Shamokin-CT Heritage Museum – Wealth of information (including Shuman discoveries and more)

It was reported some time ago in the papers that after last week’s American Legion Building flood, the Shamokin-Coal Township Heritage Museum, did not, in fact, lose any items to water damage, due to the quick response of firefighters and police. The museum also opened its doors last evening at six to the general public, an opportunity which I quickly took, needless to say. And I’m glad I did.

I’ve never actually been in this part of the American Legion Building before. Aside from the library entrance, there are two entrances at either end of the facade, and it’s the one at the left that leads to the Heritage Museum. It opens, first, into a small vestibule, which, though old, by its construction probably isn’t original. The vestibule, however, then opens onto a large, empty, high-ceilinged room with superb stone walls and a long staircase under an archway. Along the ceiling, a carved inscription dedicated to the memory of the soldiers of the World War (that would be the first, as the building was erected in 1922), follows the perimeter of the room.

Upon arriving, I proceeded up the stairwell to a door marked with the name of the museum. Turning right as I entered, I came upon a long narrow hallway with several tables lining one wall, containing mostly school group portraits from the 1920-1950 period, though a few from earlier dates were there as well. Some old documents and miscellaneous items, including a case of rulers with the names of local businesses, could also be found.

Here I met Mr. Carr, who had collected most of the items at the museum. He was quite helpful, and showed me into the next two rooms, which contained a bounty of old documents and photos. I spent an hour and a half going through them, and still had not time to see everything. School memorabilia, yearbooks and reviews, made up a good portion of the collection, but there were also a number of portraits (most unidentified, unfortunately), church records and booklets, and several family diplomas, baptismal and marriage certificates. Most of these last were from the Mulliner family, but there were a few Henninger, Neugard, and Fetterman names as well, among others. I saw dates as early as 1901, but most of the diplomas and certificates were from the 20s. The portraits varied in time period from the 1890s/1900s, or perhaps earlier, to the 1940s and 50s. There were also binders containing old miscellaneous paperwork such as invitations, business letters, etc. Newspaper clippings, most of them recent, from the Centennial (1964) or later, were also to be found. Just before I left I came upon quite a few old directories, most fairly recent–within the past fifty years or so–but some appeared to be a little older. It was getting late, however, and I had to leave, so I did not get a chance to go through them until this morning.

Naturally, I did turn up some interesting finds. A 1924 high school yearbook included a photograph of Dorothy Shuman, daughter of Harry W. Shuman, who was a nephew of M. H. Kulp. According to the 1920 census, Dorothy was at that time living with Kulp’s widow, Sarah, at her Edgewood residence. Apparently, she lived with her for a number of years, as the yearbook lists Dorothy’s address as 126 N. Shamokin Street, to which Sarah Kulp relocated after the sale of Oaklawn in 1923. In the yearbook, the remarks by “Dot’s” portrait read:

Just gaze upon this charming bit of feminine beauty. Really, dear readers, we just don’t know what to say about her. She is a good sport, a fine pal, and all around good fellow. If it were not for all this, perhaps, we could say something, but we know when we are beaten. We wish every success.

So beautiful and refined
I hope she doesn’t mind,
If I tell you this time,
She’s got an awful line.

A 1932 yearbook mentioned Monroe Shuman, Dorothy’s brother. Born in 1914, he was named after his great-uncle.

“Sunny”

This little boy we call the “Coach,”
He’s razzed and teased the limit.
But when his “Mamma” calls,
He’ll be there in a minute.

pre-1929_metal-box_compliments-of-kulp-lumber-co_2I also located a few photos of (I believe) Harry Shuman, Jr., brother of Monroe and Dorothy, and better known as H. Wilt Shuman. And, on one shelf in the museum, I found a fairly large, black tin lockbox, empty, with the inscription “Compliments of Kulp Lumber Co., G. Gilbert Kulp, Prop.” With Gilbert as the proprietor, this box must date from before 1929.

As I dug through the multitude of dusty treasures, a cd player in the other room played recordings of the former WISL station, on which host Tom Kutza used to discuss his memories of old Shamokin. Between commentary, Big Band tunes played, along with a rendition of “Dear Old Edgewood Park,” and the locally famous 1940s “Moke from Shamokin.”

After an hour and a half, I had to get going, but returned again this morning shortly after eleven. The oldest of the directories, it appears, was 1928-29, and though there was a gap between those years and around 1950 or so, there were several directories from post-1950. In the back of the room, I found a diary from around 1934-37, written by someone named Betty. I did not see any surname for the author in my perusal of the diary, but there were frequent references early on to a “Grandma Shott.”1933_five-year-diary_cover1

1933_five-year-diary_inside-cover

1933_five-year-diary_january

In a “Labor Day Handbook” from 1916, I also came upon a portrait I had never seen before of William C. McConnell, who was running for office (State Senate) at the time. On the subject of photos again, I really must say there were more portraits at the museum than I could tell you. Some were from Thomas Photography, others Lippiatt, Swank, and more, and some were school pictures. Many more were in books. 1930_school-day_edgewood-park_ticket1Unfortunately, the majority had no identification, but I’m sure there must be plenty of genealogists and locals out there who might be able to recognize someone. I tell you, this place can be quite the gold mine for anyone interested in Shamokin history, genealogical or otherwise. There was a lot of interesting miscellany, too, like souvenirs from local businesses. Quite honestly, I saw a little bit of everything.

The museum, however, doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention. Last night, I was the only visitor there the whole evening, except for someone who stopped in briefly, mostly asking about the flood damage to other areas of the building. When I signed the guestbook again the next morning, there were no other names after mine. So I’d like to say that if you’re at all interested in Shamokin area history, or your ancestors from the area, be sure to visit the Heritage Museum. I think it’s an invaluable resource and a fascinating glimpse into the town’s past. According to the News-Item, the museum will be open from noon to 3 pm tomorrow.

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.

Back again

I know it’s been horrendously long since I posted here, but you know how stuff comes up. Plus, WordPress updated their software recently and at first I swore I could not use it in a million years. Slow–worse than the previous version, which was deadly slow too!–looks awful on both browsers, has Flash player problems…It was a horror. But, when I logged in today to give it one…more…try…it didn’t look so bad. The Flash seems to be working okay again, at least I think so, and yes it’s slow but bearable. I have also resolved the page appearance difficulties; the new movable “boxes” had to be slowly and painfully dragged to other areas of the page, but thankfully now that they’re there they don’t move back. So, I think I can live with the new software. If not, I have a back-up option at Blogger.

I also plan to self-host this blog soon, which means you will all have to update your links (will post the new site address here once I have one). However, it won’t be right away because the free webhosting service I usually use is having issues. Long, annoying story. They said it would be resolved in January but now they admit they just don’t know when.

At this rate I probably don’t have a great deal of readers here, but for those of you who are reading, I do apologize for the long absence. I will try, try, try to post more regularly here! Thank you all for taking the time to follow this blog!

It’s only February, but I’m already starting to think now and then about the upcoming Heritage Festival, which is in three months, though it seems like only a short while ago I was posting about the 2008 event here on the blog. This year, I’ll try to get more involved in the festival. Visit more places; take more photos. I also still have plans for a trip to Harrisburg. And this spring I may be buying a new computer, so any other difficulties I may have with WordPress will hopefully be taken care of then.

I updated the genealogy database recently; the data is basically the same but the “bug” in the genealogy software has been fixed, so except for some formatting glitches it should look fairly normal now. Later, too, I’m thinking I might add a few more pages to this blog with historical information about some of the families I’m researching. Stay tuned!

Goodness Gracious: More Eerie Old Buildings

I’ve had to deal with some weekday errands these past few days, but now I’m finally here in front of my computer to report on another very interesting trek I had on Wednesday through some old local landmarks. After that Washington School expedition a few weeks ago, this is really getting quite interesting. Photos ahead!

First stop: The Douty Building, Sunbury Street. Erected July 1865 by John Blundin Douty–businessman, coal baron. Original history of building: Storefronts, apartments? Current status: Apartments throughout 2nd floor, sheer disrepair on 3rd.

Upper view of the Douty Building

Upper view of the Douty Building

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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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An Abandoned School, 2 Cameras and a Determined Researcher

It was another cold, crisp and overcast October afternoon here in Shamokin, and on October 24 this historical researcher spent it onsite and in the field. But not, as you might expect, at the modern and comfortable local library; or even the dusty shelves of the Sunbury courthouse. Instead, the past came closer than that on Friday in a bit of good old-fashioned exploring–through the (somewhat eerie) twists and turns of a century-old local landmark.

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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. 🙂

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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