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 Times: The Headless Horseman Industrial Complex; How 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.
I’m proud of all four of my sisters. However, tonight I will brag about my sister K.
K. is a librarian in Eastern Pennsylvania and a mother to multiple young children. K. is also a Quizzo champion. (Quizzo is a form of competitive pub trivia.)
K. played Quizzo regularly through several stressful times in her life. She found fellowship and community during these evenings.
So, K. established a Library Quizzo program at her library. She designed a website to instruct others on how to establish Quizzo programs at their own libraries. Finally, K. spoke at the 2019 Pennsylvania Library Association’s annual conference about Library Quizzo.
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.)
Edited February 1, 2022:
I just learned that Parnassus (in New Kensington, PA) shares a historical figure with downtown Columbus, Ohio. In fact, this story even left its mark on Columbus’ current National Hockey League arena.
I discovered this from an episode of Haunted Talks – The Official Podcast of the Haunted Walk, hosted by Creative Director Jim Dean. In Episode 68 – Columbus Ghost Tours, the host interviewed the Columbus tour co-owner Bucky Cutright.
Cutright shared one ghost story from his tour – the tale of “haunted” Nationwide Arena, the home of the Columbus Blue Jackets, an NHL team. Cutright revealed that the arena was built on the parking lot for the former Ohio Penitentiary.
Cutright noted that an indigenous Mingo village (Salt-Lick Town) once stood on this entire property. He talked about the village’s destruction in 1774. He described the death toll of Mingo families, at the hands of white settlers led by a man named William Crawford.
(My knowledge of the incident in question is limited to the interpretation of this referenced tour guide operator. I have no knowledge of the tour operator’s research methods.)
“Wait a minute,” I thought. “Our William Crawford?“
See, I live in the Parnassus neighborhood in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Parnassus emerged from the remains of Fort Crawford, at the confluence of Pucketa Creek and the Allegheny River.
Colonel William Crawford’s troops in the Continental Army built Fort Crawford in 1777. This was during the American Revolutionary War. Crawford previously fought with the British in the French and Indian War in the 1750’s. Crawford survived the Battle of the Monongahela (Braddock’s Defeat) in 1755. Crawford knew George Washington!
I Googled “William Crawford” and “Columbus.” I saw the portrait of the man who led the expedition on Salt-Lick Town in present-day Columbus. This was indeed “our” William Crawford!
Now, to be clear, I do realize that William Crawford doesn’t “belong” to New Kensington. Crawford was born in Virginia. Connellsville, PA, reconstructed his Pennsylvania log cabin. Crawford County, PA, was named after William Crawford. Crawford County, OH, was also named after William Crawford.
(Edited February 1, 2023 to clarify: Colonel Crawford was involved with multiple controversies. His legacy has now extended to lore and historical fiction. See my above note that he is now apparently the subject of a tale in a ghost story tour in Colunbus, Ohio. He also appears in a historical fiction novel that I reference later in this blog post.)
For instance, Crawford was involved in Lord Dunmore’s War. The Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh has an exhibit about this.
Let me tell you a little bit about how Colonel William Crawford died.
The American Revolutionary War ended in 1783. However, in the years before this, the settlers in colonial Pennsylvania and Ohio fought the British and they also fought assorted Native American communities. The settlers killed Native Americans, and the Native Americans killed settlers.
(The Heinz History Center, which was linked above, is an excellent resource about this historical period. The following is a very, very stripped down story about Simon Girty’s alleged role in the death of Colonel Crawford.)
During this time period, Simon Girty, a white guide who was raised by Native Americans, defected to the British and their Native American allies. Prior to the defection, Girty operated out of Fort Pitt as a “home base.” Girty’s defection to the British was a controversial event in Western Pennsylvania. Girty fled to Ohio. I invite you to read the resources available through the Heinz History Center for a more in-depth discussion about Simon Girty.
Then, in 1782, Crawford led the Crawford Expedition against Native American villages along the Sandusky River in Ohio. These Native Americans and their British allies in Detroit found out about the expedition. They ambushed Crawford and his men. These Native Americans and the British troops defeated Crawford and his militiamen.
A force of Lenape and Wyandot warriors captured Crawford. They tortured Crawford. They executed him by burning him on June 11, 1782.
Simon Girty was there, at William Crawford’s execution.
In fact, witnesses alleged that Girty “egged on” Crawford’s captors as they tortured him. Witnesses even alleged that Crawford begged Girty to shoot him as he burned alive, and that Girty laughed at Crawford.
Girty denied that he encouraged the warriors who tortured Crawford.
Girty settled in Detroit, among the British. Years later, Detroit became part of the United States and Girty fled to Canada. At least one internet source listed Girty as a Canadian historical figure. I learned that Girty’s name appears on an Ontario memorial for “Loyalists” (to the British Crown).
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) dedicated at least two plaques in Girty’s memory. (To my knowledge, the PHMC dedicated one plaque to Girty in Pittsburgh (near the Waterfront shopping district) and another plaque to Girty along the Susquehanna River in the Harrisburg area. This second plaque commemorates Girty’s birthplace in Perry County.
Now, Hannastown was the first county seat of Westmoreland County, PA. I read that the town lost a significant portion of its able-bodied fighting men in the Crawford Expedition. On July 13, 1782, Seneca warrior Guyasuta and his men burned Hannastown and its crops. Greensburg became the county seat after this.
If you want to read historical fiction in which William Crawford and Simon Girty appear together, then I suggest “The Day Must Dawn” by Agnes Sligh Turnbull.
(Postscript, 09/16/20: Per the photo at the top of this blog post, there is a monument to Fort Crawford and to Colonel William Crawford in Parnassus in New Kensington. The Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated it in 1943.)
Since it’s fall again and I promised you ghost stories, I want to talk about the aviary’s haunted history.
Per the National Aviary’s own website, the aviary sits on the site where the Western Penitentiary sat from 1826 to 1880. Did you ever hear of the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia? Well, this Western Penitentiary housed inmates in the western part of our state. (Western Penitentiary later moved a short distance downriver.)
If you’re interested in American Civil War military history, you can Google “Morgan’s Raid” and read all about Confederate Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan’s raid of Indiana and Ohio in 1863. Morgan and his regiment were captured only miles from the PA state line. Morgan was imprisoned in Ohio, escaped by tunneling his way out, but died in another raid a year later in Tennessee.
Many of Morgan’s men were imprisoned in Chicago. However, over 100 of his captured soldiers were held as prisoners of war (P.O.W.’s) at the Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh.
Several of Morgan’s soldiers passed away at the Pittsburgh prison, where the aviary now sits. One of these men died trying to escape.
Local folklore says that these soldiers still haunt the aviary. I didn’t notice any ghosts when I visited the aviary last summer. However, you may visit the aviary and decide for yourself.
A few years ago, my husband Jonathan and I visited the Michigan Fireman’s Memorial in Roscommon, Michigan. I took the above photo at this memorial. I post it tonight in honor of the following dates:
September 29 – October 6, 2019: Light the Night for Fallen Firefighters
October 6 – October 12, 2019: Fire Prevention Week
October 8-10, 1871: Great Chicago Fire
October 8, 1871: Peshtigo, Wisconsin Fire
October 8, 1871: major fires in Holland, Manistee, and Port Huron, Michigan
October 9, 1871: major fire in Urbana, Illinois
October 12, 1871: major fire in Windsor, Ontario
In honor of Chicago and its firefighters, here is a photo that I took of a Chicago fire boat:
Here’s a little story for you: I learned on Wikipedia that a town by the name of Singapore, Michigan ONCE existed on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Singapore became a ghost town as a result of the October 1871 fires, but it DIDN’T burn.
Singapore, MI was founded in 1836. The town included two sawmills. As one might expect of a town that has sawmills, a forest bordered Singapore.
Well, the fires produced such a great demand for lumber that the businessmen in Singapore deforested the area surrounding Singapore. With the trees gone, the town had no protection from Lake Michigan’s sand dunes. By 1875, the town was covered up by sand!
In my opinion, this is the premise of a Margaret Atwood story.
Stay fire safe this month.