NEW BURLINGTON: The Life and Death of an American Village by John Baskin
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NEW BURLINGTON: The Life and Death of an American Village

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New Burlington, Ohio, which is now one with Nineveh and Tyre and the Brooklyn Dodgers, was for more than a century a small farm village of weatherbeaten certainty in the rich corn country southeast of Dayton. In 1973 the Army Corps of Engineers completed the evacuation of New Burlington before flooding the area for a reservoir--but not before newcomer John Baskin had spent a year asking his adopted neighbors to tell him what they could of themselves and their doomed community. The resulting record is as bare and eloquent as a roadside elm skeleton. Some three dozen middle-aged and elderly people speak with an almost jarring immediacy of the ancestors who came to the heavy forests around Anderson's Fork and Caesar's Creek after the turn of the 19th century; the Quaker or Methodist grandparents who hid runaway slaves in barns, cupboards, or coffins; the freedoms and bitter limitations of their own arduous lives in the days before tractors, supermarkets, running water. ""New Burlington was like a medieval society,"" muses an exile. ""You were so close""--but ""people of ability moved on."" Interspersed with these living memories are excerpts from treasured local documents: the 1820 indenture papers of George Cooke, ""aged three years and 24 days""; the bleak diary of Ralph Baker (""June 28, 1918--88 degrees: I plowed some alleged corn today""); family correspondence. The villagers, confronting the puzzle of their severing from all that had defined them, sound differing notes of loss, acceptance, humorous nostalgia, and disorientation. Praise and thanks to John Baskin for his singular act of love.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1976
Publisher: Norton