Festival 2009 Part III: The Past Comes Alive at Shamokin Cemetery

Shamokin Cemetery: The large mausoleum is visible in the background

Shamokin Cemetery: The large mausoleum is visible in the background

By many, a cemetery is considered an eerie, morbid, sometimes even macabre place. It’s an overused setting in films and novels of the horror variety, and is not very often associated with anything other than death or desolation in some form. But, although a cemetery certainly marks some of the more despondent moments of history, it is also, to the people who made the Shamokin Cemetery tour on Saturday, May 23rd possible, a place to recognize and remember those who are buried there, and, for a few hours every year, to bring that past back to life.

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John S. Detweiler’s Grave

Now mind you, I’ve been to the cemetery site, Find A Grave, before. Long, long ago I paid my first visit to its pages, only to leave eventually without finding a thing, and coming to the conclusion that they didn’t have many records at all.

But this was probably just because their site structure, navigation and search system needs to be taken apart and rebuilt from the ground up to work right–because they really do have a lot of records. Many grave listings also include photos. And when I took the time this afternoon to bushwhack my way around the quite contrary search engines, I found just that!

In the database for the Harrisburg Cemetery (not to be confused with East Harrisburg Cemetery, which I think is more recent), I found two burials with the surname Detweiler. The first was a Henry Detweiler, whose name I didn’t recognize–and the second was John S. Detweiler, who was the father of William Champlin Detweiler, first husband of Sarah W. Kulp.

The transcription indicates his birthdate was 1828, but this could be a reading error; Detweiler's biography from the Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia lists his birthdate as 1829.

The transcription lists his birthdate as 1828, but this may be due to the illegibility of the headstone; Detweiler's biography from the Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia indicates his birthdate was 1829.

In the East Harrisburg Cemetery, there are also listings for David and Susanna Detweiler–can’t be sure, as I don’t know much about them, but I think these were the parents of John S. Detweiler. However, the same photo was included for both listings and it appears to be of a monument with surname Mumma, so I don’t know exactly why that is. The page for Susanna Detweiler is here; John S. Detweiler here.

No info on William C., I’m afraid. But many thanks to Find A Grave–they really have an excellent database! They just need to work on that site navigation. 🙂

In other news…today I paid a visit to Trinity Episcopal Church, where I met the rector and a very helpful genealogist, on my quest for historical records. They both seemed generally familiar with the Kulp family history, but said although they have records, they are mostly vital statistics–baptisms, marriages, etc. However, the genealogist, whose name I’m afraid I missed, has apparently transcribed some of these records and told me she has a computer database up to the 1920’s. I gave her my email address and she said she would do some searching. Hopefully, this may turn up some leads.

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!