Switching over

The past few weeks I’ve been revamping my website. Take a look at jamesrada.com if you haven’t seen it yet. One of the things that has been revamped is my history blog. It is now part of my website. You can visit the new blog here. If I got all the bells and whistles right, everyone who is following this blog should now be following the new blog. At some point, I will delete this blog. Meanwhile, I’ll be posting history stories and news at this new blog. So hop over to the new blog and click on the follow button, just to be sure. You’ll also see my three free novels offer on the sidebar. Sign up for that if you haven’t already.




On April 21, 1865, a locomotive slowly pulled out of the depot in Washington D.C. carrying about 300 people. Many of them bowed their heads as the train passed. Others cried. The train was carrying the remains of President Abraham Lincoln who had been assassinated a week earlier and Willie Lincoln who had died in 1862 back to Springfield, Ill.

The Lincoln Special

The train had the funeral car, baggage cars and coaches and the engine, which had a photo of Lincoln mounted on the front of the train over the cowcatcher. The funeral car was decorated with black garland and silver tassels and had a U.S. coat of arms painted on the sideof it.

“With sixteen wheels for a smoother ride, rounded monitor ends, fine woodwork, upholstered walls, [and] etched glass windows” this funeral car surely was a sight to behold,” Scott Trostel wrote in The Lincoln Funeral Train: The Final Journey and National Funeral for Abraham Lincoln.

The journey would essentially retrace Lincoln’s trip as President-elect from Illinois to Washington in reverse. The only change was that it deleted a stop in Pittsburgh and added one in Chicago.

Coming to Harrisburg

The first stop on the journey had been in Baltimore. From there, the train headed to Harrisburg. Gov. Andrew Curtin and a delegation from Pennsylvania met the train at the state line just south of Shrewsbury. They joined the Maryland delegation in the front car and rode to Harrisburg allowing for a short stop in York.

The train arrived in the capital city amid a hard rain around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, April 21. As it passed the west end of the Northern Central Railway bridge, a cannon fired and church bells pealed across the city.

The train halted only when the funeral car sat on Market Street. Thunder and lightning joined the heavy rain as members of the Veterans Corps carried the coffin from the coach to a hearse that Harrisburg undertakers, W. W. Boyer and Peter R. Boyd, specially made for the occasion.

Four white horses then pulled the hearse down Market Street to the square, north on Second Street to State Street, and then up State Street to the capital building. Col. Henry McCormick led the procession that followed the hearse. It included city ministers, Mayor Augustus Roumfort and some of the city’s leading citizens. A band playing a funeral dirge led the next group of mourners that included Gov. Curtin, his staff, state officials, another band, two regiments of Pennsylvania soldiers and one unit of New York soldiers.

“The entire procession was lit by the city’s new chemical streetlights, which gave off a deep orange glow,” George F. Nagle wrote in The Bugle, the Camp Curtin Historical Society newsletter.

At the capital, the President’s coffin was placed in a catafalque in the House of Representatives chamber. The catafalque was made from lots of black cloth placed over the clerk’s desk and speaker’s dais so that neither could be seen.

Paying Respects

 A public viewing began at 9:30 p.m. and for two-and-a-half hours, an estimated 10,000 mourners waited in the storm outside the capital for an opportunity to pay their last respects to the man who had led the country through the Civil War.

They entered the chamber in two lines. The lines separated at the foot of the coffin so that a line filed along either side of the coffin to view the President’s body.

“Each line exited through specially rigged doorways through the large windows on opposite sides of the chamber. So many filed through that the undertaker had to re-chalk the visibly discoloring face and dust the body before the chamber could be reopened the next morning,” Nagle wrote.

Another public viewing began on Saturday morning at 7 a.m. and ran until 9 a.m. The doors to the chamber were then closed and the funeral procession reformed to take the President’s coffin back to the funeral train.

At 8:30 a.m., church bells began tolling and cannons were fired to notify the city to prepare for the funeral procession. An estimated 40,000 people lined the streets of Harrisburg along the route and waited for the procession to pass. This was roughly twice as many people than lived in the city at the time.

Once the procession passed, many of the mourners followed behind to accompany the procession back to the train.

The Journey Continues

The funeral train pulled out of the Harrisburg depot at 11:15 a.m. heading for Philadelphia. As the train left the city, it passed a large American flag that had been spread across a field where it could be seen from the train. Crowds of people stood on either side of the flag and removed their hats as the train passed, according to the New York Herald.

The journey to Lincoln’s final resting place would take two weeks and pass through Washington, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

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dudeAuthor’s Note: The following is an article I wrote 10 years ago for The Dispatch newspapers. I’ve reprinted it with a few tweaks and added an update at the end. When I originally wrote this, no one knew what had happened to Tolbert Dalton. I wish I could take credit for solving this mystery, but it was the work of members of the Society for American Baseball Research. I wanted to bring closure to what was a 64-year-old mystery.

Many a young boy picks up a bat, walks to the plate and dreams of slugging his way into immortality. Tolbert “Percy” Dalton was such a boy, and he managed to find his own type of immortality. Not because he is forever remembered as one of baseball’s greats, but because he is one of the few major league players whose death date was unknown for 64 years.

Dalton was also a lay preacher for the Columbia Primitive Baptist Church in Burtonsville, Maryland.

“The church he was an elder in, to my knowledge, had other smaller worship locations in the state of Maryland. As an elder we understand that he would make occasional appearances at Sunday services at the main church He would speak to certain topics relevant to the beliefs the church had. He would also baptize new members,” said Richard Bozzone with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Bozzone has been researching Dalton to try to find where and when he died.

On August 1, 1948, two deacons from the church visited Dalton’s Emmitsburg home. Dalton had failed to show up for a church meeting on July 4.

Dalton had only lived in Emmitsburg for a year, having moved there from the Catonsville, Maryland, area to become editor of the Emmitsburg Chronicle when it restarted publication after a five-year hiatus during World War II. He and his wife lived with his wife’s daughter and son-in-law, Lois and George Heller.

The two deacons couldn’t find Dalton. No one in his family knew what had happened to him.

Dalton, who went by the name of Jack during his baseball career, played four seasons of professional baseball. He was an outfielder who started in the minor leagues in Des Moines where he batted .208 in 1910. He was invited mid-year to join the Brooklyn Robins, predecessor to the Dodgers. He slumped and was sent to the minor league team in Newark, New Jersey. He returned to the Robins in 1914 and then played for the Buffalo Blues in 1915 and Detroit Tigers in 1916. His best year was 1914 when he batted .319. The following year his batting average was .293 with 28 stolen bases. He finished his career in 1916 playing most of the season for San Francisco in the minor leagues and eight games for Detroit.

However, by 1948, at 62 years old, his glory days were forgotten. Dalton was living in Emmitsburg with his second wife, Thelma Bradshaw.

Though Dalton was too old to steal bases, he possibly found one thing he could still steal. Ralph Harris, a former member, and editor of the Primitive Baptist Church newspaper, knew two of Dalton’s sisters (now deceased). He asked them what happened to their brother.

“Their response was that he had absconded with the subscription funds for the church paper. Although Cary did not have firsthand knowledge of the theft, the story was confirmed by several of the church leadership when he became editor,” Bozzone said.

Dalton happens to be one of the very few 20th century Major League players for whom death information is not known.

“There are 15 20th century players for whom we do not have death details, but Dalton is, by far, the most well-known of the players,” Bozzone said.

Bozzone has been assisted in his search for Dalton by a SABR member Al Quimby. What has made the task so difficult is that not even the family of Jack Dalton has information on what happened to him.

No missing person report appears to have ever been filed with the Maryland State Police. No articles about his death have ever turned up. He simply vanished.

SABR member Bill Haber of Brooklyn, New York, also worked on the Dalton case. Though now deceased, Haber’s research over 20 years has corrected errors in more than 200 professional baseball players’ biographies. Haber tracked some of Dalton’s relatives to Emmitsburg in 1978. He was told that Dalton had seemingly fallen off the face of the earth and never made contact with any of his relatives after he left Emmitsburg. He did not even show up for his brother’s funeral in 1954.

Dalton was born July 3, 1885, in Henderson, Tennessee. He had three sisters Lura, Lena, and Lola and one brother Pleasie.

Following Dalton’s baseball career, SABR determined that in 1921 and 1922 he was a salesman living in Baltimore. In 1930, he was residing in Elkridge, Maryland. By 1940, he was living at Catonsville at 2 North Prospect St. In April 1942, his World War II registration cards lists him as a clerk in the Finance Office of the U.S. Army’s Third Corps headquarters in Baltimore. After the war, he became involved with the Primitive Baptist Church and moved to Emmitsburg.

This was all that was known about Dalton for decades until Quimby came across Dalton’s death certificate in Pittsburgh. The document stated that Dalton died of a heart ailment in Allegheny General Hospital on February 17, 1950. He was 64 years old. The certificate was discovered in 2012 when Pennsylvania allowed access to death records before 1961. The Social Security number confirmed that it was the same Tolbert Dalton who had disappeared from Emmitsburg.

What happened during the two years that he was missing and why he left are still unknown. One interesting point from the death certificate is that it stated Dalton was unmarried. This is incorrect. He was still legally married to Thelma Dalton at the time of his death. She died in 1966 in Royersford, Pennsylvania, which is across the state from Pittsburgh.

While there are still unanswered questions about Dalton, at least the mystery of his disappearance has been solved.

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UntitledIntroducing the cover of my next book, Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield: Little-Known Stories & Hidden History From the Civil War Battlefield. It may still get a few tweaks, but I would say this is 95 percent there. The book will be available near the end of this month, but I was excited to show you the cover.

Like the other books in my Secrets series, it’s a collection of true stories that highlight an area’s forgotten stories, and, in my opinion, sometimes, they are the most interesting stories. The purpose of the series is to bring stories to readers.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War. The July 1-3, 1863, battle saw the greatest number of casualties during the war. Beyond the fighting, the battlefield is the site of many other true stories of war, legends, reconciliation, and fantasy.

  • Discover the first great battle that took place at Gettysburg.
  • Learn about the prisoners of war who were kept on the battlefield.
  • Read about the out-of-this-world visitors to the battlefield.
  • Learn about how fairy tale creatures came to life on the battlefield.
  • Discover Gettysburg’s connection to not only the Civil War but World War I and II.

Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield: Little-Known Stories & Hidden History From the Civil War Battlefield tells stories of dinosaurs, warriors, interesting people, and unusual incidents. These are the types of stories you won’t read about in history textbooks. Collected from the writings of award-winning author James Rada, Jr., these fascinating stories and dozens of photographs tell some of the hidden history of the Gettysburg Battlefield.

This book is the fourth in my Secrets series, joining Secrets of Garrett County, Secrets of Catoctin Mountain, and Secrets of the C&O Canal.

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thHe might not have been able to tell a lie, but he could steal a library book.

George Washington, yes, THE George Washington, checked a book out of the New York Society Library on October 5, 1789. It was finally returned in May 2010. Just in case you’re wondering, the overdue fee on the book has been calculated to be around $300,000.

The New York Society Library, New York City’s oldest library, loaned Washington The Law of Nations by Elmer de Vattel, according to the library’s charging ledger (borrowing records). At the time that Washington checked the book out, the library and the federal government shared the same building in Manhattan.

“The missing book came to light when the New York Society Library was restoring its 1789-1792 charging ledger, which features the borrowing history of Washington, John Adams, John Jay, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, George Clinton, and others,” according to Belinda Goldsmith who wrote the Reuters article.

When the library checked its book inventory, it found the book that Washington checked out was still missing. No one said anything about the find, or non-find as the case may be, until the New York Daily News recently announced the situation in an article.

“A few days after learning of the situation, staff at Washington’s home in Virginia, Mount Vernon, offered to replace Vattel’s Law of Nations with another copy of the same edition,” according to a statement from the library.

The missing book was returned to the library’s shelves on May 19, 2010.

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christmas-snapshot3The “date which will live in infamy” cast a large, dark shadow over Christmas 1941 in Allegany County.

As Thanksgiving 1941 approached, the war in Europe was on people’s minds but it wasn’t the dominant story of the day. Residents were more concerned about a coal strike that had started in Pennsylvania and was spreading around the country. At times, it appeared more dangerous to Americans than the war. The headlines on the Cumberland Evening Times the day after Thanksgiving showed Allegany County’s priorities:


Roosevelt Indicates Federal Action Is Probable


The day before Thanksgiving, an editorial in the Cumberland Evening Times noted, “Although some American ships have been sunk, some American lives have been lost and we are far nearer war than we have been at any time since the new conflagration was lighted in Europe, we are in a manner of speaking, still at peace. Whether this condition will continue we do not know, but at least we should be thankful for the blessings we enjoy at present.”

The Christmas season kicked into gear with ads for sales and specials for stores like Rosenbaum’s and Lazarus. However, officials encouraged early shopping because shortages were expected before the end of the year. Although the United States had not declared war against Germany, Japan, and Italy, many people expected it to happen, and with war, came a reallocation of resources to provide the soldiers on the front with the equipment and food they needed. However, this also meant that on the home front, there was often rationing.

City workers made for a gala on Dec. 27 to honor servicemen from the area. It was thought that about 1,000 men who had already enlisted could get passes to return to Cumberland for the celebration.

That was before Dec. 7.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States became a country formally at war. The focus shifted to war-time production of goods and raising a fighting army. Even the coal strike, which had caused so much worry at Thanksgiving, was set aside as the government drafted miners. The United Mine Workers and management agreed to work together for war production.

Though not a heavy presence in daily life at this point, what presence there was was growing, and the newspaper noted that it put a “damper” on the holiday celebrations. Notes about the selection of air raid wardens for 26 different areas of the city crept in among the notices about holiday parties. Even editorial cartoons reflected both the holiday and the war. The city’ conducted its first blackout test the day after Christmas with every home and business within a 10-mile radius of Cumberland expected to douse their lights for 15 minutes once the warning went out.

While a gift-buying boom was expected at Christmas, Christmas 1941 saw another boom. “War brides’ brought a boom yesterday at the marriage license bureau with Court House clerks swamped with altar-bound couples before noon, and the usual Christmas business for Dan Cupid will be increased by khaki-clad young men getting married while home on brief furloughs,” reported the Cumberland Sunday Times. The newspaper noted that 49 couples applied for licenses on Dec. 20.

The city also organized a Civil Air Patrol to protect the skies over Allegany County. About 100 pilots in the area volunteered to help in this endeavor. The need was only heightened when two days before Christmas bombers were seen flying over the city. Fortunately, they were American bombers on maneuvers.

Not so fortunate was the report from the WPA supervisor in the area that a cache of dynamite at the airport was tampered with. “Fifth column” sabotage was suspected and the dynamite was moved.

The newspaper tried to put everything in perspective for its readers with an editorial that read, in part: “It is important that we bring about a condition of worldly peace and that this may be accomplished we must vanquish those responsible for its disruption. The thought of Christmas and all that it means should strengthen us in this task. If we are to make such a peace enduring, then we must cultivate that spirit of good will without which there can be no real peace. If we do not do this, then all our sacrifice, all our anguish, all our suffering shall have been in vain. If during this Christmas season we seek that peace of which the herald angels sang, then we can hope for that lasting peace promised unto us. So it is not incongruous to observe Christmas in time of war for the peace of Christmas is in the heart.”

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00-russia-coal-shovel-030915Burning coal was once a common way to heat homes in Pennsylvania, at least as far back as the mid-1700s when bituminous coal was first mined at “Coal Hill”, which was across the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh. However, in York, many residents apparently feared the burning rock, according to the York Dispatch.

Even as coal’s popularity grew to not only heat homes and buildings but to power railroads and fuel the population growth in western Pennsylvania, York relied on wood for its fuel source. Compare this to the fact that Pittsburgh was burning 400 tons of bituminous coal by 1830.

Bituminous coal is also known as soft coal. It has a lower proportional amount of combustible carbon than anthracite coal. Pennsylvania’s bituminous coal fields are under 14,000 square miles of the commonwealth and in parts of 33 different counties.

“Many people were of the opinion that the ‘black rock’ taken out of the earth even though it burned and radiated heat, should not be disturbed from the bed where God had planted it,” according to the York Dispatch in 1925.

People believed that the smoke produced by burning coal was injurious “and not at all wholesome like wood smoke,” according to the newspaper. Some people believed using coal was the work of the devil, probably because of the similarities between the image of a burning Hell and the burning coal.

While this seems odd now, there is some validity to the reluctance. A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showed that families in rural areas where people still burn coal in household stoves experience elevated levels of household air pollutants that can lead to health problems such as asthma, respiratory illness, and cancer.

The first coal use in York was in the Golden Lamb Tavern, which was located at the southeast corner of Market and Queen streets, according to Conrad Aulbach, a retired employee of the York Gas Company in 1925. His family lived a block away in a log house at the corner of Queen and Mason streets.

In the 1850s, Peter Wilt, the tavern owner, took a risk and purchased a special stove in which to burn the coal. He set the coal up in the public room to keep it toasty warm. Andrew Alden wrote in his article, “Coal in the Home,” that “Once ignited, coal burns slowly with little flame and high heat, occasionally making gentle ticking sounds. Coal smoke is less aromatic than wood smoke and has a dirtier smell, like cigar smoke compared to a pipe mixture. But like tobacco, it was not unpleasant in small, dilute doses. High-quality anthracite makes almost no smoke at all.”

The hot stove in the Golden Lamb was also used to keep water warm to make hot toddies, which was a popular cold-weather drink at the time.

The stove and coal was purchased in Columbia and brought to York in a Conestoga wagon. As coal became more accepted in the city and the need grew, it was transported to York by rail and canal.

What helped York overcome its reluctance to use coal was the formation of the York Gas Company in 1850, according to the York Dispatch. Coincidentally, this is where Aulbach worked for 43 years once he was old enough to get a job.

Although Aulbach was too young at the time to remember the first coal stove being used in the tavern, he did remember hearing his parents talking about it. It was something unique in York at the time. Years later, when the tavern was razed, Aulbach saw the stove taken away to be used in another building.


Pennsylvania went from being a leader in the production of bituminous coal to watching the industry decline in the 1920s. The market was shrinking and too much coal was being mined. Mines began closing and in the 1930s, West Virginia passed Pennsylvania as the leader in bituminous coal production.

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