NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 29, 2013

Keeping history alive

Amesbury man compiles reference book on city

By Katie Lovett
Features Editor

---- — In 2008, Amesbury’s Royal Feltner wanted to create his own website — a space to draw people to his hometown of Amesbury.

He envisioned his Amesbury City website would be a vehicle to attract visitors and businesses to the community, and convince house hunters to purchase a home in the town.

“In order to do it, I had to get accurate information,” Feltner wrote in an email. So, to begin, he read the 1888 book “History of Amesbury” by Joseph Merrill. A city clerk, Merrill chronicled the town’s early records. By studying Merrill’s work, he learned about the town’s many industries from sawmills and fishing boats to automobile makers and carriage makers, and companies like Hoyt’s Peanut Butter, Atwood Lamp Company, Gray and Davis Lamps, the Merrimac Hat Factory and the trolley car lines.

Intrigued with what he read, Feltner started to delve a little deeper. Using the Internet, he began to research each individual industry more thoroughly. He taught himself how to scroll through Internet pages and how to copy and paste the text he found into a word document.

By collecting all the information that’s available online and putting it together, he was creating an accurate and complete history of the city, he said.

“When a visitor wants to know something about this city, he wants more than the location, longitude, latitude and a few worn-out hearsay articles that have been copied numerous times,” Feltner said.

Once a section was finished, Feltner turned the documents into a notebook and distributed copies to the Amesbury Public Library, Amesbury Senior Center and the Bartlett Museum. “I gave a notebook on carriages to the Carriage Museum,” he wrote in his email. “The president of the museum told me that I had more information than she had seen.”

Soon, he took the process one step farther and turned all those notebooks into his comprehensive reference book.

In compiling the 220-page book, Feltner hoped to build a sense of pride for the community and all who lived here — while satisfying his own curiosity about Amesbury’s “true” past.

“(Another reason) was to be able to let the citizens of this city see what this city had accomplished, and what their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers had accomplished by working 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week under some of the hardest conditions that one can imagine,” Feltner wrote.

Feltner and his wife moved to Amesbury in 1976 and bought a house across from Hodgie’s Ice Cream — the best location in town, he said. Retiring from their antique business in 2007, the couple adore their community.

“There is no one thing that I can say that I love the most. It is everything as a whole,” Feltner said. “Everyone minds their own business and are not meddlesome, but when one needs help, they are there to lend a hand.”

As he begins to sell his labor of love, Feltner he hopes readers will find as much enjoyment in the work as he does.

“To have a person tell me that his or her father or grandfather worked in one of these factories and was happy to read about it is satisfaction enough,” he said.

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Feltner’s book, “The Industries of Amesbury, Massachusetts: That Little Town in the East,” can be purchased at Bertram & Oliver Booksellers in Amesbury, or by contacting Feltner at elroyal@comcast.net.