April 6 Blog from Ning

So most of this information was previously housed at a Lattimer Massacre site on the Ning network.  Due to changes there, though, we’re moving everything here!  As part of that, here’s an old blog (from April 6, 2010):

Hi all! Nobody’s tried out the blog feature on here yet so I thought I’d give it a shot – and in the process tell a bit about Paul Shackel’s and my visit to Hazleton and its surrounding communities.

We were up to Hazleton, Lattimer, West Hazleton, Harwood, Humbolt, etc. March 18-20, way too short a trip! Paul brought his wife, and National Park Service archaeologist, Barbara Little. On the last day of the trip my husband, Ryan Sullivan, was able to join us as well.

The foci of the trip were threefold: 1.) Meet some of the people we’ve started to connect with in the area through here and otherwise, 2.) Visit the Massacre site and memorial, and 3.) Check out the massive personal museum that is Joe Michel’s storage facility.

Some of Joe's Collection

Mr. Probert and others look through the archives

Starting backwards on this journey with #3, this place is immense!! Words cannot describe Joe’s collection. These pictures are just parts of it – a room filled with maps and other archives from the greater Hazleton area (right), rooms of old bar supplies, of old water treatment and other science-y supplies, of drafting equipment (above left), typewriters, tools, coal mining accoutrement, a couple of old Army Jeeps, and so forth. It is truly amazing. AND! Joe’s looking for a local (Hazleton-area) museum, organization – something – to help house and preserve these treasures! Any takers? If I win the lottery I’m all over it. I have tickets for tomorrow’s Powerball 🙂

We did make it to the memorial site, which was great. The last time I went there was a bit of snow on the ground and it was incredibly cold so I pretty much ran out, took a bunch of pictures, and ran back into my car. In March we were lucky enough to hit a gorgeous weekend and were able to walk around the grounds, and the woods to the left of the memorial (if you’re looking at it). Part of this time was spent with two of Michael Cheslock’s great-granddaughters (one of whom I met through the previous LMP site on ning).  Getting their insights then, and during lunch afterward, was especially moving.

Is this the gum tree?

Part of the time we spent at the memorial we were looking for the gum tree, which makes its appearance in many accounts of the massacre (notably Pinkowski’s The Lattimer Massacre and Michael Novak’s Guns fo Lattimer). The idea is that if we can find the location of the gum tree, then we can figure approximately where Sheriff Martin and the deputies were located, and where the shooting started. I’ve heard people say that the tree was shot full of bullets, but I can’t imagine a tree that would’ve been fairly small then would have been shot much – any thoughts? In any event, we found this part of a trunk, which we think may be a gum tree. Anyone know anything about trees based on bark? This (right) was found in a pile of stuff (salt, dirt, etc.) dumped on the land by Hazle Township trucks, so it could’ve been moved from anywhere along the roads, I suppose – so we’re not so sure it’s even helpful in locating the original gum tree spot; but it is exciting.

Harwood Mule Stable Location

In any event, meeting the people we met was easily the best part of this visit. I got a ride around Harwood and the communities surrounding it by one of this site’s members and her cousin, which was hilarious (there are some entertaining people around the area!) and enlightening. I really hadn’t realized just how many individual towns existed in the area, which seems to be really important. They also showed me where the mule stables likely were (above), where miners met before the marches leading up to the massacre. Behind this area are the strippings left over from the Harwood mines – a reminder that the cultural and environmental implications of the mining industry are still alive and well in Northeastern PA, despite the mining companies having left many of the old mines and the many towns associated with them.

We got a chance, too, to meet Bobby Maso, who wrote the Standard-Speaker article through which many of this site’s members found us. Bobby’s one of most ambitious and put-together 22 year olds I’ve ever met, and he genuinely cares about the history of his hometown and region (he’s a Freeland native). He’s super anxious to do anything to help this project, it seems, which I really appreciate. Also, as a shout out, he’s one of the Eckley Players – so go see him this summer at one of their events!

Mr. Probert in the Vine St. Cemetery

I want to give particular attention to John Probert (in the “archives” portion of Joe Michel’s vault/museum above), who has been an incredibly helpful go-between, local guide, etc. He introduced us to Joe, as well as to Hazleton’s poet laureate and local artist, Sal, whose insights into the massacre were inspiring. Mr. Probert was also kind enough to give us a private tour of the Vine Street Cemetery, where he is president of the Cemetery Association (right). Check it out sometime if you haven’t been there. Many of the players in the massacre story are there – Pardees, deputies, Michael Cheslock, etc.

Anyway, Mr. Probert and Joe have been cooking up scenarios for what really happened leading up to, during, and immediately following the massacre. I’m incredibly impressed, and grateful, for their help, resources and imaginations!!

So, now what? I’m hoping to come up for Patch Town Days, which I think are June 19 and 20 (anyone have details?). If anyone wants to meet up there, or around that time, let me know! Meanwhile, I’ll blog or send a message about any other related goings-on here! ‘Til then… .

– Kristin

Update: I have not yet won Powerball (5/7/10)

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