Historical Societies: News and Highlights

Historical Societies: News and Highlights presents news and information about Pennsylvania's regional and county historical societies.

Beaver Falls Museum Opens

Directed by Robert Bennage, curator, the Beaver Falls Historical Museum officially opened to the public in No­vember [1975]. Hours are from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The museum, a “dream come true” for many, is located in the basement first floor of the Carnegie Library. Entrance is by the Thirteenth Street side and the Main Library on Seventh Avenue.

Two honored members of the museum committee were Denver and Genie Walton of the Great Arrow Historical Society of Monaca. Both gave invaluable assistance. Others who assisted Bonnage were Sidney Kane, Gladys Fair Frumen, Mr. and Mrs. James Summers, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Reidel, Robert Lackner, Wilda Roberts, Fernadetta Caldwell, Thomas Garvey and Dr. Melvin Fruman.

Newcomers to the museum committee included William Bennage, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Catherman, Neal Matthews, Peg Smart and Mr. and Mrs. Howard Gilligan. Special recog­nition goes also to Richard and Gary McKinnis who did the special electrical work.

Bennage noted that through the assistance of the Senior Citizens, the museum will be open six days a week.

The Beaver Falls Historical Society was first established in 1944 as an offshoot of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the incorporation of Beaver Falls. The museum itself was authorized in 1945 with consent of the Carnegie Library Board of Trustees and the Beaver Falls School Board. Co­operation also came from Beaver Falls Mayor Nick Camp and his council for approving $1,000.00 of Federal funds last year to aid in repair and rehabilitation of the museum quarters. The council has consented to an additional $1,500.00 this year to continue the museum committee’s progress.


History Topics Covered

J. Marvin Lee. historian and past president of the Centre County Historical Society, featured eight evening sessions for the winter term.

Additional information for anyone interested in organiz­ing such sessions can be obtained from Lee, 1657 Houser­ville Rd., State College, Pa. 16801.


Chester County Program

George Norman Highley, former president of the Chester County Historical Society and a leading authority on the history of Chester County, made possible a special program to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Bayard Taylor. Taylor, who lived from 1825 to 1878, was Chester County’s great nineteenth-century author, artist and diplomat.

Plans are underway for the complete rehabilitation and expansion of Chester County Historical Society’s museum, Memorial Hall, 225 North High Street, West Chester. The building has been a cultural center for Chester County for the past 127 years.


Bucks Society Portraits

The Bucks County Historical Society has acquired two eighteenth century portraits attributed to American portrait painter Charles Willson Peale. Peale lived from 1741 to 1827 and was best known for his portraits of George Washington.

The new portraits are now in an exhibit case at the entrance to the first gallery of the society’s Mercer Museum, Pine Street, Doylestown.

The portraits were obtained through a bequest of Emily G. Porter and her sister Catherine B. Porter of Fairfield, Connecticut. Both were descended from a Bucks County family and once resided there.


Jefferson Society Plans

A strong revival of interest in an age-old art has brought about the formation of a new group within the Jefferson County Historical and Genealogical Society – a quilters’ group. The group, which will meet in the society’s museum on Jefferson Street is open to anyone interested in making or learning to make quilts.

Aims of the group are two-fold: to teach the art of quilting to individuals eager to make quilts for themselves and to start a special “Bicentennial Quilt,” depicting the history of Jefferson County.


Lycoming Oral History

The Lycoming County Historical Society and the Junior League of Williamsport plan to expand their oral history project. Under the program, persons in the community are interviewed and their recollections of the past are tape re­corded.

Possible new topics may include lumbering in Lycoming County, development of county schools, area architecture, the Pennsylvania Canal, business development and county politics.

Individuals who know of Lycoming County’s unrecorded history are urged to contribute. Recorded interviews will be filed at the historical museum for individual or group use.


Friends of Peace Church

Michael J. Ripton, director, Bureau of Historic Sites and Properties, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, spoke at the first meeting of the newly elected board of directors of the Friends of Peace Church.

The board plans to incorporate its organization. Planning incorporation officers are Mrs. Eugene D. Ernst, president; Mrs. Marshall H. Dean, Jr., vice-president; Miss Dorothy Hetrick, secretary; and Mrs. Doris Mowery, treasurer.

The group consists of various civic clubs, historical societies, members of Daughters of the American Revolution, the Cumberland County Federation of Women’s Clubs, Garden Club members and any other citizens interested in preserving the Church. The Church itself is located at Trindle and St. John’s Roads in Hampden Township, Cumberland County.


Cambria Society Campaign

“For 200 Years More” is the development fund campaign title for the Cambria County Historical Society’s first campaign for public support.

Frank J. Castelli, board president and general chairman, said the development fund has a three-fold purpose. The campaign will pay for the new museum and library building which the society recently bought as a permanent home. The balance of the money will be used for minor renovations to the building and to establish an operating budget for the society.


Historical Highlights

Two gifts have been given to the Venango County His­torical Society. William Ross, Jr. of Franklin has donated a rare, bound volume of issues of the Venango Citizen. Mrs. Margaret S. Ward of Oil City presented the society with twenty-five volumes of the American Guide series. Both gifts were placed in the society’s library.

The Lehigh County Historical Society will have its new headquarters in the recently dedicated original Lehigh Coun­ty Courthouse. The society will develop and maintain a museum there. The courthouse was dedicated as a perma­nent museum of history, thus assuring its continued preser­vation.

The Greene County commissioners have agreed to include the Greene County Historical Society in the lease of the former county home property. This will enable the society to eventually erect a log cabin and to renovate a nearby schoolhouse.

John L. Marsh of Edinboro State College would appreciate any information, especially photographs, of any Clarion theaters of the 1800’s. Dr. Marsh spoke on “Old Opera Houses” at a session of the Clarion County Historical Society.

The Westmoreland County Historical Society made avail­able the History of Westmoreland County by George Dallas Albert. The society office is open on a regular basis 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Consideration is being given to being open on Saturday mornings as well.

Mrs. Paul Hershey has donated a Bicentennial replica of the Liberty Bell to the Dauphin County Historical Society in memory of her husband. Present at the ceremony were James E. Parker, society president; Joanne L. Romig, first vice-president, and William J. Wewer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Wewer spoke on “The Importance of Being on The National Regis­ter of Historic Sites” at the society’s meeting.

A display, “The Tool Shed,” is scheduled for April 22 by the New Brighton Historical Society. The display, the society’s program of the month, will be at 8:00 p.m. at the Merrich Art Gallery Building.

The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania has the following 35 mm color slide presentations available: “The Story of the Beehive Coke Ovens of the Connellsville­-Uniontown Area”; “The History of the U.S. Flag”; “Slides of Pittsburgh Past”; “Conquest for Empire”; and “Stone Blast Furnaces of Western Pennsylvania.”

The McClain Print Shop was dedicated recently at a ceremony in The Helen Black Miller Memorial Chapel, Mercer. The Mercer County Historical Society sponsored the event.

The print shop was moved in 1973 to its current location on the society’s grounds on South Pitt Street. It was donated by Mrs. Thomas W. McClain, Jr. of Mercer and dates back to early 1800’s.

An estimated $1,500 has been raised toward restoration of the post-Revolutionary home of Quakertown’s first mayor. The money was a result of the annual arts and crafts festival sponsored by the Quakertown Historical Society.

The Tioga County Historical Society recently donated $100.00 to the Tioga County Oral History Project. The project’s goal is to organize tape recorded recollections of area persons, making them available to anyone interested in regional history. Workshops will be held for amateur his­torians participating in the project. A brief summary of the contents of each tape will be compiled.

Jacob Mentel’s water color of Maj. William Rees of the York Militia and his daughter Mary and the Pennsylvania pull toy dragoon on horseback are back in their permanent places in the Historical Society of York County’s museum. Since last March, they have journeyed to New York, Rich­mond and San Francisco where they were viewed by thousands of individuals.

The Wyoming Historical and Genealogical Society, repre­sented by Harrison H. Smith, former society president, re­cently presented a special centennial box to Harry E. Whip­key, state archivist.

The box is to be stored in the Pennsylvania Archives until June 23, 2073; it will remain under the society’s ownership. The box contains many items which reflect life in Wyoming Valley.


Elk Society Has Tenth Anniversary

Editor’s Note: The following article was prepared by J. Franklin Reed, archivist of the Elk County Historical Society and was originally published completely in the 1974 Winter Issue of the Elk Horn, published by the society.

It is sometimes said that if we do not know something of the past, we do not know what we are or where we are going. The wisdom of the race is rightly considered a part of our education.

The Elk County Historical Society aims to collect and preserve for future generations as much of that wisdom as it can. Members of the society have assumed the task of uncovering, assembling, writing and preserving history of their ancestors. The history pertains to the social, economic and political life of the area now known as Elk County.

As one walks through the forests of the county, rides over miles of secondary roads, or even “zips” along one of the main highways, there is much evidence to be seen of the slowly disappearing past: here an old railroad grade, there the remains of a tannery, coke ovens. or even a small town. The history of these lies in the attics of houses or in the minds of older persons. The society solicits your help in gathering this information.

On April 22, 1964, a group of twenty-five interested people assembled at the Ridgway YMCA to discuss the possibility of forming a county-wide historical society. Mayor A. Perrin Shanley appointed an organizational committee of James Olay, Harry M. Hill, Sr., Howard H. Myers, Sr., Harriet Faust, Grace Chapin, Mrs. William D. Gallagher, all of Ridgway, and Earl M. Detwiler of Johnsonburg.

The constitution of the Warren County Historical Society served as a basis for the constitution for the proposed Elk County Historical Society, The Warren society, the Historical Society of St. Marys and Benzinger Township and the Clearfield County Historical Society assisted.

The mayor’s committee prepared the following slate of nomina­tions: James Olay, president; Earl M. Detwiler, vice-president; Mrs. William D. Gallagher, secretary; Franklin K. Swanson, Ridgway; William R. Cole, Ridgway; Sam R. Crocco, Benezen; Mrs. Ruth W. Hill Green, Ridgway; J. Franklin Reed, Ridgway, and William R. Cole, Ridgway. Mrs. William D. Gallagher of Ridgway continues as secretary.

John H. Cartwright, Harry M. Hill, Sr. and Harriet Faust were selected directors. Organizing committee personnel included: John H. Cartwright, Millie Gillespie, Henry DeVittorio, Vernon Horner, Ray B. Sykes, A. Perrin Shanley, Harry M. Hill, Sr., Harriet Faust, Earl M. Detwiler, William Anderson and Ralph E. Olson.

The society was organized with ninety charter members, many of them still active.

Harriet Faust and Alice L. Wessman were appointed a publication committee in July, 1964. The committee felt there was a need for a different, yet unique name for the paper and sponsored a contest through the Ridgway Record and the St. Mary’s Daily Press. Shanley’s suggestion, The Elk Horn, Pointed Facts of the Elk County Historical Society, was the winning entry. The first issue made its appearance in early 1965; it is now in its tenth year of publication. D. R. Thompson served as editor for the first four issues. The present editor, Alice L. Wessman, assumed her duties in 1966. Harriet Faust is associate editor.

The paper has become a major project of the society; it helps to preserve the information gathered, and at the same time, makes it available to the public. The interest thus created prompts people to donate articles or historical notes to the society. The Elk Horn is recognized as a valuable, cohesive force in holding the society together. It is available at various news offices in the county.

The society has been renting a work and storage room in the Ridgway Masonic Temple and now has two rooms in the basement of the renovated Elk County Courthouse, utilized as an office and a museum. The office and museum are creating much interest in Elk County history; they are open to the public on Mondays and Thursdays 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.