Here's another bit of time-travel fun: Carversville, from the 1930s to 2023. I'm not good with cars, so you'll have to help me with pinpointing a date for this one — The one mention I've found for Barron's Garage was in a 1932 Keystone Motorist directory. Still, having lived in Carversville for many years, I do know a little more about Barron himself. (I know, also, that he's one of the men in this photo, since his great-grandson pointed him out to me, but maddeningly I've forgotten which one. Maybe the mechanic-looking fellow in the overalls?)
Sylvanus Barron was born October 31, 1870 in Springfield Township, but was living in Solebury with his parents by the time he was 8. He married Sarah Sine in 1897 and their daughter, Florence, was born in 1899.
For many years the Barrons owned and operated the Carversville Inn — in fact, in 1920, Sylvanus's grandson was born in what would become, some 90 years later, the bedroom of my apartment.
Sylvanus Barron and his wife Sarah both died in 1943: She in April, he in September. They're buried in the Carversville Cemetery, along with their daughter Florence (1899-1983), her husband James Bertles Kling (1895-1984), Florence and James's son Sylvanus Barron Kling (1920-1963), and his wife Elizabeth Weddle Kling (1923-1999). Sylvanus and Elizabeth's son, Bob Kling, lives down the road, making him a fourth-generation Carversvillian (and generally a wonderful human being, regardless).
Washington O Crouthamel — I'm assuming he's the one in the suit jacket — was born in Bedminster Township in 1848. He seemed to lose interest easily: In his book A Genealogical and Personal History of Bucks County, William W H Davis gives an exhaustive account of the various positions (clerk, store owner, traveling salesman, hotel keeper) and locations (Tinicum, Philadelphia, New Galena, Doylestown, Gardenville) where Crouthamel had plied his trade at the time of the edition's 1905 publication.
By the time Newton Arnold took this photo for the postcard series on September 12, 1907, Crouthamel was the proprietor of Ottoway House in Buckingham. In his delightful book Postcards of Bucks County, PA 2020, (full disclosure: edited by yours truly) Robert Chase Palmer explains that the building was originally built as a private residence in the early 1800s, before becoming a hotel owned by the Righter Family. It was sold to William Buckley and was in the process of being remodeled when it burned on February 13th, 1936. The building was rebuilt and today (2023) is home to Baci Ristorante. Chase has a fantastic website on the Arnold Brothers, including an interactive map and an index of the entire negative collection.
Some fun cropped sections from this photo: Crouthamel posed proudly, ringing a bell on the porch of his newest venture; a man resting, burly arms folded, at the well (is this a well? Correct me if I'm wrong, please); two women relaxing on the sun-dappled balcony; a man in a vest — the bartender? — beside a floppy old spaniel and an advertisement for Wave Line Cut Plug Tobacco.
Images 2 - 4 are cropped so you can get a better look at the students. 5-8 are closeups of my favorites:
5. Melvin Heckler because of his fancy outfit (was he the teacher's son? He's not listed in the obit.)
6. Margaret & Susan Johnson because of their short hair and Margaret's toothache (I hope it's a toothache)
7. Obviously the Mean Girls of Hilltown School
8. Definitely a time-traveler.
Image 9 is the photo's reverse, dated March 19, 1895. Also a typed list of names and a 1963 obituary for the teacher, Melvin Heckler.
And now what you're really here for: those sweet sweet names —
Teacher: Melvin Heckler
Left to Right
Top row (standing): Walter Fellman (partial), Elmer Bishop, James Curley, Wesley Willauer, Harry Heckler, William Courter, Nelson Lapp, Elmer Snyder, Harvey Rickert, Mabel Rosenberger, Mamie Kramer, Bertha Fellman, Barbara Dauber, Lettie Danenhauer, Stella Bloom, Elmina Heckler, _______, Stella Lapp, Flora Ruth, Susan Rosenberger.
Second row: Horace Fellman, _______, James Courter, Gehman, Flora Courter, Bessie Bishop, Minnie Bishop, Ida Bacorn, Esther Lapp, Lillie Hunsberger, Clara Springer, Dora Fretz, Mabel Bloom, Laura Grass.
Front row (sitting): Ross Fellman, Cyrus Heckler, Ammon Heckler, George Dauber, Charles Hunsberger, Nelson Freed, Stella Ruth, Dora Ruth, Margaret Johnson, Susan Johnson, Hattie Bishop, Eva Bishop, Martha Lapp, Eva DeFrain, Beulah DeFrain, Alma Kramer, Bertha Hedrick.
Obituary, February 1963 (partial transcription)
... The Rev Melvin M Heckler, a retired Episcopal priest who entered the ministry after 48 years as a school teacher, died Friday. He was 89. ... he taught for 36 years in Philadelphia public schools ... and began teaching in Hilltown, Bucks County, his native town. Surviving are his wife, the former Mabel Oxford, a daughter, Mrs Grace Lockhart, and two grandchildren.
From the Collection of the Mercer Museum Library of the Bucks County Historical Society (sc-29-01, 15-i-001)
For a few weeks now I've been processing MSC 456, the Ruckman Family collection, at the Mercer Museum Research Library. The Ruckmans (and the Harts, with whom they intermarried) were a prominent family in Bucks County and Philadelphia, and there are a handful of other collections in the library that tie into this one. Last week, while searching through the Charles Swain collection (MSC 759), I found a series of beautiful cyanotype photographs. Many showed scenes in Solebury and Buckingham townships — including one of an enormous cow standing placidly in front of the stately Ruckman-Fell family home at Upper York and Greenhill roads in Lahaska — but two caught my eye because they were of black men.
We don't find many photographs of black people in our collections, especially older photographs (these are most likely from the 1890s). This is partially because central and upper Bucks County had a relatively small number of black residents, but also because when the Bucks County Historical Society was founded, and for a long time afterwards, it was run by well-to-do white men (including a Ruckman) who may not have considered them a part of history worth preserving. We have military stuff out the wazoo, and what feels like cubic miles of boxes containing papers of other well-to-do white men, but very few records of the lives of people of color. (Today the library is staffed almost exclusively by nerdy white women, and we're working hard to remedy that disparity.)
The men in the photos were identified: The photo of the seated older man was marked "Billy Toler" and the other, which showed a smiling man with a little dog, was marked "Charley 'tinker,' Charles Lohman." I scanned the photos (they were only about three inches square), edited them on my computer (they were faded), and did some cursory research.
The "Charley 'tinker'" label was confusing (was the man a Tinker, by trade? Was the dog named Tinker?) and I found no records of a Lohman family living in or around Bucks in the 1890s. "Billy Toler," however, wasn't as difficult.
William Toler (variably spelled Toller) was born around 1815 (his headstone at Mt Gilead Cemetery, the African Methodist Episcopal cemetery at the top of Buckingham Mountain, reads Oct 1815 to Jan 1902) in either North or South Carolina (census records differ). He was a Bucks County resident from at least 1880: On that year's US Census, he's 57 years old and living in the village of Clayton, Buckingham Township, with his wife Mary Ann, age 60, born in Maryland. The only child in the household is 10 year-old Harry Anderson (a number of black families with the surname Anderson appear on the 1880 and 1900 censuses for Buckingham). Harry is marked "at school," while Mary Ann is recorded as keeping house, and William as a day laborer.
In June 1900, the next available census (the 1890 US Census was destroyed), William, age 80, is a widower, living alone. Eighteen months later, he died. And for now, this is all I know.
|Source: FindaGrave.com memorial 23905998|
But one of my favorite — and one of the most celebrated — diaries here is the diary of John Dyer (BM-A-483). John Dyer was a Quaker who lived in Plumstead Township and, from around 1763 through 1805, recorded events both mundane ("I sowed the flax." "I cut the flax." "I brought in the flax.") and extraordinary (August 29, 1769: "About 2 O'clock this morning was seen a Comet or Blazing Star"). Also he calls Plumstead "Plumpsted" and it makes me so happy.
|Diary of John Dyer (BM-A-483): July & August, 1775|
One of my recent pet projects is a database of events that aren't flax-related, or otherwise everyday recordings of births, marriages, and uneventful deaths (that's been done — you can check out an example here).
Yesterday I started reading entries from 1774 and found one that really tickled my research bone.
|Diary of John Dyer (BM-A-483): December 1773 - January 1774|
On January 15, 1774, Dyer writes "The Crowner was at William Merediths about his servant mans Deth" Wow! I thought. Murder?
The following entry, January 19, reads "And him and wife sent to Jail this Day to newtown" And murderers!
Then, on January 22, in classic John Dyer style: "the man was taken up and two Doctors from Philada. Cut him open and examined his internals"
That last one sent me over the edge. What did those Philada Doctors find in the servant mans internals? I didn't even know forensic science was a thing in the 18th century! (I am vastly uneducated about some things, believe it or not.)
The Merediths aren't mentioned again in the diary — and the "servant man" isn't even given a name — and so I decided to find out what the deal was.
I began by gathering court records. This, for example, is the Coroner's Inquest John Dyer mentions in his January 15 entry (it took me a while to understand what he meant by "Crowner")
Alexander Brown, James Shew, Cephas Child, Henry Child, Benjamin Cutter, Nathaniel Brittan, Robert Gibson, Philip Fox, Fransis Titus, Barnet Kepler, Jacob Caster, and William Bowman &c
good and Lawfull men of the County aforesaid who being Swore and Affermations and Charged to inquire on the part of our overign Lord the King when where how and after what maner the Said Henry Beck Came to his Death do say Upon there Oaths and Affermations that William Meredith and Mary his wife late of the Township of Plumsted in the County of Bucks not having the fear of God before there eyes but being moved and Sedused by the instagation of the Divel on the Twelfth Day of January in the Year of out Lord 1774 aforesaid a bought the Midel of the Same Day with forse and armes at Plumsted aforesaid in and Upon the aforsaid Henry Beck there Servant he being an aling man then and there being in the peace of God and of our Said Lord and King felonsesly Volentily and assalt did make AND the aforesaid Mary Meredith with a Certen Club abought two feet in Lenth and abought half the thickness of Mary Fodels arm one of the Evidences which She the Said Mary Meredith then and there held in her hand in and Upon his left Shoulder a bruse did make and also Divers outher wounds which apeard on the Said Servent whereby he Langushing Until the Sixtenth Day of the month and Year aforesaid and then he died &c.
[signatures and seals]
George Fell Coroner
Alexander Brown, Robert Gibson, James Shaw, Philip Fox, Cephas Child, Francis Tytus, Benjamin Cutler, Barnet Kepler, Jacob Casdor, Nathaniel Britain, William Bowman
(If you don't feel like trying to puzzle out Ye Olde Timey Document, it says that County Coroner George Fell came to Plumstead and talked to 12 guys about the suspicious death of Henry Beck — his name, at last — and they told him that on January 12, around noon, Mary Meredith took a small club and beat Beck, who was her servant, on the shoulder and elsewhere. Henry Beck died four days later, on January 16.
There's a lot more to explore, of course, but you'll have to stay tuned for that.
One of the pleasures of processing collections that were acquired by the library decades ago but never catalogued is finding particular items that are revealing of the details of Bucks County's past. One such discovery came in a box of books and other items from the estate of Dr Joseph B Walter of Solebury, a physician, poet and amateur historian who died in 1917. He was a close friend of the Williams family, also of Solebury Township, and the item in question is a small booklet of poems, measuring only three and a half by eight and a half inches. It is called Lyre & Lily, by E Newlin Williams. It is obviously hand-printed, and the cover illustration and other decorations are hand-colored in green and yellow watercolor. Only sixty copies were printed, and the imprint is "The Hedges Print: 1896."
"The Hedges" was the estate of the Williams family on Windy Bush Road, and the Williamses were a remarkable family, interested in photography and other arts as well as printing. Edward Newlin Williams was the youngest of the three children of John S Williams, a prominent farmer whose business interests included the Bucks County Trust Company, the Farmers' and Mechanics' Insurance Company, and the Delaware Bridge Company.
Newlin was born in 1874, and was thus a lad of seventeen when he produced his book of poems. We have not yet found any description of the printing press at The Hedges, but it must have been one of the first, if not the first, private presses in the county.
Private-press printing has a long history, reaching back, for instance, to Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill press near Twickenham, England, in the 18th century. The modern private-press movement, though, concerned not with being a profitable business but with fine design, typography, illustration and production, is generally considered to date from 1891, when William Morris set up the Kelmscott press near London. Thus it seems unusual that only five years later a young Quaker in Solebury was inspired to try his hand at such a venture. His efforts may not compare with those of the great private presses of Morris and the other that followed him in the Arts and Crafts Movement, but he may at least deserve notice in the realm of local history.
We have no knowledge of other productions of The Hedges press. Newlin went on to earn a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1898. (His brother, Carroll R Williams, became a prominent Philadelphia lawyer, but lived at The Hedges.) Newlin, alas, died around the end of January 1902, at the age of twenty-six. (On a trip to New Hampshire, he became lost in the mountains and died of exposure. His body was not found until the end of February.) The Hedges suffered a disastrous fire in later years, so the press and its files have evidently perished. Nevertheless, the Lyre & Lily survives as testimony of one Bucks Countian's early interest in the art of fine printing.
|Cool car, too.|
|The back was postmarked 1939|
A couple weeks ago my coworker Annie Halliday was looking for a fun Halloween image to post for the library, and plucked two images out of our postcard collection that I hadn't seen in a long time: the Point Pleasant Witch House.
Although I've got a strong suspicion that the Witch House was built by Joseph Aaron, the retired circus daredevil who built and ran the Cat and Fiddle Inn along with his wife Carrie, a former trapeze artist, I don't feel confident enough yet to state that as a fact.
The time periods seem to more or less match up — although the postcards aren't postmarked, a cursory bit of research tells me that the stamp boxes on the verso sides (DOPS on one card and AZO on the other) place the manufacture of the paper from about 1925 through 1942.
This gels with the Aarons' Cat and Fiddle timeline. Carrie B Aaron first purchased the property from Tinicum Pines Association (the TPA is a whole other research rabbit hole I definitely don't have time to go down) in 1932 (Bucks County Deed Book 609, Page 25). The Inn ran for about a decade — in which time Joseph Aaron also built a water wheel below the house (powered by the canal? The river? I'm not sure yet) which he used to provide electricity for his woodworking shop — and then closed in 1942, citing low business due to wartime rationing. In 1945, the Aarons sold their property to Wayne and Emma McGhee.
Still. The acreage laid out in Carrie Aaron's 1932 deed is a whopping 26.329 acres, but there's a lot of legal metes and bounds stuff in the deeds that I don't understand — the Tinicum Pines Association contained something like a dozen parcels of land, and when the whole batch of them were sold in 1967 (the entirety belonging, by then, to Winifred Gauvreau, widow of journalist Emile Gauvreau) the acreage added up to 87.5 acres. A Perkasie Herald article published on October 5 of that year described the property as having "about a mile and a quarter of [river] frontage, of which one mile is Prahls Island."
Obviously I need to do a little more digging.
Postcard from the Collection of the Mercer Museum Library of the Bucks County Historical Society (SC-36, 44-225)
Clippings from Newspapers.com
Something lovely discovered today by research volunteer Nancy Freudenthal:
My dear Mr Mercer -
Just after you left me at the reception the other night I saw right at my feet in the moonlight this tiny, battered anchor of hope, and have ever since been possessed with the idea that it was meant for you. I didn't send it at first because I was afraid you would think me a superstitious idiot, but I shall risk that. Since you threw away your good luck in the horse shoe perhaps this will bring you hope for comfort, and in that day there were signs and wonders.
Very sincerely yours
Sally Blair Fairchild
August twenty fifth 
Sarah (Sally) Fairchild, daughter of General Lucius Fairchild, was born in October 1870, making her just 17 years old the night she saw a tiny metal anchor in the moonlight and (after some indecision) sent it over 900 miles away, along to Henry Mercer, who was then 32, and (in my opinion, anyway) very dashing indeed. Aww, Sally.
Sally grew up, and in 1894 married attorney Seldon Bacon. In 1900 they were living in New York, at 393 West End Avenue, on Manhattan's Upper West Side. They had two daughters and two female servants, around the same age as Sally.
In early 1902 the couple lost an infant son from whooping cough, and on August 25 of that year, Sally died as well — coincidentally 14 years to the day she sealed the tiny, battered anchor of hope in an envelope, marked the return address Personal, and sent it to Henry, some 900 miles to the east. She was 32 years old.
|Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, October 26, 1894|
|New York Tribune, January 9, 1902|
Clippings from Newspapers.com
Headstone image from Findagrave.com
October 21st, 1880
To Johnson Janitor, gender He, species unknown
It is so long since you have performed this act, never familiar to you, that I will forget my self-respect sufficiently to recall what your sense of manliness seems to forbid you to recollect.
You first get a basin- I will not excite your fear by saying tub- get a bucket, or even a tomato can would do, one thing however I must tell you now and without regard to your family traditions- a halved coconut shell will not suit your particular case. I am sorry to say it, but it is too small. It could not hold but what it might have to hold. So lay aside all luxurious reassurance in regard to so congenially small a vessel.
When you have borrowed all or any of the above articles, of course you understand me when I say borrowed, and you will also understand me when I express a hope that you may find a friend sufficiently degraded in his own esteem and sufficiently loathed by his fellows to venture the loan. I said friend? Of course any friend of yours would do and of course also any enemy, or any ordinary victim of justice [moderately he knows?] would not do. I warn you against such. But if you are without friends and criminals spurn? I will inform you that you need not borrow. You can find a tomato can in the back yard or around the outer walls of the state prison. Where it is I need not tell you.
Given there a tomato can, say. Fill it with water- yes water. Do you know what that is? If not, get your wife to see if she can recollect any information that might have escaped inadvertently from her grandmother, or the subject in her early days. Say ask your wife- don't try to recall anything from your side of the house. There is no use. If your wife forgets and there seems no hope, thinking of that nature at long intervals obliges you to do. Eliminate from what is thereby recalled to your mind, all that seems most hesitant to your senses therein and consider the result- whatever may be your [wounded?] feelings as to the matter,- an inconceivably plague-stricken edition of what I speak of- namely water.
Given then the vessel and given water and given the vessel filled with water- now you want SOAP. You start! You shudder! Ah, I see. Of course you do not understand me. But, I say beg or steal money and buy it. Keep going to the drug stores until you reach one so low that they allow you to remain in it or perhaps where none dare kick you, you understand me when I say dare. Now they won't understand you if you try to say SOAP. So get your wife as soon as she stops praying to God to kill her to write it. No matter what---. Don't try to tell her how to spell it, but don't carry anything spelled COPE or SOUP to the drug store or you will either get kicked or get the wrong article.
Now you’ve got everything. I say go down in the stable. Lead out the poor horses, tie them anywhere- it is better to lose them than allow them to suffer the agony of being present. Yet stop open the doors, they will go out of their own accord. If you hear anything in the line of a second edition of the Baalam’s ass story, keep it to yourself, it will do you no good to tell it.
Now get to work. Get what soap you can worked off on your hands and face. If you can get your shirt off, work some- well say the rest of the cake- over your chest and other parts. Keep tossing on water from the can little by little as you settle down. --- the old shirts lay them aside. You may lose money, but think of the poor starving shivering millions who would bedew you with curses and saliva if you offered out of charity to give them old shirts. There work on- harder- work on till you settle down to the seat of plague.
Now, will suppose you have done about ten percent of the indecent job. I will consider that you were now fit to be hung- which before you were not. Leave the stable. Don’t try to drive in the horses- they won’t go in. Throw the soap away and the water away. Destroy the tomato can. Then wait till night and at night walk out on the streets. Get under a lamp post behind a --- factory where the crowds can find everything handy when they see you.