Few authors, writing at the peak of their creative years, live to see their most famous books remain popular and in print for sixty years. Such was the amazing longevity of Walter D. Edmonds and Drums Along the Mohawk, a classic regional novel few readers who savor pioneer adventure have missed. Edmonds—whose forty-first and final book, Tales My Father Never Told, was published in the fall of 1995, shortly after its author’s ninety-second birthday—always acknowledged the truth of his critics’ charge that he had limited skill in creating character. He happily accepted the balancing praise of his fervent clientele that he was a matchless storyteller whose tales have emerged from the fantasies of a boyhood imagination under the enchantment of rural New York State.
Walter Dumaux Edmonds was born in Boonville, a small town in the heart of upstate New York, which serves as the locale for his historical novels. His father, who operated a New York City law practice from his country farm, was a lineal descendant of the Reverend Peter Bulkeley of Concord, and his mother, Sarah Mays Edmonds, came from a family that had been involved in the seventeenth century witchcraft episodes around Salem. Edmonds grew up in the Erie Canal territory, and he spent many hours of his boyhood listening to the colorful stories of the old canallers in the region around Boonville.
His parents sent him to St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and then to Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. He later said that these years were “miserable” for him and that it was not until he attended Harvard University that he discovered learning could be enjoyable. At Harvard, Edmonds studied with Professor Charles Townsend Copeland and became editor of the Harvard Advocate. When Copeland, impressed by Edmonds’s work, sent...
(The entire section is 758 words.)