PHILLIPS —“This book is a showcase of the town; something for the people of Phillips to be proud of. This is where Cornelia is from, and I felt the local children should know about her,” said Pam Matthews of Phillips, author of the newly-released children’s book “Cornelia ‘Fly Rod’ Crosby, Champion of Maine”.
The illustrated book is a tribute to Crosby, her accomplishments, and her hometown. While the book itself is geared toward children, the story is one Matthews feels people of all ages can enjoy.
Crosby was born in Phillips in 1854 and suffered from tuberculosis, then called consumption. It was a disease that claimed both her father and brother. With no cure for the illness, doctors encouraged Crosby to spend as much time as possible outdoors. This advice was something Crosby took to heart in her young years, instilling a life-long love of the outdoors.
Matthews admits there are few details available about Crosby’s youth, so assumptions were made about her childhood. Yet, the story and drawings relay historical practices, details, locations and artifacts. The addition of important surnames such as Allen, Beal, Montgomery and Davenport add to the local flavor.
In order to get a feel for the setting, illustrator Heidi Kendrick of Portland spent time touring and photographing the town, the Phillips Historical Society, and Crosby’s childhood home on Pleasant Street.
“Why is she a Champion of Maine? Cornelia was a champion for getting people outdoors; she was a champion for perseverance in the face of illness; she was a champion because she showed skills and abilities that were uncommon for women of the time,” explained Matthews.
With a $600 inheritance and the knowledge that an education would do her well, Crosby attended St. Catherine’s School in Augusta. Upon graduating, she returned to Phillips went to work to support her mother and herself.
According to Matthews, Crosby did not take up fly fishing until she was a young adult. “Boy, does she get hooked,” remarked Matthews.
Crosby later became a newspaper columnist which is where her accomplishments are recorded, said Matthews. It was an editor who gave Crosby her famous nickname of ‘Fly Rod’, Matthews stated.
Crosby was an advocate for women in male-dominated outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting. She helped develop the Registered Maine Guide program and, because of her efforts, was issued the first guide license.
Crosby marketed the Maine woods as a place for all outdoor activities, including winter sports. She attended exhibitions in New York and Boston, setting up elaborate exhibits that highlighted the outdoors and promoted the mental and physical health benefits of being outside.
“Her job was to promote Maine as a place to have fun in the outdoors, and the easiest and quickest way to get there was by rail. Cornelia worked for the railroad and when the first train made its way from Farmington to Phillips, she was aboard,” said Matthews.
In keeping with Crosby’s passion for the state, the book was not only written and illustrated in Maine, but also scanned, designed and printed here, Matthews noted.
Matthews and Kendrick released the book on Friday, Aug 17 during Phillips Old Home Days celebration. Matthews, who recently took on portraying Crosby during special events, plans to go to schools and historical societies for book readings.
“The purpose of writing the book was not so I could be an author,” stated Matthews, “Cornelia ‘Fly Rod’ Crosby was such an amazing person and I feel people should know who she was.”