Local Hillsboro author Debbie Williams recently published a novel titled “Hillsboro’s Mystery Child — The Story of Sarah Dorney Stroup”, detailing the story of Sarah Dorney Stroup, who was abandoned at a train depot in Hillsboro in 1857.
The blend of history and fiction recounts Stroup’s lifelong search to find her identity.
Williams has written a variety of novels in the romantic suspense genre during the past eight years, but a passion for local history led her to research the Stroup story. She suspected the story was a folktale, but further digging, including finding an article from the former Hillsboro Press Gazette from the early 1940s, confirmed the story was more than a myth.
She located Stroup’s grave in the Stroup Cemetery in Dodsonville and found the surrounding graves matched the names of the people in books and articles she researched.
“That was when I realized that Sarah Stroup truly was a mystery child, and that this was a story that needed to be told,” Williams said.
She garnered information for the novel from online books and articles and many interviews. “It seemed as if every person that I talked to connected me with another source,” Williams said. “I would like to thank all of the people who helped me with my research, especially from the Highland County Public Library and the local historical society and even the Cincinnati Historical Society.”
She began research for the book at the beginning of this year, and it was published in late September.
According to Williams, the most fascinating aspect of the story is that Stroup was abandoned in a Hillsboro train depot following a trip from England while wearing unusually expensive hand-tailored clothing by a woman named Ellen Dorney (who was cheaply dressed), and no one ever seemed to search for her.
It is suspected that Stroup may have been left to fend for herself to make way for an inheritance-seeking relative.
Williams recently portrayed her great-great grandmother, Kitty Herron Newby, at the Highland County Historical Society’s Ghost Walk. As Newby was a contemporary of Stroup, Williams created a fictional encounter between the Stroup and Newby in the book.
Williams will be at the Highland County Historical Society from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6 to sign books.
The book is available on Amazon in paperback and in the Kindle store. It can also be purchased directly from Williams by contacting her at 937-393-3537 or at [email protected].
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.