Letters presents readers' comments and reactions to specific articles in Pennsylvania Heritage, the initiatives of PHMC, and other developments in the historical, cultural and museum communities of Pennsylvania.

Bridge It

I noticed what appears to be an error in a photo caption in the article on Pennsylva­nia’s bridges [“Bridging the Past for the Future” by Eric DeLony, Winter 2000]. On page 14, in reference to the third picture in the center of the page, the caption indicates “Sharon Bridge, Mercer County, submerged by flood waters in March 1913.” The Sharon bridge in this photo actually connected what is now Upper Bridgewater (formerly Sharon) with the Junction Park of the Beaver Valley Traction Company. According to Arnold B. MacMahon in his 1984 book, Beaver County Album II, this is a view looking east towards the park area. If this is correct, as it appears to be, the bridge under the water of the Beaver River is actually in Beaver County. Incidentally, I am originally from Beaver County.

Tom D. Tomer
Oreland, Pa.


Horse Sense

Louis M. Waddell’s piece on Governor John F. Hartranft [“Old Johnny’s Vision for an Industrial Society,” Winter 2000] contains much of interest. The author’s concluding paragraph discussed equestrian statue of Hartranft which graces the esplanade of the State Capitol. He writes, “No state records are known to exist to document the history of the monumental bronze,” and concludes, “The powerful mounted figure stands … symbolic of the awesome power of government.” A legend, perhaps apocryphal, exemplifies those observations. The statue was dedicated in May 1899 before a large crowd among whom was Hartranft’s daughter. After the cloth covering the figure had been withdrawn, the ceremonies and the crowd dissipated, a governor’s aide walked the daughter around the statue, giving her time to examine the work in detail. She made appropriate admiring remarks. Just before they left for a reception, however, she said, “But you know, young man, it is all so true to life, so well done, it’s a pity, for you see,” as she waved her handkerchief towards the rear of the statue, “father always rode a gelding.” Early the next morning before the Capitol opened for business – so the story goes – a groundskeeper climbed a ladder up to the horse’s hindquarters and, with a hefty metal cutter, trued the statue – testimony, indeed, to “the awesome power of government.”

David V. Randall
Philadelphia, Pa.

David V. Randall, who served as secretary to the governor during the administration of George M. Leader, is the author of several nov­els set in northeastern Pennsylvania. The authenticity of many of history’s most colorful stories is, indeed, questionable, as is this capitol legend. Readers will be relieved to know that the horse upon which John Frederick Hartranft sits was not altered and remains intact as designed by its sculptor, F.W. Ruckstuhl. Ah, the awesome power of apocrypha!


Items of Interest

The Spring 2000 issue of Pennsylvania Her­itage contains several items of interest. In “The Moon Men of Agriculture” [by Lorett Treese], the author mentions George W. Childs. He was the publisher of the Philadelphia Public Ledger and owned land near Dingmans Ferry in Pike County. His property consisted of fifty-two very scenic acres of old growth white pine and eastern hemlock with a deep gorge, three high waterfalls, and several pools. In 1912, his widow, Emma B. Childs, gave this land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with the stipulation that the property would become “forever a park or public recreation ground for the use of the people of the Commonwealth.” The land became George W. Childs State Park. In 1983, it was transferred to the National Park Service and became part of the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area. “From Chaos to Calm: Remembering the Three Mile Island Crisis, An Interview with Harold Denton,” by Kenneth C. Wolensky, mentions the evacuation of people from the affected area. Pennsylvania State Parks with campgrounds and cabins were directed to open preseason in order to accommodate these evacuees. On Sunday, April 1, 1979, I made an entry in my daily journal for Promised Land State Park: “Received word from Regional Park Office via Hick­ory Run State Park, ‘As a result of nuclear mishap in Harrisburg area, many people are leaving their homes and seeking refuge some distance from the Three Mile Island [TMI] nuclear plant. All camping fees will be waived for people coming from this area. Pets will be allowed. This will be in effect until April 7 or until notified differently.'” The expected influx of campers never materialized. We had a few early spring campers, but none from the TMI area. This is understandable, as the distance to Promised Land State Park from the Harrisburg area is about one hundred and fifty miles. On Thursday, April 5, another entry in the daily journal: “Regional park office called. TMI campers with pets and without paying must be out by Friday, April 6.” This meant that TMI campers could remain if they divested themselves of their pets (normally prohib­ited in campgrounds), and they paid their camping fees.

Sanford Shelton
Equinunk, Pa.

Sanford Shelton retired in 1990 as park superintendent at Promised Land State Park.