Memorial Day – Planting a New Seed 5

Planting a new Seed


This was a different kind of Memorial Day for our family. Our recorded history of participation in services goes back to right after the Civil War when communities all across the nation were still trying to adjust to the shocking death toll brought on by the late war. Unlike the wars that followed, there were no instant reports of most individual casualties, only telegraphed reports about large groups of dead, wounded and missing. For four years, in places with strange sounding names, men on both sides of the conflict fell victim to mechanized war on a scale never before seen on this continent.

When the guns fell silent, the grieving process began. Graves were decorated in loving memory in both the North and the South as families adjusted to their new realities. The conflict wasn’t the end of war, it was just a brutal reminder of what wars cost.


The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was the veteran’s organization that carried the banner of remembrance in the northern states. While they were no longer on active duty, the posts were ruled by General Orders and had men of rank and responsibility. My Great Grandfather John Culbert McPherson was such a man. A private in the Union Army, he carried the traditions of the proudly all the way up until his death (and apparently a little beyond). He is listed in the Memorial Day 1927 Bulletin as the Acting Adjutant (even though he had passed away five months earlier in January 1927).

Great Grandfather was a first generation American. His family had come from Northern Ireland and he was the first of the children born in America. His love for this country were probably the inspiration for both of his sons serving in the Army and Navy during World War 1, a grandson in the Navy during World War 2, two more great grandsons serving as sailors from the Vietnam Conflict to the end of the Cold War and most recently a great great grandson serving as a submariner during the Global War on Terror.


Memorial Day is in our blood. From the time you are old enough to put on a Cub Scout or Brownie uniform, you are taught the lessons of this important day. I can’t tell you when my first one was but I can tell you where it was. Mt. Vernon Cemetery in Elizabeth Township near McKeesport Pennsylvania. This is the place where John Culbert McPherson’s remains are interred just a few hundred feet from the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial. Many of my other deceased relatives are there as well and I can remember as a kid rushing with my bundle of flags trying to be the first one to their graves.


The services in Mt. Vernon go back to at least 1925.

I am sure they were there earlier but that is the first of a series of bulletins I have from the many services that occurred over the last 91 years. My brothers and sister played roles many times as kids along with the Boy Scouts of Mt. Vernon and the Girl Scouts too. There was always music, speeches (that always seemed too long) and prayers. In the early years, we also liked the firing squad. If you were a quick and clever boy or girl, you would be able to gather up the brass after each volley. I still have a few empties from those days.

Somehow along the way, the service changed and eventually moved. My Dad was the Commander of the American Legion nonstop for over twenty five years and he saw the dwindling crowds. The Vietnam conflict created so much hostility to all things military and some years the service was just barely kept alive. But Dad persevered and saw his best chance to revitalize it in nearby Elizabeth. He was relentless and enlisted the help of any and all who he could convince or cajole. He boldly approached Admirals and Generals about coming to our small town knowing that in those days they would bring resources. Resources like staff, troops and sailors, equipment and boats.

In another time, I will publish the stories of the longest running Memorial Day in the Mon Valley. But not this year. This year was a bit different. This year was actually pretty painful. But it has a happy ending at least.

When I returned home to the area a few years ago, I dove head first into the VFW and Legion activities. Because of my military and civilian careers, we have lived many places around the world. Coming home was a chance to pay back the community that I had grown up in many years before. I love helping vets and children and I saw a great big hole. Both the VFW and American Legion posts are collocated (have been for years) and it seemed like there was some room for growth. While the Memorial Day program that my Dad created was going along as before, no new things were happening. Like many posts, without new members, they die. So I helped to bring back a number of programs including Speech and Writing Contests at both the VFW and Legion. These contests awarded scholarships and have been around for years but no one was doing anything to work with the local schools. So we raised funds, held the contests and got the schools back on board.

After rising in the “ranks” of the VFW for three years, I helped on a number of other programs and even obtained a grant from a large company to help modernize the post building. This is when I found out about small group politics. One of the older members began to lobby to use the grant money in ways it was not designed to be used for. Since I was the person who signed for the grant and was responsible for the audit to come, I knew that there could be a problem in the future.

So I pushed back hard. At the end of the mess, I was forced out by people who in retrospect must have been pretending to be old family friends. At one point in the conversation, I pointed out my forty years of membership in veterans’ organizations and was told that I hadn’t done it here so it didn’t count. I was also told very bluntly that I just didn’t know how things were done here so I should resign.

I think they were surprised that the “new kid” turned the grant money back into the big corporation. I will not be forced or coerced to do anything unethical. I have higher powers to answer to than small town political hacks. A little disclaimer: There are many great men and women in the Posts who have served well and faithfully over the years. The decisions of the leadership should not be a reflection on them and I wish them all well in the future.

Back to Memorial Day. What do you do when the place where your father worked so hard to grow suddenly rejects you?


First, you remember that there was a first Memorial Day. Then you remember the struggles during the years when the public just didn’t want to be involved. Then you remember that it is about honoring those who gave everything so that we could live in freedom. So my family joined me graveside this morning of one of the best men I ever knew. We erected one of his old “trophy flags” and held a small quiet service that meant more to me than any in recent history. We walked from grave to grave where our family lays and we honored the tragic loss of so many others.

It felt clean and good. I think a new seed was planted today. All things considered, it might have been just about the right time for that. A very special thank you to my family for helping to honor the sacrifices of those brave men and women. I think it was one of the best services we ever had.

Mister Mac

New Years Day 2015 3


Thanks for dropping by.

We got up a little late this morning since we tried to see the New Year in last night. Then we had a short meal, a few quiet moments writing in the new “Journal”, and some very sincere praying. The journal was a gift from a family member and asks you to respond to new a question each day. The two of us then write in our thoughts. I believe it will help us to grow our foundation a little stronger. Today’s question was “Love is …?”

Last year was pretty full with work and projects. The picture at the top of the page was from a recent visit to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh. I found my Great Grandfather’s name on his Regimental Plaque – the Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery during the Civil War. We also found a picture of one of their reunions that I had never seen before. He was still alive when this was taken but I do not know if he was in the picture.




This will be a very busy year I think.

The work situation is a giant question mark as always. Hoping for a stable year but not so sure that will be in the cards. I asked God this morning to give us the guidance we need, the patience to wait for His work to unfold, and the vision to see the path as it opens up before us.

My submarine veteran’s world will be very busy with a San Francisco Homecoming and USSVI Convention in Pittsburgh PA in September.

ussvi final 3a

There seems to be enough interest to launch a new organization for USS San Francisco SSN 711 Veterans so more will be coming this year as we achieve our NPO status. The San Francisco itself is scheduled to become a permanent training facility in Charleston so we will be looking for partnerships with them.


I am in line to be elected as Vice President of Education for the Pittsburgh Navy League and I am very excited about seeing ways to help the organization grow. We have been supporting the USS Pittsburgh crews and one of the long term goals is to prepare for the sad day when she is retired from the fleet. If the fates allow and we do our homework, the plan is to someday have a permanent exhibit to honor the boat by the placement of her sail in an appropriate place.


The VFW and Legion Children and Youth programs last year were very successful. Our work with the Middle School and High School in four different contests resulted in some very competitive entries. Our Patriot’s Pen entry placed Second in the District and our posts learned a lot to help us in the coming contests for 2015-16.


Memorial Day is always a big part of our life. Both Debbie and I are on the committee for our small community and we will begin having meetings very soon. The Remembrance Ceremony in Elizabeth Pennsylvania is one of the longest continuing programs in the Mon Valley and has had many dignitaries from both the military and government over the years (including a Vice President). I have been a part of the program for over fifty years in one way or another and it is something worth seeing.


It wasn’t all about the Navy and Veterans this year. I have been called to help support the ministry at the Church we have been attending. I had already been preaching there on occasion but now will fill the pulpit once a month on a regular basis. It is a small Church but I can feel God’s presence working there. It is a good place to achieve a meaningful balance in the complexities of our lives.


Thanks again for stopping by.

The blog has over 199,000 hits as of this morning. There was a part of me that had hoped for a New Year’s miracle of 200,000 but all in all, 199K is still pretty cool. For the year, we hit about 107K for this year alone which is more than all of the previous years combined. I am working on a long term project on pre-WW2 submarines that is very time consuming (for the little time I have left after work and other commitments). But I am convinced it is a great story and has never been done exactly like the way I am working on this one. Stay tuned.

I hope your New Year is filled with joy and adventure.

Mister Mac



Remembering the Missing … Until they all come home Reply

How we remember our fallen says a lot about us.

The same can be said about how we never forget those left behind.

No matter where you are this Memorial Day, at 3:00 PM, stop what you are doing and pray for those who never made it home.

Then pray for peace for the families that still wait for their return.

POW Snip

Remembering those who waited at home – Gold Star Mothers Reply


The joy of giving birth to a brand new life has been described as one of the most significant moments in a woman’s life. For the following months and years, she feeds and clothes and nurtures that child until one day comes and the child becomes a man or a woman and goes off on her own.


Throughout our countries history, challenges to our freedom and liberty have forced some of those children to take up arms in its defense. Often times in the last few centuries, those challenges have come on foreign shores and the threats to freedom came to others that were unable to protect themselves. During those times, brave men and women stepped forward or were called to do the unthinkable and pay an ominous price. We humbly try and pay a small homage to them on Memorial Day to try and remember their sacrifices and gift of freedom to people who they had never known.

But there is one other group who pay homage to their memories every day. The mothers who gave them their life.

The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the United States shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the United States Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. Membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States.

The Elizabeth Boro PA Memorial Day Committee honors local Gold Star Mothers

each year at our Riverfront Ceremony

Gold Star Mother Banner 150px-Gold_Star_Service_Banner_svg thGYWFLLNB

Sometimes I weep for my country… then I vow to fight on 2

Elizabeth PA Memorial Day through the years 019

Like many others, I spend a lot of personal time and resources preparing for the Memorial Day observance in my home town. It is not a celebration since the day was designed to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers and sailors of the Civil War. It is not a party because the honorees made the ultimate sacrifice to defend their brothers and sisters in arms and ensure freedom could survive in the face of evil.

Ever since I was a kid, I have seen the crowds grow smaller and the number of children diminish. I grew up during the Vietnam war so this is not too surprising. The anti-war crowd used the tool of Anti-Americanism as one of their tools. Their work was done well.

This video is a clear demonstration of how far we have gone:


But I am not deterred. Seeing it makes me weep and laugh at the same time. Then I get more determined than ever.

What are you doing Memorial Day? If you live under the banner of freedom, you have a debt to those who paid the price to keep that banner flying. Teach the children. The schools probably no longer do. Take them to a service and teach them about reverence. You will have the whole summer to picnic and party. Do something remarkable this year:

Make Memorial Day a Priority

Mister Mac

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Elizabeth Home-coming Centennial Celebration ~ July 3 and 4 Reply

Familiar names for native Elizabethans pop up in the activities for the third of July.

Despite the heat, many athletic events were scheduled and hopefully well attended. Starting at 9:00 A.M. a ten mile marathon was held around Pangburn and Fallen Timber hollows. A golf tournament was also held at Butler’s golf course.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I was used to the word “hollow” as a descriptive term for a hilly area with glacial indentations. I know that the same term comes up in West Virginia and many of the south eastern states that have rugged country. Typically the word means the area between two hills often containing a stream. It appears to come from a Scotch-Irish dialect but could have German backgrounds as well.

eliz%20Centennial%201b_small   eliz%20Centennial%202b%201934_small

All manner of events filled the rest of the day on the third which were mainly focused on athletics

The Pageant was replayed in its entirety that night. Episode five related the marriage of Colonel Stephen Bayard and Miss Elizabeth Mackay for whom the town was named. Episode six portrayed the first school with Washington Robison as schoolmaster.

Episode six was the telling of the tale first written by Richard T. Wiley in his book “Sim Greene”. This story was about the infamous Whiskey Insurrection that had occurred in the 1790s. Of all the ways the story was retold, I chose to share another local author’s version which is electronically stored on the Boro’s web site:

Whiskey Rebellion

from the The History of Forward Township
By Tom Headley

“Settlers in the region cleared land and began to keep animals and raise crops to feed their families. Excess grain was distilled into whiskey and bartered to obtain staples such as salt and gunpowder which they could not produce themselves. By the 1780’s a small still was a fixture on many farms on the western frontier. In 1791, the Federal Government, seeking ways to repay the debt incurred by the American Revolution, passed a tax on whiskey which was fiercely opposed by the people along the Monongahela. The disgruntled farmers held meetings, raised a militia, terrorized Pittsburgh, and tarred and feathered tax collectors. Violence escalated and in 1794, tax collector John Neville’s house in Washington County was attacked and burned by an angry mob with several killed and many wounded. President George Washington, reacting to this challenge to Federal authority, called out several states’ militia raising an army of more than 13,000 which moved west under his personal command.

On August 14, 1794 a large rally of farmers took place at Parkinson’s Ferry (Monongahela). Albert Gallatin, from New Geneva, addressed the rebels and convinced those present to lay down their arms and peacefully submit to the law thereby avoiding armed confrontation with the approaching army. At the time of this meeting, Gallatin stayed at the home of Joseph Becket located along the river in Forward, a place which now bears his name. Albert Gallatin went on to become Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison and arraigned for the funding for the Louisiana Purchase.

When the army arrived in October the rebels could not be located however the militia did arrest twenty men who were later pardoned. Federal forces established camps in Rostraver, near Fells Church, and at the former Youghania Court House staying in the region through 1795 to ensure the peace. Troops who died in the fighting as well as two officers of the Virginia Militia who died of smallpox are buried in Lobbs Cemetery near the Court House site. The private Smith Cemetery, located just above the present Lock #3 across from the Elizabeth Baptist Church, is said to contain the remains of several men who died as a result of wounds during the attack on Gen. Neville’s home. Philip Smith, a soldier who fought in the American Revolution is also buried in this small cemetery.”


The American Legion Float (Alonzo Weigel Post 553 ) The men were all painted to look like statues and remained still for the length of the parade. Imagine dong that in the heat.


1934_American_Legion_Float_2_c 1934_American_Legion_Float_3_c


On the Fourth of July, a great historical parade was held that went from The Safe Factory in Elizabeth across the bridge to West Elizabeth and return to the main part of town.



At 1:00 P. M. a collection of games was held at the Safe Factory Field. These events included:

  • Greased pole climbing
  • Catching the greased pig
  • Stealing Nickles, colored boys
  • Shoe races
  • Old men’s race, 50 years or older
  • Clothesline rush, girls
  • Tug of War, all Churches
  • Fireman’s water battles
  • Wagon races, boys
  • Scooter races, boys
  • Three legged races, boys and men
  • Seven inning baseball game, old timers vs. young men
  • Final mush-ball game for the championship

The pageant continued that evening and the final episodes included a remembrance of the Marquis de Lafayette visit, later town history and a giant melting pot display – melting pot as a recognition of the many countries that had contributed to the Borough of Elizabeth up to that point. A final fireworks display was launched at 11:00 P.M. signaling the end of the four day festivities.

The little Borough would go through many more changes in the years following 1934. The Grand Theater has recently been rebuilt and houses plays and theatrical events for modern arts fans. Businesses still occupy the main streets and the fire hall still answers the call to action when it is needed. many of the old stores are long gone replaced by more modern conveniences. Just up over the hill from Elizabeth sits a large mall and of course the ever present Wal Marts are within driving distances.  But nothing can take the place of a small town character.

Some never left. Some were forced out when the mills and mines closed down. The memories remain no matter where the person ended up. Like the kiss of a girl in one of the “hollows” on a Friday night before you leave for war. The sound of the water slapping up against the shore after a towboat passes. Crickets and locusts singing into the summers night as you try to find a cool place to sit. The smell of the asphalt of a city street after a rain produces one of its famous gulley washers.

Happy Fourth of July Elizabeth. Thanks for showing the ages what courage in the face of adversity looks like. See you at the river.

Mister Mac

Memorial Day Elizabeth PA 1988 005

Elizabeth Home-coming Centennial Celebration ~ July 2, 1934 2

The two big events for this steamy hot July day were the Steamboat Parade and the Great Historical Pageant.  Despite the grave economic situation of the country, the organizers were able to put together a massive display of riverboats that were gaily decorated and covered with happy citizens in their summer finest.


This Article about the 1934 Parade appeared in the September 1985 issue of S & D Reflector.

“OK CHAPTER REPORT Monongahela River Movie by James A. Wallen

Fifteen of the stern wheel towboats that were active in the Pittsburgh pools and beyond, paraded on the movie screen before the 45 who attended the meeting of the OK Chapter of S&D on Sunday, June 2nd, in the Mason County Library at
Point Pleasant, WV. All of the boats were seen as they moved in the procession celebrating the 100th anniversary of the town of Elizabeth, PA on the Monongahela River on July 2, 1934. It
took place in an era when there was constant towboat activity in the Pittsburgh pools as tows of coal, steel, sand and gravel and other products were always under way so the boats seen in the parade were familiar to many of those in the audience who had boated on the Upper Ohio.

Leading the parade was Capt. John Hysmith’s steamer R. J. HESLOP, which had been equipped with a calliope for the occasion, and it was followed by such well known steamers as the I. LAMONT HUGHES, A. 0. ACKARD, CRUISER, J. H. HILLMAN, A. B. SHEETS, WM. LARIMER JONES, E. K. DAVISON, WILLIAM B. RODGERS, LaBELLE, COLLIER, CRUCIBLE, LEONA, BEACON and PENNOVA. The lone diesel-powered boat in the parade was the sternwheeler MARY ALICE.


Many of the steamers were loaded with passengers, well dressed in the style of the day (white shoes, white ducks and straw boaters), and all obviously enjoying the festivities. Many of those most prominent in Pittsburgh river affairs at that time were on hand; Capt. J. L. Howder was chairman of the river parade committee and Capt. Bob Eberhart was commander of the fleet.”




the rest of the story can be read at

The Great Historical Pageant was held at the High School Athletic Field at 9:00 P. M.

The pageant was held all three evenings (2,3,4) and was arranged, staged and rehearsed by the John B. Rodgers Producing Company of Fostoria Ohio (Directors of Plays and Pageants).  The Pageant Master was Lucille M. Roice and Richard T. Wiley was the local Historian.

The pageant was designed as a great spectacle with eleven Episodes ranging from ancient earth up until present day (1934). With a cast of over 300 townsfolk and neighboring townspeople, the Producing company probably had its hands full making sure everything went off as scheduled. From the program:

“…depicts universal, neighborhood and local history from the earliest times to more recent years in a succession of spoken drama, pantomime, tableaux, drill, dances, and other individual, group, and mass movement. It will be presented with appropriate scenery and properties, in garb of the races and periods represented, with brilliant lighting and distinct sound effects. Seating for 2000 has been provided and the Pageant is given complete at each performance.”

A fireworks display was scheduled for 11:00 P.M. so that meant the entire eleven episodes were to be completed in two hours.

Episode One: The Dawn of Creation

after a prophecy by Father Time:

“In the distance, ghostlike forms are seen approaching, followed by many beautiful things. They lift their veils and behold, we see the Dawning of Creation – the birth of Sky, Land and Flowers, shaped and molded into beautiful harmony and movement.”

Episode Two: Early Indian Camp Life

“Just as everything is in harmony, with Creation growing in its merry play, the voice of Man is heard.

When the land was first explored, it was inhabited by the Red Man. Where they came from in the beginning, how long they have dwelt in North America, what people they replaced, are matters of much dispute. All of the Western Pennsylvania section was claimed by the Iroquois Confederacy of Indians. From these the Pennsylvania colonial government bought this section in 1768. We see a band of Indians as they set up their camps, bargain with a white man, smoke a pipe of peace and celebrate with a great savage dance.”

The scenes with the Indians of course would have been greatly scrubbed for the pageant

.As the White man came further and further into the territory, Indian pushback was common in the forms of raids. The Crown’s Purchase of 1768 (Fort Stanwix Treaty) was considered a Devil’s Deal in the way native populations were swindled out of their rights by the British government. Wars with the pioneers continued long after the treaty and only came to an end with a swelling population of Europeans with better weapons and machines.

Episodes Three and Four: The arrival of the early settlers and the Conquering of the Wilderness

As the early settlers arrive, they find an inhospitable land. Western Pennsylvania is a hilly country that lies just below the glacial lines of ancient time. Large boulders and uneven lands make for a hard go at farming. Undisturbed forests would slow inland travel until more dedicated roads could be cleared. The natural pathway was the rivers. In that early age, even the rivers could provide challenges during winter (ice) spring and summer (flooding and underwater floating debris) and fall when the occasional drought would create sand bars and other navigational problems.

But the people continued to come, building up a population base that would eventually master all of these obstacles.

In the next few days, the pageant schedule will continue with the recognition of the town’s namesake, the early school years and of course, the Whiskey Rebellion.

Today’s activities were sponsored by:

Lalli’s News Depot where you will find “The Biggest Line of Fireworks at Lowest Prices in Town”



Grand Theater

Elizabeth’s amusement center for 26 years, which invites you to make them your headquarters during the Centennial Celebration.
A continuous show Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, July 2-3-4 from 2 P. M. to closing

Mister Mac

Elizabeth Home-coming Centennial Celebration ~ July 1, 1934 Reply

The first day of the Elizabeth Centennial Celebration in 1934 started the same way as the previous days had … hot. The entire country had been sweltering in an unseasonable hot weather pattern and the people in Elizabeth were not exempt.

The four day program began on July 1 with an 8:00PM Union religious service at the High School Athletic Field. The program denotes that all events will be held using Daylight Savings Time. I thought it rather odd that the program would need to identify the use of daylight savings time until I did a little research.

DSTActPassageThumb           DSTEnd1918Thumb

Daylight Savings Time on a national basis had been passed in 1918 during the First World War but was rejected by the American Congress due to its unpopularity (1919).

President Wilson’s veto was overridden and apparently it became a local option to use that method for adjusting time. Reinstatement did not occur until World War 2 so the importance of telling people which time standard you were using was a necessity. (Note: the uncertainty returned after 1946. States and local areas were once again able to make local decisions for years to come).

The temperature leading up to the 1st of July included a few spikes into the 100’s. Of course air conditioning back then was not as available as it is now. The heat wave extended all across the area for the entire week of celebrations. Knowing the formality of fashions in that day, can you even imagine being dressed in a full wool suit, hat and spats for men and long length dresses for the proper women of Elizabeth. Now add 93 degree sweltering heat (even at 8PM DST) and you can imagine how daunting it must have been.

Sabbath services were held by: Rev. Dr. R.H. Kirk (Presiding Minister), Rev H.G. Howell, Rev. R.C. Rogers, Rev. M. C. Brubaker, Rev. M.A. Leen, Rev. J Jordan

An address was given by Dr. Gaius G. Slosser Professor of History, Western Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh. Music led by a community chorus, directed by Thomas Grenfell Sr.

Note: In case of unfavorable weather the services will be held in High School Auditorium.

Today’s entry is courtesy of:

The Elizabeth Printing Company

“Printing Worth While”

formerly “The Herald” Job rooms, established 1871…

F.C. McGinley and P.R. Ashton

See Alex Paxton for “Good things to eat” and George A. Lewis for all of your REAL ESTATE ~ INSURANCE ~ AND NOTARY PUBLIC NEEDS (Second floor Masonic Bldg.)

The heat wave of 1934 was the hottest on record up to that time. Continued dry weather and heat would contribute to the hottest North American heat wave ever which was recorded in 1936 and coincided with the Great Dust Bowl.

I can’t find a record of how many people actually attended services. In my heart, I want to believe it is anyone who was physically able to come. The times almost demanded extraordinary behaviors and I am sure the good people of Elizabeth Borough heeded the calls from their various Ministers and Priests.

As we close out today’s program, here are some interesting facts about what it costs in 1934:

  • Bottle of Pepsi 10c
  • Average income $1,601.00
  • New car $625.00
  • New House $5,972.00
  • Loaf of Bread 8c
  • Gallon of Gas 10c
  • Gallon of milk 45c
  • Gold per ounce $20.67
  • Silver per ounce .38
  • Dow Jones Average .98

Tomorrow will be day two of the Elizabeth Home-coming Centennial Celebration. Don’t forget, quoit matches and mush ball elimination begin promptly at 9:00 A.M. at the Rockwell Garage and the Safe Factory ground respectively.

I had no idea what a quoit was but apparently these folks are quite familiar with them:

Steamboat inspection at the docks is also available from 9:00 A.M. but all visitors must be clear before the 1:00 P.M. Parade.

See you at the river!

Mister Mac

A more complete history of the event is contained here:

Elizabeth Pennsylvania … 178 Years of Freedom and Liberty 1

The boroughs and townships of Western Pennsylvania are a patchwork of communities that have evolved over the past several hundred years. Elizabeth Borough is one such community and has a story typical of many of the river communities of old. In 1934, The Great Depression was working its way around the country and the globe. But 1934 was also the 100 year anniversary of the founding of Elizabeth so the city leaders bravely decided to honor the occasion.

Elizabeth's First 100 Years 003

I have a copy of the Elizabeth Homecoming Centennial Celebration Souvenir Program 1834 – 1934 which was held on July 1-2-3-4. The Souvenir Program costs 10 cents which probably was a pricey amount for that day and age. It was handsomely made and printed by Palmer Ashton.

Elizabeth's First 100 Years 005

Nothing was left to chance according to the bulletin and the entire community (plus some surrounding towns) were involved in one way or another. Music and sports, Sabbath services and a pageant, a river and a street parade, historic readings and historic objects on display were all taken into account. This would be four days of celebration for the tiny community. The last veteran of the Civil War able to get around was going to be feted during the Fourth of July celebration

From the Program; In Memoriam

“The pioneers in any line of worthwhile endeavor make the succeeding generations their debtors. We are prone to overlook or even forget the toils, the perils and the hardships of those who were here in the beginnings of our history as a community and the early years of its existence. These well laid the foundations for our town today. Devoid of many of the conveniences of our modern living, they often toiled under great handicaps, but they carried on well. The foregoing pages could mention only the few whose positions of leadership brought them into the prominence which preserved their names through the passing years. But the great unnamed hosts are worthy of our remembrance also, and these lines are placed here as a deserved testimonial to all those whether in a position of leadership or the humble walks of life, who so well laid the foundations of this community of our homes and hope.”

Elizabeth PA 1897

Elizabeth was named after the wife of one of the town’s early settlers. The community on the banks of the Monongahela is the story about the growing of America even from its earliest days. From its days as a part of the western wilderness to the booming days of riverboat traffic, Elizabeth played a key role in the history of this pioneering country.

Richard T. Wiley wrote the forward called “The Story of Elizabeth and its Centennial Celebrations” From that story:

“Long before the eyes of the white people looked on the location of Elizabeth Pennsylvania, and its beautiful environs, the place was inhabited by hosts of those of other races who have left many evidences of their occupancy. In an apparent early age of human development those people of mystery, the Mound Builders, took their living largely from the great swollen streams of the passing Ice Age, besides which their rude habitations were reared, and they buried their dead on the high places. These were followed, apparently long afterwards, by the red Indians, who were in possession when white people first came into the regions.”

As a kid, we spent many hours scouring the woods in our area for arrowheads or anything else that may have been left behind. There is a lot of shale in that part of the country and it was easy to convince yourself that the small piece of oddly formed shale was indeed a leftover from some great Indian attack on the settlers. The area was hotly disputed during the French and Indian wars and it is easy to convince yourself of the legitimacy of your fins, even if there was no known proof that Indians actually came any where close to the road we grew up on.

Interestingly enough, the tradition of burying the dead in high places still exists all over the Borough and the Townships. Maybe the memory of rivers overflowing their banks still haunted the people of the area, but many of our major cemeteries occupy the highest grounds around.

“The whole country for many miles around was densely covered by noble forests which teemed with game of many sorts, while the streams abounded with fish. These living things, in large part, provided sustenance for the simple wants of the people, while the forests and its denizens gave them clothing, habitations and the graceful canoes which went streaming over the placid Monongahela, in prophecy of the mighty navigation which would mark the continued occupation of the white race.”

1850_Ohio_&_Pennsylvania project

By the late twentieth century, industrialization and the baby boom ensured that most of the streams and even the rivers were tamed and barely useable for the fishing and hunting that was once so important. Mining and steel mills of every kind blotted out the sanguine properties of all the waterways and the need for more housing tracts ensured that the open land required for large herds of animals was long gone. The rivers were tamed with locks and dams which lessened the devastation of the flooding but even in more recent times, the waters still outsmarted the ability of humans to contain them.

“Occasional traders or emissaries from eastern centers of white population, coming on errands to these tribes, had seen the country and its people, but it was not until about the middle of the eighteenth century that movements began to be made looking to white colonization and occupancy of Southwestern Pennsylvania. These witnessed the stirring times for the section when the French and the British contended for tis control. The youthful George Washington here began his military career, getting the training which did much to fit him for his leadership in the founding of the great nations later. The Braddock disaster in 1755 gave the French undisputed control for three years, and other years of stubborn fighting between colonists and Indians followed.”

In school, we were taught all about the battles of the French and Indian wars and of course the story of the British Redcoats marching through the woods near my home was a fanciful but incredibly stupid tactic. The Indians had never learned to fear and the French used that tactic of surprise to great affect. I can barely imagine marching to a drum beat through the unimproved brush of the woods in bright red uniforms while the Indians surrounded you in clothing that was designed to match the environment.  The lessons were not well learned as was discovered in the war for Independence that would follow.

“William Penn’s grant by the British Crown was to include the valley of the Monongahela, though it had not yet been surveyed. But his policy of respecting the rights of those found in possession of the land continued with his sons and their successors in the colonial government. The Iroquois or Six Nations, claimed the region of Western Pennsylvania and proclamations of the Penn government forbade white settlement on their lands. But it was impossible to enforce this command in the western wilderness, and when the region was bought by the Penn government from its Indian claimants in 1768, many choice spots within it had already been occupied by squatter settlement.”

It occurred to me that this action by the squatters was an early form of Occupy Wall Street since the settlers were probably homeless men and women who had been driven out of the settlements that hugged the coast. But in a larger sense, the very granting of land to William Penn by the Crown was  a form of illegitimate enterprise since the Crown never actually held deed nor trust to the land. I am fairly sure that the Iroquois tribes would like to be able to challenge that in a modern day court.

“The tongue of land between the lower stretches of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Rivers was early recognized as one of the choicest sections in the whole region, and was soon being appropriated rapidly when the movement of colonization got underway. This was known through many years of white occupancy as the “Forks of Yough”, and the community of today’s celebration was it metropolis and principal place of assemblage. Announcement was made by the Penn government that an office for the sale of the ground in the new purchase would be opened in Philadelphia on April 3 1769, and when the doors opened the scene was much like that of a modern advertise bargain day at one of the great stores.”

Looking at it from Wiley’s point of view in 1934 when this was written, its interesting to try and imagine what a great store would have looked like. There are advertisements in the Bulletin which run the whole spectrum of small and large merchandisers. Rockwell Motor Company (Ford Dealer with Atlantic Gas and Oils, Geo, Jaskol for Discriminating Dressers, Allen I Schwartz – Elizabeth’s greatest Store, Wearing Apparel for Men, Women and Children, and my perennial favorite, GC Murphy Company 5 and 10 cents stores for Quality merchandise at the Lowest Prices with selected merchandise up to $1.00. (Funny, I never noticed before tonight that there is no key for Cents).

Elizabeth contributed many of her sons to the Revolutionary War and an every conflict since. She also played host it many famous people including the Marquis de Lafayette and his son Colonel George Washington Lafayette as the toured the country in May of 1825. But it was at the height of the age of steamboat building when Elizabeth came of age and was incorporated as a borough.


Credit: Courtesy of The Coal and Coke Heritage Center, Penn State Fayette,
Although the plight of city residents attracted the most public attention in Pennsylvania during the Great Depression, some of the worst poverty in the state was in the rural mining districts in northeastern and southwest Pennsylvania. Not far from Pittsburgh some unemployed miners and their families squatted in abandoned coke ovens. This photograph was taken by Louis S. Michael, an amateur photographer who documented his family, friends, and everyday life around Pittsburgh.

The Elizabeth celebration of 1934 was an amazing testament to the conviction of the sons and daughters of the pioneers that settled on the banks of the Monongahela.

Holding a four day celebration in the midst of a difficult depression was a bold statement about the faith of the community in the future based on its past.

My favorite part of the Bulletin is near the last page. The West Penn Electric Shops took out a full page advertisement heralding the advantages of a new type of technology gaining favor:

Elizabeth's First 100 Years 006

178 Years ago, the little town on the Monongahela River had its beginning. Like many other small towns, it has seen its share of ups and downs.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Mister Mac