Later in the afternoon, the other side of the family showed up and we got some pictures of all the grandkids, all the great grandkids and all everybody.
Thursday was another great day of catching up with Grandpa and Grandma. Even though we never lived close to them (the closest was when we were first married and lived in Xenia – about four hours away), Ken’s parents always spent two weeks with us each summer – so the kids knew them well and always had a great time with them. We also took a trip with them back to Cape Cod to see where Grandma grew up … and of course, had many visits to their house in PA and in Florida during the years they spent the winters on the golf course.
Having this day when we just “hung out” was good – Ken’s parents hadn’t seen the great grandkids for several years and I knew that the great grandkids are all old enough to remember this visit.
The purpose behind our trip out East was to surprise Great Grandma Weddle for her 90th birthday.
And we definitely surprised her. (Grandpa knew we were coming.)
So they got out their love letters (when Grandpa was in the service) which are always fun to read. And Grandma got out her photo albums of which she has many.
We know their sweet love story. She was a young girl living in Chatham, Massachusetts (where she grew up, where her roots are and where her family tree still stands in the Atwood House Museum – the genealogy goes back to the Mayflower). Meanwhile Grandpa was stationed there in Cape Cod – (This was during World War 2 and he was in the Navy.) He was cute. She was cute. She noticed him and also noticed that he walked by her house every afternoon at a specific time. So she decided the lawn needed mowing and the next day, it needed to be mowed again and then again and again … She was always mowing the lawn while he walked by.
That was the beginning.
So we had a great time chatting – the kids hadn’t seen them for awhile – i saw them last fall.
And then we decided to go to Bob Evans for supper … at which point, the other side of the family appeared – more surprises.
Fort Roberdeau is also called the Lead Mine Fort … or the Revolutionary Fort where nothing happened.
The fort was originally built back inn 1778 to protect both the settlers and the lead mining in the area. Wealthy General Roberdeau oversaw the construction. He was a Congressman and had some clout.
Actually a lot of Tories were running around Pennsylvania. Causing problems for the colonial settlers was a popular activity. So the fort was a haven … though no Tories ever attacked it. But it did serve as a place to store the ammunition.
The unusual thing about the fort is that the logs were horizontal rather than vertical (as they are in most forts). That’s because of the limestone in the area – the posts couldn’t be stabilized.
And the fort was only open for a few years.
Then the fort disappeared for a couple hundred years.
Meanwhile, back in the 1800s, someone built a house across from the fort … or what used to be the fort before it disappeared in the woods.
So when the fort was restored for historical purposes, the organization also bought the farmhouse … and they now hold 18th century dinners, quilting bees and educational classes for kids in the house.
And when I was a kid (which was NOT during the Revolutionary War), my parents owned the house. So, it was a lot of fun getting to show at least some of my grandchildren my childhood home.
Back on May 31, 1889, The South Fork Dam broke above Johnstown, Pennsylvania sending 20 million tons of water roaring down the mountain, gathering trees, houses and people as it crashed through the town. Then the railroad bridge, covered with oil – caught fire, trapping hundreds of people attempting to escape. The result? A destroyed town and the deaths of 2,200 people.
But the saddest part of the Johnstown flood was the “why?”. The city was built on a flood plain at the ford of the Little Conemaught and Stonycreek Rivers. As the city grew to 30,000 people and new industries moved in (Cambria Iron, Pennsylvania Railroad), the land along the riverbanks was stripped of its trees so the companies had room to expand.
And there was an additional problem. Fourteen miles up the mountain on the Little Conemaugh, the South Fork Dam was built to create Lake Conemaugh – a place for the Pittsburgh rich to spend their summers. They developed the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, made the lake even deeper and hid away from the problems of the world and their businesses – Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, bankers, congressmen … But the club members had failed to keep up repairs and although no lawsuits were filed, are blamed for the destruction of Johnstown. Some of them did contribute relief funds after the flood.
No matter how you look at it, the Johnstown Flood is a sad historical event … an event that is largely due to people’s greed. First, stripping the river banks of their natural flood barriers and then the men on the mountain, ignoring warnings that the dam would break.
Since Johnstown is close to where we once lived, I have been there a few times. Two museums – one in the town itself is in the old library that Carnegie built for the town after the flood. The other is a National Park Service visitor’s center on top of the mountain. Both have excellent videos (and I’m not one for spending my vacations inside visitor’s center watching videos – but these are fascinating.) You can also drive by the club house.
This time we went to the top of the mountain and again, I don’t have many pictures because I knew I had some from the last visit.
WHERE: The Johnstown Incline Plane, Johnstown, Pennsylvania
WHAT: The incline was built after the flood – back in the 1890s. During two more recent floods in 1936 and 1970 the incline was used to take Johnstown residents to safety. Originally built as a way to take “commuters” up on top of the mountain, the incline is now solely a tourist attraction. It is the steepest vehicular incline in the world.
AND … Good view from the top and a good view of the path where the water came tumbling down the mountain during the big flood.
Reviewers say the view is particularly good at night …
KID FACTOR: Kids would probably like this ok. The ride is steep … and fairly short. If they’ve already been to one of the flood museums, you can show them where the water cascaded down from the dam.
So after Washington, we took the Amtrak back to Harpers Ferry – the very Amtrak that just had the accident in Philadelphia – don’t know if we had the same conductor or not.
The next morning we headed for the Gettysburg Battlefield. We spent a lot of time at Pickett’s Charge where we hiked across the field – me, not as far as the others, but still quite a distance. Later, we headed up to Little Round Top. We also wandered around Gettysburg College which was used both by the Union and Confederates during the battle.