New book sketches life in oil boom-era Titusville - Arts & Entertainment - Mobile

back Side Panel

New book sketches life in oil boom-era Titusville

1 image

Mary Hill

Eileen Quinlan and her sister, Mary Quinlan, spent some time in Titusville last week, visiting Drake Well Museum and other points of interest. Titusville is featured prominently in Eileen’s first novel, ‘The Whole World for Arizona Dakota,’ which is available at Amazon.com.

Posted

Eileen Quinlan and her sister, Mary Quinlan, visited Titusville recently to promote Eileen’s first novel, “The Whole World for Arizona Dakota.”

According to Eileen, her book tells the story of her great-great aunt, Arizona Dakota Long, who lived in Titusville during the 1870s.

She said Arizona’s younger brother, George Harvey Long, was born in Titusville in June 1871, and he is Eileen and Mary’s great-great grandfather.

Eileen said she was thinking of writing about George and Arizona’s mother, Caroline, who had tuberculosis and died at the age of 42, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, in Titusville. George was 6 years old when she died. 

“When this began, I wanted to write about Caroline, but it was hard to imagine getting into her head, and it was difficult to find information on her,” she said.

Eileen said she began focusing on Arizona after she noticed that her book’s subject was born the same year as one of Titusville’s famous citizens, journalist Ida Tarbell — 1857.

“(Arizona) was born in Huntingdon County, and then the family moved to Titusville in the 1860s,” Eileen said.

She added another brother, Jimmy, also died of tuberculosis and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

“The story is that George’s father, who was a harness maker (and made a lot of money), may have outfitted Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s army during the Civil War,” Eileen said. “He (George’s father) drank; and the older children went to Pittsburgh. Then, [they] ended up in Cleveland, except Arizona. She ended up in Leadville, Colo. Arizona married Levi Eddy, and was living in Leadville by 1890.”

She added that Arizona was the second oldest in the family and took care of them when Caroline died.

According to Eileen, much of the story’s conflict is Arizona’s desire to attend school. But, with her mother being ill with tuberculosis, she had to stay home and take care of her family.

The book is based on the real life of Arizona Dakota.

“The story takes place during the 1870-71 school year,” Eileen said. “Five pupils graduated from the Titusville high school in 1871 (the first high school diplomas were awarded that year); and it was also the first year St. Joseph’s Academy opened.” 

She said there was a lot of soot in the air, and that may have contributed to the tuberculosis.

“There’s a lot of interaction with people associated with the oil boom,” Eileen said. “The book is trying to create a picture of Titusville and how people lived at that time.”

She said Arizona, or Kode, as she was known by her family, made a living as a dressmaker. In the 1880 census, (Kode) boarded in a house in Titusville with a man who made patterns; and George, her little brother, also lived in Titusville with their father; and her three other brothers were in Pittsburgh. 

Eileen said it took her 10 years to write the novel due to her teaching duties. Eileen is a professor of English at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio.

Although this is her first novel, Eileen is no stranger to writing. She writes academic papers, and has edited two books for South Euclid’s centennial, which was celebrated on Friday.

In the book’s acknowledgments, Eileen credits her mother’s cousins, Glenn Long, Dorothy Long Moore, Robert Long, and Ronald Long with conducting much of the research for the novel. She also credits her uncle, John George Murphy, who made additional notes summarizing family stories in a lengthy handwritten manuscript completed a few years before he died. 

In addition, Eileen and her sister, Mary, visited Titusville five or six years ago, and conducted research on Arizona Dakota Long and her family by looking through editions of The Titusville Herald on microfilm, at Benson Memorial Library.

The book’s acknowledgements also stated that Eileen received helpful support from the staff at Benson Memorial Library, Drake Well Museum, Titusville Area School District, First Presbyterian Church, St. Titus Roman Catholic Church, Woodlawn Cemetery, and the Titusville Historical Society.

Eileen and Mary also traveled to Huntingdon County, where Arizona, her brother, Jimmy, and their mother, Caroline, were born, to continue their research. 

She said that while doing the research in Titusville, they discovered that Arizona’s mother, Caroline, and her brother, Jimmy, were both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, but there were no stones to mark the graves.

“The caretaker helped locate both graves,” she said, adding that there are now stones marking both graves.

Mary added a possible reason why there were no gravestones: “We believe the family had fallen on hard times, and the father was not dealing well with the lives of his wife and his son.”

Hill can be reached by email, at mhill@titusvilleherald.com.

1 image

Mary Hill

Eileen Quinlan and her sister, Mary Quinlan, spent some time in Titusville last week, visiting Drake Well Museum and other points of interest. Titusville is featured prominently in Eileen’s first novel, ‘The Whole World for Arizona Dakota,’ which is available at Amazon.com.