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1989

Union encampment at Cumberland, Md., during the Civil War.

Priscilla McKaig held the military order in her hand and re-read it. It was short but it was impossible. Major General David Hunter, who was in command of the Union forces in Allegany County for a portion of the Civil War, was ordering her and her family to leave Cumberland for one of the Confederate States.

“I was thunder struck, no charges – no explanation,” she wrote in her journal.

Why shouldn’t she be? Her family was among the upper class of Cumberland. Her husband was a former mayor of Cumberland, a partner in the Cumberland Cotton Factory and president of the Frostburg Coal Company.

Her first reaction was to refuse to comply. This was her family’s home and she had every right to be here. However, she had no choice but to comply. Troops ringed her house and she and her family had been given 24 hours to leave. She must leave by 7 p.m. on July 12, 1863.

Unable to sleep that night, she and her family began preparing to leave. They sent household items like linens and silver, away for safekeeping with friends. Other things were considered too valuable to leave behind and too dangerous to take with them in case their belongings were searched by Union troops. So all of Priscilla’s letters from her sons and others with Confederate sympathies were burned.

When a soldier called on her in the morning with a pass to get Priscilla and her children through the Union pickets, she once again acted defiant. “I told him that I did not intend to obey that order, that I considered it was a most heartless, cruel order, that it was out of the question for me to think of going. My Husband was absent, my youngest son was away at school, and also my clothes were wet in the tub.”

The soldiers also went to the home of Dr. R.S. McKaig, Priscilla’s brother-in-law. He and his family had also been ordered south. When the doctor said he would not leave because it would ruin him, he was immediately arrested and sent west to a prison the following morning. Another brother and Maryland state senator, Thomas Jefferson McKaig, had been arrested in a similar fashion at the beginning of the war and imprisoned.

Rather than depress Priscilla McKaig, the event actually gave her hope that her order would not be enforced.

However, later that day, another order was received noting that they had half an hour to load a carriage of their choosing or a conveyance out of town would be chosen for them.

Oddly, only Priscilla and her son, Beall, left. Priscilla’s husband William and son, Merwin (though Merwin would join her later), were left behind. Priscilla was accompanied by her sister-in-law, Sarah, and Sarah’s two sons.

The first night away from Cumberland was miserable and Priscilla blamed her family’s woes on the fact that her nephew had joined McNeill’s Rangers against his father’s wishes, despite that fact that she had two sons fighting with the Confederate army. She wrote, “Oh, what a miserable night. I did not sleep an hour, here we heard that all the clothes, money and letter I had sent Tommy were captured. All our troubles were brought on by John McKaig’s imprudence and disobedience to his Father’s instructions.”

The group traveled south to Romney and then to Moorefield, staying with friendly families or paying for rooms in a boarding house. During this time, Priscilla continued to write to her sons, William and Tommy, who were serving.

While staying near Moorefield in August, she saw Gen. John McCausland’s troops surprised and routed by Union forces. “I never wish to witness another such a scene. The Federals captured between three and four hundred men, all the artillery and a large number of horses.”

During their travels they also began to experience the inflation of Confederate currency. At one boarding house, they paid $80 for a night’s lodging, supper and breakfast. Breakfast alone was $16 in one location.

Throughout much of their journeys in the Shenandoah Valley, Priscilla also experienced various ailments from headaches, stomachaches and colic. Sometimes they would keep her in bed all day.

Then in October as winter began to set in, they met Billy McKaig in Moorefield. Since she thought he was supposed to be off fighting, it surprised her. However, what surprised her even more was that her nephew said he had come to get her.

“I could not believe that he had come for that purpose, but supposed that he had returned to join the army. I again said to him, what did you come for Billy? He answered the same way and said pulling a paper out of his pocket, ‘here is the order for your return’ Oh! how thankful I felt to God for his goodness and mercy to me, the carriage was soon surrounded by friends to congratulate me on my good fortune.”

They spent a day packing up their belongings and making sure that all their clothes were clean, then they headed toward Cumberland. They arrived around 5 p.m. the next day.

“Oh how thankful I was, once more to see my home and to meet my dead Husband and my friends,” she wrote.

She could not return to house immediately, as it was serving to house officers. Instead she drove to her husband’s office. At first, she “could see no one for a few moments, the first one who came to meet me was my dear Husband, who was so filled with emotion that he could hardly speak, directly my Sister and others came running down to meet me. I felt very happy and gratified, we went up to her house and remained there all night.”

The McKaigs reclaimed their house next day and things slowly got back to normal. However, they would still run into suspicions throughout the remainder of the war. Once, soldiers searched the house thinking to find one of her Confederate sons at home. As the war wound down, Priscilla’s concerns were only for the safety of her sons rather than the Confederate cause.

She mentions events like the surrender of Richmond, surrender of General Lee and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in her journal, but only in a sentence or two and without any emotion pro or con. On her way back to Cumberland from a trip to New York, her train met the Lincoln funeral train. It was the type of event most people would get philosophical about. Not Priscilla. For her, as well as the rest of the country, the war was done.

.

Kitzmiller Bank

The site of the former Kitzmiller Bank as it looked in the 1980s.

Around lunch time on a nice May day, three men walked into Charles Spragne’s restaurant in Kitzmiller. Their faces were blackened with cork and they wore miner’s caps. They were unfamiliar to Charles and his wife, but they were used to seeing new miners in town from time to time.

Spragne’s wife spoke to one of the men, “thinking he was a local miner but did not notice that either of them were masked,” the Republican reported.

The men finished their lunches, paid their bills, and then walked across the street to the First National Bank of Kitzmiller around 11:45 a.m. As they entered, the men drew large revolvers.

One of the men stepped around Cashier Barclay V. Inskeep’s desk and pointed his pistol in Inskeep’s face. Sue R. Laughlin, Inskeep’s assistant, screamed.

A second man pointed his pistol at Laughlin and told her, “If you scream again. I will kill you.”

Laughlin stared at the pistol and then collapsed to floor in a faint.

With one man covering Inskeep, the other two men quickly gathered what money they could find. Then they cut the wires for the long-distance phone and ran out of the bank, weighed down by the money they were carrying. It was later tallied that the robbers took $9,975.25 with them or roughly $185,000 in today’s dollars. One of the men was carrying a bag of nickels, which weighed more than 20 pounds.

In their rush to make their escape, the robbers had not only overlooked $13,000 in paper money that was nearby, but they had also failed to cut the wires for the local telephone at the back of the building.

Inskeep ran out of the bank to the Hamill Coal and Coke Company General Store and reported the robbery. When he ran back outside, he saw the bank robbers starting across the bridge over the Potomac River to Blaine, W.Va. He saw Paul Junkins who was driving a coal company wagon across the bridge to Kitzmiller and called for Junkins to stop the men.

“Junkins climbed from the wagon and told them to stop when one of the men pulled a large revolver from his pocket and commanded him to get back on the wagon and drive on,” the Republican reported.

Junkins had no wish to be shot so he obeyed. When he got to Kitzmiller, he was met by a small posse. Junkins got a pistol from one of the men and then joined them in the hunt. Everyone who could carry gun soon joined in the hunt for the bank robbers, including one man who only had a pick handle.

Meanwhile, Inskeep went back to the back and climbed in his car to drive to Elk Garden, W.Va., hoping to head off the robbers.

The robbers continued on their getaway, walking down the Western Maryland Railway tracks about 200 years and then climbing the bank beside the tracks and heading into the woods. There, they hid among the rocks and fired on the posse as it approached. Junkins who was leading the posse at that point was hit three times—in the arm, the leg, and the forehead. Junkins jumped behind a tree until the robbers stopped firing and fled through the woods again.

The robbers also shot posse member William Schenk in the hand when he stepped from behind a building at the edge of the woods. During the gunfire exchange Constable Sharpless from Kitzmiller believed that he had shot one of the men in the chest. A member of the posse accidentally shot Sharpless when he was mistaken for one of the robbers.

A fourth man wearing a red sweater joined the three robbers and led them off through the woods where he had a car running. The men jumped in the car and traded their miner’s caps for automobile caps. They sped off up to the mountain toward Elk Garden.

By the time the car raced through Elk Garden, witnesses reported seeing only three men in the car. They simply thought the men were joy riding because news of the robbery hadn’t reached the town yet.

Inskeep later told the newspaper, “I do not believe the man who held me up was a professional. Of course I was excited, but believe me, he was trembling all over, too.”

He added that the bank and its depositors’ wouldn’t suffer any loss because the bank carried $15,000 in burglary insurance that would cover the loss.

Four months later, the robbers were finally brought to justice in Woodstock, Va. Paul Neff, Dave Neff, and “Boots” Fry were arrested for different robberies and a group from Kitzmiller, including Inskeep, drove to Woodstock to see if they recognized the men.

“One of the men from the mines identified the Neffs as miners who were at work there until the robbery and then disappeared,” The Republican reported.

Inskeep also identified the men as the bank robbers.

maryshawleaderMary Shaw Leader of Hanover got up early on November 19, 1863, and started off on her walk to work. Hours later, after a cold 15-mile walk, she arrived in Gettysburg to attend the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Since the Battle of Gettysburg in July, the cemetery had been laid out and the remains of the soldiers killed in the battle had been reinterred.

She, along with hundreds of other people, stood through U.S. statesman Edward Everett’s two-hour-long speech and President Abraham Lincoln’s less-than-three-minute speech.

Eyewitness accounts of Lincoln’s speech, which would become known as “The Gettysburg Address”, have said that initial reaction to it was mixed. Historian Shelby Foote has said that applause was “barely polite.” Sarah Cooke Myers, who attended the speech, recalled in 1931, “There was no applause when he stopped speaking.” However, the New York Times article on the speech said Lincoln was interrupted five times by applause.

When Leader returned to Hanover, she prepared her article for the Hanover Spectator, a newspaper owned by her family. Her father, Senary Leader, had started the newspaper in 1844, publishing it until he died in1858. Senary’s wife, Maria, had then taken over as editor while Leader served as a reporter. She was one of Pennsylvania’s first female reporters.

Leader began her article, “On Thursday last, the 19th of November, 1863, was a great day in the history of Pennsylvania and the entire Union. The battlefield of Gettysburg was dedicated with imposing ceremonies in honor of the great victory which decided of the fate of the Nation.”

She included the full text of Lincoln’s speech and called it a “remarkable speech.” Although the country was still engaged in war and would be for two more year, her view of the Battle of Gettysburg turned out to be prophetic as the battle is seen by many as the turning point of the Civil War.

Leader “was the only contemporary newswriter to praise what many consider was the greatest speech ever delivered in the English language,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

While other newspapers (usually Republican) praised the speech, it’s not certain how many of those newspapers had reporters at Gettysburg to hear it firsthand.PICT0075_preview

Leader passed away in Hanover in 1913 while 15 miles away Gettysburg was celebrating the largest gathering of Civil War veterans ever during the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

She was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery with a small marker.

William Anthony, a job printer in Hanover, had learned his trade from the Leader family. After Leader’s death, he learned about his small place in history and felt that it should be recognized with more than a small stone. He began a campaign to raise money for a larger memorial that cost $402 (about $9,500 today).
Anthony also arranged a memorial dedication service patterned after the cemetery dedication services in 1863. Around 600 people attended the service on November 10, 1941. Gettysburg College history professor, Dr. Robert Fortenbaugh, delivered the dedication address. Rev. Dr. Harry Hursh Beidleman, pastor at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Hanover, read the Gettysburg Address. The Reformed Emmanuel Church a cappella choir sung a Civil War song and 15-year-old Wirt Crapster, Leader’s grand-nephew unveiled the monument.

Last To Fall CoverHere is the preface from my upcoming book, “The Last to Fall: The 1922 Marine March, Battles, & Deaths at Gettysburg.” It is due out in early April.

Confederate M1917 tanks lumber across the fields, moving on the Union position behind a stone wall on Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg, Pa. The Union soldiers fire machine guns not so much at the massive metal vehicles approaching them, but at the Confederate soldiers using the tanks as cover in order to make their way across the open ground. In the face of an unstoppable weapon, the Union soldiers begin falling back.

Hearing loud buzzing sounds from above, the Confederates stare upward as Union DeHavilland DH-4B biplanes fly out of the clouds. The airplanes level off safely out of range of the Confederate rifle fire. Then the explosions commence as the bombs rain down around the tanks and troops turning General Pickett’s Charge into a bloodbath.

If only…

Yes, the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought in 1863, but after the Allied victory in World War I in 1918, some people began to wonder, “What if?”

What if some of the modern technology that had won the war had existed in 1863?

What if the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought with the military equipment used in World War I?

The answer was not to write a science fiction novel that dealt with alternative history. The U.S. Marine officers who were debating these questions after the end of the Great War had the capability to test out their theories. The answer to the questions was supposed to be safe. It was only supposed to be a training exercise, a war game.

Something else happened, and because it did, two marines became the only aviators to die fighting the Battle of Gettysburg.

It wasn’t a game.

It was all too real.

So what do you think? 

If you are interested in learning more about the book or taking advantage of the pre-order offer, visit my web site at: jamesrada.com.

Another newspaper – The Oakland Republican in Oakland, Maryland –  picked up my “Looking Back” column on a monthly basis last week. I’m pretty happy about that because I love researching the stories and writing about them.

For example, I found a story about a man who was called the “Champion Miner of the World” in the 1920’s because of how fast he was at mining coal. I wrote about his story for The Republican, but in researching it, I found out that this man’s son, was a frontline reporter in WWII who won a Pulitzer Prize. He also got his reporting start at another newspaper that carries my column so I had two columns from one idea.

Right now, four newspapers – The Catoctin Banner, The Gettysburg Times, The Cumberland Times-News, and The Oakland Republican – carry my column, though at one time it was four. Even though multiple papers carry the column, I write different columns for each paper. It’s sort of a hybrid between a local column and syndicated column.

It certainly would be easier if I could just publish the same column in multiple newspapers, but I don’t think it would be as fun.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind being able to get another couple newspapers to carry the column, hopefully, in places that I’m not too familiar with. Then I get the joy of discovering of the interesting people, stories, and places in that area.

Here are the links to the newspapers if you want to search them for my Looking Back articles:

Untitled

1933 Chicago World’s Fair

Chicago_world's_fair,_a_century_of_progress,_expo_poster,_1933,_2Although the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair is the famous one because of all of the innovations introduced during the fair, Chicago hosted it’s second World’s Fair 40 years later. This World’s Fair celebrated the centennial of Chicago’s incorporation and also had it’s share of wonders.

I was introduced to this World’s Fair when a gentlemen I was interviewing told me about his visit there in 1933 when he was 10 years old. After the interview, I went looking for more information about the fair so that I would be able to ask him better questions about the fair.

Here’s a link to a site with some fun information about the fair. Take a look at some of the information there. I would have liked to visit the fair even today.

There were houses of tomorrow, babies in incubators, a giant sky ride, prototype cars, Frank Buck’s Animal Show, and the first all-star baseball game to name a few of the many things. The Hindenburg even put in an appearance one day.

I’ve never been lucky enough to visit a World’s Fair, but they sound like there is so much to see at any of them that you could spend a week there and not see everything.

Viewofhousing1923_1st2nd3rd4thsts  Susan Tassin was hiking with her husband one day along a Pennsylvania trail when they came across stacked cut stones in a large rectangle. Tassin recognized what she was seeing as the foundation of a house. The home was long gone, and the stones were all that remained to mark that someone had once called that out-of-the-way place home.

“I was excited,” Tassin said. “We saw some other hikers and told them what we had found.”

The other hikers didn’t understand the Tassins’ excitement. The hikers pointed out a historical marker that told readers the site had once been more than a place for a single home. An entire home had been located there.

It was all gone, though.

All that was left was a ghost town.

When most people think of ghost towns, they picture dusty streets flanked by false-fronted buildings and tumbleweeds rolling down the streets. Yet, some people say that Pennsylvania has more ghost towns than any other state and most of them are in western Pennsylvania.

“Some of the best ones are out here,” Tassin said.

She should know. She has been fascinated by ghost towns since that first discovery on the trail years ago. She has visited many of them and written a book called Pennsylvania Ghost Towns: Uncovering the Hidden Past (Stackpole Books, 2007).

WehrumFAH

Ghost (town) stories

Despite being nearly forgotten nowadays, many of these towns have interesting stories to tell.

Wehrum in Indiana County was founded in 1901. It was the home for Lackawanna Coal and Coke Factory miners. At its peak, Wehrum had 250 houses, two churches, a school, a post office, a hotel, a bank, and a company story.

In 1909, a gas explosion in Mine #4 killed 21 miners and injured 12 more. This was roughly about 10 percent of the population. Thus, began the town’s slow decline until in 1934, all that remained of the town was a house, the jail, the school, and the Russian Orthodox Cemetery.

Like Wehrum, many of Western Pennsylvania’s ghost towns were former company towns for coal mining operations. Because coal mines were generally not found near a city, coal companies had to build towns where their employees could live and be close to their jobs.

“When the coal mines went away, so did the towns,” said Delores Columbus, executive director with the Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority. She pointed out that when the mine closed in Wehrum, the coal company tore the houses down and used the wood to help build buildings in another coal town.

Hassin added that even if the company didn’t tear down the abandoned buildings, other people might.

“In Whiskey Run, there’s not much there, but if you know what to look for, you can see the wood from the houses in their neighbors’ barns and sheds.”

Whiskey Run in Indiana County is one of the ghost towns with a very colorful history. There are at least three versions of how the town got its name from settlers murdering drunken Indians to a post office that sold untaxed alcohol to bootleggers using the water in the creek for their illegal whiskey.

Whatever the origin for the name, the town quickly developed a reputation as being rough and lawless. Duels and gunfights were not uncommon.

In one story, the Bartino family rented rooms to miners. It seems that many of them were smitten by one of the Bartino’s daughters, Maria.

“Three of the men began arguing one afternoon about who should have the right to court the young lady,” Hassin wrote in her book. “The fight, not surprisingly, escalated into physical violence, with the three men rolling around, punching, kicking, and shouting. Into the mix came a fourth suitor, who arrived with flowers in hand, hoping to see Miss Bartino.”

Then, as might be expected in Whiskey Run, guns were drawn and fired. Three of the miners died on the scene. The fourth was injured and died later from his injuries. Even Bartino was injured in the gunplay.

Not all ghost towns are related to the coal industry, though. Some towns wound up being buried under a man-made lake. This is what happened to Aitch, which is now under Raytown Lake.

Other towns met a different fate.

“Hannah’s Town doesn’t exist anymore because the Indians burned it down,” said Anita Zanke, the library coordinator with the Westmoreland County Historical Society.

The town was the first county seat for Westmoreland County in the late 18th century. The Indians and British soldiers burned the town in 1782. It is now rebuilt as a historical site.

Still other towns might still exist, but it as a shadow of its former glory.

“It’s hard to have a town called a ghost town when people still live there, but they are much smaller towns,” Hassin said.

Iselin is such a place. Founded as a coal town in 1902, Iselin grew quickly to more than 1,000 residents. Housing construction couldn’t keep up with the demand. However, as the demand for coal disappeared so did the population. The mines closed in 1935.

Iselin still exists today as a suburban community where you can still see signs of the former coal town in architecture of some of the older buildings.

WehrumTrainStation

The Ghost Town Trail

Cambria and Indiana counties decided to turn interest in ghost towns into a tourist attraction. The two counties developed a 36-mile-long trail along the old railroad line that passes near 10 ghost towns from Saylor Park in Indiana County to Ebensburg in Cambria County.

The trail was first opened in 1994 and gets about 75,000 hikers and bikers annually, according to Columbus.

“This is our 20th year since we first opened in October 1994,” Columbus said.

For more information on the trail, visit: http://www.indianacountyparks.org/trails/gtt/gtt.html.

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