting story back of the "saving" of this second volume is told in the November issue of The Cornell Alumni News by Mrs. Edith M. Fox, who is curator of Cornell's regional history collection. Here is Mrs. Fox's account:
In the locked press of the Cornell University library is a second volume of Stafford Canning Cleveland's History and Directory of Yates County. One of two copies known to be in existence, this volume ends abruptly in the middle of a sentence on page 1168, has no title page, and although printed and now bound, has never been published. Discovered by a Cornell alumnus and acquired by the curator of the Collection of Regional History in the summer of 1946, the volume has an interesting story.
The writing of New York county histories flourished during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. A large number of these were commercial ventures produced by publishers who undertook the work on the subscription basis, so that the mention of many a worthy citizen depended largely upon the willingness or ability of descendants to subscribe five or perhaps twenty-five dollars. Others were written by amateur historians who usually lost money on their ventures. Despite startling inaccuracies, this kind of history has tremendous value for research workers as well as pleasure for casual readers.
Author Edited the Chronicle.
Cleveland, the editor from 1852-1881 of The Yates County Chronicle, was a man of impressive appearance and was recognized for his remarkable perseverance and intelligence. In 1869, Rodney L. Adams, a newspaper editor at Geneva, proposed that they produce jointly a 450 page gazetteer of Yates County. Adams soon withdrew, and Cleveland commented that it was "rash if not foolish" for him to undertake the job alone, since "few persons have less time for other work than one who has sole charge of a weekly country newspaper." Nevertheless, he began his laborious task by consulting "traditions, the accessible records, the history so far as any has been written." He was guided by a definite personal philosophy: "If," he said, "the proper study of mankind is man, it must include the sum total of all that aids to fashion his nature. . . . If we unfold this wonderful scroll of a human existence we shall find it an epitome of the universe." After completing more than 1,200 pages, he reluctantly concluded to publish two volumes. Nor did he expect pecuniary reward but only a severe loss, which less effort at thoroughness would have avoided.
First Volume Was Unprofitable.
The first volume was published in 1873, and "proved very unprofitable." Cleveland received 372 bound copies; 1,118 unbound copies remained in the possession of William J. Moses, the publisher of The Auburn Bulletin, and then disappeared after his death. Thus the first volume is comparatively rare.
Cleveland could not afford to finish the second volume, but did have part of it printed. His widow, Obedience, sought for the printed sheets and discovered five cases of them in a Penn Yan barn. These she sent to Joel Munsell's Sons, publishers at Albany, who reported "that they could make nothing of value of the printed sheets after weeks of labor and that it seemed to them that they had been purposely mutilated to make them worthless." In despair, Mrs. Cleveland wrote, "I have agonized over the completion of my noble husband's life work for years, and have given it up because I have spent on it in vain all the money I had to spare."
Fire Destroys Printed Portions.
After Mrs. Cleveland's death, the late George Scott Sheppard '74 continued the search. Joel Munsell's Sons wrote that the sheets turned over to them had been destroyed by a fire in their establishment, and that their efforts to obtain the original manuscript had failed.
But while the sheets of the second volume were in the Penn Yan barn and before their mutilation, an unknown person abstracted five copies, all lacking a title page and a final chapter which never had been printed. One was sold in 1928 to the D.A.R. Library at Washington. No one seems to know the fate of three other copies. The fifth copy came into the possession of George S. Sheppard and was acquired by Cornell from his son.
—The Chronicle-Express, Penn Yan, N.Y., February 9, 1950.
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