Monday, November 2, 2015

Laurel Messenger: The joys of the county genealogical and historical society newsletter!

For years, Mom has subscribed to the Laurel Messenger, the newsletter of the Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County, Pennsylvania. About a year ago when I was raiding Mom's shelves of things I'd need to carry on her genealogy work, I came across stacks of old Laurel Messengers and packed them up and shipped them all to my home here in San Diego. When I got home and had some time to look at this treasure, I decided that I too needed to subscribe with a membership.

Published quarterly, it's focus is two-fold: it brings news of the history side of the house and covers events like the recent Mountain Craft Day, as well as publishes genealogy focused articles about news of yesteryear and diaries of locals. The most recent issue contains a lively mix of both.

These local groups are the lifeblood of many a small town or distant county for those of us who research from afar. We depend on their archives, if they are fortunate to have support for one, and we spend our travel dollars to get there. We send in our requests for requests for research, and it usually comes at very reasonable rates. Sure we might have to wait months for their lone research volunteer to get to it, but we know that it will be worth it.

Back to the Laurel Messenger's recent issue. In it was the story of an German girl, traveling alone, who came to America in the early 1800s. She married in Germany in 1830 and her husband left there for America and arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio to find work. By 1835, his wife, Liwwat, was on her way to him. The excerpt begins for us at her day 61 of travel from Germany when she arrives in Baltimore and hires a driver to take her west over the Old Pike, or National Highway. Here are just a few samples.

Day 64. It was indeed a perilous and long day. We stayed the night in the inn west of Hancock, at Piney Grove. It cost 70 cents with black bread, and they made us food for the next day also, for eating on the way. The water here is horrible and tastes like gunpowder.

Day 65. Today we traveled again over high mountains, and by afternoon heavy thunder and thunder clouds cracked between the mountains. The storm was unpleasant. The horses were frightened and so was I. This evening we stayed in a little house with a Cumberland (Maryland) family. The meal was the best with bread, meat, milk and vegetables.

Day 65. (Number duplicated.) There was a dispute between the travelers and the wagoners. They thought the trip too slow... city people who don't realize the weakness of and difficult pulling of the horses. Their patience is thin, too many days, and people are tired.

Day 66. It poured with rain showers, one after the another, so driving the team was dangerous and slow. We stayed the night outside of Frostburg (Maryland). The host immediately made a fire in the fireplace, and prepared the soup and evening meal. The man spoke German very well. Everything cost me 55 cents for the night with enough for breakfast.

Interesting. One of our ancestors, John Eckhart and family ran an Inn on the National Road about this time and might have been her host because his inn was just east of Frostburg. He died in 1835 and would have been hale and hearty during the time Liwwat traveled through.

Day 67. The Country is all mountains and valleys with thick forests and wide streams. Now we came through Grantsville, a nice village, and here we bought fresh meat and cooked it ourselves. The weather is better and the travelers as well.

Just a bit later than this, and about 1840, another ancestor of mine, Joseph Edward Whetstone,  had a blacksmith service in Grantsville. Then in about 1845, he took over the operation of an inn right there in Grantsville on the National Road!

This is just a small excerpt from the article which is full of the details of travel west during this time. I could easily imagine my ancestors who ran the inns on the National Road as being Liwwat's host or shoeing the team of horses.

I simply love how our local societies are the conduit of information of all sorts to those of us on the hunt for even more details about our ancestors!!


Joseph E Whetstone 1816-1897, blacksmith and farrier, then innkeeper on the National Road.
Lastly he was a stonemason and worked all over Western Maryland.
 

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