Quakertown Train Station and the Month of Turnpike Baptisms. Mural by Jared Badder.

Mural by Jared Badder. Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Eastern Pennsylvania, across from the Train Station. September 2018. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Jonathan and I returned to Pennsylvania at the end of July. Then, in a three-week span, we witnessed the baptism of two brand-new nephews, on opposite sides of this state. (One baby belongs to Jonathan’s sister, and the other baby belongs to my sister.)

I joked to Jonathan that August was the month of turnpike baptisms.

(FYI if you’re not familiar with our family or with Pennsylvania: Jonathan and I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh, in Western PA. The first baptism that we attended was also in Western PA, and thus on the western end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The second baptism that we attended was in Eastern PA, and thus on the eastern end of the turnpike.)

For this second baptism, we stayed in Quakertown.

The temperatures during each day of our trip hit the 90’s. We spent our “free” time before and after the baptism enjoying the hotel pool and air conditioning.

Thus, we only explored and photographed one thing: The Quakertown Train Station.

Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek

I linked the train station’s official website above so that you don’t have to witness me poorly regurgitate the website. To paraphrase the website, the station was built in 1902. At some point before 1989, the building stopped being used to service rail passengers. In 1989, a fire significantly damaged the building. Non-profit restoration efforts saved and repaired the building. The public can now rent the train station for private events.

The train station sits at an intersection. When we pulled into the train station parking lot, the first thing that I noticed was a classic car with a “for sale” sign at the edge of this parking lot. A mural promoting Quakertown landmarks covered the building on the other side of the intersection. The photo that I took of this car is the first photo in this blog post.

Then, I took the second photo of this blog post. Now, these are the only two photos of this blog post that I took.

Jonathan took this photo of the restored train station:

Photo: Jonathan Woytek

Now, Jonathan also took these photos of the non-restored freight house next door, as well as the surrounding tracks:

Photo: Jonathan Woytek

The freight station brought to my mind the Stephen King short story “Willa.”

Photo: Jonathan Woytek

See also:

Photo: Jonathan Woytek

Here is a hand-operated jib crane for loading freight:

Photo: Jonathan Woytek

Here are the photos that Jonathan took of the building that housed the Quakertown Traction Company. “Traction” is another word for “trolley.” This building sits across the tracks from the train station and the freight house:

Photo: Jonathan Woytek

Here is the front facade for the Quakertown Traction Company:

Photo: Jonathan Woytek

If you would like to see more of Jonathan’s railroad photos, leave me a comment here or on Facebook.

Laurel Highlands Mystery Series

I grew up in the sticks of Somerset County. (I grew up in Berlin, Pennsylvania, the potato chip capital of Western Pennsylvania.)

When I was a kid, I got so excited whenever the outside world paid the slightest bit of attention to our little corner of the world. I still do.

That’s why I want to mention a novel that came out last month: Root of All Evil (A Laurel Highlands Mystery Book 1) by Liz Milliron.

The Laurel Highlands includes these counties: Cambria, Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland.  Mountains and small towns cover the region.  “Laurel Highlands” serves its purpose as a marketing term; however, in my opinion, Bedford County should also be included.  (That’s another post for another day.)

Root of All Evil has two (fictional, of course) protagonists: Pennsylvania State Trooper Jim Duncan, and his love interest, assistant public defender Sally Castle. Milliron published several short Laurel Highlands Mysteries about these two characters before Level Best Books published Root of All Evil. All of these Laurel Highlands Mysteries belong to the “police procedural” sub-genre of crime fiction.

At the beginning of this story, Duncan and Castle run into each other during Friday afternoon happy hour at a Uniontown bar. Castle is there with her colleague, Colin Rafferty. Castle and Duncan chat with each other, and Castle sees her co-worker Colin arguing with an unknown person.

A few days later, after a Pittsburgh Steelers game, co-worker Colin ends up dead in the Fayette County Courthouse.  Meanwhile, Duncan receives a hot tip about a new Fayette County meth lab.

Castle and Duncan flirt with each other while they try to find Colin’s killer and also shut down the meth operation.  (We also learn that Duncan lives in Confluence, Somerset County.)

I don’t know the author personally. However, she is a past officer of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime, a writing organization that I just joined. I learned about the Laurel Highlands Mysteries during a chapter event. Since I actually lived in the Laurel Highlands and she didn’t (from what I understand), I was really curious about her perspective of the area.  So, I attended her book release party in Oakmont last month. I read half the book that same afternoon.

I respect that Milliron acknowledged  a few serious problems in this region (the drug trade and limited economic opportunities) without portraying all Laurel Highlanders with tired “hillbilly” or “deplorables” stereotypes. Root of All Evil entertained me and kept me in suspense until the end. I intend to read the next book in this series.

Bringing Pennsylvania to Port Huron

When we drove home to Pennsylvania from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this summer, we spent one night in Port Huron, Michigan.

Port Huron sits where Lake Huron meets the St. Clair River.  Port Huron belongs to St. Clair County.  The St. Clair River flows into Lake St. Clair.

One theory claims that settlers named the river, the lake, and the county after General Arthur St. Clair from Scotland and Pennsylvania. Here are some fun facts about General St. Clair:

1.) He settled in Ligioner, Pennsylvania in the 1760’s. He faced a court-martial for giving up Fort Ticonderoga to the British in 1777. He was exonerated.

2.) After the Revolutionary War, he served as the first Governor of the Northwest Territory. This territory included present-day Michigan.

3.) In 1791, a Native American force (which included Pennsylvania native Simon Girty) ambushed St. Clair at the Battle of the Wabash. The ambush resulted in the greatest defeat of a U.S. Army by Native Americans in history. Once again, St. Clair was exonerated.

4.) The United States failed to repay a substantial debt owed to St. Clair.

5.) He died in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He is now buried in Greensburg’s St. Clair Park. Today, St. Clair Park regularly hosts “SummerSounds – Concerts in the Park.”

6.) Lore says that General St. Clair’s ghost and his wife’s ghost haunt the museum at Fort Ligioner. (Ligioner and Greensburg are about 20 miles apart if you take Route 30.) My fourth grade class visited Fort Ligioner several decades ago. I didn’t see any ghosts.

7.) From what I read about General St. Clair, his supporters argue that St. Clair didn’t have adequate resources to succeed at Fort Ticonderoga or at the Wabash.

Anyway, back to Port Huron:

We spent one night at the Hilton in downtown Port Huron, to the left of the Blue Water Bridge that crosses the St. Clair River to Canada. The Fort Gratiot Lighthouse sits to the right of the bridge. These mark the confluence of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River.

Jonathan specifically chose this hotel so that we could watch river traffic (specifically, freighters) travel under the Blue Water Bridge.

Directly across the highway from the Hilton, we accessed the Blue Water River Walk along the St. Clair River. We saw the lights of – gasp – a CANADIAN casino directly across the river.

About a dozen people – men, women, and children – sat on the river walk to fish. Bicyclists with lights on their handlebars rode past us. The bugs bit on our shins even after we coated ourselves with repellant.

Jonathan took this photo of a barge traveling under the Blue Water Bridge:

The next morning, we ate brunch at the Hilton’s restaurant, named Freighters. Freighters’ dining room includes picture windows that face the river.

We saw more boats.

We also saw a statue of Thomas Edison. We wondered why. I did some research and learned that Thomas Edison grew up in Port Huron. Edison publicly demonstrated his phonograph for the first time on the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

We checked out from Freighters Restaurant and from the Hilton, then drove to the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. Jonathan took the photo at the top of this blog post.

We drove back to Pennsylvania that day. However, we look forward to our next trip to downtown Port Huron.

What places excite you about visiting?

With this post, I wrap up my series about Michigan.

I look forward to bringing you many more stories of Pennsylvania and its people, history, and lore.

Do you want to read more ghost stories here? See more gravesite posts? Do you have any other ideas of things that I should blog about here? If you do, drop me a comment here or on my Facebook page.

McGulpin Point Lighthouse – Stay Here If You Dare

I discovered that Emmet County, Michigan, rents out an apartment next to the McGulpin Point Lighthouse.

This light sits on the Lake Michigan, Lower Peninsula  beach of the Straits of Mackinac. It’s less than 5 miles from downtown Mackinaw City.

The United States Lighthouse Board built this lighthouse in 1868-1869.

We ended up at the McGulpin Point Lighthouse’s beach s0 that we could view the Lake Michigan side of the Mackinac Bridge.

(FYI if you judge me on my spelling: Mackinaw City is correctly spelled with a “w.” The Mackinac Bridge, Straits, and Island are all spelled with a “c.”)

Stay Here If You Dare

On the lighthouse’s website, I found a link to a “A Brief History of the McGulpin Point Lighthouse” by Terry Pepper. According to Pepper, the lighthouse keeper, James Davenport, lived at McGulpin Point during the shipping seasons with his wife and children. In 1891, his wife and one of his children died. One day in December 1893, Keeper Davenport traveled to Mackinaw City and left his nine surviving children at the lighthouse.

Out on the Straits, the Waldo A. Avery (a wooden propeller) caught fire. The captain steered the burning boat full steam toward the McGulpin Point Lighthouse so that the crew would have a chance at rescue.

Now, according to Pepper’s article, “the children were a resourceful group, and made preparations for the care of the survivors.” I took this to mean that the kids got the rescue boat ready.

Keeper Davenport and the townsfolk of Mackinaw City got word of the shipwreck. Davenport and several men booked it to the lighthouse and managed to rescue the entire crew.

In my opinion, this little story buried in the middle of Pepper’s article was the most interesting part.

I want to know more about the adult lives of these Davenport kids.  If you grow up at a lighthouse and think on your feet when you see a burning ship heading straight toward you, then you can handle whatever else life throws in your lap.

The Australian Diary

This story of the wreck at McGulpin Point reminds of a website that I found years ago and bookmarked about lighthouses in Australia. Unfortunately, the link that I bookmarked no longer works and I haven’t found a new link to the information. Anyway, this website included excerpts from the diary of an Australian lighthouse keeper’s wife – that is, the third keeper’s wife. As in, this particular lighthouse had three keepers. The diary writer’s husband ranked third – last – in the seniority rank of the three lighthouse keepers.

Anyway, this wife of the third-ranked Australian lighthouse keeper journaled about the aftermath of a shipwreck at this lighthouse, in the fog, during her husband’s shift. When the diary writer witnessed the disaster, she first wondered in a panic if her husband would be blamed for the incident. Did he fall asleep and let the light go out in the fog? Then she started on her own first aid duties in the rescue of this ship’s passenger and crew. At the beginning, everything was in her lap to handle. As soon as the wives of the second-ranked and first-ranked lighthouse keepers showed up on the scene, she let them take charge of the first aid response.

Isn’t this just the parable of life? Out of nowhere, a huge mess falls into your lap. You wonder how you and yours are going to be blamed for the whole thing. Did you do enough to CYA? It’s too late now; this baby is now your mess to handle! Then someone with more rank shows up and pushes you out of the way.

If you can’t take the heat, stay away from the lighthouse keeper’s family life.

The Big Rock

Now, the website for the McGulpin Point Lighthouse also promotes the “McGulpin Rock” which the website also refers to as the “Big Rock.”

The website claims that the Big Rock is five times the original size of Plymouth Rock in New England. According to the website, French explorers in the 1600’s used the Big Rock in order to gauge the water levels on the Straits of Mackinac.

Did René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle use the Big Rock when he explored the Straits of Mackinac?

I saw signs for the Big Rock when we visited McGulpin Point. In fact, other visitors stopped me to ask for directions to the Big Rock. To be honest, I didn’t actually try to find the Big Rock myself. I was hot, tired, and cranky.

So, you will have to settle for this photo of a couple of seagulls sitting on a Normal Rock at McGulpin Point.

To reiterate, this is NOT the Big Rock.

Do you have a special rock that you like to visit?

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