For all those interested in local history, the long wait is finally over. Eight years after Arcadia Publishing put out “The Key Peninsula,”Colleen Slater’s collection of historic photos and local history, Slater is back with a second book detailing the life and times of those who occupied the peninsula before us.
“Peninsula Pioneers,” Slater’s newest book, includes significantly more text and goes into greater detail about local history. It is partially based on the From Pioneer Stock stories she wrote for the Key Peninsula News beginning in 2003. For several years Slater interviewed local residents who are third, fourth, or fifth-generation Key Peninsula residents, asking them about their family stories, how they came to live on the peninsula, and what life was like here in the early days.
After meeting so many interesting people and hearing so many interesting stories, Slater began to think it would be a good idea to organize the stories in one book. Slater had labored to keep her From Pioneer Stock stories short enough to fit the 600 word limit required by the newspaper. She said she had a great quantity of information that had never been published due to space restrictions. Slater is thrilled that these stories are in print now for the first time in “Peninsula Pioneers.”
Slater also had other historic topics she wanted to write about––the history of schools and stores on the peninsula––which she included in the book as well.
Slater is also part of an extensive Key Peninsula family which arrived on the Key Peninsula in the 1900’s. Slater enjoyed including details of her own family’s history as well. Slater’s mother, as a 6-year old, appears in a black-and-white photo at the bottom of the new book’s cover, along with other family members.
She said one of the most arduous aspects of creating the book was gathering the historic photographs. Slater borrowed well over 200 photos from local residents and wrote captions to identify each place and person pictured.
She also painstakingly created the book’s index. The index includes the last name of every person mentioned in the book, however briefly. Although her husband Frank Slater chuckled that creating the index sometimes kept his wife up until 2 a.m., they both feel the index warrants the effort. Key Peninsula residents can look up their own family names and quickly access the pages on which their ancestors are mentioned.
Although Slater enjoys writing about local history, taking on a second history book was a big task. “I thought it would be easy to write because most of it was already written. However, there were challenges, such as finding pictures and formatting the book,”Slater said.
Slater’s writing style makes history accessible for those who do not know much about the area, but also includes details to pique the interest those who consider themselves experts on local history. For example, most local residents believe that the first white child born on the peninsula was Bill Victor. However, as Slater reveals in her new book, that is not accurate. Victor was the first white male child born on the peninsula, but was preceded in birth by three sisters. Virginia, Victor’s eldest sister born in 1871, is believed to be the first white child born on the peninsula.
Slater thinks her book has something to interest everyone. “I hope that every person who reads it, no matter how steeped they are in local history, can find one item or picture they haven’t seen before,”Slater said.
Remarking on how quickly current events slip into historical events, Slater hoped the book’s publication will be an inspiration for families to record their own histories.
“Peninsula Pioneers” is available for purchase at the Key Peninsula Historical Museum, Costless Pharmacy, and Sunnycrest Nursery. You can also purchase a copy directly from Colleen Slater by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.