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Sterling Galt purchased the Emmitsburg Chronicle in 1906. He was the fourth owner of the 27-year-old newspaper. Back in those days, small newspapers had few employees. The owner was the publisher and the primary reporter.

The debut editorial stated the goal of the newspaper as this: “Our first aim shall be to present the CHRONICLE as a medium through which the outer world may learn our aims, our hopes and high resolves. We shall not try to amuse our readers with rhetorical flourishes, nor with sonorous sentences, neither shall we indulge in meaningless jests, nor silly observations, but endeavor, in an unpretending way to give our readers the current news of the times, with such items of local interest that may present themselves: we shall try to practice the recent suggestion of an esteemed clerical friend, who we estimate as a model editor, substantially, that ‘the value of a newspaper consists not so much in what we put into it, as in what is kept out of it.’”

Galt worked hard a living up to the dream of what the newspaper could be. He reported on community events and big stories, such as the murder of Edward Smith by Fred Debold. Although it didn’t happen in town, it was a big enough story that Galt put out a special issue on August 9, 1906.

Galt had his own plans for his future, though. As editor of the newspaper, he had become a leading member of the Emmitsburg community. He saw its strengths and problems and he started to think he had solutions rather than simply reporting on what other people came up with. By reporting on other communities, he had a good feel for what issues where on the minds of their residents.

When readers picked up the October 27, 1911, issue of The Weekly Chronicle, they read a letter from Galt to his readers, “Having accepted the nomination by the Democratic party of the State Senatorship of Frederick county. I feel that the due observance of a practice, entirely ethical in its character, constrains me to withdraw from the active management and editorship of The Weekly Chronicle during the active campaign.”

He stepped back from his job to try and avoid the impression of bias. If that was the intent, it didn’t work.

During Galt’s absence, E. L. Higbee, a man Galt said had “long been associated with me”, was given management and editor control. However, Galt still owned the newspaper. As someone Galt trusted, it wasn’t surprising that Higbee backed Galt and the newspaper showed it.

The next issues of paper focused heavily on Galt and his candidacy. Even that first issue where Galt announced he was stepping down from running the newspaper featured supported for Galt’s candidacy.

  1. M. Gluck, Galt’s reverend, wrote “I know his positions on practically all political questions will be assumed to the larger interests of his constituents and can say without reservation that if he is elected he will consider all such questions from the standpoint of their effect on the welfare of the people regardless of the influence they might bring to bear on his private affairs. In other words, he would be an unselfish public servant.”

Of his own candidacy Galt wrote, “If I am sent to Annapolis I shall go there untrammeled, uncoerced—not the tool of a boss or an organization or the vassal or representative of any league, clique, society, union, association, corporation or combination of interests, and I shall endeavor at all times and under all conditions to serve the PEOPLE as justice, honor and duty point the way.”

The election drew a lot of voters to the polls. Emmitsburg had more than 700 registered voters and 632 voted in that election. It took poll workers in the district until 4 a.m. the following morning to finish counting the votes.

They heavy positive coverage given Galt in The Weekly Chronicle wasn’t enough. He received 4,813 votes but his opponent, John P. T. Mathias of Thurmont was the incumbent and he garnered 5,290 votes.

Following his loss, Galt resumed his duties as editor and went back to trying to help the community as he could.

Galt died on December 28, 1922. Under his editorship, The Weekly Chronicle was considered one of the best weekly newspapers in the state, according to editorials in other newspapers.

Following Galt’s death, John Elder and Michael Thompson purchased the The Weekly Chronicle in 1922.

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20170224_115207One of western Pennsylvania’s oddest attractions is the trolley graveyard in Windber. On a 20-acre piece of private property, you can find dozens of forgotten and weatherbeaten trolleys. Some sit on track they never ran on. Others lay on their sides as if they were forgotten toys.

One of the streetcars at the graveyard that has been kept indoors is a 1925 streetcar that ran on the Johnstown Traction Company Trolley System. It is a double-end car that didn’t need to be turned around. When the car reached the end of the line, the motorman simply walked to the opposite end to run the streetcar in a new direction.

“At the end of the line when they wanted to go back the other way, they just take the seatbacks and flip them, so they’re the other way,” said Ed Metka, president of the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company and owner of the graveyard.

The Johnstown Area Heritage Association acquired the trolley from the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, Ill., and is working towards restoring it so that it might be used once again in Johnstown. Other cities that have done similar things have found that it spurs economic development.

“When they bring a streetcar line back in, it spurs private development along a core within two blocks of the line,” Ed said.

It will be an expensive undertaking, though. Ed points out that one Johnstown Traction Company trolley car was restored to like-new condition, but it cost around $300,000.

“But it looks like brand new, and it’s running at the trolley museum in Orbisonia [the Rockhill Trolley Museum],” he said.

Streetcars are a significant part of Johnstown’s heritage.

“Johnstown was one of the important centers for the development of street railway systems,” said Richard Burkert, president of the JAHA. “Not just for layouts but for a time owned the rights to the electric motors.”

The Johnstown Passenger Railway began operation in Johnstown in 1883 with horse-drawn trolleys. After a serious accident in 1910, the Johnstown Traction Company leased the cars and rail lines to run the trolley system until its closure. At its peak, the Johnstown trolley system had more than 35 miles of track and 100 streetcars.

The city was also one of the last cities to stop using trolley transportation. The final trolley ran in Johnstown on June 11, 1960, and now there is a chance that one might serve as an economic development catalyst carrying tourists around to the city’s different attractions.

Five trolley cars that Ed bought from Toronto are now used in Kenosha, Wis. They run on a two-mile loop that connects tourist attractions with the bus hub and commuter rail system.

20170224_112926If you want to visit

Over the years, interest in the Windber Trolley Graveyard has grown as more and more people hear about it. They come to Windber to hear about the graveyard’s history and take pictures. However, you can’t just walk onto the private property. Two years ago, Ed started allowing scheduled group tours of the graveyard and has been surprised to find visitors coming from all over the eastern United States.

If you are interested in visiting the Windber Trolley Graveyard yourself, you can sign up to join one of the periodic tours that run by e-mailing the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company at vesco@aol.com.

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20170224_115819Where 19th Street ends in Windber is where a frightening, fascinating journey begins.

With permission, you drive past the gated entrance to a long 20-acre piece of private property. You bounce around as you make your way back into a forest on the rutted dirt road. About 100 yards back, you see a rusted hulk of a streetcar laying on its side.

Besides wondering what caused the streetcar to look like it had been discarded by a gigantic child, another question arises: Where did it come from because Windber hasn’t had a trolley since the 1936 flood washed out the Johnstown to Windber trolley line.

You move around the streetcar, only to see more streetcars—some on their roofs, others on their sides, a few still upright. Had some massive unreported accident happened here years ago?

Across from the streetcars are buildings that Berwind Coal used to use to build and repair coal cars used for the shipment of coal from the Windber area. In between the buildings and the streetcars is a parking area for what is called the Windber Trolley Graveyard.

The trolley graveyard20170224_120033

Nearly four dozen streetcars have found their final resting place here, but they used to run in cities like Philadelphia, Boston, Kansas City, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.

“The MBTA in Boston still uses some of the same type of cars that I have here,” Ed said. “They are running into problems finding spare parts that are no longer manufactured. That’s where I come in.”

The trolleys are spread throughout the property along more than a mile of rail track. Their windows are busted. Leaves and debris litter the interiors. Many of the cars are covered in graffiti.

“Mother Nature has taken its toll as you can well imagine because some of these cars have been here since the mid-90s,” said Ed Metka, president of the Vintage Electric Streetcar Company and owner of the graveyard.

The cars sit there, seemingly forgotten, but Ed, remembers. He can tell you the story behind just about every streetcar on the property. The streetcars from Boston used to run on a suburban trolley line. The ones from Chicago were part of the L system, the elevated tracks that run through the city. Two 1912 streetcars from Grand Rapids, Mich., had previously been used for a lakefront cabin.

Ed can even tell you about the parts of some of his streetcars that wound up in trolleys in places like Dubai, Aruba, and San Francisco. He has even sold entire streetcars to a small trolley system in Kenosha, Wis.

20170224_115611Trolley attraction

Ed grew up in Chicago in the 1940s. Trolleys were starting to lose ridership to cars, but they saw a temporary resurgence during WWII. The large vehicles running along streets powered by a thin pole connected to a wire caught Ed’s attention.

“I was five years old, and it always fascinated me to see these things come down the street on a track,” he said.

Ed would ride on the streetcars with his mother and stand next to the motorman and pretend to be driving the trolley.

As a teenager living near San Francisco, he discovered that trolley museums existed, and he joined one in the Bay Area.

“I had thought I must be the only one who liked that stuff,” Ed said.

Like other trolley museum members, he started taking pictures of streetcars and collecting books and magazines about streetcar systems.

Trolleys were a slower form of transportation, primarily designed for urban areas that provided mass transportation around a city. However, they fell victim to the same problems as trains. After WWII gas rationing ended, people began purchasing and using automobiles, and trolley ridership declined.

So by the 1950s most of the trolley systems in the United States had gone out of business, and their cars had been junked, sent off to museums, or abandoned.

It is because of the streetcars at the Windber Trolley Graveyard that Ed moved to Windber in 1992. Before that, he was living in Thurmont, Md., and working in Washington, DC, with the Army Corps of Engineers. However, he had the opportunity to purchase 10 streetcars from the Philadelphia Transit System (SEPTA). He decided that he needed to buy them to help keep that vanishing era of history from disappearing entirely.

He rented a railroad siding near his home and stored his streetcars there. Then the opportunity came to buy even more streetcars.

“Well I couldn’t fit them all in my driveway, but by then I was retired and flexible about where I lived,” Ed said.20170224_114913

He began searching for a suitable and affordable piece of property and found the old storage yard in Windber. He rented the property from Berwind Coal.

“It’s kind of amusing,” he said. “The railyard was all covered over with trees and bush, and several local Windber residents didn’t even realize there was a railyard back there.”

That is also the most fascinating part of the trolley graveyard. Once you walk past the buildings, you follow the track through some brush and trees to see lines of trolley cars.

If you climb in them, you need to be careful. Some of the floors are missing, and most of the windows have been broken so there is lots of glass on the floor.

The dozen trolleys that are in decent shape and Ed hopes to see restored are kept in the repair building out of the elements. However, such a restoration project is a massive undertaking and impossible for one man. So he keeps those trolleys protected in the hopes that one day they once again run in one of the communities with whom he works.

His “hobby” of collecting streetcars is now a business. He restores the best of the trolleys, sells parts from the ones that are beyond hope, and lobbies cities to include trolley lines in their tourism and economic development plans.

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gold-coins-pileToo Much Government Spending Forces Fiscal Change

The U.S. Government went off the gold standard for the last time in 1968.

The United States originally went on a gold standard in 1834. That is, it controlled how much money it issued based on how much gold it held. It’s a fiscal policy that limited the U.S. Government’s spending, which is why the government is no longer on a gold standard.

Going off the gold standard

Seven central bankers for various countries, including the United States met in secret meetings in March 1968. The result was the creation of a two-tiered pricing system of gold. The first tier was that transactions between governments represented in the meeting would continue at $35 an ounce while other transactions could find their own market price, which was expected to be between $40 and $45 an ounce.

Why the government needed to go off the standard

There are times, particularly during a war, where the government needs to spend a lot more money. A gold standard limits how much money they can spend by how much gold is in their treasury. The U.S. Government first suspended its gold standard during the Civil War in order to meet its expenses.

Other Suspensions of the Gold Standard

Many countries, including the U.S., suspended the gold standard during WWI. This led to Germany’s hyperinflation problem following the war. It kept printing money, but it had little gold to back it up so prices soared.

By the time of the Great Depression, the U.S. owned most of the world’s gold, but President Franklin Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard, which freed up the government to spend heavily on his New Deal Programs.

The Gold Standard Following WWII

After WWII, the U.S. and other countries made an agreement that essentially put them all back on the gold standard. The countries agreed to fix their national currency exchange rates to the U.S. dollar. In return, the United States promised to fix the price of gold at $35 an ounce.

France began a long process, however, of exchanging its dollars for gold, which weakened the U.S. dollar. At the same time, the U.S. was fighting the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson needed to spend huge sums of money on his Great Society programs.

This is when the central bankers met to come up with the two-tiered system.

The Gold Standard Breaks Down

Left with a ballooning budget and a country that was still partially on the gold standard, President Richard Nixon eliminated it all together for the United States in 1971.

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“Am I a historian?”

thinking_man_PNG11607“Are you a historian?”

That’s a question I get occasionally, and I’m never sure how to answer it. I don’t have a degree in history, but then, I know people with a degree who don’t call them a historian.

I don’t study history in general or teach it for credit. I find stories in history that interest me, and then I research the details of the story as I begin to formulate the story (if it’s a novel) or organize the events to see where I need more information (if it’s non-fiction).

I don’t consider myself a historian. I think of myself as a writer who often writes about history rather than a historian who writes about his research.

To me, there’s a difference. My focus is on the writing and story and I use the history to make it interesting. You’ve probably read some of my stories on this blog. I’ve read plenty of history books that are BORING! Those are the ones that I usually keep for reference. My books aren’t meant to be reference books. They are meant to be read and enjoyed.

I have heard occasionally that I’m not a historian because I didn’t study the proper research techniques that are historians are taught. Yet, I have read books written by some of those authors who selectively present facts to support the point the writer wants to make. Other times, they extrapolate a fact to such an extent that you might consider it fiction.

Those are things I try not to do with my nonfiction. I strive to tell a story, getting all of the facts to fit together. Because I am writing about real life, some facts are outliers. If it’s something that could make a big difference to the story, I note the outlier but don’t give it much emphasis.

I do my best to get the history right, just as I try to use correct grammar and spelling.

So I ask you: Am I a historian?

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embalmingThough embalming the dead has been done for millennia, modern embalming methods that rival those of the ancient Egyptians have only been around for about 160 years.

The Egyptians were known for their masterful ability to preserve the dead, but American techniques of the 19th Century were far cruder.

According to Robert W. Habenstein and William M. Lamers in The History of American Funeral Directing (Brookfield, Wisc.: Burton & Mayer, 1995, pg. 199), one technique involved disemboweling the corpse and packing the empty body cavity with charcoal. The corpse was then wrapped in a sheet that had been soaked in alum.

French Develop First Effective Modern Preservation Method

Most sources point to 1836 as the birth of modern embalming. That is when Jean Nicolas Gannal, a French chemist, preserved a corpse by injecting it with six quarts of acetate of alumnia through the carotid artery. His idea was that his formula could preserve corpses for medical study.

“Very quickly, however, he realized that his embalming method would also find a market among funeral directors,” Thomas J. Craughwell wrote in Stealing Lincoln’s Body.

Funeral directors had been seeking a way that bodies could be left on display for a few days before burial. Craughwell suggests that it may have been a way to imitate the way bodies of royalty and other important people were displayed after death.

Gannal’s tests involved burying several bodies for 13 months and then exhuming them.

“When their coffins were opened, the dead embalmed by Gannal looked as fresh as the day they had been buried,” Craughwell wrote in Stealing Lincoln’s Body.

Sucquet Took Preservation One Step Further

One of Gannals contemporaries was J. P. Sucquet, another Frenchman who was also seeking an effective embalming method. His solution was to inject five quarts of a 20 percent solution of zinc chloride into a corpse through the popliteal artery. Besides preserving the body, it also gave the skin the appearance of white marble, according to Robert G. Mayer in his book Embalming: History, Theory, and Practice.

Civil War Creates American Demand for Embalming

The Civil War created a need for embalming in the United States as loved ones sought to have the bodies of their fallen sons, brothers, and fathers returned home for burial. As such, embalming was done in military camps before shipping a body home.

“President Lincoln took a great interest in embalming and directed the Quartermaster Corps to utilize embalming to allow the return of Union dead to their home towns for proper burial,” according to the Wyoming Funeral Directors Association website.

Holmes Develops an American Preservation Method

Dr. Thomas Holmes was a captain in the Army Medical Corps during the Civil War. He was assigned to Washington D.C. where it is said that he embalmed more than 4,000 soldiers killed in battle.

When Holmes realized the commercial potential in some of the methods he developed, he resigned from the army and began offering embalming to the public for $100, according to the Wyoming Funeral Directors Association website.

No War, No Need For Embalming

Following the Civil War, embalming fell out of popularity. Most people died in their hometowns where ice could be used to preserve the body until burial. Another reason for its falling out of fashion was that there were too few undertakers who could do embalming.

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SB CoverIt’s been a long time coming, but Smoldering Betrayal, book 1 of the Black Fire Trilogy, is out!

Not only has it been a long time coming, but it is a book that turned out a lot different than I first envisioned.

The story of Matt Ansaro’s return to his hometown to spy on friends and family during the 1922 national coal strike first took shape years ago. When I read about the coal strike, I knew I wanted to write a novel about it. The original idea was that a company spy would be turned into a double agent when his girlfriend is kidnapped by miners.

I also had a great title for the book. It was In Coal Blood.

I attempted to write the story only to meet with failure. I would get a couple of chapters into the story and run into a wall. I would outline the story and then do it again. Yet, I kept hitting the wall.

I put the project on the shelf and would return to it occasionally still hitting the wall.

Then in January 2018, I had a simple thought that changed the way I looked at the story and broke the logjam. That simple change was to make Matt Ansaro (who’d been named John Montgomery in the original story) connected to Eckhart Mines. Once I made the decision to make Eckhart Mines Matt’s hometown, I started getting all sorts of ideas about the characters, plot points, and the setting. I found myself carrying around a pad and pen to write down thoughts wherever I went. When I was in the car, I would record scenes, ideas, and snatches of dialogue that came to me. I would even be recording thoughts before I fell asleep at night.

I wrote more of the story in three days than I had in six years.

It quickly became apparent that the original story would take up more than one book. I researched like crazy. Because I was writing before I had a chance to research the setting, I had to make sure that the story fit the ways things were in Eckhart Mines in 1922 in later drafts.

Smoldering Betrayal contains some of the element of the original story, but also a lot of new ideas and characters I hadn’t planned in the original book.

I love how the book turned out. My beta readers enjoyed it, and I hope that you will, too.

Check out Smoldering Betrayal here.

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