Writer crafts local novel

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Although Hawkins has spent much of life professional life working in Florida, countless summer months have been enjoyed here in Lawrence County tending to his in-law’s farm.

Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Although Hawkins has spent much of life professional life working in Florida, countless summer months have been enjoyed here in Lawrence County tending to his in-law’s farm.

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"After my wife’s parents died, my wife and I kept up the place every summer," the Northeastern Ohio native recalled. "We raised a garden and just generally enjoyed getting back to Ohio."

It was during his summers visiting in the Slab Fork area that he met Lawrence County resident Carl Malone and an interest in the area’s iron furnace heritage was born.

Hawkins is a graduate of the University of Rio Grande. After completing his studies, his quest for a teaching position took him south. Today, he is retired from his years of teaching in Florida and lives in North Palm Beach. Prior to his retirement, he taught fifth grade and served as an assistant principal.

Hawkins’ fascination with the iron industry sparked a desire to write about the people who helped forge the furnaces into an economic force in Southern Ohio.

He decided to write a fictional account using a pioneer woman’s journal as the basis for his novel.

It was from that idea that "Carolyn’s Journal" was born.

"The book is historical fiction," Hawkins said this summer during a visit in Lawrence County with the Malone family. "The journal chronicles her life from birth to the end of her life and tells of her journey from Boston west to Ohio. She and her husband settled in the Pine Grove area and helped built the Pine Grove furnace."

Hawkins and Malone spent almost three years visiting furnace sites and other related historic regions in Lawrence County as they put together research that would form the nucleus of the novel.

Although Carolyn and her husband are fictional characters, many of the events and sites that form the story line are taken from actual journals kept by Pine Grove area families.

"The history of the furnace in that area is all accurate," he stressed.

As he amassed his research, a number of photos surfaced, Hawkins said, adding that he wished space would have permitted him to include all in his book. However, some of the most interesting, such as the church building built in Pine Grove in 1828, are included in "Carolyn’s Journal" and help illustrate some of the locations mentioned frequently in the book.

"As we did our research, we talked to a lot of people," Hawkins said. "Mrs. James Richendollar was especially helpful as she let us look through the original ledger that is pictured in the book."

He noted that each area furnace had its own county store, church, cemetery, school and workers’ homes. During their research, they were pleased to find one of the original cabins used as a worker’s home; however, it has since burned.

Although writing the novel was a labor of love, Hawkins said it was tedious at times.

"I wrote and rewrote it three times," he said with a wry smile. "It helped, though, that I was doing it on a computer."

He said he was drawn to write a novel focusing on the Pine Grove area because that particular furnace was the only one that produced calcinated iron ore ­ one without impurities.

"The book describes the entire process of making this special type of iron ore," Hawkins explained, adding that the calcinating process required a stack of charcoal, limestone, iron ore and wood that was heaped to a height of 15 feet before being set afire.

The novel’s heroine, Carolyn, almost marries an European baron before deciding her fate is better left to America. During the course of her life, Carolyn had 15 children and cast a strong shadow on her descendants and friends.

"She was a real character," Hawkins chuckled. "It is a wonderful tale, but there is nothing racy in the novel."

The hardback novel is $40, which includes all applicable taxes, shipping and handling. It may be ordered by writing Amos Hawkins, 441 Westwind Drive, North Palm Beach, Fla. 33408. Hawkins’ friend, Carl Malone, also has several copies for sale. Malone may be reached by calling 643-2657.