Thursday, July 28, 2016

Along the Way: The McCutcheon Monument

My first view of the McCutcheon Monument
Taylor Cemetery, Centerville
The moment Taylor Cemetery came into view, I spotted the monument that I sought. The grave stands out among the countless graves in the cemetery, and - no offense meant - you would have to be blind to miss it. Parking on the road that went through the cemetery, Zech and I got out to photograph the memorial located along the Old National Road, between Centerville and Brownsville in the southwestern part of the state.

We were barely out of the vehicle before another truck entered the cemetery and parked behind us. “Can I help you with something?” the man asked as he got out of his truck and walked over to where we stood.

“We just stopped to take some pictures of the monument,” I replied. “We’re passing through and I wanted to get a couple of it.”

“Passing through? Where are you from?” he asked. When I told him he scratched his head for a moment before responding. “You know about this clear up there? So what do you know about the monument?” the man asked. Before either of us could respond, he continued telling us the story of James McCutcheon’s monument, known by many early reports (and by some locals to this day) as “The Spite Monument.”

The McCutcheon Monument
Notice the small stone in front to the left of the entrance?
That''s James' resting place
James, who is often referred to by his middle name - Shannon - in many early articles, was a wealthy farmer who lived near Centerville. The bachelor was born in 1824 and made his fortune when coal was discovered on his farm. When he died in 1902, his had an estate valued around $33,000, though some figure the estate was valued closer to $40,000 if not more.

Before his death he contracted T. B. Wright and Sons from nearby Brownsville to start construction of a memorial at the cost of $20,000. After his death, all of his possessions were to be sold and after his debts paid, a fence of some sort was to be placed around his monument, with a monument in each corner in the style of the main monument. He ordered the executors of his will to purchase a forty square foot plot for this monument to be built upon.

The executors of his estate did their job well and a large obelisk was erected upon the plot – an obelisk that was eighty-five feet tall. Let me repeat that – the monument was eighty-five feet tall. That is a little over eight stories tall. 

According to the gentleman we talked to (and I’m sorry I never did get his name) those eighty-five feet were above the ground. He stated that the monument had a base that went roughly eighteen feet into the ground. I would imagine it had to go deep into the ground for support, but his word was the only time I've read or heard this.

Surrounding the monument is a low granite wall, with an obelisk in each corner. On the front of the memorial is engraved “James S. McCutcheon 1824-1902.” In front of the memorial is a much smaller stone that marks James’ final resting place.

The base of the monument
Is all the remains
So what was James reasoning behind the monument? He didn’t want his sister to have any of his money. She had been his housekeeper and when she finally married, she moved away, leaving him alone. He built the monument to spite his sister and her family.

The memorial stood until July 27, 1936, when it was hit by a tornado. The top portion of the monument was ripped off, leaving only the base which still stands eighteen feet tall. Sections of the monument were scattered over the cemetery grounds and remained there until the cemetery caretakers offered them free to anybody who would move them out of the grounds. McCutcheon had failed in his will to provide any money for the upkeep of the monument, so there was no money to rebuild the obelisk.

“My mother remembers it as she grew up,” the man concluded. “She grew up on the ridge over there and said it could be plainly seen from the house. And that is over half a mile away.”

We thanked him for the information before he left and after a couple more pictures we paid our respects before departing.

Like all cemeteries, please be respectful if you choose to visit.

I want to add an additional note: When I initially researching James McCutcheon and his monument, a number of recently published books claim he spent his money on the memorial because he did not want his children to have his fortune. I’m not sure where they got this information, because none of the early articles state this. Every article I’ve read (from this death announcement to the storm that toppled the monument) states that he was not married, nor had any children. Our storyteller also confirmed James was a bachelor, so where these modern sources got this misinformation from is not known.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Along the Way: Clay's Covered Bridge

Clay's Covered Bridge, Little Buffalo State Park
One of the nicest - and often overlooked - parks in our system of state parks, has to be Little Buffalo State Park. I admit I have failed to stop and visit it in the past. A number of times I had driven by the entrance to the park, but due to one reason or another failed to stop.

Little Buffalo State Park takes its name from Little Buffalo Creek, which flows through the boundaries of the park. Exactly why it was called Little Buffalo Creek is not known, though tradition claims it was named after the buffalo that once lived here.

David Watts built a charcoal furnace here in 1808 and the area became known as the Juniata Iron Works. In 1811 John Koch opened the Blue Ball Tavern which he operated until 1841. Around 1865 a farmhouse was built on the foundation of the tavern and that building still stands in the park today.

Also within the borders of the park is Shoaff’s Mill. The mill was built in the early 1840s and was purchased by William Shoaff in 1849 and remained in the family until it closed in 1940. The area became known as Shoaff’s Mill and was made up of eleven tenement homes, a blacksmith shop, a carpenter’s shop, and of course, the gristmill. An interesting side note: In researching this entry, I found that William was drafted to serve in the Civil War, but was exempted from serving. The reasoning was his mill produced flour that was used by Union troops.

When the park opened in 1972, the main feature was Holman Lake, which was created by the damming of Little Buffalo Creek. The lake still brings many to the park to boat or fish.

My first visit to Little Buffalo State Park with Zech did not include any of these. Instead, we were searching out and photographing Perry County’s covered bridges. One of these bridges currently resides within the borders of the park.

Parking near the base of the dam I was thankful I did not have to hike up the steps on such a humid day. Instead, we turned our attention to a well marked path and enjoyed the shade for our very short walk to our destination.

Clay's Covered Bridge
A couple hundred yards away stood Clay’s Covered Bridge. Also known as Wahneta Covered Bridge the spot where the bridge originally stood was roughly a mile west of its current location and currently under the waters of Holman Lake. It was originally built in 1890 by George Harting and in the 1970s was moved to its current location in the park. It is roughly eighty-one feet in length, has a single span, and is a Burr Truss design. The bridge collapsed in January 1994 due to heavy snows, was rebuilt and reopened in 1997.

The bridge spans a mostly dry Little Buffalo Creek (the portion that comes from the dam rather than from the spillway) and is open to pedestrians only. The location of the bridge allowed us plenty of time to set up in different locations around the bridge. We did have to wait out a handful of walkers, but for the most part, Zech and I had the place to ourselves.

The only thing I have to warn about if you venture out to visit Clay’s Covered Bridge is when I entered the coordinates for the bridge into my GPS, my unit wanted to take me down a gated off road. The road to turn onto is Boat Launch Road – follow it a short distance to the parking area at the base of the dam. The bridge is a very short walk from the entrance into the parking area.

Clay's Covered Bridge
Over a mostly dry
Little Buffalo Creek
A side note: I was asked about the identification and how to identify the designs, but to be honest, I’m not one hundred percent on my covered bridge identification yet – a good source is the book “Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges: A Guide” which identifies the bridges and what type they are. The guide, though it calls itself complete, does not include modern covered bridges


Monday, July 11, 2016

Regina's Song



Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church
Stouchburg
Music has a very important place in our everyday life. We all have favorite songs that we enjoy playing over and over again – songs that we crank up loud and sing at the top of our lungs. We all have those songs that hold a special place in our hearts as they bring back memories when we hear them played. A song can send me back to events that happened years and years ago or take me once again to the place I was when I first heard it. Without a doubt music has been a very important part of my life growing up.

It was a song that brought me to Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church on the western edge of Stouchsburg.

Alone, yet not alone am I,
Though in this solitude so drear;
I feel my Saviour always nigh,
He comes the very hour to cheer;
I am with Him, and He with me,
E'en here alone I cannot be

There are a handful of different versions of the lyrics for the hymn Regina's mother supposedly sang. Though they are all very similar, the lyrics of "Allein, und doch nicht ganz allein" that I used come from Sipe's The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania.

The beautiful old church sits on the southern side of Route 422, overlooking the rolling hills of southeastern Pennsylvania. I had passed the historic church a number of times when visiting friends who lived nearby and I had thought about stopping yet never took the time to explore the church and cemetery.

As I approached the church, I could not help but be in awe of the magnificent structure which was erected between the years 1785 and 1786. The church and cemetery are often referred to as Long’s Church and Cemetery, named after Reverend A. Johnson Long who was the pastor here from 1874 until his death in 1908.

My attention shifted from the church to the old cemetery opposite the church – while not impossible, it was going to be a challenge to find one particular stone among the older weathered stones. The beautiful old cemetery shows great care for its age and I could not wait to explore the grounds.

I crossed the parking lot to the stone wall that surrounds the cemetery in order to get a better look at this historic cemetery. A "newer" stone immediately caught my attention; only a few feet away from where I stood, was the memorial I was seeking.

It was the memorial marker for Regina, the Indian captive.

Memorial for Regina Leininger
Long's Cemetery, Stouchburg
The story of Regina is an interesting one that has been interwoven with fact and lore, yet remains an interesting story in the annals of Pennsylvania's history. Sadly, more people know her story through the legend, and not through the actual events of her life.

Regina's story appears in history in the Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania. It is this publication that drew interest in Regina's story and has made it a part of Pennsylvania's legends and lore. According to the report, Regina's story comes from Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the son-in-law of Conrad Weiser, who was told the story by the widow of John Hartman.

The legend of Regina starts on October 16, 1755 when she was taken prisoner by raiding Indians in Lebanon County. The Indians killed Regina's father and brother and took her and her sister, Barbara, captive. According to legend, she was two years old at the time and for the next seventeen years was raised among the Indians.

At the end of Pontiac's War, Regina was among the captives returned. Her mother looked at the children, but did not recognize her daughter. At the insistence of Colonel Bouquet, Regina's mother was asked to think of something that might help her daughter recall her past. Her mother started singing the hymn she had often shared with Regina when she was a baby. Regina rushed forward and was reunited with her birth mother.

Ever since the report was offered by the Commission, the debate has raged on, "Who exactly was this Regina Hartman?"

In Sipe's The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania (1931), he records the events of Regina's story as told in the Commission's report and then adds facts that identify Regina.

He states that Reverend Muhlenberg in Hallische Nachrichten, records that while the widow of John Hartman of Lebanon County was visiting him she told him the story of Regina. The mistake that early state historians made in reading this was they assumed that Regina was the daughter of the widow Hartman. At no time does Reverend Muhlenberg record this in his writings - the Reverend merely states that the story was told to him by the widow of John Hartman. At no point does Reverend Muhlenberg ever identify the last name of Regina. This may possibly be due to the fact his readers would have known the people in his story and that Regina was not related to the Widow Hartman who shared the story with him.

Looking at the date of the supposed massacre and abduction, the date instantly caught my attention and should have caught the attention of any state historian. I'm really surprised that the members of the Commission did not put it together, but for some reason they didn't. A reign of terror would begin on October 16, 1755 when Delaware Indians attacked the German settlements on Penn’s Creek, near present-day Selinsgrove and New Berlin. Among the captured were Barbara Leininger and her sister Rachel (Regina). More on the massacre and Regina's abduction can be found in the entry The Penn's Creek Massacre

Yet it surprises me that to this day some still debate who Regina was. Though it is obvious to most that Regina is Regina (Rachel) Leininger, I still read where people insist that Regina Hartman actually existed.

Regina's Memorial in Long's Cemetery

As I stood before the marker placed in her honor, I could not help but think of the deep meaning that song had in both the lives of Regina and her mother. I know the music that means so much to me in my life - the songs that cause memories to flood my mind, both good and bad, happy and sad. Some get sung in joy and others get turned off as I try to escape the memory that pops into my mind, but each one has a special place in my life.

The marker was placed by the Berks County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1958. It remembers Regina, who lies in an unmarked grave in the old cemetery. I found it interesting her memorial recognizes both names she is known by - Regina Leininger in life and Regina Hartman in legend.

After paying my respects to Regina and remembering her story, I carefully made my way around the cemetery. A number of the older graves have a newer stone next to it, placed there by their descendants. Some of the stones are hard to read, but many of them can still easily be read.

As with all cemeteries, if you decide to visit this one, please be respectful and careful. Many of the old stones can still be read, but many are in fragile condition. Regina's stone is right inside the wall by the parking lot and can be easily viewed without entering the grounds.

I also want to add this important piece of information. When this article was previously posted, I had a number of people ask about the descendants of Barbra and Regina. I honestly have not looked into their families beyond the story of Regina being reunited with her mother after her years in captivity.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Along the Way: Cucumber Falls

Cucumber Falls, Ohiopyle State Park
Taken from the overlook
This past spring I had the opportunity to visit Ohiopyle State Park to photograph a number of the waterfalls located there. After spending the day exploring the park and its natural beauty with my cousins Sue and Kevin, I left questioning why it had taken me so long to finally visit.

Of the half dozen or so notable waterfalls located in Ohiopyle State Park, Cucumber Falls is the second easiest to gain access to. Only Ohiopyle Falls on the Youghiogheny River is easier to access, being located next to the visitor’s center.

Cucumber Falls is located along Kentuck Road, just south of the town of Ohiopyle. Following Route 381 south from the town of Ohiopyle Kentuck Road is the first road on the right. A short drive up the hill and I discovered the parking lot for Cucumber Falls right along the road. A very short walk to a overlook gives the first view of the waterfall, which is located about a hundred yards from the spot that the stream empties into the Youghiogheny River.

Cucumber Falls
Located on Cucumber Run, the falls are a plunge type of waterfall that falls roughly thirty feet from the crest to the pool below. A plunge waterfall is one in which the water, once it goes over the crest, does not touch the rock face behind it. Plunge falls are often referred to by many as “veils” or “bridal veils” due to the fact the falling water appears to form a veil, or curtain. The space between the water and the rocks behind Cucumber Falls is great enough that you can walk behind the curtain of water. I did not personally take up that challenge the day of my visit due to the fact I did not have dry clothes with me and was unwilling to chance slipping and falling into the water – maybe next time I visit.

I’ve visited a number of waterfalls over the years, and I can honestly say that Cucumber Falls is among my top ten favorite waterfalls. It is in a very picturesque hollow and no matter where you’re taking a picture from, it is a challenge to find a “bad spot” to photograph the falls from.

Cucumber Falls
Yes, you can walk behind the falls
No, I did not walk behind them this trip
A couple thing to keep in mind when visiting Cucumber Falls:

1.  Cucumber Falls is a very short and easy walk from the parking area. This will take you to the overlook. There are steps then down to the base of the falls.

2. You really can’t take a bad picture of the falls. I’m not an expert at photographing waterfalls, but of those I have, this is one of a handful that no matter where I set up the camera I was able to take a nice picture of the falls.

3. You want to visit after a rain or in a wet season. The day I visited it had rained the day before and that morning giving the waterfall a nicer appearance. I’ve looked at other pictures people have taken during various times of the year and – while nice – the waterfall doesn’t seem as spectacular in my opinion.

4. If you choose to wander behind the falls, please be careful – wet rocks tend to be slippery.

Cucumber Falls
My personal favorite of the pictures I took of the falls

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Mystifying Murder of Miss Eugenia Martineau

The Berks County Cemetery for the Unemployed
AKA: Berks County's Potter's Field
As seen from Cedar Top Road
A feeling of sadness lingered in the air as I paused at the open spot in the fence where a gate once existed to keep vehicles out of the sacred piece of land located along Cedar Top Road, just off of Route 724 east of Shillington. The setting sun cast eerie shadows across the field as I observed my surroundings. The only thing that identifies this piece of land as anything other than an empty field is a decorative iron arch that stands in the middle of it; the top of the arch has the words “Potters Field” cut into it.

Almost every county had a Potter’s, or Pauper’s, Field – a place where the poor, the homeless, the unknown, and the unclaimed were buried. The Berks County Potter’s Field is located on the grounds of what was once the Berks County Home, also known as the Almshouse Farm. While the arch has been frowned upon by many because it denotes the land as the Potter’s Field, I’m not sure that the official name is much better – the Berks County Cemetery for the Unemployed – a name given to it in 1935 when the piece of land was first recognized as a cemetery. Before anybody states otherwise about the name: this is the name given in the April 4, 1835 Reading Eagle article and I have not discovered where, when, or if the name was officially shortened to the Berks County Cemetery, which many now refer to it as.

The arch is the only sign that marks
This spot as a cemetery
Turning my attention away from the arch, I scanned the ground and quickly started to note the presence of unmarked graves between the entrance and the arch. None of the burials are marked and many of the earliest burials have been lost forever (including the grave of the lady that had brought me here). That did not going to stop me from visiting the cemetery in order to say a quick prayer for her and the other nameless forgotten people who rest here eternally.

Her name was Eugenia Martineau. But then again, that may not have been her name at all.

The tragic events happened in the summer of 1839 according to most newspaper sources. Or it may have been the summer of 1842 as some modern newspaper article claim. I personally lean towards the earlier of the two dates, which is the date I am using here.

The young lady known as Eugenia had the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first unsolved murder victim in Berks County. She would become known as Eugenia Martineau because that was the name found embroidered on some of her personal effects. While detectives believed that this was her real name, they had no definitive answers to prove this was truly her name. For the purposes of this journey, I will continue to refer to her as Eugenia.

The unsolved murder of Eugenia Martineau begins one Saturday in the summer of 1839. That fateful weekend started with the arrival of Eugenia in the town of Reading with a well dressed, unidentified man. Having arrived in town by train that ran from Philadelphia to Reading, the two took lodging at the White Horse, a hotel and tavern run by Jonathan Greth, located at the intersection of Seventh and Penn Streets. They rented the best room he had to offer, ate supper, and then retired to their room for the remainder of the evening.

The couple kept to themselves while in town. The customs of the day did not require guests to sign a register, so their identities were a mystery even to the tavern’s owner. Though they may have exchanged pleasantries with some of the residents of town, nobody seemed to recall much about the two strangers as they strolled about town. The one thing that people did remember was the young couple made a lovely pair. She was a beautiful lady in her late twenties and he was a stout, handsome man in his mid-thirties. While the exact description of the pair seems to have been lost over the years, one thing remains consistent – she was an absolute beauty who caught the attention of those around her.

Nothing Sunday morning hinted about the horror that was about to shock the residents of town. That morning the couple awoke and ate breakfast before leaving to attend services at a local church. After the service the couple returned to the tavern to enjoy lunch. Once they finished eating they announced that they were going to walk around town.


The grounds of the Berks County Cemetery
What happened that afternoon remains a mystery to this day. What is known is at dusk the man returned to the tavern alone and rushed upstairs to their room. After a couple of minutes, he came back down the stairs and asked Jonathan Greth if he had seen his wife. Greth reported he had not seen her since the couple had left earlier in the day.

The unidentified man claimed that he and his wife had been walking along the Schuykill River when they spotted a fox lurking nearby. His left his wife at the river’s edge to chase after the elusive creature. Failing to capture it, he returned to the spot he had left her to discover she had left. He rushed back to the tavern in hopes that she had returned and was waiting for him.

His story at this point already would have caused me – and should have caused Jonathan Greth – to ask questions, yet no questions were asked. Greth and his family left the stranger in the tavern, eating a hastily prepared dinner, to await his wife’s return while the family went to Sunday evening services. When they returned the man was gone from the dining area and they figured his wife had returned and the couple had retired for the evening.

Nothing seemed amiss until Monday morning when the couple failed to arrive for breakfast. Jonathan waited several hours before going upstairs to the room they were staying. Receiving no answer when he knocked, Jonathan called out for them again. With no answer, Greth forced open the door to discover the room was empty except for the trunk that the lady had brought with her.

At some point Monday morning, fisherman along the Schuylkill River made a horrific discovery. The lifeless body of a young lady was discovered hidden among the bushes at the edge of the river. The former beauty had been brutally beaten with a club or stone (the weapon was never discovered) before being strangled.

 At some point a connection was made – this was the same lady who had been seen staying at the White Horse. Jonathan Greth was brought to the riverside where he said that the lifeless body was that of the young lady who had been staying at his hotel.

The trunk that had been abandoned was opened in hopes of identifying the woman. The only clues within were some expensive clothing, some fine linens, and the name Eugenia Martineau embroidered on one of the handkerchiefs she possessed. Police determined the trunk was made in New York City by a saddler, but nothing became of that piece of information. The theory put forth by police was that the lady had recently arrived in America, possibly from France, and had bought the trunk upon her arrival.
Another view of the cemetery
An article from the July 9, 1911 The Reading Eagle suggested that among the items in the trunk were a number of draft notes that she could have cashed. Did the police did discover uncashed draft notes? If this is the case, then the police investigating the murder dropped the ball – with that piece of evidence they should have been able to place a definite name on the woman.

In searching for information about the murder, all of the information comes out of The Reading Eagle. The impression is the story never made it out of the Reading area. I have to wonder if the police in Philadelphia and New York were notified about the murder and if so, how much information was given.

It is sad to think that with the few clues given this would be a solvable case in today’s society, but yet it remains unsolved.

However, the woman has never been identified, nor has her companion, who police believed murdered her. Somewhere on the grounds of this cemetery, possibly a few feet away from where I was standing, rests the remains of the young lady.

A hundred questions raced through my mind. Was her name Eugenia? If not who was she? Where was she from? Why didn’t anybody miss her? Who was her companion? Was he a married? Was he from wealth or was he merely a con man? Where did he come from and where did he go?

While the majority of the clues have been lost and the events mostly forgotten, there are still enough pieces of the puzzle in existence that allowed me to put together some theories. One particular scenario kept echoing in my mind. He was married and from a wealthy family and she was pregnant with his child and was this his way of keeping her silent about their affair? I shuddered at the thought and hoped that it wasn't true as I pushed the thought aside, blaming the thought on watching one too many detective show on tv.

A car horn brought me out of my thoughts as I stood there. The police officer waved from his car as he slowly drove past. He didn’t stop to question, but I had the feeling that it was the sign it was time to go. I said a quick prayer for those forgotten ones buried in the hallowed spot before climbing back in the truck and leaving those buried here to rest silently in their eternal slumber.