McKeesport to Duquesne Bike Ride, Part Deux

This post is just more photos from last weekend’s rail-trail bike ride along the Great Allegheny Passage past McKeesport, Port Perry, Duquesne, and Kennywood Park.

Here are more scenes from the McKeesport roundhouse:

This is the US Steel Braddock Works. We stopped for a rest directly across the Mon River when I took this:

Peddling (AND Pedaling) in McKeesport

On April 29, my husband Jonathan and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. We drove to McKeesport to try out a “new to us” section of the Great Allegheny Passage bicycle and walking trail.

The McKeesport Police Department sits next to the trail and offers free parking to trail users. So, we parked at the McKeesport Police Department.

We biked past this vacant train roundhouse.

We crossed the Monongahela River (the Mon) on this former railroad bridge.

Then we rode alongside miles of working Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Union Railroad rails. We peddled past Kennywood Park roller coasters running cars of screaming passengers. (Kennywood’s open!!!!)

I don’t have any roots in McKeesport. However, I can tell you a little bit about McKeesport’s saga and struggle with steel.

My mom grew up in Pittsburgh when Pittsburgh and McKeeport and all of the other river towns here thrived with steel mills. (Thrived with the money that steel brought here.)

When I replay the childhood visits to my grandparents’ house in the Burgh, I smell the sulfur. I see the mills glowing on Christmas Eve.

I was born in central Pennsylvania right before the Pennsylvania steel industry collapsed. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors left the state. Then my friends from high school left the state. Then my friends from college left the state. Then three of my sisters and my sister-in-law left the state.

Which is my way of saying that I know that bike trails alone won’t bring all of these people back to Pennsylvania. But it was fun to bike past all of this history last Sunday.

On the Bike Trail: Dravo Cemetery

Here is the first post about the Great Allegheny Passage (a pedestrian / bicycle trail on the footprint of railroad tracks). This post references the Youghioheny (Yough) River Trail (YRT), which follows the Yough River but is just one section of the Great Allegheny Passage.

The Dravo Cemetery dates back to 1812. A former owner built the Dravo Methodist Church next to it in 1824. The church burned down twice.

You can access the Dravo Cemetery on the YRT from the trail’s Boston (Pennsylvania) trail head in Elizabeth Township.

My husband Jonathan and I once parked at the Boston trailhead, and biked past Dravo Cemetery to Cedar Creek Park in Rostraver Township.

Cedar Creek Park provides bike camping sites, a restroom, and clean drinking water.

We camped one night. As we cooked our dinner, an SUV drove down the bike trail and deposited a family’s supplies in a neighboring campsite. That family set off fireworks all night. I lay on the ground and listened to the freight trains moving along the opposite side of the Yough River. I worried about bears. I also worried about the type of people drive SUV’s down bike trails and then set off fireworks all night in the bike trail campground.

We pedaled back to Boston the next morning.

See this below photo? This pictured drinking well, bench, pavilion (in background of photo) and also Dravo’s Landing Campground all sit next to Dravo Cemetery.

So, you can stop and eat your lunch next to Dravo Cemetery.  Or, you can camp next to Dravo Cemetery at the Queen Aliquippa Campground.

At least the cemetery inhabitants won’t drive their SUV down the bike trail and then set off fireworks all night!

Note: The first summer that Jonathan and I knew each other, we pedaled round-trip sections of the Great Allegheny Passage. We continued each summer.  At one point, we conquered the entire accessible trail in round-trip sections. (Then new sections of trail opened!) 

I based this post about Dravo Cemetary and the YRT on trips that we took a few years ago.  Very shortly, I will post about our April 29, 2018, trip from McKeesport, along the Monongahela River, on the Great Allegheny Passage. 

Aaron Burr and the Two Logan Inns

Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton.

Did he then hide out at the Logan Inn, mere blocks from present-day downtown New Kensington? Here in the land of Sheetz and the Black & Gold?

Or, did he flee to a different Logan Inn, in present day Flyers & Eagles Country?

Here is the link to Mrs. Luella Rodgers Frazier’s “The Early Years of New Kensington, Pennsylvania.” Halfway through this history, Frazier wrote that Alexander Logan owned the land that became Parnassus.

Frazier wrote that Aaron Burr stopped at Logan’s property “for a few days” after he dueled Alexander Hamilton. Per Frazier, “the Logans did not know about the duel and did not recognize Mr. Burr.”

As Frazier noted, Burr proceeded (by way of Pittsburgh) to Blennerhasset Island in the Ohio River.

Harman Blennerhasset owned the island and he allowed Burr, General James Wilkinson, and others to store men and supplies on the island in their  bid to create a new nation in the southwest.

Burr’s accusers arrested Burr in Alabama. They chained him. (This, during a time when men chained their slaves. During a time when Burr’s own son-in-law owned a plantation.) The accusers brought Burr to Virginia in these chains. They tried him for treason.

Burr won his freedom by acquittal.

This follows the history and lore of Aaron Burr.

History buffs know about the Logan family’s prominence here. I even added to this blog post the photo that Jonathan took of the former Logan Trust Company in downtown New Kensington.

However, ANOTHER Logan Inn on the opposite side of PA – along Ferry Street in New Hope – also claims that THEY hosted Burr after the duel. The OTHER Logan Inn markets itself with Aaron Burr lore.

Perhaps Aaron Burr did in fact shelter at two Logan Inns, on opposite sides of the state. Perhaps both ends of the Pennsylvania Turnpike own this story.

What do you think?

Here’s my post from my other blog about the novel My Theodosia by Anya Seton. 

Help Me to Find Rinehart’s Circular Staircase

Mary Roberts Rinehart grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side. She wrote her first novel, The Circular Staircase, in the North Side house pictured at the top of this blog post. (MRR’s old neighborhood now markets itself as Allegheny West and it sits behind Heinz Field.)

(My father-in-law, Dennis Woytek, took this photo when we toured this house on the Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour several years ago.)

Now, here’s the thing:  I don’t positively know which house actually inspired The Circular Staircase. This novel takes place at a summer home in the countryside.

Now, I have a copy of History of Old Alleghney Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, From Prehistoric Times to c. 1876 by Rev. Reid W. Stewart, Ph.D., self-published in 2005. Stewart claims that this house which inspired The Circular Staircase “stood toward the southern end of River Forest Golf Course in Allegheny Township.” (This is near Freeport, PA.)

Stewart claims that Duncan Karns built this mansion in the 1870’s but that he lost his fortune in oil speculation. Finally, he claims that Mary Roberts Rinehart visited the house before it burned down.

The First “Roller Coaster” of Mauch Chunk

Have you ever heard of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania?

Well, then. Have you ever heard of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania?

In the 1950’s, the officials of Mauch Chunk renamed their borough “Jim Thorpe” after Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe. That whole story deserves its  own blog post. (Or its own blog.)

The humans cognizant in the 1820’s still spoke of this Lehigh Valley town as “Mauch Chunk.” Many earned their livings from the coal mined above this town. In the 1820’s, they built the Switchback Gravity Railroad from these coal mines.

The railroad used gravity to transport the coal down the mountain, past Mauch Chunk. This “railroad” used mules to haul the empty coal cars back up the mountain.

Eventually the railroad offered rides to tourists on this gravity railroad. This inspired the first roller coaster at Coney Island.

If you want to read about Mauch Chunk ghosts, check out this post that I wrote on my other blog:

They Saw the Bloody Handprint – and Orbs

Here is a blog post that my sister wrote:

5 Reasons To Visit The Jim Thorpe This Halloween Season (or anytime)

Bow Tunnel

Come see the western entrance to Bow Tunnel.

This former canal tunnel treks under Bow Ridge. The eastern side of this tunnel lies, sealed off, under the water of the Conemaugh River for part of the year.

You can take the West Penn Trail to reach the other side of Bow Ridge on foot. Then proceed two or three more miles to reach the ghost town of Livermore.

You can see this tunnel for yourself at the Tunnelview Historic Site.

Jonathan, his mom Fran, and I visited Tunnelview in February 2016 when I took this photo.  Here is the post that I wrote on our other blog when we returned from that trip.

Finally, here’s a photo that I didn’t post our other blog: the February ice inside Bow Tunnel.

Invade A Ghost Town. Run For Your Life. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

Have you ever been to Livermore PA?

Me neither. No (living) people reside there now, and most of the town is under the Conemaugh River.

Livermore is (was?) near Blairsville and Saltsburg.  In the 1950’s, the US Army Corps of Engineers built the Conemaugh Dam on the Conemaugh River. This created the Conemaugh Lake and flooded Livermore. The town’s cemetery remains above the river bank.

However, I learned some urban legends about Livermore from a national podcast. I learned about the internet rumor that the town remains flooded from the Johnstown Flood of 1889. That a witch and a ghost train haunt the former town and its cemetery. That on at least one website, thrill-seekers document their trespassing adventures to Livermore.

Also, that at least one group of real-life midnight visitors to the Livermore Cemetery ended up running for their lives from a very real threat.

Here’s the the podcast:

Tales of Terror Vol. 8 from “The Dirtbag Diaries. “

“The Dirtbag Diaries” is podcast about real life outdoor adventures all around the globe. Every year for Halloween, they do a scary story episode. These Halloween stories are all still outdoor adventures. However, in each of the Halloween stories, the narrator ends up terrified (and or fighting for survival) in the course of said adventure. Volume 8, the episode for 2017, was the best yet.

Tales of Terror Vol. 8 includes five stories. The other four stories in Tales of Terror Vol. 8 are also fun to hear. However, the very first story in the episode is the Livermore ghost town episode.

I downloaded both of these from iTunes, but I’m linking here to each podcast’s actual website.

The Ghost Followed Her Home From the Battlefield

This is my late grandma’s story as retold by my dad. If anybody remembers this story differently, please feel free to tel your version in the comments.

My dad was born in the 195o’s and he has four siblings. His aunt and uncle and several cousins lived directly across the driveway from him. His other aunt and uncle and cousins lived a very short walk away.  This being the baby boom, my father grew up with hordes of kids around his own age.

Many of the kids were children or grandchildren of World War I and World War II veterans. They lived in North Huntingdon Township (near Circleville and Irwin) in Westmoreland County very close to a marker noting that the British Army under General Braddock camped in their neighborhood before the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755. I mention this because my dad his siblings and cousins and neighbors grew up retelling stories of military history.

Most of the boys in that neighborhood were all in the same Cub Scout pack.  The neighborhood mothers chaffered and chaperoned a pack field trip to Bush Run Battlefield near Harrison City and Jeannette. This battlefield is a relic of Pontiac’s War in 1763.

The battlefield now includes a public park and a museum that houses the musket balls and arrowheads recovered there.

Anyway, my grandma and her sister-in-law and the other neighborhood mothers loaded the boys up into station wagons and they all spent the day at the battlefield.

The docent explained how in 1763 a combined force of Native Americans ambushed British troops marching to Fort Pitt.  How Colonel Henry Bouquet and his British troops built a fort out of flour sacks to shield their wounded from the enemy. How British troops and the Native Americans both sustained heavy casualties.

The Cub Scouts and their escorts hiked through the fields where the dead from both sides fell.

My grandma’s neighbor, “Mrs. Rivers,” felt something follow her through the battlefield. Not a child; she spent most of her life directing children through grocery store aisles, or church, or Kennywood on a crowded Saturday. No, this time no child followed Mrs. Rivers. Instead, an unseen but felt presence pursued Mrs. Rivers through the battlefield.

Mrs. Rivers knew – she just knew – that this unseen presence was the ghost of a Native American man who lost his life at the Battle of Bushy Run.

Mrs. Rivers felt the ghost get into her station wagon when she drove the Cub Scouts back to North Huntingdon Township.

At home that afternoon, Mrs. Rivers felt the ghost with her as she cleaned her kitchen. As she folded laundry. As she weeded her garden.

That afternoon, Mrs. Rivers showed up at my grandma’s door.

“Please watch my kids,” she told my grandma. “Something followed me home from Bushy Run. I have to take it back.”

Mrs. Rivers drove the 15 miles back to Bushy Run.

She said farewell to the ghost.

She told the ghost that it had to stay at the battlefield.

And when Mrs. Rivers drove home again, she was confident that she left “her” ghost at Bushy Run Battlefield where it belonged.

General Braddock and the Tower of London Beefeater

“Are any of you from Pennsylvania?”

My husband Jonathan and I visited London a few years ago. We spent our first full day at the Tower of London.  Our ticket included a tour given by a Yeoman Warder, known colloquially as a Beefeater.

The Yeoman Warders – Beefeaters – are the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In olden days, when food was scarce, they held a position of such high importance and honor that they were given beef to eat. Thus the name.

When Jonathan and I toured the Tower, the Beefeater assigned to our tour asked our group whether any of us were from Pennsylvania.  The Beefeater identified himself as a member of the Coldstream Guards. Then he specifically mentioned the Pennsylvania grave of Major General Edward Braddock.

General Braddock commanded the British forces that attempted to seize Fort Duquesne –  the future site of Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh –  from the French in 1755. You see, this is where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River merge at “The Point” to form the Ohio River. Braddock’s expedition from Virginia and Maryland into present-day Pennsylvania occurred near the beginning of the French and Indian War. George Washington served as an aide de camp.

The French and their Native American allies defeated Braddock’s men in the Battle of Monongahela.  Braddock died from his battle wounds during the retreat. Braddock’s men buried him in the middle of the road (in present day Fayette County) so that the opposing army would not locate and defile his grave. George Washington was there.

General Braddock belonged to the Coldstream Guards.

Generations later, road workers recovered Braddock’s body and reburied it a few feet away. You see, the road under which Braddock’s men buried him became the National Road in the 1800’s. We now call it US Route 40.

The Coldstream Guards erected a monument at Braddock’s grave in 1913.

After Jonathan and I returned from London, we visited and photographed the Coldstream Guard’s monument to Braddock’s grave. I posted at the top of this entry a close-up of the marker.

Now, the story of Braddock’s failed expedition to Pittsburgh in 1755 fascinated me when I was a kid. My dad told me stories about how Braddock’s army camped very close to what later became my great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ home in Westmoreland County.

Now, the lore also says that Braddock’s army carried gold intended for the soldiers’ payroll. The men weren’t paid until after the battle ended so that only the survivors received pay.

Anyway, per this myth, the British buried this gold the night before the battle.  They supposedly hid it under a very specific tree on the banks of the Youghiogheny River. The French attacked. Perhaps everyone who buried the gold was captured or killed. In the confusion of the retreat,  the gold remains in the Pennsylvania earth.

I find it curious that Pennsylvanians uncovered Braddock’s body about two centuries ago, yet there’s no sign of this gold.

Here are some more photos that I took the day that we visited Braddock’s grave along Route 40, near Fort Necessity, in Fayette County:

Here is a close-up of the Coldstream Guards’ regimental badge on the Braddock monument:

We actually visited London twice: in September 2008 and September 2009.  In 2008, we toured the Tower of London. In 2009, I viewed the Changing of the Horse Guards and also the Changing of the Queen’s Guard. Here are some photos that I took of these events. I believe that Coldstream Guards possibly participated in these ceremonies. However, I am a clueless Yank. So, if I am incorrect about any of this, please enlighten me in the comments.

And finally, since at least one guard in the Tower of London speaks about General Braddock to American tourists, here are some photos from inside of the Tower. I watched a bride arrive for her wedding at the chapel inside the Tower where Anne Boleyn is buried. I took these the same day that we met the Beefeater who served in the Coldstream Guards, in September 2008: