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History of the Jefferson Township Historical Society

A SHORT HISTORY OF JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP
 
The early history of Jefferson Township, as a separate district, dates from June 16, 1853 when by order of the Washington County Courts this Township was set up out of a part of Cross Creek Township.  The territory, now included in Jefferson Township, was formerly included in Hopewell Township which was one of the original thirteen townships of the county. Hopewell Township was formed in 1781.  On September 1, 1789, an order of the court created Cross Creek Township that included the present territory of Jefferson Township.
Among the early settlers of Jefferson Township was the Robert McCready family who settled on a tract of land of 332 acres known as “Good Will”. This tract of land lies southwest of Eldersville.  Logs from the original home are stored at Meadowcroft Village.  Robert Stewart was a native of Ireland and came to this region shortly after serving in the Revolutionary War.  His tract lies about a mile northeast of Eldersville.  George Miller came from Donegal , Ireland in 1792 and settled in Jefferson Township in 1795 on the property now occupied by his great, great, grandsons, Albert and Delvin Miller.  The farm was known as the Bancroft Farm and was known for its fine stock of horses, which included the famous trotter “Adios”.


Jefferson Township Map - circa 1932
with locations of historical sites noted by Frank Muzopappa.
Click Here to Download a copy of the Map.

 

A Brief History of Washington, PA and the County

When settlers from the Western part of Scotland and the Northern part of Ireland who had been living in eastern Virginia decided to move west around 1768, they came across a Delaware Indian tribe named Kuskuskee (meaning hog place) which was camped along a creek the Indians called Wissameking. It was an important village of mixed Delaware and Iroquois probably from the Seneca tribe which lived on Beaver Creek near the present New Castle from 1753 to 1770.

The Chief of the Kuskuskee was named Tingooqua but for some reason the settlers called him Catfish and so the creek became Catfish Creek and the area was called Catfish Creek Camp. The creek was near the headwaters of a branch of Chartiers Creek, and is now the corner of South Main and Maiden Street. It is still there but it was, much later, covered over and run underground across the lots to the south and under where the B & O Railroad was later built.

The settlers decided to stay and began building log cabins and soon the camp consisted of both log cabins and wigwams. Chief
Tingooqua camped in three location in what is now Washington, Pa. The first being Catfish Creek Camp. Sometime after 1788
Tingooqua moved his village because the settler’s cabins were too close. His second camp was at a spring at the foot of the hill below
what are now West Prospect Ave and a few feet south of Park Avenue in the point formed by South Main, Park and Prospect. He didn’t stay long there as it also was too close to civilization so he moved to another spring in what was later known as Shirl’s Woods. His next move was to the Scioto River in Ohio where he later died.

After a land dispute with Virginia was settled, this area became part of Pennsylvania. On March 28, 1781 the Pennsylvania legislature passed an act naming the county of Washington and named Catfish Creek Camp as the place for the first election. This was the first county in the United States to be named Washington.

The election was held at the cabin of David Hoge in October 1781. James Wilson was given permission to keep a Public House of entertainment at Catfish Creek Camp which established him as the first tavern keeper in Washington.

One of the first settlers at Catfish Camp was William Huston. The date is not known when he first arrived but he was there on April 29, 1774 because that is when George Rogers Clark, Captain Michael Cresap and several other frontiersmen, on their way from Wheeling to Radstone Old Fort (near Brownsville) stopped at his cabin. The original records in the records office show that a tract of 439 ½ acres called “Huston’s Pleasure” was surveyed and conveyed to Will Huston on Dec. 1, 1788.

In April 1771, David Hoges of Carlisle purchased the Hunter and Reynolds claims but it was not until 1781 that he had it laid out and surveyed for a town site. He first called it Dandridge Town then immediately changed it to Bassett Town for William Bassett, a relative. The town was plotted and surveyed by David Reddise, deputy surveyor on Oct 13, 1781. On November 4, 1784 the plan was resurveyed and the name changed to Washington but there is some indication the name was changed earlier. (In one place I read that the names Dandridge Town and Bassett were crossed out and Washington written above before it was recorded)

The original plot dedicated a tract of ground to the people for recreational purposes. A lot was given for a courthouse which is where the current building now stands. Lots 43 and 102 were given to General Washington and Mrs. Washington. The city of Washington was incorporated as a borough on Feb 13, 1810 and became a 3rd class city in 1926. They had first tried to incorporate in 1796 but were unsuccessful.

The first town council, elected in 1810 was comprised of Hugh Wilson, Thomas Acheson, Hugh Workman, Robert Anderson and Harter Campbell.

In the summer of 1808 a Connestoga Wagon was driven into the little frontier village which was still called by many Catfish Creek Camp. Little attention was paid to it because it was common. When it reached Market Street, now Main at the junction of Walnut and Main street and known as the “head of town” it turned down Market and stopped at the corner of Belle Street, now Wheeling Street where a sign on a high post announced “The Sign of the Swan Tavern” with a big white swan painted under the words. The wagon stopped and William Sample and William B Brown climbed out. Both were printers with all their equipment in the wagon – a wash hand press, type, ink, paper and everything necessary for a frontier newspaper. They didn’t require much equipment then. They didn’t intend to stay more than a few days before moving on to Kentucky. As they sat that evening talking with John Rettig, the owner of the tavern, he persuaded them that the town needed a new newspaper and they decided to stay. On August 15, 1808 the Washington Reporter was published for the first time. It was published every Monday evening with 4 pages and 4 small columns on each page. A subscription was $1 for 6 months and $2 for a year not including postage for those living outside of town.

The caption at the top read:
“Tis pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat, a peep at such a world – to see the stir of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd”
It was one of only 7 newspapers in the United States in 1808. The Maryland Gazette at Annapolis was first and has been published more that 231 years (as of 1958)

The Washington Reporter reported mostly outside news as the people already knew all the local news before it was published It was a weekly for 68 years.

Each noted visitor who passed through the town in those early years was accorded a reception and a dinner by the townspeople. These were big occasions, but no reception either before or since was given such an ovation as that given to General LaFayette when he arrived here over the National Pike from the west on May 25, 1825. Lafayette, who more than any other man except Benjamin Franklin, helped General Washington win independence, was still the outstanding hero of the American people. “He was escorted into town by prominent men and military organizations, and the citizens. The old newspaper accounts state that fully 20,000 people lined the street but where they all found room is hard to say. At that time Washington’s population was only about 1,700 and the county had about 40,000. From this it would appear that almost half of the people in the county were here that day.”

For ¾ of a century after the settlement of western Pennsylvania the only means of communication between Washington and east of the Allegheny Mountains was by horse. Either horseback, pack horses and Conestoga wagons when the weather was not too bad or the mud too deep on the rough mountain trails. This changed with the completion of the National Pike from Baltimore to Wheeling and the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Turnpike. These improved roads enabled the Conestoga wagons and stage coaches to get through faster and with fewer hazards.

The coming of the National Pike in 1818 brought a slow boom to the town and prosperity for the next 30 years. It was steady and permanent and could be relied upon when panic came and it did – (panic meaning depression). However, by 1860 the National Pike was just a memory. But the economy of that time was built upon agriculture with farming and sheep being the principal industries. After the whiskey rebellion was over the farmers were raising sheep and some of the finest Merino wool in the United States was produced right here. For nearly a century Washington and Green County furnished more sheep for the western states than any other place. Many of the prominent men had sheep ranches in the mid and upper mid west.

Later there was also a large glass industry with Washington supplying more glass than any other place.

A little known chapter in the early history of railroads in the United States was the original plan to build a line between Washington and Pittsburgh. This was the second project of its kind in the United States and among the first in the world. In 1831 there were only 23 miles of railroad in the United States . Just two years before that the B and O had laid its first rails out of Baltimore but it was not until May 24, 1830 that the first 14 miles were completed as far as Ellicott’s Mills. This was the 4th railroad to be constructed in the world. The other 3 were in England. It was in 1835 before a railroad was in operation in Europe, and not until 1836 that a train was run in Canada. When the news reached Washington of the first B & O line the business men got excited about building a line from Washington to Pittsburgh.

At a public meeting held Dec. 27, 1830 in the courthouse they made the first plans for the project which would be the second railroad project in the United States but it was 40 years before it would be completed due to opposition from those who made their living as stage coach drivers, wagoneers and work related to them on the National Pike because they were afraid it would put a lot of people out of work.

This first railroad project was to be started in Washington County in 1831. There were to be 14 main lines and branches and one that never passed the paper stage, all within a period of approximately 80 years. Within this group were 8 main lines and 6 branches. Although that first project failed because of lack of support, it was kept alive over the years until it was revived after the Civil war and completed between Washington and Pittsburgh in 1871, exactly 40 years after the original project. In the meantime another line, the first to actually enter Washington County, was completed in 1857 between Washington and Wheeling.

When the line was finally built the first shipment of livestock from Washington to Pittsburgh was Dec. 8, 1870 and for the first time in Washington County history people could travel from Washington to Pittsburgh and return the same day. They went by stagecoach to Cannonsburg, took the train to Pittsburgh then return the same way. Two trains ran each way daily. The stage coach left Washington at 6am and the train left Cannonsburg at 7am reaching Pittsburgh at 9:40. Returning, the train left Pittsburgh at 3 pm arrived at Cannosburg at 5:45pm and the stage coach then reached Washington at 7:30. That was fast traveling back then. The last passenger services from Washington to Pittsburgh ran July 30, 1952. When this train returned to Washington that night it marked the end of passenger train service in and out of Washington.

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VILLAGES AND INDUSTRIAL HISTORY
 
The village of Eldersville was laid out in 1814 and was named Wardsville, for Thomas Ward who was the original owner of the land on which the village was built.  Thomas Elder, who had a tavern here from 1809 to 1818, told the citizens that he would build a town pump if they changed the name to Eldersville.  The citizens agreed and the village is now known as Eldersville. Bertha, Hanlin Station, Shintown, Jefferson, and Penobscot were once thriving communities, but with the decline of the coal industry very few, if any, citizens continue to live in these areas.
Jefferson Township was originally a sheep raising area as a result of the Scotch-Irish ancestry of the early settlers.  Later, a number of the farmers engaged in the dairy industry.  Their milk was shipped by train from Hanlin Station to Weirton, West Virginia.  There were also fruit orchards located on the ridges east and west of Eldersville.  The location of these slopes furnished good air-drainage which is ideal for successful orcharding.  For many years the coal mining industry employed a large number of people, but the industry has declined over the past thirty  to forty years and is no longer a factor in the economy of the Township.  The world famous Meadowcroft Archaeological Dig is located in Jefferson Township, along with the Meadowcroft Museum of Rural Life.
 
PRESERVATION PROJECTS OF THE JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 
The Society has initiated a Rural Community Preservation Project, which hopes to stabilize, and restore historic buildings in the Township.  One of the first buildings that the Society took upon itself to preserve was Heritage Hall formerly “Odd Fellows Hall”.  The present building, built in 1876, was owned by the Odd Fellows Lodge who sold it to the Society for $1.00.  The Society had to restore the building so that it could be used as a meeting hall and a gathering place for members of the community.  A small museum and library are located in this building.

Back in February of 2014, Dave Choman noticed that some of the problems at Heritage Hall were getting worse. The stairs were sloping inward and the back wall of the building was bowing outward. A structural engineer found some serious problems: support beams not resting on the piers and interior walls around the stairs & kitchen were out of plumb causing cracking on the second floor. Ballpark figure of $200,000 to repair Heritage Hall.  And given the location of Heritage Hall, (the proximity to the main road, the lack of parking space, ect.) we felt it would be unwise to undertake an expensive project. And thus we began to search for alternative plan for our museum.      

Devoted to the Preservation and
Restoration of our Heritage
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Odd Fellows Hall - Now Heritage Hall 1876
 

 

Our plan was to raise money to purchase a shed from Yoder’s Backyard Structure in Atlasburg for our new museum.  Yard sales, bake sales, plant sales and donations were our only methods to raise the money required.
We contacted Range Resources and explained our problems with Heritage Hall.  We asked for a donation.  They met with us and afterwards said they would inform us regarding their decision.  They
decided to donate the total amount for a new shed.
Now we have a shed--a plain basic shed. Now we have to turn the shed into a “museum”. Dave Choman, Thurman & Peggy Yost to the rescue.  Dave installed a circuit breaker box, wired the room, installed the fixtures.  Then he and Thurman & Peggy installed the wall board, taped and painted the new museum. And they never turned-in a bill.
Next, the Jefferson Township Volunteer Firemen helped the society by bringing the display cases and artifacts to the new
museum.

 


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THE WHITE CHURCH PRESERVATION PROJECT
The Jefferson Township Historical Society has undertaken an enthusiastic Preservation Project to preserve its historic White Church Building, built in 1844. This building is one of the last Churches in Western Pennsylvania built by Citizens Against Slavery that is still standing.  The White Church is uniquely located in a tri-state area attracting visitors from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.  It has been awarded historical landmark designation by the Washington County History and Landmark Foundation.

The White Church is used by the Society for its monthly meetings on the third Saturday of each month.  The public is invited to attend the meetings.  10:00 am.

 


The Meadowcroft  Rockshelter, right in our backyard. Meadowcroft preserves and exhibits life on the land in rural Pennsylvania throughout history.  It shows that people may have lived in North America nearly 20,000 years ago.

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Meadowcroft Rockshelter, the oldest site of human habitation in North America, provides a unique glimpse into the lives of prehistoric hunter and gathers.



THE VETERANS MONUMENT
This monument is dedicated to all who served our country.  The many brave deeds of our veterans will live forever in the hearts and minds of freedom loving people of this great nation.  Let us keep their memory in our minds and hearts.  Let us never forget their sacrifices. 
 
NO ONE IS EVER GONE AS LONG AS SOMEONE HAS MEMORIES OF THEM.”

Had it not been the insight of a small group of dedicated historians, this monument for the veterans of Jefferson Township would not be possible.  For all the time and effort to collect 1110 names - from the Indian Wars to the Iraq War, the value of their exceptional work cannot be overestimated.
 
MARION OLIVER BUTLER, VIOLA CHEESEBROUGH GILLESPIE, EDIE CLARK JONES, ANTHONY MUZOPAPPA, KATHRYN SLASOR, JUNE CAMPBELL GROSSMAN, WILLIAM WELCH, JR., A.D. WHITE, ROXANNA MARTIN WIEGMAN.
DEDICATED JUNE 17, 2006
 

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ALBERT’S CREW
A HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE, PART III
By Frank Muzopappa

            Please recall that two previous newsletters carried endeavors of Cecil, Nick, and Frank Rotunda, three of the four young men that were members of “Albert’s Crew,” who earned college degrees in secondary education.

            Emphasis was placed on the determination of these three to work at odd jobs, before and during their college years.  However, this accomplishment would not have been tenable without the concerted effort made by their families and special people such as Albert Miller.  I must add Mr. Earl C. Lunger, the principal in my senior year at Avella High School.  He offered me guidance and encouragement to attend West Liberty State College when I visited him after my release from active military service.

            As the fourth member, I, Frank Muzopappa, in my humble opinion, was the least likely to attend college.  I was graduated from Avella High in 1948, and known as Frank Murzy.  I was scholastically ranked in the middle of the class, with mostly grades of C’s and a few B’s.

            Once out of school, my only ambition was to acquire a job and move on with my life.  Frank Rotunda nor I received any information from Hazel Atlas Glass Company nor Jessop Steel about our job applications, meaning that Albert would have to tolerate me for another summer.  The thought of college never entered my mind.

            Those of us that were born at the beginning of the Great Depression and grew up in it during our first ten or eleven years now faced another depression after completing high school.  However, because of the languid economy that we lived through, we became accustomed to living through tough times.  Family chores were many and participation was required by all members of the family, and no one expressed it more clearly to me than my dear father.  He philosophically uttered to me:  “Eh! Frankie, no work, no eat.”  In totality, he succinctly expressed his demands that I had work to do.  We had learned the meaning of “Work Ethic” at an early age. 

            The summer of 1948 would begin the disintegration of Albert’s Crew.  Ed Shore was hired to work in a strip mine.  Frank Rotunda was working for the postal service in Akron, and Paul Bennett went on a hiatus with a traveling carnival until the steel mills began hiring again.  Nick’s family moved to Dormont, and autumn was approaching.  The wheat was stored in the granary (Miller School on its original site), the hay was stored in the mow of the yellow barn with bales of straw piled neatly below the mow.  The fences were mended and the young lambs had their tails removed.  Nostalgically, summer was over, and only Cecil would be back again for another summer.  Yes, we left the farm; however, the memories never left us.

            That autumn would usher in my first non-farm job.  It was a part time job, and I was able to land it because of Ed Shore, my fellow crew member.  Ed told me that he was leaving the job, and it would be mine if I showed up the next day at the strip mine site near Bethany College.

            For the next two years, I worked part time jobs in several strip mines operated by local men, namely Frank Malinoski and Ralph Ruschell.  My last part time job was in rigging steel with my brother, Tony.  I was with him from Pittsburgh to Buffalo, New York.

            It was not until 1951 that I was finally offered a full time job.  It was at Follansbee Steel Company.  I liked the job and believed that I was now settled, but it was only a year until I was called up for induction into the military as the Korean War raged on.  However, I was comforted by a letter from the main office of the company informing me that the job would be mine when I fulfilled my military obligation.

            I arrived at the old Post Office Building in Pittsburgh with hundreds of young men gathered for processing into the military.  After being examined psychologically, physically and for mental aptitude, I was asked to take a typing exam.  The fact that I scored well on these exams would change the course of my life forever.

            There were sixty men in our platoon at Parris Island Training Center, and I was one of two men each assigned to tutor separate halves of the platoon, particularly those individuals having difficulty learning the information in the Marine Corps Manual.  Scoring well on this exam was one of the four requirements for being recognized as an honor platoon.  We graduate as an honor platoon.

            I was transferred to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, assigned to the 8th Engineer Battalion, to be trained by Sergeant Harold Granke to take his job as Personnel Classification Clerk in Headquarter’s Company.  There were a thousand men in the battalion, which included five companies.

            I adapted well to a job that I thought would be overwhelming thanks to the training I received in such a short time.  In fact, the Battalion Commander, Lt. Colonel Ward K. Schaub, had me promoted to Corporal with a meritorious promotion.

            In retrospect, I began to think that I might be academically better than I thought I was in high school.  On that first day at Parris Island, I thought I died and went to hell.  At Camp LeJeune and Quantico, I experienced a complete transformation, emotionally and scholastically.

            It was not until my release from active duty that Frank Rotunda queried me as he drove me home from Wellsburg, my final lap from Camp Lejeune.  “Did you make up your mind about college?” He further went on:  “Was there anything that you did in service that would require a college degree?”  There it was; Frank, like Cecil, knew what button to push.  There were times when we knew each other better than we knew ourselves.  I responded by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed tutoring some of my fellow marines in various aspects of our work, and learning what was required of us.

            Frank blurted out that he would go with me to West Liberty to meet his academic advisor, Dr. Joseph Bartell, about registration for classes that were to begin in a few weeks.  Frank also stated that he knew that I had put money in a savings account because my mother persuaded me to do it; furthermore, I would be able to use the G.I. Bill.  The G.I. Bill would provide $110.00 each month for nine months for each year of the four years to earn a degree, a total of 36 months.

            My tuition and registration fees would be approximately $240.00 a year.  To help to defray the expenses of housing and living expenses, I was able to be an assistant in the biology and chemistry labs.

            Consider the information that I have divulged concerning the cost of our education at state colleges as compared to what the costs are today, and further consider that the state universities in Pennsylvania are about to bump tuition another 2.5% this fall.  Base tuition is now $7,238 a year for undergraduate students who reside in Pennsylvania.

            P.S. I went on to earn a master’s degree in biology at W.V.U. and a Ph.D. in biology at W.V.U.  Now, I must confess to you that I did not mention one grade that I received in high school.  I only received one “D” grade, and that was in biology!

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ALBERT’S CREW
A Historic Perspective, Part II
by Frank Muzopappa

          Frank Rotunda’s path to college was probably the most arduous, but not for the ways that one normally considers as obstacles.  Academically, he was gifted.  Financially, his family was not without the resources to assist him in acquiring a college education, and most importantly, he was not interested in going to college.

          In Frank’s last two years of high school his father required radiation treatments for throat cancer.  It was at this time in his young life that his mother committed herself to caring for his father.  She rented an apartment in Carnegie to be able to facilitate the treatments which were to be administered daily for many weeks.  Under these circumstances, Frank chose to live with his sister, Adeline Muzopappa’s family in Penowa.  He wished to stay at Avella High with his class.

          Frank had already experienced the down-sizing of his family due to WW II.  His three brothers were in the army, and his youngest sister had joined the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) early in 1943.

          Upon his graduation in 1948, Frank applied at Hazel Atlas Glass and Jessop Steel, neither were hiring.  He continued working for Albert’s Crew for the summer.  In the same year, Frank’s father succumbed to the ravages of cancer.  The family would now have to plan a way for Frank’s strongly independent mother to control her own life, and to live on her own terms.

          With all that was happening to the family in the decade of the “40’s,” Frank’s youngest sister, Jenny, informed Frank that a job opening was available in Akron, Ohio, near her home.  Frank was hired for the postal service job, but he would have to possess a vehicle capable of hauling bulk mail from Akron to Barberton and Wadsworth, both in the vicinity of Akron.

          Frank and Jenny decided that the Jeep wagon would be their vehicle of choice for the job, and being a used vehicle, easier on the cost.  The Jeep was purchased at Corwin Willy Auto in Hickory.

          The job paid fairly well for a single man, and allowed Frank to make his payments, and to start a checking account.  As time passed, Frank was becoming bored with the routine of the job, and felt that he would not be satisfied with such a mundane career, but still did not have an urge to go to college.  Frank decided that joining the Navy might help him to decide what career path he should follow.

          Upon returning to civilian life and having been trained as a radio operator, he did not wish to pursue it as a career.  As fate would have it, Frank decided to visit Cecil Tranquill and Nick Grigas at Indiana State College, his buddies from Penowa.  Cecil, who played football in high school, Legion Baseball, and wrestled for the college team, knew Frank’s great enthusiasm for sports and suggested that Frank should go to college and major in Physical Education to become a coach.

          Cecil knew the right button to push, and Frank soon joined Cecil and Nick at Indiana State College.  Albert’s Crew was now gathering on a college campus instead of a hay field on the Miller farm.

          Although Cecil and Nick graduated from Indiana, Frank did not.  He transferred to West Liberty State College to complete his requirements for graduation, with a degree in Physical Education and Social Studies.

          The main reason for transferring was to live in Washington with his mother and to tend bar at his brother Joe’s Washington Restaurant on weekends, and some evenings during the week since his savings were being depleted and he still had several years to go before reaching his goal.  The next two summers, while attending West Liberty, Frank worked for the Swanson Construction Company in Akron, Ohio.  He roomed with his sister, Jenny, and returned to Washington for most weekends.

          Frank was influenced by two of his high school buddies to transfer to West Liberty and join them.  The two were Emanuel Paris and Ron Pascuzzi.

          Frank was told that as an out-of-state student, his tuition and registration would be a little less than he was paying at Indiana as an in-state student.  His registration and tuition fees were about $225.00 per year.

          By serving in the Navy, working for the postal service, and being a cashier and bar tender at an all-night restaurant, he managed to earn a teaching degree without any financial debts.  I emphasize financial because he certainly feels indebted to his family and friends that helped him to work in a career that was long, rewarding and enjoyable.

          Frank lived off campus in a rented room to avoid extra costs while at Indiana and at West Liberty.  In his last year at West Liberty, he commuted from his sister Adeline’s home in Penowa.

          It was a concerted effort by his mother and sisters, Adeline and Jenny, who supported him in his quest to be a teacher and coach…isn’t that what family is all about?


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ALBERT’S CREW—A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Several responses to the previous newsletter’s article, “Albert’s Crew,” prompted several questions about the expenses of attending college by young men from families that were not inclined to sending their children to college, especially during the era of the Great Depression.

            I believe that at this time in our country, a look at the past may be in order.  The debts being incurred by college students in the past few decades are astronomical when compared to the era of the mid-20th century.  The facts I am about to present have been validated by Cecil Tranquill, Frank Rotunda, and myself.  The fourth member of the “Crew,” Nick Grigas, is not alive, but Frank Rotunda was Nick’s best friend from grade school until his death, and has vouched for Nick’s education.

            Cecil Tranquill was the first of us to attend college which began after being graduated from Avella High in 1949.  While working for Albert in the summers, he also worked at Thompson’s Grocery in Avella as a delivery boy for several years.  On clear days, he rode in the pickup bed with the parcels and ran them into the patrons’ homes; definitely not to be repeated in pickups today.  In this same time frame, he delivered The Pittsburgh Press and The Sun Telegraph to customers in Penowa for eight years.

            Having worked those jobs provided enough money to allow Cecil to register for courses at Indiana State College.  However, he still owed some money to cover room and board.  When he told Albert about this sum of money he still owed to stay on campus, Albert without hesitation loaned Cecil the money.  Is there any wonder that the “Crew,” all four of us, held this man is such high esteem?

Cecil was hired by the college to work in the dining hall kitchen as a dishwasher and as a manager to handle the basketball team’s equipment and uniforms.  These jobs enabled Cecil to repay the loan from Albert, which left him debt-free his first year.

In Cecil’s second year, the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Course) came to the campus.  Cecil joined the Army program for which he would be financially compensated, with a provision that he would serve two years of active service in the Army as an officer after his graduation from college.

After his discharge from the Army, he enrolled at Pitt University to earn a Masters Degree in Education by utilizing the GI Bill while teaching at Oakmont.  Having earned a masters degree, he had the credentials to be considered for the Assistant Principal job opening at Fox Chapel.

Cecil continued to study for a doctorate which working and after seven years there, he moved into the Shaler Schools as a Superintendent.  Three degrees, and NO DEBTS.

Nick Grigas was, ostensibly, the least likely of Albert’s Crew to be able to afford college expenses.  His father died shortly after Nick’s birth.  Nick had three sisters and a brother, Charles.  To help the family survive with basic needs, Charles became the second newspaper delivery boy in Penowa; young Phil (“Punk”) Castrodale was the first.  The Castrodale store was closed in 1938, and the family moved to Detroit.

Charles, being the oldest of the five children, took it upon himself to help the family maintain its existence.  Ann, the oldest sister, completed the eighth grade in 1936 and then moved to Pittsburgh to help the family by going to work, and her sister Mary would follow Ann in two years. 

By 1942, America was at war in Europe and in the Pacific.  Charles was inducted into the Navy.  A recruit’s pay was about $21.00 a month.  Even with that meager amount of money, he was able to help the two older sisters to care for their mother, the younger sister Irene, and Nick.  Charles even sent Nick enough money to buy a Victory Bike, so called because in 1944, the only new bikes being manufactured were a “bare bones” model containing a minimal use of metal and rubber…a frame, two wheels, thin tires, and handle bars.  In a community where every young man was given a nickname, the bike inherited the name of “The Ox Cart”—it was ugly.

Nick began in high school to think of ways to earn some money to supplement what he was earning at the farm.  He decided to go door to door, selling magazines in the surrounding communities.  Lois Coffey Blackhurst, a classmate of Nick’s in high school, to this day recalls those visits of Nick’s and we happily reflect on them.

After completing his freshman year at Avella High, the Grigas family moved to Dormont.  The war was over and Charles was discharged from the Navy.  Charles was living in Blacklick, a town close to Indiana State Teachers’ College, and he operated a construction company.  With the help of Charles and continuing his magazine routine, he entered the college.

Frank Rotunda visited Nick after Frank was discharged from the Navy.  He found Nick living in a rented room that was in town.  Nick told Frank that he decided to attend college because his mother was being cared for by Charles and his sisters.  This fortuitous event allowed Nick to work with his brother in the summers and he continued his magazine sales also.

By living off campus and preparing his own meals, Nick was able to meet his expenses by living a regimen that was commensurate with his income.  His tuition and registration expenses were approximately $300.00 a year.

I intend to cover the college experiences of the two Franks in the following newsletter and how they managed at West Liberty State Teachers’ College in West Liberty, West Virginia.

                         --Frank Muzopappa

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Albert and the Crew

In the past three years, two events have occurred that compel me to describe them as proud accomplishments attained by two men who were members of the Greatest Generation, but were too young to serve in the military during WWII. They were born and raised in Penowa, and served in the military after graduating from Avella High School.

As adolescents, they were members of the Crew, my epithet for the six teenagers that worked for Albert Miller, and his mother, Amy, in the summers of 1943 to 1948: four of the six Paul Bennett, Frank Muzopappa, Frank Rotunda and Cecil Tranquill, all born to Italian immigrant fathers, the fifth boy was Nick Grigas whose father was from Serbia, and the sixth was Edward Shore, whose parents were Polish. The fathers of these teenagers worked for a period of time in one, or two of the three coal mines within a half- mile radius of the Penowa train station, and these fathers had no more than one or two years of formal education.

I stress the lack of formal education to emphasize the careers by their sons in America. Of the six members of the Crew, only Ed and Paul did not attend college. Paul was the most mechanically inclined, and shortly after his graduation from Avella High School, he became a mil-rite at J&L Steel Co. repairing machinery. Ed went into the workforce at the age of sixteen by purchasing a Farmall Cub Tractor and, parlayed it into the successful Penowa Construction Company, which he managed until retirement.

Cecil and Nick earned degrees in teaching at Indiana State College and both Franks earned teaching degrees at West Liberty State College. After Cecil fulfilled his military obligation, he went on to a Doctorate in Education at Pitt. Frank Rotunda earned a Master Degree in Education at West Virginia University.

I am exceedingly proud to inform you that Cecil was honored by Fox Chapel Area School District with the Dedication of The Tranquill Language Arts Display, and Frank Rotunda was inducted into the Trinity Area Sports Hall of Fame in November 2015. This information should make those that attended Turney School in Jefferson Township, and Avella High School, proud of both institutions.

Four of the six members of the Crew became teachers. I have pondered this unlikely scenario for years. Who, or what, would have influenced these young men to carve out careers in a profession so different from those in the coal patches. Mr. A.D. White, our school principal, was dedicated in doing all that he could do to enrich our education within our limits; but this would apply to all of his students, not just the four of us. I suddenly had an epiphany. In our formative years, those from thirteen to eighteen years of age; we would have been greatly influenced by Albert Miller and his mother, Amy.

She prepared a hot lunch for us, and was always cheerful, despite the agony of having lost her son in the war. As we took our places at the table, she greeted us, and sat on her stool as though we were all family, and began conversing with us concerning the activities of the people in the “village.”

Considering that our older siblings were serving in the military during much of our teen years, Albert filled a significant niche in our lives. Some of the experiences that Albert exposed to us were indicative of his interests in matters he felt we should be aware of as we approached adulthood.

He emphasized that we were harvesting hay, wheat, and corn on hillsides that were “strip planted,” which decreased soil erosion. When we planted pine-tree seedlings on the spoil piles left by the surface mining operations, we were reclaiming land. When he had us mark certain ewes and rams; that would be to keep records of the mating pairs to record the lambs produced: This was selective breeding.

Albert became ecstatic when he described the Native American artifacts that he found on the plowed fields: Never once mentioning the caves that eventually became the “Rock Shelter”. He was also collecting materials used by previous generations in his quest to create a model of a village of early settlers in the same area on the farm.

Albert could have served as a paradigm of moral living. We never knew him to curse, nor did he drink alcohol. He never smoked and did not chew tobacco. Attending church regularly was a ritual, and he was involved in many of its activities; he taught and served on its boards and committees.

The most impressive virtue of Albert, to us in the Crew, was the fact that he never made demeaning comments about our ethnicity. Consider that he was a “WASP”, [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant], from a family that settled in the area that is now Jefferson Township in 1795. The Chinese Exclusion Act was extended in 1924 to preclude Italian and Polish Catholics, along with Eastern Europeans from migrating to America, although Northern Europeans were welcomed. The act was not repealed until the war years, thus we in the Crew worked for Albert during that Act, and were treated with respect and dignity by him and Amy.

Albert and A.D. White collaborated to bring about the first Turney School Reunion. It is with unbridled humility and gratitude that we, in the Crew, say thank GOD for America, the Millers, and A.D. White. At one of the Turney Reunions, when the Crew reminisced with Albert, Cecil Tranquill best summed up our relationship with Albert by stating, “Albert, the best job I ever had was working for you.” To that I say Amen!

P.S. Frank Muzopappa taught for thirty years at the college and university level: Three years at WVU as a Teacher’s Assistant: five years at West Liberty; and twenty-two at Kutztown University, and now in retirement, is Professor Emeritus. Nick Grigas, unfortunately, departed this life as he about to teach in the Dormont School System.

SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT JOHN R. WEINSTEIN, FORMER HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL DR, CECIL TRANQUILL,
CLASS OF 1969 GRADUATE LLOYD STAMY, AND SUPERINTENDENT DR. ANNE E. STEPHENS




Turney School

The Turney School
These two school building were located near Albert Miller’s farm behind Jefferson Coal Camp. The windows have been boarded up for the summer by A.D. White to safeguard against breakage by mischievous boys. This was a regular summertime job for him. The lower building on the left accommodated grades 1 to 4; and the upper building grades 5 to 8. The coal shed was located between the two buildings. In the background can be seen the coal camp called Penobscot. When this picture was taken, only a handful of houses remained. Now, there is nothing remaining but spoil piles. The houses were sold off for $25.00 apiece. The hills in the far background, on the extreme left, are in West Virginia.

 

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George Washington Is No Hero In My Book
By  Mary Bigger McKune

GEORGE WASHINGTON was not exactly a hero – at least, our family didn’t think so. Growing up on a farm in Washington County, just 25 miles west of Pittsburgh, my brother and sisters and I had mixed emotions about George. Of course, we learned from the history books in our one-room school house at Murdockville that George Washington was “the Father of Our Country” and that as a boy he told the truth — on one occasion anyhow.  But we felt there was a flaw in his character somewhere.  After all, he had taken our land away from us.  Well he took it from our great, great, grandfather — but we resented it, just the same.

Thomas Left Ireland
The story, told to us as we gathered around the fireside, began more 243 years ago.  It was in 1773 that Thomas Bigger threw his sickle as far as he could at the end of the harvest season in Ireland, saying that was the last wheat that he would ever reap for King George!  Weary of the Irish landlord’s oppression, Thomas set sail with Elizabeth, his bride of a few months, for America where he had heard there was fertile soil in abundance.
   After spending the first winter with two older brothers in Chambersburg, Thomas and Elizabeth crossed the Allegheny Mountains to a home of another brother in the area known as McKeesport.  Leaving his wife there, Thomas set out on a borrowed horse to search for land on which to build a home.
Riding westward, he came to a hillside above the site on which now stands a 171-year old house, presently owned and occupied by a fifth generation Thomas Bigger and his wife Elizabeth. The soil which the horses’ hooves turned up was rich.  Thomas saw below him what appeared to be an opening in the forest.  When he reached the opening, he found that someone had abandoned an unroofed cabin there.   
   Thomas returned to his brother’s home and reported what he had found. He and Elizabeth decided on the site of this crude cabin overlooking Raccoon Creek as their future home, and to it they came.  Here they worked for several years to carve out of the wilderness the farm which has been home of the Bigger family ever since — with the exception of one seven-year period.  It was this period that led to the dispute with George Washington.
Having been warned of the approach of a band of warring Indians, who later massacred his three neighbors on Raccoon Creek, Thomas Bigger fled with his family for the safety to a fort near Miller’s Run (in the vicinity of what is now Canonsburg). He purchased a farm near the fort and went to work, clearing the land and building a new home for himself and his family.  This labor lasted for seven years —seven lost years, as it turned out.

Mill Near Ft. Pitt
   The Revolutionary War had come to an end by this time, and George Washington was turning his attention to his own business interest.  Having property west of the Alleghenies, he visited first the site of a mill he owned near Fort Pitt. Then, according to Washington’s Diary, he set out on Sept. 18, 1784, for Miller’s Run.  There he visited the homes of Thomas Bigger and his neighbors—all of them living on a tract totaling nearly 3,000 acres, which Washington claimed as his own.  The settlers, not wishing to move, offered to buy the land from Washington if his terms were moderate.  He told them he had no inclination to sell.
However, Washington’s Diary reads: “After hearing a good deal of their hardships, their religious principles which had brought them together as a Society of Ceceders,  and unwilling to separate or remove, I told them I would make a last offer, and this was the whole tract at 25 shillings per acre, the money to be paid in three annual payments with interest.”
   The settlers did not have the resources to meet these terms.  They asked George if he would take that price for a longer term with interest.  He refused.
   The neighbors—James Scott, Thomas Lapsley, James and Samuel McBride, Brice and Duncan McGeechan, David and John Reed, Matthew Johnson, William Hillas, Thomas Glenn and Thomas Bigger—stood together.  They determined to stand suit for the land, which they had purchased from Col. George Croghan, an early surveyor in Western Pennsylvania.  Croghan had made an agreement with the Indians for the land.
   Washington’s claim was based on grants made by Virginia to her soldiers  who served in the French and Indian War.  One of Washington’s neighbors at Mount Vernon had sold him his grant of nearly 3,000 acres for the price of 12 pounds.  (George was asking more than 3,000 pounds from the settlers.)
   The grants of wild lands beyond the Alleghenies were considered of little value by the soldiers who received them.  But Washington had a vision of future growth of the country beyond the Alleghenies. He had commissioned a Col. Crawford to select a body of good land for him and Crawford had chosen this land on Miller’s Run.

The Court Favored
Washington,
And He Proceeded
To  Evict
The Settlers

    The suit was tried in 1786 before two Supreme Court judges at Washington. Pa.  The legislative body in Pennsylvania, after the western boundary of Pennsylvania had been  determined,  apparently validated all of the Virginia land grants in Washington County, and thus made good George Washington’s title to the Miller’s Run property.  The Supreme Court was in his favor, and he proceeded to evict the settlers.
   Dispossessed of the land on Miller’s Run but not disheartened, Thomas Bigger brought his family back to their original home on Raccoon Creek.  There he took up where he had left off at the time of  the Indian raid (the massacre at Fort Dillow—but that’s another story), clearing a farm of nearly 500 acres and establishing a home for himself and five generations of descendants.
How do we feel about George Washington now?  Well, he’s still no hero in our book.  After all, for the seven years’ effort which Thomas Bigger and his neighbors had put into clearing the land and erecting buildings on it, we feel George could have been gracious enough to soften the credit term.

   This Story Was Written  By My Late Brother-in-Law, Thomas C. Bigger’s, Aunt Mary Bigger McKune.  It Was First Printed in THE PITTSBURGH PRESS,   Sunday, JUNE 27, 1976.

Frank Malardie

HISTORICAL HIGHWAY MARKER — ROUTE 50, HICKORY, PA
 

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TITLE IX
BY FRANK MUZZOPAPPA

     As the year 2016 begins its first quarter, I reflect on one of the major news stories which were of the U.S. Women’s World Cup triumph in soccer.  It was a repeat of the successful effort the 1999 Women’s World Cup champions.
     The games dominated the news outlets for weeks.  References were made regarding Mia Hamm, a star athlete of the 1999 team.  Mia was born in 1972, the year that Title IX was enacted to enable female athletes the opportunity to participate in team sports with the same privileges accorded males.
     Mia was considered by many advocates as a member of the first generation of female athletes that were recipients of Title IX.  I reflected on the impact of Title IX, and the young women of previous generation’s determination to bring it about.
     World War II ended in 1945, and women had broken the barriers that precluded them from jobs previously denied.  Ostensibly, it would only be a matter of time that women would prevail in their determination to reach equal status in areas that previously denied them equal opportunity.
     In 1946, my sophomore year at Avella High School, the female students were making it known that they wanted to compete with the students of high schools with whom the males engaged in basketball competition.
     Mr. John Caldwell, an elementary teacher, had a background in Physical Education.  He was approached to organize a female team and set up a schedule.  Mr. Caldwell also taught the Health Course to the high school students, which would facilitate the whole process between administrators, students and Mr. Caldwell.
     Thirteen students turned out for the team that first year: one senior, six juniors, five sophomores and one freshman.  Those from Penowa were Margaret Korpos and Stefana Koltick.  Margaret was a sophomore and Stefana was a junior.  Another student from the sophomore class was Janet DePetro.  Janet’s father came to Penowa at the age of 16 as an Italian immigrant.  With the help of George Tranquill family and Albert Miller, Joe DePetro worked as a farm hand for a few years before entering the U. S. Army during World War I.  After the war he returned home married, and worked in the Penobscot mine in Penowa for several years before moving to Independence.…. my way of relating to her roots in Penowa.
     Margaret never touched a basketball until her high school days, but she had good natural talent.  In elementary school, she competed as well as the best males in softball.  Whereas Janet told me that she played basketball with her brothers, Joe and Robert, before high school.
     Women’s basketball, in those years, was played differently than it is today. The rules for women consisted of six women per team: three guards and three forwards.  Neither the guards nor the forwards were permitted to cross the center-line of the court. Margaret, who admittedly defined herself as a “Tomboy”, had good coordination, strong hands, and the ability to fling the ball down court to the forwards.  Stefana was able to force her way under the basket to retrieve the ball, and pass it off to another guard to get the ball to the forwards.
     Janet, on the other hand, had honed in on shooting baskets with her brothers.  Janet was usually the high scorer for the team.  Janet, Margaret and Stefana were well suited for their position on the team.
     Other than Janet and Margaret, in my class, there were Ann Kosarick, a quick and in your face type of guard.  Alma Long and May Bosseau were forwards.
     I believe that it was the grit and determination of women such as them that ultimately led to Title IX.
Margaret, Ann and Alma have passed away, but I am still in touch with Janet and May.  Another member of that team is Evelyn (Ricco) Brandenberg, with whom I have phone conversations and maybe a visit during the high school reunions.  At 86 years of age, she is as energetic as she can be for her church, family and community. Women with the moxie that represents the individualism of the others, that made up that great “First Team”.

THAT FIRST TEAM

LEFT TO RIGHT-SEATED: MARY MARIANI, STEFANA KOLTICK, CHARLENE THOMPSON,
VERONICA SINICHK, JANET DePetro, ANN KOWCHECK, MAY BOSSEAU
STANDING: MARGARET KORPOS, LOUISE GROSS, MERCEDES KOWCHECK, Mr. JOHN CALDWELL,
ALMA LONG, EVELYN ROCCO, MARY FERRARE 

The Record for That First Year Team

Avella 23………...Hickory……….…..14
Avella 17……..….West Alexander…..17
Avella 28………...West Alexander..…24
Avella 40………...Midway…………...28
Avella 41………...Hickory…………...21
Avella 32……..….West Alexander..…24
Avella 38……..….Peters Township…..40
Avella 26……..….Peters Township…..22

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“BUS FARE”
by Frank Muzopappa

            In a recent phone conversation with my life-long friend, Mary Yurosko Eddings, she lamented the fact that she was denied a high school education after completing eight years at Turney School in Penowa.  That was in 1940.

            Mary was the fifth child of eight children in her family.  In order to attend high school, the students from Penowa’s Jefferson and Penobscot coal mine patches, thirteen independently owned homes locally known as Jefferson Bottoms, and the farms of Miller, Rotellini, Pollack, Baker, and Shore all combined, numbered over fifty families, and all would be required to pay for the bus ride to Avella High School.

            Mary’s Dad was a coal miner and America was still in the throes of the Great Depression.  Raising chickens, geese and large vegetable gardens put food on the table, but not cash.  Under these conditions, a bus fee was unthinkable for high school.

            The school bus passed through Penowa on Route 231, now Meadowcroft Road, transporting high school students, and beginning in 1937; the elementary students from Waverly mine patch and Seldom Seen to Avella schools.  Waverly was on the opposite side of Cross Creek, in Independence Township, in which Avella is situated.  The Waverly families were not assessed a fee.

            Given these conditions in Penowa, it would be axiomatic to believe that few students would be attending high school.  However, “Hope springs eternal within the human breast.”  By the year 1932, there were two women who would not be denied.  Both were first-generation Americans of Italian immigrants.  Elda Mitchell and Virginia Saccamani approached Mr. A. D. White, their school principal, concerning high school.  Mr. White had demonstrated his compassion and willingness to lead his charges to the best education possible to achieve in eight years of schooling, in an impoverished school in a mining community. He seemed to be compelled to help students of this caliber to extend their education as far as they deemed necessary to achieve their goals in life.  An example of commitment to his belief of a thorough education, as told to me by Elda and Jenina Rotunda was his method of solving the problem of a teacher not making it to school on a given day.  If he was not able to teach that class, he would NOT dismiss the class.  He would assign a student from a higher class to take over for the absent teacher.  Mr. White generally chose Jenina.

            Mr. White listened to Elda and Virginia state their concern about attending high school.  Virginia stated that she would need a high school education to fulfill her aspirations of a nursing career.  Both women sensed that Mr. White was not enthusiastic about discussing the topic of the bus fee.  He had been confronted on this issue too often, and at a meeting with some local people, he was subjected to a shrill harangue from a women on the injustice of the fee.  Mr. White gathered his papers, stuffed them into his briefcase, and left the room.  He tried to make it clear that a resolution of the problem was beyond his administrative authority, and they would have to resolve the issue with their families.

Elda’s father died from cancer about this time, and Virginia’s parents were both ailing.  Elda’s father, before his death, was able to convince his brother to assist Elda in her quest to attend high school, and he vowed he would.  Elda lived with her uncle’s family in Bulger while attending Burgettstown High School her freshmen year.

            About this time in history, President Roosevelt’s administration made financial assistance available to citizens that were willing to work; such as the WPA, CCC, TVA, etc.  Elda and Virginia could qualify for assistance in order to attend high school.  These programs could allow the women to attend Avella High School, and Elda would be able to live with her mother and younger sister again in Penowa.

            The two students would be at Avella High School together again in classes, and working at their daily chores.  Some of their work supervision was administered by the janitor, John Madeira, from Jefferson Bottoms in Penowa.  He previously worked at the Waverly Mine in the steam power house before the mine shut down its operation.

            Elda and Virginia hauled ashes from the furnace, carried the waste baskets through the halls, emptying them each day, swept floors, and their most daunting challenge would be cleaning and reorganizing the library.  They encountered chaos.  There were piles of scattered books and manuscripts, many of which were covered with dust and cobwebs, and in need of attention.  It was a deplorable state of disarray, but they preserved; satisfying the staff and their own love of books.

            Ultimately, Virginia became a registered nurse in Pittsburgh, and Elda was able to secure a good job at the Armstrong Cork Company in Pittsburgh.  The job was awarded to her for having scored well on a competitive examination to determine the applicant’s ability to assist the engineers in their precise examination of shell casings for weapons in the war effort of WWII.  Kudos for Mr. White and teachers at Turney School.

            Walter Rencheck was one of the few male students from Penowa to graduate from Avella High School at the time when a fee was required for bus fare.  Walter had two older brothers, and a younger one, none of whom attended high school.  Walter was determined to attend high school and committed himself to delivering the Pittsburgh Press and the Sun-Telegraph.  He did this seven days a week for several years.  Walter was one of a very few that lived in Penowa from childhood until marriage and a family.  He eventually moved his family to Slovan.

            The demise of the bus fee came about when Mary Yurosko’s younger sister, Irene, was able to attend Avella High School in 1943.

            Mary eventually took high school courses while working in offices of The Kipplinger Report, but it was not a satisfying substitute for going to high school as a teenager.

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The Flying Coffin
by Frank Muzopappa

            Seventy years ago, in May of this year, America and her Allies had forced the Nazi government of Germany to surrender unconditionally to the Allies, ending the fighting in Europe during World War II.  The celebration of this phase of the war was labeled as “VE Day” (Victory in Europe Day).  It was not until August that Japan surrendered to the Allies on VJ Day. 

            This thought, plus the fact that Memorial Day is celebrated in May to honor those that have died in America’s wars, is especially heart-wrenching when it hits close to home.

            Two weeks ago I finished reading the book Unbroken about the extraordinary life of Louis Zamperini.  It was the military part of his life concerning his assignment to a B-24 heavy bomber that drew my attention homeward.  Lt. Zamperini flew on bombing missions on the Japanese fortified islands in the South Pacific as the plane’s bombardier.  His plane was shot down and crashed in the sea.  After several flights were organized to search the probable area of the crash, no sightings of the crash area reported any surviving crew members of his plane.  Louis and two others did survive the crash; none of the three was the belly gunner.

            The B-24’s had several flaws that Lt. Zamperini described as being structural, positioning, and new electrical technology.  The plane was known as the B-24 Liberator, but was quickly dubbed as “the Flying Coffin” by many of their crews.  The thought of these problems, and being the belly gunner of a B-24, makes one reflect on the courage of such a person that had to squeeze in the turret.  Once in position, he could not escape the turret without help from above.  Think of being that gunner, and your plane is badly damaged, and about to crash-land on the sea with you trapped in its belly:  Orrin was such a man.

            Orrin was the fourth child of Amy and Albert Earl Miller.  The other siblings were Albert, Delvin, and Margaret.  The Miller family was undoubtedly one of the more prestigious families that settled in territory that is now Jefferson Township.  They owned and operated the Bancroft Farm for over one hundred and fifty years, beginning in 1795.

            Orrin completed eight combat missions in Europe, and the Army Air Force had established an order that gunners such as Orrin would not be required to fly any more combat missions after having completed nine of them.  Sergeant Miller, on his ninth mission to bomb the Nazi oil reserves in Romania, was shot down when flying over Hungary.

            John Townsend, Margaret’s son, informed me that Orrin was initially interred in an American operated cemetery in France.  He also told me that Albert was determined to have Orrin’s remains returned to America as his final resting place.  Orrin now rests in the Gettysburg National Military Cemetery after burial with full military honors.

            In the late 1940’s, Albert asked me to drive him to the Pittsburgh Airport.  He talked very little, but did say that he was meeting with some people concerning Orrin’s military service.  In hindsight, I now believe that trip was to have Orrin’s remains returned to America, especially since Amy was still living.

            The last time that I visited Amy was in 1960.  My mother asked me to take her and my wife, Paula, who was pregnant with our daughter, Laura, to visit with Amy at the farm.  When we arrived, Amy was in the company of Mrs. Welsh and daughter, Catherine Gaudio.

            Amy was frail, but was in good spirits as she asked me about the other boys for whom she prepared lunches on the days we worked the farm with Albert.  Because of this dear woman and her remaining two sons, Meadowcroft Village, and the internationally recognized development of the Rock Shelter are tributes to lives well lived.

            John Townsend is committed to authoring a book on the history of the Miller family, which comprises his ancestry.  It would be an asset to the history of Jefferson Township.

            My aunts, Jenina Rotunda and Elda Mitchell Rotunda, were students in the same room that served three classes at Turney School with Orrin and they both remembered him as a pleasant young man who enjoyed teasing them and was always respectful.  Elda is now 97 years old, still drives, and recalls where Orrin sat in their classroom.  Jenny Shore Macugoski was fifteen years old when she began working at the farm with Amy and with Albert on days when he needed help harvesting corn, hay, and wheat.  She remembers Orrin as being amiable and full of life, and a bit ornery.  She recalls Orrin visiting her family when he came home on leave before being sent to Europe.  It would be the last time that he would walk the hills of home.

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From the March, 2015 Newsletter
Mr. Coffee

by Frank Muzopappa

The famous baseball star, Joe DiMaggio, was also known as “The Yankee Clipper,” “The Bronx Bomber,” and “Joltin’ Joe.”  After his retirement from baseball, he acquired another epithet:  “Mr. Coffee.”  He was on television, promoting a coffeemaker with the brand name of Mr. Coffee.

            In Penowa, we knew a Mr. Coffee when Joe DiMaggio was still playing baseball; he was Mr. Willis Coffee.  It must be stated that at the time being described here, children were taught to respect their elders, which included their addressing the adults as “Mr.” or “Mrs.,” preceding their surname.  Also, the adults (mostly immigrants) followed this same courtesy.

            Mr. Coffee was a well trained electrician.  Not only did he install light switches, wiring and upgrading of fuse boxes in the homes, he regulated the transformers mounted high on utility poles.  The three coal mines, three grocery stores, and a tavern were the prominent consumers of electricity, especially for the refrigeration the stores required.  The high-voltage equipment at the mines was needed for the loco that pulled the coal cars, the large fans that blew air into the mine pits, and the breakers, where the coal was separated and graded as to size of the lumps.

            To access the transformers, Mr. Coffee had to shinny up utility poles to service and regulate them.  There were no truck-mounted cherry pickers to provide a large bucket that lifts a worker to the transformer and also serves as a platform to allow the worker to do the work needed.

            Mr. Coffee had to rely on a spike-like cleat that was strapped to the inner-side of each foot, near the ankle, allowing him to spike his way up to the transformer.  He also used a heavy leather belt that was fastened to his body and it loosely surrounded the pole.  When he climbed, he held the belt with both hands, pulling it toward him, forming a tight loop around the pole which allowed him to balance himself as he shinnied up the pole.  Once he reached the transformer, he released his grip on the belt, and it now worked as a sling, holding his upper body loosely to the pole as he used both hands to service the transformer.

            Considering inclement weather, height of the transformer, the high voltage, and depending on two spikes stuck in a pole to support the body while working with tools suspended from a belt around his waist, was a challenge to the stout-hearted, at best.  As a young boy I was in awe as I watched him work.

            It was not until 1944, the year that I entered Avella High School, that I learned that Mr. Coffee was the father of five attractive daughters.  Shirley, the older of the daughters, became the wife of John Vallina.  Together they operated a grocery store in Langeloth for many years.  John was an uncle to Barry Alvarez.  Lois was a popular cheerleader, and she was followed by a set of identical twins, Mary Lou and Marla.  Willa was the fifth child, who tragically passed away in her teens.  Mary Lou and Marla have remained close friends of Frank Rotunda, Jr., with whom they have socialized since their high school days.
It was not until the World War II years that Mr. Coffee’s service was to increase in Penowa, since many young women were entering the work force in jobs previously assigned to men.  This change brought about a considerable improvement in the national economy, bringing an end to the Great Depression.  The demand for many of the electrical appliances heretofore not affordable was about to begin.  Acquisition of these products, such as electric stoves, water heaters, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and water pumps, would only be available if the suppliers had leftovers from the prewar years. The real impact would not come about until the high demand for military equipment ended in August of 1946.

            No more would the women of Penowa have to cook, bake, and heat water on a coal-fired stove on a brutally hot day.  The carpet beaters, Kalamazoo coal stoves, sad irons and kerosene lamps could now be retired as antiques.  No!  I do not include the ice box, because the “ice man did not cometh” to Penowa in that era.

            Having made life in Penowa so much more comfortable, it was only fitting that Mr. Coffee should end his work day by accepting an invitation from Frank Rotunda, Sr., to join him in a fine glass of wine in Frank’s wine cellar of the Penowa Grocery Store.  Mr. Coffee could choose a white wine, fermented from Muscat grapes, or the purple wine, made from Concord grapes that Frank himself had grown and harvested from his hillside vineyard, reminiscent of Italy.  This purple wine was known, in the vernacular, as “Dago Red,” a popular wine in the area…Salute!

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“Walking to Catch a School Bus” is a true story written by Dorothy Muzopappa. It is on the reverse side of our newsletter. This is a reminder that we welcome any of you to write your recollection of days gone by for our newsletter and website.

Walking to Catch a School Bus
by Dorothy Muzopappa

          As a little first grader I had a long lane to walk to catch the bus.  Mother watched till I was out of sight.  On the road that led to Kidd’s Mill was where we all got on – the Chilenskys, Puskarichs, Macugoskis and McFarlands.  The creek that wound down between two hill sides had three separate creek crossings.  Rain storms would make it like a river.  One such storm when I was in first grade made it impossible for me to cross.  Cree Stroud, the bus driver, carried me across.  Water was swift and up near to his knees.  I had to climb a steep hill till I passed the other two crossings, then back down to the lane and up the lane to home. 

            My other bus driver was Gaylord Martin, Spike Corben, Ernie “Baldy” Gillespie.  Baldy owned the bus and parents paid a fee for us to ride.  When snow was on the ground or heavy frosts, the bigger boys made a large circle and we played Fox and the Geese till the bus came.  That was in the John Thorley sheep field.  There were no snow days, driver just put chains on.  When I probably was in third or fourth grade, the bus stop was moved up the road to the cross roads.  The bus had no separate seats.  More like benches on each side with a window one in the middle and a long board separated it making four long benches.  School was not easy for me.  I failed two grades.  Thus, Jean, now was in my same grade.

            God does work in mysterious ways for as sad as I felt seeing my class mates moving ahead, I would have had to walk up the McCready Road by myself.  Now Jean and I were walking it together.  We were so glad when we reached Sulties store as Fiazzas had a big dog that had bit a couple times in the past.  He at least most of the time stayed above us on the bank.  From Sulties we now were on the hard road to Eldersville ending up at the old Town Pump. In the morning when we left home it wasn’t very light out.  Arriving home we had to change our dresses, do chores and study for the next day all by kerosene light as we still didn’t have electric.  This long walk also had a bearing on our future lives.  On the McCready Road is where Jean met her future husband.  He sometimes drove a big truck from the Sasso strip mine.  He stopped and asked us to ride but not knowing him we just thanked him and walked on.  Mrs. Welsh, who lived in a little house on the McCready Road would ask us in sometimes to rest and get a drink of water.  She asked why we didn’t ride with the young fellow.  She said she had known him since he was a boy when she lived in the Jefferson Coal Patch.  It was just above Penowa.  One morning we were half way up the road and he stopped and asked again.  Well, Jean, made me get in first.  When Tony returned from the Navy, Frank introduced him to me and the rest is history.  Tony Muzopappa and Frank Korpos lived next to each other in Penowa, married and lived next to each other on the State Line Road and now they are both buried in the Bethel Cemetery.

            Getting back to the bus, we were dropped at the bottom of those long steps that led up to Union High, got back on the bus at the end of the school day at the bottom of the steps. By the time our sister Rae was ready for high school, the bus was no more owned private.  She was picked up at the cross roads, spared that long trek up the McCready Road.

            Other changes, was that Union High now was called Burgettstown High.  All the grade school pupils were bused in to another school building there. In 1945 Jean and I graduated.  We enjoyed going to Union High yet would have been a lot better if we had not had that long walk in all kinds of weather.  We made many life-long friends there.  As the years went on the busses did improve.  I doubt they would have met today’s standards.  No matter our busses always got us to school.

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The following article was written for your enjoyment by Frank Muzopappa:

AVELLA:  HUB of Many COMMUNITIES

One of the young men that returned home at the end of WWII in 1945 was Bob Scott, son of Mr. Scott, the proprietor of the Carson & Scott drug store in Avella, and Bob was soon active with the Avella American Legion, Post 643.

Avella was at the center of several local mine patches consisting of company built homes.  Duquesne, Donahue, P&W, and Burgettstown Coal were within a quarter mile from the center of Avella.  Studa (Cedar Grove), and Penowa; with three mining patches that were named Jefferson, Waverly and Penobscott (Avella Mine) were three to four miles away from Avella and were practically communities unto themselves.

In l947, Bob, with the help of John Lestini, owner of a local eatery, and other townspeople, put together the first Avella Legion baseball team that represented Post 643.

Shortly after the team was formed, Bob, who managed the team, left Avella in pursuit of a civilian career.  John Myers, Sr., who himself had served in the Navy during the war, assumed the management of the team.  One of his major problems was to be able to field a full team because many of the players worked at summer jobs.  Despite the problems he faced, he was able to prevail, and the team only forfeited one game the whole season.  He provided the young team with a memorable experience, even if it required his coercing of a friend to haul the team to a game in a dump-truck.

The picture below was taken where the A.C. Dellovade Company now stands.  This field was also used each summer by the Fire Company to host its annual fairs.

From Left to Right:  Tom Kosarik, John Gross, John Myers, Jr.,Bob Kristoff, Ray Brandenburg, Frank Muzopappa, Ron Pascuzzi, Frank Ruschell (back of head), Bill Gordon, Bill Gardner, Bob Brandenburg, Frank Rotunda, Joe Pascuzzi, Joe Venditti.  Not pictured: Dave Farrar from West Middletown and Cecil Tranquill.  All of these young men were from Avella, and the outlying communities mentioned.

            The American Legion was an active institution in the community from its formation approximately in the early 1930’s.  Our own Dorothy Muzopappa’s parents, James and Mary McFarland were Charter Members of Post 643:  He being a veteran of WWI, and she being in the Auxiliary.  Dorothy was awarded a “beautiful pin for her faithful membership of 50 years several years ago.


George Washington Is No Hero In My Book
By  Mary Bigger McKune

GEORGE WASHINGTON was not exactly a hero – at least, our family didn’t think so. Growing up on a farm in Washington County, just 25 miles west of Pittsburgh, my brother and sisters and I had mixed emotions about George.
    Of course, we learned from the history books in our one-room school house at Murdockville that George Washington was “the Father of Our Country” and that as a boy he told the truth — on one occasion anyhow.  But we felt there was a flaw in his character somewhere.  After all, he had taken our land away from us.  Well he took it from our great, great, grandfather — but we resented it, just the same.
Thomas Left Ireland
    The story, told to us as we gathered around the fireside, began more 243 years ago.  It was in 1773 that Thomas Bigger threw his sickle as far as he could at the end of the harvest season in Ireland, saying that was the last wheat that he would ever reap for King George!  Weary of the Irish landlord’s oppression, Thomas set sail with Elizabeth, his bride of a few months, for America where he had heard there was fertile soil in abundance.
    After spending the first winter with two older brothers in Chambersburg, Thomas and Elizabeth crossed the Allegheny Mountains to a home of another brother in the area known as McKeesport.  Leaving his wife there, Thomas set out on a borrowed horse to search for land on which to build a home.
    Riding westward, he came to a hillside above the site on which now stands a 171-year old house, presently owned and occupied by a fifth generation Thomas Bigger and his wife Elizabeth. The soil which the horses’ hooves turned up was rich.  Thomas saw below him what appeared to be an opening in the forest.  When he reached the opening, he found that someone had abandoned an unroofed cabin there.   
   Thomas returned to his brother’s home and reported what he had found. He and Elizabeth decided on the site of this crude cabin overlooking Raccoon Creek as their future home, and to it they came.  Here they worked for several years to carve out of the wilderness the farm which has been home of the Bigger family ever since — with the exception of one seven-year period.  It was this period that led to the dispute with George Washington.
    Having been warned of the approach of a band of warring Indians, who later massacred his three neighbors on Raccoon Creek, Thomas Bigger fled with his family for the safety to a fort near Miller’s Run (in the vicinity of what is now Canonsburg). He purchased a farm near the fort and went to work, clearing the land and building a new home for himself and his family.  This labor lasted for seven years —seven lost years, as it turned out.
Mill Near Ft. Pitt
    The Revolutionary War had come to an end by this time, and George Washington was turning his attention to his own business interest.  Having property west of the Alleghenies, he visited first the site of a mill he owned near Fort Pitt. Then, according to Washington’s Diary, he set out on Sept. 18, 1784, for Miller’s Run.  There he visited the homes of Thomas Bigger and his neighbors—all of them living on a tract totaling nearly 3,000 acres, which Washington claimed as his own.  The settlers, not wishing to move, offered to buy the land from Washington if his terms were moderate.  He told them he had no inclination to sell.
    However, Washington’s Diary reads: “After hearing a good deal of their hardships, their religious principles which had brought them together as a Society of Ceceders,  and unwilling to separate or remove, I told them I would make a last offer, and this was the whole tract at 25 shillings per acre, the money to be paid in three annual payments with interest.”
    The settlers did not have the resources to meet these terms.  They asked George if he would take that price for a longer term with interest.  He refused.
    The neighbors—James Scott, Thomas Lapsley, James and Samuel McBride, Brice and Duncan McGeechan, David and John Reed, Matthew Johnson, William Hillas, Thomas Glenn and Thomas Bigger—stood together.  They determined to stand suit for the land, which they had purchased from Col. George Croghan, an early surveyor in Western Pennsylvania.  Croghan had made an agreement with the Indians for the land.
    Washington’s claim was based on grants made by Virginia to her soldiers  who served in the French and Indian War.  One of Washington’s neighbors at Mount Vernon had sold him his grant of nearly 3,000 acres for the price of 12 pounds.  (George was asking more than 3,000 pounds from the settlers.)
    The grants of wild lands beyond the Alleghenies were considered of little value by the soldiers who received them.  But Washington had a vision of future growth of the country beyond the Alleghenies. He had commissioned a Col. Crawford to select a body of good land for him and Crawford had chosen this land on Miller’s Run.

The Court Favored
Washington,
And He Proceeded
To  Evict
The Settlers

    The suit was tried in 1786 before two Supreme Court judges at Washington. Pa.  The legislative body in Pennsylvania, after the western boundary of Pennsylvania had been  determined,  apparently validated all of the Virginia land grants in Washington County, and thus made good George Washington’s title to the Miller’s Run property.  The Supreme Court was in his favor, and he proceeded to evict the settlers.
    Dispossessed of the land on Miller’s Run but not disheartened, Thomas Bigger brought his family back to their original home on Raccoon Creek.  There he took up where he had left off at the time of  the Indian raid (the massacre at Fort Dillow—but that’s another story), clearing a farm of nearly 500 acres and establishing a home for himself and five generations of descendants.
    How do we feel about George Washington now?  Well, he’s still no hero in our book.  After all, for the seven years’ effort which Thomas Bigger and his neighbors had put into clearing the land and erecting buildings on it, we feel George could have been gracious enough to soften the credit term.

   This Story Was Written  By My Late Brother-in-Law, Thomas C. Bigger’s, Aunt Mary Bigger McKune.  It Was First Printed in THE PITTSBURGH PRESS,   Sunday, JUNE 27, 1976.

Frank Malardie

HISTORICAL HIGHWAY MARKER — ROUTE 50, HICKORY, PA
 


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Out the William Penn Highway to a Great Little Church ghway To   Great  
By Rev. Edward A.  Culley

Copied  from the Presbyterian Banner, January 2, 1930

Duplicated from the Presbyterian Banner, January 2, 1930
 
          Since Dr. Macartney and the editor of the Banner have ceased  their wrangling over whether the north or the  south side of Beaver county is the worse, the writer thought it might be opportune to give some account of a better country where desperadoes have been much less numerous.  The region we have in mind is the north end of Washington county, bordering on Beaver. It will be evident from the discussions that have been carried on in the columns of the Banner concerning the people of Beaver county that Washington was settled and inhabited by a greatly superior people.  We recall that it was quite a common thing for the people of Northern Washington county a few years ago to refer to certain events that happened “way down in Beaver county,” as if it were quite remote and primitive.  The writer very well remembers how disappointed his father was when one of his cousins “moved away down to Hookstown.”  That cousin’s only son is now a professor of Hebrew in the Western Theological Seminary. Had it not been for that unfortunate removal, this Hebrew professor might have had the added distinction of being numbered among the many brilliant lights hailing from Washington county.

The William Penn Highway
          Hearing that the work on the old Steubenville Pike that turned it into the new William Penn Highway had been completed, we ventured out one Saturday morning with wife and daughter in the machine to explore the improvement.  Crossing the Point Bridge and out through Crafton, we were soon on the great thoroughfare were 40 miles an hour seemed like a very moderate rate of speed.  About nine out of ten cars met bore Ohio licenses.  They were carrying Ohio people into Pittsburgh to see the football game or to spend the weekend in the big city.  It is hoped that they behaved themselves and didn’t carry anything away contrary to the Eighteenth Amendment, (Prohibition). The highway is a marvel of what modern engineering skill and machinery can do.  The old grades and sharp turns have been eliminated.  To be sure it cost a large sum of money.  Some people think it cost much more than it ought to have done.  Coming upon a young civil engineer, sent out by the Federal Government to make a study of highway construction from the standpoint of economy, we proceeded to make some inquiries.  In response he informed us that he understood that the cost was about $65,000 per mile, or about $6.00 per square yard.  In reply to the question as to how much he estimated the actual cost ought to be, he drew out his pencil and, after figuring a little, he announced that it ought to be built for about $1.50 per square yard, and that he had known a piece down in Kentucky exactly like it had been built for $1.25 per square yard.  We have no explanation to offer of the discrepancy between the $1.25 or $1.50 and the $6.00 per square yard.
 
Bavington
          The day was sunshiny, the air balmy, and the machine traveled so rapidly, we had almost passed without noticing  the old village of Bavington were the gentry used to gather from the countryside to discuss the questions of the day and the latest items of neighborhood gossip.  Gone were the blacksmith and his tottering old shop.  Likewise the miller and his mill, the merchant and his store, the postmaster and his office.  Back flashed the vision of sturdy bearded farmers as they sat or leaned on the counter about the combined store and post office; and among them particularly the figure of a tall,  gaunt man who was suspected by the others of being unable to read.  One evening this man was holding up a newspaper before him, as he frequently did, when one of the suspicious group said, “Bob, what’s the news?” Bob was equal to the occasion and replied at once, “There’s been a h_ _ _ of a wreck at sea.” He was holding the paper upside down and facing the picture of a new ship that was being launched.  But “Bob” was a good man for a ‘that. 
          A little further along the highway brought us to another memorable spot, where the writer, then a small boy, was following a flock of sheep which his father was leading along the highway, and a sheep over in a bordering pasture field, on a knoll some ten rods away turned, looked, and with a bleat, sprang up into the air some 75  or 100 feet and landed down among the sheep on the highway.  The explanation of this strange phenomenon is left to the modern psychologist.  The writer is sure  that it actually happened, and yet if it did he is confronted with the strange fact that he has no recollection of his father, staunch Presbyterian that he was, making any effort to capture the animal and to return it whence it came.  Perhaps it had recognized its own and in its hazardous leap was only getting back home.
          Nearby this trilling scene of the sheep-leap was the old country school house, now left high above the new highway, and in melancholy abandonment.  The children of the community are now transported in a motor bus to a center where a better education can be more economically given. This weather-worn old building was once a center where more things were learned than “Readin’, Writin’, Rithmetic.”  Many an old score and some scores not so old, there settled in the primitive way, with fisticuffs.  The wonder is that only one got into jail and penitentiary out of all the 60 or more who attended that center of learning.  One lady teacher, during this memorable period, thought to decorate the room and at the same time to prevent distracting from study by curtaining the lower sash of the windows.  Suddenly, at a concerted signal, every curtain was down.  The next morning the school director was present to direct an inquiry but one boy’s father was also present and many and loud were the words that contrasted with the usual quiet monotony of the morning session. The curtain went up no more and the teacher got married at the end of the term which may or may not have ended all her troubles.

An Indian Story
          Some 30 or 40 miles from Pittsburgh on this William Penn road in a quiet, well-kept farm, but with nothing to mark the sad tragedy that occurred there in the early days of the country’s settlement.  A Scotch-Irishman by the name of Wallace had built there a cabin and removed to it his wife and two small children.  The Indians had been removed to a reservation across the river in Ohio.  But occasionally they stealthily crept back to raid the country.  One early winter morning before daybreak, Wallace rose and started to the  mill with some grain on horseback, leaving the family asleep.  The redskins were lying in wait and as soon as he had disappeared they entered the home, ransacked it, and started for the Ohio River with the wife and children.  The baby, only a few weeks old, proved troublesome and before they had gone a mile it was brained against a tree and scalped.  The same fate befell the broken-hearted mother at a spot near what is now Frankfort Spring.  The other boy of about 2 years, Robert, was carried over into Ohio.  According to one version of the story, the father negotiated for the son, and got him back within a year.  According to another, Robert remained with the Indians until he grew up into his teens, when he ran away and came back home and was always known to his friends as “Indian Bob” Wallace.  Some of his grandchildren are still living in this region.

Florence
          The main objective of our pilgrimage was the village of Florence.  It was founded in the early part of the last century and was a very prosperous center of trade during the days of stage coach travel.  Then, with the coming of the Panhandle railroad only a few miles away, it lost its prestige until even the blacksmith shop and post office had gone.  Now with the reconstruction of the highway it is returning to something of its former importance.  The Burgettstown-Georgetown highway here intersects the William Penn.
One of the chief points of interest in this little town has always been the Presbyterian Church, now called the Florence church but formerly the Cross Roads Church.  It was organized in the closing years of the eighteenth century. Its present brick building was erected in 1847.  Except for modern pews it remains unchanged.  From this church with a membership of never more than 200, no fewer than 20 men have gone into the gospel ministry and one is now on the way.  That is a  record that few churches of any size can excel.  Two of these have been Moderators of the General Assembly, the Rev. Francis McFarland, D.D. and the Rev. J. Ross Stevenson, D.D., LL.D., now president of Princeton Theological Seminary.  (Dr. McFarland does not appear in the list of Moderators.-Editor). Two have gone into the foreign mission field, the Rev. John W. McFarland to Alaska and the Rev. George W. Fulton D.D., to Japan.  The Rev. Jesse Culley Bruce, D.D., became Field Secretary of the Board of Church Erection.  Among those known to be still living are Revs. William P. Fulton, John M. Fulton, George W. Fulton, J. Ross Stevenson, William F. Plummer, James P. Linn, David S. Graham and Edward A. Culley.

Elisha Macurdy
Wandering out into the old cemetery adjoining the church, we came upon the grave of the first pastor, the Rev. Elisha Macurdy, a very remarkable man his day.  On the plain stone that marks his resting place is the following inscription:
 

In Memory of
THE REV. ELISHA MACURDY
Late Pastor of the Congregation
Of Cross Roads.
Born October 15, 1763
Licensed June 24, 1799
Ordained and Installed June 1800
A Pastor 35 Years and a Minister
Of the Gospel, 46
Died July 22, 1845.
He took an active part in the great
Revival  of 1802 and was distinguished
For his zealous labor in the cause
Of Indian Missions.


Besides this slab that stands perpendicularly lies one horizontally with the following inscription in memory of the good pastor’s wife:
 

In Memory of
SARAH MACURDY
Late Consort
of the Revd. Elisha Macurdy
Who departed this life
October 26th, 1818
In the 48th year of her age.
 
Her spirit has left this abode
Has gone to the mansion on high
To dwell in the presence of God
 
Her faith on the promise did stay
That Christ should the heathen posses
And ardently long for the day
When they with his light should be
bless’d.
 
The tawny Indian yet unborn
Warmed with pure seraphic fire
May thanks  unto his God return
Who kindly did her heart inspire
To send  unto his wretched race
The glorious news of gospel grace.
 
 


  Finding these inscriptions so interesting, we went in search of a biography of Mr. Macurdy which we knew had been published by a fellow presbyter in 1847.  Fortunately we found a copy in the home of a nearby member of the church.  The book is exceedingly well written  and ought to be in the archives of Washington Presbytery.  Only a few copies are now extant.  We noted a few incidents, all of them interesting and some of them amusing.
Mr. Macurdy came as a young man from the  central part of Pennsylvania and secured his education at the Log College under Dr. John McMillian. One of the first duties of the young minister was to conduct the funeral service of one of the members at some distance in the country.  When he arrived on the scene he found a great throng of people all lined up to receive the customary glass of whiskey and a cake.  Then they sat down in groups and the new pastor was called upon to ask the blessing.  This he declined to do, saying that he could not ask a blessing on whiskey.  Then an elder of the church was called and the desired blessing was invoked.  Whether it was received, the biographer does not state.  Mr. Macurdy followed with the customary funeral sermon.  His topic was “Whiskey at a funeral.”  It must have been an effective sermon, for no whiskey was ever served again at a funeral service within the bounds of that congregation.
One of the ruling elders of this church was Phillip Jackson, known as the “Praying Elder.”  He was rather rough and uneducated in his youth.  One night, with several others he went out hunting raccoons.  Not finding any, he went to a religious meeting in a log cabin  near Burgettstown and found the Savior.  Jackson became a mighty man at the throne of Grace.  The spot is still pointed out where he had his prayer booth built out of brush in the  woodland.  It was to his intercession that the noted revival is attributed which in 1802 swept over the surrounding country and in which large number of people in churches and out-of-doors fell and lay helplessly for a protracted period on the ground.  It was in this movement that Mr. Macurdy preached his famous “war sermon.”  Wherever he preached it people would pop over as if they were shot.


Old Time Session Records
  A visit to another member in the village brought to life the sessional records of a century ago.  We were impressed with  numerous cases of discipline brought before the Session.  There were periods when there were frequent  meetings of the Session and when every meeting would record a case of discipline.  We were greatly impressed with the brief and accurate record made in the taking of testimony by the clerk.  It might be questioned if one of a hundred Sessional clerks could do it today.  After a certain “general election” there were men at every meeting of the Session for five or six months, charged with betting on the election or with “holding stakes.”  The men confessed their fault, pleading in extenuation, that they did it without thinking it was so serious.  They were censured and admonished not to repeat the offense.  A servant girl charged her mistress with slandering her by telling several persons that she had stolen three silver spoons from her kitchen.  The spoons were later found buried in the garden.  Several witnesses were called and were careful to state in their testimony that they had not heard the accused say that the plaintiff had “stolen” the spoons but that but she had taken them or that they had disappeared after she was there.  The accused was counseled to be more careful if not accurate in her speech.
Next to the Rev. Elisha Macurdy in length of pastorate and spiritual fervor was the Rev. Adolphus F. Alexander.  For twenty-five years he kept faithful watch over this flock.  He was a good man and like Barnabas of old, was full of the Holy Spirit.  A minister is seldom held in such high respect as Mr. Alexander was throughout all that country.  He was a fervent preacher of the gospel and during his ministry several young men became ministers of the gospel.
One of the early ministers of this church whose name is withheld was something of a humorist. Shortly after arriving in town one of the male members with very pronounced bow legs, met him and after introducing himself informed the new minister that for more than a score of years he had been one of the main pillars of the church.  The new pastor could not resist the temptation and so replied.  “I just thought from the shape of your legs that you had been bearing a great burden of some kind.” 
The present pastor is the Rev. Wilson Stitt, D.D.  He is doing good work in this old historic field.  He is very popular with his people and the entire community and it is hoped that his pastorate will be a long and fruitful one.

 Kidds Mill

(image)
A panoramic view of the entire Kidd’s Mill area.
The gristmill with its sawmill extension is seen in
the upper left corner.
Bridges and fences are intact, therefore the picture was taken before The Flood of 1912 washed them away.
It is uncertain, but possible, that Emma Cresswell was the photographer


The Saga of Kidd’s Mill
BY A. D. WHITE
 
          Among the wild, secluded spots of Jefferson Township of the present day, none is more secluded or more wild and beautiful than the site of the old grist and sawmill known for years as Kidd’s Mill.  The location is near the junction of the two branches of Scott’s  Run in southwestern Jefferson Township and near the West Virginia line. Near here once could have been seen a declivity known as Hiskus Jump, the story of which comes to us from Pioneer times that a man by the name of Hiskus was being closely pressed in a chase by Indians.  When the red men were so close on him that he felt that capture was certain, he decided that he would rather leap over the cliff and risk death in that manner than to be captured by the Indians.  He made his escape by jumping over the cliff, which he did safely, then concealed himself in a small cave which he found in a large rock on the other side of the creek. 
          When one visits the spot today, it is difficult to imagine that here at one time was   a center of much activity.  All that one sees today is Scott’s Run flowing swiftly at  this point, through a steep-walled valley whose sides on an early spring day, are covered with white flowered trillium and other wild flowers in abundance, and over-hanging from the steep banks of the stream are many pine trees.  The only sign of human progress in evidence is a very idle railroad trestle spanning the creek and a little farther upstream the ruins of the old mill.  While this was once a flourishing crossroads community, today one sees only the scars of  the roads which once converged here, there being no roads on which one might use a wheeled vehicle within a half mile or more of the old mill site.
          A mill was first established at this point by Charles Scott, an Irishman, who was an early settler here.  This man, known as Charley at the Mill, to distinguish him from another Charles Scott, Charley on the Hill, was instrumental in assisting many of his friends in locating near him.  When an Irish acquaintance of “Charley at the Mill” arrived, he always looked up Charley Scott who helped him get his bearings in the location of a good tract of land.
The mill was maintained here by this Charles Scott and his son, who sold the tract to Samuel Cresswell, who built a larger mill in 1852 and conducted its operation until he sold it in 1855 to Thomas Weaver who appears to have continued as owner and operator until 1865 when he deeded the property to David A. Benjamin who was Trustee for an eastern syndicate who drilled a well to a depth of eight hundred feet. This proved unsuccessful and the mill was sold on March 30, 1868 to Nathaniel Gillespie who, with his son, James, conducted the mill until March 1, 1878 when it was transferred to G. Chalmers Miller.  At this time the mill was known as the Pine Grove Grist and Sawmill, this name belonging also to the Presbyterian Church which stood on the hillside just a short distance from the mill.
          In 1885, Chalmers Miller deeded the mill property to Eliza Kidd, and thenceforth the mill was known as Kidd’s Mill.  Eliza Jane Stewart Kidd was the daughter of Robert Stewart, of Jefferson Township.  She was married prior to 1850 to David Kidd, a native of Ireland.  After their marriage this couple moved to Guernsey County, Ohio, where Kidd’s death occurred in 1868. The widow and her six children returned to Jefferson Township and she soon undertook with the help of her fifteen year old son, Robert, the purchase of a farm of 108 acres near Eldersville.  in addition to purchasing the farm at Eldersville, the Kidd family purchased the mill as above stated, and Robert Kidd managed the operation of the mill during the rest of its period of existence.
In its early days this was a water mill, but steam was eventually introduced.  Sometime after the introduction of the use of steam, a terrible tragedy occurred at the mill on August 8, 1882, when the boiler exploded, tearing a gaping hole in the side of the mill as it blew up then flying out through the air, struck the steep bank across the creek and rolled back onto the level ground.  In this accident, the miller, Tom Bavington, was killed, and his helper, James Phillips, was critically injured and died soon afterwards.  Mr. Elsa Scott, then a small boy, was out with his mother picking berries nearby on that fateful day.  Suddenly a horseman appeared riding up the “Run” toward Eldersville.  This man, John H. Murchland, saw the Scott’s and called out, “the Mill’s blown up and killed Tom Bavington,” and then road on furiously to Eldersville to secure medical help from the village physician, Dr. J. F. McCarrell.  Elza Scott and his mother rushed home and the boy was dispatched to the homes of neighbors to tell them of the tragedy. 
          Kidd’s Mill continued to operate until shortly after the turn of the century when it was closed down.  At this place, Mrs. Agnes Murchland, sister of Robert Kidd, served as Postmistress at the Bancroft Post Office and also, for a period of ten or twelve years,  conducted  a summer resort hotel for working girls from Pittsburgh who came here for two-weeks vacations.  The Post Office here was discontinued upon the installation of the rural free delivery of mail

 
 A Postscript by Kathryn Slasor
 
          The above account of Kidd’s Mill was written in 1953 by A. D. White.  It could have been written today, 2016 as in the 63-year span since Mr. White compiled the local history in Jefferson Township’s Centennial celebration; little has changed at Kidd’s Mill.
The “steep-walled valley” blossoms each Spring, displaying a carpet of wild flowers such as is seen in few places in today’s commercial world.  Fields of white, yellow and purple violets grow in profusion along the swift-flowing Scott’s Run, and acres of white and red Trillium brightens the hillsides that in some spots are too steep for human accent.  The stained white leaves  of the Dogwood, the hidden waxy blossoms of the May-apple plants, the delicate Orchid Sweet William, and the endangered species of Trailing Arbutus – all grow in abundance in the all-but- forgotten valley area that will be known to those whose lives it has touched as Kidd’s mill.
          Other flowers that flourish in the valley and on the rock-studded  hillsides include Jack-in-the Pulpit, Crowfoot, Hepatica, Virginia Bluebells, Dutchman’s Breeches, and the ever-lovely Spring  Beauties.
The scars of the roads are less prominent as the years go by.  Trees have fallen across them, and underbrush has them nearly obscured.  The layer of flat stones that make up the foundation of the mill and the large house that served as a residence, a hotel and a Post Office, become less visible and more difficult to locate as the stream continues to deposit its cargo of twigs, branches, stones and debris of various nature, in its endless search to seek its own level.
          The “wild” atmosphere of Kidd’s Mill cannot be told with mere words.  It must be “experienced.”
Many hundreds of adventurous visitors of all ages have come to Kidd’s Mill throughout the years since the hustle and bustle ceased.  The peace and tranquility of the valley has impressed both young and old, so that an urgency exists to re-visit this nostalgic spot that constitutes a world of its own.
          Leaders such as Albert Miller, A. D. White, Bob Kidd, Bob Irwin, Carl Patsche, and other enthusiastic historians such as Paul Chilensky and Marion Butler, have contributed enormously to the spreading of history of this beloved area to all who would listen.  Mr. White accompanied groups into the valley when he was far past the thee of 90, so great was his love for it.
Marion Butler instilled the legends of the area into his school pupils during  his forty years of teaching grammar school.  He led his classes into the wilderness so that they could see history first-handed.
The site of the Pine Grove Church is here, where staunch Presbyterians met nearly a century and a half ago.  The group that visited the area in 1986 held a brief service at the site, led by Marian Scott Mester, in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the closing of Pine Grove.  Marian, who has since passed away, was a descendant of the Scott family prominent in the early days of Kidd’s Mill.
          The hotel, or boarding house, the ruins of which are observed  with imaginative nostalgia, at one time held life and love, especially for the young and the young at heart.  the mill itself, having been operated by the ancestors of Bob and Bill Kidd, Bob Irwin and Albert and Delvin Mller, performed a most valuable service to the entire neighborhood.
yes, the old mill, the house of worship, the post office, the summer resort—all are gone.  only ruins —and memories remain……..

 

Jefferson Township Historical Society