Local library, museum and more damaged

Shamokin’s American Legion Building on Independence Street houses the Shamokin-Coal Township Public Library, the Anthracite Heritage Museum, the Lower Anthracite Model Railroad Club, and a gymnasium, among other establishments. On Monday, March 9th, however, it seems a floor sink in the gym upstairs was left clogged and the water running for several hours. Needless to say, this didn’t end well.

I first noticed something was going on Monday morning after seeing a crew of fire trucks and the works outside the building, but did not learn much more until the following day when I visited the library. The incident was also briefly mentioned at the city council meeting Monday night, which I attended, but they didn’t go into details. In any case, it appears the rear section of the public library sustained the most water damage. The stairs to the children’s section were still drying on Tuesday, and the upper floor was accessible only by the usually closed staircase in the front of the building. The fiction area was considerably affected, and the newspapers report that hundreds of books were ruined or damaged. The museum, too, lost some items, but details haven’t been published. (I only slap myself for not having visited the museum before. I mentally confused it with the model railroad club and expected to find little of use to my research there.)

When I visited the library Tuesday, the place smelled faintly of damp paper and all the tables on the main floor were covered with books standing on their edges with the pages fanned out and drying. At least, however, the damage was only in the back, and the historical materials and microfilm are nearer the front, untouched. The lights were all of course out in the fiction area, and in the semi-darkness I could see the shelves were covered with plastic sheeting. As I scrolled through the newspapers on the microfilm reader, seeking out an obituary to copy, cameramen from WBRE and–what was it? WNEP?–showed up, with the librarian escorting them around. (I swear I did not know there were going to be cameras when I came in!! Lol. :P) It was all very quiet, however, and I went on with printing the obituary.

These two articles in the News-Item–Library Floods; Shamokin – C.T. Library Reopens After Flood–provide a full account of the incident and aftermath. Fortunately, the librarians say that although the damage is serious, it’s not quite as costly as expected, and many of the books are salvageable. It isn’t known yet whether the clogging of the sink was deliberate, or simply idiotic.

Speaking of quiet, I figure I will also mention the council meeting, since it’s the first I’ve attended. It took place in a large room on the second floor of the Lincoln Street City Hall, and though I won’t go into details, let’s just say it was docile. All the councilmen and councilwomen agreed unanimously on every issue brought forth, and the first order of business was to take a break. But I suppose that’s all a good thing–we don’t argue in this town! However, one important issue that came up was the Knights of Columbus Building on Independence Street. This was a place that was supposed to be erected some months ago after the original K of C building was damaged in a roof leak or something, and part of the ceiling collapsed (don’t really remember when that was). However, the new, unfinished building also collapsed quite suddenly in January when all four walls simply fell into a heap, scattering debris onto the sidewalk. To this day, the sidewalk is still inaccessible. Cleanup hasn’t even been attempted, and it seems the contracting company can’t be communicated with. K of C people say the contractors have 15 days to get moving, but if they don’t, cleanup will still definitely happen within 30 days.

In Search of George McConnell: Butler County to Dauphin?

A few days ago, I started again on the hunt through the 1850 census for George Washington McConnell, father of Sarah W. Kulp. Although a county biography (of her brother) says both parents were Dauphin County natives, I have long suspected this was incorrect. Her mother, Sarah Marsh was, certainly, but I can’t find barely a shred of info on McConnell and he’s definitely not in the 1850 census for Dauphin.

In the 1860 census, and in tax lists from the same area, he used the name George W. McConnell as I expected, but two sources refer to him by his middle name. Sarah W. McConnell’s first husband’s obituary lists her as “the daughter of the late Washington McConnell,” and when she remarried, her marriage license listed her parents as “W & Sarah McConnell.” So, I thought I might look for this name instead in the 1850 census.

I had actually found one Washington McConnell in that census for PA before, but the dates were very much off. He was listed as being born about 1836, and in the 1860 census for Dauphin County George W. McConnell’s birthdate was entered as 1828. What’s more, this Washington McConnell also was living with someone–a brother, perhaps?–by the name of George McConnell, who was born in 1826. That was a bit closer, but I obviously couldn’t be certain of it and didn’t really think it was likely. However, sometimes the other names in a household can tell you if you’ve found the right person, since you’ll often recognize family names among the other members. For example, I was once looking for a member of the Detweiler family, Charles, in one of the 20th C censuses, and couldn’t find him in PA where the rest of his family was. I then located someone by the same name in Ohio who was married to a Leila, but since it was an entirely different state I couldn’t verify it–until I saw that he had a son by the name of Parke Detweiler. Parke was Charles Detweiler’s mother’s maiden name. Later, thanks to FamilySearchLabs.org, I found Charles’ death certificate, which confirmed the relationship. (OH, unlike PA, makes its death certificates available online.)

So, since there was both a George McConnell and a Washington McConnell in the family, could it be possible that one of them was the person I was looking for? Possible, but not certain. Washington in those days was a more common first name than Parke, definitely.

This, by the way, was in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, a town called North Slipperyrock. Well, when I did a search on Ancestry for Washington McConnell, you won’t believe what I found.

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Carnival of Genealogy, Look-ups and other news

I’d like to inform readers and genealogists of the Northumberland County area that I am now offering look-ups of genealogical materials at my local library (small fee). Please see the Look-ups page of this site for details.

Also, the next Carnival of Genealogy is August 1, and I am planning to write a blog article for this event. Carnival of Genealogy is a semi-monthly program where various genealogy-related blog articles are presented at a single site. You can read the most recent issue of Carnival of Genealogy and learn more about the next one at 100 Years in America, where it was last hosted.

I am sorry to report that the webhost for the photo gallery is not working right today. The gallery is still online but may load like the proverbial January molasses, so if you’re a member or planning to register as one, hang in there. I’m not sure when it will be working properly again, but it shouldn’t take long.

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!

They are here!!

It was about 4:14 when I called the library about those ILLs; had called earlier and they said they would call me if anything came in today’s delivery, but that was two hours earlier and I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that it was another week…and nothing from Harrisburg.

So I called again, and what do I hear but–yes, the microfilm has arrived! They tried to call, but they called my other cell phone which I don’t use much anymore and which is on mute. (Didn’t I give them the new number a few weeks ago…? Well, whatever.)

I was out of this house by 4:40 and arriving at the library only a few minutes later. And there they were–two lovely boxes of microfilm tied together with a rubber band, and they were the right dates and newspapers too! 🙂 Everything perfect, no trouble with anything whatsoever! And the discoveries, the discoveries! So beautiful…and so sad.

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Time to swat self again

Today, after having been busy for several days, mostly because of the holiday, I set out for the library again. (No ILL deliveries yet, I’m afraid.) I didn’t have much to do, but I thought I’d search out a death record for someone or other. However, the dates I was looking for weren’t there, so I instead took out the reel of microfilm for wills from the early 1900’s. I didn’t expect to find much, as my previous experience with the wills there had been that they are all administrations (no actual information about what was bequeathed to whom, just a basic overview written after the estate was settled). However, having nothing better to do, I decided to look for the administration for the estate of Elizabeth Gilbert Kulp, mother of Monroe H.; she died in 1902.

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Halifax, Poughkeepsie, and Planning the Book

I searched the PA State Library’s online catalog again today, this time for Halifax. The search turned up a lot of miscellany including flood insurance studies and “assessment of agricultural nutrient point source discharges from tile drains, spring and overland runoff from two farms, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.” There were church records, but they did not seem to include any Episcopalian records; however there was also a history book about the Halifax area bicentennial, 1794-1994. 128 pages, maps, photos–maybe just what I need. The subject location was listed as Halifax Township; looked this up on the internet and apparently the Halifax borough is part of a larger area known as Halifax Township. So, this book also covers the general area–i.e., like the Greater Shamokin Centennial.

However…it said the location of the book was the PHMC (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) Library, and it was non-circulating. In other words, no ILLs. But I went back to the PA State Library home page, and it said only genealogical books were non-circulating. Halifax Bicentennial was not listed as genealogy. Therefore, I decided to give it a try anyway (one of them had to be wrong), and I called the Shamokin library to request an ILL for the book. Librarian had to look up the ISBN, so I had to call back later and she said she found it, and it’s only in one library in the state. (!) However, they will send for it. Now, it just so happens today is Thursday, and all ILL requests go out on Thursday. But I guess today’s batch is already sent out, because this request won’t go out till next Thursday. Well, at least it’s getting done. If I can get a hold of this book, it could be an important find. Would mention things like cemetery names, church names, school names…maybe even specifics on the Marsh or McConnell family.

Now for the book. Once my research is complete, I am going to compile what I’ve learned into a detailed narrative of the history of the Kulp and McConnell families in Pennsylvania. However, I’ve recently decided to get started on the book much sooner than I’d originally planned. Later, I’ll be able to write a second, more complete book, as I expect to get into a substantial collection of information sometime within the year, which will add considerably to my store of data. Right now, though, things are still developing, and I think it would be a good idea for me to get the word out in this area before the major information comes in. After all, I’ve already gathered much more information than is generally known about these families, certainly enough to publish a book about. So, why not start now?

Last evening I started off with a chapter outline of how I think the book should go. This, of course, will likely change in the course of the writing, but, while going over it, it became clear to me that there’s one important time period which is especially vague to me. I know considerably little about Monroe H. Kulp’s early years in Shamokin–late 1870’s to late 1880’s. Of course, there are plenty of other time periods that need work, but I decided it was time for me to focus on this one. I narrowed the subject down to his college days, an area which I think has good research potential. In the late 1870’s, he enrolled at the State Normal School in Lebanon, Ohio, which was primarily a teacher’s college but presumably he attended one of their additional departments. Contrary to what the biographies say, the official name of the school was at that time the National Normal University, but I think it’s the same place as State Normal School. Some of their old records are now kept at Ohio’s Warren County Historical Society. In fact, I emailed them a while ago about this, but was given a hard time…tried to get them to explain exactly what type of records the collection included, i.e., what was the scope and content, but although two different people wrote back to me all they could say was to remind me that their fee was $10 an hour. (Which I knew.) Wrote again to repeat and clarify my question; did not receive an answer. I think I will have to call them.

MHK also graduated from the Eastman Business College at Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York, in 1881. Some online searching led me to the New York State Library’s catalog, and they have a collection of records from the school, as well as some student photographs, but…they don’t do genealogical searches and the collections definitely don’t circulate. As for me going to Albany…well, you can figure it out. I went to the Albany County Rootsweb message board and asked, just in case, if someone can do a look-up or knows of a good low-fee professional genealogist, but this is a bit of a long shot.

I did find a few interior photos of various sections of the school, at Earlyofficemuseum.com. If you’re interested, follow this link, because you won’t catch me violating their copyright warning:

People who use material from this web site without giving proper credit are below green slime on the evolutionary scale.