Happy New Year!

Taking a little break this week, except to remind you to check site schedules before visiting - some sites will probably close early today (12/30) and/or tomorrow (12/31) for New Year's Eve and all sites will be closed on New Year's Day.

The January program page is available now, if you're planning ahead.

Since this is a good time to look back at the year that is about to end, I've compiled a list of the top 5 most-viewed Trailheads posts from 2016 (as of Dec. 20). Enjoy and I'll see you next year!

#1 - Jumping on the [Hamilton] Bandwagon, July 8

#2 - Cool Stuff at which to Look, June 10

#3 - Happy Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2

#4 - PHMC curators log in for Ask a Curator, guest post by PHMC Social Media Manager Sean Adkins, Sept. 8

#5 - Stuff You May Have Missed, Aug. 19

The Gift of Learning

Santa in Shay locomotive at PA Lumber Museum 2016
Santa greeted visitors in the Shay locomotive at the PA Lumber Museum earlier this month (photo courtesy PLM)

If you're headed out onto the Trails of History this weekend or next week, please be sure to check ahead for schedule changes. Some sites will close early tomorrow (12/24) and all (except Washington Crossing) will be closed on Sunday (12/25). The Railroad Museum of PA will be open on Monday, Dec. 26 (per Facebook), although they are otherwise closed on Mondays this time of year. You can get to any of the sites through the Trails of History page on PHMC's website.

Speaking of the Railroad Museum, they are one of the sites included on the Radnor (Delaware County) Memorial Library's new Museum Pass program. The museum (along with Ephrata Cloister and Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum) is already part of the Library System of Lancaster County Family Museum Pass program. Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara are included in the Erie County Public Library Free Museum Pass program.

On Sunday, Dec. 25, Washington Crossing Historic Park will hold the annual Christmas Day reenactment of the Christmas night 1776 crossing of the Delaware River by Gen. George Washington and his troops. The commemoration begins at noon with the boats set to launch at 1 pm (river conditions permitting). If you aren't able to go in person, this year you can catch a livestream of the event on YouTube, starting at noon.

Ephrata Cloister's annual Lantern Tours program takes place Dec. 27-30, with tours leaving the visitor center every 30 minutes from 6:30 to 8 pm. Tickets are $10 (adults), $9 (seniors), $7 (students), and $5 (children). Reservations are required; call 717/733-6600. If an evening of Ephrata history isn't enough, you might consider signing up for the Winter History Class, which meets on Thursday mornings from Feb. 2 through March 30, with a field trip on April 6. A complete schedule is available on the website, along with a registration form.

Dec. 27-30, Brandywine Battlefield will host Holiday History Week, with special programming included in regular admission (so on top of the orientation film, visitor center exhibit, and tour of the Ring House). They've posted a list of the topics (different each day) on their Facebook page. Presentations will be offered at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.

If you were planning to sign your kids up for the Winter History Camp at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum Dec. 29-30, I'm afraid it's too late if you haven't already done it. Their website says the camp is full for this year.

The State Museum of PA's Noon Year's Eve program is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 30, from 10 am to 2 pm, with family-friendly activities and a balloon drop at noon (more details about schedule and activities).

Whatever the coming week means to you, I hope it is filled with light, peace, and moments of joy. And I wish you a healthy and productive 2017, with lots of opportunities to cultivate your love of history and learning. Thanks for reading.

On and Off the Trails

Please consult the December program page for details on upcoming events.

So, today's post includes some items from the Trails of History and a couple from off the trails that I thought might be of interest.

Lights on rigging of US Brig Niagara
Lights adorn the rigging of US Brig Niagara during last week's Christmas Tree Ship event (via Facebook)

Seasonal events continue on the Trails of History (see photo above and check the program page for details). Washington Crossing Historic Park has posted and shared photos from this year's first reenactment of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776 (read a first-hand account from a first-time participant). The 174th Infantry Brigade from Ft. Dix (NJ) was there, learning first-hand about The 10 Crucial Days (following the Christmas crossing) and experiencing the crossing and march to Trenton. The Christmas Day reenactment starts on Dec. 25 at noon with a commemorative program, with the boats set to launch around 1 pm (boat crossing is dependent on favorable river conditions, but the program takes place even if the boats can't cross).

If you can't make it to the crossing reenactment but still want to be immersed in the American Revolution and the Early Republic (beyond listening to the cast album of Hamilton again), the National Archives has developed a webpage they call Founders Online. They've gathered 176,000 searchable and annotated documents (thanks to the Founding Fathers Papers project) related to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and family, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. But you'll find many other people in these documents (for example, there are 988 letters written by Abigail Adams and 1,348 received by her). Just what every history geek needs!

UPDATE 12/20/16: WCHP will also be livestreaming the event on Dec. 25 on YouTube, starting at noon.

Still shopping for that hard-to-buy-for history lover? Consider a gift membership, museum store gift card, or admission passes to a site on the PA Trails of History. Or a one-of-a-kind item from one of our museum stores. Or a donation in honor of someone who already has all the stuff they need. That always fits.

Eckley Main Street photo by B Morin
Eckley Main Street (photo by Bode Morin)
Thanks to my Google Alerts, I ran across a Dec. 9 editorial from the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader where they were awarding diamonds (good) and coal (not-so-good) to various local organizations. And I quote: "Diamonds to Eckley Miners’ Village and the people who work to keep the historic coal patch town-turned-museum engaging. The village hosts events throughout the year, most recently the annual 'Christmas in Eckley.' Admittedly, it can be an uphill struggle to present crowd-luring options in a town from a far past, but it’s also important. This may be an aging coal area where anthracite plays a shrinking role, but its importance in our history should never be forgotten." Amen to that (and thank you, Times Leader, for recognizing the folks at Eckley.)

On a related note, but off the Trails of History, I also ran into a Kickstarter project raising funds for conservation work on a coal-region mural painted in 1946 by Franz Kline (later known for his black-and-white abstract paintings). Kline was from Lehighton and painted the mural at the local American Legion post, which has now turned it over to the Allentown Art Museum. The video that goes with the Kickstarter campaign is interesting if for no other reason than it shows the museum's conservators removing it from the wall and preparing it for transport.

And one final item for this week. You may be familiar with Comedy Central's "Drunk History" program where comedians (mostly) get drunk and recount a historical event. A cast of regulars and guests then reenact the drunk's telling of the story, word-for-sloppy-word. It sometimes sheds light (however inebriated) on lesser-known aspects of history or facets of well-known stories. It can be very funny--the Harriet Tubman episode has become very popular--or not funny at all if watching people get drunk disturbs or offends you. Anyway, the Indiana Historical Society staff, wanting to try something similar but without the public drunkenness, created "Hot Pepper History." For each segment, the narrator(s) take a bite of a habanero or other fiery pepper and then try to tell a story from Indiana history. They've compiled a highlight segment, which gives you a good idea of the premise, and you can find the full episodes (generally 3-5 minutes long) on YouTube (The Fairbanks Tea Party is worth your time, I think). Who says history can't be fun?

Life in Pictures

We had a special extra post this week, a piece written by BHSM's Collections Advancement Project curator, Rachel Yerger, about hunter Helen Sites Miller and her hunting-related items in the exhibit at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. If you missed it, please be sure to take a look. As always, the December program page has info on Trails of History events this weekend and beyond.

So, recapping some recent events and looking ahead to some upcoming stuff:

This week marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet Hawaii by aircraft from the Japanese Imperial Navy. The State Museum of PA opened a new exhibit, Pennsylvania at War: The Saga of the USS Pennsylvania, exploring the history of PA's eponymous battleship during World War I and World War II. And the Pennsylvania Military Museum hosted its annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day tribute beneath two 14-inch guns that were on the USS Pennsylvania at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Local news covered the event (Centre Daily Times article and footage from WTAJ-TV), which included US Navy CPT Jim Bloom (Ret), a Marine Corps League color guard, a 21-Gun salute by the Nittany Navy League, and "Taps" played by a US Navy bugler.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance at PA Military Museum 2016
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day tribute, PA Military Museum 2016 (photo courtesy PMM)
On Veterans Day, staff and volunteers from the Erie Maritime Museum and US Brig Niagara were on hand at Presque Isle State Park provide interpretation on Erie's military history. During the remainder of November, the Museum was a collection point for personal care items for members of the armed forces (included in earlier Trailheads post). As a follow-up, the museum's Linda Bolla reported: "Thanks to the generosity of many in November, the Presque Isle Partnership, Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC), and the Erie Maritime Museum partnered to collect enough comfort items for active duty service men and women to fill 32 boxes! Every box contained letters of thanks, written by students at Harborcreek Youth Services, Maplewood Jr. & Sr. High School, or visitors to TREC. A cash donation by the City of Erie helped purchase additional items not donated during the drive, and Erie V.F.W. Post 470 paid to ship the boxes, most destined for overseas military personnel from Northwestern Pennsylvania." Thank you all for your role in this effort.

Personal items collected for service members
Boxes ready for shipment
Photos by Linda Bolla

Candlelight at Pennsbury Holly Nights 2016
Holly Nights 2016 via Pennsbury Manor Facebook page

Members of the Pittsburgh Opera Company performed at Old Economy Village's annual fundraising dinner this week. (Visit Old Economy's Facebook page to hear more.)

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum shared Jennifer MacNeill Photography's album of images from last weekend's Country Christmas Village event. If you've enjoyed Jen's photos of Landis Valley (and other sites) in the past, you'll want to take a look. And if you haven't enjoyed them in the past, you'll want to start now. In my opinion.

There are lots of programs this weekend on the Trails of History (check the December page for details). I'll leave you with this snowy photo from Erie, taken yesterday (12/8) - perfect weather for the 2016 Christmas Tree Ship program.

Snow in Erie December 8 2016
Niagara under winter cover, Dec. 8, 2016, awaiting the arrival of Santa (from Facebook)

Historic hunting: Helen Sites Miller excelled at male-dominated pastime

Helen Sites Miller, an active hunter in the Potter County area throughout the 1950s, posing with her catch.
Many sportsmen have descend upon the more than 2 million acres of state-managed land open to recreational hunting and trapping. Welcome to deer hunting season in Pennsylvania. But don’t let the term “sportsmen” throw you off. Many women, as well as men, excel at hunting. For example, in this photo from the collections of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, we see Helen Sites Miller, an active hunter in the Potter County area throughout the 1950s, posing with her catch. This photograph was taken around 1957-1958 in Thompson Hollow, a community situated between Coudersport and Galeton in Potter County. The rifle depicted in the photograph is a Remington Winchester lever-action Model 94, .30-30, which Helen used for hunting through the early 1960s.

In order for Helen to legally hunt doe in Pennsylvania, she had to have a hunting license, obtained then and now through the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC). Created in 1895 PGC enforces hunting and trapping laws and regulations. In addition, PGC conducts hunter-trapper educational programs, determines the various hunting seasons, sets bag limits and conducts wildlife research. Licenses vary according to season and type of animal, and if a licensed hunter is as skilled as Miller, the catch must be reported to PGC.

You may be wondering why the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum preserves hunting-related artifacts. The museum collects, preserves and interprets the history of Pennsylvania’s forests, which includes recreational activities such as hunting. This photograph of Helen Sites Miller is currently on display at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, along with her rifle and hunting license.

We thank Rachel Yerger, a museum Curator with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums, for writing this article.


Be sure to check out the December programs page for all your holiday needs.

This Sunday (12/4) at 2 pm, the State Museum of PA will open a new exhibit, Pennsylvania at War: The Saga of the USS Pennsylvania. On view through the end of 2017, the exhibit explores the history of Pennsylvania's namesake ship during World War I and World War II (there have been several - earlier and later - that carried the name). The exhibit also inaugurates PHMC's most recent history initiative, "Pennsylvania at War," commemorating the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into WWI (2017) and the 75th anniversary of entry into WWII (2016). On a related note, the Pennsylvania Military Museum will hold its annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day tribute on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 12:45 pm. The event (rain or shine) takes place beneath two 14-inch guns from USS Pennsylvania. The ship was in dry dock at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. You can read more about USS Pennsylvania and about how the Pennsy guns ended up at the PA Military Museum in the Fall 2016 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage magazine.

Earlier this week, the State Museum shared a short clip of curators and exhibit staff installing a detailed scale model of USS Pennsylvania in the gallery (see below). I've included a photo of the Pennsy Guns at PMM to give you an idea of the size of the ship.

2015 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Tribute (photo by Chuck Smith)

So, if this kind of activity - museum and archival work - appeals to you, there are currently three PA State Civil Service Commission tests open to fill jobs with the PHMC. They're called tests, but they're more of a resume restatement around a series of pre-qualifying factors (I ain't been a bureaucrat for more than 20 years for nothin'). Anyway, those who successfully pre-qualify are placed on a list from which interviews are scheduled when a civil service job opening is filled. (Unless you are in a PA civil service classification that allows you to bid on a job opening, you MUST be on the list to be eligible for consideration.) The timetables and requirements vary, so please be sure to read and follow all instructions carefully. Each test announcement includes info on existing vacancies, but these lists will be used for future openings as well (until the list is exhausted or expires). So don't wait!!

What Are You Thankful For?

Trailheads is a little early this week to get ahead of the holiday.

I am thankful for my husband, my family, my friends, and my colleagues. I am thankful for my health and my home. I am thankful for reminders that I should never take any of these things for granted, because there are so many people who cannot even take their next meal or a safe place to live for granted. I am thankful for all of you who read Trailheads and who support the work of everyone on the PHMC's Trails of History. What are you thankful for?

Getz Dry House at Landis Valley Before and After preservation
Thankful for the work of PHMC's Preservation Field Services section - this is the Getz Dry House at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, before and after restoration work (photo by Rob Coates)
All of our Trails of History sites will be closed tomorrow, Nov. 24, for Thanksgiving. The following will be open on Friday, Nov. 25:

Regular schedules resume on Saturday, Nov. 26, but please be sure to check ahead. Operating schedules change seasonally at a number of sites, so it's always best to be sure the site you want to visit will be open when you plan to be there (list of all sites). And don't forget to remember your favorite site on #GivingTuesday, Nov. 29. (UPDATE: Daniel Boone Homestead sent me a link to the donation page on their website to make it easier.)

Remember to "Shop Small" at Ephrata Cloister and all Trails of History museum stores
I've posted the list of December programs for those of you who like to plan ahead (holiday programming starts on Dec. 1), but there's still stuff to do in November!

Saturday, Nov. 26
  • Patriots's Day, Brandywine Battlefield Park, admission charged (details), 10 am-4pm
  • Candlelight Open House, Ephrata Cloister, admission charged (details), 5-8:30 pm
  • A Continental Christmas, Graeme Park, free admission (details), noon-4pm
  • Wreaths & Greens Workshop, Pennsbury Manor, advance registration required (details), 10 am-noon or 1-3 pm

Starting Tuesday, Nov. 29
  • Christmastime for Children, Old Economy Village, advance registration required (details)

I will all of you a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving, full of good things. If you'd like to explore your family history while you have everyone gathered, The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has developed a list of questions to help you get started.

Moving Forward

If you're looking for things to do this weekend, please check out the November program page for ideas.

All Trails of History sites will be closed on Thanksgiving, and many will be closed the following day. Please check the list of Trails of History sites that will be open on Black Friday before you head out.

Today, Nov. 18, is the Lancaster County Community Foundation's Extraordinary Give, a 24-hour online giving marathon (runs until 11:59 pm). The three Trails of History sites in Lancaster County are participating, so you can get your year-end giving started early - Ephrata Cloister, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, and the Railroad Museum of PA. For those of you in other parts of the state, it's not too soon to start thinking about a gift in support of your favorite site!

Garden at Eckley Miners' Village (AKFox photo)
Garden at Eckley Miners' Village 2014 (AKFox photo)
Patrick McDonnell, acting secretary of the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), and State Sen. John Yudichak (D-Plymouth Twp) were at Eckley Miners' Village earlier this month to announce a project to extend the Greater Hazleton Rails-to-Trails to the village, reclaim a 62-acre abandoned mine site, and clean up Hazle Creek and Black Creek for fishing and recreation. Noting the project's economic, environmental, and cultural benefits, McDonnell said, “We’re literally creating a path here between recreation and cultural tours and opportunities the village represents. It is really critical to understand where it is we came from. Investing in these kinds of projects is investing in our communities, our culture, and our history. It demonstrates how environmental benefits and economic goals can be combined.” (Read more about the project in The Citizens' Voice article.)

Gunpowder Joe at Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble

While I was preparing a tweet about the Joseph Priestley House for #LoveTheatreDay (Nov. 16), my Google Alerts showed me an article about the naming of a new building at Birmingham (UK) City University for our own Dr. Priestley. The building was officially dedicated by the 9th Marquess of Landsdowne, whose home - Bowood House - was the site of Dr. Priestley's experiments with oxygen (he was a tutor in the household of the 1st Marquess). In naming the building for Joseph Priestley, Lord Landsdowne explained that this “will ensure that his legacy, linked with Birmingham City University, continues.” On this side of the Atlantic, Dr. Priestley's legacy continues as well. His American home and laboratory are part of the PA Trails of History, open to the public through a partnership between PHMC and the Friends of Joseph Priestley House. This January, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble will premiere a new play by Anthony Clarvoe, Gunpowder Joe: Joseph Priestley, Pennsylvania, and the American Experiment (that's what I was tweeting about).

Great Hall table set for Holly Nights at Pennsbury
Great Hall table, Pennsbury Manor (from Facebook)
And although it's not even Thanksgiving yet, I'm sharing a sneak peek photo from Pennsbury Manor for their annual Holly Nights event, scheduled for Dec. 1 and 2 (online tickets available until noon on Nov. 30 - purchase by Nov. 25 and receive a discount). Just because.

Veterans Day 2016

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919, "Armistice Day" to commemorate the end of hostilities in World War I and honor veterans of that war. In 1954, November 11 became "Veterans Day" to include veterans of World War II and to honor all U.S. veterans. On the Trails of History, we mark this day, but we are working continually to honor Pennsylvania's veterans and to tell their stories to the present and future generations. As noted in last week's post, PHMC's current Pennsylvania at War initiative is focused on U.S. involvement in World War I and World War II. The State Museum will open a new exhibit on the USS Pennsylvania on December 4. And we are currently working on new long-term exhibits at the Pennsylvania Military Museum that will explore the role of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians in all of our nation's military conflicts.

Today, many sites on the Pennsylvania Trails of History are closed for the holiday. The following will be open regular hours:

Staff and volunteers from the Erie Maritime Museum will participate in Veterans Appreciation Day activities at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center and Presque Isle State Park. From 10 am to 2 pm today, museum personnel will provide War of 1812 and Civil War Navy living history and historical displays and participate in a flag raising service. In addition, through November 23, the museum will be a collection point for items to be sent to active duty military personnel.

The PA Military Museum has events all weekend:
  • Today the museum will offer free admission for veterans and their families during regular operating hours (10 am-5 pm). In addition, the museum will partner with the Centre County Library to offer a genealogy workshop geared toward fundamentals of military history and using military records to research your family. The one-hour genealogy workshop is included in regular admission (for non-veterans) and will be offered twice - at 10 am and 2 pm.
  • Tomorrow (11/12), is Kids Day IV - Dress Up and Discover!! Kids of all ages get to try on military uniforms from the museum education collection. Photo ops in the museum theatre. Visit the education stations in the galleries for more fun discoveries throughout the day. Parents must remain on-site while their kids participate in the activities. Included in regular admission. 10:00 am-3:00 pm.
  • Sunday, Nov. 13, the museum will show the documentary film In the Footsteps of Bud Owens, which tells the story of a World War II airman shot down over France. Donation requested. 1 pm.

Honoring Veterans and History

Please note that the November program page and a list of Trails of History sites open on various November holidays are now available. And don't forget that we "fall back" an hour at 2 am on Sunday, as Daylight Saving Time ends.

Today (Nov. 4) at 11 am, PHMC's Pennsylvania Trails of History will be broadcasting on #FacebookLive, at the official recognition of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania as a new member of the Smithsonian Affiliates program. Friday and Saturday, Norfolk Southern's Pennsylvania Railroad Heritage Engine will be on view at the museum.

While Veterans Day is not for another week, there is a new PHMC initiative that I wanted to highlight, as well as several military history events happening over the coming week.

In late October PHMC launched an initiative called "Pennsylvania at War" that brings together public events, exhibits, and other activities commemorating U.S. entry into World War I (100th anniversary in 2017) and World War II (75th anniversary in 2016). Follow #PAatWar on Twitter to keep up to date on offerings now through the end of 2017; even if your organization is not part of PHMC you can use the hashtag to highlight your events.

This weekend
Tomorrow, Nov. 5, Historic Hope Lodge will present its annual reenactment of the Nov. 2-Dec. 11, 1777, encampment of Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army in the Whitemarsh Hills. Please note that this is now a one-day event (program details are on the Hope Lodge website). Admission cost is $8 for ages 18-59, $5 for ages 6-17 and 60+, free for members and children age 5 and younger; there is a family rate of $20 per car. Cash only for ticket sales at the gate, but you can buy tickets online (with a small service fee) via PayPal if you prefer to use a credit card (be sure to bring your receipt). The encampment is open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm (rain or shine).

Penn State University (Main Campus) is holding a Military Appreciation Day tailgate at the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday (11/5) starting at 3 pm. Prior to that event, from 10 am to 2:30 pm, the Pennsylvania Military Museum will hold a pre-tailgate program of guided tours, lectures, living history reenactments, and the presentation of service pins to Vietnam veterans in attendance. The reenactments and a tour of armored vehicles will take place outside, weather permitting; the lectures and presentations will take place inside the museum. Admission will be free for veterans and their families, and is always free for active duty military and their families (regular admission rates apply for others).

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania's annual "Trains & Troops" program, Nov. 5-6, salutes our armed forces and explores connections between the military and railroad history. Reenactors and displays of equipment will be in Rolling Stock Hall, military music and tributes will be offered each day, and (weather permitting) vintage airplanes will do a flyover (see more detailed schedule on the website). A special addition this year (Sat., 11/5, at 1:30 pm) will be the dedication of the newly restored "Lindbergh Engine" in Rolling Stock Hall. And Saturday night is the annual Swing Dance, featuring the big band music of the Moonlighters (tickets for the dance or combo tickets for the dance and museum admission are available online.)

Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11
Staff and volunteers from the Erie Maritime Museum will participate in Veterans Appreciation Day activities at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center and Presque Isle State Park. From 10 am to 2 pm, museum personnel will provide War of 1812 and Civil War Navy living history and historical displays and participate in a flag raising service. In addition, through November 23, the museum will be a collection point for items to be sent to active duty military personnel (see list below).

The Military Museum will offer free admission for veterans and their families on Veterans Day during regular operating hours (10 am-5 pm). In addition, the museum will partner with the Centre County Library to offer a genealogy workshop geared toward fundamentals of military history and using military records to research your family. The one-hour genealogy workshop is included in regular admission (for non-veterans) and will be offered twice - at 10 am and 2 pm.

The Hex Hollow Murders

Looking for events on the Trails of History - Halloween-themed or otherwise? Check out the October program page.

Today's guest post is by Corine Lehigh, an archival clerk at the PA State Archives. She is currently attending Penn State Harrisburg for her graduate degree in American Studies. Corine has contributed to Trailheads several times, including her first post as an Archives intern. Please note that there is some slightly graphic historical description below - don't say you weren't warned!

Powwowing, or brauche in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, is a magico-religious practice whose chief purpose is the healing of physical ailments in humans and animals. It has had other aims as well, such as conferring protection from physical or spiritual harm, bringing good luck, and revealing hidden information. Powwowing has been practiced in Pennsylvania since the first German-speaking Protestant settlers arrived in the 18th century. Prior to the late 20th century, powwowing was practiced routinely by the descendants of these European settlers.

Don Yoder, a recognized expert on Pennsylvania German folklore and customs, considered powwowing to be based on ancient religious healing traditions sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church. It was driven underground among Protestant populations, such as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and placed into the hands of lay practitioners. Its more direct antecedent was the book The Long Lost Friend, written in 1820 by Berks County healer John George Hohman. Eight to twelve powwow practitioners still live and work in south central PA today. Powwowing rituals involve the use of one or more acts, varying between incantations, gestures and body position, and manipulation of physical objects. Modern powwowers have their recipes committed to memory and none of them use any of the charm books historically employed by powwowers, such as The Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses, Egyptian Secrets, or The Long Lost Friend.

Nelson Rehmeyer, of York County, was an alleged powwower in the 1920s. His neighbor John Blymire reportedly had a run of bad luck, including losing his job. Blymire consulted the local river witch, another powwower named Nellie Noll. Nellie told Blymire that his bad luck was due to a hex that Rehmeyer had put on him. Nellie told Blymire that he needed to steal Rehmeyer’s spell book, along with a lock of his hair, and bury both 6 feet underground. On Nov. 28, 1928, Blymire and two local accomplices went to Rehmeyer’s house to retrieve the items. Rehmeyer confronted them. Blymire and the two local boys tied Rehmeyer up, beat him, and strangled him to death. They then set his body on fire. The house withstood the fire, which was put out by heavy rainfall that day. However, the spot where Rehmeyer’s body burned left a charred spot on the wood floor. The case quickly drew national attention. Blymire and his accomplices were jailed. Despite this, Blymire stated until his death that once Rehmeyer was dead, his bad luck was gone. Rehmeyer’s house still stands in southern York County, and some say it is haunted by his spirit, still not at rest.

(Editor's note) For more information on Pennsylvania German culture, the history of powwowing, or the Hex Hollow case:

It May Not Feel Like Fall

Looking for stuff to do this weekend? Check out the October program page for ideas.

Fall has arrived at Bushy Run Battlefield (via Facebook)
This blast of warm air has made it feel like summer again, but it is harvest time on the Trails of History. Autumn is my favorite season, so I'm always happy to see photos from sites with fall colors and harvest-themed programs. You can find lots of photos on Facebook: Harvest Days at Landis Valley (courtesy of Jennifer Macneill Photography), Pennsbury Manor's Harvest Day school program, or Bonfire at the Furnaces (as in Scranton Iron Furnaces). If you aren't already following the PA Trails of History interest page on Facebook, it's a great way to see all of these things and more in one place.


As part of the development of the next statewide preservation plan, the State Historic Preservation Office (part of PHMC) is hosting a series of Open Houses and Community Forums to gather public input and hear what people have to say. Some of the open houses have been or will be at Trails of History sites. The schedule runs through November, so there's still time to take part by attending in person or by responding to an online survey. The PA Historic Preservation blog has more information and links. PHMC recorded the discussion at the open house held at the PA Military Museum earlier this week, and you can watch it on Facebook.


On Twitter this week, PHMC connected the dots of National Chemistry Week (I know, it always sneaks up on me, too) and the Joseph Priestley House. The house is open this weekend, so why not take a drive along the Susquehanna and stop in for a visit? (Check the website for details.) And, mark your calendars for the world premiere of a new play, Gunpowder Joe: Joseph Priestley, Pennsylvania, and the American Experiment, by Anthony Clarvoe. (You'll find a quote on JPH's website that helps explain the title.) Directed by Laurie McCants and presented by the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, the play will run Thursdays through Sundays, Jan. 19 to Feb. 5, 2017. Jan. 19-20 are preview performances (no reservations, pay what you wish), and Jan. 21 is opening night (pay what you decide after the performance). The play resulted from a collaboration between the playwright, the Friends of Joseph Priestley House, and Bucknell University. There will be a symposium on Dr. Priestley along with the matinee performance on Sunday, Jan. 22 (we'll provide more details later). For more information, visit the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble website.

While I'm Away

Trailheads is taking a little fall vacay this week, so how about a quick list of events coming up this weekend? (Full list of October programs.) Since I won't be here to update this list (accurate as far as I know as of Oct. 6, your honor), please check ahead in the event of bad weather or other circumstances I can't foresee (i.e. please don't blame me if it's rained out). See you next week!

Anthracite Heritage Museum and Scranton Iron Furnaces
Oct. 15: Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces—experience ethnic traditions from Scranton's past and present, food, music, a pumpkin-carving contest, and a roaring bonfire. Visit the Bonfire Facebook page for ticket info and program updates. 6-10 pm.

Conrad Weiser Homestead
Oct. 16: Living History Sunday and Fall Park Walk—enjoy the beautiful Olmsted-designed park, as well as guided historic tours of the site. Free admission. Noon-4 pm (park walk is at 2).

Ephrata Cloister
Oct. 16: Sunday Conversations Series—Nick Siegert, guide supervisor, will talk about "The Sacred Geometry of the Ephrata Cloister." No fee for the presentation; regular admission rates apply to tour the site. 3-4 pm.

Hope Lodge
Oct. 16: Site open—Hope Lodge will be open 12:30-4 pm, with guided tours at 1:00 and 2:30 pm. Admission charged.

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Oct. 15: Folk Art and Friendship Series—"Sweet as Sin: The History of Candy," with author Susan Benjamin; cost is $25 (includes samples!). More information and registration materials for this class (and others coming up) are on the website.

Pennsbury Manor
Oct. 16: Open Hearth Cooking—today's event (compares recipes from William Shakespeare's time with those of William Penn, in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death). Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
Oct. 16: PALMA Annual Meeting—open to members of the PA Lumber Museum Associates (but you can always join if you aren't already a member), the meeting will feature a screening of the documentary America's First Forest: Carl Schenck and the Asheville Experiment. Schenck, who founded the first forestry school in the U.S., is featured in the Lumber Museum's award-winning exhibit, "Challenges and Choices in Pennsylvania's Forests," alongside notable Pennsylvania conservationists Mira Lloyd Dock, Gifford Pinchot, and Joseph Rothrock. 1 pm.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Oct. 14: Learn@Lunchtime Program—today's program is Happy Birthday, William Penn. Included in general admission. 12:15-12:45 pm.
Oct. 14: Night of the Great Pumpkin—Tonight's family-friendly Halloween-themed event includes a visit from Triple-J Reptiles, along with crafts, a planetarium show, and other seasonal fun. Admission is free. 5:30-7:30 pm.

Washington Crossing Historic Park
Oct. 16: Autumn Encampment and Market—this event combines an 18th-century style marketplace with Revolutionary era military drills. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children age 5-11 (also includes admission to the Thompson-Neely House and Bowman's Hill Tower). 10 am-4 pm (rain or shine).

Keeping Track of What We Have

But first, a few oddments of info (oh, dear). Most sites on the PHMC's Trails of History will be closed on Monday, Oct. 10 for Columbus Day, with the exception of Drake Well Museum, Fort Pitt Museum, the Railroad Museum of PA, and (I think) Washington Crossing Historic Park. The October program listings are full of interesting things to do this weekend and beyond.

In the midst of working with Sean Adkins on last week's guest post about #AskAnArchivist, I missed the fact that it was the 400th Trailheads post since we started this blog in August of 2009. Whew.

I've adapted this week's post from material provided by David Dunn, chief of special projects for the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. Dave is overseeing a collections inventory at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum as part of PHMC's Collections Advancement Project (CAP).

Harvest Days, at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, is this weekend, Oct. 8-9
Beginning in April of this year, the PHMC assigned David Dunn to lead a team for the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums (BHSM) that would begin conducting a physical inventory of all collections spaces at the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum. The team will eventually consist of two full-time members, but for now Dunn is working with curators from the PHMC’s Collections Advancement Project (CAP) and volunteers that he is training to assist with the work [more on that later].

Over the course of several decades in the early 20th century, brothers Henry and George Landis assembled a massive and diverse collection of decorative arts, fine arts and agricultural implements and tools, which was turned over to the state in 1953 to be administered by PHMC as the Landis Valley Museum. In addition to the original Landis donation, for the next 60 years the Museum continued to selectively add items to the collection, bringing the estimated total of objects in the collection to approximately 150,000 items today. (Learn more about the history of Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum.)

The last complete physical inventory of the Landis Valley collection was conducted in 1983, although the site’s curators and other staff regularly conduct spot inventories of high-traffic buildings and public areas (in addition to their many other ongoing responsibilities caring for and exhibiting this large collection). The earlier inventory was recorded on paper forms, so updating and searching (activities we now take for granted with the advent of computer databases and spreadsheets) were extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible.

Project work began on the 3rd Floor Mezzanine of the Landis Collections Gallery (photo by Landis Valley curator Bruce Bomberger)
One of the first steps of the 2016 inventory project was to gather collections data (including digital images) and align it with PHMC collections management software (a new system is coming on line as we speak, so that created some challenges as well). With the existing data gathered and a map of the collections storage areas created, the physical inventory began in June, starting on the top level of the Landis Collections Gallery. Shelf by shelf, Dunn and various team members examine each object – one person calling out the accessions number, a brief description, measurements, and basic condition and the other recording the data on the laptop. If an object hasn’t already been photographed for the records, the caller or recorder also takes a digital image that is labeled with the object’s catalog number.

BHSM CAP curator Rachel Yerger assists David Dunn with inventory (photo by Bruce Bomberger)
Items inventoried as of late August included more than 400 pieces of late 19th- and early 20th-century office equipment, a carousel horse, and a variety of English ceramic forms including transfer printed hollowware, yellowware, mochaware, hotel china, Gaudy Dutch, and Gaudy Welsh collected by the Landis brothers at regional auctions over several decades.

The process is considerably more involved and time-consuming than we have space to convey here. If you’re interested in learning first-hand about the inventory process and have some free time during the week, you may want to offer your services as a volunteer. Contact David Dunn at dadunn@pa.gov or 717/569-0401, ext. 230, to discuss opportunities to support this important effort.

Volunteer Sharon O'Neal-Lehner assists as recorder for Landis Valley inventory

Bring your Questions to Ask An Archivist on October 5

The new listings for October events on the Trails of History are up. Since October starts tomorrow, I guess that's a good thing! Lots to do to celebrate fall.

Today's post comes from PHMC Social Media Manager Sean Adkins, with info on the Pennsylvania State Archives and #AskAnArchivist, coming up next Wednesday, Oct. 5.

The Pennsylvania State Archives has a had busy year. This spring, the Archives unveiled plans to build a new home on a multi-acre plot along North Sixth Street in Harrisburg. Paying homage to Pennsylvania's namesake, William Penn, the address for the soon-to-be built project will be 1681 N. Sixth St. in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania was created when England’s King Charles II granted a charter to Penn in 1681.

So...with news for the new Archives building still fresh in our minds and the always present need to know more about Pennsylvania history, there should be no shortage of questions from the public for Ask An Archivist Day.

Maybe we should back up a little, just in case you missed last year's Ask An Archivist Day or are not familiar with this popular Twitter event.

On Wednesday, October 5, four archivists with the Pennsylvania State Archives will participate in Ask An Archivist Day by taking to Twitter to answer your most pressing, or silly, questions regarding the state's archival collections.

Sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, Ask An Archivist offers the public the opportunity to connect directly to archivists in their community — and around the country — through asking questions, gathering information, or just satisfying curiosity.

Experts in protecting and sharing important historical materials, archivists assess, collect, organize, preserve and provide access to information that has lasting value.

Here are the folks who will be answering your questions :

Aaron McWilliams
-- Join archivist Aaron McWilliams from 11 a.m. to noon as he shares his knowledge of researching family histories and genealogy.   So far, nearly 14 million documents preserved by the Pennsylvania State Archives have been digitized by Ancestry.com and are available free of charge to Commonwealth residents.  These documents include select years of birth and death records, World War II bonus applications and marriage records.  

Kurt Bell 
-- Following up Aaron McWilliams will be his fellow archivist, Kurt Bell.  A 20-year veteran of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Bell will spend 30 minutes answering questions about the railroad, oil, coal and iron industries. Bell will be available for his Q&A from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Rich Saylor

-- Next up will be Rich Saylor.  Last year, Saylor fielded questions on pretty much anything related to  Pennsylvania military history.  This year,  he's still willing to answer those same type of questions, however, his preferred area of Q&A will be focused on World War I history.  Did you know that the Pennsylvania State Archives, in cooperation with the State Library of Pennsylvania, has digitized a collection of World War I posters?  Join Rich from 12:30 to 1 p.m.

Josh Stahlman

--Rounding out the day will be archivist Josh Stahlman who will offer tips on preserving your family records.  Join Josh from 1 to 1:30 p.m.

How do I participate?  

#AskAnArchivist Day is open to everyone - all you need is a Twitter account. To participate, just tweet a question @PHMC and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Your question will be seen instantly by our archivists.

You can ask pretty much any question that comes to mind. Here are a few examples from the Society of American Archivists:
  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve come across in your collections?
  • If your archives had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
  • What do archivists talk about around the water cooler?
  • How do you decide what should be kept and what should not?

In the News and Coming Up

There's still stuff to do in September on the Trails of History - check out the monthly program page. I plan to have the October listing available next week.

PA Lumber Museum receives AASLH award
(from left) Julia Rose, AASLH Chair; Josh Roth, site administrator, PA Lumber Museum; John Dichtl, AASLH President and CEO (photo via AASLH Facebook page)
The Bradford Era picked up the story of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum's core exhibit receiving a Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). Site administrator Josh Roth was in Detroit last week to receive the award on behalf of the museum and PHMC.

The Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce is holding a history-themed murder mystery event on Oct. 1 (since I won't have the October program listing up until late next week, I'm mentioning it now). The action of the story is set in 1941, the year Ephrata celebrated its 50th birthday (they're celebrating their 125th this year) and the beginnings of restoration work at Ephrata Cloister were getting underway. Michael Showalter, museum educator at Ephrata Cloister, wrote the script for the murder mystery event, weaving together borough and Cloister history - some vignettes will take place at Ephrata Cloister. If you're interested in attending, you can find out more info in an article in the Ephrata Review.

The Daily Item (Sunbury) last weekend included two articles on a new children's exhibit and education area at the Joseph Priestley House, which explores what life was like for families other than the Priestleys who lived in Northumberland and surrounding areas in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In other Priestley House developments, the third in a series of videos about Dr. Priestley's scientific work identifying and isolating various gases is now available. Each video provides historical information on Priestley's work and shows experiments in a modern laboratory. The most recent video focuses on nitrous oxide and was partially funded by the Dept. of Anesthesiology at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center (previous videos covered carbon monoxide and ammonia).

Walter's Mill Covered Bridge Somerset Historical Center
Walter's Mill Covered Bridge at Somerset Historical Center (photo by Janice Mullin)
Earlier this week I got around to checking my Google Alerts folder (it had been several weeks), I found an article from the Fort Morgan (Colorado) Times about a local 4-H group that visited western Pennsylvania in July. Among the many sites they visited was Somerset Historical Center, and the article includes a photo of the students in front of the Walter's Mill Covered Bridge. Coincidentally (?) there was a more recent story about a new self-guided tour brochure for Somerset County. The Bridges of Somerset County brochure and map, supported by the Somerset County Tourism Grant Program, lists covered bridges and historic sites as well as recreational trails and other points of interest (you can download a copy of the brochure online).

We Want You!

Please check out the September program page for things to do this weekend and next week on the PHMC's Trails of History.

Here on the PA Trails of History, we are blessed with a great many wonderful volunteers who serve their fellow citizens by supporting programs and activities at our sites and museums. Each year we recognize outstanding contributions from volunteers and try to share their stories with the public (read the most recent Trailheads post about volunteers from April 2016). I've seen several calls for volunteers in the past week, so today's post brings you some specific opportunities. Don't see your favorite site in these examples? Rest assured our sites and museums are always on the lookout for new volunteers (find your spot here).

Call for Student Historians at Ephrata Cloister
From Ephrata Cloister's Facebook page
Ephrata Cloister is looking for a few good young women and men to be part of the Student Historians group at the site. Students age 14 and up learn about local history, do hands-on projects related to historic crafts and material culture, travel, and share history with the public, primarily (though not exclusively) through the annual Lantern Tours theatrical program offered in the days between Christmas and New Year's. It's a great way to meet other people interested in history and to hone skills that will serve you well throughout your life. And there's always food, so that's a plus. For more information, contact museum educator Michael Showalter at mishowalte@pa.gov or 717/733-6600.

Through their Facebook page, Pennsbury Manor issued a call for volunteers this week. They have opportunities for students, scouts, and businesses/organizations looking for community service projects and for individuals looking for meaningful ways to share their time and talents. I believe they also have food. Visit Pennsbury's website for more information and to find out how to apply.

Curators inventorying a teapot at Landis Valley
Volunteer assists with inventory project at Landis Valley
(Top) Curator Rachel Yerger and Chief of Special Projects David Dunn inventory at teapot
(Bottom) Volunteer Sharon O'Neal Lehner assists with computer tracking of inventory
(photos by Bruce Bomberger, Curator, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum)
As part of PHMC's Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a major collections inventory is underway at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum. Under the direction of David Dunn, chief of special projects for the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums, this project will provide a physical inventory of some 150,000 objects in Landis Valley's collection. The current focus is the Landis Collections Gallery - objects in storage are examined closely, comparing the catalog number, dimensions, and condition to a collections database. The work moves much more efficiently and effectively when teams of two work together - a "caller" reads out info and describes the object while a "recorder" matches info to the database or makes note of items not listed (for later review and reconciliation). Volunteers are already assisting curators with this work, but it's a huge project and more hands are needed. Computer skills and familiarity with Microsoft Excel are helpful; experience with digital photography and/or collections management software is a plus! If you're interested or want to know more, contact David Dunn at 717/569-0401 x 230. Oh, and there will be food, but not in collections storage or the galleries.

And I just noticed this article about United Way volunteers helping out at Old Economy Village recently. Thanks folks!