While growing up in Tyrone, Jeffrey Adams was fascinated by the Little Juniata River. He hiked along its banks, he admired the old stone bridges that spanned it and, though he left his hometown, that waterway never left him.
He was so fascinated by the entire Juniata river system and the towns, such as Tyrone and Huntingdon, through which it flowed, that he wrote a book chronicling its history, "Juniata's River Valleys," published by Arcadia Publishing. It was released earlier this year.
"I had never seen a photo book done on the Juniata Valley, linking the systems," Adams said. "There have been books about journeying down the river, about fishing it and some small-scale books about the towns along the way.
A crew of builders poses beside a nearly completed bridge spanning the Juniata River in Mount Union in 1906.
Jeffrey Adams’ book, “Juniata’s River Valleys,” was released in May.
"I thought this would be a challenge, to [write about the river] from the Susquehanna to the front of the Alleghenies, to show the journey of how people in the past came through the valleys, from the Native Americans to the industrial period."
Like other Arcadia books, it features many old photos chronicling the history of the river valleys, the people and industry.
"I hope readers get a sense of the whole river system, not just their own backyard - what's down the river from them, things that go along with the river," Adams said. "I also want to make people aware of the industrial heritage [of the river valley]. At one time, there were industries and events that allowed these communities to have a few thousand people. The population of the towns along the river has decreased; the population has moved on.
"I want to honor the people who came before us."
Adams, 51, was born and raised in Tyrone, and his father, James, worked in the paper mill for 40 years.
"We were under the shadow of the paper mill all of our lives," the author said.
He left his hometown at age 25, but soon returned, working for the Social Security office in Altoona. A transfer then moved him to the Social Security Mid-Atlantic Processing Center in Philadelphia, where he still works. Though he lives in Philadelphia, he still considers Blair County home, maintaining a house in Tyrone.
The river provides a backdrop for his memories of hometown life.
"Unfortunately, when I was younger, pollution was a problem in the river," Adams said. "Tyrone was an extremely industrial community. Today, it's much cleaner, and the fishing has come back."
One key element of the book is how the railroad is intertwined with the river system.
"Transportation is a big part of everything," Adams said. "Almost half of the photos in the book have to do with transportation."
Along with its heritage, it's the beauty of the area that makes the Juniata River so special, according to Adams.
"It's the scenery," he said. "The river is spectacular. Parts of the Little Juniata are breathtaking. I've seen it from cars, I've seen it from trains. I love riding in trains with people who have never been along the Juniata. They'll actually stand up to see parts of it."
Adams has written two previous books, "Tyrone" and "Harrisburg," for Arcadia Publishing.
"When I put together a book or write a historical article, I approach the work with the thought that I am presenting our 'shared history,'" he said. "The reader is part of the end result. I have spoken with a few hundred who have bought my books, and they seek out their lives in the book and feel as much a part of the story.
"Many people have come to me with a page marked and point out a relative or an event that played an important part in their own heritage. Some actually become emotional when a photo of a long-gone event is highlighted in a chapter."
Erin Bosgien, the junior publisher for Arcadia's Northeast office, who edited "Juniata's River Valleys," also believes nostalgia is the driving force behind the success of these books.
"This is a way to bring materials to light, to see how much a community has changed, or how much an area has been able to preserve its history," she said. "Books like Jeffrey's cover a wide array of towns, and you're seeing how the whole area has changed, was created, businesses that aren't there any more. You see the valley as a whole, shaped and changed as people moved through and industries built up."
The book is available at area bookstores, online or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 1-888-313-2665.
Mirror Staff Writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.