Tom Graham has lived in Bishop’s Mills since his family moved there from Ottawa away back in 1975. Since then, it seems, he has spent a great deal of time gathering up stories and information about that hamlet and its inhabitants, and we should all be very grateful that he did. Tom has published a history of Bishop’s Mills which will become an essential source for anyone interested in knowing more about the place and its people.
This is not an enthusiastic amateur at work, the book is well-researched and supported by footnotes and sources, and yet it maintains a wonderfully informal narrative style that keeps your attention rivetted throughout. Tom has drawn from an absolute wealth of reminiscences, documentary material, and illustrations (some drawn by Tom himself) to provide a solid narrative covering the area from pre-historic times right up to today.
In his Afterword, Tom quotes Mildred Adams, lifelong resident of Bishop’s Mills and someone who embodied the history and traditions of the hamlet. Mildred sums up the importance of books like this in providing rural hamlets and small towns with an identity and a sense of history and heritage that could so easily be lost, along with the stories and characters who shaped them.
“You work together to help the Village stay together. And that’s what needs to be done in these smaller places…to help them keep their identity. What they were and what they still can be.”
This is what Tom has done very successfully. This is not a handy tourist brochure. It is a full-length history, with a generous amount of photographs, illustrations, maps and sources, that is clearly the result of lengthy research and inquiry by someone intimately acquainted with the people and places he describes.
Tom makes two very important points by the end of this book. The first is that books like this can only be the results of research to date: they are never the final word, because the story keeps on going. There is always more to discover and report as the years go by. His second point is that this book, like any other piece of scholarly research, has to pick and choose what it contains, because there is so much more to say, so many more stories to write, than is possible in one volume.
Tom Graham has exhibited the secret to good historical and social history writing: choosing from the wealth of possible material and using the best stories and information to provide as full and authentic a picture of life in Bishop’s Mills throughout its long and continuing story.
Tales from the General Store: The Untold History of Bishop’s Mills
Or, How Seven Years Behind the Counter Taught Me How to Act Local, Build Relationships and Create Community, by Tom Graham, with Foreword by David Bishop. Published by Habit Five Publishing, Kemptville.
Readers can pre-order the book or reserve a copy by visiting www.HabitFive.com.