Writer Praises Author for her work

by Richard Walker, Ph. D.

Author of Stockport, Ohio: A Compendium of Historical Information

Sunday, November 23, 2011 - Morgan County Herald

To the Editor:

In my view the best poem James Ball Naylor wrote is titled The Final Test. Naylor concludes his long poem with the assertion that the final test of one's life is "Not what professed nor what believed--But what good thing has thou achieved!"

Comes now a remarkable lady, Mrs. Theresa Flaherty of Corpus Christi, TX, who has achieved an extraordinarily good thing for the citizens of Morgan County in general and Windsor Township in particular. After decades of meticulous research, this year Flaherty published a trilogy in tribute to Naylor and his works, bringing to life the character of the man and a revival of his seminal work. The three separate books, now in print:

Vintage Verse contains poems by Naylor, most never before published. In his poems, Naylor, a country docotr headquartered at Malta, brings his down-to-earth touch to observations on life, nature, politics, and humor in the Muskingum Valley. Naylor's daughter Lucile copied them from family scrapbooks and now makes them available to us via Flaherty.

Flaherty's second volume, taking its name from Naylor's poem, The Final Test, is a 200-page biography of Naylor. Because I cannot do this labor-of-love the justice either Flaherty or her subject deserves in this small space, I simply share this reaction with your readers. When I laid the volume down, two thoughts raced through my mind. First, no question about it, Naylor, the man, born near Pennsville and educated at Stockport, passed the final test - good things hast thou achieved. Second, the professional quality of the work itself is first-rate. Given Flaherty's comprehensive research, balanced presentation, and remarkable dedication, at twice the price I would still consider it a gift.

The third work is an attractive reprint of Naylor's most popular novel, Ralph Marlowe, set in Stockport in the 1890s and written in local dialect. Flaherty not only reproduces the saga verbatim in large, readable print, as an aid to the reader she explains obscure words, including old medical terms, in footnotes; includes 20 old-time photographs and sketches; appends a bibliography of Naylor's written works (which runs for five pages!); and includes 16 book reviews of Ralph Marlowe which appeared in 1901, its year of publication, ranging from Birmingham, AL, to Birmingham, England - 20 pages of reviews in all. Flaherty brings the youths, shopkeepers, curmudgeons, eccentrics, and hell-raisers at late-19th century Stockport and environs to literary life once again.

But perhaps most remarkable of all, especially to those interested in the history of the town and its people, Flaherty presents the real-life identities of the major characters (and I do mean characters). We know that Ralph Marlowe was Naylor himself and that the irascrible Dr. Barwood was actually Dr. W. Emmet Gatewood. But who was the drummer from Zanesville Leonidas W. Crider? Sweety Jimson? The bridge-tender? Drunken cobbler Jim Crawford? Colorful yarn-spinner Jep Tucker? Hen Olcott? The McDivitts, Gridleys, Bentlys, and Haggarts? One hopes that relevant statutes of limitation apply!

Likewise, Flaherty identifies thinly disguised places, such as Flat Bottom, Foxtown, Quakerville, Stonebury, Onionville, Norton Ridge, Hawksburgh, Black's Mill, on Bear Run, etc. (In some instances, Naylor used actual names, such as Bald Eagle Creek, Turkey Run, Ellis School, Heathen Ridge, Silverheels Riffle, and Zanesville.)

I believe that Dr. James Ball Naylor, were he here to witness it, would not only be pleased with this trilogy in tribute to his life, character, and works, but be impressed by its scope and quality. In my view, Flaherty has honored her subject on his own terms, his final test: It is a wonderfully good thing she has achieved. More than his editor and champion, she is part of his legacy.

Rich Walker

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