“The Headless Horseman Industrial Complex”

Autumn tree. Digital Humanities.  Taken at Seton HIll University, Greensburg, PA.
(Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I’m grateful to all of you who read my blog.

I love to consume content and also to share the content that I enjoy. Here is some content that my sister E. sent to me:

From the New York TimesThe Headless Horseman Industrial ComplexHow Sleepy Hollow and the river towns of New York City went all in on Halloween, by Molly Fitzpatrick. (The linked website actually currently says “New York City,” but I wonder if this is a typo and the article meant to say “New York State.”

Washington Irving introduced the spooky myth of the headless horseman in his short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The New York (State) community where this story took place recently changed its name from “North Tarrytown” to “Sleepy Hollow.”

Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from the article:

The enterprising venture of rebranding North Tarrytown as Sleepy Hollow followed the 1996 closing of the local General Motors plant — which had once employed 4,000 workers — that very year, a devastating blow to the village economy. The mayor of the town then, Sean Treacy, celebrated the result of the vote against the backdrop of a Headless Horseman banner: “This is now the place,” he proclaimed, “where legends are made.”

For Henry Steiner, the village historian and an outspoken advocate for the name change, the opportunity was more profound. “I wanted to see this community called North Tarrytown not labor under a lack of identity,” he said. “I wanted to seize this world-famous identity that had been buried.”

Here’s another excerpt:

For Mr. Steiner, who published an annotated edition of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in 2014, the region’s Halloween-forward branding is a source of both pride and anxiety. “I would like the things that are genuine and authentic to remain genuine and authentic, but ultimately, there’s more money in tourism than there is in historic preservation,” he said.

This article discussed the economic boost that “dark tourism” brought to this community. Here’s the Wikipedia entry that describes “dark tourism.”

I’ve never been to visit Sleepy Hollow. However, I’ve participated in dark tourism. I toured the Tower of London and Tintern Abbey. Etc.

I hope that you enjoy this! Let me know.

Review: “Ghost” History Walk at Prospect Cemetery

Prospect Cemetery. Brackenridge. Graves. Headstones. Full moon.
Prospect Cemetery, Brackenridge, PA. October 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

I attended a “ghost” history walk in Prospect Cemetery last week.

The people of Brackenridge, PA, established Prospect Cemetery in 1864.

This cemetery includes markers from as far back as 1817. (The Victorians moved graves to Prospect from other local burying grounds.)

The remains of Brackenridge’s founder and namesake (Judge Henry Marie Brackenridge) and his family rest here.

The 13 acre cemetery sits on a hill overlooking the Allegheny River, upstream from Pittsburgh.

A few years ago, the cemetery met financial troubles. A local newspaper covered the issue in several articles.

Later, volunteers organized annual “history ghost walks” to raise money for cemetery upkeep.

Jonathan and I attended the walk each year. (We paid $10 per ticket this year.)

Each year’s ghost walk featured Judge Brackenridge and his wife. The other featured cemetery residents varied each year. Volunteers dressed in period costumes as “ghosts” – the people featured on that year’s tour- and reenacted that person. The “ghosts” featured included deceased community members from both the 1800’s and the 1900’s.

This year’s featured “ghosts” included TWO Civil War veterans. One of these veterans was captured at the Battle of Chickamauga and taken to Andersonville Prison. He later wrote a book about his wartime experiences. This year’s tour also included a World War I veteran who later served as a police officer for decades.

In my opinion, the “history ghost walk” is a creative solution to the cemetery’s situation.

This year’s walk occurred under a nearly-full moon.

(I’m not aware of any historical fiction that included Henry Marie Brackenridge. However, his father, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, appeared as a character in the novel The King’s Orchard by Agnes Sligh Turnbull. Hugh Henry founded the University of Pittsburgh. Here’s another blog post that I wrote about the Brackenridge family.)

Allegheny Arsenal Explosion

Today marks a grim anniversary.

On September 17, 1862, Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Arsenal exploded.

Most of the 78 arsenal employees killed were young females (teenage girls). The arsenal manufactured munitions for the United States for the American Civil War.

Here are the photos that I took of the marker in Allegheny Cemetery for these industrial accident casualties.

Misery Bay and Graveyard Pond

You are all fantastic for reading my blog! I’ve had several readers reach out to me in the past month. I appreciate you all for taking precious time out of your full lives to digest my stories. I don’t want to let you down.

I will tell you a little bit more about our brief sailing adventures on Lake Erie. First, let me tell you about Misery Bay and Graveyard Pond.

The “Greater Erie, PA” region sits on the south shore of Lake Erie, and also on the south shore of Presque Isle Bay. Presque Isle Bay’s west and north boundaries exist due to a Peninsula that extends into Lake Erie.

To the west and the north of Presque Isle Bay is a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie. (On this peninsula now sits Presque Isle State Park. )

The Native Americans known as the “Eriez Nation” inhabited this area hundreds of years ago. The Iroquois defeated the Eriez in the 1600’s.

If you leave from Erie and head toward the open lake, then Erie (the city) will be on your starboard side and the peninsula will be on your port side.

You will travel past a monument to Commander Oliver Hazard Perry at Presque Isle State Park. Then, you will travel past Misery Bay.

Monument to Commander Oliver Hazard Perry

Then, you will travel through a shipping channel. Finally, you will pass the North Pier Lighthouse. Congratulations. You are on the open lake.

Perry commanded the U.S.’s Lake Erie naval fleet in 1813. This was during the War of 1812, the United States’ second war against the British. This U.S. naval fleet was at Presque Isle Bay when Perry took command. Perry’s forces broke a British blockade at Presque Isle. Then they defeated the British off of the Ohio coast at the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813.

Perry then returned to Presque Isle Bay.

Do you remember when I wrote that the bay next to the Perry monument is called “Misery Bay?” Well, the bay earned its name from what happened after the Battle of Lake Erie. Many returning sailors contracted smallpox and died in quarantine. They died aboard ships harbored in Misery Bay. The ones who didn’t get sick buried these sailors in the pond next to Misery Bay. Then, sailors who got sick but hadn’t yet died also got “buried” in the pond.

Local storytellers renamed the pond “Graveyard Pond.”

The navy sunk the hulls of two of their ships, the USS Lawrence and the USS Niagara, in Misery Bay for preservation.

In 1875, preservationists raised the Lawrence. They shipped her to Philadelphia. Exhibitors displayed the Lawrence at the U.S. Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the Lawrence at that same exhibition.

Preservationists raised and rebuilt the USS Niagara in 1913, then rebuilt her again in 1988. The reconstructed USS Niagara now sails regularly from her dock in Erie, past Misery Bay, on her way to the open lake.

Flagship Niagara Passes Fishermen on the North Pier

My husband, Jonathan, and I purchased our sailboat, S/V Pinniped, last autumn from the original owners, P. and M. In fact, P. built the boat himself from a set of plans. P. told us to be careful to stay away from Misery Bay when we travelled through the channel. Misery Bay is shallow, compared to the shipping channel. P. admitted that he actually grounded Pinniped on various sandbars in Misery Bay.

So of course, when we returned to the bay from our first sail together on the open lake, we accidentally steered into Misery Bay.

Misery Bay at that particular spot has a datum depth of four feet. Pinniped drafts five a half feet.

Fortunately for us, Lake Erie is high this summer. So, the actual depth on that spot on that day was seven and a half feet. We lucked out!

A week later, we again sailed onto the open lake. We sailed past a docked freighter before we left the bay.

Freighter

We sailed about one third of the way across Lake Erie.

And . . . we avoided steering into Misery Bay on the way back!

However, after several hours of sailing, the wind died and the flies appeared. Lots of flies. We motored for over an hour, covered in flies, to reach our slip at our marina. (For the record, we sprayed ourselves generously with bug spray. We still received fly bites.)

Despite Misery Bay and the flies, we both had positive experiences on both sailing trips. Stay tuned for more sailing adventures and more stories from history.

Harry K. Thaw’s Grave

Grave of Harry K. Thaw. Henry Kendall Thaw. February 12, 1871 - February 22, 1947. Allegheny Cemetery, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Harry K. Thaw’s Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. May, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

A few months ago, I blogged about the time that Harry K. Thaw shot Stanford White over White’s relationship with Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit. (Thaw was from Pittsburgh, and Nesbit was born in Tarentum, PA, although the two of them met in New York City.)

I visited Thaw’s grave in Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh.

I didn’t put the rosary on this grave. I don’t know who put the rosary on the headstone.

Here is the marker for the Thaw family plot:

Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA.
Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. May, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

If you want to hear a podcast or two about Evelyn Nesbit, “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing,” and Thaw’s murder of White, check out these podcast episodes:

1.) Criminal (hosted by Phoebe Judge), covered this in episode 91The “It” Girl.

2.) Then, an episode of the podcast My Favorite Murder talked about this in episode 136 and heavily “cited” Criminal. (In my opinion, the bulk of the My Favorite Murder host’s “research” consisted of her listening to the Criminal episode! This is merely my personal opinion, though.)

Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh PA
Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. November 10, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
William Thaw Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh
William Thaw Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh PA. November 10, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Ancient Henge and Modern Pagans

Today is May 1. May Day. The ancient festival of Beltane.

Ancient residents of Northern Europe celebrated May 1 as a spring festival. My ancient ancestors most likely celebrated on May Day.

In Anya Seton‘s historical fiction novel Katherine, the serfs living on the English protagonist’s estate snuck off and observed Beltane. A nobleman discovered them and ended the party. The powerful men in this novel forbid Beltane since it wasn’t a “Christian” holiday. They labeled Beltane as “pagan.”

In honor of May Day, I blog today about a place in England that predated Christianity in England. Modern-day Pagans (Contemporary Pagans / Neopagans) still gather at this landmark to observe their own beliefs. I blog today about Avebury.

My husband Jonathan travelled to London for business a few times. I took vacation days from my own job, purchased plane tickets, and squatted in his hotel room so that I could blog about England.

Jonathan had a weekend “off,” so we rented a British car. We drove several hours out of London and visited rural England.

My cousin R. previously lived in the United Kingdom for a year. We asked R. for sightseeing recs. Cousin R. told us about Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England.

Avebury Henge, a Neolithic henge monument, encircles a section of the village of Avebury. A ditch surrounds the henge.

UNESCO classifies this as part of its “Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites” World Heritage site.

We decided through our research that Avebury was more accessible to us than Stonehenge from our hotel “base” in London. We had limited “free” time during our trip. So, we skipped Stonehenge in favor of Avebury.

To our delight, Avebury and its attractions charged no admission. We found it uncrowded, too!

Visitors can even shop inside the henge.

Sheep graze among the Avebury Henge.

In fact, I watched a sheep rub itself against the henge stones.

Look at the below photo. Some of the henge stones show long-term wear at sheep level.

We explored the actual village of Avebury:

Here is the Parish Church of St. James in Avebury. To be clear, this IS a currently operating Christian (Anglican) church. I include St. James in the middle of this blog post because it sits in the village of Avebury.

St. James dates from approximately 100o A.D. The Normans possibly altered the church after the Norman Invasion in 1066 A.D.

The residents on this land now called Avebury once celebrated such pre-Christian rites as Beltane. The status quo maintained Beltane as a festival.

Then, the (Roman Catholic) Church brought Christianity to Avebury. The status quo no longer maintained the pre-Christian beliefs and festivals. The status quo maintained Roman Catholicism.

Then, in the 1500’s, Henry VIII established the (Protestant) Church of England. Henry dissolved the Roman Catholic monasteries. His supporters prosecuted practicing Catholics. Henry VIII died. Henry’s son Edward VI maintained Protestantism as the status quo in England. Edward VI died.

Henry’s daughter, Mary I, then became Queen. She reinstated Roman Catholicism and persecuted Protestants. Mary I died.

Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I became queen. The status quo changed again, this time in favor of Protestants.

(This actually provides much of the setting for Anya Seton‘s time travel / reincarnation novel Green Darkness.)

In 1561, Elizabeth I ordered that all churches destroy their rood screens. (The rood screen separated a church’s chancel from its nave.) Unknown parties disassembled the rood screen at St. James and hid it behind a false wall. Church inhabitants discovered the rood screen in 1810. St. James parishioners restored the screen and reinstalled it by the end of the 1800’s.

Here is St. James’ churchyard:

Again, I include St. James in the middle of this blog post because it sits in the village of Avebury.

The rest of this post details landmarks several miles outside of Avebury. We had to drive to these these places. They are “associated sites” included in the official Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites UNESCO World Heritage Site:

West Kennet Long Barrow:

This neolithic tomb contained the remains of over 40 individuals.

We parked and walked up a hill in order to view West Kennet Long Barrow. Partway up this hill we came upon a tree filled with ribbons. Unknown visitors tied various items to many of the ribbons.

Here is the inside of West Kennet Long Barrow. Earlier visitors lit candles inside the barrow before we entered it.

Silbury Hill:

This prehistoric artificial mound is the largest one in Europe.

Thank you for letting me share my adventures with you!

Check back for my upcoming blog post about Tintern Abbey, Iron Maiden, and Jane Austin.

(Note: Henry VIII closed Tintern Abbey in 1536 when he replaced Roman Catholicism with Protestantism as the status quo.)

Happy Beltane!

The Dead Bride (And Other Tales of Friendship Hill)

Friendship Hill, Albert Gallatin’s home above the Monongahela River

This is Part 2 of my series on the “Secrets of the Mon.” You can read Part 1, Taj Mahal on the Mon, here.

In Part 1, I blogged about Nemacolin Castle, a mansion overlooking the Monongahela River (the Mon) in Brownsville, Pennsylvania.

Today I blog about another home on a hill above the Mon. At this new estate, I saw all of these: a Jefferson cabinet member’s “cursed” home, the rumored grave of this man’s dead bride, a live bride preparing for her own wedding, and Robert E. Lee’s confiscated furniture.

Today I blog about Friendship Hill National Historic Site in Point Marion, PA. Today I blog about the country estate of Albert Gallatin.

By now, you’ve all heard of the United States Secretary of the Treasury, right? President Trump appointee Steven T. Mnuchin (Net Worth: $300 million) serves as our current Secretary of the Treasury. The idolized and fabled Alexander Hamilton served as our first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton rival Albert Gallatin served as our fourth Secretary of the Treasury.

Gallatin was born into a wealthy family in Geneva, Switzerland. He emigrated to the Unisted States in 1780’s.

So, just like Hamilton, Gallatin was an immigrant. Just like another Secretary of the Treasury, Gallatin was born into wealth and privilege.

Since Gallatin had money, he got to chose where to live. He first tried to live in New England. He then moved to Virginia.

Finally, Gallatin settled on a rural estate in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He settled above the Mon. He settled on the property that became Friendship Hill.

The Mon flows south to north. Downstream from Friendship Hill, the Mon joins the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River. The Ohio River then flows into the Mississippi River.

Now, as I blogged here, tremendous earthen mounds dotted the banks of the Mon, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers.

From where did these come? If humans built these, then who? 

Archeologists maintain that indigenous people built these hundreds or even thousands of years ago. But how? 

One theory claims that humans significantly larger than ourselves – those known in lore as the “Tall People” – built these mounds.

Some storytellers insist that aliens from outer space built the mounds.

What is the truth behind these mounds?

Did these mounds bring special energy – special power – to the banks of the Mon?

Did the Mon’s special power call Albert Gallatin to build his home along the Mon?

Gallatin purchased the 400 acres of land in present-day Fayette County, Pennsylvania, that we now call Friendship Hill. 

Since Gallatin pursued a political career, he still lived at times in Richmond, Virginia.

By 1789, Gallatin proclaimed his love for Sophia Allegre, the daughter of a Richmond boardinghouse owner. Gallatin wanted to marry Sophia and take her back with him to Friendship Hill.

Now, keep in mind that this happened less than a decade after the American Revolution ended. Friendship Hill still belonged to the wilderness, the unknown.  Friendship Hill sits on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. White settlers battled the Iroquois Confederacy for this land.  Illness and violence threatened all. In 1789, Virginia and Pennsylvania still recovered from years of war and sacrifice. 

Whatever the reason, Sophia’s widowed mother opposed the match.

And for her own reasons, Sophia eloped with Albert Gallatin in May 1789. 

Albert and Sophia Gallatin set off to build a life together at Friendship Hill.

Five months later, Sophia Gallatin died at Friendship Hill.

How did Sophia die? Pregnancy complications? Illness? Rumors even hint that Sophia Gallatin suffered a violent death in the woods.

In any case, Albert Gallatin buried his Sophia in an unmarked grave overlooking the Mon.

Gallatin left Friendship Hill and carried on with his long diplomatic and political career. He represented Pennsylvania as a United States Senator. He served as  4thUnited States Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, from 1801-1814.  In this position, he purchased the Louisiana Territory and funded the Lewis and Clark expedition. 

Gallatin remarried. His new wife insisted that the couple not live at Friendship Hill. Did the new Mrs. Gallatin fear Friendship Hill’s remoteness? Did she know dark secrets about her husband’s home on the Mon? Whatever the reason, Gallatin agreed to give up living in southwestern Pennsylvania. He sold Friendship Hill.

Future owners lived in and expanded the original structure where Albert and Sophia Gallatin lived. 

The story claims that workers discovered Sophie’s original grave as they constructed a cistern and pump house. They moved her body to another location on the property. 

Friendship Hill changed owners several times. Homeowners suffered misfortune and tragedy. Local folklore blamed the tragedies on a curse.

Then the ghost stories bloomed.

The National Park Service (NPS) acquired Friendship Hill in the 1970’s. Later, volunteers claimed to hear footsteps in restricted places. Rumors told of a young woman’s ghost who peered through windows. 

The NPS placed signage at the location that they believe to be Sophia Gallatin’s “new” grave. Is this truly her grave? 

See more here on Sophia Gallatin’s grave.

Sophia Allegre Gallatin’s grave, per local folklore

I visited Friendship Hill National Historic Site a few years ago.

According to the NPS website for Friendship Hill, the park includes 661 acres and over 10 miles of nature trails.

I saw no food concessions or any vending machines that sold food or drink during my visit to the park. I didn’t pack enough of either of these. I had to leave after a few hours to find a grocery store. I had to drive about three miles to the actual town of Point Marion.

I did locate a clean and comfortable restroom with indoor plumbing.

Friendship Hill, Pennsylvania

I planned my visit during the operating hours for the original stone house where Albert and Sophia Gallatin lived. I paid no admission fee to tour the house. The park staff member at the front desk gave me a map so that I could do a self-guided tour of the main house.  He allowed me to bring my camera inside and take photos.

Friendship Hill includes no original furniture that belonged to Gallatin.

Now, during my visit, the rooms of Gallatin’s Friendship Hill contained Robert E. Lee’s family’s furniture. Here’s why: the NPS also operates Arlington House in Virginia. Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary, (Martha Washington’s great-granddaughter) inherited Arlington House. (The United States confiscated Arlington House during the Civil War.) At the time of my visit to Friendship Hill, the NPS was renovating Arlington House. So, the NPS moved the Arlington House furniture to Friendship Hill temporarily.

Friendship Hill

When I walked from the main house to the parking lot, I saw an event tent. Well-dressed people walked from the parking lot to the event tent.

I drove past a (living) bride and her azure-clad bridesmaids. They modeled for their photos on the edge of the woods where Sophia Gallatin rested.

I went looking for a dead bride that day. I found a living bride instead.

They “Bought” a Dead Body: My Visit to Jim Thorpe, PA

Pennsylvania has a borough named Jim Thorpe.

Jim Thorpe is the county seat of Carbon County.

Here’s a story about Jim Thorpe, PA’s name.

In the 1800’s, white settlers, ah, settled in a gorge in the Lehigh Valley. They named the town “Mauch Chunk.” This came from the Lenni Lenape people’s name for the nearby mountain. I find this ironic, and you will read why in a few paragraphs.

The Lenni Lenape were American Indians.

(I grew up using the term “Native American.” However, the Smithsonian now uses the term “American Indian” in referring to the indigenous peoples of the United States. For this blog post I will use “American Indian.”)

Many white settlers earned their livings from the coal mined above Mauch Chunk. In the 1820’s, they built the Switchback Gravity Railroad from these coal mines. 

(Guess why Carbon County is named Carbon County!)

The mine owners employed large numbers of Irish immigrants. The mine owners exploited and oppressed these miners.

The Irish miners formed an illegal labor union. Some also joined a secret society, the Molly McGuires (the Mollies). The mine owners hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to infiltrate and prosecute the Mollies. Soon, Carbon County hung (hanged?) several alleged members of the Mollies for murder, at the county jail in Mauch Chunk in 1877. Here’s my blog post about this.

A decade later, in 1887, an American Indian named Wa-Tho-Huk (Bright Path) was born in Oklahoma. He belonged to the Sac and Fox tribe.

Wa-Tho Huk was of mixed-race ancestry. Both of his parents were Roman Catholic. His parents had him baptized in the Catholic Church as Jacobus (Jim) Thorpe.

During this time in history, the United States Federal Government set up boarding schools to assimilate American Indians into “white American” culture.

Our government had established the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to educate American Indian children. Carlisle is in the central part of our state, near Harrisburg. It is about a hundred miles away from the borough that used to be known as Mauch Chunk.

As a teenager, Wa-Tho-Huk / Jim Thorpe travelled to Pennsylvania to attend the Carlisle school.

Now, one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab, produced a beautiful episode about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. I posted the link to this episode’s website here. You can also download it from the platform of your choice. The episode is titled “American Football,” dated January 29, 2015. Radiolab posted photos from the Carlisle school here. If you want to learn about the Carlisle school and its athletic successes, you should listen to this episode.

I can’t rival the information presented by Radiolab. Let me just paraphrase that athletics – especially football – played a huge part in the Carlisle school’s education and culture.

Jim Thorpe excelled in sports at the Carlisle school.

Then, he won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the Olympics in Sweden in 1912. His special track shoes “disappeared” before the competitions. Jim Thorpe had to wear shoes that he found in a garbage bin when he won his gold medals.

Then he played professional baseball AND professional football.

Jim Thorpe the man died impoverished in 1953. Thorpe’s widow, Patricia, was frustrated by efforts to convince Thorpe’s birth state of Oklahoma to provide a grave / memorial for Thorpe. She claimed that Thorpe’s estate didn’t provide enough funds to bury Thorpe without outside help.

At this time, Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania existed separately from a neighboring borough named East Mauch Chunk. Both boroughs wanted to “attract new businesses,” according to Wikipedia.

Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk cut a deal with Thorpe’s widow. The two boroughs merged and renamed themselves as “Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.” The new borough of Jim Thorpe built a memorial / grave to Jim Thorpe the man.

The borough also paid Mrs. Thorpe.

In return, Mrs. Thorpe agreed to have Jim Thorpe the man buried in Jim Thorpe the borough.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Thorpe agreed to this without the consent of Jim Thorpe’s remaining family, including children from a prior marriage.

In fact, Mrs. Thorpe agreed to have Jim Thorpe’s body transported from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania while Thorpe’s family was in the process of conducting traditional tribal rituals for him.

So, Jim Thorpe’s body was removed from Oklahoma during his own funeral!

Jim Thorpe’s sons later filed a federal lawsuit to have the body returned to Oklahoma. They argued that Jim Thorpe the borough qualified as a museum under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

However, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Jim Thorpe’s body remains in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Note that Jim Thorpe the man never actually visited Jim Thorpe the borough (Mauch Chunk) during his lifetime. He did attend the Carlisle school, but from what I can tell, this was Jim Thorpe the man’s only connection to Pennsylvania.

My sisters and I grew up telling each other the ghost story that is connected with the Irish coal miners that were hung at the Carbon County jail in Mauch Chunk / Jim Thorpe.

Then we learned about Jim Thorpe the man.

My sister K. moved to the Lehigh Valley a few years ago. My sister E.R. and I visited her. We took a road trip to Jim Thorpe the borough since we had heard so much about it.

So here’s what we saw:

1.) The Jim Thorpe Memorial

That’s right, we visited Jim Thorpe the man’s grave.

This memorial sits in a wooded area on the edge of town. It’s like a little public park.

The original red marble marker bearing his name has a quote from Sweden’s King Gustav V. This memorial sits on soil taken from Oklahoma. I added a photo of this marker at the very top of this blog post.

The memorial now includes several statues and a sculpture. Through the years, the borough added several smaller markers to educate the public about Thorpe’s life in Oklahoma and at the school in Carlisle.

The memorial has a free parking lot that it doesn’t have to share with any other attractions.

There is no admission fee to visit the Jim Thorpe Memorial.

In my opinion, it’s really easy for families to stop here and reflect on the life of Jim Thorpe.

2.) The old Carbon County Jail, now the Old Jail Museum

Here’s a photo that my sister K. took of the gallows used at the Carbon County Jail in the 1800’s. This is the jail where the alleged Molly McGuires were imprisoned until their hangings just outside of the jail walls.

You can use this link to see my prior blog post about this event.

The Old Jail Museum’s physical building witnessed a haunted, loaded history.  As such, it now carries several ghost stories. The museum features these stories on its tours and also on its website.

One word about the tour: visitors are required to climb up and down several staircases. This is NOT a comfortable tour for people with mobility issues.

Also, we had to park several blocks away from the jail museum on the June Saturday of our visit. Keep this in mind if you plan your own visit.

3.) The Dimmick Memorial Library

I mention this because my sister K. loves this library. (K. is a librarian, so she likes to survey other people’s libraries.)

Here’s a photo of my sisters K. and E.R. posing on the library’s second floor.

This library is within walking distance of the Old Jail Museum. Also, it sits on a street full of historic buildings that appeal to tourists. If you are sight-seeing and you need to find a public restroom during the library’s operating hours, then you are in luck.

4.) Streets of historic buildings that appeal to tourists.

I was only in Jim Thorpe for several hours on this one day. We spent most of our trip at the Old Jail Museum. Then we walked around for a little bit more and ate ice cream. I was exhausted.

So I didn’t really explore the histories of the borough’s other buildings. After my next visit to Jim Thorpe, I will blog more of its stories.

Here are my sisters again:

Here is my sister K.’s blog post about her multiple trips to Jim Thorpe.

What towns do you like to visit?

Uncivil

This blog post is about the Civil War-themed podcast Uncivil from Gimlet Media.

I will also mention a specific episode of Uncivil that describes how George and Martha Washington skirted around a Pennsylvania slavery law.

I discovered podcasts in late 2014 when my sisters convinced me to listen to Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. This American Life released Serial in fall 2014.

Well, it just so happens that a former producer for This American Life, Alex Blumberg, co-founded his own podcast company in August 2014. This podcast company came to be known as Gimlet Media.

From what I understand, Blumberg didn’t work on Serial and Gimlet Media and its podcasts are actually competitors to This American Life. However, after I ran out of Serial podcast episodes, my sisters introduced me to the podcasts produced by Gimlet Media.

Also from what I understand, Gimlet Media just happened to be fortunate enough to roll out its own first podcasts just as the public got excited over listening to Serial.

So ever since early 2015, I spent hours listening to podcasts from Gimlet Media.

On more than one occasion, I became deeply attached to one particular Gimlet podcast or another. Then, without any prior warning, the podcast would just cease to release new episodes. I wouldn’t see any notes on social media or on the platform where I get podcasts. Months would go by. Then, Gimlet would either announce that they cancelled the podcast, or else they would finally admit that the season ended and that I should stay alert for a new season soon. In one highly-publicized example, I waited for over a year to find out that the podcast in question (Mystery Show) was cancelled and that the host (Starlee Kine) had been terminated months earlier.

I found several other podcast companies after I discovered Gimlet. In my opinion, these other companies do better jobs of informing listeners as to when a season or podcast series will end. I’ve even found “mom-and-pop” podcasts who do a better job of telling listeners that they are ending their shows than Gimlet does.

I also find it odd that some Gimlet podcasts have their own Facebook pages that give listeners information about new podcast episodes, while other Gimlet podcasts just post their news on the main Gimlet Facebook page.

Here’s why I mention all of this: In October 2017, Gimlet introduced Uncivil. Uncivil is (was?) hosted by Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika. (Hite was a contributing editor to This American Life.)

Uncivil is (was?) much, much different than the PBS Ken Burns documentary that I watched in junior high school. Each episode thus far discussed stories and events that aren’t part of the common Civil War narrative. For instance, one episode was about female soldiers who passed themselves off as men. Many of the episodes featured stories and events involving African-Americans.

Between October and December 2017, Gimlet released ten episodes of Uncivil. And then . . . crickets. Did Uncivil’s Season One end? Would Uncivil return with a Season Two? Uncivil actually does have its own Facebook page, and indeed people posted these questions on Facebook.

I never read any responses to these questions.

Then in early January 2019 – THIS MONTH – I browsed iTunes for podcast suggestions. I learned that on ONE day – November 9, 2018 – Uncivil actually did release TWO brand-new episodes.

(Note: I previously subscribed to Uncivil. However, I had storage issues on my old smartphone. Therefore, when I needed to free up more storage, I unsubscribed from Uncivil. This was several months after December 2017, so I had no reason to hope that new episodes were forthcoming. I concede that I may have learned about the two newest Uncivil episodes sooner if I hadn’t unsubscribed.)

I find the following weird: Today, neither the Facebook page for Uncivil nor the Facebook page for Gimlet promotes these 2 new episodes. I thought that I initially saw on Facebook that these are the “final two episodes” of Season One, but now I don’t see this. The podcast app on my phone lists these two newest episodes as “unknown season.”

So, I have no idea if Uncivil is coming back for a Season Two. I have no idea why two brand-new Uncivil episodes were both released on the same random day in November after eleven months of silence.

I suspect that the answer had to do with money. But why the sketchy communication, Gimlet?

Anyway, one of the two new episodes that were released in November was titled “The Fugitive.” It focused on a young enslaved woman who was owned by George and Martha Washington. The Washingtons were President and First Lady of the United States. They lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At that time, by law enslaved people living in Philadelphia were granted their freedom after six months. The Washingtons apparently rotated their enslaved servants between Philadelphia and their Mount Vernon plantation so that none of their slaves lived in Philadelphia for six months straight. Therefore, none of these slaves gained their freedom. The young woman featured in this episode ran away from the Washingtons and she spent the rest of her life hiding from them and their heirs.

Here is the website link to all of the Uncivil episodes.

What podcasts do you enjoy?

Digital Humanities

The Legend of Boniface Wimmer

I graduated from Saint Vincent College (SVC) in Latrobe, PA.

Boniface Wimmer, a Benedictine monk from Bavaria, founded Saint Vincent College and Saint Vincent Monastery.

A two-story statue of Boniface Wimmer sits in front of the Saint Vincent Basilica. The college and the monastery flank the basilica and thus the statue.

If you stand at the base of the Boniface Wimmer statue and look in the direction in which the statue points, it looks as if Boniface Wimmer points at the Latrobe Dairy Queen.

So, yeah, we all joked about how Boniface Wimmer stood in front of Saint Vincent and pointed at Dairy Queen.

Neither I nor my husband photographed the Wimmer statue or anything else on the Saint Vincent campus. (Yet.) I am not going to steal somebody else’s online Saint Vincent photo. Instead, I posted above a photo of a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

Wimmer passed away on December 8, 1887. Thus, the Saint Vincent community celebrated December 8 as a holiday. A holiday titled “Founder’s Day.”

Now, I don’t know which leader ultimately made this decision, but at some point after I graduated, the institution moved Founder’s Day to a date in October. Honestly, to me, Founder’s Day is not actually Founder’s Day unless it happens in December. 

(Today is December 7. December 6 was St. Nicholas Day, and today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. However, right this moment I am nostalgic for the old Saint Vincent Founder’s Day celebrations on December 8.)

I don’t remember every Founder’s Day event that I attended through the years at SVC. I remember the evening Founder’s Day fireworks displays. 

Here’s the thing about Wimmer: He didn’t found Saint Vincent Monastery and College in Latrobe as his “only” accomplishment. Saint Vincent was the FIRST Benedictine monastery founded in the United States. However, Wimmer’s efforts led to the founding of several more Benedictine monasteries and colleges. So, Wimmer’s name comes up in other institution’s origin stories

Now, the Saint Vincent community has its very own cemetery behind the monastery and the college. This cemetery includes Wimmer’s grave. I walked past this grave many, many times during my years as a student. I don’t have any photos because I didn’t own a decent camera then.

According to a campus legend, each year on the anniversary of his death, Wimmer’s ghost walks from his grave to the Saint Vincent Basilica. I know of people who actually camped out next to Wimmer’s grave on the night of December 8 in hopes of seeing the ghost.

To be honest, I lived in the dorm that was in the “ghost path” between Wimmer’s grave and the basilica. (This dorm is named Wimmer Hall!) So, if Wimmer’s ghost actually performed, I could have seen or heard something from the warmth of my dorm room. I never saw or heard this ghost. 

Did you ever see any ghosts at Saint Vincent College? If so, drop me a line!