My Erie Canal Heritage by Guest Donna Winters

Author Donna Winters is our guest today, sharing history of the Erie Canal, her hometown, and the setting of her novel. Today, her book, Bluebird of Brockport, is only 99 cents on Kindle! Learn about the book below...

But first, meet the lovely Donna Winters...

I grew up about a quarter mile from the Erie Canal in the village of Brockport, New York. That’s about twenty miles west of Rochester and ten miles south of Lake Ontario. The village had about five thousand residents when I lived there from 1949 to 1967, and is about double that now.

Until a couple of years ago, my knowledge of Erie Canal history and that of my hometown was quite limited. As school kids, we learned that the canal started in Albany and ended in Buffalo, and at one point during its construction, its terminus was Brockport which helped the village to grow. Other than that, and learning to sing the song “Low Bridge”, I was pretty clueless about my own heritage. But that changed quickly when I decided to set an historical novel in Brockport in 1830.

During the research process I acquired over two dozen books and dozens of articles, traveled many miles through villages and cities on the original canal route, visited several museums devoted to Erie Canal history, and took dozens of photos. The Erie Canal’s history and that of my hometown surprised me in many ways. 

The State of New York chartered Brockport as a village in 1829. That came as quite a surprise since I could remember a sesquicentennial we celebrated in Brockport in 1965. If you deduct 150 from 1965, you get 1815. Nowhere in my study of Brockport’s early history did I find an event of any significance that occurred in 1815. The village didn’t even get its name until 1822. I’m wondering if the 1965 celebration was economic in nature, a method of boosting income to area businesses. The village hosted a huge sidewalk sale, parade, band concert, and probably countless other events that I have either forgotten or was unaware of as a high school student.

Another surprise to me was that Brockport did not have a bank until 1838. Imagine nine years of village life with no bank! Today we take banks for granted. There’s one or two on every corner, and money machines in many stores. Back in the good old days, people bartered, especially in 1837 when a bank panic set in. Gold and silver coins became so scarce, Brockport merchants issued $1.00, fifty cent, and twenty-five cent bills as a substitute.

As for the canal’s impact on Brockport’s industries, I discovered that Hiel Brockway, one of the village founders, had a boat yard and a canal passenger boat service called the “Red Bird Line”. That in itself is no surprise, but on further investigation, I learned that his son-in-law started a rival passenger service called the “Opposition Line”.  The two lines would race to see whose boat could get into Brockport first. On at least one occasion “brickbats flew about, windows were broken, and withal a very squally time. Brockway was on hand and sent to his boat yard post-haste for reinforcements; and their timely arrival gave him the victory.”

Many more tales surfaced about the rough-and-tumble days in the village and on the canal, but you’ll have to read my book to discover them!


About Donna:
Donna began penning novels in 1982 while working full time for an electronics firm in Grand Rapids. She resigned from her job in 1984 following a contract offer for her first book. Her husband, Fred, a former American History teacher, shares her enthusiasm for history. Together, they visit historical sites, restored villages, museums, and lake ports, purchasing books and reference materials for use in Donna’s research.

Donna has written fifteen historical romances for her Great Lakes Romances® series. Recently, she turned her attention to her hometown on the Erie Canal and produced an historical novel, Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal, which released as a paperback in June, and has now been offered in Kindle format for 99 cents. 

About Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal:
Dreams of floating on the Erie Canal have flowed through Lucina Willcox’s mind since childhood. Yet once her family has purchased their boat and begins their journey, they meet with one challenge after another. An encounter with a towpath rattlesnake threatens her brother’s life. A thief attempts to break in and steal precious cargo. Heavy rain causes a breach and drains the canal of water. Lucina comforts herself with thoughts of Ezra Lockwood, her handsome childhood friend, and discovers a longing to be with him that she just can’t ignore. Can she have a future with Ezra and still hold onto her canalling dream?

Ezra Lockwood’s one goal in life is to build and captain his own canal boat, but two years into the construction of his freight hauler, funds run short. With his goal temporarily stalled, and Lucina Willcox back in his life, his priorities begin to change. Can he have both his dreams — his own boat, and Lucina as his bride?

You can buy Bluebird of Brockport on Kindle HERE. Just $.99!

Connect with Donna at the following links:

Website fiction for readers 12 and up
Facebook Profile: Donna Winters 
Facebook Book Page: Great Lakes Romances

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  1. April,
    Thanks for inviting me to share my Erie Canal Heritage here!
    Donna Winters


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