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StreetcarElmer Martin, who lived near Crellin, returned to work on October 15, 1918, after being sick for a few days. The 28-year-old felt fine and needed to get back to earning a living at the Turner-Douglas Mine as a driver.

He seemed fine his first day back, but when he didn’t report to work the next day, someone realized that he had never made it home. A search began and lasted all night until Martin’s body was discovered alongside the tracks of the Preston Railroad.

He had apparently just fallen down and died.

He wasn’t the only one, either. Across Garrett County, more than 100 people died from Spanish Flu in fall of 1918. The flu wasn’t just a problem in the county, either. Spanish Flu reached nearly every place on the globe and by the time it subsided at the end of November, an estimated 50 million people had died from it.

One physician wrote that patients rapidly “develop the most vicious type of pneumonia that has ever been seen” and later when cyanosis appeared in patients “it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate.” Another doctor said that the influenza patients “died struggling to clear their airways of a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from their mouth and nose.”

The flu seemed to sneak up of Garrett County officials. At first, the many illnesses and deaths were written off as the result of a typical flu outbreak. Many areas in the country began seeing the effects of the flu in late September. In Garrett County, an increase in the number of deaths could be seen, but there was no mention of a problem with Spanish Flu.

Then on October 8, U.S. Surgeon General Rupert Blue sent a telegram to county officials ordering all public meetings, public places of amusement, and schools to be closed. “The order is drastic and was promulgated for the purpose of conserving the public health. Its effect will be to close all churches, Sunday schools and all manner of gatherings,” the Republican reported.

These restrictions were actually mild compared to some areas. Washington, D.C., San Francisco and San Diego passed laws forcing their citizens to wear gauze masks when outdoors. Some towns required a signed certificate of health if someone wanted to enter the town.

The flu caused a domino effect in various profession. Many doctors had been drafted to fight in World War I, which was winding down at the time. So there was already a shortage of doctors when the increase in flu patients added to their workload. They were exposed to the sick more frequently and many of the remaining doctors took sick themselves. This further increased the workload on the healthy doctors and increasing their chances of exposure to the flu. This happened in Accident, where the town’s sole doctor, Robert Ravenscroft, fell ill with the flu.

Similar things happened with nurses and gravediggers as well.

An article in the Journal of the Alleghenies read, “Bodies of Frostburg servicemen stationed at Fort Meade were sent back to Frostburg wrapped in blankets and tagged. Their bodies were stored temporarily in the corner house where the Frostburg Legion building now stands. Behind the post office in a carriage house, open doors revealed bodies laid on the floor. At the Durst Funeral Home from October 5 to October 31, 1919, ninety-nine bodies were prepared for the last rites. Those bodies, placed in rough caskets or wooden boxes, were carted to the cemetery and stacked until burial.”

Among those people who were buried, the Republican noted that by the middle of the month all funerals were required to be private.

For the next couple weeks, the obituaries of people who died from Spanish Flu took up two columns or more in the Republican. The Oct. 17 headline read “Death List Is Most Appalling Many Fall Victims of the Plague Sweeping the Country”.

In Allegany County, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had 6,000 employees in the county and 1,000 reported sick with the flu on October 4. At its peak, 60 percent of the B&O workers were out sick with the flu.

After one month in Philadelphia, the flu had killed nearly 11,000 people, including almost 800 people on October 10, 1918.

Every business suffered. Coal production fell off because so many miners were sick. Even getting a telephone call through was harder because operators were out sick.

Neither the county or state health departments have precise numbers on how many people died from the flu because cause of death did not have to be reported. The estimate would be between 100 and 150 people died in Garrett County among a population of less than 20,000.

The Spanish Flu is one of the reasons health departments across the country began collecting that type of information. However, even if that information had been collected, overworked doctors didn’t always fill out death certificates for their patients because too many patients who were still living needed their attention.

Spanish Flu killed more people than were killed in World War I and in a shorter time frame, too, yet the war captured the headlines during 1918. Estimates are 675,000 Americans died from the Spanish Flu or ten times more than died in the war.

Spanish Flu killed more people in one year than the Black Plague did in four years.

Spanish Flu was so devastating that human lifespan was reduced by ten years in 1918.

By the time the flu began to subside in Garrett County at the end of the October, the newspaper notes that it had “visited nearly every abode in Garrett county, leaving death and desolation in its wake.” At this time, Oakland’s new cases and deaths were on the decline while the small Potomac Valley town had yet to reach their peak, though the growth in new cases was slowing. Also, the Republican notes that although everywhere in the county was hit with cases of the flu, “Some sections of the county have been particularly fortunate in not have a case of influenza with its resultant fatal termination. Especially is this true of Accident, Bittinger and the town of Grantsville.”

Spanish Flu is the deadliest plague that has ever struck the world and yet, it remains largely forgotten either through the selective memories of the people who lived through it or because history books remember World War I and not the flu.

Whatever the reason, October 1918 remains the month that the world mourned.

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Power-OutageTromping through the heavy snow was not too hard for the large horse even as it pulled the dairy wagon along behind it. Emigsville Dairy Company was determined to see that its customers got fresh milk and cream, despite the fact that the storm had shut down just about everything in York.

The horse made its way steadily through the continuing snow storm. Then near the intersection of South Queen Street and Mason Alley, it stopped suddenly and fell over.

The driver jumped down from the wagon and discovered the horse had stepped on a live electrical wire laying in the road. It had been covered by the falling snow. The wire had become laden with snow during the evening and pulled away from the poles supporting it and fallen to the ground where it nearly electrocuted several pedestrians.

Avoiding the live wire, the driver attempted to notify the power company to shut off the power to the line while another horse was procured for his wagon.

The horse was the only fatality in York in the 1904 blizzard that the York Dispatch called “a storm without precedent in this section of the country.”

The snow began falling around 11 a.m. on November 13, 1904. It began more as a mist and sleet, but it quickly changed over to a “Great heavy flakes of what seemed to be more slush than snow falling,” according to the newspaper. Driven by the fast winds of a nor’easter, the York Dispatch said that at times, the snowfall seemed more like a continuous wall of snow rather than individual flakes.

By the time the snowfall ended at 11 p.m., nearly a foot of snow had fallen. While not a massive amount of snow for a blizzard, it had left York in the dark and “as isolated from the outside world as was the average citizen, who remained closely indoors and depended upon candles and coal oil for illumination,” the newspaper reported.

Trains and streetcars halted. Many of the streetcars halted in the middle of their routes because they could go no further on the covered tracks. Passengers on the cars had to disembark and make their way home on foot, which was no easy feat.

The major roads in and out of town also shut down because they were too snow covered.

York Telephone Company suspended its operation around 6:30 p.m. Bell Telephone continued throughout the storm, but could only offer intermittent service. What service it did offer was slow and irregular. To complicate communications even more, a morning newspaper in town didn’t run because there was no power to run the printing presses.

The Edison and Merchants power companies also shut down over worries that the snow would pull down live wires and injure or kill someone as it had downed the dairy horse. With the power off, York was left in total darkness except where people lit candles and fires in fireplaces.

Anything could have happened amid this isolation, and it is unlikely help would have arrived. In addition to all of the other problems caused by the storm, the police telegraph and fire alarms were useless. Off-duty officers called in to make rounds throughout the city relaying information to the officers patrolling the streets. The York Dispatch noted that it was the old way the police had communicated and ensured “that the city was thoroughly patrolled despite the inconvenience occasioned by the prostrated police telegraph system.”

Once the snow stopped, crews got to work clearing roads and power lines of snow. By nightfall on November 14, if not totally cleaned of snow, at least everything was open and operational again.

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d459d1ca-dc4e-4066-860d-ea3953ae4009_dThe charter for a railroad in Adams County, Pennsylvania, was approved on February 18, 1836. The surveying of a route over the mountains and south into Maryland began. Gettysburg lawyer Thaddeus Steven’s less-than-transparent methods earned him lots of critics who were quick to point out that the Gettysburg Extension of the Pennsylvania Main Line did more to make contractors rich, create unnecessary jobs, and buy votes than it did to create a viable rail line.

The final route selected was very serpentine (it took 35 miles to travel 18 miles between Stevens’ Maria Furnace near Fairfield and the Main Line). Stevens’ critics dubbed the convoluted railroad, The Tapeworm. It apparently needed to be done this way to get over the mountain without the use of an inclined plane. Using the surveyed route, trains should have been able to pull 90 tons of freight up the mountain at 10 miles per hour without the use of an inclined plane.

Stevens was criticized that the twisting route was laid out to benefit his iron furnace. Hoch points out that Stevens owned three iron furnaces at different times. Two were in the Caledonia area, and one was near Fairfield. The Tapeworm route ran through the Maria Furnace property near Fairfield. However, that furnace ceased operation in 1837.

Bradley Hoch, author of Thaddeus Stevens in Gettysburg: The Making of an Abolitionist, says that Stevens would have benefitted from the railroad, but it would have been in the same way that any business near the track would have. Transportation costs would have been lowered for those businesses, and they would have become more competitive with other businesses that were located near transportation lines.

The end of the Tapeworm

In 1838, Democrats took control of the state legislature in a bitterly contested election that saw armed Democrats marching on the state house. Stevens found himself in the minority party and lost much of his support for the railroad.

“Laborers and masons picked up their tools and walked away from the Steven’s only partially built line, leaving embankments, cuts and fills, and bridges unfinished,” according to ExplorePAHistory.com.

Stevens, as a Canal Commissioner, had also authorized the government to spend much more than budgeted for the project. The 63-mile line had been estimated to cost $750,000 to survey and grade and $400,000 to lay track.

“Pennsylvania spent $750,000 on the initial miles of grading and never laid an inch of track,” Hoch said.

The final cost was $766,127 with very little to show for the expenditure.

When the property was offered for sale in 1842, no buyers came forward. It wasn’t until 1853 that the Western Maryland Railroad took over the property, and they didn’t do anything with it until 1885 when a line using much of the Tapeworm route was built to Ortanna and then Highfield, Maryland.

“I searched, but I could not find any evidence that any money changed hands when the Western Maryland Railroad took over the property,” Hoch said. “It looks like they may have been given it.”

Stevens eventually overcame the stain the Tapeworm had on his reputation. He was elected to Congress in 1849 where he began to earn a national reputation. However, even as a congressman, he was a consistent supporter of railroads.

The Underground Railroad and the Tapeworm

Although the Tapeworm Railroad was never built, Hoch said there is evidence that the graded route “may have acted as a trail or guide for the Underground Railroad.”

He was given a tour years ago of some of the houses that would have been near the Tapeworm had it been built. Inside these homes, he was shown hidden rooms where slaves traveling on the Underground Railroad could have hidden.

Today, there are still remnants of the railroad that can be seen in Adams County. Perhaps the best known is the McPherson Ridge railway cut, which was the location of some of the first day’s fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg. Other artifacts that remain are a single-arch bridge over Toms Creek near Iron Springs, a viaduct at Virginia Mills, a cut near Marsh Creek, a railbed near Willoughby Run, and the Seminary Ridge railway cut.

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DSC_0158_compLook at a map of the railroads through Gettysburg. They go north, east, and west, but no tracks head south toward Maryland.

Yet, there could have been a route from Gettysburg to the Potomac River in Maryland. It was a winding path that made its way over South Mountain. It was planned to be the Gettysburg Extension of the Pennsylvania Main Line, but its twists and turns earned it the nickname “The Tapeworm.”

“It’s the first railroad that got very far,” according to Bradley Hoch, author of Thaddeus Stevens in Gettysburg: The Making of an Abolitionist.

“Far” is a relative term in this context because no train ever traveled on the Tapeworm, and no rails were ever laid. However, the route was surveyed and graded in Adams County, which is further than two earlier railroads got.

Railroads in Adams County

In the early decades of the 19th century, the railroad was the newest mode of transportation. Though a new technology, it held a lot of promise. You could travel faster than a wagon on a toll road, and you weren’t dependent on a steady flowing water source like a canal.

The construction of the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railroad in 1827 showed the country how useful railroads could be. The following year, the more ambitious Baltimore and Ohio Railroad broke ground in Baltimore.

“The Pennsylvania legislature chartered seventeen railroads in the next three years, and in the 1830s authorized 136 more lines – only 20 percent of which were actually built. Every community, it seemed, believed that prosperity was just around the corner – if only a railroad came its way,” according to ExplorePAHistory.com.

State representative Thaddeus Stevens and the Adams County business community also thought that way. “Thaddeus Stevens and Adams County wanted to jump on the bandwagon because they saw the railroad as a means of economic development for the area,” Hoch said.

Thaddeus_Stevens_-_Brady-Handy-cropThaddeus Stevens

Stevens, a Gettysburg lawyer, would eventually become known as a staunch abolitionist and a supporter of free education. He had shown that he wasn’t opposed to some “sleight of hand and skullduggery” to get what he wanted. He was first elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1833, and he began working towards getting a railroad to come through Adams County, no matter what it took.

When the Second National Bank in Philadelphia was seeking a state charter to stay viable, the bank was willing to pay the commonwealth a lot of money to ensure that it happened. When the charter came before Stevens’ committee in the state legislature, he had written into it that the Canal Committee would survey a railroad from Gettysburg to a location west of Williamsport, Maryland, where it would connect to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Also, he had added that the bank would pay $200,000 for this.

“Stevens was able to weasel $200,000 out of the bank and the legal authority to spend it on a railroad,” Hoch said.

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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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