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March 30, 2014

'Among Friends' a riveting tale

Author Stephen Woodruff wondered what would happen if Quaker boy got mixed up in Battle of Plattsburgh

PLATTSBURGH — Elijah Hoag’s future rolled out ahead of him — in plain sight.

But the Quaker boy isn’t so sure commitment to the ways of the church was meant for him.

That’s how local author Stephen Woodruff imagined the angst of the main character of his young-adult novel, “Among Friends, A Quaker Boy at the Battle of Plattsburgh,” published by North Country Books.

“Not unlike nowadays,” he said, “kids (then) worried about what they’re going to do in life.

“I just imagined Elijah was feeling sort of alienated by the strong faith of his father and (older) brother.”

And the teen growing up in Peru Union didn’t have a passion for farming — his lack of enthusiasm and skill didn’t sit well with his father, either.

From there, the retired elementary school teacher said, the tale seemed to take on a life of its own.

REAL-LIFE SETTING

“Among Friends” is set in September 1814, as a pivotal conflict in the War of 1812 loomed not far away.

Peru Union was real — the first main settlement of the Town of Peru, it was home to Quaker immigrants.

So was the Battle of Plattsburgh, fought as the British moved through the Champlain Valley trying to regain territory lost in the American Revolution.

Woodruff wove his story of Elijah, his family and friend Jamie Green around those true events and places, blending interests in both Peru’s Quaker history and another crucial element to his tale — Aikin’s Volunteer Rifle Company (also spelled Aiken’s).

A Peru native and teacher in the Peru Central School District for several years, he used to take students on history walks, introducing them to buildings still standing from the community’s early days.

Woodruff’s fascination with Aikin’s Volunteers came from reading a journal written by Henry K. Averill, who’d been one of them.

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