Author from California visits to research for novel set in Coshocton County

| February 15, 2019

Author Donna Croy Wright drills the tap to collect sap that will later become maple syrup on a farm once owned by her ancestor.

FRESNO – In the mid-1800s, Andy Croy and his family lived on a plot of land in what is now Fresno. More than 175 years later, his descendant, author Donna Croy Wright from California, was able to not only visit that property, but stayed with Ben and Phyllis Harstine, who now own the property.

Wright had come to Coshocton County to attend the Ohio Genealogy Conference and gave herself one week to travel and research her family history in the area. As she was trying to find a sawmill that was owned by her great-great-great-grandfather, Andy Croy, she got lost and was having trouble finding the right place.

“I turned off on CR 171 and I was trying to figure out if I was in the right place, and a gentleman pulled up beside of me in his truck,” said Wright. “I got out of the car and went over to him and told him my story of how I was looking for my ancestor’s sawmill, and he said you need to follow me. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but I sensed that it was the right thing to do and he put me in a four-wheeler buggy and took me to where my great-great-great-grandfather’s sawmill had been.”

Wright writes historical fiction and has published two books, “The Scattering of Stones”, published in 2018, and “The Forging of Frost”, published in January 2019. Her third book will be out in either April or August of 2020, and her book featuring Coshocton County will make its debut in 2021.

“I write historical fiction, so I like to make sure everything is accurate and I like to research in depth,” said Wright. “My love of history came out of doing research in genealogy.”

Before she left after her first meeting with Ben, he sent her away with a pint of homemade maple syrup. Ben has been tapping maple sap on his 125 acre farm for 20 years and currently has 100 taps that collect sap from maple trees daily.

Later, Wright and Ben’s wife Phyllis connected on Facebook and shared email addresses. Wright told Phyllis that she would like to mention making maple syrup in her new novel, so Phyllis invited her to come and stay for a week. Wright arrived Thursday, Feb 7 ready to learn the process of making maple syrup.

“What I have learned is you need warmth and sunshine to make it [sap] run, but luckily, Ben had harvested a lot of sap before I got here,” said Wright. “I learned how to drill the tap. We harvested 18 gallons of sugar water. It wasn’t a whole lot, but it was enough to fill up a metal container. Luckily, enough was done a few weeks ahead of time to experience everything within a few days as compared to several days to cook and boil it down.”

It takes 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. The sap is boiled over a closed-in fire day and night and must be tended to at all hours of the day.

“I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve learned here and the knowledge I received from the Amish about the process [making maple syrup] and the warmth and friendliness of all of them,” said Wright. “Phyllis and Ben have been so hospitable. I went to every unique place to eat around here.”

In addition to writing novels, Wright has a blog at and writes about her experiences and her genealogy research. She gets her ideas of places and people to write about from her genealogy research and enjoys researching county histories to get a more in-depth account of what her ancestors lives were like on a daily basis.

“I find out in so much more depth the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary times,” said Wright. “I love genealogy, but it’s mostly names, births, and deaths and that gets a little on the dull side, so when I wrote the genealogy book for my family, I threw in italicized vignettes that were my imagination.”

Wright’s books can be purchased on Amazon. Search “The Maggie Chronicles” and Wright’s books will come up.

“In the beginning, different scenes would hit me and I would write scenes and fill in from there, but when it was completed, I had to rearrange things,” said Wright. “Now, I do a basic outline including the climax, exciting incidences that make the stories build, and I still write as the scenes talk to me and it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. A lot of times, I write the ending first and then the ending tells you how to write the beginning.”

Wright said that she has felt the presence of her ancestors while staying on the property and that she has felt a stronger connection with them since arriving.

“You get a feel from a place,” she said. “Place to me is very important because place makes us who we are. It’s such a warm feeling. There’s a connection when you walk around a place where your family has been.”

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Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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