Now and Then
Established in 1868
Quarterly Magazine of History and Biography
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VOLUME X JULY 1951 NUMBER ONE
Text Transcribed by Connie Hembree Gaban
“CELESTA AT ITS BEST” BY M.M.A. (MICHAEL MYLERT ARMSTRONG)”
Description of the Painting
Twenty years ago, I saw on exhibition at the Hughesville County Fair, a quaint-looking oil painting of a small country cross-road settlement. The ticket stated that Mrs. Earl Montague of Hughesville owned it and was the exhibitor and I presume and hope she still owns it.
Since Mrs. Montague was a grand-daughter of Peter Armstrong, the founder of the religious community of Celesta in Sullivan County, Pa., the picture, crude and primitive as it was, took on in my eyes the significance of an historical document. It bore no date but subsequent study of available data, together with the life and activities of Peter’s son, Michael Mylert Armstrong, seemed to fix the date as being in the early 1870’s, tho’ tradition had it in 1864. This painting was subsequently kindly loaned by Mrs. Montague to the Muncy Museum of History for a considerable time and excited much interest. It was exhibited along with a complete set of Peter Armstrong’s publication “The Day Star of Zion” and a large engraving of the “City Plan of Celesta”, Note the spelling of the name Celesta in all three of these contemporary documents and not Celestia as so many persist in contending but with no proof save in the modern articles of later-day journalists.
While the painting was in the custody of the Muncy Museum, Mr. Alvin Walton, an assistant curator and amateur photographer, took the photograph reproduced here. That it had to be a black and white print and not a color photograph is unfortunate for the colors of the oil paint were still vivid tho’ laid on thickly and roughly. The canvas-on “Academy Board”- is only 18”x 24” and is framed in a home-made walnut frame. The picture has suffered three diminutions’ in size since it arrived in Muncy. In the upper left-hand corner of the painting, plain to see, was the identification of the scene. The trimming of the photographic print reduced it to “Esta-best-M.M.A.” As if this were not mutilation enough, the photo engraver of this plate, further reduced this identification to a terminal “A” and a fragment of the initials. But, so long as the original painting survives, the artist’s initials and his title, or caption, are safe but not if it is lost or destroyed. That is the reason for this long prelude to our detailed description of the painting here. Anyone further interested in the whole story of Peter Armstrong’s Celesta can satisfy himself by consulting pages 17-27 in Now and Then, Volume V.
In an effort to introduce a substitute for color, absent in the gloomy and dour illustration heading this article, we shall try to describe and identify each feature. Incidentally, there is said to have been two such paintings by the same artist; the other one, which I have not seen, only differing from this by the presence in the upper lighter space on the right, of an immense stack of bricks meant for building poor Peter’s “Tabernacle” which was never to be. The Tabernacle was to stand just across the Laporte road from the brick stack indicated by the small black triangle at the extreme right.
The artist was seated on a small knoll to the east of the fork of the road and about 500 yards away, near a small barn which is still there. The present curving highway sweeps from the far left to the lower right, side-tracking the two roads seen in the painting but still permitting entrance at both ends of the right angle, that is, from Eagles Mere and Laporte – tho’ the entrance is better from the Laporte road. On the inside corner of the turn, stands Armstrong’s combination general store, printing office and upstairs auditorium. In the center foreground is an artificial pond, fed by the copious flowing spring form the hill beyond the road. This spring is marked by a group of small white pines; above and slightly to the left of the large store building. These pines, in the last seventy years, have grown to an immense size and tower over the now empty pool of the spring once held in check by a supporting wall made of huge stones gathered nearby. This spring site is worthy of a visit. It’s outlet flows down the hillside and supplied a watering trough near the white house, the second building from the right. At the skyline from left to right, is shown Armstrong’s “Sugar Bush”, from which came the great quantity of maple sugar cakes which supplied most of his meager cash income. From the watering trough the spring water was conducted by a conduit under the road and passed under the small one storey building seen this side of the public road which was the village blacksmith shop. Let us now follow the broad yellow (in the painting) road from north to south or from right to left.
The continuation of this road to the right or Northward, and off the picture, was the original road to “Cooper’s Retreat”, cut by Cooper, leading to his hermitage at the mouth of Pole Bridge Creek where it empties into the Loyalsock. For information as to who Cooper was, you are referred to Volume VII of Now and Then, pps. 94 to 98. The second and larger house is the home of Peter and Hannah Armstrong. There is a horse and high buggy tied to a hitching post in front. When I first saw the site, the remains of the little turreted summer house, seen to the right, was still there, slowly being gnawed into billets by either porcupines or beavers. The pear and apple trees are also still there struggling for sustenance and existence among the tangled underbrush. One is reminded of the saying that: “He who plants pears, plants for his heirs.” Stonewall and stake-and-rider fences are everywhere. Armstrong’s large and commodious house always filled with itinerant and usually penniless disciples. Has a latticed front stoop with shrubbery and climbing roses on either side. This house site is marked today only by a small excavation in the rocky ground. To the Armstrong house there is attached another small cottage; also barns sheep-folds, sheds and orchards. The house, just above the blacksmith shop is said to have housed the Andrew Jenkins family, the one permanent family and the last to survive the death of Peter Armstrong who died suddenly from a “stroke of apoplexy” as he crossed the road in front of his store. Only a few of the names of his “disciples” have come down to us, namely a Mr. Charles Russell, Andrew Jenkins, a Mr. Bickle and Mr. David B. Cooper, the hermit, who lived there for a while. Also a Mr. Buckley and the Reverend
Curry whose widow ultimately married Andrew Jenkins who is still remembered by old timers of eagles Mere as a highly intelligent man who did his shopping in Laporte and Eagles Mere, using $20.00 gold coins taken from a “secret hoarding place.” Take this with a small grain of salt and also the tradition that the large boulders, which Peter cleared away for his temple site by burying them where they lay, were to have been turned, by Almighty God, into bread for his disciples upon the arrival of the “Last Day” preceding their ascent into Heaven. Wm. Mason, dec., then Co. Surveyor and in his nineties, was the source of our information.
MY BOYHOOD DAYS ON A SULLIVAN COUNTY FARM
Read before the Muncy Historical Society, February 1951 by H. Delbert Bird
So that you may know how I arrived in Sullivan County, we will start from England in 1795. The first three families to settle in what is now Millview were: William Molyneux, John Warren and Powell Bird. Powell Bird was my great grandfather. Molyneux settled at Millview and built a saw mill. Hence the name Millview. Warren took the next plot of ground up on Little “Sock, which was later occupied by Sam Kilmer, an uncle of our Mrs. Patrizio. Bird took the next plot farther up the creek. He also built a saw mill. Powell Bird and Lydia (Hannant) Bird were the parents of twenty-one children, nineteen daughters and two sons. There is a record to shoot at. Their daughter, Rebecca, was the first white child born in Sullivan County.
These early settlers each established their own private cemeteries. The Warren burying ground is located right along the road across from their barn. The bird burying ground is located on the old homestead, to the left of the road, going up the creek. It is up on the hillside, back of the house. The last time we visited it, it was quite well grown-up and many of the headstones were leaning at dangerous angles. The words of an unknown poet came to me:
“Here beneath the sod, forgotten people lie;
Forgotten, except by God. We note as we pass by
One moss grown legend reads, ‘Here lies the remains of one,
Who, by her kindly deeds, a crown of glory won.
Another slab, awry, relates valorous acts of a son.
Who beneath the spot doth lie, who earned the praise, ‘Well Done’.
We dare say, that when interred, flowers were banked on high,
And the eulogistic words, praised them to the sky;
But now, they forgotten lie, beneath the unshorn sod,
Unknown to passersby, forgotten, except by God.”
On the Molyneux farm was found an Indian Meadow. As I recall it, when it was pointed out to me as a boy, it consisted of several acres and was probably cleared by the Indians, for a place for the squaws to raise maize.
I did not come over with my great grandparents, but arrived nearly a hundred years later. Then I did not enter in the usual way, at least according to my next older brother Frank, who was five years old at the time of my arrival. He related how, on the morning of my birth, father had led him out to the wood lot, where he had some fire wood skidded up. He had shown him a set of nice little tracks from the end of a hollow log leading over to the house and up on to the porch. Frank always believed that I had come out of that hollow log, for the tracks clearly showed it. I have no reason to doubt Frank.
This happened in the shadow of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on Warburton Hill, which stands about ten rods from our original home. This church had made history a few years earlier, when a forbear of Red Grange, “The so called “Galloping Ghost” of football fame, had been tried by the Church for some infraction of its rules, and had been ousted. He shook the dust of the neighborhood from his feet and went west. In speaking of Red Grange, who is one of the nationally known characters born in Sullivan County; this humble writer went to school with his mother, who was Sade Sherman. Her name became “Sarah” after Red became famous. I wore a sore thumb for several years, which I sprained when I ran into Sade, while playing catcher around the school house. Red probably got his speed from his mother, for she could run like a deer and preferred playing with the boys and of course she was called a “Tom boy”. Red’s father was a woodsman and owned the finest team of dapple gray horses in the county, if not in the whole state.
A pencil sketch of the Charles Bird house in the Elklands, by his grandson, H. Delbert Bird-himself now a Great-Grandfather. The wall was built by the grandfather of his wife, Mrs. Veronica A. Everling Bird, who was the only stonemason in that region at that early day.
My great grandfather Bird’s saw mill on the ‘Sock, cut timbers and planks, which were built into rafts and floated down the stream to the Susquehanna and thence on to Harrisburg and points below. This saw mill was the usual type of the times, an “up-and-down” affair. That is, the saw was made like a great hand saw, but was run by a pitman, connected with a large wheel. A portion of this old mill still stood, when I was a boy, and was visited by myself. The old slip, up which the logs were pulled from the pond; the Bull Wheel, around which the rope wound, to pull up the logs, and some of the gearing and shafting, was still there. The shafting was made of wood, with iron gudgeons in the ends, which ran in wooden boxings.
Grandfather Bird bought around four hundred acres of red shale land on the north side of the Little ‘Sock at a place called The Big Bottom. He built a small log house on it and moved in with his bride, Harriet Molyneux. They lived very frugally for grandfather was called a close man. Another term for it is “stingy”. I used to think that he was so “close” that he touched. He called it “thrift” and probably that was the correct term.
I recall his telling about carrying a two bushel grain bag of wheat to Muncy and having it ground and returning with flour. Apparently there was no flour mill in the vicinity for my wife’s mother told us that her father, who was a stone mason and working on a bridge at Muncy, carried a sack of flour home on each Saturday night. Without doubt, grandfather had oxen as beasts of burden on the farm and therefore he had to carry his food stuffs because oxen were not very good on the hard roads.
Grandfather later lived in a stone house which still stands. This was built by my wife’ Grandfather. Strange to say, it does not have a fire place. They had a Drum Stove and during the several winters that I stayed with them it was my job to keep the large space underneath that stove filled with wood. It took several arm loads to fill it. In front of the stove and against the wall stood the wood-box, which was well supplied with kindling. I used to perch on this box for it was a nice toasty place on a cold evening. (see sketch on page 4)
Kerosene Oil lamps were the type of lighting used, but for going down cellar or stairs tallow candles were used. They were thought safer, for if one dropped an oil lamp, without doubt it would break and the oil would become ignited, but drop a candle and it goes out. Matches were never used for lighting a candle, lamp or lantern. A splint was used instead. There was always a supply of these in a holder made for that purpose. The splints were split out of a straight grained pine or hemlock and were about twice the thickness of a match stick and about twelve inches long. It was a simple matter to thrust the end of a splint into the front of the stove until it was lighted and use it as one would use a match. It was then extinguished by blowing it out or punching it down into the ashes in the front of the stove. Thongs or withes were used in many places instead of bolts and hinges where a temporary fastening was needed.
Grandmother was an isolationist. She very seldom went anywhere. She attended strictly to her own household and never tried to settle any world affairs. She left that to Grandfather and the rest of the men.
To show how closely she stayed at home, we recall that she saw her first train of cars at the same time that we did. We took her to Dushore as a treat and when we came to the top of the hill overlooking Dushore, a train went over the trestle, which overlooks the town. It was a grand sight for myself and Grandmother. A long train, probably five or six cars and a dinky engine that now would be quite a curiosity.
Grandfather was an inventive genius and he tried out his inventions on Grandmother. He invented butter workers, apple butter stirrers, washing machines, etc., but Grandmother did not take to them readily. The only one that stuck was the apple butter stirrer. That consisted of a paddlewheel that just fitted the inside bottom of the large copper kettle and a stem in the top of this paddle wheel came up through a cross piece, which he fastened across the top of the kettle. The stem had a crank on the upper end and a pole about 10 feet long with a hole in one end which fitted over the crank, completed this patent. It was a good invention for one could stand ten feet away from the fire and with a slight movement of one arm could cause the paddle to revolve and keep the apple butter from burning fast to the bottom of the kettle. Even a small boy could operate it, which I found out on several occasions.
Grandmother was a very indulgent woman as grandmothers usually are and once in a while she would let me climb up into her attic and rummage around. Her attic was reached by a trap door, which I could negotiate by piling one chair upon another and then clambering thru (sic). Here was stored an old hoop skirt that had belonged to one of my aunts. Apparently grandmother had never indulged in such luxuries. Grandfather’s wedding hate, a veritable “Old Topper” such as pictured on Micawber, was a magnificent affair of black silk, nearly a foot high. He must have been quite a “Dude”. He apparently lost it all when he married, for all of the years that I knew him, he seldom put on his “Sunday Best” and then he never wore anything better than a soft felt hat and a lumberman’s flannel shirt.
Grandmother would sometimes let me run the big carpet loom, which was in a large room adjoining the house. I did not weave anything on the loom, but ran it for the sheer fun of the noise it made. My aunts used to weave Linsey Woolsey on it and wore dresses made from it in their youth.
Grandma used to loser her glasses And then she couldn’t find them,
And would call on me for aid; And would call me in from play;
So I would have to scout around If I didn’t see them on her forehead,
To find where they were laid. I would usually say:
She had two special places “Did you look in your stomach, Grand
Where I could always look ma”,
One was way up on her forehead Smilingly she’d put her hand in there
The other, a secret nook. And pull out her glasses,
With an apologetic air.
Grandma wasn’t very tall,
But about so-o-wide from East to If time could just transport me,
West; To those happy days of yore,
Sometimes she’d tuck her glasses, So I could look for Grandma’s glasses,
Between her stomach and her breast. As I did so oft before.
Now, I hope her guardian Angel,
If Grandma should request
Can find her glasses on her forehead,
Or between her stomach and her breast.
On Grandfather’s farm is located a famous Bears’ den. This is on Bird’s Run or sometimes called Big Bottom Run. The Rocks, in which the den is located, overhang the creek, where the water has worn gullies in the rocks in some places to a depth of twenty feet. The den is reached by a narrow ledge, just about wide enough for a bear to traverse. The mouth of the den is about thirty inches high and about five feet wide and the bottom slopes downward for several feet and finally levels off so that after one has entered about six feet, the ceiling is around seven feet high. The passage inward runs in a circular direction to that when at the rear of the den, the entrance cannot be seen. The first time I entered the den, my hair stood on end and I was happy to get out, although probably no bear had been in it for half a century.
One of the earliest industries in our neighborhood was Joe Warburton’s Sorghum Mill.
He grew the sorghum on his farm. It resembles sugar cane and the juice, when squeezed out and boiled down, makes a dirty looking, sticky sort of stuff that looks like black strap molasses and tasted worse.
He squeezed the juice from the stalks with a large roller mill. The rolls made of wood and were about four feet long and at least twenty inches in diameter. The sorghum was fed by hand into the rolls.
Power was furnished by a Horse Power Sweep. This consisted of a horse, hitched to the end of a long pole, which was fastened to a large gear, which lay flat upon a wooden platform that was anchored to the ground and at the corners by wooden stakes. The gear meshed into a smaller gear or pinion, which was located on the end of a long shaft that was connected directly to the Sorghum Mill.
The horse was driven around and around in a circle and had to step over the drive shaft at every trip.
I recall St. Joe – every one called him Saint Joe, but he was not a saint, brought us a sample of sorghum and mother gave me a taste of it and I did not like it, so it must have been pretty rough, when a small hungry boy would not like molasses.
A typical Sullivan County tannery “Bark Stack” – showing bark wagons and stackers. On the roof is Jacob Fries, expert roofer. - Photo by Miss Jessie Wrede.
Bark Peeling and cutting logs and floating them down the streams was a very vital industry and every farm boy dreamed of being able to “work in the woods”. In early Spring, when the sap had ascended from the roots of the Hemlock trees, up into the trunk and limbs, men gathered into lumber camps and started “Peeling Logs”.
They usually worked in twos. Both would help to cut down the tree, being careful to fell it so that the trunk did not lie too flat upon the ground. The fitter then ringed the tree about every 4 feet, which was measured off by marks on the axe handle. These rings cut just thru the bark so that the “spudder” could rip off the bark, which would drop in small piles along the logs. The fellow, who ringed the tree, was called a “fitter”.
Bark peeling paid the highest wages of any industry and if one wanted to express himself in terms of high wages, he would refer to Bark Peeling wages”.
After Bark peeling was over, the next job was cutting the felled trees up into logs. This was usually done by men working in threes, two men sawing and one trimming the brush away so the sawyers could work and cutting the limbs from the trunks of the trees. This usually lasted until fall and into the early winter. When the logs had been cut, then roads were cut through the woods so the logs could be skidded out.
Skidding was done by driving grabs into the logs near the end and usually two logs would be grabbed side by side.
Grabs were an iron hook with a ring in one end with a short piece of chain about three feet long, with a large ring in the opposite end from the grab. When the logs had been grabbed, then a team of horses or oxen would be hitched to them and they would be dragged to the landing, generally along the edge of some stream, where they would be piled up in great piles consisting of thousands of feet of lumber.
When the spring rains came, the logs were picked loose by woodmen with hand spikes and cant hooks and rolled into the flood waters. Sometimes logs would jamb into great piles, backing a tremendous lot of water and logs behind them and then this jamb had to be broken. It was a precarious job to break a log jamb, and only the bravest would volunteer for the task.
Usually one key log would hold the rest in position and it was necessary for that log to be picked out by force. The lumberman, who went out on that jamb of logs, took his life in his hands along with his cant hook. When then jamb moved, it was sudden and if the jamb breaker could not run to shore on the moving logs, he would be swept into the waters and probably drown. It was our sad lot to know two young men in their twenties, who lost their lives in this way on the Little Sock. These tragedies happened in two separate drives. Their bodies were found weeks later. One of them at the Big Dam at Hillsgrove, many miles from where he had broken the jamb.
The greater lumbering operations were carried on by Robert McEwen, Robert McBride, Paulhamus and other lumbermen from Williamsport.
Boys used to earn a few shekels by trapping. Skunk hides sold for as much as one dollar for a choice black one. We could also sell rabbits, whole, in the local stores. The price received was usually ten cents. We did not get rich, but a dime in those days was not to be sniffed at.
Irish Ridge was settled by families directly from Ireland and they lived very frugally in log houses of one room with a large fire place in one end and a loft with a ladder to reach it. A hunter friend, who became cold while hunting foxes, related that he visited one of these pioneers and while warming himself, the man of the house discussed living conditions. The old fellow said, “Ye folks live too good for your own health. Now me and Maggie will just throw a couple of potatoes and a couple of Northern Spies on the fire and roast them and that makes a meal.” (see “The Genesee Road”, Vol. V.N.& T.)
These people were very pious and nearly all declarations were prefaced with “God willing” and ended with “Thank God”. On another occasion this same hunter had stopped in at one of the cabins to get warm and while the old lady was bustling around to get him a “Cup of Tay”, he tried to strike up a conversation with the old man. The old fellow never looked up or paid the slightest attention to the hunter. As he persisted in his efforts, the old lady came to his rescue. She said, “O, he’s deef and can’t hear a word, thank God.”
One community, where practically all of the inhabitants were Pennsylvania Dutch, was called Dutch Corner. It was not uncommon for some of them, when in a crowd, to start a conversation in Penna. Dutch, while most of those around them could not understand it, much less talk it. It always seemed as if they were talking about the ones who could not understand, but of course, they were not. What deaf persons do not? Some of them had a peculiar sense of humor; for instance, on one occasion, Katy and Etty had been out with boy friends. It was Etty’s first adventure and Katy was anxious to find out what had transpired, so she proposed that Etty should tell her what her “Feller” had said to her and she in turn would tell Etty, what her fellow had said. Etty poured out the whole conversation of the evening and when she finished, she asked Katy what her fellow said, Katy replied, “Good Night.”
One family, who always fed the “Nubbins” (or undeveloped ears of corn) to the hogs to fatten them, was much disturbed one year, because the corn was so good that there were no nubbins. She said, “ I don’t know what we will do for hog feed this winter, there ain’t no nubbins on the corn.”
The old saying, “One must take a Dutchman as he means rather than as he says”, is exemplified in the following. Addison had driven his wife, in the buggy to a neighbor’s. The buggies in those days were high affairs and Addison had gotten out and forgotten to help his wife out of the carriage. She called to him, “Holt me down, Addison”. Some of the residents of Dutch Corner did not understand “English Words” too well. For instance, Louie came to my elder brother Frank’s for help in reading a letter to his girlfriend. He had gotten it all, but the ending, which read, Sincerely Yours. Louie inquired, “Now what does she mean by that? Does she want to marry me or quit going with me.?”
When starting to work up material for this paper, an agreeable surprise greeted me. Although not quite a hundred years old myself, my life reaches back to pioneer days and many stories of the early days are still remembered.
ELKLAND - From our farm we could look over on an adjoining hill into Elkland. Here lived the Wencks, Nortons, Hugos and Fawcetts. Jasper Fawcett or Jap as he was called, was considered the best house painter in the community. His brother Oliver, moved to New Albany, on the edge of Bradford County and ran a flour mill. He supplied the surrounding country with flour products and was the first to introduce cloth flour sacks. These were made from a cheap grade of muslin filled with starch. These bits of muslin were used by housewives in clothing their children and sometimes themselves. O.F. boasted how he gave double service to his customers and to exemplify he related that when delivering a wagon load of flour that he had spied a ladies undergarment on the clothes line and printed across the seat was “O.W. Fawcett, Proprietor”.
FATHER’S SCHOOL DAYS -When father went to school, things were quite different than at present or even in my school days.
For instance, soon after we had moved to Muncy, I was accosted by a bright old lady, who inquired about my father’s name and when told who he was, she exclaimed that he had gone to school to(?) her. I thought I had a choice tidbit to tell father, when I next saw him. He sat in silence and made no comment until pressed as to why he was not thrilled. He then related that he remembered her only too well. For some infraction of school rules, she had called him to the front of the room and set a stick of stove wood on end and made him sit on the top of it. That was not so bad, but when he was not looking, she kicked the stick from under him and he tumbled to the floor. On another occasion she made him sit upon the floor with his feet out in front and then she put a stick of wood under his heels, raising his feet off the floor by about four inches. It is pretty tough to sit flat on the floor with ones feet straight out in front, but to raise them higher soon becomes painful. Those are the fond remembrances he had of her.
On another occasion she had administered an unusual punishment or shall we call it some fine detective work or was it both? The children placed their dinner baskets in a little ante room, which served as a cloak room and wood shed. Some pupils complained to the teacher that certain knick-knacks were being taken from their baskets. The teacher kept a mental tally of the pupils, who went out and decided that Adam Wentz, or Ad, Wench as he was called, was the culprit. She was prepared to prove it. Ad was made to swallow a piece of fat pork with a string tied to it. When the pork was pulled up, it brought along some pie and cake. Of course Ad was not punished; she just wanted to know who did it.
Father’s first gun shop was located on Warburton Hill about a half mile from the Warburton homestead, and the Warburton Hill School house was on a corner of his little farm. This school house is now used for an Election House.
This shop was a veritable Mecca for gun lovers and hunters and for hours on end we could listen to wonderful hunting stories. Men came from all over the state to have guns made or repaired so he could hunt squirrels. He had all of his teeth, although they were somewhat loose and waved back and forth when he talked. He had his “second eye-sight” and needed no spectacles. He was treated as a royal guest and we had him for diner, which we always had at noon. After dinner, mother had the hired girl, who was sprightly widow, play upon the organ. She was quite a musician and besides, composed songs and ballads concerning events and people in the community. The old fellow enjoyed it immensely and chirped up, “She never misses a note”. I doubt whether she knew a note from a sledge hammer, but she could make the organ talk and sing.
About all I can remember of the old shop is when mother corralled me into one of dad’s loafing chairs for Bob Warburton, a student dentist, to extract one of my teeth. I put up a good fight, but was over powered by mother and Bob and lost the tooth. I here formed an opinion of all dentists. There is no place in heaven for a dentist. He will tell you that it won’t hurt and proceed to hurt you like the dickens.
The boys from the school played ball in the field, across the road from our house and on one wet day, a bat slipped from the hand of Jack Gilligan and hit Llewellyn Vough on the temple. He was carried into our house and died a few minutes later.
This, of course, happened before I was old enough to remember it, but I do recall meeting Jack Gilligan when I was a lad of fifteen or sixteen. We were working on the road and he asked me for a chew of tobacco. I did not use tobacco and told him so, but he insisted, thinking I did not want to give him a chew. I finally convinced him that the only bad habits I had were lying and stealing. A neighbor came to my rescue and backed up my statement. It was probably an unusual thing for a boy of my age not to chew tobacco. My father chewed tobacco and he bought it by the plug. He had a great big cuspidor which he always called “The Mug”. Sometimes he would miss it and spit upon the floor, then mother would get disgusted and toss the thing out the door. Father would retrieve it, was it all up clean and then bring it into the house again. Mother would admonish him in acrid tones: “Now you’ll just have to hit it, if you keep that thing around.”
When I was about five years old, we moved to a larger farm about one half mile from the original one, which was sold to the Wesleyan Methodist congregation and our old house and was made over into a Meeting House.
SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS
Schools and Churches, as usual, followed the early settlers. These were one room affairs where one teacher might have as many as eight grades at one time. Fifty to sixty pupils were not uncommon. We can recall when our school had at least twenty grown up pupils.
Annually, at the end of the term, we would have a gala day. There would be speaking pieces, recitations, declamations, dialogues, charades and what not. One good teacher gave us an excellent treat on one occasion by making some experiments. One in particular, which was very realistic, was a Volcano. He built a small volcano, probably eighteen inches high, from clay, on a wooden platform. He had the right ingredients for a real volcano. He lighted it, it spit fire, threw out lave, which boiled out of the top and ran down the sides, just like we had read about. He must have over charged it with more material than he intended for it refused to stop spouting. Mount Vesuvius had nothing on teacher’s volcano. It kept throwing fire and lava higher and higher until it was able to plaster some of it on the ceiling. It filled the upper part of the room with a dense black smoke so that we had to open the doors and windows. Some of the children became almost hysterical, but we enjoyed it. I would not be surprised if some of the lava was still sticking to the ceiling, for the last time I visited the school it was still there.
I recall three County Superintendents, Meylert, Black and Kilgore. When the Superintendent called, we were always very studious. Probably doing more studying as to how one man could learn all of the things that a Superintendent must know. The teacher was usually very nervous and fidgety. Supt. Black always heard a class or two.
Politics in Sullivan were fairly clean for all were Republicans. My forbears on both sides of the family, were Republicans, but being somewhat independent in my thinking, I weighed both parties, with Republican scales and cast my lot with the Republicans.
The first year that I voted saw a hot contest for members of the State Legislature and for Congress.
John Schaad was running on the Democratic ticket, and I knew that he was a whiskey distiller. On the Republican ticket was John G. McHenry. The Republicans won and the next morning I met a young Democrat and to rub it in a little I remarked that at least we would not have to be represented by the liquor interests. He came back at me in a flash that McHenry was a distiller and then I remembered that I had heard of McHenry Whiskey. This floored me and I have never been the same politically since. I became indifferent in politics to such an extent that I even voted for Democrats on several occasions. To be frank, I voted for F.D.R. for President. I would vote for him again at the next Presidential Election if he were alive and a candidate.
THE FORKSVILLE FAIR
From about October sixth around the year until October second, of the next year, we lived for the Forksville Fair.
When the time arrived, we started the day before to get ready. Mother prepared about a bushel of good food. Fried chicken, pumpkin pies and all kinds of good eatables were packed for the occasion.
This was one morning when it took but one call from mother to get us out of bed. The chores all done and a good breakfast stowed away, we were on the way by seven o’clock. We enjoyed the anxious ride down the valleys in the old Democrat wagon, behind the farm team. The horses generally felt their oats on a frosty October morning and would trot without much urging.
We would arrive at the fairgrounds about nine A.M. and unhitch the horses and tie them to a rail along the outer fence or along the race track. By that time the stands and shows were beginning to open.
Sometimes the weather would be quite cold and then the fair officials would build one or two large bonfires so we could warm ourselves.
Fortunately, my father had joined the fair association when it was young and had a life membership ticket, which admitted his entire family until the children become of age.
One year father held some official position on the ground and a very pious neighbor took him to task for allowing some show girls to appear on their barking platform, as she described it “naked.” The girls actually wore flesh colored tights, but the good lady was too pious to get close enough to know it.
No fair would have been complete without Wendell Sick exhibiting his large black stallion or Ezra Reinbold showing his large hogs, one of which weighed nearly a thousand pounds.
Dad Backers show was always on hand and it was one show that always gave a good performance.
Other shows also exhibited, where one could see Signor Leno, the great Mexican knife thrower, pin his sister fast to the wall at ten paces. He did it alright, but the poor girl always looked as if she were glad when the act was over.
For a dime one could see the “Wonder Man”, who could move his heart over on the right side of his body, move his lights down where his liver stayed and move his liver up where his lights should have been. “Lights” we might explain is a scientific term for “Lungs”. An animal’s lungs were always referred to as lights.
The first bicycle to invade our territory was owned by my elder brother Joe. He bought it second hand from a fellow in Dushore and it was probably the first one in the County.
It was a crude affair if compared with our modern bike. It had cushion tires, which were about one and a quarter inches in diameter and were nothing but a rubber tube with thick side walls. It was not ball bearing and ran so hard that it was impossible to ride it, except on the level or down hill.
It was a great curiosity and on Sunday afternoons Joe would take it up to a long, level stretch of road along Geo. Lambert’s farm and practice on it and also let others who were bold enough to try, have a chance for a spill. About as many young chaps would attempt to ride as one would expect to see inexperienced pilots try to take an airplane up for a tryout. No girl ever thought of trying it out or at least if one thought of such a thing, she never voiced it. It would have been pretty certain to expose her ankles and possibly her calves.
First Sullivan County Court House, Erected in 1852. Replaced on same site in 1894. To right is seen a glimpse of Wm. Mason’s house. From the upper window above doorway was hanged murderer Kamm from an improvised scaffold.
The fist murder recorded in Sullivan was the one in which Kamm killed Veitengruber. This was very eloquently told in a recent Now & Then by Dr. Wood, so we will pass over that one. (Issue No. 5, Volume 9.1)
The next murder trial was that of Mrs. Heiple Lambert. Her husband, William Lambert was found dead in the woods near his home. A bottle of laudanum near him indicated that he had either committed suicide or that it was administered to him and the bottle put there to point to suicide. It was known that the couple did not get along and that they had trouble in reference to his deeding his property over to his wife. It was not proved that Mrs. Lambert committed the crime, but public opinion was quite strong and it was uncomfortable for her so she moved away.
Bill Saam was tried for the murder of his mother. Money was at the root of this murder. A younger brother, who was killed by slipping into a threshing machine, had nearly a thousand dollars in a bank. This money was turned over to his parents, who were his legal heirs. Bill wanted his parents to turn it over to him, on the understanding or condition of keeping them. His father consented, but his mother refused. He shut her in her bedroom and from the autopsy records; she was practically starved to death. She somehow escaped from her room and wandered around the yard, where she found some frozen apples, which she ate. She then contracted pneumonia and died. At her funeral her daughter raised a rumpus about the cuts and bruises she had on her body. Nothing was done at the time and the victim was buried. A few days later the daughter succeeded in getting one of her uncles to start an investigation. The body was exhumed and your humble servant was present at the post mortem. This disclosed cuts and bruises that she could not have inflicted upon herself. Her intestines contained nothing but undigested frozen apples.
Aside from the murders we had several tragic deaths in Sullivan. The earliest one was that of Mrs. Ed Franck. She either jumped or was thrown from a buggy hitched to a runaway horse. She was wearing a hoop skirt which caught on the wagon and dragged her to her death. Another death, in which the County lost a splendid doctor, was that of Dr. William Randall, who lived in Dushore. A resident of Dushore was cleaning out his well and was overcome by Black Damp, a gas that sometimes is also found in mines. It is very deadly. The man’s wife discovered his condition and Dr. Randall was just driving past and she summoned him and he let himself down into the well, not knowing, of course, what had happened. He was also overcome and both men died from the effects. A third death occurred, while my father was a poor Commissioner. He was routed out of bed by the other member of the Board and they sailed off into the night. Upon his arrival home next day, it was found that a man whom we will call “Old Tom” and his house keeper, who was known as “Black Maria”, together with a young chap who was a fish peddler, had drunk wood alcohol because they were not able to procure whiskey. They had diluted it with water, but apparently had left it plenty strong. The fish peddler and Black Maria were dead. Tom’s stomach was well tanned from his long years of drinking so it apparently did him little harm.
Another death, which was always held up as an example to us children (to help us to keep the Sabbath day holy) was that of Edward Hunsinger. About a dozen boys from the neighborhood trekked over to Jordan’s dam for a swim. This of course was against their parents’ wishes. Edward sank and failed to come up. The boys dived for him in vain for the water was around twenty feet deep. They finally went home and his two brothers carried his clothes home with them but were afraid to tell their parents. Two of the boys in another family acted so strangely that their mother questioned them and they told the story. A posse was gotten together and the pond was dragged and the body found. He was found clutching a limb in the bottom of the pond. That helped more than any other thing to keep boys from swimming on Sunday.
The men had shooting matches around Thanksgiving and Christmas and one had to be a MARKSMAN to get a turkey for one had to shoot the turkey through the head or neck in order to claim it. A turkey would be placed in a box with slats across the top so it could stick its head out above the box. The turkey’s head was the target. If one missed, he missed getting the turkey. I never saw one of these matches, but heard father and his cronies describe them.
ICE CREAM SOCIALS
Ice Cream Socials were a real community affair and people drove in from miles around. We held one in our old log house, which was empty at the time and at least two hundred people were in attendance.
The Farmers Alliance was a flourishing organization at that time and was similar in its objects to the “GRANGE” of today. Nearly all of the farmers, both men and women, belonged.
Public dances were frequently held at some farm houses during fall and summer months. We can recall a few that were held at our place. The young folks would gather and move out the kitchen stove and table and enjoy an evening. One old fiddler in particular could be heard for at least half a mile, when he kept time with both feet. He would become so engrossed in his music that he would stamp both feet on the floor; his eyes became fixed, staring, but seeing not and he would emit the funniest guttural sounds and twist his mouth out of shape, but he produced the music. Toward the end of the dance a collection would be taken and the fiddler accepted it as his fee, be it large or small.
Woe to the young chap who would try to dodge the “Fiddlers bill”. One young fellow who was known for his stinginess, thought up a bright ideal. He got hold of a twenty dollar bill and would offer it, but of course no one had enough change to break it. It worked several times but some of the boys put their heads together and got enough money together to break it. When he proffered it, expecting to get by without paying, he not only paid for that night, but for the several other times as well.
BARN RAISINGS AND BEES
A barn-raising was quite an event in the olden days. A carpenter would prepare the timbers cutting them to the right length, making mortises and tenons at the right places and the right dimensions. Woe unto him if he had made a mistake so that when the men came to put them together found an error had been made. He would be laughed to scorn and would lose his rating as a carpenter.
On the day of the raising, forty or fifty husky men would gather and under the supervision of the carpenter, would assemble the various bents or frame work, then would come the hardest part of the job. Men would get under it with pike poles and push on it until it stood on an upright position. Then the tenons on the lower ends of the posts would be inserted in the mortises and the bent would be braced in that position and the men would proceed to raise the other bents until all had been raised, then the tenons on the ends of the beams would be put into the mortises so as to fasten the corners together.
The crowning feature of the event would be the big dinner that the house wives would prepare and the men could do just to it for some reason men will usually work harder when doing team work of this kind. Probably each one tries to outdo his neighbor.
We had stone bees, wood bees and haying bees. One haying bee can be recalled where whiskey was served as a refreshment. The men could work off the effects of the whiskey, but after supper, then it began to show and some of them had a hard time to get home.
Usually cider was furnished for a drink and sometimes this would be about as strong as whiskey. Many times a bee would be followed in the evening by a dance, in which all of the younger generation would indulge.
Hair Oil Billy Roberts not only sold, but advertised in a big way, “The One and Only Elixir for the Hair.” He was a robust fellow with large, pleasant and very dark brown eyes and a magnificent head of raven black curly hair which hung down upon his shoulders. A wide brimmed hat would have made him look like a senator from the solid South. He called in our neighborhood on several occasions and once he stayed all night with us. Incidentally no one was ever turned away. He spent much time with his hair in combing and arranging it, but whether he ever used any of his famous hair oil on it or not was a moot question. He would remark that he had been offered five dollars for one stray curl that hung down over one eye. He always had the curl so we concluded that he never sold it.
He was a very pious chap. Brother Frank was helping him one day to repair a strap, with which he carried his satchels, and he accidently cut himself with his pocket knife. He yelled, “Ouch, Dammit, Oh Jesus! Forgive me”, all in the same breath.
His one sore spot was his failure to convince the government that he was entitled to a pension for services in the Civil War. However, the last time we saw him was at the entrance of the Forksville Fair and he was all togged out in a new suit and wore white cotton gloves and confided to father that he had at last obtained his pension.
Dr. Carr, as he termed himself was an amiable old character. He called himself an Herb Doctor. He roamed the country, wearing usually three coats, the outer one was a heavy canvas affair with great pockets, which he kept well filled so that he had the appearance of a Santa Claus.
We used to engage him in discussions just to see him dive into one of his many pockets and bring out a sheaf of clippings which he would leaf over until he found one bearing the subject under discussion. He was a scholar and a gentleman and treated everyone as an equal and if he won an argument, which he usually did, he would not gloat over it, but would pass on to some other subject.
Dr. Stewart, whether he was a bona fide doctor we never knew and did not care, for we never bought any of his remedies. He was a sparse, gaunt man with snow white hair in which he wore a very wide part, which reached from the top of one ear to the other. In other words, the top of his dome was bald.
He drove a sway back gray horse, which we could hear a half mile away owing to the way he put his front feet upon the ground. He would step on the heel of the shoe and then when the leg was about straight up and down the foot would snap upon the ground with a loud whack.
One of the most outstanding characters of our neighborhood was Olive Haverly. She slapped and shook up more children than any other person on Warburton Hill or any adjoining neighborhood.
She was called GRANNY, midwife to you. No one ever thought of calling a doctor for childbirth, they called Granny Haverly instead and the calling was not done by telephone, for there was none in the country. It meant hitch up the buggy and go and get her. Those who could afford paid a small fee, but she did most of it because she loved to do it.
The largest woman in the neighborhood was Susan Reinbold. Suse had a soul that was even larger than her body. It stuck out all over. She gave birth to seventeen children; thirteen of them were living in my time. Besides this small family, she mothered most of the children in the community. No child could get away from her without having something to eat. I enjoyed her bread, but she usually put on too much butter to suit me. My next younger brother Clate, no sooner did he have his foot in the door, like the Fuller Brush Man, than he would ask for something to eat. I would remonstrate with him all the way home, pointing out to him it was impolite to ask for something to eat and that if he would keep still, she would have given him something anyway, but all I could get out of him was, “I was hungry”.
There was one custom, which was enjoyed by both boys and girls and that was going home from school to stay overnight with another pupil. On one of these occasions I stayed all night with Barney Reinbold, one of Suse & Tilly’s boys about my age. I slept between Barney and one of the other boys and for a cover we had a feather tick. If I ever wished I had not been the center of attraction that was the time. All of the feathers seemed to gather in the middle of that tick and I nearly smothered. I still break out in a sweat, whenever I think of it.
We lived in a log house in my youth and when living with my paternal grandparents, as I did for a few years, we lived almost as primitively as the early settlers. We shovel ploughed NEW GROUND, which is ground from which the trees have been cut down and on which the stumps till remain.
The brush and limbs from the trees were piled upon the stumps to help burn them. The logs were rolled into piles; that is, those that were not used for lumber and these also were burned. This was called a fallow and everything in it became covered with charcoal so that a person could not work in it a half hour without becoming as black as a Negro.
One could take no better exercise than to get between the handles of a shovel plow, hitched to a good strong horse. The blasted thing seems to want to hook under every root in the fallow. When freed from one root it skips to the next one. When it catches solidly beneath a root, it fairly lifts a fellow off his feet, and no sooner is it released from the root than it hits a large stone and that is the way it goes until the field is plowed.
GEORGE McKEARIN ANSWERS IN THE NEGATIVE
Mr. Geo. McKearin and his daughter are perhaps the most authoritative writers on and judges of American Glass that we have. The letter below will explain the editor’s question in the April Now and Then and his prompt answer sets forth his judgment of the two case bottles illustrated. Early American glass is a sadly confused study where the experts fall into hastily made errors. An overall view must be acquired for, beginning with Stiegel and Wistar, one failure after another scattered the skilled glass-makers to other parts, usually westward, where they came under the influence of different masters and different communities but still endeavoring to hold fast to certain favorite classical designs and shapes. Therefore it is not for the ordinary collector or dealer to make close decisions but to accept those of experts even when one’s own pride and pocket book is hurt.
McKEARIN’S ANTIQUES- Hoosick Falls, N.Y. May 31, 1951
Thanks for the copy of the April issue of Now And Then which I have just received. I note the article about Major John Adlum and his “Amelung Glass”.
While we are sure Amelung made case bottles such as the Baker Johnson set referred to in this article, I very much doubt if the two illustrated were made by Amelung. I have never encountered any tulip decoration on any of the pieces which were definitely known to be Amelung. On the other hand I have seen quantities of case bottles with the tulip decoration, and various other decorations which were Continental. Of course this does not prove that Amelung could not have made glass with an entirely different type of engraving from that on the authenticated pieces. The engraving on most of these case bottles is similar to the tulip and other engraving found on the so called Stiegel flips and mugs. Most of the latter I am inclined to think are Continental although it is quite likely that Stiegel may have made similar glassware. With kind regards and best wishes, Sincerely yours, Geo. McKearin.”
Editors Note: As to the Amelung Glass factory of New Bremen, Md. On our way home from a visit to our Winchester, Va. Cousins in May we (Mrs. Wood and I) came via Point of Rocks to Buckeysville, Md., where we made inquiries as to the factory site. After negotiating many farm gates and rutty lanes, we, amazed, came upon the impressive Amelung mansion of 1784 and the owners Mr. William R. and Mrs. Dorothy Mackay Quynn, both of University of Maryland faculty members and their family of Siamese cats. The house is magnificent and in process of being restored by the Quynns. The Mantles and the interior trim equal those of Geo. Mason’s “Gunston Hall”. We traveled in an antiquated jeep across cow pastures to the factory site where it was hard to imagine that some 180 skilled Bohemian glass makers had once lived and wrought. Absolutely nothing new remains but the green sward. The parting words from the Quynns were: “Remember this is the tick season, keep close watch on yourselves” referring to the dangers of our trip across the pastures. But more details and descriptions later, for our new friends are historians and not mere glass collectors and very interesting people.