Saturday, January 10, 2015

Real-Life Inspiration in Dover

For my second YA Catholic novel, Erin's Ring (published in late 2014 by Bezalel Books), I chose Dover, NH, the town where we've lived for 25 years and where my husband and I raised our five sons, as the setting.  (2012's Finding Grace, my first novel, was set in Plattsburgh, NY, where I moved when I was 10 and which I consider to be my "home town.")

A lot of real-life, historically accurate events and people served as the inspiration for Erin's Ring, a book that takes the reader back and forth in time: from the year 1998, when two young girls set out on a quest to determine the origins of a mysterious old Irish Claddagh ring found buried in the garden of their parish church; to the 1800's, when there was a huge influx of poor immigrants from the Emerald Isle, many of whom found employment in the successful Dover cotton mill known as the Cocheco Manufacturing Company; and then back to modern times again.

If Finding Grace was, among other things, a love letter to Plattsburgh, then certainly Erin's Ring is in part a love letter to Dover, a wonderful New England town that has been very, very good to the Pearl family.  Dover's rich history--which includes the story of the plucky 19th-century Irish-Catholics who at one time filled up so many homes in a certain section of town that it was given the nickname "Dublin," and who were instrumental in procuring the land to build the area's first Catholic church--has always fascinated me.  I always thought it would make an excellent backdrop for an historical novel, and I will be forever indebted to my publisher at Bezalel Books, Cheryl Dickow, who approached me with the offer to write a second YA novel for her company and enthusiastically approved my loose outline for the story that became Erin's Ring.

If you have read (or plan to read) Erin's Ring, you might enjoy seeing these pictures of some of the buildings and areas of Dover that I tried to bring to life in this book, which is an inspirational tale of friendship, loyalty, and love...but most of all, faith.

I love this sign on the corner of the main mill building, with the names of all the companies that once used it.  D.M.C. (Dover Manufacturing Company) became Cocheco Manufacturing Company.   (And years after my fictional characters' stories end, it was owned by Pacific Mills.)
Here are some shots of the mill buildings, where cotton was once produced and where newcomers Ann O'Brien and Moira Devry earn 47 cents a day weaving cotton cloth--and where many true-life Irish immigrant girls were employed throughout the 19th century.  It is also the site of the first-ever women's workplace strike in the U.S., which took place in 1828.

The mill was located right on the Cocheco River, which runs through the middle of town.

Here are some shots of Dover's quaint downtown shops, which retain their vintage aura.

I think my publisher's cover art for Erin's Ring evokes this area of town eerily well!  (And she had never even seen Dover!)
This is the heart of the section of town that was at one time home to so many Irish that it was called "Dublin."  (That's the tower of St. Mary's Church there at the end of 3rd Street.)
The central structure in "Dublin" was the church, built by and for Dover's Irish-Catholic population.  In 1827, a group of Irish mill girls threatened to walk off the job and go back to Ireland if they couldn't have a Catholic church, and Cocheco gave them this plot of land to build one. In 1830, a wooden church named St. Aloysius was finished and stood on this spot.  In 1872, it was replaced by St. Mary's, which is still in use today.
The B & M--Boston & Maine--Railroad used to run right by St. Mary's, the tower of which is visible here in the distance.  (Those tracks are still used by Amtrak and other carriers today, and train whistles still occasionally drown out the priest's words during Masses.)
I hope you've enjoyed this little trip around Dover, and that it helps to bring the story of Erin's Ring, and Molly and Theresa's search to uncover its mystery, alive for you!


  1. Beautiful pictures, and love hearing a little more about the history of Dover!

    1. Next time you go camping in ME, you should plan to stop for a night...:)

  2. Thank you! The pictures are great, and it was wonderful to see what places in your novel really look like! I grew up just outside Paterson, NJ which was also a mill town (though it developed slightly later than Dover) so those factory shots are so familiar to me.

    1. I'm so happy you enjoyed this photo tour around our sweet little town.

      I was actually born in NJ, lived in Elizabeth, Somerset, and Allentown. Are any of those close to Patterson?

  3. As I wrote to you, I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVED Erin's Ring!!! Was totally fascinated with the history, the story, the plot, oh everything. What a bonus to see the pictures, though the mill is even bigger than I pictured in my mind!

    1. I am so thrilled that you loved it! (Your email made my day!) And I'm so glad you won that giveaway!

      Do you think your girls might like it, too?