Honoring Women's History in Erie County

It's October already, and you can find the monthly program listing on the sidebar.

Lucky you. We're back to guest posts! This week frequent Trailheads contributor Linda Bolla, Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara, writes about two recent PHMC historical markers dedicated in Erie County. Photos are courtesy of Allan Montgomery, Linda Bolla, and John Baker.

This has been a banner year for the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program in Erie County, with three new markers dedicated this summer: Miracles on Maple Hill; Pennsylvania National Guard 112th Infantry Regiment; and Making of the Flag “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”

The fact that two of these recognize the efforts of women gives one pause to reflect on the nature of women’s contributions to history and culture in the age before the later 20th Century feminist movement. These words come to mind: quiet, but profoundly inspirational.

In her children’s novel Miracles on Maple Hill (1956), Virginia Sorensen reveals the miracles of nature as well as of healing body and mind. Her simple story, inspired by people she knew and experiences she had living in Edinboro, PA, was honored in 1957 with a John Newbery Medal, given for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Sorensen’s book has not lost any of its appeal, even as we approach the 60th anniversary of its publication. Generations continue to read a very old-fashioned story about a little girl and her family, because the values and bonds of family and friends are universal, and because Sorensen crafted her story in a way that transcends the modern age. Her picture of a place in time has proven to be timeless.

Children and adults met and had their books signed by Marilyn Hilburn (left), who was Virginia Sorensen's model for the character Margie, and Amy Hipple Bjork (second from left), Sorensen's model for Marly. Lisa Nathanson of Hurry Hill Maple Farm Museum (background) had Sorensen's book, Miracles on Maple Hill, for sale. Sorensen’s Newbery Medal is on exhibit at the Museum.

While the weather was not-too-cooperative for the June 27th unveiling of the Miracles on Maple Hill marker, the event was still full of old-fashioned fun, with nearly 200 people enjoying music, talks, book signings (photo above), and maple ice cream sundaes. In the photo below, Amy Hipple Bjork has the honor of unveiling the marker, located on Route 6N in Edinboro.


The women who made Oliver Hazard Perry’s “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag remained steadfast to their task amidst the fear and tension of Erie preparing for war. The flagmakers shared the common bond of family (all were part of the Forster family) and quietly made their stitches while fathers, brothers, and sons engaged in the more obvious aspects of war as soldiers. They certainly had no thoughts beyond the immediate. While they hoped their work would inspire Perry’s men, they could not have known that the flag they made in 1813 would continue to speak through centuries, inspiring generations of naval officers as well as anyone who needs to stand persistent to win the day. While their work is preserved and exhibited at the US Naval Academy Museum, their names are not remembered there – it is on the state historical marker that they are finally brought out of the shadows.

East High JROTC joined Ship’s Company, US Brig Niagara 1813 to provide a color guard for the Battle of Lake Erie Commemoration. In honoring both the 1813 period colors along with our nation’s flag, we honor the fallen of the War of 1812 as well as the veterans and those who continue to serve today.

Dedication of the “Making of the Flag” marker took place on September 10th at the Erie Maritime Museum as part of the annual commemoration of the Battle of Lake Erie. While the service itself was solemn, there certainly was a sense of joy when the marker honoring the flag makers was unveiled. In the photo below, Forster Family descendants N. Lane Nelson and Becky Forster (center, left and right), along with Sabina Freeman (left) and PHMC Commissioner Craige Pepper Victor (right) reveal Pennsylvania’s newest marker. Descendant Nancy Gorman (far left) and Master of Ceremonies Jay Breneman (far right) applaud.


Join us for the #AskAnArchivist Twitter event on Oct. 1

For Trails of History programs this weekend and early next week, check out the September program listings. If you're planning ahead, the October listings are now available.

Pennsylvania's Archives Month begins Thursday, October 1 with  #AskAnArchivist Twitter Event
Filling out the branches of a family tree isn't easy. Hours of your time are spent sifting through decades of birth and death records.  Sidetracks are common, especially if you discover that one of your relatives wasn't entirely truthful about their own history.

But, it's worth it...any archivist will tell you that.

On Thursday, October 1, four archivists with the Pennsylvania State Archives will participate in Ask An Archivist Day by taking to Twitter to answer anything and everything archives.  Later in the day, State Archivist David Carmicheal will do his part by fielding your most pressing inquiries.

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 — to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy curiosity.

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

This year, Ask An Archivist Day, the kickoff to Pennsylvania's Archives Month, will focus on five areas of research.  Here's the schedule: 

10 a.m. to noon 

Aaron McWilliams
Rich Saylor
Archivist Aaron McWilliams will take a break from his busy schedule to answer your questions on genealogy. Thanks to a continued collaboration between the Pennsylvania State Archives and Ancestry all of the publicly available death records from the Archives from 1906 until 1963 are now available online. In addition, Pennsylvania birth records from 1906 to 1908 are also available via ancestry.com.

In the second half of the first session,archivist Rich Saylor will take your questions on military history. Saylor is the author of the national-award winning book Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania's Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders.

1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

Kurt Bell 
Josh Stahlman
Archivist Kurt Bell will lead off the second session of Ask An Archivist by answering your questions on Railroad Research. Don't hold back. Kurt is an expert when it comes to railroad history in the Commonwealth.

Next, Josh Stahlman, an archivist at the Pennsylvania State Archives since 2008, is ready to offer tips when it comes to Caring for Family Records

3 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

State Archivist David Carmicheal will spend the last hour of Ask An Archivist answering questions regarding his role with the Commonwealth. Before coming to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Carmicheal directed the Georgia Division of Archives and History. During his tenure, he oversaw the design and construction of the award-winning Georgia Archives building, introduced the Virtual Vault to provide online access to more than 1.5 million archival documents and helped lead national efforts in emergency management, particularly for the protection of essential government records.
David Carmicheal

How to 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?

Catching Up

This summer was marked by an unprecedented (in Trailheads history anyway) run of guest bloggers. I would like to thank Friends of Joseph Priestley House board member John L. Moore; Keystone interns Ryan Zsifkov (2 posts), Corine Lehigh (2 posts), and Kendra Ressler; Collections Advancement Project curator Rachel Yerger; PHMC director of strategic initiatives Beth Hager; and PHMC information specialist Sean Adkins. While I thoroughly enjoy writing weekly posts, it has been a very pleasant experience to share other people's work and a broad range of topics with Trailheads readers. I hope you've enjoyed it too. But now it's time for one of my patented "roundup" posts, gathering items of interest (I hope) that you may have missed (but probably didn't). In other words, fun's over. Winter, as they say, is coming. *wink*

John Fielding ready to answer questions (courtesy Anthracite Heritage Museum)
This past Wednesday was #AskACurator day. 2015 was the second year for PHMC's participation in this international Twitter-based initiative. Curators and social media folks from Anthracite Heritage Museum, Ephrata Cloister, and Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum took part at various times throughout the day, working with PHMC's information specialist. We had some good back and forth among the sites and other non-PHMC museums, with retweeting going on by site followers. (You can find a summary for all three sites on PHMC's Storify or for Ephrata and Landis Valley on Erin Negley's (Lancaster Newspapers) Storify.) Look for us next year on Sept. 14and join in the conversation!

Ephrata Cloister curator Kerry Mohn tweeting (photo by Rebecca Lawrence)

In anticipation of Pope Francis's visit to Philadelphia next weekend, Visit PA compiled a list of "sacred spaces" in Pennsylvania, reflecting the Commonwealth's significant history of religious diversity and freedom (PHMC's annual theme in 2011). Three Trails of History sites are on the list: Pennsbury Manor, home to Pennsylvania's founder, and two sites that embody Pennsylvania's diversity of religious practice and belief, Ephrata Cloister and Old Economy Village. (You can hear more about it on witf's Smart Talk broadcast from Sept. 11, about 35 minutes in.)

On a related note, PennDOT and the PA Turnpike Commission have created a website with info about traffic and road closures during the papal visit. If you're planning to go to Philly or want to be sure to avoid the traffic, this looks like a useful resource. Please be aware that many museums in downtown Philadelphia will be closed next weekend, but Graeme Park, Pennsbury Manor, and Washington Crossing Historic Park will be open. Just sayin'.

The September programs listing ended up being a separate page instead of a regular post, so if you're looking for something to do THIS weekend, please check it out. Look for the October listings to arrive next Friday, so that you can plan ahead.