The Boonville writer brought Erie Canal to life in the books


Walter D. Edmonds, a writer from Boonville, brought the Erie Canal and other places to life, with his stories of the people who lived on and around the Canal and other places in upstate New York in the mid-1800s.

He wrote his first book, “Rome Haul”, featuring the Rome area, in 1929. The novel was transformed in 1934 in the Broadway play “The Farmer Takes a Wife” and in the 1935 film by the same. name. Another book, “Drums Along the Mohawk”, was adapted for cinema in 1936. It is set during the American Revolution, in the Mohawk Valley. Edmonds has written a total of 34 books, many of them historical novels, some for children.

According to his obituary in his high school diary, Edmonds “was most comfortable at home in the Mohawk Valley and never lost touch with the farm of his youth.”

Walter Dumaux Edmonds was born on July 15, 1903 in his family’s summer residence near the Black River. At the age of 16, he started at Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. His father, a patent attorney, wanted Edmonds to study engineering. Instead, he developed an interest in writing and served as editor of the school’s literary magazine.

In 1926 he graduated from Harvard, where he also directed the school’s literary publication.

He married Eleanor Stetson in 1930; she died in 1956. That same year, Edwards married Katherine Howe Baker Carr, who died in 1989.

Among the author’s accolades were the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1960, the Newbery Medal in 1942 for “The Matchlock Gun,” about a colonial-era boy who defended his New York home from Indians – and the National Book Award for Young Popular Literature in 1976, for “Bert Breen’s Barn”.

Edmonds died on January 24, 1998, at the age of 94, and is buried in Cambridge, Mass. He is survived by a son, two daughters, nine grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and three stepchildren and their families.

A list of his books:


Rome Haul (1929)

The big barn (1930)

Erie Water (1933)

Drums Along the Mohawk (1936)

Chad Hanna (1940)

Young Souls (1942)

Two Logs: The Story of John Haskell (1943)

The honeymoon (1947)

The boys of the dark
River (1953)

Wolf Hunt (1970)

Youth novels

The matchlock gun (1941)

Tom Whipple (1942)

Cadmus Henri (1949)

Time to Go Home (1969)

Bert Breen’s Barn (1975)

Autobiographical novel

The South African Quirt (1985)

News collections

In the hands of the Senecs (1947)

Seven American Stories (1970)

The Night Raider and Other Stories (1980)

Especially Canalers (1987)


They Fought With What They Had: The History of Army Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific, 1941-1942 (1951)

The Musket and the Cross: The Struggle of France and England for North America (1968)

Tales My Father Never Told (1995)

This column was written by Chip Twellman Haley, retired editor of Daily Sentinel, using the archives of the Rome Historical Society. Comments, old photos, suggestions for future columns or guest columns can be emailed to: [email protected] Copies of the books “Rome Through Our History, Volumes I and II”, collections of some of Haley’s Columns, can be purchased from the Historical Society of Rome.

The Historical Society of Rome, 200 Church Street, is open Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment. Go online at, visit their Facebook page or call (315) 336-5870 for more information.

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