FREDONIA - Dr. Julian McQuiston, professor emeritus and former chairman of the SUNY Fredonia Department of History, has recently released a book with area interest entitled "William Barker Cushing in the Far East: A Civil War Naval Hero Abroad 1865-1869."
At the request of the Chautauqua County Historical Society, Dr. McQuiston sorted and indexed a collection of letters and papers on William Cushing, allowing a rare glimpse into the life of the local Civil War hero.
Cushing, considered a naval hero, had roots in Fredonia. Cushing's grandfather, Zattu Cushing, was the first permanent settler and the first county court judge. William's mother, Mary Barker Smith Cushing, raised all five children in Fredonia, educating them at The Academy, the predecessor to SUNY Fredonia. The Barker and Cushing names are still very visible in the Fredonia area today, as evidenced by Barker and Cushing streets, the Cushing home on Center Street, and the White Inn - former home to Squire White, Fredonia's first physician and Cushing's uncle.
In 1886, William Barker Cushing met and became engaged his future wife, Kate Forbes, daughter of a local grocer. Cushing's mother and his wife, Kate, are buried in Fredonia in the Forest Hill cemetery. The Cushing family was prominent members of the village until the mid 20th century, when William and Kate's two daughters, Katherine Abell and Marie Louise, died.
William Barker Cushing's Civil War fame stems from the sinking of Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle in 1864. Cushing continued to pursue his naval career, despite having to leave his betrothed behind. Cushing was assigned to command the gunboat USS Maumee to aid the restoration of American naval power in Asia. Cushing was instrumental in re-establishing American naval and commercial power in the Far East. In his letters to Kate, he chronicled his travels in unknown waters, the people he encountered and the places he visited. His letters also revealed his devotion to her and the difficulty he had being away.
Anyone with an interest in the history of Fredonia or of the Civil War and post Civil War areas would enjoy Dr. McQuiston's new book in which he skillfully blends fascinating local history with the military naval career of local and national hero.
Dr. McQuiston is a retired history professor from SUNY Fredonia. He has authored numerous historical works and has presented many papers in the U.S., Canada and France.