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. 🙂

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.