Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Ashtabula Train Disaster

Site of the Ashtabula Train Disaster, Ashtabula, Ohio
The modern bridge stands where the disaster occurred
“Are you sure you know where you are going?” Zech asked as I parked at Cedarquist Park that sits along the eastern bank of the Ashtabula River.

“I know exactly where we need to go,” I laughed. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been here.” Though it had been four years since I had last visited the spot, the location was still fresh in my mind. With Zech in tow I had returned to the region to do a little exploring and to get better pictures of some of the places I had visited during my first visit to the Ashtabula region of Ohio.

“We’re going to have to take a little walk through the woods,” I continued. We followed a path through the woods and as we got closer to our destination I could hear the sound of falling water. We made a short detour to visit a waterfall near the spot of the disaster. As we were photographing it the sound of a train passing above could be heard, but from our location we could not see it.

Waterfall near the disaster site
After we finished we walked over to the Ashtabula River and jumped down the bank onto the rocks that jutted out of the shallow river. Standing here we could see the modern bridge that crosses the river. On the night of disaster the icy waters of the creek were waist high, but on this day it averaged about one foot deep, though in some spots it may have been deeper, but not by much.

It was at this spot on the cold, snowy, windy night of December 29, 1876, one of the worst disasters in Ohio’s history occurred; a disaster that would be known as “The Ashtabula Horror.”

From all accounts the bridge was a scary sight to behold. The iron bridge was bolted and braced together for a length of one hundred and fifty feet and had little support as it spanned seventy feet over the Ashtabula River.

A blizzard raged outside as the residents of the community settled in for the day. Forty mile an hour winds blew snow wildly around. Snow was already three feet deep and due to the drifting it was over six feet deep in spots. The temperature was roughly ten below zero on that fateful day.

Roughly 7:30 that evening the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Train Number 5 crossed the bridge. The train consisted of two engines pulling eleven cars. The first of the two engines managed to make it safely across the bridge before it collapsed, allowing the rest of the train to fall into the gorge. It did stay connected for a short period of time, but soon broke loose and fell into the gorge.

Memorial to the unidentified dead
Chestnut Grove Cemetery
While the collapse was terrible enough, the wreckage caught fire from the stoves in the passenger cars. In the aftermath of the disaster, stories of heroic acts arose from the brave citizens who attempted to rescue the trapped souls. Sadly stories of people who performed evil acts of stealing from the dead also were reported.

The result was ninety-two of the one hundred and fifty-nine passengers and crew were killed. A number of the passengers were burned so badly they could not be identified. Among those unidentified bodies were the remains of the famous hymn writer Philip Bliss and his wife, Lucy. The story of Philip Bliss can be found herePhilip Bliss.

Please see the note at the end of this article about the number of passengers and those killed as a result of this disaster.

Little remains of the disaster site. The river flows under a modern bridge that still carries trains. Without knowing what the site looked like in the aftermath of the disaster it is almost impossible to imagine what the scene of horror appeared to the survivors and rescuers.

Zech and I left the park and headed south on Main Avenue before turning onto Grove Drive. Following the road, we were soon entering Chestnut Grove Cemetery. We followed the small signs along the roadways to the memorial which stands atop the hill overlooking the cemetery. We found a spot to park that would allow other vehicles to pass safely and walked over to the large monument.

Base of the memorial
The obelisk sits atop the graves of the unknown victims of the disaster. On one side is a listing of some of the known victims, but who were not able to be identified. Another side of the memorial states the disaster and the date. The monument was unveiled on May 30, 1895.

Chief Engineer Charles Collins, who had inspected the bridge ten days before its collapse,  was present during the disaster’s aftermath and worked in the waist deep freezing waters of the river to rescue victims. In the days after the disaster, Charles would often break down and publicly cry about the disaster. He attempted to resign his position but the railroad refused to accept it. Charles supposedly committed suicide shortly after giving his testimony to the investigative jury.

Modern sources have denounced the suicide theory. One of the doctors who first examined Collins’ body questioned it, stating that it was not a case of suicide. Who killed Charles? Was his death a result of his testimony against the railroad? Or was he killed by one of the disaster’s survivors? Or maybe he was murdered by the family of one of the victims? While the answer will never be known, it is known he is buried in the mausoleum located about fifty yards away from the train disaster memorial.

Some claim to see him and other shadows in the area around the memorial, but on this sunny day I found nothing out of the ordinary. These same people are those who claim the sounds of the train disaster are still heard from time to time, but as I wandered about the area I heard nothing out of the ordinary.


Base of the memorial
It notes Philip Bliss by name but not his wife, Lucy
Amasa Stone, the railroad mogul who had designed and built the bridge refused to accept any of the blame for the bridge collapse claiming it had been an act of God that destroyed the bridge. Stone even went as far as claiming that the act of God set the train on fire because there could be no way the stoves in the passenger cars could have caught the wreckage on fire. Stone remained defiant until the end. Seven years after the disaster, Stone committed suicide and was buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

After saying another short prayer for the dead, I left the area in silence, remembering not only the famous Pennsylvanian taken in his prime, but all of those who lost their lives on that cold winter's night.

If you make the journey to the disaster site and the memorial in Chestnut Grove Cemetery, I do ask you visit it with the reverence and the respect that both areas deserve.


Base of the memorial
A note about the number of people onboard and the number of victims: The exact number of victims will never be known, but most sources place the number at ninety-two. I’ve seen the number of victims ranging from eighty-three to ninety-eight, but ninety-two seems to be the most repeated number.

The exact number of people onboard the train that evening also has been debated. I’ve seen numbers ranging from one hundred and fifty-nine (which is the most repeated number) upward to three hundred people. The number one hundred and fifty-nine comes from a guess based upon the number of tickets in the conductor’s possession. Even the memories of the survivors add confusion to the people onboard. Some claim that the cars were mostly empty while others remember the train as being packed. The total passengers onboard does not take into consideration any railroad employees onboard or others onboard who did not have to purchase a ticket for one reason or another.

The exact number of the unidentified dead is truly unknown. I have found newspaper articles that list nineteen to thirty unidentified bodies. Most sources list twenty-five unidentified bodies, which is the number of names on the monument in Chestnut Grove Cemetery and the number that seems to be fairly consistent with most early sources regarding the disaster. These names are people known to have been onboard but were burned beyond recognition, so they were not able to be positively identified.

Many sources claim that there were only nineteen unidentified victims, despite there being twenty-five names listed on the monument. I was able to discover a source for this confusion: there were twenty-two unidentified victims buried in nineteen graves at Chestnut Hill Cemetery in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. The nineteen graves that were originally dug is, I believe, the source for there only being nineteen unidentified victims. The other three unidentified bodies were buried after the original mass burial.
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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Philip Bliss: Hymn Writer

Rome Cemetery, Rome
PA Historical Marker for Philip Bliss
The Bliss Cenotaph is large white stone
In the background
I’ve always wanted to visit Rome.

And one cold April morning I arrived in the small community of Rome - that is - Rome, Pennsylvania.

Located along Route 187, the Rome Cemetery is marked with a familiar blue Pennsylvania Historical Marker that memorializes the local resident for his contributions to musical history. Parking in the church lot across the road from the cemetery, I stepped out into the cold and crossed over to read the blue marker. Only once I took in the information presented on the sign did I wander towards the large stone in the middle of the cemetery.

The stone is a cenotaph: the people memorialized on the stone are not buried here. The remains of Philip and Lucy Bliss are buried in a common grave in Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Philip was born in Clearfield County near the present day town of Penfield, the son of a Methodist pastor. Shortly after his birth his family moved to Rome. The house Philip grew up in still exists and serves as a museum.


One of the sides of the memorial
A side note: There has always been some debate on the location of Philip’s birth. Some sources place his birth at Rome, but the most sources place his birth just east of Penfield on July 9, 1838. Even the memorial in the Rome Cemetery states that he was born in Clearfield County. I believe early writers assumed that because Rome was his boyhood home that he was born here. A Pennsylvania Historical Marker noting his birthplace stands alongside Route 255 east of Penfield.

He had very little formal education, receiving most of his lessons from his devout parents, teaching him mostly from the Bible. During his childhood Philip’s father passed his love of music on to his son.

When he was roughly six years old, Philip’s family moved to Trumbull City in Ohio. A couple years later the family returned to Pennsylvania, settling in the town of Tioga. At the age of ten he first heard a piano being playing and upon hearing it he realized that he wanted to pursue his love of music.

 Philip left home at the age of eleven and for the next five years he worked in various lumber camps. The following year he made his first public confession of his devotion to Christ at the Baptist Church in Cherry Flats, Pennsylvania.

At the age of seventeen he moved to Bradford (town) to finish the requirements to become a teacher and the following year he was teaching at the school in Hartsville, New York. In 1857, his life would change when he met J.G. Towner, who ran a vocal school in Towanda. Towner gave Bliss his first formal vocal lessons. That same year Philip would attend a musical convention in Rome, Pennsylvania, where he first met William Bradley, a writer of sacred music. Bradley convinced Bliss to devote his life to writing music for the Lord’s service.

The following year (1858), Philip returned to his childhood home and started teaching at the Rome Academy, where he met Lucy Young, whom he married the following year. They would have two sons, George and Philip.

By that time, Philip had enough information and ability to become a traveling music teacher. Taking with him his melodeon, he and his old horse traveled from community to community sharing his love of music with his students.

Base of the Bliss Memorial
It tells of their deaths that happened
Due to the Ashtabula Train Disaster
In the summer of 1860, with money given to him by his wife’s grandmother, Philip attended the Normal Academy of Music in New York. Graduating from the six week intensive study program, Philip was officially recognized as a music teacher. He did not settle at one shool, but continued his route of teaching in the various communities in the region.

While Philip enjoyed teaching, his passion was turning to composition.

In 1864, the Bliss family moved to Chicago, where Philip worked at a variety of musical institutes becoming a noted teacher and singer. That same year he wrote the composition Lorai Vale which would be published the following year. While the piece is not one of the sacred pieces Philip is known for, it was a recognition of his talent and provided a starting point in his life.

Also in 1864, Philip did a two week concert tour with Mr. Towner. Amazed at the success of the venture, he planned a second tour but this one was a complete failure. The one positive thing that came out of his failed tour was a job offer from a Chicago based music house, Root and Cady Musical Publishers.

In 1869, Philip’s life would take a step in following his life’s calling. One evening he stopped at a revival being held by Dwight L. Moody, a well-known evangelist of the time. Philip was soon leading the singing in the meetings. When Moody left for England in 1873, he asked Philip to go along, but he declined the offer. Moody would gain international recognition while traveling throughout England.

That same winter, Moody wrote again to Bliss asking him to once again to consider devoting his life and works to the Lord. In a prayer meeting, Philip decided that this was his calling and he turned completely to missionary work, using his royalties to finance his missionary endeavors.

What Philip didn’t know was he only had a short time remaining. He would join forces with Major Daniel Whittle and together they lead a number of revival services throughout the Ohio Valley.

On December 29, 1876, Philip’s successful career came to an end. The Bliss’s had spent the holidays with family back in Rome, Pennsylvania. Philip was planning on returning to Chicago in January to work on some new compositions, but received word that they wanted him to return sooner. Leaving his two sons with his mother, the couple started home towards Chicago.

Disaster would happen when the train they were riding in fell into the Ashtabula River in Ohio. Flood waters had weakened the wooden structure and while the first engine made it across successfully, the rest of the train fell into the river when the bridge collapsed. The wreck was soon on fire.

Philip managed to crawl through a window to safety, but when he realized that Lucy was trapped, he returned into the flames to be with her. They both perished in the blaze.

Pennsylvania Historical Marker honoring Philip Bliss
Among the things that survived the wreck were the words for the only song still sung by congregations that Philip did not write the music to: (I Will Sing of) My Redeemer. 

Other famous hymns Philip wrote the music and/or the lyrics to include: Almost Persuaded, Hallelujah, What a Saviour!, Let the Lower Lights Be Burning, The Light of the World Is Jesus, Whosoever Will, Wonderful Words of Life and It Is Well with My Soul.

As I stood there I reflected upon the love Philip had for his wife. Philip had made it safely out of the wreck and, had returned into the burning car in an attempt to free her. While some may question his sanity, I couldn't help but marvel at the love he must have had to be willing to return to his wife's side knowing he would be sacrificing his survival to be with the woman he loved.

The Rome Cemetery is located just north of town along Route 187. Parking is available across the road from the church. Their cenotaph is one of the largest stones in the cemetery and is in a straight line behind the Pennsylvania Historical Marker for Philip Bliss. As with all cemeteries, if you choose to visit Rome Cemetery, please be respectful during your visit.

While Philip's story ends here I cannot tell it without talking about the Ashtabula Train Disaster, which can be found here: The Ashtabula Train Disaster.


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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Along the Way: Bedtime for Bonzo

Grave of Bonzo
Hearthside Rest Pet Cemetery
Hidden just southwest of the junction of Interstates 79 and 90 among the rolling hills of Elk Valley is Hearthside Rest Pet Cemetery. I stepped out of the vehicle and looked around the peaceful spot located on the banks of Elk Creek.

Despite the peacefulness of the area, it felt strange that I was visiting a pet cemetery. In my journeys around the state, this was the first one I purposely stopped at to search for a specific grave. Yet on this occasion I sought out the final resting place of a celebrity buried here among the beloved pets on this sacred piece of land.

Looking at all of the similar markers, I knew I had before me an adventure just to find one particular stone in a sea of them. I unfolded the piece of paper that had vague directions to the grave I sought. After walking a couple of rows, a truck pulled in and the caretaker walked over and asked me if I needed help.

“I heard that you have a celebrity buried here.”

“Oh, you’re searching for Bonzo,” he observed. “He’s a couple more rows over.” I followed him to the final resting place of the cemetery’s most famous resident, a chimpanzee known to the world as Bonzo.

Bonzo's rise to fame occurred in 1952 when he starred in the movie Bonzo Goes to College. The film about a chimpanzee who goes to college and plays football also starred Maureen O’Sullivan and Edmund Gwenn.

In researching the life of Bonzo, I discovered that the Bonzo in Bedtime for Bonzo was not the Bonzo who is buried in the Hearthside Rest Pet Cemetery. There were actually two different chimpanzees who starred as Bonzo.

The first Bonzo was a chimpanzee named Peggy. Yes, the male chimpanzee in the movie was protrayed by a female one. Peggy had performed in a number of the Jungle Jim movies and was supposed to appear in a series of Bonzo movies. Sadly Peggy, her stand-in, and two other chimpanzees were killed in a fire in 1951 shortly after the release of Bedtime for Bonzo. Some places state that Peggy is the chimpanzee buried here, but this is not the case.

The second Bonzo (the one buried at Hearthside Rest Pet Cemetery) was a male chmpanzee whose actual name was Bonzo. He starred in the second film in the series, Bonzo Goes to College, During his time in the spotlight Bonzo toured the country, appearing on a number of television specials. As far as I can determine it appears he never appeared in any other movies after starring in Bonzo Goes to College.

Sadly Bonzo’s fame soon faded. He was placed in a circus during his later years, which promoted his celebratory status as a means of bringing people in to see the carnival. While the circus was in Erie in 1969, Bonzo became ill and passed away. A local vet offered to have him buried in this peaceful location.

While talking with the caretaker, I discovered that over 3100 pets are buried here, along with some of their owners. In the time spent talking with him, I gained a newly found appreciation for pet cemeteries. After taking a couple of minutes to explore the cemetery, I left it, wiping away a tear at the thought of the pets I’ve had over the years.

Finding Bonzo’s grave is a little bit of a challenge. Parking in the small lot,look towards the cemetery. There is a small cluster of trees in the center of the cemetery. Bonzo is buried halfway between these trees and the pines to the left as you are looking into the cemetery in almost in a straight line between the two.

As with all cemeteries, please be respectful of the area.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Sugarloaf Massacre

Monument for the Sugarloaf Massacre
Conyngham
Let me tell you a story that happened on the Pennsylvania frontier in 1780. it is a story that I thought I knew well and it goes like this....

It starts in early September when a group of militia were patrolling the frontier searching for raiding Indians and Tories. The men were a part of Captain Van Etten’s militia led by Captain Daniel Klader. They were camping along the Little Nescopeck Creek when they were ambushed by a group of Indians led by Seneca Chief Roland Montour. In the chaos, fourteen men were killed and a number of them taken captive.

However, I made the mistake of letting a good story get in the way of the truth and the more I researched this incident the more I realized I didn't know the story like I thought I did.

But, that story was what first brought me to the monument located along Walnut Road, just east of the community of Conyngham.

“So where exactly are you planning on parking?” mom asked as I came to a halt in front of the monument. It had been a couple years since I first visited the monument and had returned on a recent trip through the region to take pictures of the memorial.

“Right here,” I replied as I put the four-ways on and jumped out of the vehicle. Walnut Road, which the monument stands next to, didn’t seem very busy during this visit and I silently hoped that traffic stayed away until I was finished.  The plaque on the marker states:

Near this spot occurred
The Sugarloaf Massacre
On September 11, 1780 a detachment of
Captain John Van Etten's Company
Northampton County Militia
Resting at the spring was
Surprised by a band of Indians
And Tories led by Seneca Chief
Roland Montour

Beneath these words is a listing of fifteen names of the men who were victims of the massacre.

In the woods behind the monument is a grave marker for a Captain Daniel Klader. The simple stone is inscribed “Daniel Klader, Captain, Van Etten’s Co., Northampton Co. Militia, Died 1780.” The first time I visited the location, I followed a path to the nearby stone. The last two visits (once in the summer and once in the early fall) I was unable to locate the stone due to the undergrowth.

I first came across a mention of the Sugarloaf Massacre while doing research for other massacres that occurred within the state. It was only a small snippet of information which I recorded and set aside. A couple years later, I ran across that bit of information and began researching the history of the massacre, preparing to visit the location where it occurred.

What I didn’t know at the time, but was soon about to discover, was the information I first discovered about the massacre was incorrect.

The plaque on the monument
Searching through the regional histories, I found more information. The only correct detail in the original tidbit that I had found was the period of time leading up to the massacre.

In September 1780 a large band of Indians descended the Wyoming Valley before crossing into present-day Sugar Loaf Township. This raiding party is believed to be the same one that attacked Fort Rice (near present-day Turbotville) on September 6. A side note: I found a couple sources claiming that a group of Tories were also with the raiding party, but most of the sources I have at hand state it was an Indian raiding party. I cannot verify which one is correct..

Also in early September, a group of militia moved into the region. This group of militia was made up of thirty-one men. Another side note: the total number of the militia seems to be in debate. Like many of the details of the massacre this number may or may not be correct. Sources list the total number of men in the group as being anywhere from thirty-one to forty-one in strength: the most common number tends to be thirty-one men.

The sources all agree that on September 11, 1780, the group of militia were ambushed and defeated along the banks of the Little Nescopeck Creek. Lieutenant Myers was among the captured and managed to escape two days later.

While discovering what little has been recorded about the Sugarloaf Massacre, I found myself with a handful of questions to which I cannot find a definite answer.

The first question that arises is who was Captain Daniel Klader? I’ve only come across two histories that mention Klader and a handful of newspaper articles. It appears that Captain Daniel Klader mysteriously appears in one of the retellings of the massacre.

I searched through the "Pennsylvania State Archives Digital Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File" and failed to find him. I did find a Jacob Clader who commanded a later group of Northampton Militia. I believe that one of the men who told the story mistakenly identified Jacob as Daniel and claimed that he was killed during the massacre. This mistake continued to be handed down with each telling and was never corrected until it became a part of regional lore.

If Daniel did not exist, then who was in charge of the group of militia? Sipe records in Indian Wars of Pennsylvania the man being in charge of the group was a Lieutenant Myers who was from Fort Allen. In Stone’s The Poetry and History of Wyoming, he records portions of Lieutenant John Jenkins who also states that Myers was in charge of the group of thirty-three men. Looking through the "Pennsylvania State Archives Digital Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File," I found that there was a John Moyer, who was part of the Northampton Militia and while no rank is listed, I believe that this is the Lieutenant Myers mentioned in the histories.

Commemorating the 207th anniversary of
The Sugarloaf Massacre
Enevelope part of my personal collection
The next question that comes to mind is who was all killed in the massacre? Searching through the state archives digital "Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File" I came up with two names listed as killed at the Sugarloaf Massacre, but actually had survived.

The first is Peter Crum (also spelled Croom). On his file card it is recorded that he served through early 1781 as a substitute. During the chaos of the attack he more than likely fled the scene and in returning to civilization went back to his normal life -- not back to the militia.

I also found a Peter Shelhamer in the files as surviving the massacre, but was unable to discover anything more about him.

I couldn’t help but question those responsible for the massacre. I have already questioned who made up the raiding party, but I had to now question who was leading the party. The plaque states that Roland Montour was responsible for the raiding party. Apart from the information on the plaque, I found no other early references stating he was leading (or even a part of) the raiding party.

As I stood there reading the plaque on the monument, I came to fully realize that this was no mere snippet of history, but an important piece of Pennsylvania's history as it reflected the violence that was occurring in the wilds of Pennsylvania at the time.

This was just one of the conflicts that was occurring in the region that had reached its apex with the Great Runaway in 1778, along with the butchering of 226 people in what is now known as the Wyoming Massacre (also in 1780) at present day Wilkes-Barre. These men had been deployed into an area still suffering from the horrific events of that massacre to bring peace to a violent region.

In my mind's eye I could see the dense growth that the militiamen had to make their way through so long ago; they had finally found a nice clearing in which to rest along the Little Nescopeck Creek. The searching for the raiding party had taken its toll upon them as they traveled and for one instant, they allowed their guard to drop as they rested. It was at that moment the raiding party discovered the militia and ambushed them. In the chaos, the men fled, tossing aside their weapons and packs to lighten their load as they fled. The dead were scalped and left where they fell, while they tied the hands of those men they captured.

The monument is located along Walnut Street in Conyngham. There is very little parking at the marker, so use caution.

Pennsylvania Historical Marker for
The Sugarloaf Massacre
And to add even more confusion to the Sugarloaf Massacre. The Pennsylvania Historical Marker lacated along Route 93 has information on it that is wrong (and yes they Historical Commission is aware of it but due to finances probably will never replace it with the correct information). The marker states that the unit attacked was from Northumberland County rather than Northampton County.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Haunting in Hickory Run

Hickory Run Cemetery
Hickory Run State Park
Hickory Run State Park, located a stone's throw south of Interstate 80 at the western edge of the Pocono Mountains, attracts countless visitors each year who come to explore the natural features of the park. The park’s 15,990 acres has more than forty-four miles of hiking trails for those seeking adventure. The most common destination in the park is the large boulder field which became a National Natural Landmark in 1967. In 1993, it would be declared a State Park Natural Area.

But I wasn't here to explore the boulder field.

I parked at the office and stepped out into the cool afternoon air. While others who were parked in the lot crossed the wooden bridge and hiked along the Shades of Death Trail, Zech and I crossed the road, pausing long enough to take some pictures of Hickory Run before walking up the trail that led to the old cemetery. Though not handicapped accessible, the path is an easy walk up the bank to the cemetery.

The cemetery rests beneath a canopy of pine allowing their needles to carpet the ground hiding many of the broken stones. Despite the road being only feet away, the area seemed so quiet and peaceful. Many of the stones that remain are weathered and the cemetery is in poor condition overall, but that did not stop me from studying the stones of those who originally settled the area. At one time a stone wall surrounded this piece of sacred ground, but most of the wall has vanished with time though it does still exist in a couple places around the perimeter of the cemetery.

Studying the stones, one date immediately caught my attention. October 30, 1849. It was the tragic events that happened in the early morning hours that would become the origin for one of the parks enduring stories.

Grave of Elizabeth
"Lizzie" Gould
The community of Hickory Run grew around the lumbering industry and at one point six saw mills existed on the creek. Floods in 1849 pretty much wiped the town out and a fire in 1875 wiped out many of the remaining mills and destroyed acres of forest. Only a handful of buildings remain from the time the community existed; these include the present park office and the chapel. Other foundations can be spotted among the trees and the old cemetery remains hidden on the hillside overlooking Hickory Run.

One of the early settlers in the area was Isaac Gould. Isaac and his wife, Susan, settled along Hickory Run about two miles above the town of the same name. They built a small cabin along the stream where they raised their seven children. Isaac made his living in the lumber industry and had several saw mills in the area.

Upstream from the Gould home, another saw mill was being constructed and the dam for this mill was being built on top of loose rock and quicksand. Isaac had approached the Philadelphia owner begging for him to halt construction, but Gould's pleas were ignored.

In October of 1849, Gould's fears were increased as a series of storms flooded the area. Weeks of rain had weakened the dam even more and on October 30th, tragedy struck.

Susan was at home alone with Joanna, Elijah, Caroline, and Winfield (the baby); Isaac was away that evening on business. I want to note that many versions of this story include other children of Susan and Isaac. Their daughter Susan had sadly passed away in 1836 and the youngest two, Isabella and William, had yet to be born.

Their daughter Elizabeth, who is most often referred to as Lizzie in most versions of the sad tale, arrived near dusk on the evening of October 29 after spending the day running errands. Her return brought news from town; many feared that the dam would not last through the night. Despite those fears Susan remained at the house, putting the children to bed. As the children slept, Susan remained awake that night watching and listening for danger.

Grave of the West children
At four o'clock that morning, she heard the noise she had dreaded. It started as a low rumble that grew louder and louder. I can only imagine the fear she felt as the realization that the dam had finally given away overcame her. A wall of water slammed into the Gould cabin with enough force that the building was lifted off of its foundation and moved roughly five hundred feet downstream. The wall of water was high enough that it completely submerged the one and a half story cabin.

After the wall of water had passed, Susan managed to break a hole in the roof and got her children onto the roof where they called for help. Two mill hands arrived in the aftermath of the destruction to help the family. All of the children were found safe, except one; Lizzie was missing. An initial search failed to find her.

Susan told their rescuers that she was not able to find Lizzie, but claimed that she could hear her calling out for her. Though none of the others could hear the phantom voice, the mill hands followed Susan and soon discovered Lizzie's lifeless body beneath a pile of driftwood near the house.
 
Lizzie was not the only one who lost her life that evening. Winfield, the baby, would later die from overexposure to the cold that night. The town blacksmith, Jacob West, lost his wife, Elizabeth, and four of his children (Diana, Jacob, Ursula, and Scott) in the flood waters of that fateful night. All of them are buried in the Hickory Run Cemetery under one stone.

Later investigation would prove that the dam collapsed due to being built on unstable ground.

As Zech and I explored the cemetery, I could not help but be overcome with a feeling of sadness. So many young, innocent lives had been lost in a disaster that could have easily been prevented. This feeling of sorrow seemed centered around one particular stone. When I passed the stone the first time I failed to notice whose grave it was. Zech knelt to look at it and revealed that it was the grave of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Gould.

Legend claims that Lizzie never found peace. Many have reported seeing the ghost of a young girl roaming the park. She has been spotted playing along the banks of Hickory Run and also in the forest surrounding the old cemetery. Some visitors have seen her walking along Route 534, which runs through the park. Others claim that on cold, rainy nights the sound of her crying can be heard.

But Lizzie may not be the only ghost haunting the park. Some have heard the sound of a woman’s voice calling out Lizzie’s name late at night. Could Susan’s ghost also be haunting the park searching for her daughter?

Zech and I finally left the cemetery after paying our respects to those buried there.

Hickory Run
Though we did not see her that day, I did have something that caused me to scratch my head and would cause me to return to the park to photograph the cemetery again. When I arrived home after our visit, I started going through the pictures I had taken that day. Every single picture turned out clear and in detail, except the three close-up pictures of Lizzie’s grave. All three of them were out of focus and it was only the pictures of her grave. I’ve been back to visit her grave a number of times since and have taken a number of pictures of her grave without any issues. I can't say it was paranormal, but I have a hard time figuring out why only three of forty-some pictures of the cemetery did not take correctly. I will admit it may have been something I did and just didn’t realize it, or maybe Lizzie did not want her stone photographed that day.

If you choose to visit this old cemetery at Hickory Run State Park, please use caution and respect. Though they are still legible, the stones are old and fragile. It seems each time I visit there are more stones broken, so please watch your step and be respectful.

To find Hickory Run Cemetery park at the office and look straight across the road; you'll see Hickory Run and the old chapel. Walk across Route 534 diagonally to the right and you should see an unmarked trail going up over the bank. The cemetery is roughly forty to fifty feet from Route 534 and if the leaves are off the trees, you can see some of the monuments from the road.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Along the Way: The Stockton Mine Disaster

Sign along the road marking the site of the disaster
The collection of houses known as Stockton lies approximately two miles east of Hazleton, and in all honesty, it is one of those places one has to want to visit in order to get there. The only reason I knew I was on the correct road was due to its name: The Stockton Mountain Road. At one point though I passed the intersection with Stockton Road, but the directions I had at hand told me to stay on the Stockton Mountain Road.

A little over a mile south of this intersection I saw the sign for the memorial and parked in the grassy area next to it. Stepping out into the cool autumn air I quickly took in my surroundings. The wooden sign at the edge of the road marked the disaster and a short walk away was another memorial. This one was a granite slab surrounded by an iron fence.

Walking over to it, I noticed the names written on it. Elizabeth Rough. Margaret Rough. Isaac Rough. Elizabeth Rough. George Swank. William Swank. Next to the granite marker is a second stone; this one was a government marker provided for veterans and I noticed it was for Isaac Rough.

These victims didn’t appear to be miners, but instead appeared to be members of two families; the Swanks and Roughs. I suddenly realized that I was not standing at a memorial for the disaster, but instead was standing at a cemetery for the victims.


The marker for those whose bodies were never recovered
The mine disaster happened on December 18, 1869, at five in the morning. That morning the ground shook before opening up, swallowing two homes as the mine shaft collapsed. The shaft was part of the East Sugar Loaf Mines. A note: there does seem to be a debate about how often the mine shaft was being worked. Just about every article I’ve come across begins by saying that the shaft had been abandoned for close to fifteen years, but ends with the statement that two miners working in it were believed to have perished.

After I first posted this article, I received a note from a good friend who were up in the region. David states that often companies would pay other to go into the mine and "pillar rob." To "rob the pillar" means that the miners would destroy the pillars that were holding up the roof of the mine. As the pillars were being destroyed more weight was being supported only by the walls of the mine. The unsupported weight would eventually cause the roof to collapse. Looking into this a little deeper, it also appears that many of the small one or two person operations would apply this tactic, going into the abandoned mines and "robbing the pillars."

Early in the morning of December 18, 1869, a hole opened up, dropping three houses roughly forty feet into the mine with no warning. The first two houses that fell into the mine belonged to the Swank and the Rough families. A third house also fell into the opening, but those inside managed to escape. Those who were unable to escape were killed as the mine collapsed. Another note: there is some debate on how far the buildings fell. The original articles state that they fell forty feet. However a later article that covered the placing of a stone for Isaac Rough states they bodies were buried under four hundred feet of earth. I do believe that the four hundred is a misprint.

The official list of victims is: George Swank, his wife and three children; Mr. Rough, his wife, daughter, and mother. Please read the after note about the victims at the end of the article.

One girl did manage to survive the disaster. One young girl (I’m not sure which family the girl was a member of) managed to escape the house, but the ground crumbled under her feet and she fell into the pit. Landing on top of the ruins, she would quickly be rescued.
Marker for the six bodies
That were never recovered
After saving the young girl, rescuers began the task of recovering the deceased. By the evening of December 19, the bodies of George’s wife and two of his children were recovered; they would be interred at St. John’s Cemetery near Hazleton. The bodies of Mr. Eaton and Mr. Baker, listed as miners in newspaper accounts, were recovered on Monday evening, but their identities remain elusive.

The cause of the disaster was due to the closeness of the shaft to the surface. Only twenty feet of earth existed between the surface and the mine shaft. When the mine collapsed, the falling dirt blocked the shaft off, making it impossible to recover the bodies via the mine. If these men were "pillar robbing," then they may have caused tbe disaster that occurred that fateful day.

In 1924, a marker for Isaac Rough was placed at the spot, honoring him for his service with the Twenty-Eighth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.

I finished paying my respects to those buried here and to those who lost their lives in the mine collapse and left them in the silence of the cool afternoon sun. If you choose to visit, please be respectful of the area.


Marker placed in 1924
Honoring Isaac Rough's military service
An after note: In doing the research for this, I’m still pondering how many perished that day. The official count is ten people killed in the disaster. However, I've done a number of counts, and ten is not one of the numbers I've come up with.

Possibility Number One, using the newspaper accounts at the time of the disaster: George and his wife, their four children; Isaac Rough and his wife, daughter, and Isaac’s mother; plus two miners. This gives a total of twelve killed in the disaster.

Possibility Number Two, using the newspaper account for the dedication of Isaac’s tombstone: George and his wife and their nine children; Isaac and his wife and two children. This one has no mention of Isaac’s mother or the miners. This gives a total of fifteen victims.

Possibility Number Three, using cemetery information: Six are buried at the cave-in spot and three bodies were recovered. This count brings the total to nine victims. Adding in the two miners listed as being killed, that would bring the total victims to eleven. This is the number that I believe to be correct.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

In the Line of Duty: Sergeant Timothy McCarthy

Grave of Sergeant Timothy McCarthy
LIncoln Cemetery, Chambersburg
“So whose grave are we looking for?” Zech asked as he entered through the gates of Lincoln Cemetery.

“I’m not going to tell you,” I replied. “But you’ll know it when you see it.”

“Like that one over there?” He pointed to a small stone nearby.

“Yeah,” I replied as I looked other to where he pointed. “Like that one over there.”

I found a place to park the vehicle and we walked over to the memorial. The stone itself looks like many of the others surrounding it except for the large plague affixed to it. The large plague, in the shape of a Keystone, marks the resting place of Sergeant Timothy G. McCarthy.

Born in Killarney, Ireland, on July 25, 1888, McCarthy served four years in the British army, having lied about his age. When he was to ship out for a tour in India, his mother provided him fare to go to America instea because she was afraid he could contract the fever and die in India like one of his brothers had. With the outbreak of World War One, he joined the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division and quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant due to his former experience in the British Army. Returning home he enlisted with the Constabulary in Massachusetts and on September 1, 1919, he joined the ranks of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Throughout his career McCarthy remained a dignified officer; he was remembered for his swift, yet just, action. He was known to accept any case given to him and seeing it through from start to finish. Due to his military experience he was a leader who had the respect of other officers.

But his dedication and honesty isn’t what McCarthy is most remembered for. He is noted for the bond he shared with his partner. He found a loyal and trustful partner in a German Shepherd dog named Omar who was always at McCarthy’s side. They remained inseparable to the time McCarthy gave his life in the line of duty.

On May 11, 1931, Sergeant McCarthy and Omar left the Troop “E” headquarters in Harrisburg and drove to Chambersburg. Accompanying the duo was Private Philip Dunne, a new recruit in the police force. The trio spent the night at the police substation in Chambersburg before continuing to McConnellsburg the next morning. Joining them on this leg of the journey was Private Russell Knies of Chambersburg. Upon their arrival in McConnellsburg, the group met with Glenn Yonkers (also spelled Younkers in some references), the sheriff of Fulton County and Deputy Roy Sipes

Sheriff Yonkers had contacted the state police to help in assisting with the apprehension of Marshall Lodge. Lodge was a thirty-one year old mountaineer who was known to have mental problems with an explosion temper. Lodge was known to always be heavily armed and the community feared the presence of the muscular six foot tall man.

Knowing that Lodge would recognize the sheriff and his deputy, the plan was for the troopers to approach the house and apprehend Lodge. McCarthy’s plan was to peacefully approach and talk to the man hoping to prevent any unnecessary violence. The sheriff would drive the group to a spot nearby and then wait while McCarthy and his men approached the house. With this being the plan, the groups set out for the Lodge homestead in Crystal Spring, about twenty-five miles away.

When the group arrived at a hill overlooking the Lodge homestead, roughly four hundred yards away, the sheriff asked Sergeant McCarthy what his plans were. McCarthy supposedly replied that he was going to go arrest Lodge. The car with the State Police officers in it, passed the sheriff’s and drove toward the Lodge house.

As McCarthy and his men pulled into the yard, Mrs. Lodge (Marshall’s mother) was spotted entering the house. Despite the fact that Marshall was a dangerous man, his mother entered warning him of the arrival of McCarthy and his men.

The group approached the house and Mrs. Lodge stepped back out on the porch and invited the men inside. The group stepped up on the porch and McCarthy stepped into the kitchen of the house.

He asked Mrs. Lodge how her boy was doing and she replied “he was doing very bad” and “had been so for the past couple of days.” A noise to the right of McCarthy caused him to turn and face Marshall Lodge who suddenly appeared in the doorway that led upstairs.

Sergeant McCarthy's Memorial
The silence of the room was broken by McCarthy as he greeted the madman. Before any of the officers could react, Marshall swung up his right arm and shot the sergeant at point blank range with a .22 revolver. Letting out a string of curses, Lodge slammed the door shut and fled upstairs.

McCarthy, though mortally wounded called out “I am not hurt. Get him! Get him!” The men guided the dying sergeant into the yard. Private Knies, who was now the senior officer, ordered Private Duane to get McCarthy to the car and see how badly he was wounded. They barely made it off of the porch before McCarthy slumped to the ground for the final time.

Knies reentered the house to apprehend Lodge. Mrs. Lodge refused to let the officers take her son and remained between the two men. Marshall began to fire at the officer, unconcerned for the life of his mother – Knies did not try to return fire as he feared he would hit Mrs. Lodge. Having little options, Knies retreated out onto the porch. He attempted to peer through a window to see where Marshall was at in the kitchen and was greeted with a bullet that wounded him above the right eye.

Knies and Duane retreated to the car to obtain tear gas as Marshall continued firing wildly at the two officers. They managed to get to safety behind the car. They opened the door and were greeted by a brown streak as Omar bolted from the car. He crossed the yard and paused for a moment at the body of his fallen partner before charging towards the house. Around the house he circled, paused to bark and growl at the spots where Marshall lay hid.

Knies started toward the house with the tear gas. Lodge saw him coming and opened the front door and fired the shotgun at Knies as he attempted to cross the yard. As Knies retreated to safety behind the car, Lodge peppered his backside with another blast from the shotgun. In the fire fight, one of the bullets hit Lodge in the arm.

Trooper Duane was sent to a nearby farmhouse to call for help as Knies, Yonkers and Stiles kept the house surrounded. A call for help brought local police, state police, and armed volunteers to the Lodge homestead. With bullets flying, it was amazing that no one else was hit.

At some point, Marshall realized that Omar’s barking was informing the officers of his position and he shot Omar. Despite his injury, Omar continued barking until he no longer had the strength to do his duty and he managed to crawl to the fallen McCarthy and lay down beside his body as bullets continued flying through the air.

Finally Mrs. Lodge appeared at the door and one of the officers called out saying that if Marshall would surrender they would not to shoot him. She reentered the house and a couple minutes later reappeared to tell the officers to come and get him. Several entered the house to find Marshall standing there. They disarmed Marshall and took him into custody.

Sergeant McCarthy, a veteran of the force for twelve and a half years, was buried with full honors in Lincoln Cemetery, complete with “TAPS” being played and a twenty-one gun salute. Not a penny from his estate was used to pay for the burial; donations from state and local police officers and the Chambersburg community covered the expenses.

Marshall Lodge was taken to the hospital in Chambersburg where his right arm was amputated. He was committed to the Institution for the Criminal Insane at Fair View in Wayne County. Marshall spent the remainder of his life there, dying in 1969.

Trooper Knies would eventually recover from his wounds and returned to duty. He would advance through the ranks and in 1963 retired as a Major in the force.

Trooper Duane, at the urging of his parents, retired in June 1931.

Omar, despite the shot that should have been fatal, recovered from his wounds too. He was presented with the American Kennel Club Medal of Heroism in November of 1931, having the distinction of being the only dog decorated with the award by the State Police.

We left the spot in silence as we remembered the fallen officer. I wanted to tell Zech the rest of the story, but the dog lover in me knew I would cry if I spoke the words.

The story goes that the day Omar returned to duty, he walked over to the box that held Timothy’s belongings, sniffed the crate and lay down beside it. He refused to move and constantly cried for his dead partner until the box was finally removed.

Sergeant Timothy McCarthy is buried in Lincoln Cemetery in Chambersburg.  When entering the cemetery, go straight ahead. His grave is under some trees to the left. Please be respectful when visiting.