Town commissioner Alan Fox comes out with new book on Perryville

BookArts and CultureHavre de GraceRailway TransportationTravelAmerican Legion

Perryville's rich history is the focus of a new "Images of America" book, thanks to town commissioner Alan Fox.

The book filled with historical photos and the stories behind them was released Jan. 16 after nearly a year of planning and work.

Fox, a longtime Perryville resident, was interested in pursuing the project when Arcadia Publishing, the company responsible for the book series, contacted the town to find a prospective writer.

"[I] wanted to give it a try," he said, especially given his interest in local history.

After sending Arcadia 25 sample photos of the town along with captions, Fox said he could complete the ambitious project in nine months — and he stuck to his goal.

Fox said he already had "a fair amount of local stuff" to include in the book — pictures, postcards and prints — but then citizens opened up their photo albums to him, contributing to the book. The commissioner was also able to use the town's archive, Perryville Railway Museum and Perry Point Veterans Museum, as well as "an awful lot of stuff" from Historical Society of Cecil County.

After compiling the photos that captured Perryville's history, Fox had to complete the writing in the book.

"All in all the pressure was very rewarding and very educational," Fox said of the experience.

Though Fox enjoys history now, this wasn't always the case.

"As a kid, you disregard all of that stuff," he said. "As I got older, I started collecting local Indian artifacts." Fox also collects local duck decoys, as well as images of the town and its surrounding areas. "It seemed to fit in really [nicely] with my interests," he said about the book.

Piecing the book together, Fox, — whose son, Dewey Fox, is a sports reporter for this newspaper — began to see the small, fascinating details of Perryville, or "the little things in life," as he described.

Looking at the photos, he would remember things from his childhood, such as the American Legion in the old Armstrong stove factory.

The workers on the railroad and at the foundry reminded him of the "massive amount of work that went on at this town" and just "how dirty and gritty it could be at times."

Seeing the people who once lived where he lives now "brought back what the human side of history is for me," Fox said. "Real people, real life."

His favorite chapter of the book revolves around the Susquehanna River.

"Basically, the second image in the book is an old engraving," Fox said. The wood engraving, part of the Dec. 22, 1866 issues of Harper's Weekly, depicted the bridge between Perryville and Havre de Grace that paralleled the existing railroad bridge between the town and city; 1866 was the year it opened and was hailed as an architectural achievement.

"I looked at those piers my whole life and never [saw] anything like it connecting the two [Perryville and Havre de Grace]," he noted.

What was most interesting to him about the bridge was, again, the human aspect.

"What you have to appreciate is they [people] traveled from Philadelphia to Baltimore or further south. Trains pulled into Perryville and loaded things onto ferries and took it to Havre de Grace," Fox said. The bridge cut out that tiring process, giving easier access to businesses and travelers.

While Fox is humble of his accomplishment — "Don't expect it to be No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list," he said — he is quite proud of his first book. So is the town.

"I don't think I've completely absorbed it yet," he said. Fox keeps copies of the book in his home for guests to flip through, and, as approved by the other town commissioners and mayor, the book will soon be available for purchase at Perryville Town Hall, where other books of local interest have seen sold.

All proceeds from the book — after Fox recoups the expenses of purchasing the books from Aracadia — will go toward revitalizing downtown Perryville, a project Fox is passionate about.

Outside of town, the book is also being sold on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Even more impressive, "Perryville" will be held at the Library of Congress inWashington, D.C., for future residents of the town and lovers of history to look back upon.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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