Friday, February 16, 2018

Short stories from Ulysses & vicinity

"A wolf in sheep's clothing"
Pastor Alfred Kelly, of the Lewisville Methodist Church, abandoned his wife and 4 children to run off with a younger woman. The girl was Miss Caroline Monroe, a teacher at the Lewisville Academy and also about 20 years his junior. The two had taken a buggy owned by Seth Lewis, who was unaware of the Preachers intentions when it was borrowed. The horse and cart were abandoned near Wellsville and Miss Monroe's mom received a letter shortly after explaining how the two had fallen in love and were going to marry. By the months end the young teacher came to her senses and returned home. The good people of Ulysses had raised $107 in the meantime to care for the now destitute Mrs. Kelly... In a short time her husband returned and begged for forgiveness. The damage was done. Preacher Kelly was formally expelled from the church in October. Miss Monroe went on to marry Silas Hurd, moved to Genesee, and had a family. The End. (1882)

"Message from beyond the grave"
Mid September, while repairs were being made on the track near Henry Sheriff's farm at Pusher Siding, workers came across a remarkable sight. Along the creek, in the trees, were three magnificent spider webs. It appeared that letters were spun in the delicate webbing... The first bearing initials, "Wm US." The second web appeared to say, "Mc In," and the third read, "Within." Two gigantic, brightly colored spiders were still dangling from their creation. News of the amazing discovery spread fast. For the next week passenger trains slowed down while passing by and the creek banks were lined with curious onlookers. Some wondered if the recently assassinated President William McKinley was sending a message from beyond the grave. His untimely death was only about two weeks prior, on September 6th. (1901)

"Stork drops in unexpectedly"
John & Nellie (Cushing) Lambert married in 1904 and eight years later were still hoping for children. Their luck changed in 1912 when they adopted the infant daughter of Adolphus & Laura Talbett of North Bingham. Unfortunately the girls mother had passed away shortly after her birth. The Lambert's became proud new parents and named their daughter Barbara. (1912)

"A hasty departure"
Without explanation, Ulysses hotel keeper Carlos Erway hastily packed the entire contents of his business and home on a Sunday... then took off. His wife, Bertha, returned from visiting her daughter in Buffalo and found a foreclosure notice on the door. She had been unaware of the debt they had incurred, or that her husband was leaving. Residents said no forwarding address had been given. Mrs. Erway was left with only what was in her suitcase. After 6 months and still no word from her husband, Mrs. Erway filed for a divorce, which was granted in the Potter County Court. She educated herself at a dressmaking school and later reunited with her husband in Allegany County, Ny. (1918)

"Hailstones the size of hens eggs"
In July a record breaking storm arrived at Ulysses unexpectedly. There was no warning... no rain, no thunder, no lightning. All at once the sky began to pour enormous hailstones from the sky and soon the ground was covered with a white icy blanket. Residents described the balls of ice as ranging from the size of a plum to the size of a hens egg, some even measuring about 6 inches in circumference. Thankfully it didn't last long, considering crops were almost ready to harvest. Only mild damages were reported. (1926)

"Boy yields the largest potato crop in the state"
On exactly one acre of ground, 15 year old Edward Kosa Jr. grew a remarkable crop. At the end of season there were 605 bushels of healthy potatoes harvested from the plot. Young Kosa became a member of the Keystone 400 Bushel Potato Club and a few months later was the guest of honor during the Growers Association banquet. He received a gold medal. (1936)

"Rat bite fever"
Lynk & Margaret Clark, from Brookland, became quite concerned when their infant son Charlie woke one morning with a terrible rash and very sick. At first it seemed the cause of the ailment was a mystery but after several doctor visits the worried parents learned that their son was suffering from a rare illness referred to as rat bite fever. Apparently one of the oversized mice was attracted to the milk in Charlie's bottle sometime during the night and either bit or scratched him causing the symptoms. He was treated and soon became a healthy baby boy again. (1940)

"Potter County steel workers are laid off"
Residents of Newfield were quite surprised to learn that 233 employees of the Newfield Mine Of The Republic Steel Corporation at Newfield, Potter County would be laid off along with those employed at 78 other locations in Pennsylvania. The plant was said to be closing due to lack of orders. Locals were mostly shocked because there was no known factory of this kind in Newfield or anywhere in Potter County. Apparently the mix up was due to a typo in a newspaper from Harrisburg, which made nationwide headlines! (1959)

"Just... a very large cat"
Early one morning John Cowburn was heading home from work, traveling on the Gold Rd from Genesee towards Ulysses. A large creature lept in front of him but it quickly ran between the Shutt & Coulson homes. Mr. Cowburn continued to drive along, and not too much further the mysterious animal jumped from the bank, landed on the edge of the road, and turns its head towards the him... The driver was quite shocked to see that it was a very large black cat with a long tail and looked just like a panther. He said it may have weighed in the range of 150-200 lbs. About one month earlier, in August, the Sipe family was from York was visiting and reported a similar sighting along the Gold Rd. People laughed and said they were flatlanders and didn't know what they were talking about. Maybe they did see something...but probably not. Of course, everyone knows there are no panthers except the Northern Potter Panthers in the county and so it must have just been a very large black cat. (1965)
*click to enlarge news articles

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Out of the ordinary stories from Clearfield County

*Click to enlarge photos and news articles

"A child born with no bones"
Rachel O'Shell, of Coalport, was the daughter of Levi & Barbara O'Shell. Around the age of 4 she began to perform some very unusual tricks. Some of them included bending her knees backwards and scratching her ears with her toes. She could even fold herself in half and somersault across the floor. When Rachel was about 5 (in 1887)her parents took her to see a physician, worried that there might be something wrong. After a close examination, the Dr. said she was in perfectly good health... but declared their little girl had been born without any bones in her limbs! Mr. & Mrs. O'Shell were quite shocked by the diagnosis, but happy their daughter would be ok. The story of a boneless, yet healthy child made national headlines. 

"Rags to riches"
John McDonald was one of many poor coal miners living in Janesville, but well known for his positive attitude and sense of humor even under the worst conditions. In July of 1897 he was notified that his uncle, Arthur McDonald from California, had left him his entire estate valued at $75,000. Nowadays that would calculate to just over 2 million dollars. According to the lawyer of the deceased, John had entertained his uncle years before when he was in tough times, making him laugh. The old man never forgot the act of kindness, and for that, his kindness was rewarded. 
"Better late than never"
On September 6th Postmaster Joseph McGrath, of Falls Creek, was sorting mail and noticed a very old stamp on an envelope sent from Tyler. At first glance he thought someone must have used the old stamp in error, but upon closer inspection he realized it was mailed on May 1, 1900... about 18 years earlier to Master Ernest C. Bangert, son of Charles Bangert (Dubois newspaper editor now but the family had formerly lived in Falls Creek). Mr. McGrath knew the family personally, and was happy to deliver this long lost piece of mail to Ernest, who was no 21 years old. 
"Burglar leaves baby"
In January of 1927, late in the night, Arthur & June (Maines) Lewis heard someone jiggling the lock on their front door.  They crept downstairs prepared for the worst, thinking it was a burglar. It was dark and they were unable to see anything, but suddenly heard the wail of a baby. There, on the living room chair, was a baby boy swaddled in blankets. Mrs. Lewis picked him up, soothing his cries, and a note fell to the floor. Mr. Lewis picked it up and read the letter which said, "My name is Bobbie. I was born in Detroit Michigan, August 31, 1926.  Please keep me and love me, my parents are dead." The couple did in fact keep the little boy, giving him the name Robert Arthur Lewis, and he was raised as their own. 

"Man returns from the dead"
In 1959 a petition was filed in the Clearfield County Court to have Richard Clyde Schultz declared legally dead and settle an estate. According to family the last time anyone heard from him was in 1947  when he called from Altoona saying he was leaving for his army post. In February of 1960 the petition was granted. In April the Clearfield Trust Company received word from a lawyer in South Carolina on behalf of Mr. Schultz, stating he was alive, well, and able to handle his own affairs. This meant Mr. Shultz would be entitled to his share of money from the family estate... Of course, this did not go over well. It was said that he would need to prove his identity, and that he did. Soon the old saying, "Life is too short..." applied to the situation. In December of that year Mr. Schultz was shot and killed by his wife at their home in South Carolina. 

"Unidentified flying objects"

"The Stronach streaker"
Early in June of 1974, drivers traveling between Curwensville and Grampian reported spotting a man walking down the road wearing only his socks and shoes. Most said they were trying not to pay attention, but noticed he entered the woods near Stronach. No one recalled seeing his face before, though I doubt anyone paid attention to it anyway.  Some said he was just a carefree soul trying to protect his feet from getting sunburned, and others nicknamed him to Stronach Streaker.... either way the man was subject of many conversations and his identity remains a mystery. 

"The price is write"

Other items of interest...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Ghost Towns of Pennsylvania: Strawberry Ridge

Old stories from Strawberry Ridge & vicinity 
Montour County, Pennsylvania
*Click to enlarge photos & news

1898: Ten year old Henry Rishel was out hunting in December and returned with an unusually large and very rare catch. The extraordinary rabbit weighed 10 lbs and after his parents and some locals got a look, they realized it was a Jack Rabbit, known only to roam in the western part of the United States. Proprietor M. H. Schram, of a neighboring town, put the cotton tail on display in his store.  

1900: People from all over attended a shooting match in town. Participants competed for the first prize of $3.00. Arren Seidel, of Washingtonville, took first place. Perry Mowrey came in right behind and won $2.00. 

1909: When William Appleman and Burt Welliver arrived at the voting booth, women screamed and took off when they saw what they carried with them. The men gathered around to see a very lengthy black snake that the two caught on their way, and measured just over 6 feet long. It was said to be the largest ever found in the area. 

1911: During the month of January, Clark McMichael had 175 chickens that laid 2,015 eggs on his farm outside of town. The cost of eggs was at a high, and at 30 cents each his profit was about $600. 

1912: Jerome Deihl lost noticed a valuable heiffer was missing from the pasture in July. For three days and two nights he trudged through the woods. The unlucky farmer became even more frustrated when tap water from his sink started tasting foul. He headed out to the well and was surprised to see it had caved in. peering down into the hole, John discovered the fate of his missing cow. A loss of $50 was estimated and neighboring farmers assisted in the tricky task of removing a large carcass from the deep hole. 

1921: In May Charles & Augustus Stamm returned to their hometown for a repair job at the Reformed Church at Strawberry Ridge. As the pulled back wood from the deck, the two brothers laughed and couldn't believe what they saw. Etched in the floorboard was the year 1868, a little worn but still visible. Also was their own names and that of their father who they had been helping when this part of the church was built, 53 years before. 

1942: Charles & Cora Carr, assisted by their children, harvested 30 tons of tomatoes grown on two acres of their farm. The remarkable tomato soup crop was the largest ever known, especially in such a tiny area. When they finally finished the backbreaking job, they graciously accepted help in canning the fruits from Mr. & Mrs. Russel Koser and family. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Haunted House in Olean

An old home on 8th street in Olean had a reputation of being haunted by a little girl in the late 1800's and on. Owners and tenants were spooked by the sounds of her crying all through the night. Occasionally the child was seen in side the home or from the windows, peering out. No one ever seemed to live there long, especially after learning that a brutal murder had occurred there. The victim was three year old Laura Boyd who died in 1882. Henry & Ellen Boyd, her father and stepmother, were charged with torturing her to death and then attempting to conceal the crime. Henry was sentenced to life in prison and sent Auburn, Ny to serve his time. Ellen was later acquitted, but never regained any type of decent reputation. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Who was the headless man of Forest County?

John Burns, of Sheffield Junction, was hunting down a bee tree at Watson Farm in the beginning of October in 1922.  Pushing through thick brush, a foul odor stung his nose.... and directly following, he discovered the body of a headless, almost completely nude man. 

The man wore only cotton briefs, socks, and a shirt. His heart had been pierced with either a long knife or similar instrument. His head was forced across a rock and bark peelers spud or ax was used to remove the head. The missing appendage was never found. A possible clue was found in the weeds.... A shirt collar, laundry marked with the initials "G.T.20." The coroner felt the man was of Italian descent, possibly in his 30's or 40's, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, and weighed around 150 lbs. Men in the 3 camps nearby were questioned, but unable to help. The unidentified headless man was buried at a local cemetery in an unmarked grave.

Authorities worked hard tracking down any missing persons and comparing information. Locals had their own theory. In 1915 Forest County District Attorney Marion Carringer was shot at his office by a father who was seeking revenge. Mr. & Mrs. Gerrano Schettino were living near Watson Town back then. One day  the couple's 8 year old daughter returned from playing in the woods and said she had been criminally assaulted by a man. The local physician conducted an exam but felt there was no evidence of a crime. Police refused to arrest the accused, John Booth. Gerrano was furious and took matters into his own hands. He arrived at Carringer's office with a gun and that is when shots rang out. Gerrano took off but was later tracked down. On the way to jail he swore to return one day and get revenge on Mr. Booth. Gerrano was sentenced to 7 years in the state penitentiary. His recent release had people wondering where Booth was. Authorities followed the lead, but got nothing. 

Police received a tip that two strangers were begging for food at the Miller's Camp near Watson Town about 4 days before the body was found. They never gave names but mentioned they were there to board the train. Other witnesses said the two never got on because the short one objected for some reason. An argument ensued and they walked away. Authorities felt it was possible this was connected to the mystery. The strangers were never located for questioning.

During the month of November, an arrest in Elk County gave hope that maybe the case would be solved. Someone reported that a hobo was wandering the streets and said he was an inmate from the hospital. Police acted quick, thinking he could be an escaped insane patient who was responsible for killing the headless man in Forest County. There was a communication barrier, so it was hard to make out all that he said. He wrote his name and age... Joe Zorzut, 57 years old. Nearby poor farms, county homes, and asylums were checked for any escaped patients matching his description. It turns out, he had actually only been at the St. Mary's Hospital as a patient suffering from a sprained ankle, but was unsure of what terminology to use when explaining. The poor man was promptly released. 

The identity of the headless man, the whereabouts of his head, and maniac who murdered him remain a mystery. This is not the only unsolved mysterious case of it's kind from same vicinity... Stay tuned!