Friday, March 30, 2018

Six Poplars - Tale of an ancient tree

On the northern side of the old Youghiogheny River, near Harnedsville in Somerset County, there once was a magnificent tulip tree, a Liriodendron tulipifera, which was known as Six Poplars. This tree had the most curious history. Over 200 years ago, a child died and was buried where it stood. The father planted 6 tulip trees around the grave in the shape of a circle. They all grew... and as they did, the roots united at the ground forming one massive trunk that eventually absorbed the grave. The giant tulip tree advanced towards the heavens, encircling the tomb which was lifted from the ground. During the 1860's, the catacomb was said to be about 4 feet from the ground, centered in the thick, protective branches, and both head and foot stones were still visible. The inscription on the gravestone read, "Sacred to the memory of Thomas Green, age six."  The remarkable tree continued to grow and was last estimated to be about 150 feet tall with a circumference of about 38.5 feet around. In the spring, gorgeous bright yellow tulips would bloom every year. The flowers lasted for months, unlike other trees. Birds would flock to it, and could be heard singing from a mile away. At times, people swore they heard a child laughing, as if being tickled. In late fall the tree bore golden cones and by winter, they fell to the ground covering it like a blanket and all was silent at the spot, as if the tree and its contents were asleep. About 60 years ago the aged tulip tree was struck by lightning and brought to the ground. In time it was swallowed up and reclaimed by mother nature, along with the tomb of little Tommy Green. A few other tulip trees and other poplar species still remain in that tiny patch of woods near the banks of the Youghiogheny River, which is now called the Casselman River. In the middle of the grove there is a little cemetery called Six Poplars, named for Tommy Green and the 6 amazing tulip trees that grew into one. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The good old days in Gaines Township - Tioga County

Gaines Township was established in 1838, though the first settlers came around 1804. Lumber mills and tanning companies were the earliest industries. Coal was discovered in the 1840's which eventually lead to the discovery of oil. Some of the communities past & present in Gaines Township are/were Furmantown, Gaines (Gaines Mills, Gaines Junction), Gurnee, Manhattan, Marshfield, Rexford, Watrous, etc... 
"Septuplets were born"
Lafayette and Frances (LaBar) Mattison were expecting in or around July. Mrs. Mattison had gained quite a bit of weight during her pregnancy and went into labor early during the month of May.... The couple was shocked when she gave birth to seven babies in total. All of the children were perfectly formed, but only two were of normal size. This was the most children known to be born at once in all of Pennsylvania at that time. Unfortunately they all passed away within a week and were buried in the cemetery at Gaines. (1876)

"Don't mess with a buck, you'll get the horns"
John Head was driving his buggy along the road, accompanied by a friend, when he couldn't help but notice a large buck following them. Mr. Head joked that he was going to give that deer a scare and lept from the wagon towards it. Instead of running, the buck planted its feet in the ground, lowered its head, and suddenly charged at the man, stabbing him in the stomach with a horn that became lodged. The angry animal began bucking and Mr. Head's accomplice jumped out to assist. Eventually the horn was freed and the two frightened men took off towards home. The general thought of deer being perfectly harmless was reconsidered. (1884)
"Record breaking time"
Charles Whittaker, 15 year old son of Henry & Mildred Whittaker, rode his Columbia 84 bicycle about 110 miles in 13 hours. His trip began August 9th at 6:00 am in Wilcox, Elk County. He stopped at Coudersport around 3:00 pm for some lunch and the continued on to his home at Manhattan, arriving at 7:00 pm. Whittaker's distance in such a short period of time was considered quite remarkable.  (1897)

"Ancient relics found at the old Rexford Farm"
During a flood in June an old well was unearthed at the former Charles & Alwilda Rexford farm located below Gaines near Marshfield. The cistern was partially filled with rocks, and underneath was a trove of treasure which local historians felt might be evidence of a battle between Native American and the earliest settlers. Some of the items found were arrowheads, flattened bullets, brass buttons made in London, and remnants of blue pottery. Under those items there were fragments of human bones discovered. In the soil around the well, copper coins were found dating between the years of 1785  and 1819. (1916)

"Father and son reunited"
Orrin Beckwith and his son, Ronald, were reunited after a friend took notice of the wedding announcements in an Olean newspaper. Mr. Beckwith wrote to the young man who vaguely remembered his family in Tioga County. The boy had been kidnapped around the age of 7, and was raised by a woman in Friendship, Ny. Since then Mr. Beckwith and Ronalds mother had divorced, and both remarried. In March the reunion took place near Gaines where Mr. Beckwith was living with his new wife, Dora, and her parents. Ronald also made plans to meet with his mother, the former Elizabeth Seamans. (1925)

"Act of valor"
Mr. & Mrs. Clarence Johnson and Mr. & Mrs. Marion Head went to a dance in Morris, leaving 12 year old Billy Ellis in charge of the their children for the evening. Around midnight a fast moving fire broke out on the first floor of the Johnstones home, and smoke filled the air. Billy rushed Thomas Johnson (6 years old) and Billy Head (9 years old) from the house with blankets over their head first, as they were closest. He then rushed back in, up the stairs, and wrapped baby Ronnie in a blanket and carried him to safety. During that time neighbors had noticed the blaze and alerted the fire department, who arrived to find all children safe and poor Billy with singed eyebrows and burns on his face and arms. The house was destroyed, but everyone was safe and that is all that mattered. Billy Ellis was nominated for the Carnegie Hero Fund Award by the thankful parents. (1937)

"Unwanted fame"
Raymond Cole, of Watrous, proudly had the 28 inch brown trout he caught with his bare hands mounted on a plaque, which he hung inside a local tavern. His exciting fishing story was told to anyone who would hear. Eventually the tale made it back to Rogers Stevens, the Justice of the Peace at Gaines. Shortly after, Mr. Cole was arrested and fined $20 in court because in Pennsylvania it is illegal to catch a fish with your hands. (1949)

*click to enlarge news articles

Stay tuned for more stories from the communities in Gaines Township and other places in the area...

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.