Friday, April 28, 2017

Potter County Commissioners make a shady deal...





County Commissioner Charles Austin made his rounds in August of 1913, checking to see if there was anyone who fit criteria for placement in the Potter County Home. He stopped at the residence of Mr. John Hill in Summit Township, and saw an opportunity. Explaining to the elderly man that a deal could be made, John was quickly convinced to sign over the deed to his farm (valued at $1,800.00 - nowadays about $45,000 ) and all assets such as farm equipment, animals and such. John would get a safe place to live for the rest of his life, along with his daughter Cynthia, who was one of his many children still alive but continued to live at home with her Dad. Commissioner Austin also said he would make sure the $300 mortgage left on the property would be paid... No time was wasted contacting family members, the commissioner returned to the Potter County Home with the two new inmates in tow.  

Mr. Hill passed away from heart disease about two weeks later. The agreement already in place kept Cynthia from leaving. She died of Chronic Nephritis ( basically a urinary tract or kidney infection that went untreated ) in 1924 when she was only 51 years old. 



In Memory of John Hill & his daughter Cynthia

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mysterious trunk found in the Rex Theatre - Curwensville




When Howard Thompson took over The Rex Theatre (formerly known as The Strand) in Curwensville, he probably could never have imagined what would be found on the site just a short while later. William Irwin and Adam Dilliorenti began doing renovations for Mr. Thompson in July, 1935. When the two began excavating the cellar, they discovered a dusty old wooden trunk hidden in the foundation. Of course they were curious as to what was inside, and who wouldn't be? When Irwin and Dilliorenti pried the peculiar crate open, they were quite shocked to find a jaw bone with human teeth grinning back at them... and an assortment of other bones broken into pieces, some charred. This caused great excitement in town. Before the box and its contents were hustled away by investigators, many people caught a glimpse of the creepy mandible and soon everyone was speculating who might have hidden the bones in the old building... and why? 

The last anyone could remember Dr. Hiram Orville King had purchased the lot about 1890, and constructed a home for his family there. The physician built an office for his medical practice in between his residence and the next building a short while after. Down the road he sold just the office building and lot to William Pratt who ran a barber shop at the location. In 1920 Pratt sold the lot to Fred and Francis Thompson, taking the building along with him to a different lot in town but leaving the foundation behind. The Thompson's built The Strand Theatre and eventually  it changed hands and was sold to the Clearfield National Bank. During that ownership it was ran by managers Gribble & Natopoulas who also managed a Theatre in Clymer. In 1933 Mr. Gribble & Mr. Natopoulas updated and installed the photophone and sound equipment, which cost a fortune. The building caught fire not too long after and the contents were destroyed. The lot was unoccupied for awhile until Howard Thomspon bought it with the intention of renovating and re opening the Theater. There had been other managers and such... 

The rumor mill was flooded with talk of people who had disappeared over the years, such as the young Caldwell boy from Rockton who was never found. More importantly, everyone wanted to know who actually buried the person inside the rustic box, concealing it in the cellar walls to keep their secret. Could someone have committed murder? Could the Doctor have ran an undercover operation providing illegal surgeries and made a mistake? It was just crazy to think that all this time no one had known anything about it. Of course when the short investigation was concluded, it was determined that there may or may have not been a cemetery on the plot of land, & in the event that there was, the coffins must have been moved years ago but one was left behind. There was no record of any graveyards or family burial sites there, but what else could be the case? People in town didn't really buy it, but eventually the gossip channel moved on to the next thing and the mysterious trunk and disturbing cargo were forgotten. 

News Articles from The Progress 1940's - 1970's



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Not your ordinary stories - Coudersport






An Accidental Suicide - 1893
After spending a week away from home, Daniel Glassmire returned late one night, and headed straight to the bedroom. Mrs. Glassmire went to check on him & was shocked when her husband said he had just drank a lethal dose of Aconite, and was going to soon die. She quickly called a local physician who ran to the home, but the 46 year old man died from the effects of poison. The tragic suicide of the wealthy and prominent Mr. Glassmire was talk of the town. A few weeks later the public was addressed and a coroners jury had changed the cause of death from suicide by poison to accidental. There was mention that money cant buy love or happiness, but that it may have bearing on cause of death in Potter County. 

Something Smelled Fishy - 1908
The townspeople were overcome by a terrible stench from dead rotting fish that began piling on the banks of the river. The cause of all the dead trout was a complete mystery and for the next few years the waters were baron, no fish seemed to return. In 1913 the mystery was solved when the Coudersport Borough Council received notice they were being sued by the Department of Health for $145,000, $50 for each day the Borough refused to stop dumping raw sewage into the creek and $500 for continuing to violate the law knowingly and causing harm to wildlife and anyone who had been drinking, swimming, or eating fish in the water. In case you are wondering, nowadays the amount the borough was sued for would be over 3.5 million dollars. I would say there may have been a tax increase soon after. 

Man Pays For His Own Birth - 1911
A local physician was settling up on old unpaid bills before retirement. One of these bills was for the birth of a son to Mr. & Mrs. Alphonzo Vergason in 1888. As Mr. Vergason had already passed away, the $10 bill was made to his son, Leroy.. who promptly paid the bill for his own birth. he was said the be one of the few honest men in town. 

Reverend Sheehan Rescues A Body From Dissection - 1912
Mrs. Caroline Haynes died at the Potter County Home when she was 102 years old. To avoid the chance of someone claiming her body, it was prepared immediately that day and placed on a train for shipment to the Philadelphia Medical Science Department for dissection. Reverend Sheehan stopped the train just in time. As he made visits to her in the home, he knew she was near death and had already secured the 10 signatures needed to claim her body and stop the process. Reverend Sheehan held a service for Mrs. Haynes and gave her a proper burial in the Eulalia Cemetery. While he always tried, unfortunately Reverend Sheehan didn't always make it there before this happened. Many times inmates and patients from the Potter County Home were shipped off before the 10 day waiting period was up and by then there was not much that could be done unless you had a lot of money. The facility was well known for scandalous activities including receiving funds for services never rendered...such as payroll checks, purchase of goods, and burial plots. 

Abandoned Baby - 1918
Before sunrise one summer day Miss VanDusen, Superintendent at the Children's Home in Harrison Valley, heard a knock on the door. A well dressed elderly couple, who she knew as the Dodd's from Coudersport, were outside with a baby in a basket. They didn't say much, just gave her $5 to help care for the infant and quickly left. Miss VanDusen took the baby out, finding it was a newborn baby boy that was deathly sick. By the time a Doctor arrived, the infant had passed away and the probable cause given by the physician was pneumonia, most likely caused by neglect after being exposed to damp weather. The baby was buried in Harrison Valley quietly. Word made it back to the District Attorney and the Coroner, who charged that no proper death certificate had been made because the names of parents, and other information had been omitted, despite the fact that the same Coroner had done this himself a number of times, especially on death certificates from the county home. The matter was very quickly dropped by the two and no further discussion of the matter was made when it was realized that the child was illegitimate, son of the well known and married Mr. Hall of Coudersport and a Miss Dodd.  

Skeleton Reese Hollow Road - 1924
Albert Sherwood & Clarence Gilbert were doing repairs to a farmhouse on Reese Hollow Road and were excited when they found a box buried in the cellar. They quickly opened the lid but were horrified to find the arm of a skeleton adorned with a bracelet... and quickly made proper notification. Coroner Knight arrived and with Sherwood and Gilbert peering over his shoulder, the Doctor inspected the box. Decaying teeth, fragments of charred bones, a mouth brace and women's garter buckles were int he box with the mysterious arm. The Coroner snapped the lid shut, and said there was no reason to suspect the bones were human, leaving with the box in his possession. Rumors flooded town, but with the coroner's decision final, the whole thing is just another mystery.