A Writer's Journey

January 14, 2013

Hometown History

Filed under: journey,The Conference House,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
Tags: , ,

This goes hand-in-hand with my post from last week.

I love history, clearly. But growing up, I always felt like history happened elsewhere. Philadelphia. Boston. London. Paris. Williamsburg. Yes, New York City played a part in history but it always seemed it occurred on every borough but mine. And I’m sure I’m not the only person who ever thought that.

Then, several years ago, my mom told me something interesting while we drove past an older house by us. It was being renovated and they found a hidden room in the house. Historians believed it was used to house runaway slaves, making the house a stop on the Underground Railroad. There it was—history in my own backyard.

With that revelation, I found more history lurking around the shores of my island. Amongst our trees and in our aging houses. My Girl Scout troop and I used to carol amongst these houses, gathered at Old Richmond Town. Imagine the stories contained in those walls!

As more houses were restored, more possible stops on the Underground Railroad were discovered. To the point I believe were a major Abolitionist stronghold, but I could be wrong. Staten Islanders have shown a tendency to be conservative. See: Our Loyalist stance during the Revolution, the fact I am a minority as a Democrat.

I started to learn more. American railroad mogul Cornelius Vanderbilt had a house here and is buried in Moravian Cemetery. He wasn’t alone as other rich men built homes here on Staten Island. There were even a few towns named after these men—Rossville named after Col. Ross, for example. Some of these homes still exist, too, such as the Seguine Mansion over on Seguine Avenue. It’s always funny to give directions to Staten Island University Hospital South and have to end it with “…if you get to the house with the peacocks, you’ve gone too far.”

After college, I decided to volunteer as a docent at the Conference House. I knew a bit about the Staten Island Peace Conference but I learned so much more. And about Staten Island history in general. Like how there was a Revolutionary War battle fought here! But the Patriots lost it horribly, which probably explains why it is excluded from the history books.

It was then that I wanted to write a novel set in the Conference House and looked for a way to do so. I didn’t know the right angle for it. Go with the story about the servant who was killed when Billopp discovered she was working with the Patriots? Something from the perspective of one of the Billopp children?

Of course, then I got the inspiration. And I want to write it—and the Pearl of the Atlantic series—for every other kid who sat there and felt history occurred everywhere else but their town. Because if you dig deep enough, you may be surprised at what you find.

So I encourage everyone to go out and see what you can find about your town. Post it in the comments if you find something!



  1. Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it
    was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying
    your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any helpful hints for first-time blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

    Comment by www.facilovoyages.com — February 5, 2013 @ 9:46 am | Reply

    • Well, my blog actually put this in the Spam folder, so it’s likely the original comment was deleted. As for helpful hints, here they are:

      1. Write about something you care about. Fashion, books, TV, gardening, whatever. If you’re passionate about the topic, it will show. And people with the same interest will find it.

      2. Try to update regularly. I update every Monday. It allows you to build a loyal audience.

      Hope this helps!

      Comment by mackenziew — February 6, 2013 @ 12:39 am | Reply

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