The “Farmer”

[This article is written for the 54th Carnival of Genealogy, which is to be posted at What’s Past is Prologue.]

The topic for this edition of Carnival of Genealogy is: “The Family Language…Does your family use words and phrases that no one else knows or understands? Where did they come from? Did you ever try to explain your ‘family language’ to outsiders? Tell a story about your family-coined words, phrases, or nicknames.”

Well, at first this didn’t seem to have much relevance to my own historical research, but that thing about the nicknames caught my attention. Family-coined words and phrases may not apply, but unusual nicknames–that certainly does apply!

Monroe Kulp (1858-1911), the prominent Shamokin, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania native foremost in my research, was frequently known by the nickname of “Farmer.” You’ll notice it just about anywhere in reference to him–recent local history books, even newspaper articles from his own time. However, he had no direct connection to farming, and thus the source of the nickname has always been a bit of a mystery.

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Sunbury & Mt. Carmel newspapers

Well, a few Inter-Library Loans arrived today. The Halifax Bicentennial, however, has not arrived yet and I am beginning to wonder if perhaps it is really non-circulating. Which would not be good, because the State Library is the only library in the state that has it, and going there right now just isn’t possible.

So, what did arrive today? Newspapers from the Sunbury Daily and Mount Carmel Item, 1931. I had decided to look up the obituary of Sarah W. Kulp in other area newspapers, since I’d only checked the local paper before and there might be something else mentioned elsewhere that I needed to know.

Well, there wasn’t much, but it was nonetheless an interesting read…especially about her brother’s involvement in Prohibition. Had not heard that before.

Sunbury Daily: Monday, February 23, 1931, page 3

Mrs. Sarah Kulp of Shamokin Dies

Mrs. Sarah Washington Detwiler Kulp, 64 years old, of Shamokin, widow of the late Congressman Monroe Henry Kulp, died suddenly Sunday at Atlantic City where she had gone to spend a few days.

Mrs. Kulp is believed to have been the only woman who ever was the president of a traction company. After her husband’s death in 1911 she took over the active management of the Shamokin-Edgewood Railway Company, now defunct, a line which served Edgewood, one of the three communities her husband had founded. The other two are Fairview and Kulpmont.

She was known throughout Northumberland County for her activities, which took up much of her time until very recently when she decided to take things easier. Her husband at his death left a considerable fortune which he had accumulated in various enterprises, which had included the building of a railroad, real estate development and the management of a lumber company left to him by his father.

The couple had no children. Mrs. Kulp is survived by her brother, former State Senator W.C. McConnell, who some years ago was prohibition administrator in Philadelphia in the early days of prohibition. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Mount Carmel Item: Monday, February 23, 1931, page 7

Mrs. Monroe H. Kulp is Dead

Word was received at Shamokin of the death of Mrs. Sarah W. D. Kulp, 64, widow of Congressman Monroe Henry Kulp and head of the Shamokin-Edgewood Trolley Company for a number of years. She died yesterday at Atlantic City where she was spending several days.

The late Congressman was one of the best known men this county ever knew. He was one of the founders of Kulpmont and the Episcopal church there was named as memorial to him.

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As a note: For some reason, both articles say that she was 64, but actually she was 68, as most records say she was born in March of 1862.

Updates & miscellaneous

Well, I did call the author of the article mentioned in my last entry, but he said it would be better if we talked in person (suggested the library), and I informed him that it wouldn’t be immediately possible, car trouble, but I am going to call again soon as I am back on the road earlier than expected!

I had a few searching tasks in mind at the cemetery today, so I headed over there looking for various burials in block 23, didn’t find anything; but I did take a photo of the view from the rear of the cemetery, it is atop the hill and you can see a great deal of the town from there. Pardon the photo quality–it was my camera phone and I couldn’t keep it still, the height was rather dizzying I have to say! 🙂

Looking north, on the steps near Block 23 (rear of cemetery)

Looking north, on the steps near Block 23 (rear of cemetery)

The courthouse trip I mentioned earlier I now have scheduled for the end of the month. However, I still do not trust the car for long trips so I have arranged to have a friend drive me there. He is often very busy with work, etc., so something may come up then, but so far next week is what we have planned.

More news: Recently I emailed a church by the name of Christ Lutheran in–where do you suppose?–Barto. This town, in Berks County in the area of Washington Township and Bally (formerly Goshenhoppen in the 18th C or thereabouts), was the home of Darlington R. Kulp around the 1850’s and 60’s. Census records say it was actually Washington Township, but an 1876 map indicates that Barto was part of the township, so in other words we’re talking about the same general area. It is, by the way, on the border with Montgomery County and just a few miles north of Pottstown in that county, where Darlington was raised. Directly across the border is Niantic, where his parents were buried. His eldest son, Monroe Henry, was born in Barto, October 23, 1858.

In fact, several of Darlington’s children were born in the Washington Township area, excepting Chester Grant who was born in Schultzville, Chester County; Howard, Gilbert, and the twins (who, sadly, died in infancy in 1869), who were all born in Shamokin. I’ve never been able to find much information on the Berks County connection, so when I heard about the Christ Lutheran Church located so near to where they lived, I immediately decided to find out how long ago it had been founded. Of course, D.R. Kulp’s short biographies from Bell’s and Floyd’s indicate that he belonged to the German Reformed Church before he moved to Shamokin, but then, I figured that if it had existed back then and was so nearby, they probably wouldn’t have minded. It was a very rural area and in those days people often had to wait for a traveling priest to come by, so if there was even a Lutheran church anywhere in the area, I highly believe they would have attended there. (And perhaps the bios are wrong.)

So, I found the email address for Christ Lutheran Church on their webpage, located here, and sent them a message asking when the church was founded. Someone by the name of Melissa replied and said that it had actually been founded in 1836, but she didn’t think they had any records from the 1850’s to the 1860’s, just the later years of the 19th century and afterward. However, she said that if she ever found out anything about it, or talked to anyone who might remember what became of them, she would let me know.

So the question is, was the church located in Barto at that time? Or was it originally located elsewhere? The Berks County PAGenWeb and PAGenWeb Archives pages have comprehensive lists of Berks County churches, but I did not see anything about the Christ Lutheran Church there. Confusing.

So, we’ll see what develops in the next couple of days. I hope the Sunbury trip will turn out well; but I think I am sure to find something there. I have a long, detailed, (and now organized!) list made up, and I am fairly confident at least some of the tasks will yield useful information.

Oh, and there’s the ILL deliveries today. Am still waiting for the Halifax Bicentennial.

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Update 09/02/08: Schultzville, Chester County? Oh, please. Turns out it was Berks County, and yes, in the Washington Township area. Don’t trust those obituaries!

The search for wills and sources

For some time I have been planning to make one of those grand old trips to the Sunbury courthouse, this time on another will hunt. First, it appeared as though I wouldn’t be able to do this until around the middle of August, however, now early August may be possible. I will try to fit it in. Oh, how I long to be able just to run out tomorrow morning and hurry off to Sunbury…but then, I’d kind of like to live in the courthouse for about a week too, only we can’t have everything!! 🙂

So, my primary task at the courthouse is locating MHK’s will. Last time I was there (we’re talking, what, early May?), I did find an administration, but as I recall that’s all there was. However, I also remember that the handwriting was difficult to read and I was in a hurry…maybe I missed a page? (Horror!)

It is possible that there may be some situation as I found with his father’s will (see previous postings). But I doubt it. Frankly, I am starting to lean toward the possibility that I overlooked it, and you can imagine how impossible that seems! However, I also think there are additional probate records somewhere at the courthouse, so I am certain to find something. If there are any additional records, I must see what else I can find on Darlington Kulp’s estate. With the controversy that surrounded it, there can be no doubt some unique paperwork was involved.

By the way, from what I can tell, the will books are only in a loose chronological order, and a rather odd one at that. For example, indexes reference Will Book 14 as the location of MHK’s will, 1911; Book 20-something, I think, for his wife’s will, she died in 1931; and Book 15 for his sister’s, who also died in 1931. Now does that make any sense…?

I have another task tonight. Recently I have been working on the Thomas Photography connection again, with little luck. Called the last owner and asked him just about every question I could, and his answer was very clear: They only had family portraits in negative format, except after about 1930/1940, and all the negatives were donated to the historical society. Now, I did call the historical society some time ago and they say that they only have negatives after 1925. Nothing at all in the way of portraits prior to that date. Further, a local fellow who’s into photography whose website I saw once, he purchased a large collection of already printed photos from Thomas Photography when they were closing, and he tells me he has about fifty or so family photos from around the turn of the century. So what is up with all of this? Confusing.

Now, I am drawn again to an article about M.H. Kulp, printed in the News-Item back in February 2006 as the first installment in the Achievers series. (The series went on for about two years; they now have a book published containing all the articles.) As you probably know, 2006 was a bit before my interest in Shamokin history got started, so I didn’t hear about it until sometime last year. However, going over it again, I am noticing that there were two portraits printed with the article. One was that very charismatic portrait from the Centennial publication; there is a copy on this site’s “Why This One Point in Time?” page. Another was the one taken in Edgewood, and which I originally found in June 2007 in a book about the electric railway company. The author of the article did not list his sources, but the latter photo was captioned with a quote that the author claimed was the original caption. Now, I have never seen this original caption anywhere before, so I am inclined to think that his source was more direct; i.e., a family member or…the photography studio? You’d think.

I am thinking that wherever he found one such photo, there may be more; so, today I attempted to contact the author about his sources. However, he was not around. It is evening now, so I am off to call again. I must also ask about some other things he mentioned in the article, so this may be an important call. Will write soon.