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One of the aircraft spotting stations in Adams County during WWII. This one was located in Biglerville, PA. Gettysburg had one station located on the roof of the First National Bank building in downtown Gettysburg.

Early in the morning of June 22, 1943, air raid sirens blared throughout Adams County. People stumbled out of their beds, tripping in the dark because they couldn’t turn on any lights. Within an hour, it was obvious that the county had bombed.

The county hadn’t been bombed. It had bombed as in “failed.”

“If the surprise air raid test early Tuesday morning had been the real thing the amount of damage done in Adams County would have been terrible,” a member of the County Council of Defense told the Gettysburg Times.

Adams County had been staging air raid drills since the United States had entered World War II, but the U.S. Army had taken over running them in mid-June 1943 and within a week, ran its first drill. The army sent the alert at 4:10 a.m. and the yellow alarm was sounded 15 minutes later. In Gettysburg, the alarm was the undulating sound of the siren on the Gettysburg Fire Hall.

Lights should have been doused and blackout shades drawn all around the county. Instead, people stumbled around in a sleepy daze as the siren became an annoying alarm.

“So realistic was the test, the first sprung by the army, that a number of persons were fearful it was a real raid after they had discovered that the test was in progress,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

The blue alarm was sent at 4:35 a.m., though it didn’t sound until 4:42 because of the volume of telephone calls being made. The only operator on duty at the Gettysburg phone exchange began fielding lots of calls from firemen who wanted to know where the fire was. One of the members of the County Council of Defense said, “The magnificent work of the single operator on duty prevented complete collapse of the local system and allowed the air raid calls to go through.”

The hundreds of air raid wardens throughout the county (Gettysburg alone had 179 wardens and 35 highway entrance police) should have been outside by then walking along their streets to make sure no lights could be seen and people had taken cover. Spotters should have been at their station of the roof of the First National Bank looking for enemy aircraft. That wasn’t the case. Only a small portion had heeded the alarm.

“A number of county communities did not receive the alarms apparently because sleeping wardens did not hear their phones or failed to distinguish their ring on the party lines,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Early morning defense workers had to dress in the dark and couldn’t leave their homes in time to get to work.

The all-clear alarm finally sounded at 5:02 a.m., less than an hour after the original alarm had been sounded.

People took a deep breath and began assessing what had happened. New Oxford and McSherrystown hadn’t even staged a blackout. When the army took over the air raid drills, the phrasing of how the drill alerts were made was changed. Though it was supposed to be simpler, it turned out to be confusing and so those communities hadn’t even realized that they were in the midst of an air raid drill. The county switched back to using the original phraseology a few weeks later.

In Gettysburg, Texas Hot Weiners, Dr. Bruce N. Wolff and the Sweetland Plaza Restaurant were all fined $5 and court costs for not adhering to blackout conditions.

“The test was the most unsuccessful held so far in regards to performance, but it was the most successful in revealing flaws in the system,” a Defense Council official told the Gettysburg Times.

Another change that was found to be necessary was a new alarm at the fire hall so that the air raid signals wouldn’t be mistaken for a fire alarm. On the east side of Gettysburg, the alarm had been confused with factory whistles, adding to residents’ confusion.

“That the present differentiation is not distinct enough to make everyone understand immediately that is an air raid alarm was proved all too well this morning. If they raid had been real, the result would have been tragic,” the Defense Council official said.

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Watch my appearance on C-SPAN

I’ve had the chance to be on television three times so far in my writing career. Once was with a local independent station. Once was with a statewide cable network, and the most recent was for C-SPAN. I actively pursued the first two, but the

I actively pursued the first two, but the C-SPAN appearance was a happy turn of events. I was doing a book signing at the Gettysburg Heritage Center for two days during the anniversary weekend, and I volunteered to make a presentation about my book, The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg. Shortly before anniversary weekend rolled around, I was told that C-SPAN would be filming the author presentations for a future broadcast.

I think this shows that if you are an author out there marketing yourself and your books, things will eventually start to happen for you. It may be a hard doing this at first, and hard getting to the point where things happen, but they will start to come together for you.

My only regret is that the presentation wasn’t one of my better ones. Right before I started, I was told that I would need to cut the presentation so that it could end by a certain time. I found myself cutting on the fly, and I felt the presentation was choppy. I also wound up cutting too much out.

Here’s the presentation:

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indians_del_11310_lgChiefs of the Iroquois Indians and members of Pennsylvania’s government met on November 5, 1768. They sat down together and negotiated what is now called the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. The agreement opened up the Conemaugh Valley and Stonycreek Valley by encouraging their settlement. When the treaty became effective the following April, a warrant was taken out for 249 acres between Conemaugh and Stonycreek rivers. What was initially an Indian town called Conemaugh eventually grew into Johnstown. It also opened up the shortest land route between Philadelphia and the Great Lakes, which was of interest to merchants.

The treaty was a turning point in relations between Whites and Indians in the region. By that time, the two cultures had been trading for about 40 years. The Treaty of Fort Stanwix marked a formal agreement to settle some of the land disputes between the two cultures. It also marked the beginning of some of the problems as formals promises were broken.

Early Contact

tecumsah

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh

 

Although trade between White men and Indians in the region began in 1728, the White men weren’t living in the area. In fact, pacts that the Penn Family had made with the Indians closed off most of the Allegheny Wilderness from white settlements. White men only came into the area to trade with the Indians.

One of these traders, John Hart, was granted a license to trade with the Indians in 1744. He set up a camp where the Kittanning Indian Trail crossed the Eastern Continental Divide. It was called Hart’s Sleeping Place and “is the first place in Cambria County selected and frequented by white men,” according to the brochure, On the Pioneer Trail in Rural Cambria County.

The Shawonese and Delaware Indians were the principal inhabitants of the Conemaugh Valley, according to Kathy Jones, curator with the Cambria County Historical Society. Henry Wilson Storey also notes in his book, History of Cambria County that while these were the principal tribes, Indians from most of the regional tribes could be found in the area although not in any great numbers.

Records indicate that the Shawonese were near universally considered treacherous and fierce by White settlers while opinion was split about the Delawares, according to Storey.

“The Delawares were natives of Pennsylvania, and, while they were guilty of many acts of cruelty toward the whites, yet it was probably a matter of self-defense, as their property had been taken from them,” Storey wrote.

The largest point of contention between the Delawares and whites was called “The Walking Purchase” even though it didn’t occur in the Conemaugh and Stonycreek valleys. William Penn’s heirs used a 1686 deed to claim land that the Lenape (or Delawares) had agreed to sell them. The Lenape promised to sell the amount of land from a point near modern-day Easton as far west as a man could walk in a day and a half. The Lenape assumed that the distance would be about 40 miles, but in 1737, John and Thomas Penn arranged for the three fastest runners in the Pennsylvania colony to run the trail. The furthest runner went 70 miles and the Whites claimed 1.2 million acres.

 

Shawnee house

A typical Shawnee home.

The Lenape were forced to leave the area and they migrated west with a distrust of White men. Bad interactions like this led to problems.

 

The Shawonese originally arrived in Pennsylvania from the Carolinas in 1698. The Delawares welcomed them, but even they had trouble with the Shawonese. In 1732, it was estimated that there were 700 fighting Indians in Pennsylvania and of that number about half were Shawonese.

“Ever restless and quarrelsome themselves, and being encroached upon by the white man, they retired from one hunting ground to another until they joined the French at Pittsburg, in 1755, and finally drifted to the west,” Storey wrote.

Hostilities

The Indians first mounted a large attack against White men in the area was during the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755. This was at the beginning of the French and Indian War. The French soldiers and Native American warriors joined to fight and defeat British General Edward Braddock.

Braddock was mortally wounded during the battle and died near present-day Uniontown.

Years later, Native Americans started warring on their own against White settlers and the British.

“The Native Americans were upset over British laws being enforced by General Jeffrey Amherst,” said Scott Perry, museum facilitator at the Bushey Run Battlefield.

One problem was that Amherst cut off the Native American supply of gunpowder, which they had grown dependent on for their hunting.

This was named Pontiac’s War after one of the leading Native American generals. The Native American raids were initially quite successful and the conflict spread from the Great Lakes region eastward into the Pennsylvania.

Col. Henry Bouquet was leading an expedition to help re-establish some of the forts in western Pennsylvania when his soldiers were attacked at Bushey Run. The battle that followed was a significant victory for the British and is said to have turned the tide of the war.

“Militarily, the British hadn’t known how to deal with the Native Americans,” Perry said. “However, the British not only defeated them, but defeated them in their own territories in their own kind of fight.”

Kittanning Trail

Shawnee-indian

A Shawnee Indian.

 

The Kittanning Trail was one of four major Indian trails that passed through Cambria County. It ran from Frankstown in Butler County, passing through Cambria County east of Carrolltown, and ended at Kittanning on the Allegheny River. It was used from 1721 to 1781 and helped bring white men into the region.

In the 1750s, Indians who were unhappy that they had lost much of their land rights because of the language of the “walking purchase”, would use the path to reach white settlements near the eastern end of the trail, raid them, and then retreat to Kittanning.

Col. John Armstrong pursued the Delaware Indian Shingas along the path in 1755 after Shingas had raided a white settlement and taken prisoners. Armstrong and his men went on to destroy Kittanning.

 End of Hostilities

In the end, it was simply a matter of numbers. White settlers kept moving into the region and easily outnumbered the small Indian population. The Kittanning Trail was essentially abandoned by 1781.

“By 1800, most Indians whose original homelands were within Pennsylvania’s borders had moved out of the state to new homes in Ohio, Canada, or farther west. With the exception of a small Seneca community living in the northwest corner of the state, there were no officially recognized reservations or self-governing Indian communities remaining within Pennsylvania’s borders,” according to ExplorePaHistory.com.

 

Shawnee Indian signing the treaty with William Penn

Shawnee Indians signing a treaty with William Penn.

Today

 

It’s hard to find traces of the Indians and White pioneers in the area nowadays. You can find some old cemeteries with the graves of white pioneers. One of these is Shanks Cemetery just south of the Chest Springs.

The Indian villages and original white settlements are gone or built over by modern incarnations like Johnstown being built where an Indian settlement had been. You can get an idea of what Indian villages of the time were like at the Fort Hill archaeological site near Confluence in Somerset County.

You can also visit the Bushey Run Battlefield and visitors’ center in Jeannette.

A section of the Kittanning Trail still exists at Carrolltown. It has been surveyed to match the original trail and preserved.

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What’s the oldest photographs that you have seen? I think most people would think of Civil War photos being the oldest, and at close to 160 years old, they are old.

 

They aren’t the oldest photos around, though. A few heliographic photos from the 1820s still exist. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce invented heliography in 1822. He used Bitumen of Judea, a naturally occurring asphalt, to coat on glass or metal. It hardened the more it was exposed to light. When the plate was then washed with oil of lavender, the hardened areas remained. It could then be printed as an engraving would be.

 

Then in the late 1830’s, Louis Daguerre brought the world what is considered the first true photographs. His process was called a daguerreotype. He exposed a silver-plated copper sheet to iodine crystal vapor. The interaction formed a coating of silver iodide, which is light sensitive, on the plate. The plate, which is in a camera, is then exposed to a scene.

 

The problem with both heliographs and daguerreotypes was that they required long exposures. Daguerre realized that shorter exposures created a faint image that could be developed into an easily visible image when exposed to mercury vapor heated to 75 degrees Celsius. The mercury vapor also set the image so that it could be no further developed.

 

A final wash in heated salt water then created a plate that was safe to be handled and displayed.

An article in National Geographic said that upon seeing his first developed image, Daguerre said, “I have seized the light – I have arrested its flight!”

Daguerreotypes are the first type of photos that reached America.

 

The reason I bring both of these up is that I found an interesting YouTube Channel by Chubachus. It shows a series of the oldest surviving photos in the United States. These photos date back to the early 1840s. Another video I found showed the oldest photos in the world, which are heliographs dating back to the 1820s.

These photos aren’t dramatic like many Matthew Brady’s photos from the Civil War, but it is fascinating to see images of the world that are nearly 200 years old.

Forget about imagining America from paintings or descriptions. Why watch a movie that creates an older America using CGI when you can look at the real thing?

The photos in these videos remind me of an article I once saw that showed photographs of people who had lived during the Revolutionary War who managed to still be alive when photography reached America.

For me, it was like having a window opened that looked into the past.

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Thurmont’s Western Maryland Railroad Station.

On March 2, 1915, David Firor kissed his wife goodbye and told her that he would be back on the evening train from Baltimore. Then he headed into the city to buy Easter items for his store on East Main Street in Thurmont.

 

That evening, “The train came but Dave did not come home, and it was taken for granted that he did not get to finish his shopping and remained until next day as he had done on future occasions,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

When he failed to come home the next day, Firor’s wife and mother began to worry. They began to make inquiries at the places where he typically went, but no one could help them with any information.

Rumors began to run rampant. He had met with foul play in the streets of Baltimore. He was running from creditors because his business was about to go bankrupt. Both of these proved false.

Firor’s brother, J. W. Firor, was a professor at the University of Athens in Georgia. He took a leave of absence from his teaching to join his family in Thurmont. Then he set off for Baltimore to search for his brother in hospitals and other institutions.

Firor was 31 years old and had a medium build.  He stood 5 feet 6 inches tall and had black hair and eyes. He wasn’t particularly distinguishable from among hundreds of men in the city. J. W. made his inquiries, though, and walked through the hospital wards and looked at John Does in the morgue.

No sign could be found of him.

Ten days later, Grace Firor received a telegram from her husband. He was in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Losing all trace of his identity, knowing nothing whatever of his whereabouts until he was put ashore penniless from a dredge boat at Jacksonville, Florida, and cared for by a family of Italians, David Firor, of Thurmont, last Tuesday for the first time in a week realized who he was,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

The cause of the problem was what Firor called “sleepy-headedness” and the doctors called aphasia. In recent months, he had started sleeping a great deal of the time and when he slept, he was nearly impossible to wake. His mother even said that he could fall asleep talking or standing up.

Even after being found in Jacksonsville, he had an attack where he slept for 18 hours straight.

When asked about what had happened to him, Firor said that he couldn’t remember how he came to be on the boat. The last thing he remembered was speaking with Helen Rouzer, formerly of Thurmont, in a Baltimore Department Store.

He also had taken $60 with him to Baltimore when he left Thurmont. It was all missing when he reached Jacksonville. He didn’t remember what had happened to it, but since no orders were delivered to the store, he apparently didn’t spend the money on what it had been intended for.

Some people suggested that he may have been robbed. While this is a possibility, Firor still had his gold pocket watch on him when he was found. It seems unlikely that a robber wouldn’t have taken it as well.

Firor apparently never solved the mystery of what had happened to him during the missing days. He didn’t even know whether he had been conscious for most of them.

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Soldiers and their music

Victor-Victrola.jpgWar can certainly be a time of danger, but there are other times when soldiers are in camp stateside or behind the lines when they can relax.

Camp Meade near Laurel was named for Maj. Gen. George Meade. It became an active army installation in 1917. During World War I, more than 400,000 soldiers would pass through the camp to be trained for the war. It was the training site for three infantry divisions, three training battalions, and one depot brigade.

During the course of the war, 704 Garrett Countians would serve in the military and most of them were sent to Camp Meade for training. The Garrett County boys in Camp Meade in October 1917 were part of a company of 250 men from Garrett and Allegany counties and Baltimore City. The traveling agent with the B&O Railroad who had charge of the Garrett County recruits when they were taken to Camp Meade, said of them, “The boys from Garrett county were the finest bunch I have so far taken to any camp.”

Once at camp, their training went well. “We arrived safely in camp, and most everyone is well and getting along fine with our drills, considering the time we have been here,” six of the recruits – Henry Byrn Hamill, Earl W. Alexander, Harry M. Setzer, Paul R. Liston, Robert R. Glotfelty, John W. Livengood – wrote in a letter to The Republican.

They were healthy and happy. The Republican described them as “the finest specimens of young manhood in the country.”

They were bored, though.

The six recruits, who were representing all of the Garrett County recruits, asked if a subscription fund could be started to buy them a Victrola “as the time when off duty would pass much faster if we had a Victrola to cheer up the boys from ‘Old Garrett,’ and serve to keep them from getting blue,” the letter read.

Although today, Victrola has become a generic term for old phonographs, back then a Victrola was a brand of phonographs with an internal horn that was manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Company. They are not the older versions of phonographs that Victor used in its logo. This version had an external horn, and a dog sat in front of the horn to hear his master’s voice.

True Victrolas were first marketed in 1906 and quickly gained popularity. That popularity helped bring down the price to roughly $100 ($1,870 today) depending on where it was purchased.

The Republican staff jumped into action starting the subscription fund not only for a Victrola but also records that could be played on it. Not waiting for the next issue, staff began notifying people in town about the request.

Within an hour after the subscription efforts began, $46.50 in donations had come into the news room from 41 donors. E. H. Sincell pledged the most ($5) and some people pledged as little as 25 cents.

One minister gladly donated a dollar to the fund, telling the editor, “Never do you start anything for the boys again unless I am in on the ground floor. If this is insufficient for the purpose or if you want to raise another fund for anything else to come to me.”

The citizens of Friendsville took up a collection and raised $11 from 11 donors. The Girls Club of Gormania raised another $5 and mailed it to the newspaper office.

After a week, $83 had been raised from 74 donors. Within two weeks the $100 goal had been surpassed, and the boys from Garrett County had an enjoyable way to pass the time by the end of October.

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It takes a thief

diamonds.jpgIn 1922, York resident Herbert M. Rothery was 64 years old and at the top of his profession. His work was well-known in Europe, although nobody knows it was Rothery. Rothery was a jewel thief, in fact, newspaper reports called him the “Dean of Diamond and Jewelry Thieves.”

The York Dispatch noted that Rothery “is known not alone to the police of the United States, but has for years been sought by the authorities of the European continent. In England, where he once escaped from the Marlborough prison, his record is known to Scotland Yard and for years he was sought, without success, by the London metropolitan police.”

His escape from Marlborough prison was made in 1892, and he remained at large in Europe after that. He continued stealing and making good his escapes. He was feared because his targets were usually expensive hauls, and his getaways were clean.

“Men of Scotland Yard and continental police came to recognize Rothery’s work through it thoroughness and the absolute lack in any case of any definite trace or clue to the identity of the perpetrator of the crime,” the newspaper reported.

Rothery had a police record that dated back to 1886, according to an article in The Jeweler’s Circular. He fine-tuned his skills in Europe until his work was feared for its effectiveness and respected for it professional manner.

The York Dispatch also noted further evidence of Rothery’s success as a thief, writing, “Rothery bears evidence of prosperity, wears expensive clothing and has a distinguished air.”

Then he disappeared from Europe and never returned.

He began stealing again in the United States, but these were smaller jobs and sloppier. Now in his 60s, his skills may have been fading.

Although he was caught and imprisoned several times, he managed to escape despite extra precautions being taken. One of his techniques was to effect a disguise by dying his hair, goatee, and mustache.

He came to live in York for reasons unknown. He roomed with a family on Philadelphia Street near Pine Street. From York, he would make out-of-town trips for days and sometimes weeks, always returning.

“While he was living quietly in York last year, detectives believe, Rothery was planning big jewel and diamond robberies which, because of his arrest in Baltimore, he never got the opportunity to execute,” The York Dispatch reported.

He was arrested in 1919 in Baltimore after selling stolen jewelry to a fence. He was released on bail, but when his case came to trial, Rothery didn’t show, and by that time, he had also left York. He was finally arrested again while in St. Louis in 1922.

At that time, he was wanted in Syracuse, N. Y., for jumping bail; Washington, D. C. for jumping bail; Baltimore for escape; Ft. Madison, Iowa, for escape; Cincinnati for robbery; Buffalo, N. Y. for robbery; Sioux City, Iowa, for robbery; New Orleans for robbery; Denver for escaping from a cop after being charged with assault to kill; Atlanta for robbery; Omaha, Neb., for robbery; and Richmond for robbery.

“For many years he has been recognized as one of the most dangerous thieves operating against the jewelers of the country,” The Jeweler’s Circular noted.

The article also said that he was able to continually make bail because he had “powerful friends in New York and Chicago” who were willing to pay it when needed.

Once the extradition claims were sorted out, Rothery, who also went by the alias Henry McClelland, was sent back to Baltimore where he was sentenced to four years in the Maryland State Penitentiary there.

His luck had finally run out, and his long career had come to an end.

 

 

 

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