Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Magnificent McHenry House Part 1: A City Arrives

A crowd gathered to greet one of the inaugural A & GW trains. Note the Depot in the background.   
As time progresses forward it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine the grand structures that once dominated the landscapes of our community. While a long list of such buildings could be compiled for Crawford County, few would compare to the magnitude and grandeur of the McHenry House and the adjoining depot of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad in Meadville.

The McHenry House was a premier dining hall and hotel, named in honor of James McHenry, Esquire, the London financial agent sent in 1859 to ensure the successful construction of the Atlantic and Great Western (A & GW) Railroad. McHenry couldn’t have imagined the challenges that awaited him, but even so, he managed to secure needed resources, albeit controversially, despite labor shortages, political infighting, and the Civil War.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Famous Allegheny - Big Names from a Small School

Bentley Hall, Allegheny College

Nestled away at the top of the hill overlooking Meadville, Pennsylvania is Allegheny College which holds the title of 32nd oldest in the United States, having just celebrated it’s 200th birthday in 2015. The college came into being when Timothy Alden, a Harvard graduate, traveled to Meadville with hopes of founding an institution of higher education. He, along with other gentlemen of the town, took on the momentous effort of securing the school’s first trustees and petitioning the state for a charter for their institution. Alden would become the first president, as well as professor of Oriental Languages and Ecclesiastical History. The first freshman class was admitted on July 4, 1816, although at this point the college only really existed in name, as there was no set building for another four years.  Bentley Hall, the school’s oldest and most iconic building, was not built until 1820. By this time, a number of major contributions had been made to the school allowing the project to be possible, including a generous land grant by Samuel Lord Esq. (part of the original estate connected to the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum). From these humble beginnings came a school that soon flourished and served to educate a number famous faces from the last two centuries.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Healing and Luxury: A History of the Saegertown Inn

Front view of the Saegertown Inn with French Creek along left side.
With the overwhelming interest in photographs of the Saegertown Inn recently posted on the Crawford County Historical Society's social media pages, what better time to "get away from it all" for a while and discuss the history of this grand hotel and vacation venue.

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.