Happy New Year, Trailheads!

Please check the PHMC Newsletter for updates on site operations and schedules.

Just a brief note as we approach the arrival of 2010. Thanks to all of our readers (tell a friend) and to all of you who visited, volunteered at, or otherwise supported the sites on the Trails of History. 2009 was an eventful and very difficult year, one whose impact we will feel for some time to come. But life and history go on.

If your plans for New Year’s Eve include some couch potato time, tune in to PCN. Starting at 9:00 AM on December 31, they will be running a marathon of Pennsylvania State Bookstore presentations exploring a wide range of Commonwealth history and heritage. A real Trailheads holiday. For more information on the schedule or to find out about books related to the presentations, visit the bookstore online.

Those of you who will actually be leaving the house might want to check out the Twelfth Day program at Joseph Priestley House in Northumberland on Sunday afternoon, January 3rd. The program will feature Dr. Priestley reenactor Ronald Blatchley as well as costumed volunteers sharing the history of Twelfth Night, the traditional close of winter holiday activities in the colonial and federal periods. Visit the website for more details.

That’s all for this week. May 2010 find you happily exploring the Pennsylvania Trails of History.

Holiday Wrapup

Please check the PHMC Newsletter for updates on site operations and schedules.

As I write this, most of Pennsylvania is cleaning up from a major storm that dropped lots of snow on travelers, holiday shoppers, and everyone else. Beautiful to look at but messy, inconvenient, and downright dangerous for some. But it’s winter and we adjust.

Many sites on the Trails of History are adjusting to new staffing levels due to budget-related cuts (see link above for updates to operating schedules). Still, scheduled holiday programs have taken place and there are a few yet to come. If your plans allow, attending one of these programs is a wonderful way to share the season with others and to show your support for Pennsylvania’s heritage sites.

We kicked off the season with the annual Holiday Marketplace in Harrisburg, with a variety of sites showcasing goodies from their museum stores. Thank you to John Robinson (friend of PHMC) for the photos.

The reenactment of George Washington’s troops crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776 is a long-standing tradition at Washington Crossing State Park. The Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau has taken on much of the responsibility for the program this year and produced a video of the dress rehearsal to whet your appetites for the big event.

Another holiday tradition is the Lantern Tours at Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County. Ephrata’s junior historians, working with site staff and volunteers, bring the site to life with stories of the brothers, sisters, and householders. This year, they will tell the story of a fire at the community mill in December 1747 and its impact on life at Ephrata. It’s a beautiful site at any time of year but by lantern light it is a special treat. Reservations are required for the program, which is set for Dec. 26-29 from 6-9 p.m. (visit the website or call 717-733-6600).

Ephrata Cloister/photo by Elizabeth Bertheaud

The Anthracite Heritage Museum’s holiday programs have wrapped up but a display of German Christmas traditions continues through January 13 (visit their Facebook page for more info and for pictures of this season's holiday programs).

All of us here at the Trails of History wish you and yours a warm and peaceful holiday season.

You Look Great for 275

Please visit www.PATrailsofHistory.com for updates on site operations and schedules.

In honor of Daniel Boone’s 275th birthday, staff and volunteers at the Daniel Boone Homestead, working with the Daniel Boone Middle School and the Kentucky Humanities Council, organized programs for school students and the public that explored Boone’s national significance. Boone was born in the Oley Valley of Berks County, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 2 (Oct. 22 in the old-style calendar), 1734, and spent his first 16 years there until his family migrated to North Carolina.

The 2009 program (Oct. 27-29 at Daniel Boone Middle School and Nov. 1 at Daniel Boone Homestead) was the latest installment of a birthday initiative that dates back to 2005, when the first collaborative effort with Daniel Boone Area School District began. As part of a three-week integrated curriculum for 6th graders at Daniel Boone Middle School, students learn about life in Berks County in the 18th century, using history, geography, language arts, music, art, and science. The project includes a field trip to the Boone Homestead for a first-hand experience of Boone’s birthplace. Each year, noted scholars are brought in to talk with students and the public about Boone’s pivotal role in the settling of Kentucky and the western United States. This year’s program included Ted Franklin Belue from Murray State University in Kentucky, Oley Valley historian Phil Pendleton, and Scott New, with a first-person presentation of a return visit Boone made to the area in 1781.

Scott New (above), whose participation in the program was supported by the Kentucky Humanities Council, began doing historical presentations on Daniel Boone about 10 years ago, having spent countless hours immersed in researching the frontiersman’s life and hoping to correct some of the misconceptions Hollywood has helped create about Boone.

For more information on the programs, check out articles from the Reading Eagle here and here.

Honoring an Erie Veteran

Please check the PHMC newsletter for updates on site operations and schedules.

Our guest blogger this week is Linda Bolla from the Erie Maritime Museum; photos are by Linda Bolla and John Baker.

The Erie Maritime Museum’s Education Committee celebrated the Veterans Day holiday this year with a special program honoring a sailor better known locally for his long service on the U. S. S. Michigan than for his heroism during the Civil War. Chief Boatswain’s Mate Patrick Murphy received our nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, for his valor during the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864, but very few in the community remembered.

In the Summer of 2008, while researching the life and career of Patrick Murphy, volunteers at the Museum discovered that there was no indication of his service in the U.S. Navy, much less his Medal of Honor, at his gravesite. Furthermore, a 100-year-old arbor vitae beside his Trinity Cemetery marker had grown and tilted the marker’s base. The marker was slowly slipping off the base. The Cemetery promptly responded when this was brought to their attention, and reset the marker within two days. Museum volunteers obtained the proper period “GAR” flag holder and placed it that week. With no descendants to apply for the additional honor due to Patrick Murphy, the Museum’s Education Committee, with the help of Don Morfe (Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States) and Erie Diocesan Cemeteries, applied to the Veterans Administration for the granite Medal of Honor marker which was installed in 2009 and dedicated on November 8, 2009.

US Naval Training Center color guard and Civil War reenactor honor guard

The ceremony included a color guard from the U. S. Naval Training Center in Erie, as well an honor guard of Civil War sailors reenacted. A very moving moment in the service was when Taps was played on a bugle that was used on the U. S. S. Michigan/Wolverine, Murphy’s home vessel. The bugle is a family heirloom, originally played by Frank J. Grucza (U. S. S. Wolverine 1914-17). His grandson, Committee member Tim McLaughlin, made it available for use that day.

Ned Trautman plays Taps on USS Michigan/Wolverine bugle

Patrick Murphy’s personal story is told as part of the “USS Michigan/USS Wolverine: The Iron Steamer” exhibit at the Erie Maritime Museum. You can hear Frank Grucza’s bugle play the calls that are part of a touch screen kiosk in that exhibit. All of Erie County’s Navy Medal of Honor recipients are also honored in the Museum. Next spring, the Education Committee hopes to work with the U. S. Naval Training Center to landscape the gravesite.

Patrick Murphy’s Medal of Honor citation reads:

Served as Boatswain’s Mate on board the U.S.S. Metacomet, during action against rebel forts and gunboats and with the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Despite damage to his ship and the loss of several men on board as enemy fired raked her decks, Murphy performed his duties with skill and courage throughout a furious two-hour battle which resulted in the surrender of the rebel ram Tennessee and in damaging and destruction of batteries at Fort Morgan.

The citation does not detail the ferocity of that engagement. U. S. S. Metacomet was hit at least eleven times: a shell penetrated the hull, exploding the storeroom and setting it on fire; the mainsail was cut in two; two shells exploded in the starboard paddle box; the roof was blown off the pilot house; and a shot went through the foremast, cutting two shrouds. Murphy would have spent the entire time exposed on Metacomet’s deck, supervising the deck crew as they cleared wreckage and repaired rigging.

The Seed of a Nation

Please check the PHMC newsletter for updates on site operations and schedules.

Thanks to Kim McCarty for the photos for this post.

It’s been a long time in the making, but the new orientation exhibit at Pennsbury Manor is finally taking shape. For that we are truly thankful. Through the hard work of Pennsbury’s staff over the past 8 (plus) years, the new exhibit will introduce visitors to William Penn, his legacy, and the many people who made Pennsbury run. “’The Seed of a Nation’: Honoring William Penn’s Vision,” was designed by Steve Feldman Design of Philadelphia, through Interpretive Solutions, who also worked with the staff on the content development of the exhibit. Studio Displays, of Charlotte, North Carolina, is responsible for fabrication and installation. Financial support for the exhibit has come from the PHMC, the Pennsbury Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the William Penn Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and others (my sincere apologies to anyone I've left out).

Exhibit walls started going up in early October and the designer’s concepts are coming to life.

There's lots more work to do, so stay tuned for additional updates. And there’s still time to attend the second night of Pennsbury’s annual holiday event, Holly Nights (if you’re reading this on Dec. 4).