CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The lockdown brought on by the novel coronavirus has given town historian John Scherer an opportunity take on a writing project he’s been putting off for five years; a sequel to his popular book about the town’s history.
While the pandemic was moving a full speed earlier this year, and businesses and schools were closing their doors Scherer was hard at work at home writing a follow-up to his 2003 book, “Bits of Clifton Park History”.
Written between March and June, Scherer is giving the galley proofs of his latest book, “More Bits of Clifton Park History”, one final read before telling the printers to roll the presses.
“With all my speaking engagements canceled and no exhibits to work on due to the pandemic, I finally had the time to do something I’ve been putting off,” he said. “And this time, I laid it out myself.”
Scherer has written a number of books focused on the local community, but of them all had someone else doing the formatting, layout, and pagination. This time he decided to push his computer skills to the limit.
“It was daunting, but it was also a learning experience,” he said. “If I didn’t have all the time I never would have done it.”
More Bits of Clifton Park History includes articles published in the Community News and elsewhere since 2003. The 184-page book has fourteen thematic chapters; many featuring oral histories, early photographs, and new research into Clifton Park’s past. It gives readers additional insight into the people, places, and events of an earlier Clifton Park.
“I’ve got chapters on things like taverns, churches, cemeteries, public buildings, and of course people,” he said. “I think readers will enjoy the chapter on people because it includes interesting tidbits like the fellow who murdered his wife in Vischer Ferry or the fact that Charles Steinmetz spent a fair bit of time in town.”
Scherer retired from the New York State Museum several years ago where he was an objects curator. He has been the town Historian since 1979. During that time and prior to the appointment he was doing oral history interviews with longtime town residents.
Asked to name a few stories from the book that piqued his interest more than usual, Scherer described how he came to find the original 1842 plaque presented at the opening of Erie Canal Lock 19.
“It wasn’t on the lock which is where you’d expect to find it,” he said. “It was outside a private home in town.”
Scherer and a couple fellow history lovers had been allowed to go through the previous historian’s home before it was demolished. Finding nothing important they walked outside and spied what looked to be a granite tombstone. When they cleaned it off they realized it was the dedication plaque for the canal lock.
Another interesting story found in the book is the story surrounding the rooster that lived for months after being beheaded.
“It was in 1905,” Scherer said. “Dr. MacElroy, the local country doctor was involved. He took care of people, but he also judged animals at the fair and raised beagle hounds. He had an interest in animals.”
The funds for printing the book came from the town. Scherer said the money saved from the pandemic forcing his usual in-person historian’s conference to switch to a virtual conference, coupled with funds saved by the town Recreation Department from its canceled programs paid for the printing.
“Clifton Park is blessed with a rich history and architectural heritage, and this latest journey into Clifton Park’s past is sure to be of interest,” he said.
The book will be available for purchase at the Clifton Park Town Hall after Oct. 3.