Thursday, June 22, 2017

A few short stories from Colesburg


Notable Author
Lyman Cobb was a highly respected educator and author, most well known for his school books in subjects including reading, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, etc. The math primers he published were very popular and considered unique in that era. Problems were mostly written in the form of a question rather than just numerals. Mr. Cobb died at Colesburg on October 26, 1864. A gravestone at the Raymond Cemetery bears his name though it has been questioned over the years if he is still buried in that plot or was later removed to a cemetery in New York. 

Sad Story With A Happy Ending 
About 10 days after giving birth to a healthy baby girl,  Myrtle Weaver left her child with Mrs. Dona Cornelius while she ran to town for a pair of new shoes. Unfortunately the unmarried mother, about 19, never returned and according to the gossip mill, she was staying in Inez. Her mother had recently moved away from Colesburg, and was unable to be located. A few weeks later baby girl Weaver was turned over to the Potter County Home. When Myrtle finally resurfaced, she ended up at the home of Mrs. & Mrs. James Morley, asking for work or a place to stay until she could gain employment. When asked about her baby, Myrtle acted as if she had no idea what anyone was talking about and claimed to never have abandoned or even had a baby. The adorable infant did nor remain parent-less for long. Menzo Burt heard the story, and after stopping at the Potter County Home one day, he couldn't resist. Mrs. Burt was shocked when her husband returned that evening with the little one in his arms, about 4 months old now. In 1907 she officially became a member of the family. 

Twenty Five Buttons
In 1905, shortly after beginning to serve his 2nd term as the President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech in regards to saving the white race. He suggested that white Anglo Saxon Americans bore the burden of preserving high standards. The use of birth control was jeopardizing the population. Mention was made of minorities, degenerates, and mixed races now producing at a much faster rate. While this seems harsh, at the time many citizens in fact felt this way and did agree. For those who didn't share the feeling, there was great controversy.  In 1908 President Roosevelt received a letter from an author who said that racial suicide would never be an issue in Potter County, referring to the Mr. & Mrs. Albert Button Family from Colesburg who had just welcomed their 25th child into the world. The President actually made a comment that more white citizens should follow in the foot steps of this family, which was also thought to be the largest in the United States at the time. His comment and the news of the very large family made national headlines. 

Live Stock Insanity 
Farmers began to report that livestock on their farms were acting strangely, as if they had gone insane... bawling for hours which turned into days, thrusting their heads, kicking both front and back legs off the ground, and butting heads off of each other and anything nearby. This included sheep, cows, horses, goats, pigs, etc. Eli Nelson, of Colesburg, lost a calf, pig, and bull from the mysterious disease. Hubert Painter, who lived not far from Mr. Nelson, lost a pig and some cattle. Many farmers were losing their livestock and veterinarians became puzzled. The symptoms mimicked hydrophobia,  which was linked to rabies, but they tested negative. Eventually later in the year after more research was done, it was discovered that the animals were infected with grubs which had worked their way into the brains of the sickened livestock. 1907-1908

Sheriffs Daughter Tackles A Prisoner
Mrs. Elsie Veley was distributing meals to prisoners at the Potter County Jail when Sam Giammette (of Galeton) charged from his cell, attempting to make a quick getaway. The next thing Sam knew, he had been tackled by a girl and put in a headlock  until a guard could gain control. The prisoner hung his head as he was guided back into lock up. Mrs. Veley and her husband, also the Sheriff, were quite proud of their 15 year old daughter Carrie, who had been around the corner and quickly jumped into action. She was commended for her bravery and poor Sam was the laughingstock at the jail. 1916

Largest June Berry Tree
In 1922 the June Berry Tree at the White Farm located about a mile from Colesburg was measured by District Forester Harold Port, due to it's remarkable size. The White Family and the Mr. Port were curious to have the tree compared with others in the state, and so the measurements were sent to The Department Of Forestry in Harrisburg for analysis. At breast height the trunk measured 20 inches in diameter. They were excited to receive the results. No other June Berry Tree as large as this had been recorded in Pennsylvania and it was also thought to be the largest in the country. 


Thank you for reading!
Stay tuned for more stories from Colesburg &
other places in Potter County...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wheelbarrow Of Broken Dreams - Curwensville

Some say a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. In the case of William Hooven of Curwensville, a journey of 6,240 miles began with one step and a custom crafted wheelbarrow. Some said Mr. Hooven was carrying prohibition in a wheelbarrow, and indeed he did have pamphlets, temperance literature, and other paraphernalia to support his cause... but that wasn't the only reason he took this trip. The husband and father wanted to see new places, meet new people, and write about his experiences along the way. 

William Hooven was born to  Joseph & Sarah (Lucas) Hooven in February 1856. He married Miss Lucinda "Lucy" Shirk in 1877. The couple was not wealthy by any means, but they were happy. They had 8 children: Franklin, Myrtle, Nell, Elmedia, Charles, Steward, Herman, and Margaret. At the time this story began, they were living in Curwensville. 

It was an election year and the great presidential debate was under way. Former President Grover Cleveland and the current President Benjamin Harrison were the most well known candidates, and would be listed on the ballot November 5th. Some of the greatest things weighing on a voters mind at the time were tariffs & prohibition. Many people were inspired to make changes or support their choice for the future president in somewhat creative ways. There were those who wrote songs, some who created posters and attended rallies, and yet others who went above and beyond... making headlines around the world. 


In his extra time Mr. Hooven began to hand craft a custom, extra large wooden wheelbarrow,  which was light weight despite the size, only about 50 lbs. A seat to rest upon was constructed in the rear, and it was topped off with a waterproof cover. As he sanded away at the boards, nailed the pieces together, and painted the frame, Mr. Hooven dreamed of all the places he could travel with his cart. 

In September Mr. Hooven sat down with his wife. Over the course of the previous few months, he had already carefully planned a route that would take him places with this wheelbarrow, and at the same time bring in money. He explained that on this trip he would preach temperance, write about his journey, peddle family photos, and sell his story to the news. Wages earned on the trip would be mailed back to support them all. The trip would cover a distance of 6,240 miles, at a pace of 20 miles per day give or take, and he should return back in 317 days, only stopping on Sundays for rest. He explained the route: There would be many cities in between, but the basic path of travel would be heading south the Birmingham Alabama, West to Denver Colorado, and then North East to Chicago Illinois. May 31st the world fair would be ongoing in Chicago, which he intended to make an appearance, and then start home. At the time, it seemed like an uncertain, somewhat scary, but wonderful idea. 

On the 5th day of October, Mr. Hooven was ready to go with a packed wagon and the bare necessities for survival. By necessities... not cell phones, chargers, stylish clothes, and such. He had a blanket, bread, water, the clothes on his back, and shoes on his feet. The husband and father of 8 children kissed his family goodbye, and they waived until he could no longer be seen in the distance.

On October 16th Mr. Hooven spoke with a reporter in Pittston. He said so far he was a bit behind schedule but trucking along in good spirits. He mentioned spending a cold night or two under the stars but things were going well. On the 27th of October another reporter near Harrisburg caught sight of the traveling man, and Hooven said that most places welcomed him, he had even gained a few pounds! He was then again seen at the post office in Harrisburg around the 29th, but the news report described a man down on his luck barely speaking a word to anyone. In early November things were looking up. Mr. Hooven was said to have received a generous donation from Joseph Leverine, a wealthy prohibitionist from Baltimore Maryland. It seemed whether you loved him or hated him, Mr. Hooven was becoming a celebrity. Everyone was waiting for his next move.

The Hooven family anxiously awaited for word from the head of the house, which never came despite reports that he was finally bringing in money. By November 20th, Mrs. Hooven had sold everything she was able to from their house in order to keep the children fed. As the weather grew colder and bills were hard to pay, the home was sold by the constable in a Sheriff's sale and the Hooven family was forced to move. There was still no word from the loving husband and father. 

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and soon a year had passed by. There were no more reports on the travels of the man and his wheelbarrow. Mrs. Hooven was sick with worry that her husband may have become ill or been foully dealt with. In December of 1893 the only report on the case was that Mr. Hoovens whereabouts were unknown and his family was still living in Curwensville, but nearly starved to death. In 1894 the couples young son, Steward, was playing with a friend when he fell on a circular saw, completely cutting off his leg at the knee. His injuries were so severe that he passed away. Still.. there was no word from Mr. Hooven. It seemed like he dropped off the face of the earth. Eventually the children grew into adults with family of their own. Mrs. Hooven died on November 22nd, 1914 at the age of 58, and some say it was from worry topped with a broken heart. She is buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery at Curwensville. 

In 1896 Mr. Hooven resurfaced in Baltimore, Maryland. No one knows for sure if he ever left as his trail grew cold right in that city. He married a woman by the name of Dora. The couple had two daughters: Katherine (1901-1995) and Ruth (1904-1993). Whether his intentions were truly to find a way to support his campaign and family or to escape his life, of that I am not sure... but the wheelbarrow of prohibition turned out to be the wheelbarrow of broken dreams, at least for the family left behind in Curwensville. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Good Old Days In Brockwayville

Brockwayville*Snyder Township*Jefferson County
CLICK TO ENLARGE - Down town Brockwayville: PA Family Old Photos

Husband In The Dog House: One Odd Fellow was in big trouble after his wife read the local newspaper. The previous Saturday, George Clinton attended boys night out at the lodge. While the newspaper didn't say what it was exactly that he ended up in Clarion with, they made sure to mention that he and it spent the night as well.  1879

The House Of Ill Reputation: Normally when new people moved to town introductions began with a fresh baked apple pie and handshakes from the neighbors. This was not the case when Dominic Morelli arrived, bringing trouble with him. He made a home in the abandoned dwelling by the railroad tracks. Sometimes the ladies who lived with him sauntered down the street, scantily dressed. Mothers could be seen covering their children eyes as the harlots passed by. Buggies driven by drunken strangers hooting and hollering made the nights less peaceful in town, and they were always coming and going from the Morelli place. Townspeople stuck together back then, and they could smell trouble in the new red light district. A plan to run them out of town was carried out, late one night just after the party started. Tom Myers, Marty Smith, Joe Allen & William Clark hid in the weeds along the track, long cables in hand.  AJ Cooper, the train conductor, drove his train towards town extra slow... and as he neared there were men waiting. They harnessed cables to the locomotive, and the other end to the bawdy house, and Cooper continued on his route, inching forward. A loud crack was heard, beams began to move, and suddenly naked ladies and drunken men were rushing out of every exit. Seconds later the house pulled up from the foundation and its contents tossed in the air and smashing to the ground... including barrels of illegal whiskey which broke and poured out. Needless to say, Morelli took off that night along with his tribe, and was never heard from again. Problem solved and peace was restored in town. 1884

Click to enlarge - Photo from West2K
                                Mysterious Package: 

A B.R.&P. train entered the depot, and package handlers began tossing them out. One package seemed to shake as it was lifted, then suddenly the sounds of wailing were coming from inside. The handler was shocked, and quickly unwrapped the box.  Inside was a very tiny baby boy, swaddled in cloth. An investigation into the matter confirmed the infant was loaded and shipped from an unknown sender in Ridgway to an unknown receiver in Brockway. Unfortunately that was all the could be proven. It was said that the little one was adopted by a local family. 1891

Clay Problems: May came in carrying rain, rain, and more rain. part of Brockwayville was under water. A farm owned by Web Johnson and also the old Anderson farm were pretty much diluted. When things dried up in May, much of the soil from those two farms had been washed away and slightly reddish and very heavy dirt was in it's place. It was confirmed that the flood unearthed massive clay deposits, which was somewhat disappointing at first. Later the land would prove to be valuable as the Clay plant was eventually established in the locale. 1890

The Enormous Elm: Lumbermen cut the giant Elm tree located at the edge of town measuring a whopping 6 feet in diameter and almost 19 feet in circumference. 110 feet tall 24 perfect logs were cut from the massive sapling and the lumber sold for $87.69. In comparison, nowadays the profit would be about $2,500.00. 1897

Click to enlarge - ME Church
From Pa Family Old Photos
Poisonous Treat: An ice cream festival was held at Walburn run, just outside of town, to benefit the ME Church. Soon after the tasty frozen treat was served, 25 guests became violently ill with cramps and other heightened flu like symptoms. A physician was called, who arrived and quickly went to work. The families of John Anderson, Mrs. Mary miller, and Mrs. Starr were the most seriously affected, and there was little hope for recovery. Apparently an ex member of the Church had become disgruntled over not being invited, and had laced the ice cream with arsenic. 1903

No Need For A Curfew In Town: An unusually large black panther had apparently taken up residency in the area. In the evenings just after dark, the large cat was seen strolling through town and lapping up water from a puddle that always seemed to form in from of the post office. When the snow began to fall, the panther must have moved on because it wasn't seen again after December. 1909

Brave Men Rewarded: 32 acts of heroism were rewarded by the Carnegie Hero Fund Association in May. Four of the chosen were locals, who tried to save a fellow co worker, Michelo Rubio, when he was trapped under falling rocks at the West Clarion Mines near Brockwayville. Guiseppe Petrucelli was killed in the process, and his two sisters each received $250 in death benefits, and his brother was given a bronze medal. Vincenzo Stefanelli also lost his life, and his father received $500 and a bronze medal in his honor. Frances DeSantis escaped, and received $1000 towards a home and a bronze medal. Last, but not least, William Harris also made it out alive and received a bronze medal and $1000 towards a home. 1910

The Black Hand Society Gang Pays A Visit To Local Businessmen: 
Members of the Black Hand Society paid a visit to a couple of local business owners that didn't meet their demands. The first was Mr Charles Volsted, who owned a bakery in town and lived above the business with his wife and baby girl. In the previous weeks he had received letters demanding $500 with threats that if he didn't comply, a terrible death for the baker and his family would follow. He didn't pay up, but was still mindful of the dangerous threats, sending his wife and daughter to a safe place until things smoothed over. One bitter cold evening in February, Mr. Volsted was fast asleep when masked men broke in and viciously attacked him, tied him to the bed, and ransacked the place. When they didn't find any money, the blackhanders lit the store on fire and headed to the next mam who didn't pay up... Mr. Samuel Manning, a local brewery agent. He also chose not to meet the demands of the gang, which for him was $250. The masked men found him and Mr. manning was brutally stabbed and left in the road clinging to life. Fortunately after he was found and taken to the hospital, Mr. manning lived, though his injuries pretty severe. As for Mr. Volsted, he was lucky too. When the flames came up through the floorboards of his 2nd story home, he was able to burn his bindings. He drug himself towards the window and crawled onto the roof. When firefighters arrived he was rescued, taken to the hospital, and received treatment for his wounds including 2nd and 3rd degree burns. After that, I'm not sure what became of Mr. Volksted, his family, and Mr. Manning, but the Blackhanders moved on to other communities with their reign of terror. 1911

Giant Shooting Star: The sky lit up one evening in March, and what looked like a giant piece of flaming coal flew through the sky, landing just outside of town. People rushed to the scene, curious about the strange site. As some locals gathered around, a meteor about 3 feet wide began to burrow in the ground, disappearing. Within no time the only thing left was a crater about 6 feet wide. 1921

There were many wonderful inventions that were patented by locals. 
The earliest one I found was the invention of a method to reverse reacting rotary engines. The inventor, Charles Melville Miles, was granted a patent on September 4, 1849.
Two diagrams below are from the Us Patent Office, both from local inventors. 
Diagrams from US Patent Office Records

Click On News Articles & Photos to enlarge...

Stay tuned for old stories from Brockway...
and also the ghost towns of Snyder Township.

Thank you for reading!