Mayville author and personal historian Patricia Pihl's book, "Lost Places of Chautauqua County" is a compilation of articles, adopted from months of interviews with town historians, which explore less-known, but fascinating places in the county's past.
"Lost Places" covers such topics as Chautauqua County's link to the Underground Railroad; how Dewittville's "Poor Farm" was stressed by the new wave of immigrants and its link to the present day county home; the three World War II POW camps; the "islands" of Chautauqua Lake, and other places from the county's recent and distant past.
According to Pihl, the book also sheds light on interesting residents as well as former social, economic and medical realities.
Patricia Pihl’s book explores lesser-known places in Chautauqua County.
The idea for the series was spawned when Pihl and her husband, David, stopped while snowmobiling near the Chautauqua Gorge. Looking across a 200-foot ravine, David pointed to the site where Eagle Ridge Ski Resort once stood. A popular spot with area teenagers, the resort would ultimately close due to the untimely death of its owner, Tony DeMambro, on its slopes.
"The story intrigued me," Pihl stated, "and I wondered how many more of these forgotten or barely known places existed in the county?"
Pihl tracked down Eagle Ridge's Austrian ski pro, Hans Auer, now in his eighties, to record his memories of the resort and its short, but successful stint as Westfield's winter haven. From there, she continued interviews of local historians, writing about other forgotten places of the past.
John Paul Wolfe, Curator of the Chautauqua County Historical Society, said the series "covers areas throughout the entire county, creating interest for residents and tourists alike." Wolfe added, "It has been an enjoyable challenge to find information for Patricia in the archives for the next article. The amount of research which needed to be done each week was amazing."
Pihl admits that the book "only scratches the surface" of the many interesting places that existed in our county's past, but has, so far, been enthusiastically received.
She adds the experience has taught her a great deal. "First, history is ultimately about people their circumstances and challenges, what motivates them and what they fear. We imagine ourselves in their place; what if we had lived through that war, under a dated belief system, or in poverty without current economic safety nets?"
She also has a new appreciation for the work of historians whose passion requires painstaking research to bring the past to life. "Most work for the sheer love of history, making sure to set the record straight, while separating fact from fiction."
"Lost Places of Chautauqua County" is available at The Fenton History Center in Jamestown, The Chautauqua Bookstore at Chautauqua Institution, The Grape Discovery Center and McClurg Museum in Westfield and Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in Lakewood. Interested persons may also contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase copies of the book.