Historical fiction brings story of Renfrew Park site to life

December 07, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Maxine Beck, left, and her sister-in-law, Marie Lanser Beck, spent two years researching and writing a historical fiction book about the family that farmed what is now Renfrew Park in Waynesboro.
By Jennifer Fitch, Staff Writer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Co-authors of a historical fiction book set in Waynesboro feel such connections to their characters that they can almost see them walking through fields toward a centuries-old house and barn.

The characters in "The Royers of Renfrew: A Family Tapestry" didn't originate in the imaginations of Marie Lanser Beck and Maxine Beck. Rather, Daniel and Catherine Royer, along with their 10 children, in the 1800s farmed what is today Renfrew Park.

When a family member dressed in period attire and walked through the park for the book's cover photograph, the Becks said they were transported to 1812 and 1813.

"It was like going through a portal," Maxine Beck said.

The Waynesboro women, who are sisters-in-law, started quietly researching and writing the book two years ago. The 238-page, self-published book was released in mid-October.

The book opens with the Royer family living in a 24-foot by 24-foot cabin and preparing to move into their larger stone house. That house remains in mostly its original form at the park.

The book primarily focuses on the Royers' 9-year-old, Susan, and 7-year-old, Rebecca.

"We're seeing life on their homestead through their eyes initially," Marie Lanser Beck said.

The factual descriptions of the farmstead and ways of life are interwoven with tales of a secret romance, sibling favoritism and an adventure with a dog. The authors said farmstead life was smelly, dirty, noisy and challenging.

"It wasn't quite the bucolic place it is today. It was a working industrial farmstead," Marie Lanser Beck said.

Religion was very important to the Royers and played a big part in family members' decisions.

The Becks said they suspect visitors to Renfrew Museum and Park or people who are participating in Renfrew Institute programs appreciate the beauty of the land, but don't know about the farmers' lives.

"They don't know about the people who lived here and spent every waking moment dreaming about their life and hoping for a better future," Marie Lanser Beck said.

Both women said they remember their own first visits to the park, which was bequeathed to the Borough of Waynesboro in the 1970s.

The Becks are planning two more books related to the Royers. Their first was written with a preteen audience in mind, but they said they've found adults are really enjoying the tale.

The sisters-in-law will sign books Saturday at Dru's Books 'n' Things in the Wayne Heights Mall off Pa. 16. They'll be joined by Bruce Foster, a Waynesboro Hospital emergency room physician who wrote a medical thriller.

Other places to buy "The Royers of Renfrew: A Family Tapestry" include Turn The Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Md.;; Renfrew Museum; and

A portion of sales are donated to Renfrew Museum and Park as well as Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Studies.


If you go ...

What: Book signing for "The Royers of Renfrew: A Family Tapestry" and "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye"

Who: Authors Marie Lanser Beck, Maxine Beck and Bruce Foster

When: 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Dru's Books 'n' Things in Wayne Heights Mall, Waynesboro, Pa.

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