Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The good old days in Westfield, Pa

Birds Eye Of Westfield

If there's a will, there's a way!
A lamb born one bitter cold winter night at the Charlton & Thankful Phillips farm was found the next morning with the rear portion of its body completely frozen. Mr. Phillips prepared to ease its suffering... but his children entered the stall before action was taken. They pleaded with their father to keep the lamb and agreed to care for it themselves. Over the next couple of months a miracle happened. The children nurtured their new pet, who was very healthy despite the fact that its rear legs rotted completely off. In the spring, the baby ram was running in the pasture with the other sheep and everyone traveling the road would stop and stare at the unusual site. He lived to an old age just like the other sheep. 1866

Green - Pease in Westfield
The Westfield Idea published an article titled, "Green - Pease in Westfield," which made local readers chuckle. Everyone knows that peas are green, but this bit of news was not in regards to veggies. It was a wedding announcement for Mr. Justuce Green and Miss Arvilla (Lucy) Pease, who were married in Westfield by Miles White on March 15th. The happy newlyweds were said to have the most original wedding announcement and the interesting article was copied by newspapers nationwide. 1878

A haunted house?!?
James & Minnie Smith started to believe their home was haunted. For months a mournful crying sound would keep them up at night. Try as they might, the two were unable to locate the source and felt it was the ghost of a restless woman. Occasionally the noises were accompanied by shuffling sounds and usually seemed to come from the living room and kitchen area... but only in the night. The lack of sleep and distressing noises were almost too much to bear. The couple began preparing to sell their home. While doing so, the fall evenings were growing cold. One night Mrs. Smith decided to light the fire place and make sure it was warm when her husband came in for the evening. He entered the home just as she did and within seconds they were both was blinded with smoke and soot. A loud shrieking cry and massive commotion sent them running for their life. James and Mary caught their breath and peered in the living room window from outside. They suddenly began to laugh so hard that they cried. Inside an owl was flapping its wings and frantically trying to escape, shedding feathers everywhere and making a huge mess. Apparently the ghost was just an old night bird which had taken up residence in the chimney. When the cozy owl felt the warmth of the fire on his toes, it caused him to flee down the chimney instead of up. Mr. & Mrs. Smith caught the bird and set him free in the woods. After that they were able to get a good nights sleep and remain in their home. 1905

The mystery only a doctor could solve
After months of suffering from a sore throat, Emmet Davis began to lose weight and was struggling to even do the slightest of tasks. Friends noticed that he was losing a great deal of weight and convinced the stubborn man to see Dr. Pritchard in May. The Dr. administered a feeding tube to keep his patient alive. After a couple of weeks, Dr. Pritchard was wondering if he could even help the man at all... whatever was causing this illness was a mystery. The Dr. decided to try and stick a device down into Emmets throat to see if he could feel anything. As he pulled back, something caught for a second. The doctor used a lamp to look down inside and could see an object that was ivory in color. He worked to extract the mysterious article and pulled out a pair of false teeth! Emmet said, "I have been looking for those since last Christmas when I lost them!" All this time the man had been suffering from a case of swallowing his own false teeth, and soon he was healthy again. 1907

Seven year old hero
Ivan Schoonover, 7 years old, became known as the youngest hero in town when he rescued his friend, Wilson White, from drowning on Christmas Eve. The boys were accompanied by Bussy Farwell, and had been throwing rocks and sticks onto the frozen surface at the dam. Wilson walked across the ice, and suddenly fell through. He began to panic. The more he moved, the more the ice broke away. Ivan sprung into action, telling Wilson to stay calm as he lay flat on his belly and inched toward the middle, slowly but steadily. Ivan reached out, grabbing his terrified friends hand. When he got a grip, he inched backwards until they met Bussy on the side, who helped them both up. The children ran as fast as they could to the White home. The doctor was called and Wilson was given medical treatment for hypothermia. Within a few weeks he was outside playing with the boys again.  If it hadn't been for Ivan's level head and quick action, Wilson would not be alive, Mr. & Mrs. White said he was a hero. Ivan was recognized by the community for his awesome deed. 1919

Stop, look, and listen
Robert Yeager was unloading and hanging a recent shipment of bananas at a store owned by his uncle Herman & Aunt Emma on Main Street. From the corner of his eye he saw an enormous, very hairy spider run across the fruit and over his hand. He panicked, but didn't flail around which is what probably saved his life. He stopped, looked, and when the spider dropped to the floor and sped away... he listened carefully. Finally it could be heard scurrying in the corner under a shelf. Around then his uncle came to see what was going on. The two got a closer look, and it wasn't just any giant spider, it was a tarantula about 8 inches long. Thankfully they were able to kill it and from then on when Robert and future employees were unloading fruit, they were careful to check for poisonous spiders. 1922

Lost and found
Mr. Parsons was sweeping the floor in the Farmers and Traders national bank when he noticed a sparkling object in the dust. He picked it up and found it to be the diamond lost the previous October by Mrs. Margaret Duly. She had been in the bank and hit her hand, and the valuable gem was knocked from her ring. An extensive search was done at the time but the precious gem was never located. She was very happy to receive a call that it had been found. 1935

Click to enlarge...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Once upon a time there was a haunted house in Elmira

Mrs. Mary Chamberlain died February 2, 1921 in her beautiful home on West 3rd Street in Elmira, Ny. Neighbors, future homeowners, and tenants claimed her lonely spirit never left. Some said she was stuck in between heaven and hell as punishment for taking her own life. Others said she was waiting for justice to be served up on a platter to the one who took it.  Either way, the old Chamberlain homestead was the haunted house on the block. Throughout the years there were mysterious sightings and sounds reported in the home and garden. The ghost of Mary was especially active late at night and in the early morning when she was seen peering from the windows or heard crying as she walked the premises.   

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An old post card, sales ad's from the Elmira Gazette,
Excerpt from the American Upholstery Journal in 1908, Photo from Ancestry

Mr. Harry G. Chamberlain began working his way up the corporate ladder starting his first day on the job at a store in Elmira owned by S.F. Iszard Dry Goods & Company. In 1908 he and five others were promoted from department managers to stockholders. 
With his advancement came power, a growing bank account, and soon the need to jazz things up on the home front. By 1910 Mr. Chamberlain, his wife (Mary), and two children (Bernice & Harold), were living in a beautiful three story home on West Third Street. A shiny new automobile was parked in the driveway. The gardens were immaculate and colorful. It seemed like the Chamberlain family was picture perfect. 

Around 11:30 am on the 2nd day of February, neighbors were approached by Mr. Chamberlain. He explained returning from work for lunch to find a meal had not been prepared and his wife was no where in sight. After checking the rooms, he inquired with them but no one recalled seeing Mrs. Chamberlain that day. 

The neighborhood was suddenly alerted that something was terribly wrong when flashing lights and sirens neared, arriving at the Chamberlain residence. Within hours Mrs. Chamberlains body was removed to the local funeral home. According to Mr. Chamberlain... he returned from the neighbors around 11:45, completely puzzled about his missing wife. A light went off in his head, and he checked the one room he forgot earlier... the bathroom. The door was locked so he pried it open. Blood covered the floor, walls, and ceiling.  He said he would not have recognized his wife had it not been for her partial attire. Mary's feet were in the tub, torso lay over the edge and head nearly gone. A pistol was visible in the reddish water. Mr. Chamberlain said Mary had been medicating at home, and recently seemed despondent. She must have taken her own life. 

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Sales ad's from the Elmira Gazette February 4, 1921 - Photo from Ancestry

The coroner declared her cause of death was suicide, which would be consistent with her husbands story. It did seem strange that she had shot herself not once, but twice in the head. Just not odd enough to prolong the investigation.  Bernice & Harold, now 27 and 18, were still living at home and also both working at a life insurance agency. They agreed that their mother had just not been her self in the weeks prior. People were shocked, especially those close to Mary who knew she had always been cheerful and happy. The rumor mill began to turn and there was talk around town of some type of conspiracy, maybe having to do with the life insurance policy on Mary, but there was no proof and no use in fighting a losing battle with a wealthy business man.  

Life went on for those on West Third Street. In 1923 Mr. Chamberlain married Mrs. Ada (Ferrenbaugh) O'Brien. After her move into the lovely home on West Third Street, Bernice and Harold were quickly moved out. Harry began to seem a little off, at times he was even heard talking to Mary in the garden. When Harry died at home April 19, 1936, some felt the living members of the Chamberlain family got what they all deserved. The sole heir and executrix of his estate was the new Mrs. Chamberlain who sold the old homestead and used the sizable inheritance to live out the rest of her years along the sunny beaches of Florida. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

They mysterious disappearance of Edward Trott & 16 other crew members aboard the Boston Trawler Belle

Edward & Edith Trott purchased the Coudersport Service Station in 1946. The couple was formerly from Boston and Canada. They were looking forward to the slower pace of a small town and living closer to 4 of their 5 grown children. Just before Christmas, the same year, Ed made an announcement that shocked the family. Without anyone knowing he had accepted a position as chief engineer of the Boston Trawler Belle, and was leaving for the port in Massachusetts on Christmas. The 113 foot steel fishing vessel was scheduled for departure on December 27th with a crew of 17. The furthest point would be Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Canada, and estimated return in mid January. The crew was guaranteed a hefty pay for embarking on the dangerous fishing expedition. 

Families were contacted on January 10th with news that the Boston Trawler Belle was lost at sea and a search was in progress. According to the Standard Fisheries Company, owners of the boat, Captain Linehan reached out to them the day before via radio telephone. He frantically reported there was a storm bearing down on the vessel which was loaded with 60,000 lbs of fish. They were about 100 miles east of the Boston port, requesting assistance due to engine failure. The call was cut short and attempts to reach them back had failed. Families began to pray for the safe return of their loved ones. Valiant efforts were made by the US & Canadian Coast Guards, New England & Canadian State Police, other vessels abroad, volunteers, etc...  by sea, air, and land. Over 50,000 miles of ocean and coastline were explored over and over. The Navy used radar equipped bombers to scan the ocean. No sign of the ship, not even a shard of wood, was ever found. The crew was never heard from again and it was quickly presumed that they had all sunk with the ship into the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean. 

There were suspicions of a conspiracy following the burial of Patrick Aylward, one of the crew members said to be lost at sea, at the Saint Charles Borromeo Cemetery in Fermeuse, Newfoundland & Labrador Canada on the Avalon Peninsula, which took place in February. This was shortly after the United States Government disregarded a news report that wreckage from the Boston Trawler Belle was found south of Cape Race, Newfoundland & Labrador. Cape Race is about 66 kilometers (41 miles) south of Fermeuse. 

Stay tuned for more stories of the missing in/from Potter County...
Henry Schall - John Heichel - Mike, the Jewish peddler - Jennie Day - 
Henry Simmons - Ethel Bush - William Palmatier - Augusta Holt - 
Charles Alfred Tassell - David Stephens - Sam Duell - etc