Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mary Jane Tryon’s Intriguing Quilt

Mary Jane Tryon
Somewhere in the 1840's, Mary Jane Tryon made a quilt. As she sat piecing together the small, intricate blocks, she could never have imagined the impact her quilt would have 168 years later.

Mary Jane Tryon married late in life, she was 27. She married Warner Waid, had two little girls and was dead by 36. She rests peacefully in the Waid family plot in the little cemetery in Tryonville. Her husband lived another nine years, leaving their two daughters, Christina and Alice, to be raised by maiden aunts. While this is an interesting bit of family history, our tale doesn't start here. It does not begin until 2008.

Meadville is a quaint town nestled among the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. Like most of Pennsylvania, it has long historical roots that date back to early settlements in the 1700's. The Crawford County Historical Society takes an active role in the community, part of which is preserving and protecting one of its most valuable assets, the Baldwin Reynolds House Museum. This three-story, 23 room mansion was built in 1843 by US Supreme Court Justice, Henry Baldwin. Our story starts in a closet within this stately home.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The History of "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" in Crawford County

"Hold up there, Santa. How should we greet you?"
Not so long ago I was admonished for wishing somebody a "Happy Holiday" instead of a "Happy Thanksgiving."

"I don't celebrate 'holidays,'" the person told me. "I celebrate Thanksgiving and then I celebrate Christmas. I hate it when people like you wish me 'Happy Holidays.' It's a made-up, politically-correct phrase that you should stop using!"

After promising myself that a person like me might never bother wishing a person like that a happy anything, ever again, I got to thinking about the two phrases: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I wondered if there might be a way to track their use over time within Crawford County.

Turns out you can. Sort of.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Origins of the Crawford County Fair

Ohio race horses helped bring about the county fair
With the excitement of the Crawford County Fair fully behind us, it’s worth taking a belated look at the origins of the what arguably is the county’s largest and most popular annual event. This year’s fair, themed as a “Harvest of History,” celebrated its 71st year of operation but in actuality, the county’s fair—or fairs as it turns out—trace back much farther than this, and not without a little drama along the way either.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shadows of the Past

On December 7, 2015, the Crawford County Historical Society took ownership of the James and Elizabeth Tarr Mansion, thus saving it from planned demolition. In that moment, thanks largely to the support of the community, the society took a major step towards both preserving our past and building a new future.

This gorgeous Italianate building, designed by Francis Marion Ellis and paid for with the Tarr Family's $2 million (over $35 million today) in revenue from the Oil Boom, was a testament to oil's influence in our region and the nation as a whole. The Tarrs were one of our country's first oil barons and their home of over 12,000 square feet will stand the test of time to become the self-sustaining Crawford County Historical Society's headquarters and history center!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Fire Rode the Flood: Disaster in the Oil Region

A boy sits among the debris in Titusville
For most of May and the early part of June in 1892, Northwestern Pennsylvania was soaked in a seemingly endless period of rain which culminated in four days of torrential downpours that devastated the entire region. This unprecedented act of nature wreaked havoc for area residents making roads and bridges impassable. In the early morning hours of June 5th, however, the situation turned catastrophic for those in Titusville and Oil City, and the aftermath would produce scenes reminiscent of the great tragedy in Johnstown just a few years earlier. The following dispatch filed on the 6th of June captures the highlights of this horrific event.