Mother Cabrini, St. Edward’s Parish Office – Rectory: A Brief History

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.

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Revisiting Edgewood…in Maps

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

Goodness Gracious: More Eerie Old Buildings

I’ve had to deal with some weekday errands these past few days, but now I’m finally here in front of my computer to report on another very interesting trek I had on Wednesday through some old local landmarks. After that Washington School expedition a few weeks ago, this is really getting quite interesting. Photos ahead!

First stop: The Douty Building, Sunbury Street. Erected July 1865 by John Blundin Douty–businessman, coal baron. Original history of building: Storefronts, apartments? Current status: Apartments throughout 2nd floor, sheer disrepair on 3rd.

Upper view of the Douty Building

Upper view of the Douty Building

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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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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! 🙂

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