Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Along the Way: Hillsgrove Covered Bridge

Hillsgrove Covered Bridge, Hillsgrove
Sullivan County is graced by the beauty of three covered bridges and one afternoon Zech and I set out to visit and photograph them. At one time thirty covered bridges stood within the boundaries of the county, but only three still exist,

Traveling south on Route 87 the road I was in search of makes a sharp dog’s leg. I made the turn onto Splash Dam Road and we could see the covered bridge ahead on the left. We turned onto Covered Bridge Road and as we approached the bridge we could clearly see signs stating that the land on the south side of the bridge was private property and there was no parking on this side of the bridge. We passed through the bridge and after taking the sharp left at the end of the bridge, found a small pull-off and parked there.

The Hillsgrove Bridge was constructed by Sadler Rogers (also spelled Rodgers) in 1850, the same year he built the Forksville Covered Bridge. It was built using a Burr Truss design and has a length of one hundred and eighty feet. The single span bridge crosses Loyalsock Creek north of the community of Hillsgrove. The bridge is also referred to as the Rinker or Rinker’s Covered Bridge after the neighboring farm. 

The Hillsgrove Covered Bridge rests on concrete reinforced stone abutments and is supported by steel beams. Wooden wheel guards were added to allow safe passage for pedestrians – while we were visiting the bridge we did not have any vehicles pass through it.

The Hillsgrove Covered Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Photographing the bridge is limited. The northwest side, near the pull-off provides the best spot for pictures of the bridge. The southern side of the bridge is all posted property, so the only pictures from this side are from the road.

If you choose to visit, please be respectful of the area.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Fall of Fort Granville

The two Pennsylvania historical markers
Commemorating Fort Granville
Business Route 522, Lewistown
The sun was slowly rising as I pulled into the lot of the PennDOT building at the western edge of Lewistown. The cool morning air was deceiving as the day had a promise of thunderstorms. I stepped out of the vehicle and walked over to the two historical markers along Business Route 522 for Fort Granville. One of them is the familiar blue historical marker that marks important locations across the state while the other is a much older version with a plaque that is set on a concrete base.

As I stood there reading about the attack on Fort Granville I was taken in by the battle that happened and I knew that I had to know more about the destruction of the fort. But I did not realize at the time was these two signs would be the start of an epic journey across the state as I discovered the bloody events on the Pennsylvania frontier during 1755 and 1756.

The period of time known as the French and Indian War in the American Colonies had ended in January 1755 with the Treaty of Paris, but tensions between the colonists and Native Americans were still running high. In July of 1755 General Braddock had led a force of British soldiers and colonists in an attempt to force the French out of western Pennsylvania. Braddock’s forces were defeated by a much smaller force of French and Indian forces.

This would be the start of a violent period of time known as Pontiac’s War (also called Pontiac’s Rebellion). The Pennsylvania frontier ran red with the blood as the Delaware Indians attacked those who settled there.

In an attempt to protect the settlers, the Provincial Council made the decision to erect a number of forts roughly fifteen to twenty miles apart that would house a militia and be used by settlers as protection from the raiding Indians. Fort Granville was one of these provincial forts erected.

Fort Granville was erected by George Croghan in December of 1755. The fort was erected midway between Patterson’s Fort in Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Fort Shirley near present-day Shirleysburg. In January of the following year, it was named by Governor Morris in honor of John Carteret, the Earl of Granville.

The fort was erected on the north side of Juniata River near its confluence with the Kishacoquillas Creek. It was described as being fifty feet square with a blockhouse on two of the corners. Within the walls of the stockade there was a barrack that was capable of housing fifty men.

From late 1755 and into 1756, local fortifications and blockhouses were often victims of Indian attacks. However, none of the provincial forts had yet to fall. But in the summer of 1756 this would change.

Model of Fort Granville, Mifflin County Historical Society
Picture taken with permission
On July 22, 1756, a group of Indians (about sixty in number) arrived at the Fort Granville and challenged the garrison to a fight. Captain Edward Ward, who was in charge of the fort, declined the challenge and kept his troops within the safety of the walls. The Indians mocked and taunted them for a while before leaving to pester other settlers.

With the knowledge of Indians wandering about the area, Captain Ward made a decision that would leave the fort basically unprotected. Rumors reached the fort that an Indian raiding party was spotted in Sherman’s Valley. Captain Ward left the fort early on the morning of July 30, taking with him the majority of the troops that were stationed at the fort.

Fort Granville was left under the command of Lieutenant Edward Armstrong, the brother of then Colonel John Armstrong. Under his command were twenty-four men, some were soldiers but most were civilians, along with a number of women and children.

Almost immediately after the departure of Captain Ward and his troops, a group of French and Indians arrived at the fort. The force was led by French Captain Louis Coulon de Villiers and the Indian Chief Captain Jacobs. The size of the attacking force varies depending on what history is being used. Most early reports claim over one hundred Delaware Indians and fifty Frenchmen, but the force attacking the fort could have been more or less. The attacking force demanded the surrender of the fort, but Lieutenant Armstrong held fast and refused to surrender. See note below about Captain de Villiers

Fort Granville had one weakness and late in the afternoon of July 31, the Indians would take advantage of this weakness. A steep ditch ran from the Juniata River to a spot within about fifteen yards of the fort. The ravine allowed the attacking Indians to approach the fort unnoticed. From the safety of this ravine, the Indians started firing burning arrows at the fort. The logs caught fire and soon a large hole appeared in the stockade and anyone who tried to put out the fire was a target for the attackers. Three men were wounded trying to put out the fire and another two men were killed. One was an unnamed private soldier and the other was Lieutenant Edward Armstrong.

The next morning (August 1) Captain Jacobs once again demanded the surrender of the fort. He promised to spare the lives of those who surrendered. John Turner, of Buffalo Valley, opened the gates and surrendered the fort. The force of Indians entered the fort and took those inside prisoner. Any verbal promises were tossed aside as the captives were grabbed and treated cruelly by the Indians.

Model of Fort Granville
 Mifflin County Historical Society
Picture taken with permission
The prisoners were marched from Fort Granville to the Indian town of Kittanning. Twenty-two men, three women and a couple children were taken captive.

The group had only marched a short distance before Captain Jacobs was told to return and burn the fort to the ground. For the first time, one of the provincial forts had fallen.

The exact location of the fort has been lost to time, but it is believed to have been approximately a mile west of Lewistown. The spot where the fort once stood is believed to have been destroyed with the construction of the Pennsylvania Canal in 1829,

If you choose to stop and visit the historical markers, there is a small parking lot for the Penn DOT building that can be used. The spot where the fort is believed to have stood is private land.

A note about Captain Coulon de Villiers: Born in French Canada to a prominent family, Louis has the claim of fame of being the only military opponent to make George Washington surrender. Louis’ half-brother was Ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville who was killed during the Battle of Jumonville Glen. The battle, which happened near Uniontown, Pennsylvania on May 28, 1754, was between a group of Virginia militiamen and Mingo Indians against a small force of French Canadians.

The militia had been sent to protect a group of men working for the Ohio Company who had been in the process of erecting a fort at present-day Pittsburgh. Washington’s men discovered a group of Frenchmen and surrounded them. During the ambush a number of the French were killed, including Joseph. The details of the skirmish are murky, but it is agreed that the entire battle lasted roughly fifteen minutes and the group of Frenchmen were either killed or taken prisoner.

Due to Britain and France not being at war, this was viewed as a serious international incident. Washington retreated to Fort Necessity, where a larger French force lead by Captain Louis Coulon de Villiers surrounded the men and forced them to surrender. In the process of the surrender Washington admitted to the terms of surrender, which included admitting to the assassination of Jumonville. It may be possible that Washington did not realize what he agreed to since the terms of surrender was in French.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Along the Way: Forksville Covered Bridge

The Forksville Covered Bridge
Sullivan County is graced by the beauty of three covered bridges and one afternoon Zech and I set out to visit and photograph them. At one time thirty covered bridges stood within the boundaries of the county, but only three still exist.

After making a stop at World’s End State Park, we continued to Forksville along Route 154. Entering into town we could immediately see the Forksville Covered Bridge on the left, spanning Loyalsock Creek.

There is a church on the opposite side of the road where I parked and prepared to explore the covered bridge. I was immediately aware of the amount of traffic on Route 154 that day and with not a lot of space along the road, we carefully crossed the road to take pictures. Even the bridge was busy this particular day and we found ourselves waiting for them to cross before returning to our picture taking.

The single span bridge crosses the Loyalsock Creek just north of the forks, or confluence, of it and the Little Loyalsock Creek. It was erected in 1850 by eighteen-year-old Sadler Rogers (also spelled Rodgers in some sources). It has a Burr Truss design with a length of one hundred and forty-six feet. It rests on stone abutments that have been reinforced with concrete and is supported by steel beams . Inside the bridge, wooden wheel guards allow for a safe walkway for pedestrians. The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 1980.

Postcard featuring the Forksville Covered Bridge
Postmarked 1958
Postcard is a part of the author's personal collection
The Forksville Covered Bridge is one of those rare bridges that photographs nicely from many different locations.

After visiting the bridge, we stopped a short distance away from the bridge, close to where Route 154 meets Route 87 to visit a familiar blue Pennsylvania Historical Marker. The marker is for football legend Harold “Red” Grange who was born in Forksville.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Along the Way: Sonestown Covered Bridge

The Sonestown Covered Bridge
Sullivan County is graced by the beauty of three covered bridges and one afternoon Zech and I set out to visit and photograph them. At one time thirty covered bridges stood within the boundaries of the county, but only three still exist.

Traveling north on Route 220 we came around a bend in the road to see the first bridge of our journey immediately on the right. Seeing I was caught off-guard by the sudden appearance of the bridge, I was past it before I had time to react. Finding a place to turn around we returned to the Sonestown Covered Bridge.

Located on Champion Hill Road, there is very little parking available for those who visit the bridge. We passed through it and I found a spot on the eastern side of the bridge that allowed for any traffic to safely pass while we explored.

Built in 1850, the Sonestown Covered Bridge crosses over Muncy Creek just south of the town which it takes its name from. With a length of one hundred and ten feet, the bridge is also referred to as the Davidson Covered Bridge due to its location in Davidson Township. The bridge has a single span with a Burr Truss design. The Burr Truss was one of the earliest designs and was named after Theodore Burr who patented the design. The Burr Truss is the most common design used in covered bridges and is by far the most common design used in Pennsylvania’s covered bridges.

The bridge was originally placed to allow access to a gristmill that once stood on the eastern banks of Muncy Creek, just to the south of the bridge. While the builder of the bridge is not listed, some sources state that Sadler Rogers (also spelled Rodgers) designed it and the plaque on the bridge gives him credit for erecting the bridge. However, when the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, in July 1980, the builder of the bridge is listed as "Unknown."

Over the years the bridge has undergone repairs from flood damage and overall it is in great condition. It rests on two stone abutments that have been reinforced with concrete to help protect it from future floods.

When photographing the bridge, we found that we had a number of angles to work from, all of which presented nice shots. I did not see any no trespassing signs and seeing there were people in the creek, we did venture down the western bank to the creek and were able to photograph it from that angle too.


Postcard featuring the Sonestown Covered Bridge
Postmarked 1958
Interestingly it is described as being located on the Loyalsock.
Part of the author's personal collection
One thing I do have to warn about: Sonestown Covered Bridge is open to traffic and while we were there we did have a number of vehicles use the bridge. Some of these vehicles did not slow down when they passed through it, so please be careful and aware of your surroundings.

If you choose to visit, please be respectful of the area.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Kresge Monument

The Kresge Monument
Salem Church Cemetery, Gilbert
A couple years ago I had stumbled upon the old Salem Church Cemetery, located on the northern edge of the small community of Gilbert. I had turned onto Gilbert Road looking for a place to turn around when I spotted the cemetery a short distance away at the junction of Gilbert and Long Mountain Roads.

Always curious when it comes to cemeteries, I immediately spotted a large monument next to Long Mountain Road that caught my curiosity. The large stone towered over the other stones on this sacred piece of land. After parking in the dirt lot on the opposite side of the road, I crossed it and entered through an old gate.

I carefully walked among the old stones toward the monument. At the base of the monument, on the backside of it, is a row of old stones. Studying the stones, I noted they were in a foreign language, one that I recognized as German, but had no clue exactly what was chiseled into them.

What I did find interesting is the different spellings of the same last name on the stones. The family name was spelled Kresge, Gresie, and Kersi, until the spelling of the name was settled on as Kresge.

Stepping to the front of the memorial, I was taken in by a magnificent carving of an Indian stalking a man and young boy, which I immediately interpreted as being father and son, with the father cutting down a tree. An inscription at the base of the monument reads

In memory of Conrad Kresge and Family
Pioneer settlers of Monroe County.
By their descendants in America.

Below the inscription was a row of brass plaques set into the base of the monument. I quickly realized that these plaques held the translation of German wording on the old stones at the rear of the memorial. While the main monument was dedicated on August 19, 1915, these plaques and the stone that they are set in were added in 1971. I learned that the old stones were originally located in front of the memorial, but at some point (I’m assuming it was in 1971 when the plaques were added to the memorial) they were reset at the rear of the memorial and the plaques were added.


The historic stones at the back of the Kresge Monument
Conrad settled in the region around 1745. He would marry Anna Margarethe Kohl and they would settle in the area of present day Effort, which is located a short distance north of Gilbert. Margarethe’s stone states she bore twelve children, lived to see eighty-three grandchildren and seventy-five great-grandchildren. 

A note about Anna Margarthe: I found it interesting that while her stone lists her name as Margarthe, many histories and official documents list her name as Anna Margarthe. I will refer to her as Margarthe in this entry due to it being the name on her tombstone.

I found it interesting that Conrad does not have a stone at the family monument. Digging into the family history, I discovered that this is because he is not buried within the boundaries of this cemetery. In fact, it is not known exactly where Conrad is buried. Most sources believe he rests in an unmarked grave at the cemetery in Effort, which was closer to the family homestead. Some other places state he may have been buried on the family homestead.

The life Conrad and Margarthe lived in the wilds of the Pocono Mountains was a harsh and trying one. They, like all of the settlers within this rugged terrain, dealt with attacks from the Delaware and Shawnee Indians during the French and Indian War and then by the Iroquois Indians during the Revolutionary War.

The Kresge Monument
Note: Sebastion Kresge's mausoleum in the background
The scene on the front of the memorial tells the harsh reality of pioneer life. Conrad and Margarthe would lose their first child, daughter Anna, in infancy. Their next child was John, who was born in 1764. Sadly, John would not reach adulthood either.

In 1776, Conrad Kresge set out one morning to cut wood near the family homestead. On this particular journey he was accompanied by his twelve year old son, John. It happened on this day that a band of Indians would sweep through the area. One of the victims was young John Kresge who was shot and killed by an arrow; his lifeless body was scalped by the raiding party. According to family tradition, Conrad escaped by deflecting the arrows and tomahawks by using the axe he carried.

Wounded during the attack, Conrad was not able to join the party that went in search of the raiding Indians. According to family tradition, these wounds would actually save his life, as the party was ambushed by the Indians and massacred.

Sebastian S. Kresge, one of Conrad’s great-great-grandsons, is buried in a large mausoleum within the borders of the Salem Church Cemetery. His burial spot is the only mausoleum in the cemetery and is a short walk from the family memorial.

Sebastian would make his mark on the American landscape. A businessman by nature, in 1899 he founded the S.S. Kresge Company, which operated a number of five-and-dime stores with the first being opened in Detroit, Michigan. When the company was incorporated in 1911, it had grown to 150 stores. These stores would undergo a name change in 1962 becoming the national retailer K-Mart, the first mass market stores in America.

Interestingly, the monument for the Kresge family was completed by the Wenz Monument Company who also did the memorial for Aq.uila Henning. The story of his memorial can be found here: Aquila Henning  .

I paid my respects to the Kresge family, along with the other early pioneers of Monroe County, before leaving them slumbering for eternity. As always if you choose to visit the memorial, please do so with the respect this piece of land and those resting here deserve.

An undated postcard featuring the Kresge Monument
Post a part of the author's personal collection
A genealogical note: I’ve discovered that a number of newspaper articles about Sebastian. In many places he is listed as being the great-great-grandson of Conrad and Elizabeth Kresge, not Conrad and Margarthe. He is the great-grandson of Conrad and Elizabeth – this Conrad was the son of Conrad and Margarthe.

A note about the Salem Church Cemetery: I found two different sources that mention that the monument marking the graves of the Kresge Family, and many of the stones in this section of the cemetery, may not be located at the correct spot. The cemetery had undergone many years of neglect and many of the stones had been discovered resting along the edge of the cemetery. Donations had been taken and the stones were reset in the area it was believed they once stood. I have not been able to find an official statement if this is true or not.

The McAdams Mystery

Graves of the McAdams family, Edgewood Cemetery, Ashtabula
If it hadn’t been for Zech, I would have missed the graves I was searching for altogether.

“You said the name was McAdams?” he called out.

“McAdams,” I affirmed.

“I have a McAdams here,” he replied. I walked over to the badly weathered stone and studied it closely. I was able to make out the name Julia and a little further below the name McAdams. If the sun had not been at the right spot and he standing at the correct angle, the stone would have been nearly impossible to read.

We were in the oldest portion of Edgewood Cemetery in Ashtabula to pay our respects to the McAdams family. Seven graves of the McAdams family rest next to each other. These are the graves of Alexander McAdams, his first wife and their children (ages spanning from eight to twenty-one), and also the grave of his second wife.

Only a couple of their stones are still standing and those ones are hard to read, weathered over the years. Some of them have fallen over and have been buried by time.

If the stones could still be read they would show that the five children and Rebecca, Alexander’s first wife, had all died over a period of four years. Nothing exists on the remaining stones that would hint at the cause of death, but all are believed to have died from arsenic poisoning at the hands of the oldest sister, Jeanette.

Alexander and Rebecca lived on a farm roughly a mile and a half east of Ashtabula. The couple had six children: Jeanette, Abigail, Julia, Walter, Luther, and Arthur. Please see the note below.

Jeanette was the oldest of the sisters and was known around the community for being tall and beautiful. Her looks had attracted many of the neighboring boys, but she never showed any interest in them. She was described as having a wild side and, in her mid teens, she tired of the rural life she led and moved to Cleveland.

Jeanette returned to the family homestead in February 1848. Jeanette, who had been in the same bedroom, came downstairs proclaiming that Julia was sick. Only hours after the symptoms appearing Julia passed from this life. Julia was only fourteen years old when she became the first of the McAdams family to be interred in Edgewood Cemetery.

Jeanette left soon after the funeral and nothing was thought about her odd behavior.


Grave of Julia McAdams
On New Year’s Eve of 1849, Jeanette reappeared on the family’s front porch. That evening while Arthur was lying on the floor, he suddenly started convulsing wildly. The following day Arthur passed at the age of eight. On January 4, the family gathered at Edgewood Cemetery to bury Arthur next to his sister.

That same evening Abigail, who was twenty-one years old, mentioned to her mother that Jeanette kept a set of men’s clothing hidden in the bedroom and that Jeanette would dress up in them and sneak out the window at night. The next day Abigail would join Julia and Arthur in death. Abigail was able to relate to her parents that she had felt fine until she ate the piece of candy Jeanette had offered her.

The day after Abigail’s death, Jeanette disappeared again only to reappear io August 10 of that year. Nothing happened the first couple of days but on August 15 Walter was the next to perish. Walter, who was fourteen at the time, had spent the day working with his father taking staves to the dock. He said he was not feeling well and went upstairs to rest. Jeanette followed him and he died that evening. Note: A modern newspaper states that Alexander and Walter had taken slaves to the docks that day, but it is a misprint. The two earliest mentions I could find state they had taken staves to the docks that day. Staves would be cut lumber.

Once again Jeanette disappeared, going to Cleveland the day after Walter’s death, but she would not be gone for long. In September (I have not been able to find an exact date but one article states that she appeared after being gone for a month) Luther was out playing when he returned home complaining of not feeling well. He would not survive the night and joined his four siblings in Edgewood Cemetery.

Jeanette remained at the homestead a for a couple days. Alexander and Rebecca would both become sick after eating a meal she had prepared for them, but neither of them died from the meal. Jeanette left for Cleveland once again. 


An unidentified grave of one of the McAdams Family
During the winter of 1850-1851, Rebecca came down with a sickness and at the beginning of February Jeanette reappeared at the front door. Alexander once again left her in to help care for her mother.  On February 6 Jeanette took tea to her mother’s room and before the end of the night her mother went into convulsions and died.

After Rebecca’s funeral Jeanette once again left for Cleveland. The neighbors who were already convinced that Jeanette was killing her family members were now terrified. If she would kill her loved ones they worried that nothing would stop her from killing complete strangers.

A couple months later Jeanette would show up once again at her father’s home. She had given him a letter that she wanted mailed to Cleveland. Curious about it, he opened the letter and read of his daughter’s plan to poison him. He finally banished her from his home.

Alexander would remarry a lady named Eliza. Their marriage was short lived and Eliza died in June 1863.

Local legend claims that many years later a dirty tramp showed up at Alexander’s house and he provided a meal for the tramp. During the meal he recognized that the tramp was his daughter Jeanette. After the meal they boarded his wagon and he drove her out of town never to see her again.

Reading through the story I found myself asking a lot of questions that I could not discover a good answer for.

Grave of one of the McAdams Family
The weathering makes the stone hard to read
The immediate question that entered my mind was why it took so long for Alexander to banish her from his home. Rumors at the time thought she was the one responsible after the death of her second sibling, but it was not until his own life was threatened that Alexander banished her.

Was his love for his daughter so strong that he was blind to her actions? I would hope this was not the case.

Did he merely think it was a coincidence? Again, I would hope not.

Another possibility that jumps to mind that I haven’t read any other place is maybe Jeanette knew something about the lives of her parents that prevented them from doing anything. Did Alexander or Rebecca have some dark secret that he did not want exposed? I have never read anything that would suggest this but I cannot help but think it may be a possibility.

Why did Jeanette kill her family? Looking at what little exists on the case I have to question her motives. It was obvious that she was not killing them for a large inheritance. Nothing exists to prove the family to be extremely wealthy, that is, nothing to prove that she would have gotten anything with the death of her family.

The only clue that exists that might hold a motive was Abigail questioning the suit of men’s clothing and Jeanette’s sneaking out of the house at night. This question only leads to more questions. Was Jeanette involved in illegal activities and wanted to make sure they stayed a secret even at the cost of her own family? Many of the townsfolk saw a shabby-looking tramp in the area whenever Jeanette was at home, so why the disguise? What was the purpose of her sneaking around?

But something else keeps nagging at me about this case that, while I cannot prove it is true, just won’t go away. One thing that is mentioned about Jeanette is her wild side. I’ve read in a couple different places that children and young adults during the 1800s who were described as “wild” were sent to an asylum or other hospital. Is it possible that Jeanette had a mental disorder of some sort and her parents originally sent her away to get help? Maybe the disappearances after the funerals were to send her back to seek more help but she kept escaping and returning home? Again I have no proof of this being the case but for some reason it keeps coming to mind. If she didn’t want people to realize she was around then it would account for her disguise and strange behavior.

How many others did Jeanette poison? The unofficial record states that she is believed to have killed her five siblings and her mother, but I cannot help but wonder if others suffered the same fate that she bestowed upon her family. Historically, nothing else exists that hints at her being involved in any other poisonings.


Another view of the McAdams family graves
What happened to Jeanette? After her last appearance at the house dressed as a tramp, it is recorded that her father drove off with her and returned alone. She disappears into history at this point. Some claim that she went off to fight in the Civil War (or served as a spy during it) but there is nothing to support that claim.

Other rumors claim she ran off and joined a group of gypsies. This was a common theory at the time for any person who disappeared – they joined the gypsies or were abducted by them. I doubt this is the case.

There is one theory that may sadly hold some truth to it. When Alexander drove her away that final time, he killed her and buried her body in an unknown location. While there is no evidence to Alexander killing his daughter, the fact that she was never seen again does make me believe that maybe he knew more than he ever revealed. After all she did kill five of her siblings and her own mother, so Alexander may have been a victim of his own grief and anger and did the unthinkable. Again there is nothing to prove this, but it is a theory that has been presented and would explain why she was never seen again.

There is one more theory I need to present that, while I do not think holds merit, is a possibility. Jeanette had absolutely nothing to do with the deaths of her family and was merely a victim of circumstance. I personally find this theory doubtful. For a family member to die every time she visited meant somebody really had patience and really hated her to make it look like she was responsible for their deaths.

Zech and I left those lingering questions with the graves of the family as we left Edgewood Cemetery that day, knowing that time has prevented the mystery from ever being fully solved.

If you choose to visit Edgewood Cemetery I ask that you do so with the respect that the area deserves.

A note about the children of Alexander and Rebecca McAdams: The exact number of children Alexander and Rebecca had is not clear. Most places state that they had six children, which is the number I went with and the number that includes Jeanette and her five victims. A couple of places state that the couple had ten children, but I have not found anything to verify this to be fact.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Along the Way: Logan Mills Covered Bridge

Logan Mills Covered Bridge
In my opinion, one of the prettiest covered bridges in Pennsylvania stands hidden among the rolling hills of Sugar Valley in the southern portion of Clinton County. Of course Logan Mills Covered Bridge is one of the first covered bridges I can remember visiting as a kid.

Logan Mills Covered Bridge is located roughly four and a half miles west of Loganton. Driving westward from the town center on West Valley Road will take visitors through the farmlands of Sugar Valley. A common feature on the road are the familiar horse and buggies of the Amish who call the valley their home.

The covered bridge has a single span that allows travelers using Logan Mills Road to cross over Fishing Creek which flows through the valley from the eastern end of the valley until it exits it near Tylersville. Arriving at the bridge that morning, a group of kids were laying in the stream and watching as a horse-pulled wagon passed through the bridge.

"If I had only been a couple minutes earlier," I thought as I explored the bridge and took pictures of the bridge.

Erected in 1874, the bridge spans sixty feet and features a Queenpost design. The ridge is unique in the fact that it has a shallow Queenpost design. This means that the supporting arch on the side of the bridge only goes halfway up the side of the bridge, rather than the whole way to the top. This shallow design actually makes the bridge less stable than the normal Queenpost design.

The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in August 1979. It was rebuilt in early 2002 and reopened to traffic in 2004.

Next to the bridge is the old gristmill that gives its name to the community. The gristmill was built in 1840 by Colonel Anthony Klecknerm who founded the community and named it after Chief Logan. The gristmill was operated by a number of owners until the 1960s when it closed down. Water to run the mill’s two turbine wheels was diverted from Fishing Creek. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The area allows for the bridge to be easily photographed from a number of angles. The only problem with photographing the bridge is the ugliness of the stop signs that are very visible in photos from almost every angle.

There is some parking along the road on the southern side of the bridge. The land around the bridge is private property, so please respect the area if you choose to visit.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Along the Way: Windsor Mills Covered Bridge

Windsor Mills Covered Bridge
Windsor Mills, Ohio
The sun was starting its ascent as I drove west on Route 322. My destination for the day was taking me across the border into Ashtabula County in Ohio. The plan was to photograph as many of the county’s covered bridges as I could and to arrive early at the first one on my list — the one that would prove to be one of the most beautiful ones I’d ever seen.

I arrived at the collection of buildings known as Windsor Mills. Turning onto Warner Hollow Road, I could see the bridge immediately in front of me. Warner Hollow Road turns to the left immediately before the bridge which is on Covered Bridge Lane. Passing through it I found a spot to turn around and stopped in the road way to take pictures of the bridge, staying to one side so any vehicles could pass. Please see the note below about parking.

Getting out of the vehicle I took in the beautiful bridge that is also known as the Warner Hollow Covered Bridge as well as the Wiswell Road Covered Bridge. The bridge spans one hundred and twenty feet and rests upon the support of two piers over a rocky ravine created by Phelps Creek far below.

The bridge, originally built in 1867, has three spans and a Town Truss design. The bridge ties the Mechanicsville Covered Bridge as the oldest standing covered bridge in Ashtabula County. Wiswell Road was rerouted to the west in the late 1960s/early 1970s due to the bridge’s integrity. At this time, the bridge was open to pedestrian traffic only. The Windsor Mills Covered Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in April 1973. In the 1980s the bridge was closed to all traffic until its restoration in 2002 and reopening in 2004..

Windsor Mills Covered Bridge was one of three covered bridges that once stood in the area of Windsor Mills and is the only of them still standing.

After taking a number of pictures, I headed out, leaving the beautiful bridge standing guard over the silence of Warner Hollow. If you choose to visit please be respectful of the area.

Postcard of Windsor Mills Covered Bridge
Part of the author's personal collection
Please note: While I did not see any “No Trespassing” signs, I’ve read in a number of places that the land around the bridge is on private property and the land owners do not want people walking down to the creek, nor do they want people to park at the small pull-off even to just photograph the bridge. I figured dealing with an angry motorist would be easier than an angry land owner. While I was there (which was roughly fifteen minutes) I did not have any vehicles (or buggies) pass through the bridge or pass by on Warner Hollow Road.

Please be respectful of the area and do not trespass on the private lands surrounding the bridge..

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Reverend Steadman and "The Most Wicked Man in the World"

Grave of Reverend Darius Steadman
Evergreen Cemetery, Union City
I arrived at Evergreen Cemetery with directions to the gravesite I was searching for and thankfully they were correct as I was standing at the grave in a matter of minutes. Near the back of Evergreen Cemetery on the eastern edge of Union City rests a simple grave of a Civil War veteran and Methodist preacher who has become a piece of regional lore.

The simple grave marks the resting place of Reverend Darius Steadman.

Born May 1, 1831, Darius was born in Erie County near the border with Warren County, the son of a pastor. In 1857, at the age of twenty-six he was licensed to preach by the Erie Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He would be appointed as pastor of the congregation at Shippensville in 1858.

During the Civil War he enlisted with the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers, also known as “The Wild Cats.” He contracted typhoid and was sent home to recuperate. After his service during the Civil War he returned to the ministry. See note below about his service in the Civil War.

Reverend Steadman was eventually appointed to the oil boom town of Pithole, which is often regarded as one of the worst towns to ever exist within the borders of Pennsylvania. The first people settled the area in January 1865 when oil was struck nearby. By May of that year the town was laid out and businesses began arriving. With the growth came violence.

Into the oil boom town came Reverend Steadman. He was not the typical preacher of the time. The Reverend sported a full beard in a time when preachers were expected to remain clean-shaven. Much to the dismay of the Methodist Church of the time, which frowned upon the usage of tobacco, the Reverend smoked a pipe. Despite what the higher-ups of the conference may have thought about his appearance and faults, Reverend Steadman was able to identify with the oil workers.

Upon his arrival in Pithole, Reverend Steadman found no church or suitable place to preach, so he preached his first sermon there in a stable.

Seeing the need for a church building, he set about working towards that goal. By August of 1865 he had secured a piece of land that had been donated for the erection of a church and by October he had eight thousand dollars in funds for its construction. The building was forty by eighty feet with an octagonal tower that soared eighty feet into the air. On March 24, 1866 the Methodist Church opened for services and would be officially dedicated that May.

One thing Reverend Steadman did to bring the workers into the building and into the faith was to encourage them to come as they were, which meant they arrived in dirty work clothes and muddy boots.

While there he recognized the need for the children in Pithole to have an education. He went about to secure funds and soon classes were being taught in the basement of the church.

Grave of Reverend Steadman
There is one story involving the Reverend that marks his place in history and makes him a piece of regional lore. It involves a confrontation with the notorious Ben Hogan. Ben would later identify himself as “the most wicked man in the world.” Before arriving in Pithole Ben Hogan was a known boxer and general trouble maker. Ben’s arrival in town was marked with fights and he would be connected to a number of assaults around the area.

While in Pithole, Ben Hogan became involved with French Kate, who ran a brothel. The true identity of French Kate is unknown, but the name she was known as while living in Pithole was Kate LeConte. Ben Hogan admitted in his later years that Kate may not have been her real name but even he was not completely sure of her given name. Rumors of the time said she was a Confederate spy who had an association with John Wilkes Booth who had lived in the region for a short time trying his luck in drilling for oil.

Ben became a bouncer in French Kate’s brothel and helped her to obtain girls. One of Ben’s methods of obtaining young ladies was to run advertisements in newspapers in the Buffalo region of New York. The advertisements would ask for young ladies to come to Pithole in order to work as a nanny. Once they arrived, Ben would force them into French Kate’s brothel. If they did not agree to work for the madam, the young ladies would be held against their will and starved until they agreed to the demands.

The activities of French Kate and Ben Hogan were known, but little was done to stop them. That would all change one day when a young lady arrived in town from Buffalo. A short note before I continue: A number of places refer to the young lady being named Rebecca, though I’m not one hundred percent sure where or when the name became connected to the girl. The earliest versions of this story I’ve uncovered does not mention the girl’s name..

When the young lady arrived in Pithole, she was greeted by Ben who spirited her away to French Kate’s brothel. Despite the threats, she refused to do their bidding, so she was locked in a second floor room and starved. Somehow the young lady managed to write a letter and slip it out of her window. The letter was addressed to her mother in Buffalo and somehow the letter managed to make it to the young girl’s mother.

When the mother arrived in town she approached Ben and demanded to have her daughter returned. Ben denied that the girl was present stating that he did not know of such a girl. The mother went about seeking help and finally arrived at the doorstep of Reverend Steadman.

The Reverend listened to the mother’s story and knowing something had to be done, took action to recover the young lady from her kidnappers. He found three others to help him with his plan. Each armed with a pair of pistols the group of men went to the brothel to retrieve the young lady.

The minute the quartet arrived French Kate disappeared, leaving Ben to deal with the intrusion alone. When Reverend Steadman asked for the captive to be turned over Ben laughed and denied that he had the girl. Ben suddenly discovered himself confronted by four sets of pistols pointed at him. His story changed as he suddenly remembered that he did have a young girl who might be the one they sought in a second floor room. Ben led the men upstairs and released the girl to their care. The girl was happily reunited with her mother.

Reverend Steadman would leave Pithole in July 1867, when he was reassigned to the church in Freedonia. He would continue to serve the conference at many locations around western Pennsylvania until his death in 1907.

Pithole did not last long after Reverend Steadman’s departure. When the oil wells failed to produce regularly in 1868 the town died a long, slow death. By November 1876 the community was gone, except for the Methodist Church that was erected through the efforts of Reverend Steadman.

Finding the grave of Reverend Steadman in Evergreen Cemetery is much easier than it would appear when arriving at the cemetery. Coming out of Union City on Concord Street, enter into the cemetery through the first set of gates. Go to the first intersection and turn left. This road will go around to the rear of the cemetery. At the back of the cemetery the road splits, take the left hand road and his grave is immediately on the left next to the road.

If you choose to visit, please do so with the respect that the area deserves.

Note about the Civil War service of Reverend Darius Steadman: There is some confusion about Reverend Steadman’s time with the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Most sources state that he served until the Battle of the Wilderness, which was in early May 1865. However, I’ve found conflicting sources that state otherwise. The Pennsylvania Digital Archives has a listing of Civil War Veterans and I’ve found Darius listed in the files. His information states that he enlisted August 28, 1861 at Pittsburgh as chaplain for the regiment. His file states he resigned on June 23, 1862 which means he served less than a year.

I also came across a listing of charges he served at Forestville Circuit, which was a part of the Erie Conference. However a history of the Erie Conference contradicts the appointment listing of Reverend Steadman by firmly stating that he served through the Battle of the Wilderness.

I personally believe that the record of him serving less than a year is the correct one, but the contradicting resources leaves me wondering.