Trailheads presents information and details about the exhibits, events and programs hosted by the historic sites and museums on PHMC's Pennsylvania Trails of History.

As part of PHMC’s Pennsylvania at War initiative, sites on the Pennsylvania Trails of History have planned programs and events to commemorate the centennial of America’s entry into World War I. Check the websites listed below or the weekly Trailheads blog and its monthly program pages for updates and additions to events and activities.


Erie Maritime Museum

On April 6, 1917, after several years of neutrality during the war in Europe, the United States declared war on Germany. That night, news of the declaration reached the Pennsylvania Naval Militia office in Erie. By the following noon, Cmdr. William L. Morrison (1869–1956) ordered the crew of USS Wolverine (originally USS Michigan) to report to the ship, berthed in Erie, to await further instructions. Some crew members, anticipating the declaration of war, had already enlisted (or reenlisted) in the U.S. Navy.

Within the week, on April 11, 100 crew members, designated as Divisions C and D of the U.S. Naval Reserve, marched from the Public Dock with Commander Morrison and Ensign Peter Schaaf Jr. to Union Depot to board a troop train for Philadelphia. There they were assigned to various cruisers and gunboats of the U.S. Reserve fleet to fill out the complement of enlisted sailors. Some crew members stayed behind in Erie to serve as enlistment and training officers; others enlisted in the Navy and served on board Wolverine on the Great Lakes.

The prow and other artifacts from USS Wolverine are on permanent exhibit at the Erie Maritime Museum, which tells a much fuller story of the ship. During the World War I centennial [in 2017], staff and volunteers are working on additional exhibits and programs to highlight the wartime service of Wolverine‘s crew.


Pennsylvania Military Museum

In the spring of 1916, a year before the U.S. declaration of war, a group led by Theodore Davis Boal (1867–1938) launched plans to form a volunteer militia unit based at Boal’s family estate in Centre County. Boal, who with his son Pierre had volunteered for service in France when war broke out in Europe in 1914, worked with the Pennsylvania National Guard (and provided most of the funding) to establish a machine gun troop. The “Boal Troop” was accepted as the Machine Gun Troop of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry of the National Guard and deployed to the Texas–Mexico border from October 1916 to January 1917 in support of U.S. efforts to capture Mexican paramilitary leader Francisco “Pancho” Villa.

When the U.S. entered World War I, the unit’s training ground, Camp Boal, was modified to include a recreation of a front-line trench. The Pennsylvania National Guard was redesignated the 28th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army and the Boal Troop became Company A of the 107th Machine Gun Battalion. In mid-May 1918, they left for war and did not return to Boalsburg until a year later.

Twelve men of Company A were killed in World War I, and at the first reunion of 28th Division officers on the grounds of Camp Boal in August 1919, a simple stone cross was erected as a monument to them. Additional monuments were added over the next decades and the site became known as the 28th Division National Shrine.

In 1957 responsibility for the site was transferred to PHMC, and the Pennsylvania Military Museum opened to the public in 1969. The shrine was expanded in 1997 to include a wall commemorating 28th Division casualties in World War II. Monuments to casualties of subsequent conflicts continue to be added to the grounds, most recently the Global War on Terrorism monument, dedicated in 2016.

In addition to its regular calendar of events interpreting and commemorating the service of Pennsylvanians in wartime, the Pennsylvania Military Museum has planned extra activities for April [2017] focused on the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I. Films, living history events, and lectures and guided tours by local historians, museum staff and volunteers on the histories of the Boal Troop, the Pennsylvania National Guard and the 28th Division Shrine are scheduled for each weekend from April 8 through April 30 [2017]. Three temporary exhibits related to World War I will be unveiled on April 8 [2017], and a History Scavenger Hunt will help younger visitors explore the museum exhibits and grounds.


Drake Well Museum

The museum’s Petroleum Program Series for March explores the World War I era and military history. On March 23 [2017], Phillip Atteberry of the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville will present “The Music of Irving Berlin,” a visual and musical program spanning from 1911 to the 1950s. During World War I, Berlin was drafted into the U.S. Army where he wrote patriotic tunes. He developed an all-soldier musical revue, Yip Yip Yaphank, which was produced on Broadway in 1918 and featured the song “Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.”

On March 30 [2017], Maj. Gen. John E. Stevens (U.S. Army, Ret.) will present a talk on the Pennsylvania National Guard in World War I. Stevens is active on the board of the Friends of the Pennsylvania Military Museum and has presented programs on chemical warfare in World War I, among other topics.

Petroleum Program Series events begin at 6:30 p.m., with museum doors opening at 6 p.m. Admission is charged.


Conrad Weiser Homestead

On May 7 [2017], Conrad Weiser Homestead will present a Military Timeline living history event focused on Pennsylvania German military service up to and including World War I. This program will also provide an opportunity to showcase the doughboy statue on the grounds, dedicated in the 1920s to “the pioneers and heroes of the Tulpehocken” Valley who served in the Great War. PHMC is working with a professional conservator to clean the marble statue as part of this year’s centennial commemoration.


Amy Killpatrick Foxis a museum educator in PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. She writes a weekly blog called Trailheads.