Apologies again for the long interval. Life has been a little busy since resuming normality post my Dominican vacation. To remember where last we were, our protagonist editor of Rolling Earwax magazine was catching up with old acquaintances at the end of the funeral for his long-time friend, rock star Rory Cocksure.
Like I said, I was 13 in 1973. My ancestors on my mom’s side had come from England in the 1700s and most of them had spread out around the New York City area. My grandfather, already dead by then from years of hard work on the paper line, had moved to Papersville with his father and began working in one of the many mills when he was six. Or so the story goes. He probably walked there barefoot down the railroad tracks in the snow as well. But joking aside, he reportedly did work very hard for not much incentive.
My grandfather was my mother’s dad. He got my dad, John Andrews, a job at his paper mill, and my mom, Anna, stayed home to take care of me and my dad.
Papersville is at the southern end of the Adirondack State Park. Its proximity to the trees was the perfect setting for a half dozen or so paper mills. The trees would come in and, by the time Paperville got done with them, there were trucks headed out far and wide to distribute the stock. About a third of all the paper used in the country mid-century came from our little burg. And nearly all the paper used in the Northeast was from Papersville, a fitting name, you might say. This is no longer the case. There is one small mill left and I don’t think any of it goes beyond the borders of New York State, and maybe not beyond the borders of Fulton County.
Legend has it that the first mill was founded by a man named Samuel Sheets. I’m not kidding about the name, but you’ve got to realize that this was a man who knew what he wanted and didn’t stop until he was the richest man in the county. He had apparently walked from Canada after arriving there from Europe in the late 1800s. He made up his name and used other creative methods for a man with zero power or money to start Top Notch Tree and Paper Company. Why he walked all the way to the southern end of the Adirondacks instead of settling way up on the northern end is a bit of a town mystery. People like to say he had so much initiative and energy that he simply wasn’t ready to stop walking. Only when he realized the forest had ended many miles back and there wouldn’t be such prime land for many miles more did he turn back around to the edge of the tree line and start chopping and hammering to build his mill single-handedly. Sheets didn’t stop at one mill. He continued building and, by the 1920s, out-of-work people flocked to the recently named Papersville to escape the depression that gripped the rest of the U.S. at the time. He created a bustling town that numbered nearly 20,000 people at its height, nearly all of whom worked in the paper biz. And they knew and revered Sheets.
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