With hopes that Punxsutawney Phil’s weather forecast is reliable, this writer is anxiously awaiting the arrival of springtime. And what better way to celebrate the prediction than the discovery of a photograph that took the columnist back to his childhood.
Check out the photo with today’s column. I found it while involved in the nearly two-month refiling adventure in my Robertsdale home that began Christmas Eve. The color photo was mailed to me by an Alexandria reader whose name was not listed in the communications or on the front of the letter.
The image is of a familiar scene in Trough Creek Valley, dating back many decades: the celebrated Todd Auction, a Saturday night tradition for Robertsdale’s South Main Street Gang during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Some members of the gang traveled to Trough Creek to investigate the cost-saving “specials” at the auction while I and good friend, Lawrence “Peewee” Swartz, enjoyed “chasing the gals” (which was basically what it was all about, chasing, no catching!)
One member of the gang, John “Junior” Grata, was a dedicated fan of the Todd Auction. John loved a deal and made sure he didn’t come home without orchestrating one. “Junior and his family resided in the last house on the southern end of Robertsdale, or as many visitors referred to as, “the last house on the road to Wood.”
The Todd Auction drew visitors from far and wide and was a summer time event that remains popular in the region. I admit that I have not been there for ages, but plan to visit this summer. There is a unique history behind the auction that I want to investigate for a future column.
Nevertheless, just thinking about the Todd Auction serves as an excellent milepost to spring. All aboard!
I would like to report that the photos and information about Entriken drew considerable response from the readers. Mark Johnson of Pine Grove Mills was one of the respondents whose comments I shared with the readers a few weeks ago.
I briefly wrote about Mark with a special emphasis on the Entriken family (sometimes spelled Entrekin). Using information from J. Simpson Africa’s “History of Huntingdon County,” and information gathered in his own research of the family, Mark shared some interesting observations and historical notes about Entriken.
Some of the family history was also compiled by William C. Entrekin, a member of the seventh generation, explained Mark. Much of the family research follows James Entrekin (1774-1845) who arrived in Huntingdon County from Scotland during between 1790 and 1800 (he settled at the mouth of Coffee Run).
During the early 1800s, James Sr. constructed a stone house and a stone barn near the mouth of Coffee Run which became a well-known landmark in the Entriken area known as the “Entriken Mansion.” The stone house was leveled around 1900 although the barn remained until the construction of the new Raystown Dam in 1972.
Mark Johnson described James Entrekin Sr. by noting, “His accomplishments were outstanding for an individual during that period.”
Was a surveyor
Mark noted that James Sr. was a surveyor who gained fame up and down Woodcock Valley. As a large landowner, civic leader, businessman and a magistrate for 30 years, Entrekin was considered “a man of much influence in Huntingdon County.”
Not long after his arrival in Woodcock Valley, James Jr. established a store, believed to be the first in the region. He operated the business until 1835, when he sold the store to his nephew, James Entrekin Jr. The younger Entrekin continued to control the store, serving the citizens of Woodcock Valley until 1852.
Mark included several pages from William Entrekin’s family history as well the will of James Entrekin Sr. By the way, James Entrikin Jr. was Mark’s great-great grandfather.
In an upcoming column I’ll share additional information about the Entrikin family as recorded by Mark, along with some interesting photos. Included in the saga will be Entrikin’s connection with the creation of the coal-hauling Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad which mainline passed through present day Entriken until the railroad’s dismantlement in 1954. Stay tuned!
I should also note that last week the columnist received an email and telephone call from faithful reader Marcia Brallier of Marietta with some interesting information about an H&BT train accident that claimed the life of an individual. I’ll be sharing those notes and other Entriken/H&BT historical observations in an upcoming column.
Looking back at 1956
The year 1956 was a newsy year for Huntingdon County. Let me explain.
Many county historians and Daily News readers remember 1956 as the year the narrow gauge East Broad Top Railroad completed its proud coal-hauling career between the Broad Top and Mount Union. The EBT made its last trip to Robertsdale and Wood March 31, 1956, and just a few days later concluded its operations between Mount Union and Rockhill. It was a sad time for both southern Huntingdon County and the Broad Top area.
The DN reported that “The EBT, the last narrow gauge railroad east of the Mississippi, ceased operations in the face of loss of soft coal business ... stock in the railroad and parent (company) Rockhill Coal Co. (was) purchased by (the) Kovalchick (Salvage) Co. of Indiana, Pa.”
On a positive note, the year marked the start of construction of a $685,000 residence hall for women at Juniata College while the Bell Telephone Co. began construction of a $635,000 central plant-dial system project. Also, in 1956, Valley Rural Electric was granted a $1.2 million REA loan for system-wide improvements while the Boyle Ice Co. announced plans for $100,000 expansion project and Fiberglas erected a 58,000 square foot warehouse.
During 1956 the Most Holly Trinity Catholic Church celebrated the erection of a $60,000 parish hall while work on a $180,000 Christian education building at the Stone Church of the Brethren was completed.
Another headline-grabbing story in The Daily News in 1956 reported that Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Democratic candidate for president, Adlai E. Stevenson, made train stops in Huntingdon.
Notes along the way
I’m looking for some photos of the old Schell covered bridge which once crossed the Raystown Branch on the road from Aitch (Marklesburg area) to Paradise Furnace (present day Trough Creek State Park.) According to some reports, the legendary span was destroyed in the St. Patrick’s Day Flood of 1936. Located near the bridge was the Juniata & Southern Railroad Bridge which also spanned the river on its access to Trough Creek Valley. If you can be of help, please contact me at 814-907-1788 ... I should also remind telephone callers that on occasions you will be unable to talk with me for various reasons. I do not have a “landline,” but rely on a cellphone. Often, when readers call, I’m motoring and can’t take notes. Still other times, I’m occupied in situations where it is impossible to write down notes. Many times, I prefer receiving letters if you have a lot of information to share. The mailing address is Ron Morgan, Box 171, Robertsdale, Pa. 16674. Also, you can drop off information at The Daily News office in Huntingdon or email information to the columnist (please contact me first so I can share the email address) ... It was nice to hear from several readers last week about the Old-Time Photo of the Colgate School. Several readers identified the school and shared some of the names of the students appearing in front of the school. One reader, Gladys (Bucher) Basler of the Pogue area, reported that the school served southern Huntingdon County for many decades. Robert Werner of Newton Hamilton also called saying that he has another photo of the school which was attended by his mother, Mary Smith, and sisters. When was the school built and last used? I also was informed that the original building may have been a victim of a fire ... Coming up: some interesting notes from the Saxton area’s Gilbert “Gib” Hoover about a local, one-room school known as the “Sand Hill School.” The readers are encouraged to look for a column series about the completion of a restored charcoal wagon once utilized at the Greenwood Furnace iron production operation in northeastern Huntingdon County.