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.

Continue reading

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!