Mother Cabrini, St. Edward’s Parish Office – Rectory: A Brief History

In 2008, I explored and blogged about three old Shamokin landmark buildings–the 1890 Washington School, the Douty Building, and a Commerce Street F&S Brewery building. Last week, I embarked on my fourth such expedition–a tour of the parish office of Mother Cabrini Church, formerly St. Edward’s, on Shamokin Street. It’s the building that once housed the priests of one of Shamokin’s largest Catholic parishes–a structure with an intriguing history, a somewhat uncertain architectural past, and not without a connection to my own research. But in fact, the whole matter started months earlier with a photograph–an 1870s view of Shamokin, the exact location of which was unidentified.

In Search of Old Shamokin…140 Years Ago

It looks ordinary enough, but it proved to be a real mystery. I tried and failed numerous times to identify the approximate location it shows, and I’m usually familiar with the main sections of Shamokin. The only two distinctive buildings in the photo are the church at the lower left, and the large building just to the right of it. I could not, however, identify either structure.

So I–and some family members–started considering and rejecting a number of theories as to the possible location–Springfield, Market Street, Shamokin Street. It took us forever but we finally struck on the solution when it occurred to us that the residential building in the photo might be the parish office of Mother Cabrini Church, formerly St. Edward’s.

Of course, there was a problem–the office is directly adjacent to the church, but the latter does not appear in the photo, meaning that for some reason the office (rectory at the time) had to predate the church’s construction in 1873.

However, an old letter I’ve had for some time seemed to hold an explanation.

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The Researcher Returns

Yep, I’ve been away a while. Several family matters came up which just couldn’t be avoided, and the past month has been so hectic I haven’t had time for anything but essentials. So, a lot of research plans were delayed, but now, I think I’m finally getting back on track. I have a lot to do, a lot to catch up on; yet, I think I’m ready for it!

Today, I wrote a draft of a letter to an important research contact and was able to get to the library to check some newspapers. The Harrisburg Telegraph has finally arrived! The original request was cancelled because they said they didn’t have the date I asked for…but I knew better. 🙂 After a few telephone calls, I was told that yes, they did have it and I was right, so just request it again then. I did, and it arrived last afternoon.

To recap, I requested the Telegraph looking for information related to the marriage and death of William C. Detweiler. I had looked up these events in the Harrisburg Patriot some time ago, but thought a different newspaper might report more info. Sure enough, I was able to locate some good leads.

First, it was mentioned in his obituary that he had attended the Harrisburg Academy. I’m not familiar with the establishment, but if I can find its records anywhere, that might be a useful source. Some internet searching is in order! Also, I now have a specific date for when he was admitted to the bar, which I may be able to look up in newspapers later on.

Some weeks ago I found an hour or so to visit the Odd Fellows Cemetery and take a few photographs; various members of families connected to the Kulps are buried there, including M.H. Kulp’s sister Sepora and her sons, Warren and Raymond. Since the cemetery is just outside of Trevorton, I stopped there as well and did more photography. I have hardly ever been there before, believe it or not, I don’t travel much; but it is such a lovely, quaint town. St. Patrick’s Church is there; I have an old photo of it, but can’t post here as my scanner is not hooked up. However, during my trip to Trevorton I took a photo of the church from approximately the same angle for comparison, and will post them here as soon as I have the older shot.

This photo was taken from inside the Trevorton post office, showing Shamokin Street.

This photo was taken from inside the Trevorton post office, showing Shamokin Street.

Interior of Trevorton post office. The postal clerk tells me the building was originally a general store, and the woodwork you see here is fairly recent, dating from the 1950s.

Interior of Trevorton post office. The postal clerk tells me the building was originally a general store, and the woodwork you see here is fairly recent, dating from the 1950s.

Other than that, not much has been going on in my research since late August. But, in any case, the researcher returns to business. As progress is made I will be posting here more often, so stay tuned! I’ll try not to disappear again. 🙂

The Church of the Ascension

I’m afraid I haven’t really had much time to post this till now, but two days ago I set off on another research trip–this one, less about records, and more about the actual places and era in which the lives of the people I’m researching played out.

On Sunday, August 31, it was a sunny (and, in my AC-lacking car, rather hot) afternoon when I headed out for the town of Kulpmont. It’s just a few miles east of here and more than slightly connected with my research: according to the history books, the earliest settlement was begun there about 1875, but it wasn’t much to speak of until thirty years later when Monroe H. Kulp began the first major development of the town. Hence, the community was named after him.

But, I had a specific destination in mind in the borough of Kulpmont. This destination was a place I’d been to before, but only long enough to walk about outside, and I’d never had a chance to see as much of the building as I’d hoped. This time, however, I had contacted the owner and he (knowing the general history of his property already) had agreed to let me come by and get to know more of what the building was actually like.

This photo was taken in 2007, on Chestnut Street in Kulpmont across from St. Pauline’s:

This was the Monroe H. Kulp Memorial Episcopal Church of the Ascension, built 1912 by Kulp’s widow, Sarah, and consecrated on Ascension Day, May 1, 1913–in the words of the Greater Shamokin Centennial publication (1964), “as a tribute to his memory.”

The church has been empty for many years, though it was still used occasionally at the time the Centennial book was written. Two days ago, I, as a dedicated student of the prominent Kulp family’s history, was able to enter the old church for the first time.

Accompanied by the courteous and helpful owner (who, by the way, has marvelously restored the next door rectory, he let me explore there too), I entered by the second door toward the rear, which you can see in the photo at the top of a short, straight flight of steps. This led to a vestibule with doors of lovely old woodwork, and the entrance to the nave was at the left.

From the raised level where once was situated the altar, I looked out over a wide, open room roofed by a vaulted ceiling with the old, dark woodwork still intact. The pews no longer stood in this old gathering place of faith, and both main windows had been removed due to damage, but the smaller stained glass windows along the sides remained.

Toward main window; the main entrance is just at the left of the window. Most of these photos were lightened since I was using my cell phone camera, which produces a darker, higher contrast image.

One of the side windows, at the right as you’re looking toward the main window as shown in previous photos.

Another window at the right; I left this image as-is to preserve the stained glass detail of the window.

If you look closely, you can see the outline of where the second main window was here at the back of the church, above what used to be the location of the altar.

Outside again, I walked about the exterior of the church, taking photos along the way, and peered for a moment into the basement.

Looking toward the main entrance from the back porch of the rectory.

The door to the basement. Note the stone walls of the church; very well-built.

I took this photo as I was leaving; note the location of the back window as shown in previous photos.

So, this then was the Church of the Ascension, the same attended by Sarah Kulp for so many of the later years of her life.

I have been to very few places, actual buildings that is, where I know for certain that the people of my research have also been (most of those places are no longer standing). So it was another significant step in my research to have finally had a glimpse inside this church on August 31, even though I have not been hard at the material (records) aspect of research lately. It was a wonderful trip I could never have turned down!

Now…onward! Plans for Harrisburg are in the works, though not likely to happen quite soon. I am also going through the census records lately–and think I may have (finally!) found George Washington McConnell in the 1850 census. Needless to say, nowhere near Halifax where he should have been! 🙂 But, it’s not verified. Will post soon about it.

A possible first photo

I’ve been kind of busy lately so I haven’t been writing as faithfully in this blog, but the evening before last I received a very exciting email which may have provided the first photograph I have found yet–of one of the most important persons in my research.

On August 11, I wrote to the curator of the Historical Society of Dauphin County, asking about a very extensive photo collection they have. Their website says it contains over 1 million images, so I thought I had a fair shot at finding some relevant portraits. For a start, I asked if they had anything about Sarah McConnell or her husband William C. Detweiler; including a few dates and places with my query for clarification.

August 12, evening, I did a final check of my inbox before heading to bed. For the past couple of days it seemed like both my email accounts had been really dead, no messages from anybody, no spam even! 😦 So I didn’t expect to find much. But, to my delight, there was a response from the curator at the Dauphin County Historical Society. The curator wrote:

Hi Val. I searched our photo collection and came up with nothing for Sarah McConnell. The only Detweiler photos that turned up was Philip Detweiler and a group picture that includes a William C. Detweiler dated 4/15/1871. Pictured seated left to right: William A. Kelker, William Calder, Charles C. Lombaert, standing in rear William C. Detweiler. Not sure if he is Champlin Detweiler. I’ve attached a low resolution preview of these images.

In 1871 Detweiler would have been about 15 years old. I haven’t verified if it’s actually him or not, but I would say it is, since it’s a rather uncommon name and there isn’t anyone else in the 1870 census for Dauphin County listed by that name. The man in the photo identified as Detweiler does seem to have been relatively young, although perhaps not as young as 15, but that’s just my impression. Could the date of 1871 be incorrect, perhaps?

In any case, it’s an amazing portrait. Though young, he had a very distinguished appearance, and must have been quite handsome. The photo has an informal and familiar air; the three men, Kelker, Calder and Lombaert, are seated languidly in the foreground, while Detweiler, slender and fair of countenance, stands behind them, his arm resting on Calder’s shoulder. While it’s clear they were probably friends, the Calder connection is especially interesting as Sarah McConnell’s brother, William McConnell’s, middle name was Calder. There were actually about three different William Calders in Dauphin County, according to maley.net’s Dauphin County biographical transcriptions. The one in this photo appears to be much older than his companions, 40-50 years old I would say, so he may be the William Calder listed in the transcription as having been born in 1821, and died in 1880 (possibly son of William Calder born 1788). I suspect that the Detweiler family had known the McConnells for a long time, so if William Calder was a good friend of the Detweiler family, he may also have known the McConnells, hence the namesake.

There are several Kelker families listed in the transcriptions, but no mention of a William. Also nothing on Lombaert, although in the photo he appeared to have been about the same age as Detweiler, probably in his teens.

This is truly a major find in my research. Originally, though, I didn’t think it was especially unusual that this collection of 1 million images included what I was looking for, but recently as I went over the email again (was too excited the first time to read everything!), I noticed that the curator had said there were only two Detweiler surname photos. (Never heard of Philip.) Well, I know that this family wasn’t the only one by that name in Harrisburg–there was also another lawyer by the name of Meade D. Detweiler, who was probably a relation although I don’t have any proof of a connection. He was, in fact, more prominent than the John S. Detweiler family, and I would have thought that in just about any Dauphin County collection there would be more information on him than William C., yet in a collection of a million photos, one of only two photographs with that surname just happened to be what I was looking for. Now that is luck.

Also today, I received an email from the genealogist at Trinity Episcopal. She couldn’t find much in the church records database, but she did some additional searching and came up with some interesting info. She has access to a local directory from 1900-1903 (wherever did she get that? I must know! 🙂 ), and there are some addresses listed I might want to check out. Also mention of MHK being affiliated with some company by the name of Montando Water Co. Interesting, never heard of it. She also says that Chester Kulp, his brother, who was an assistant postmaster, had children enrolled in the Washington School (built 1890, on Sunbury Street). Will have to ask about that.

The submission deadline for the next Carnival of Genealogy is tomorrow, and I have got to get to work on writing the article I will submit. I kept putting it off, as I thought I had plenty of time–and now all of a sudden it’s the 14th. Time flies!