Keene author writes about Styles Brooks Watershed
KEENE — Award-winning author Lorraine Duvall released one of her close-guarded loves out into the world with her latest book, “Where the Styles Brook Waters Flow: The Place I Call Home.”
From its wilderness source to its meeting with the Ausable River, Styles Brook is scarcely 5 miles long, yet within its scenic, rugged watershed, Duvall discovered a lifetime of stories that characterize the Adirondack condition.
The Keene resident will appear at book readings and signings at the Keene Valley Library, Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m. and at the AuSable Forks Free Library, Oct. 13, 4 p.m.
Duvall started on this track years ago with Tropical Storm Irene.
“I had written a few pieces that were published in the Adirondack Almanack,” she said.
“I kept lots of photos. Then, I started to talk to some neighbors about their history, and I thought, hmm, this is much deeper than I imagined it to be. I found out what happened in the 1800s and early 1900s and the history of these subsistence farmers, how some of the land was bought up, and there were larger dairy farms selling milk here. I didn’t know any of that.”
It was very exciting for her to talk with people who remembered buying milk.
“People gave me their glass bottles of the milk that was sold from Upland Meadows Farm,” she said.
“Now, it was purchased, and it’s more of a gentleman’s farm, and it’s called Highland Farm.
“Then, I started to write about my own experiences here and how my family would come up and we have a big family reunion.
“Then, my high school friends came up, and we had a high school reunion here. Then, I had meditation friends come up for a number of retreats, and I thought, ‘Gee, this is really rich just where I live here, Styles Brook and what the brook itself meant to me.'”
Duvall talked with one neighbor who told her all sorts of stories.
“I don’t have all the stories in the book,” she said.
“It would probably take me another 10 years to get all the stories I heard. I chose some that seemed rich, and I could feel comfortable writing about because I didn’t want it to be a gossip thing. I didn’t want to say, oh, so-and-so did this to so-and-so in 1935 or something.”
Her three previous books are, “Finding A Woman’s Place: The Story of a 1970s Feminist Collective in the Adirondacks,” “And I Know Too Much to Pretend,” and “In Praise of Quiet Waters: Finding Solitude and Adventures in the Wild Adirondacks.”
Duvall purchased 73 acres in the Styles Brooks Watershed from internationally renowned photographer Nathan Farb in 1995.
At the time, she was living in central New York where she was a software engineer/analyst/manager.
In 1998, she moved to Keene and was a consultant until she fully retired in 2000.
“I built a conventional house kind of modeled after some houses I lived in in Binghamton and a cottage that we had,” she said.
“I incorporated some traditional house from the ’50s, and I incorporated some cottage things. I have what they call chicken-coop doors inside.”
Her two-story home, “Glen Cottage,” has an attic and a full basement.
“I also built a separate two-car garage and had a loft built above that,” she said.
“And I lived in the loft for almost six months while the house was being built. It did not have any plumbing. I had an outhouse built.”
What’s in a name
How Styles Brook got its name is debated.
“There’s two interpretations of styles, I’ve heard,” Duvall said.
“One was S-t-i-l-e-s was a man. The Styles Brook Watershed is both in Keene and in Jay. This man lived years ago in Jay. His name was Stiles. The second one I heard was that there was a lot of logging done here for J.J. Rogers for pulpwood, and there were sluiceways, which were basically wooden structures that let the logs come down to the river. In there were metal pieces called stiles. They secured the wooden trestles into the rocks in the brook. Then, somewhere it changed to Styles. There are some older maps that have S-t-y-l-e-s. They also have different names for the road like Morrison Road, which was one of the farmers that was up here in the ’30s, ’50s.”
Styles Brook is a small but consequential valley where both people and nature have found a sense of place.
It is home to The Glen, a collection of sweeping, mountain-encircled plains where farmers worked the soil, and also to a gateway of the wildlife corridor known as the Split Rock Wildway in the eastern Adirondack Mountains, a safe haven for migrating creatures.
Duvall’s basic premise for writing the book was to capture the flavor of the area she calls home.
“I wanted to do it in a narrative way, so I wanted stories,” she said.
“So, I chose some interesting stories as related to me by the neighbors, both historical and what they were doing at the time, and then, my own personal stories.”
Top three stories
Duvall was living temporarily in Ohio during the Ice Storm of 1998, but her garage was built and she had furniture stored in it.
“I mention it because people talked about it,” she said.
“One of the top three is more recently because of high taxes, people who owned a lot of the land had put together development plans through the Adirondack Park Agency,” she said.
“A group of neighbors got together and tried to work with the neighbors and with the Adirondack Council and conservation easement organizations to basically save this area from being developed. That’s a recent highlight.
“Another one is the independence of the people who live up here. They came together during Irene, but normally they have their own lives. So, it’s very independent. We don’t have big block parties and stuff.”
The third highlight …
“This maybe should be the first, the uniqueness of the Styles Brook Watershed and the surrounding by the mountains in this flat area called ‘The Glen’ with spectacular views,” Duvall said.
“I was with a person in Keene who has been all over the world, and he said what Styles Brook Valley reminds him of are the Rockies in Montana.
“What I’m afraid of is people will discover it and it will change the character of it. it. It’s kind of like talking about your favorite pond that’s way out there or your favorite fishing hole, people would want to come to it.”