Library History

Who We Are:

Cornelius B. Erwin was born in Boonville and at the age of 21 left for New Britain, CT with just five dollars in his pocket. When he died in 1885, his estate was worth 1.1. million dollars. In 1839 he was a co-founder of the Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Company, which is best known as the pioneer of the steel lock industry. The company became part of the Black and Decker Corporation following several mergers and buyouts. Upon his death, Erwin bequeathed his estate to numerous institutions, including the Village of Boonville to establish a public library. The building was built in 1890 of rock-faced local limestone with a square tower at the entrance and has always been a library. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. On May 28, 1959, Erwin Library became part of the Mid-York Library System.

Prominent Local Authors:

James Willard Schultz

Erwin Library is home to several books from the collection of author James Willard Schultz. Schultz was born in Boonville on August 26, 1859 and was an American author, explorer, Glacier National Park guide, fur trader, and historian of the Blackfeet Indians. During a visit to St. Louis, Missouri, Schultz met trappers and fur traders from Montana and listened to stories about the endless buffalo on the plains. In the summer of 1877, he received $500 and permission from his mother to go buffalo hunting in Montana. He promised to return in time for school at West Point in the fall but found life in the west too exciting and never returned to live in the east. Schultz became fascinated with the Native American way of life and joined the Blackfoot tribe. He developed further ties with the Blackfeet by marrying Fine Shield Woman of the Pikunis. They had a son from this union named Hart Merriam Schultz, “Lone Wolf,” who later became a prominent artist in the southwest and illustrated some of his father’s books. James W. Schultz was one of the few whites ever permitted to visit the sacred Blackfoot Tobacco Gardens in Bow River Valley, Alberta. Schultz was fluent in the language of the Blackfoot and well versed in their culture. He maintained contact with his adopted tribe until his death in 1947.

Walter D. Edmunds

Walter Dumaux Edmunds was best known for historical novels. One of them, Drums Along the Mohawk, was adapted as a feature film in 1939. Walter Dumaux Edmunds was born in Boonville on July 5, 1903, which serves as the locale for his historical novels. His father, who operated a New York City law practice from his country farm, was a lineal descendant of the Reverend Peter Bulkeley of Concord. His mother, Sarah Mays Edmonds, came from a family that had been involved in the seventeenth century witchcraft episodes around Salem. Edmonds grew up in the Erie Canal territory and he spent many hours of his boyhood listening to the colorful stories of the old canallers in the region around Boonville. In 1929, he published his first novel, Rome Haul, a work about the Erie Canal. The novel was adapted for the 1934 play The Farmer Takes a Wife and the 1935 film of the same name. Drums Along the Mohawk was on the bestseller list for two years. Edmonds published 34 books, many for children, as well as a number of magazine stories.

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