By Alice McFeely Meloy

The first volume of Alice McFeely Meloy’s One Small Valley is a remarkable history that deftly combines the sweep and scale of an epic tale with the intimacy of a conversation between friends. The result is the absorbing story of central Pennsylvania’s Path Valley, so named after the northward route taken by the Tuscarora Indians who were among its first inhabitants. One Small Valley takes the reader from the brief tenure of the region’s native people through the period of the Revolutionary War and the burgeoning prosperity that followed to the disastrous days of the Civil War, when Path Valley balanced on a knife’s edge between North and South.

Seeking land, political freedom, and the right to practice their religion, the largely Protestant Irish and Scottish settlers that arrived in strength in the wake of the French and Indian War of 1755 found in the upland pastures and streamsides of Path Valley all they could want: fertile soil and an abundance of water, the relative protection of encircling mountains, and the freedom to practice the independence of thought and action that would typify the moral and civic core of the first American community of young Franklin and Juniata counties.

The author’s extensive research encompasses oral and written historical sources, diaries, letters, and “scraps of paper found in dusty trunks” and is enlivened by the memories of those whose grandparents and great-grandparents live in the pages of these stories. Characters come vividly to life in scenes of the everyday—and in encounters which occasionally brought the great and the small together, such as in a confrontation between the Confederate general Jeb Stuart and a household of Mercersburg women who, when ordered to turn over a map, turned out to be less compliant than the general had expected.

But it is Path Valley’s farmers and shopkeepers, smiths and tanners, its colliers and school teachers, soldiers, ministers, ne’er-do-wells, and young lovers whose stories, often told in their own words, bring into sharp focus this important record of Pennsylvania history.



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