Sunday, August 21, 2016

From the Files: A Haunted Apple Tree

I've read this story in a number of places, but this version comes from The McKean Democrat, August 24, 1900

Murder committed under it and now its fruit is streaked blood red

"It is probable that to the town of Douglass, Mass., alone belongs the reputation of having a haunted apple tree," writes Samuel S. Kingdon, in the Ladies' Home Journal. "The tradition of the town is that a foul murder was committed in the orchard many years ago, and sine then it has been haunted by the spirit of the victim. As the story goes, a peddler, whose custom it was to sell goods from house to house from a pack, laid down to rest at midday under a tree in the orchard, and before the day was ended he was found with a cruel gash in the neck, from which his life blood ebbed away. Suspicion rested on the owner of the orchard, and he was said to have been constantly followed by the spirit of the victim. In an attempt to escape from its dreaded presence he moved away. Then the apparition became a terror to all who had occasion to pass over the road at night. So potent was its influence - standing as it had habit of doing, under the apple tree, with one hand at its throat and the other extended as though seeking aid, and uttering shrill cries that could be heard half a mile away - that the location of the highway was changed, and it is now a long distance from the orchard. The old trees still bear fruit, and the apples from the one beneath which the peddler was killed are said to be streaked with red, resembling blood, the streaks extending from skin to core."

From the Files: A Haunted Barn

An article I stumbled across in the February 14, 1881 edition of The Reading Eagle.

Joseph Raymond, colored, and his wife and daughter, are tenants on the farm of Charles Gillen, farmer, in Pocopson township, Chester County. Raymond declares that their barn is haunted. The door won't remain closed, though both he and his employer have exhausted their combined ingenuity in fashioning devices to keep it shut. there is a rattling of chains, and heavy sounds proceed from the barn, when the door flies open again. Sometimes the family hears the tramp of horses' feet, and the sound of a threshing machine going at midnight. A particular board in the barn refuses to stay in place, although it has been secured with 10 nails and a rope. It flies off as soon as nailed on. Raymond thinks that money is had somewhere in the barn.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Along the Way: The 90th Pennsylvania Monument

Thee monument for
The 90th Pennsylvania Infantry
There possibly is no other place in Pennsylvania that attracts as many people as the Gettysburg Battlefield. I know one of the first trips I took after getting my driver's license was to visit the battlefield. I immediately found myself caught up in the history and the lore of these hallowed fields and ever since that first trip I found myself returning again and again, each time learning new and exciting pieces of information.

One particular monument that had caught my attention in my early journeys was the monument to the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry. Arriving at the junction of Mummasburg Road and Doubleday Avenue I found parking and walked to where the monument stood. One of three monuments to the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry, this one is the most recognized of the group. The monument design as earned it another name – the “Granite Tree” Monument.

The fine detail of the bark of the Stalwart Oak Tree (the name given during its dedication) gives the tree a life-like appearance. In places, the bark has been stripped by enemy fire and the top of the tree has been completely destroyed by a cannonball. 

The top of the monument
"Destroyed" by a cannonball
From one of the broken branches hangs a knapsack that is inscribed with the following: "90th P.V./2nd Brig. 2nd Div./First Corps." Above it is a shield that has the following etched into it: "Right of the First Corps - Here fought the 90th Penna infantry - On the afternoon of July 1, 1863 - Killed and mortally wounded 11, - wounded 44, captured or missing - 39, total 94, of 208 engaged - Organized at Phila. Oct. 1, 1861 - Mustered out, Nov. 26, 1864." Just above the shield, at the end of a broken branch, is the seal of the division.

The memorial was dedicated on September 3, 1888. The knapsack, shield, cannonball, rifle, scabbarded bayonet, canteen (which was sadly stolen in the early 1980s) and bird's nest were added April of the following year. Even the flank markers for the monument stay with the theme – they are tree stumps.

While the importance of the 90th Pennsylvania cannot be denied, it was the robin's nest at the top that caused me - and countless others - to stop and view the monument. After all, no other monument on the battlefield has a robin's nest on it, so why would the 90th Pennsylvania place such an item on their monument?

There is an interesting story that involves the robin's nest.

The legend of the robin's nest takes place in the midst of the fighting. During the heat of the battle a soldier saw the nest fall out of a tree that had just been hit by a cannonball. The soldier glanced into the nest and discovered a number of baby robins still alive within it. Braving enemy gunfire, he climbed a tree and placed the nest safely back in the branches.

The robin's nest
Or so the story goes.

I would like to believe that it did happen, but in the midst of the fighting, I fail to see how one man would risk everything and abandon his post to do such a thing. Maybe his superiors found it such a noble deed that they allowed it to happen. Maybe the soldier lacked common sense and braved the sharpshooters firing at him as he climbed the tree to replace it. Maybe he did rescue a nest that fell nearby and moved it to a nearby nook he could easily reach that kept the nest and bird family out of immediate harm.

There has been another thought of the origins of the robin’s nest that has appeared recently and one that I can place credence in. Maybe the robin’s nest is a symbol of new life – of a new beginning. The robin, like the mythical phoenix, is rising out of the ashes of war to start a new life.

While the true origins of the robin’s nest has never been uncovered (at least as far as I can tell), but the legend persists and the idea of the robin's nest was important enough that the veterans of the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry added the items to their monument.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Along the Way: Tillie Pierce Alleman

Grave of Matilda "Tillie" Pierce Alleman
A trip to Selinsgrove brought me to the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery, which was its own adventure finding its location. I was given directions to the cemetery, only when I arrived I discovered I was at the wrong one.

Pulling up a map of Selinsgrove, I soon discovered another nearby cemetery that was possibly the correct one. A couple minutes later I was wandering about the grounds of the small historic cemetery located at the corner of West Spruce and David Streets. At the edge of the cemetery was the grave of the town founder, Captain Anthony Selin – I paused for a moment to take some pictures of the memorial before continuing my wanderings.

Near the rear of the cemetery was the grave I came in search of – Matilda J. (Pierce) Alleman. Tillie, as she was known, was born March 11, 1848 in the house she grew up in, which is located at the corner of Baltimore and Breckenridge Streets in Gettysburg. She was the youngest daughter of the town butcher, having two older brothers and an older sister.

She grew up enjoying the quiet of a relatively unknown town, but at the age of fifteen the peaceful town she knew would change forever.

During the events of the first day of the battle, her neighbor Mrs. Schriver approached the family saying she was going to leave town for a safer place. Tillie would join Mrs. Schriver and her two children as they moved to a safer location south of town.

The safer place was the home of Mrs. Schriver’s father – Mr. Jacob Weikert.

 Little did they know they moved into the midst of the battle. Tillie records her duty of getting water for the passing soldiers on the first day and the second morning she resumed those duties. By the afternoon of the second day, she was helping the doctors and nurses who were attending the wounded and dying. The morning of the third day of the battle, she moved farther south to the Two Taverns area along the Baltimore Pike. There she continued helping care for the wounded.

After the war, she married Horace Alleman and they settled down in Selinsgrove. Many were interested in her stories of the battle and encouraged her to write them down – the result was At Gettysburg, Or What A Girl Saw And Heard Of The Battle.

I stood there recalling her first-hand account of what she experienced during the battle, one particular thought kept coming to mind. In her account Tillie kept returning to how much the battle changed the landscape – the peaceful lands of her childhood were forever scarred.

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

Along the Way: Upper Jonathan Run Falls

The first view of Upper Jonathan Run Falls
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 it.

Of the waterfalls that we had visited that day, Upper Jonathan Run Falls was my personal favorite. It was worth the hike just to visit these falls.

Parking at the trail head for Jonathan Run Trail along Holland Hill Road, the three of us set off to visit the waterfalls along the trail. The trail is almost two miles in length and follows Jonathan Run as it descends the hollow. The trail connects to the Great Allegheny Passage near the bottom of the hollow.

Upper Jonathan Run Falls
Just past the third bridge that crosses Jonathan Run, is the location of Upper Jonathan Run Falls. On the right there is a sign for the Kentuck Trail and on the left is an unmarked trail that leads to the falls. If you listen carefully, the hidden waterfalls can be heard from the trail.

Note: I’ve seen a number of websites that identifies the cascades located just below the third bridge as being Upper Jonathan Run Falls. You are not quite to the falls yet – these cascades are just above the falls. You cannot see this waterfall from the trail and will need to bushwhack down a hill to these falls.

A note of safety: if you descend the path to these cascades, you can walk along the stream to the top of the falls. Please DO NOT attempt to bushwhack over the edge of the falls – there is no safe way down them from here. Instead, go back up the path to the Jonathan Run Trail, travel roughly fifty yards downstream and descend that trail to get to the base of the falls.

Upper Jonathan Run Falls
After carefully descending the bank, we were greeted with the splendor of Upper Jonathan Run Falls. The waters of Jonathan Run drop roughly ten feet to form one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever encountered.

There seems to be a debate over the type of falls these are classified as. I’m not an expert of waterfall identification, but I personally believe they would be identified as a block (or what most consider the “normal” or “classic” waterfall type) that is immediately followed by a cascade.

These falls are hidden among the mountain laurel, giving it an even “wilder” appearance and with the recent rains, they were running freely. I’ve seen pictures of these falls in the late summer and while still nice, I would recommend only visiting after it had rained, but that is my opinion.

Upper Jonathan Run Falls
A couple things to keep in mind when photographing Upper Jonathan Run Falls:

1. It is roughly a mile to these falls from the parking area to these falls, so make sure you have all your equipment.

2. It is a short decent to the base of the falls on an unmarked, leaf-covered path. Please use caution when descending - the leaves can be slippery and rocks and holes are hidden by the leaf cover.

3. I’ve read a number of places about the best way to get to these falls and we settled on the Jonathan Run Trail, which is a relatively easy path. There are some ups and downs along the way, but nothing too steep. I’ve read that some use the Sugar Run Trail and while others use the Kentuck Trail then proceed on the Jonathan Run Trail to the falls, but looking at the state park map, those two options seem to be much longer and a much steeper way to get to the falls. Whichever way you decide to take, enjoy the trip and be safe.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fort McCord

PA Historical Marker for Fort McCord
I really had no idea at the time what I was exactly looking for or where it was located at, which tends to my adventures more exciting. At the time of my search I knew two things due to Sipe's The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania 10 there was a monument with a listing of those killed, injured, or taken prisoner in an attack on Fort McCord and 2) the fort was located northwest of Chambersburg.

After a little research, I discovered where the Pennsylvania Historical Marker for Fort McCord was located, so I used that location as the starting point of my search for the memorial that Sipe mentioned. For the record, when I sought the location of this monument, there was nothing online about it. There is a lot more information about the fort available now in comparison to when I was searching for it.

Leaving Chambersburg, I headed northwest into the rolling hills of the Cumberland Valley to begin my search. I was immediately taken in by the beauty of the lands that were overshadowed by the Blue Mountains. No wonder the early pioneers had the desire to settle here despite the dangers that they would face clearing the lands on the frontier - the area was beautiful and the land fertile..

I soon found myself traveling on Fort McCord Road and a short distance later I found the blue historical marker at the intersection of Fort McCord and Rumler Roads. After taking a couple pictures of the historical marker, I continued a short distance along Fort McCord Road, but did not find any other monuments to the fort.

Returning to the historical marker, I turned onto Rumler Road and almost immediately spotted the memorial I was searching for. From my initial stopping point along Fort McCord Road, the monument had been hidden by the barn it was beside.

Built by William McCord in 1756, the private fort was poorly constructed and from all accounts could not be easily defended. A note of interest: While the historical marker lists it as John McCord’s Fort, most of the information about this fort has it listed as William McCord’s Fort. From what I've found, I believe that John and William were brothers who both settled at the location.

Had it not been for the events of April 1, 1756, Fort McCord might have only been a footnote in the history of the state. However, on that fateful day Shingas arrived in the Cumberland Valley.

Shingas (also recorded as Chingas and Shingiss) became a noted leader of the Delawares in 1752. A member of the Turkey Clan, Shingas was a feared warrior and his name created dread in the hearts of those living on the frontier. John Heckwelder, the noted Moravian missionary, described Shingas as having a small stature, but made up for it with his fighting and courage.

Shingas had made previous raids into the Cumberland Valley. One particular raid happened on October 31, 1755, when his raiding party entered the Cumberland Valley and for several days murdered settlers and took captives. Among those captured were members of the Martin and Knox families who lived in the Big Cove region.

The memorial for Fort McCord
While many of his raids and skirmishes have been lost to history, April 1, 1756 would secure his place in history when Shingas and his band of warriors attacked and burned Fort McCord. The exact events of the attack on and burning of Fort McCord have been lost over the years and have remained a debate among those who have studied the attack's recorded history. 

What is known about the destruction of Fort McCord is the twenty-seven settlers who had sought refuge there were either killed or taken prisoner. After burning the fort to the ground, Shingas and his men started back into the wilds of western Pennsylvania; his intention was to take their prisoners to Kittanning.

Almost immediately a group of militia and settlers, led by Captain Alexander Culbertson, started after Shingas and his raiding party. At Fort Lyttleton, Captain Culbertson's party was reinforced by nineteen men from the fort, along with a group of men from Fort Granville who were also searching for Shingas and his warriors. The combined group of rescuers caught up with Shingas and his warriors at Sideling Hill – the exact location of this battle has been lost.

What followed was a two hour battle. During the battle, Shingas' group was reinforced and they dealt a terrible blow to Captain Culbertson's force. Twenty-one members of Captain Culbertson's combined group were killed and another seventeen were wounded. While the fighting was going on, Captain Culbertson was shot and killed. With his death, the Pennsylvania forces lost a loyal and brave man.

Shingas' warriors were victorious in battle and they continued their journey into the wilderness of Pennsylvania. Though the battle was a victory for the raiding party, most of the captives managed to escape during the fighting - only five prisoners were taken to Kittanning. Of the original group of captives, five died along the way to Kittanning. One of those killed was Mary McCord who was accidentally shot by those trying to rescue her.

Another sad incident that happened to the captives was the brutal death of  James Blair. At one point during their captivity (and I'm assuming this happened after the battle on Sideling Hill, but sources are not clear on this) an Indian killed Mr. Blair and cut his head off. They then tossed it on Ann McCord's lap, claiming it was the head of her husband. Ann knew it was not her husband, but I cannot imagine the terror she endured during her captivity. She would be recovered later that year when General Armstrong attacked the Indian village at Kittanning.

A close-up of the plaque
The Fort McCord Memorial
As I stood there taking in my surroundings, I see the rolling hills that were farmed over two centuries ago are still being farmed. A sense of emptiness fills the air - the remoteness of long ago still exists here in the shadow of the Blue Mountains. Though the modern world has caught up with the region, it still holds the excitement and emptiness that existed years and years ago when this was the American frontier.

After its destruction, Fort McCord was not rebuilt. The fort became one of the most famous of Pennsylvania's private forts, but unfortunately it was only due to its destruction that the fort was (and still is) remembered.

I’ve had the chance to debate the fall of this fort with a number of people and something seems to be missing out of the recorded history of the battle. If Shingas attacked the fort on the morning of April 1, how did the militia out of Chambersburg get there so fast? My guess is one of the settlers, rather than seeking shelter within the fort, fled to Chambersburg. However, Sipe records that there was a group of men out already searching for Shingas from Fort Granville, so it is possible Culbertson and his men were already out searching for the raiding Indians at the time of the attack and happened to be in the area when the attack occurred.

Another question that has been thrown around is why Culbertson led his men to Fort Lyttleton, which seems to be out of the way. Rereading Sipe’s The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania, I found an answer to that question. Robert Robinson, who was a part of the party pursuing Shingas, wrote that they were following the path the raiding Indians had taken and that path passed by Fort Lyttleton 

A glance at Wallace's Indian Path of Pennsylvania, the Raystown Path passes near Fort Lyttleton before moving towards the northwest. Wallace records that the Raystown Path passed through the gap created by Sideling Hill Creek, between the present-day towns of New Grenada and Waterfall (on Route 913). In Hanna's The Wilderness Trail he states that the Ray's Town Path was the major route through the mountain used by Indians and traders alike and it passed through this gap in Sideling Hill. Neither Hanna or Wallace mention any other path crossing Sideling Hill.

With the information from the books by Wallace and Hanna, I am confident is stating that the Battle of Sideling Hill occurred in this gap. Unless Singas and his raiding party used a path that has been lost to history, the Battle of Sideling Hill happened here. The lay of the land would provide a perfect trap if Shingas had his men wait to ambush their pursuers as they entered the gap

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hiking The James Cleveland Trail

The first sign announcing the James Cleveland Trail
Along Greens Valley Road
On May 24, 1931 Airmail Pilot James "Jimmy" Cleveland lost his life when his plane failed to clear Mount Nittany, crashing near the top of the mountain above Centre Hall.

I grew up knowing the history of the crash and though I knew there was a memorial for James Cleveland at the top of the mountain, it would not be until 2009 that I would first visit the monument. In the years since, I’ve made my way back up the mountain at least once each year to pay my respects to the pilot who lost his life here.

The trail to the monument is known as The James Cleveland Trail (on some maps it is referred to merely as The Cleveland Trail) and is located in Greens Valley at the top of Centre Hall Mountain between Centre Hall and Pleasant Gap – the sign for the trial is three and a half miles from Route 144. There is also a trail head on Route 192 (Brush Valley Road) but at the current time, the portion of the trail that crosses private land is blocked. I have heard rumors that there are plans to reopen the Centre Hall side of the trail, but as of the time I write this, that portion of the trail is still closed.

Roughly a mile from the junction with Route 144, Greens Valley Road turns to dirt as it enters Bald Eagle State Forest. This area brings back memories; as a part of my Senior Day of Caring (the school’s attempt at preventing Senior Skip Day) a group of us volunteered to plant pine trees in the area the road passes through. Looking at the pines standing along the road, I realized that some of them could possibly be ones I had planted years ago. Our class had placed a sign here in honor of our service, but it had disappeared within a month or two after we had planted the trees.

Arriving at the sign for the trail there are two options depending on how much clearance your vehicle has. Vehicles with low clearance should park here, but any vehicles with higher clearance can turn here and drive down to another parking area roughly a hundred yards down the side road.

The start of the trail from the second parking area
Here’s where I lost the trail before I could even start the hike. My first trip I parked in the closer lot and when I got out, I was not able to immediately see any of the blue markings for the trail. After carefully scanning the area, I finally found blazes for the trail to the left of this parking area. Since the first visit, the blue trail blazes have been repainted and the trail markers can be clearly seen at the trail’s head.

Bridge over Little Fishing Creek
The trail almost immediately crosses over the headwaters of Little Fishing Creek before meandering across the valley towards the southern summit of the mountain. The first half mile of the trail is a gradual incline and is a relatively easy walk. At one point, it crosses another small stream, but logs that once served as a bridge were rotted and falling apart, so I opted to jump across the small stream rather than chance walking across them.

I soon came across an old road; this road was the same one that had been blocked off where I had parked my vehicle. I thought it was strange that here, where the trail and road cross, is a sign announcing the Cleveland Trail. My guess is that this spot was the original start of the trail and when the old road was blocked the trail was expanded to its current length.

Sign marking the trail
Along the old road
In the middle of the woods
From this point the trail grows steeper as it goes up the mountainside. After a switchback the trail levels out for a short distance just below the ridge. Crossing the flat I came to the final push as the trail turns sharply and the last fifty or so feet it goes straight up a steep set of rock steps to the top of the mountain. The last hundred yards is flat and the easiest hiking of the trip.

Stepping out of the woods into a small clearing, I had my first view of the crash site. Two monuments stand at the location. The first is a rock column built as the first memorial to James Cleveland. On top of this memorial are rusted parts of the plane that have been collected over the years. The second is a granite marker engraved with Jimmy's name and wreck date on it that his brother had placed there in 1971, the year before the boy scouts created the trail.

As I stood there, the woods seemed even quieter than it had minutes ago. The reality of where I was and the tragic event that happened eighty years ago sunk in. The young man had lost his life when his plane hit the mountain roughly twenty feet below the southern summit and slid through the trees. The plane burst into flames as it was torn apart – the fire was so bright that it could be seen from the airmail field in Bellefonte. Sadly, Jimmy had turned twenty-six only a couple weeks before the crash that instantly claimed his life.

Over the years there has been a debate over what caused the fatal crash. Some claim the wings of his plane had iced up causing the plane not to respond. Others claim that it was a sudden gust of wind that caught him off guard. Still other claim that he got lost in the clouds. Looking through some newspapers from the time of the crash, most of the articles blame the weather stating that the young pilot was the victim of a freak snow squall that hit the region.

Monuments at the crash site
I paused to pay my respects to him and the other airmail pilots who had perished while delivering the mail in the early years. Jimmy wasn’t the only airmail pilot that this mountain had claimed. On October 1, 1925, the mountain took the life of Charles Ames about four miles east of where Jimmy had crashed. Charles took off from New Brunswick, New Jersey that evening for the night run and was due in Bellefonte around midnight. He never arrived. The last his plane had been spotted was at 11:35 that evening as it passed over Hartleton.

A large search extended from Bellefonte to Clarion, most thinking he overshot Bellefonte and had crashed to the west of town. 

Sadly this was not the case. Ames never reached Bellefonte.

On the morning of October 11, a group of boys discovered the crash site on top the mountain overlooking Hecla. The wreckage was discovered  on the southern side of the northern summit, about two hundred feet from the top and only a quarter of a mile from the Hecla beacon – the caretaker never heard the fatal crash.

Due to the weather conditions, Ames flew directly into the side of the mountain and the trees prevented search planes from discovering the wreck. Unlike many of the airmail crashes, Ames’ plane did not catch fire due to the angle it landed – the escaping gas ran down the mountain, away from the engine.

Close-up of the memorial
Placed by Jimmy's brother
As I finished paying my respects, I continued past the memorials to a vista that overlooks Penns and Brush Valleys. While the vista is a nice addition to the hike, it does not rank really high on my favorite vistas. If I had hiked this just for the vista, I would have been really disappointed, but seeing I was here for the history of the spot, it was a nice bonus to my hike.

At this point I turned and headed back down the mountain.

The James Cleveland Trail is a little over a mile in length (making it a two mile round trip), but it doesn't feel like it is that long of a hike. The history of this place, along with the vista, made the trip worth the hike,