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April 2, 2020 - 3:13pm

Unvanquished: Local author pens fictional eulogy for Elba's Stumblin' Inn

A Batavia author has penned a paean to The Stumblin' Inn in Elba, the storied landmark that burned down two years ago this summer.

Daniel J. Crofts was to speak at the Holland Land Office Museum April 23 about his fictional short story "Ignis Invictus,* a Eulogy for the Stumblin' Inn" as participants noshed pastries and sipped hot coffee during the kaffeeklatsch known as Java with Joe E., cancelled because of coronavirus, naturally.

"I worked in Elba for a little over five years, and had passed by the Inn every day," Crofts said in a recent email. "But it wasn't until reading The Batavian's coverage following the July 2018 fire that I learned just how important it had been to the Elba community.

"I have always been interested in storytelling, and felt that a short story that would function as a sort of memorial for the Stumblin' Inn would be appropriate and, perhaps, welcomed."

Crofts said his tale is about a man from out of the area who drives into Elba, sees the wreck of the Stumblin' Inn (after the fire had occurred but before the debris was cleared), and treats it disrespectfully.

Then he meets a mysterious, supernatural guide (like the ghosts of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," or Virgil from Dante's "The Divine Comedy") who takes him on a journey through the history of the Stumblin' Inn, its predecessors, and Elba in general (insofar as it is relevant to the Inn).

Of course, Crofts' book ($10.50) is stocked at the Holland Land Office Museum, which is temporarily closed because of the pandemic.

HLOM Offers Online Book Sales

It is among a number of intriguing titles in the HLOM bookstore inventory, which are available for purchase online.

Also on the list: "The Story of the Muck as Told By Those Who Worked There," ($12) written by the late William F. Brown Jr., and researched by Anne Marie Starowitz; and "Up South -- Folk Stories Whispered on the Summer Wind and Seen Through the Green Leaves" ($24.99), by Lynda Breckenridge Gaetano; and "Transfiguration and Hope -- A Conversation About Time and Hope" ($21.99) by D. Gregory Van Dussen, about spiritual journeys infinite and eternal, and the power of grace.

There are battlefield maps for purchase and titles about wars and veterans, baseball, the Erie Canal, Buffalo gangsters, Native Americans and pioneers, railroads, Genesee County architecture, haunted places, leading citizens, lore, and WNY amusement park rides.

A tiny brass cannon collectible can be had 10 bucks. It spurs remembrance of the actual cannons that stood outside the museum for more than a century. Last November, those were carefully dismantled and sent to Altoona, Pa., for a $20,000 period-accurate restoration, half paid by the museum and half through funds from an ongoing fundraising campaign called "Ready. Aim. Donate."

And if you need some soap to wash your hands good and clean of COVID-19, the bookstore's online inventory also lists prettily wrapped, handmade goat's milk soap, three cakes for $12, with fragrances such as green tea, rose hip, and lavender mint.

Meanwhile, HLOM is using this time of closure to take stock of its operation and programs and is asking people to complete a survey to help them better serve the community.

(Ignis Invictus is Latin for: Fire or Passion + Invincible or Undefeated, etc.)

Editor's Note: Below is a YouTube video of the Stumblin' Inn fire July 8, 2018, by Elba resident Lucine Kauffman, along with our news partner WBTA:

Also, video of the cannons being loaded for their restoration trip.

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