WYCKOFF, N.J. -- Who knew one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs came from Wyckoff?
Best-selling author and California resident Amy Stewart certainly didn't. But as the author dug further into research for her book, "The Drunken Botanist," she stumbled across an unrelated but enthralling story about the ground-breaking Constance Kopp.
So, she wrote a book about her. The fictionalized novel, "Girl Waits With Gun," is based on the forgotten true story of Kopp, who in 1914, is forced to defend her family after a belligerent silk factory owner runs down her family's buggy leading to a dispute over damages and a war of bricks, bullets, and threats.
Stewart discovered the story of Kopp from a 1915 New York Times article and was surprised when, after amassing a pile of clippings, found out nothing had been written about the Kopp sisters -- not even on Wikipedia. That led her to New Jersey -- to reconstruct the women's lives from scratch and to Paterson and Hackensack, in particular, to pull birth certificates, property deeds, and criminal cases from microfilm in library basements.
Her research also led her to the site in Wykoff where the Kopp sisters lived in the 1910s, as well as their house in Hawthorne, where they lived in the 1920s. The Paterson cemetery where they are buried, as well as Broadway and Hamilton in Paterson where the car accident took place were also on her list.
Since there are different accounts of the accident's specific location, Stewart took some editorial liberties, having the accident occur in downtown Paterson, around Main and Market. Her research also led her to the street corner where the girl waited with the gun, which was Broadway and Carroll, and to Kaufman's factory on Putnam, along with many other minor locations, including the Colt Building downtown..
Thanks to Ancestry.com she even made contact with family members who remembered other characters in the book. "That was the most amazing part of the research: sitting down and talking to people who either knew my characters personally, or remembered family stories about them."
The book also touches on the Paterson silk strikes of 1913.
Stewart admits she was so enthralled with this story she is working on a sequel, due out in September.
She will be talking about her book -- and her time visiting Bergen County -- in a virtual author's visit at the Wyckoff Library Monday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. Call (201) 891-4866 for more information or go to www.wyckofflibrary.org/. Further information can be found at www.amystewart.com/.
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