A farewell tribute to a Mountain Top native and keeper of local history in the various places where she lived
By Cyndi LaPierre
Shirley Wiltse Dunn was born in Tannersville, NY, graduated from Tannersville High School in 1946, and from New York State College for Teachers in Albany in 1950. She earned Master’s degrees in English and History from the same college, now known as SUNY Albany. Mrs. Dunn worked as a teacher, a museum interpreter, editor, and historic preservationist.
After her graduation from the College for Teachers, Shirley taught school in Delmar, NY and Baltimore, MD for four years while her husband pursued his education. Then she took on the role of devoted mother to her four children. Once her children graduated from college, she returned to the labor market following her passions in History and English as a teacher, writer, supporter of local history groups, and historic preservation consultant. She worked for the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation until retiring in 1992.
Shirley wrote or edited seven books including three well-respected studies of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation. She was a co-author of Dutch Architecture near Albany; authored a children’s book about the Mohicans; and left a legacy to her mother and a gift to all Mountain Top residents by writing a popular book of her mother’s stories of the people and events in the Tannersville area titled Pioneer Days in the Catskill High Peaks. Her last book, on Fort Crailo and the Van Rensselaer families who lived there, was published in 2016.
Shirley Wiltse Dunn was generous with her knowledge, sharing through her writing, sharing a collection of glass plate negatives (which can be seen on the MTHS website), and donating volumes from her own library to the Mountain Top Historical Society.
She could certainly be added to the MTHS’ newly minted list of extraordinary ordinary women and will be fondly remembered by her friends, neighbors, colleagues, students and local historians.