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Lawrence County, PA Biographies




Carl Lawrence Leathers

Carl Lawrence Leathers a lifelong resident of New Castle, was born February 7, 1896 at 11 l/2 Walnut Street.  He was the son of Charles Lawrence Leathers and Louise Virginia Kroesen Leathers. 

May 15, 1914 he married Betsy Ann Hunt, whom he met while they were both attending Business College in Akron, Ohio.  They were the parents of:

Ethel Louise Leathers, born November 5, 1915

Lawrence Carl (Bud) Leathers, born November 3, 1920, died 22-Nov-1992

They lived at 120 North Ray Street, New Castle, PA.

Carl Lawrence Leathers,

Click to enlarge photo

Carl enlisted December 11, 1917 at Columbus Barracks, Ohio.  Where he joined the American Expeditionary Forces, Battery F 4th Artillery (C.A.C.) Engineering Corps.  He served in France until the Armistice, November 11, 1918.  He served at St. Nazaire, Loire-Inferieure.  He was also at Haussimont (Marne).  He was Honorably discharged January 2, 1919

The marriage ended in divorce in 1922. 

In 1924, he married Ann Holsobus.  She died in 1951.  They had no children.  They lived at 1004 N. Jefferson in New Castle. 

Always interested in nature and the outdoors, he liked to hunt, hike, explore caves.  He was a civil engineer, surveyor, a cave explorer and geologist.  He was a land agent for Pennsylvania Power. 

His work with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy used most of his talents as an engineer doing surveying, making maps, planning and acquiring land from private owners for use as a State Park at McConnell's Mills.  His energy and enthusiasm were always foremost in any mention of him. 

Some of his most rewarding relationships were with his friends at the Conservancy.  Carl worked closely with Dr. Otto E. Jennings of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as well as Dr. Graham Netting and Dr. James Swauger, both Directors Emeritus of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. 

From "50 Years Of The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, The Early Years" by M. Graham Netting" Carl's association with this group is delineated in glowing terms, calling him "One of the largely unsung heroes of local conservation."  Dr. Netting considered Carl's selection as Field Agent one of the most important decisions of the early beginning of the Conservancy.  Obtaining the contractual services of Carl Leathers was listed as one of the assets of the Conservancy at an early meeting when they adopted their new name. 

Although in his early life, Carl had espoused many questionable causes, such as the Ku Klux Klan and was described by Bart Richards, one of the Conservancy's Directors and editor of the New Castle News, as a "Wild-eyed radical, head of the Socialist Party in New Castle, often getting out news sheets and pasting them on windows."  Dr. Graham thinks It should be mentioned that the Depression had hit the community so severely that there was much to view with concern. 

Dr. Netting was encouraged to learn that when Louis B. Round,  now President of Pennsylvania Power, had headed the Lawrence County Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1933 and needed an energetic assistant, he picked Carl, saying with prophetic insight, "There is something good in him."  Carl earned Round's esteem in the WPA and was later employed by Pennsylvania Power as land agent in acquiring its holdings in the Slippery Rock Valley.  He was recommended to the Conservancy without qualification as the best person to option properties they needed in the Slippery Rock area. 

Always the rugged individualist, for some years, Carl steadfastly refused to by placed on the payroll as an employee; he felt that as a real estate agent under contract he could operate more independently, setting his own schedule so long as he accomplished what he was asked to do. 

Dr. Netting and Carl spent many days in the field together.  Sometimes staying over night at Carl's home where recently widowed, he lived with his mother (Louise Kroesen Leathers) who was described by Dr. Netting as, "a sweet and gentle mother who always had food ready whenever he came in."

It was a Mutual Admiration Society actually.  Carl's mother was greatly impressed with Dr. Netting's charm and refinement, calling him, "Such a gentleman.  So mannerly."  She was always happy to cook them a hearty breakfast before they left to start their day in the field. 

Dr. Netting was greatly impressed by the way Carl, from many field trips with Dr. Frank W. Preston, of Butler, had absorbed glacial geology so thoroughly that he could point out spillways and eskers almost as expertly as Preston himself. 

Dr. Netting considered Carl a master in getting options from country people.  He had been present in Muddy Creek kitchens when a farmer would berate Carl for trying to steal his land for a fraction of its value.  Carl would point out that the bottom was so wet two of the farmer's cows had gotten mired there the previous month.  They might even curse each other in "Doughboy language" as Dr. Netting called it, until Carl would say, "You were born in 1889 and I have a silver dollar minted in that very year that I'm going to give you for your signature on this option form."  The owner would sign, shake hands and say he and his wife wanted to move to Florida anyway. 

Dr. Preston has written, "Carl's relations with the owners of the land were of the best, he used to say there was not a seller to whose home he could not return and be welcomed.  His object was to acquire land at a fair price, fair to both parties, and he knew what the fair value was." 

Carl also had much to do with the early planning, development, surveying and mapping of Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands, PA in 1959, before he became incapacitated by his final illness. 

One of the greatest disappointments of his life was becoming terminally ill just before a long planned trip to Europe with Dr. Jennings in 1960. 

He loved McConnell's Mills so much he spent much time there camping, and taking Boy Scouts there for  Overnight Camp Outs.  He was one of the originators of the Easter Sunrise Service in a natural amphitheater on Slippery Rock Creek. 

Carl died after a long illness October 10, 1959.  He was cremated and his ashes flown over and scattered on his beloved McConnell's Mills Project, which he considered one of his greatest triumphs. 

He was a Charter Member of the P. S. Gaston American Legion Post 343.

In 1950, Carl was Executive Secretary of the Lawrence County Service Stations Association;  Active in Scouting;  Member of the National Speleogical Society; Tri-State Explorers Club; Klu Klux Klan; American Society For Advancement of Science;  as well as The Pennsylvania Archaeological Society. 

"His enthusiasm was infectious," Dr. Netting said, "Carl promoted conservation with missionary zeal, giving lectures to any group, anywhere.  He located properties, determined their boundaries, negotiated options, encouraged appropriate uses and watched over them with a devotion that took no cognizance of working hours or weather.  He was an essential element in making McConnell's Mill and Moraine State Parks realities; they are his monuments and there his ashes were scattered after his early death." 

Source:   Compiled by his daughter:
Ethel Louise Leathers Winterhalter
3705 Rosebriar Avenue
Glenshaw, PA 15116

And Greatly indebted to
Dr. M. Graham Netting's
"50 Years Of The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy The Early Years."


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