The Gang’s All Here

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.

Great Grandpa and Grandmas

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

Fort Roberdeau is also called the Lead Mine Fort … or the Revolutionary Fort where nothing happened.

Several decades before we lived there, some historians decided to rebuild the fort, and the foundations were laid, but that’s all the further they got and the woods grew up and the foundation disintegrated. But as a kid, I knew where the remaining parts were (hidden in the woods) and I liked to walk on them and make up wild stories.
Since I was there last time, they have added some paths, a log cabin (in the backyard) and a Native American hogan-type house. They also put a path down to the sinkhole cave which in the yard. We had always heard that they put the ammunition on a raft and sent it down the brook (that disappeared into the cave) and that it came out several miles down the road. Don’t know if that’s true, but some high school boys from our church tried it (sending a raft into the cave) and it did come out the other end. So who knows.

The Johnstown Flood

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.

The Johnstown Incline Plane

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.


Gettysburg Battlefield

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.

The Peterson House

Across the street from Ford’s Theater is the Peterson House where Abe was taken the night he was shot … and died the next morning. The house was very crowded (field trip kids again) so I didn’t take many pictures (because I did last time), but the museum part of the house was new and I found the Lincoln tower of books fascinating.

Ford’s Theater

WHERE: Ford’s Theater, 10th Street NW, Washington D.C.

WHAT: The theater where Lincoln was assassinated while watching the play: My American Cousin.

Ford’s Theater was originally a Baptist Church which John Ford bought to use as a theater. John Wilkes Booth was an actor who had performed at the theater (one reason why guards/cast etc. weren’t that suspicious when they saw him walking around back stage. The performance that Lincoln watched on that fateful night was the last performance at the theater for 103 years. Not only is the theater now a museum, but you can also attend plays there once again.

I remember the first time I saw it, being surprised at how small it was.

Tickets are free (as are many tickets in Washington), but you need to reserve them ahead of time.

KID FACTOR: If the hundreds of kids milling around on school field trips is any indication, it’s very kid appealing. Seriously, it is interesting to kids. Exhibits such as the death mask add to the appeal.

Once I got home and looked at my pictures, I was sorry I did not get one that showed more of the perspective of size and Lincoln’s box distance from the stage.

So I dug up a previous post I wrote about the theater …

Here it is – some repeat information, but …

Ford’s Theatre is probably the most well-known theater in America – the place where John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln.

The theater is located in Washington D.c. and opened in 1860 … well, actually it opened as the First Baptist Church of Washington in 1833. When the church moved on, a John T. Ford (sounds like a car) bought the church and opened it as Ford’s Athenaeum. That building burned down in 1862, but it was rebuilt and opened again as Ford’s Theater “a magnificent new thespian temple.”

Five days after General Lee surrendered, Abe and Mary went to the theater to see a performance of Our American Cousin. John Wilkes Booth entered the Lincoln box and shot the president. The President was immediately carried outside to 10th Street. Already there was massive chaos. (The theater seated 2,400.) A man stood on the steps of Peterson’s Boarding House, crying “Bring him in here. Bring him in here.” And that’s what they did, taking him to a back bedroom and putting him on a too-short bed. Meanwhile, Mary Lincoln was brought across the street by Clara Harris who had been at the theater with her finance Henry Rathbone. Henry himself was stabbed by Booth and once he reached the boarding house, he collapsed.

All night they worked on Lincoln, removing blood clots and fluid from his wound. But the next morning at 7:22, Lincoln died at the age of 56.

We went to Ford’s Theater on my parents’ fiftieth anniversary trip. The picture of the theater isn’t that great – but the box where the Lincolns sat is marked by the American flag. The theater also includes a museum which includes the coat Lincoln was wearing and a replica of the chair. (The real chair is in Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan – which I’ve also been to – but I won’t do a post about it because the chair looks like this chair since this chair is a replica of that chair.)

We also went across the street to the boarding house which is now part of the National Park Center and has been set up as it was the night Lincoln died.


Our morning walking around Arlington in the drizzly rain was over, so we got back on the Metro and headed downtown …

Cindy did a great job orchestrating this trip – everything was down to a minute-by-minute schedule and we were able to see a lot in a short amount of time!