A busy schedule may have kept me absent from this blog for a while, but I just had to check in to post this rare glimpse into the coal region of old. What were Shamokinites and natives of the surrounding area doing in 1929? Many, it seems, turned out for the celebration at Richardson Field (presently Northumberland County Airport) given on the occasion of the dedication of two new hangars, as well as the retirement from the Navy of Captain Holden Chester Richardson, a native of Shamokin.
A good friend of mine recently discovered an old film reel from this event, which she purchased and converted to digital. She let me view this historical find, a copy of which she is currently offering via eBay auction, and allowed me to take a few snapshots of some of the area residents shown on the film. The following individuals are unidentified, but while I don’t know them, I wish I did! Do you recognize anyone?
In 2008, I explored and blogged about three old Shamokin landmark buildings–the 1890 Washington School, the Douty Building, and a Commerce Street F&S Brewery building. Last week, I embarked on my fourth such expedition–a tour of the parish office of Mother Cabrini Church, formerly St. Edward’s, on Shamokin Street. It’s the building that once housed the priests of one of Shamokin’s largest Catholic parishes–a structure with an intriguing history, a somewhat uncertain architectural past, and not without a connection to my own research. But in fact, the whole matter started months earlier with a photograph–an 1870s view of Shamokin, the exact location of which was unidentified.
In Search of Old Shamokin…140 Years Ago
It looks ordinary enough, but it proved to be a real mystery. I tried and failed numerous times to identify the approximate location it shows, and I’m usually familiar with the main sections of Shamokin. The only two distinctive buildings in the photo are the church at the lower left, and the large building just to the right of it. I could not, however, identify either structure.
So I–and some family members–started considering and rejecting a number of theories as to the possible location–Springfield, Market Street, Shamokin Street. It took us forever but we finally struck on the solution when it occurred to us that the residential building in the photo might be the parish office of Mother Cabrini Church, formerly St. Edward’s.
Of course, there was a problem–the office is directly adjacent to the church, but the latter does not appear in the photo, meaning that for some reason the office (rectory at the time) had to predate the church’s construction in 1873.
However, an old letter I’ve had for some time seemed to hold an explanation.
Spring’s here again, and that means it’s time to be getting back in gear with the long-put-off local history research. Courthouse trips, library trips, the 2010 Heritage Festival, and a little exploration through a few more old Shamokin landmarks…all are in store for the coming weeks.
So I officially kicked off my return to research with another visit to the Heritage Museum on the second floor of the American Legion Building. If you’ve checked the censuses, vital records and more, and you need a more informal but rich source of information to dip into for leads on your Shamokinite ancestors, the Heritage Museum is the place to go. The beauty of it is that you can never be sure what you’ll find–you may just wind up stumbling onto a gold mine. It’s two good-sized rooms and a long hallway full of miscellany–everything from old photos to diplomas to a large collection of high school reviews to commemorative booklets to letters and coal company papers to trinkets to goodness knows what else. It seems the majority are from this century, but you’ll certainly find some older articles, too.
As for me, I turned up two wonderful pieces of history I hadn’t seen before. Books of Shamokin maps, from 1913 and 1922. These are the types of things that were drawn up by utility companies to mark the locations of water lines, etc., but they contain detailed, close-up maps of every part of Shamokin, showing the streets and footprints of buildings. Some, such as churches and firehouses, are named, and are color-coded to indicate a frame or brick building. The footprints are occasionally a little inaccurate, but they show bay windows, porches, and the like.
For me, this was an excellent opportunity to get a better idea of the layout of Shamokin’s famous Edgewood district in that era. I’ve only seen two other maps like this, one of which was from 1889, before any significant development of Edgewood took place. The 1913 map, however, shows Edgewood in its prime, including several park buildings.
1913: Lynn Street. East is up. The large block at the upper left is Oaklawn, the famed residence built by M.H. Kulp. An approximate footprint of the house, as well as garage and coops, are shown. The streets, it seems, have changed drastically. Park Avenue is now Kulp Avenue; Edgewood Avenue was renamed Woodlawn. Not visible in this section is the western end of Lynn Street, which now turns southwest and becomes Park Avenue. That turn, it seems, was non-existent in 1913.
At the bottom of this map, across Park Avenue from Oaklawn, is the residence of Millard F. Nagle, probably built in 1910, and still standing. Read more…
By many, a cemetery is considered an eerie, morbid, sometimes even macabre place. It’s an overused setting in films and novels of the horror variety, and is not very often associated with anything other than death or desolation in some form. But, although a cemetery certainly marks some of the more despondent moments of history, it is also, to the people who made the Shamokin Cemetery tour on Saturday, May 23rd possible, a place to recognize and remember those who are buried there, and, for a few hours every year, to bring that past back to life.
While horses made their way through the streets, and festival-goers milled about the vendors’ booths on Market Street yesterday, a red and white motorized trolley, a new one this year from Wellsboro, made stops at the corner every thirty minutes to take on new passengers for the historical tour through Shamokin and Edgewood.
I arranged to take the 12:00 tour, and as I got on as soon as it arrived, I was able to take a number of photos before many passengers came on.
The trolley, which seats about twenty people, had a beautiful oak interior with brass accents and round ceiling lamps, and in the back a speaker played quaint haywagon-style tunes. Tour booklets were laid out on the seats, featuring old and new photos for stops on the ride.
What an incredible day.
Certainly, this was the most fruitful, exciting, informative and simply amazing of the three annual Heritage Festivals I’ve so far attended. Starting with the 10:00 cemetery tour, moving on to a trolley tour of Edgewood at 12, interviews with the cemetery tour reenactors at 1:30, and finally a visit to the Anthracite Heritage Museum and adjoining military museum at the American Legion Building around 3, I made it a point to do and see as much as possible, and I have to say I definitely accomplished a lot!
This is where I initially arrived to pick up tickets from the corner booth. I then proceeded to the Shamokin Cemetery, where I came early to meet and talk to a few people. The tour was fascinating, and I kept my ears peeled for interesting quotes which I quickly scribbled in a notebook. Along the approximately one-and-a-half-hour tour, several stops were made, with commentary by event coordinator and guide Frederick Reed on numerous individuals of the distant and recent past interred in the cemetery, while reenactors also portrayed four prominent figures. Later on I’ll post a more detailed article about the tour, along with photos and a few comments from the participants.
Although I only traveled on the trolley this year, it was pleasant to watch the buggy and wagon traversing downtown Shamokin every now and then–what was once, in the good old days, just a common sight.
I also stopped by the American Legion Building before calling it a day. There, I visited the Heritage Museum (see my post from March for more information on the museum), and also happened to find my way into the military museum in the next room. Elegant old furniture and paintings (one is visible in the photo below) adorned the spacious room, which held mostly photographs of local area servicemen from the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII–and thankfully, nearly every one included an identification!–but also old books, scrapbooks and clippings. Unfortunately, one of my cameras was just about at its capacity, and the other one was home in rehab (recharging) from overuse, so I was only able to take one photo. However, the Heritage Museum, and, I’m presuming, the adjoining military museum as well, will be open tomorrow, so if possible I will visit there again for additional photos.
Next, I will be posting photos and information from the trolley tour, which went through Edgewood. Indeed, this was a great day, and I’m certainly glad I attended!