A grandfather's legacy

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:49

    Sussex County-Once again, you can see the Franklin Hospital, as it first appeared in 1908, as well as the Ogdensburg Hotel, the Shady Rest restaurant of Beaver Lake, and Reeve Harden's Hamburg Hardware Store. In fact, there's a whole lot more where they came from, courtesy of "Franklin, Hamburg, Ogdensburg, and Hardyston," a crisp new book about the local histories of those four communities written by local historian William R. Truran. Truran, a lifelong Sussex County resident, compiled the 128-page book by using a lot of vintage classic black-and-white photos from a collection previously owned by his grandfather, Sydney Hall, who worked in the Franklin Mines for nearly a half-century up until the time they closed on Sept. 30, 1954. The book's four chapters deal with each of the towns cited, replete with introductions, photo captions and a sense of the past that cannot be recaptured. Hall, who came to America in 1910 from Cornwall, England, worked for the last 44 years the Franklin Mines were in existence and had a collection that Truran has cherished for decades. One of the local area's best and ardent historians, it only took the Sparta resident six months to complete the project. "Although it's a lifetime of preparation," he said. Only released within the past few weeks by Arcadia Publishing of Dover, N.H., the $19.99 book has sold better than 100 copies already, according to Truran. "The book is trying to be all-inclusive of all four towns," Truran emphasized. "There's so much around here." What finally did prompt him to write it? "In your youthful days, you're footloose and you have a lot of responsibility around you," explained Truran, who went on to earn a doctoral degree in technology management from Stevens Institute of Technology, where he is presently an affiliate professor of various management classes. "But I finally got around to devoting Saturday evenings and early mornings to ensure the documenting of a fading history." Was it difficult locating a publisher? "No," Truran replied. "I had seen Arcadia books before and I contacted them, and they said ‘sure.' I was fortunate." When dealing with local history in general and that of Franklin in particular, one inevitably ends up writing about the New Jersey Zinc Co., the since-defunct firm that owned the Franklin and Sterling Hill Mines, and built a reputation as one that treated its employees and the surrounding communities of Franklin and Ogdensburg well. The one most often mentioned in that regard is Robert Catlin, the legendary Franklin mining superintendent from 1906-1930, who is better recognized as "the man who saved Franklin." "The man who saved Franklin, yes," Truran continued. "He did some technical work in the mine so it could be worked as one company. He was the one who brought in the water (system), housing for the miners, the electricity and the telephones. And he put in the county's first hospital." Hall, who lived until the age of 89, made a huge impression on his grandson. "He enjoyed and savored his time working for the New Jersey Zinc Co., which was basically the only company he worked for while he was over here," Truran explained. "That was a common impression of people, that they enjoyed working for the zinc company. Very few people that I know of complained about it." Truran also remembers going into the Sterling Hill Mines prior to their closing in March 1986, with his father, Wilfred Harty Truran, who passed away three years ago. Fittingly, Truran has documented a list of each town's "outstanding citizens," including Catlin, the Littell Family and the legendary Chief Herbert C. Irons — who "kept order" in Franklin from 1915 until his retirement in 1957 — of Franklin; Thomas Lawrence Sr., Governor Daniel Haynes and Richard P. Edsall of Hamburg; the Ogden Family, Thomas Edison and Patrick J. Dolan of Ogdensburg; and the Seward and Ford Families of Hardyston. In fact, Seward's grandson, William H. Seward, served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln. And fittingly, Truran feels a great deal of pride and satisfaction with his new book. "Absolutely," he concluded. "A great feeling of having passed along the legacy that my grandparents had left for me.