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.
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. Continue reading
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!
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.
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.
I 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.”
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. Unfortunately, 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.