An Imperfect Politician – The Election and Career of a Pa. Legislator and How Things Haven’t Changed From 1894-2008

Politics and Our Ancestors: Finally, it’s a COG topic I really know. After all, the man at the center of my non-genealogical historical research was a politician–specifically a United States Representative–from turn-of-the-century slightly rural Pennsylvania. Though he was primarily a private businessman, his two-term Washington career ultimately became his best-known and most-hyped accomplishment. However, being a persistent researcher such as I am, I soon discovered there was a lot to his Congressional doings that the mainstream local histories and county biographies, well–just forgot to mention. And, at the same time, I found that I was uncovering an interestingly familiar story, one that in this turbulent political season may just prove that some things don’t entirely change with time.

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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. 🙂

Census Takers Get Slant on Human Nature: April 4, 1930

[This blog entry is written for the 55th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, to be posted at CreativeGene.blogspot.com next month.]

Since the topic for this next edition of the COG is “Show and Tell,” I thought I would present a newspaper article I located by chance today; not connected with my own research, but, I think, a thought-provoking read for genealogists and historical researchers everywhere. Those 1930 census records can be pretty useful whether you’re just starting in genealogy or are a seasoned researcher, but what’s the real story behind those microfilmed old pages? Here’s a Pennsylvania journalist’s take on the matter, written just about when the 15th U.S. Census first got underway–April 4th, 1930:

Census Takers Get Slant on Human Nature

Humor, Courage, Pathos, Tragedy–All These and More Encountered by Enumerators in Day’s Work

By Paul Glynn
Special INS Leased Wire

PITTSBURGH, Pa. April 4–To the earnest seeker after truth, or to the student of human nature, is unhesitatingly recommended a day in the company of the 1930 diogenes, a census taker engaged in the compilation of Uncle Sam’s fifteenth decennial census.

Humor–courage–pathos–tragedy. All these and more are met with as the gigantic job of finding the answers to “who, what, when, where and why” and countless other questions goes on.

For instance, the first question, “who is the head of the house,” brings forth a flood of variegated answers, some unconsciously and some consciously humorous.

“My husband thinks he is,” replied one young housewife with a smile. And another not so young, declared with finality, “I am!”

And then there is the question relating to the ownership of property. One answer to the query, “do you own your home,” was:

“We do, that is, we and the people who hold the mortage.”

And at what price would the owner sell?

“Why, as much as we could get, of course.”

Eager interest and an almost total absence of resentment is noted as the enumerator questions each resident. The queries are put in an impersonal, efficient manner, thus adding to the rapidity of the compilation.

Unemployment proved to be about the biggest obstacle in the way of the census takers to date. Several persons were reluctant to tell of the length of time they had been jobless; some refused outright to answer in the latter case the enumerator reported to his chief.

If all efforts by the chief, and then by the census supervisor, fail to bring an answer the case is referred to the United States marshal. Incidentally, the penalty for failure to answer is $100 or 60 days in jail. A fine of $500 or one year in jail or both may be imposed for making false statements to the enumerator. These penalties are prescribed by section nine of the census act and apply to all persons over 18 years old.

Two totally unrelated articles play a large part in the enumeration–Bibles and gas bills!

A great many wives have recourse to family Bibles, some in foreign text, when the question of their husband’s age comes up. In almost all cases the information wanted was noted in the thumbed pages of the worn testaments years ago–and then forgotten.

Last month’s gas bills are aiding uncle Sam in completing the census, especially in foreign colonies in the cities. Spelling of foreign names proved a problem until one resourceful enumerator called for the gas bill.

And there was the name, neatly typed and ready for copying.

_______________________________________________________________________

[Shamokin, Pennsylvania, Shamokin Dispatch, 4 Apr 1930, p. 1, col. 2, and p. 11, col. 1]

Library trip today

Lots of news. Haven’t been writing lately, but today I met the author of that Achievers article (see posting of July) at the local library. Asked about sources for the photographs he used; he said he didn’t have that info, but we also talked much about my research and the Kulp family. Last night, I was reading some of my research transcriptions and something occurred to me as another possible source for information–perhaps photographs.

Sarah W. Kulp’s obituary in a Shamokin newspaper, February 1931, mentions that her husband had originally established an event at Edgewood Park known as “Schoolchildren’s Day,” and the occasion was described as “an annual one for the school children and parents of the entire community extending from Kulpmont to Trevorton and at which the children were the guests of the trolley-and later the bus-corporation. Mrs. Kulp continued this annual outing and when her health permitted mingled with the kiddies as they enjoyed the pleasures and concessions of the park as the guests of the management.”

I know, I’m really reaching when it comes to leads now. But, especially since we’re talking about the 1920’s, this to me sounds like a much-photographed event. As a community occasion it was probably mentioned in the local papers, too, so if I just knew when annually it took place, I might be able to go through those reels of microfilm and see what I could find. I asked Mr. Morgan (the Achievers author) about it, and he seemed to know the event I was describing and said it would have been every year when school was out, around May or June.

Well, after I asked some additional questions and provided my contact information, I spent some extra time at the library going through the newspapers. Since I could check anything from 1923-1931 (1923 is the earliest newspaper they have after 1893, due to damage of some kind), I picked a random date and settled on 1930.

I didn’t have much time as the parking meter was lingering maliciously on the edge of my thoughts and I was running out of pocket change, so I didn’t quite get to the June papers. But, as I went slowly through the preceding months, keeping my eye out for any possible other articles which might be useful, I came upon something highly interesting. When I read it, I thought that this was so just made for genealogists and historical researchers! Not connected to my research, but a fascinating read nevertheless! Since a Show-and-Tell edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is coming up soon, I am going to put in a new blog entry in a minute about this. Stay tuned!