CGP Community Stories

Jim Atwell, November 13, 2008


Jim Atwell, November 13, 2008


Jim Atwell was born in Annapolis, Maryland in 1938. Atwell spent thirteen years as a Catholic teaching monk in the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a group of lay men who dedicate their lives to the ministry of Christian education, in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1969, after leaving the order, he took a faculty position and met his first wife Gwen Vosburgh at Ann Arundel Community College. After Gwen's death in 1989, Atwell moved north and remarired a few years later. He and his second wife, Anne Geddes-Atwell, made their home in Fly Creek raising sheep, pigs, and chickens. A writer for The Cooperstown Crier, Mr. Atwell, with Anne as designer and illustrator, compiled fifty of his columns about charming tales on small-town living into a book, From Fly Creek.

Mr. Atwell was particularly interested in discussing life in rural communities and his experience with Parkinson's disease. His stories and observations of small-town living illustrate not only Fly Creek in the past and present but also a broader sense of community and neighborliness that is unique in rural areas. Recently diagnosed with Parkinson's, he describes his experience with therapy treatments, medical communities around the country, and learning to cope with disease both physically and emotionally.

Fly Creek underwent vast changes during the twentieth century. In the late 1930's, the previously obvious gap between the hamlet area and the old Fly Creek village was blurring as people built new houses on small lots along the road. Visually the difference between each of the old clusters remain clear. The twentieth century emphasis on services like stores; community centers like the Grange, schoolhouse, and churches; and a push for public transportation, such as the trolley in the early twentieth century, has pulled the area together into a single entity called Fly Creek. While fast food joints and large corporations such as Wal-Mart threaten the stores and restaurants in the heard of the town today, residents from around the area are proud to call Fly Creek.

Atwell's humor, warmth, and friendliness add to his celebration of community and life. I italicized words that he emphasized and included most of the small talk and laughter throughout the interview in an attempt to depict Atwell's character. Atwell is also a natural storyteller. I preserved long, run-on sentences by putting commas and periods only where there were apparent pauses in order to keep the flow of his stories intact. To truly appreciate Atwell's kind and gentle nature, researchers are encouraged to consult audio recordings and read his book, From Fly Creek.


Kathryn Bevington


Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta




New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission



Kathryn Bevington


Jim Atwell


Fly Creek, NY



Kathryn Bevington, “Jim Atwell, November 13, 2008,” CGP Community Stories, accessed October 17, 2019,