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.

The “Farmer”

[This article is written for the 54th Carnival of Genealogy, which is to be posted at What’s Past is Prologue.]

The topic for this edition of Carnival of Genealogy is: “The Family Language…Does your family use words and phrases that no one else knows or understands? Where did they come from? Did you ever try to explain your ‘family language’ to outsiders? Tell a story about your family-coined words, phrases, or nicknames.”

Well, at first this didn’t seem to have much relevance to my own historical research, but that thing about the nicknames caught my attention. Family-coined words and phrases may not apply, but unusual nicknames–that certainly does apply!

Monroe Kulp (1858-1911), the prominent Shamokin, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania native foremost in my research, was frequently known by the nickname of “Farmer.” You’ll notice it just about anywhere in reference to him–recent local history books, even newspaper articles from his own time. However, he had no direct connection to farming, and thus the source of the nickname has always been a bit of a mystery.

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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!

The Congressional Record…

…has finally arrived on microfilm at my local library!

There are NINE separate reels! Whew! They included the latter part of the 53rd Congress (I didn’t actually ask for this, but it may be useful), the 54th, and the early part of the 55th. For some reason, the remainder of the 55th was not included, but that is all right for now.

So. Where to start? Well, I began by looking for the first session of the 54th. Apparently, it’s arranged very conveniently with an index to both members of the House and Senate, and to specific bills and resolutions, included at the beginning of the reel. One thing I find confusing: Apparently the session began in December of 1895, over a year after the election in November 1894. I was under the impression that it began in March 1894; in fact I’m absolutely sure that this was when he officially became a member, as opposed to a member-elect. So, is there something I don’t know here? Feel free to enlighten!

Anyway, I of course checked the index first, and there was a lot of info. The complete entry is as follows:

Kulp, Monroe H. (a Representative from Pennsylvania)

Attended 2.
Appointed on committees 284.
Leave of absence granted to 91, 271, 285, 287, 1352, 2389, 2907.

Bills and joint resolutions introduced by


Berwick, Pa: donating cannon to Grand Army post at
Berwick, Pa: donating cannon to high school at
Bloomsburg, Pa: donating cannon and muskets to
Bloomsburg (Pa.) Monumental Association: donating cannon to
Brewster, John T: for relief
Campbell, William D: for relief
Catawissa (Pa.) Monumental Association: donating cannon to
Downing, Eugene: to remove charge of desertion
Heinze, Christen: to remove charge of desertion
Kline, Marian J: to pension
Kline, Marvin J: to pension
Kobel, Isaac: to pension
Koons, Eliza: to pension
Milton, Pa: donating cannon to Grand Army post at
O’Brien, Michael: to pension
Ogden, William: to pension
Salzman, Frederick: for relief
Schrout, Philip: to remove charge of desertion
Shamokin, Pa: to erect public building at
Shamokin, Pa: donating cannon to Grand Army post at
Shuman, Henry W: for relief
Swan and Lewis and Butler–canal boats: fo relief of owners
Tate, McCurdy: for relief
Towers, Alfred George: to remove charge of desertion
Watsontown, Pa: donating cannon to Grand Army post at
Williams, M.A.: for relief

Petitions and papers presented by, from

Berwick, Pa: Patriotic Order Sons of America: against Marquette statue
Danville, Pa., Grand Army of Republic: for service pension bill
Pennsylvania, citizens of: for Stone immigration bill
—against sectarian aid
—for amendment to Constitution
—citizens of Columbia County: relative to unclaimed pension money
—farmers of Columbia County and others: for protection of agricultural staples
—citizens of Limestoneville: for protection of agricultural staples
—citizens of Milton: for protection of agricultural staples
Pennsylvania Millers’ State Association and others: to secure better market for agricultural products
Pennsylvania Patriotic Order Sons of America: for Stone immigration bill
Pennsylvania Patrons of Husbandry: for protection of agricultural staples
Philadelphia (Pa.) Grand Army post: to revive grade of Lieutenant-General
Puckett, Greenville: for relief
Shamokin (Pa.) city council: for recognition of Cuban belligerents
Shamokin, Pa., Daughters of Liberty: for Stone immigration bill
Shamokin (Pa.) Lincoln Post: upholding President’s Venezuelan message
Shunk, Pa., Patriotic Order Sons of America: for Stone immigration bill

Reports made by, from

Committee on the Public Lands
Fort Assinniboine Military Reservation

Except for the first few entries, I have left out the page numbers and references, but this provides an excellent overview of basically what he was doing in Congress from December 1895 to February 1896 (yes, many more indexes to go through!). I followed up on a few of the references that seemed most intriguing, but couldn’t find any additional information–both the Record itself and the index to bills and resolutions were basically a repetition of what the index said.

So, what was most intriguing? First of all, the mention of a public building in Shamokin. In the Record this bill was described as: “A bill…to appropriate the sum of $60,000 to purchase a site and erect a public building at Shamokin, Pa.–to the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds.” No additional specifications anywhere, I’m afraid, as far as I can tell anyway. I’ve been trying to think of a specific local public building that was built around that time, but with no luck. The city hall came to mind but that was in 1894.

Also, Henry W. Shuman was a relative of his–his brother-in-law’s father. More specifically, the father of Edwin Shuman ( 1848-1888 ) who was married to MHK’s sister Joanna. I was unable to check the Record for information about this, as it was on another reel and I was pressed for time, but I did check the index to bills and it listed the following description: “To reimburse Mrs. Henry W. Shuman, widow of the late Henry W. Shuman, of Pennsylvania. Introduced by Mr. Kulp and referred to the Committee on War Claims.”

Back to the index: A very interesting read. A lot of superfluous bills, I noticed, for example the cannon in Berwick. But from what I can tell, at least he apparently did what he said he would–his campaign was mostly based on the promise that he would support the farmer and soldier, and there are quite a few references to pensions and agriculturalists. And, of course, this is only late 1895 to early 1896! I wonder if I can read everything by the time it’s due back on August 22…yes, I believe so! 🙂

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

Back from the Courthouse: File No. 1292

At about 9:30 this morning, Andy, the one who was to drive me there, arrived and we set off for the Sunbury courthouse. After a fine drive, we came to Sunbury at about 10. The mom and I proceeded to the courthouse while Andy went off to walk about the park on the median, across from the courthouse building.

As usual, I didn’t have much time there. Think Andy said something about an appt. He is very busy; it was so kind of him to drive me there while my car was being such an old biddy. 🙂 Thanks Andy! Every minute spent there counts.

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