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.

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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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!

Sunbury & Mt. Carmel newspapers

Well, a few Inter-Library Loans arrived today. The Halifax Bicentennial, however, has not arrived yet and I am beginning to wonder if perhaps it is really non-circulating. Which would not be good, because the State Library is the only library in the state that has it, and going there right now just isn’t possible.

So, what did arrive today? Newspapers from the Sunbury Daily and Mount Carmel Item, 1931. I had decided to look up the obituary of Sarah W. Kulp in other area newspapers, since I’d only checked the local paper before and there might be something else mentioned elsewhere that I needed to know.

Well, there wasn’t much, but it was nonetheless an interesting read…especially about her brother’s involvement in Prohibition. Had not heard that before.

Sunbury Daily: Monday, February 23, 1931, page 3

Mrs. Sarah Kulp of Shamokin Dies

Mrs. Sarah Washington Detwiler Kulp, 64 years old, of Shamokin, widow of the late Congressman Monroe Henry Kulp, died suddenly Sunday at Atlantic City where she had gone to spend a few days.

Mrs. Kulp is believed to have been the only woman who ever was the president of a traction company. After her husband’s death in 1911 she took over the active management of the Shamokin-Edgewood Railway Company, now defunct, a line which served Edgewood, one of the three communities her husband had founded. The other two are Fairview and Kulpmont.

She was known throughout Northumberland County for her activities, which took up much of her time until very recently when she decided to take things easier. Her husband at his death left a considerable fortune which he had accumulated in various enterprises, which had included the building of a railroad, real estate development and the management of a lumber company left to him by his father.

The couple had no children. Mrs. Kulp is survived by her brother, former State Senator W.C. McConnell, who some years ago was prohibition administrator in Philadelphia in the early days of prohibition. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Mount Carmel Item: Monday, February 23, 1931, page 7

Mrs. Monroe H. Kulp is Dead

Word was received at Shamokin of the death of Mrs. Sarah W. D. Kulp, 64, widow of Congressman Monroe Henry Kulp and head of the Shamokin-Edgewood Trolley Company for a number of years. She died yesterday at Atlantic City where she was spending several days.

The late Congressman was one of the best known men this county ever knew. He was one of the founders of Kulpmont and the Episcopal church there was named as memorial to him.

______________________________________________________________________

As a note: For some reason, both articles say that she was 64, but actually she was 68, as most records say she was born in March of 1862.

From History of Houses to the Lives of their Builders

This article is written for the 53rd Edition of Carnival of Genealogy. (See previous post.)

When I learned that this edition was the type where you could write about basically anything family history, and especially because this is my first time writing for COG, I was a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities. Where to start?

But, as I went back and read earlier editions of the Carnival of Genealogy, I noticed that one edition was dedicated to the subject of houses in historical research; where our ancestors lived, and what the significance of these homes was. It occurred to me then that this was the perfect subject to introduce COG readers to my research, since houses were what originally brought me into the project of historical research. Continue reading

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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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.