Erie Canal Stories

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An undated photo of my mom and her siblings, looking down into a hatch of their Erie Canal barge, in the late 1930s. My mom is in the upper left. Next to her is my uncle Fred, then my uncle Harry, my aunt Vivian and my uncle Morey. In the upper right is my uncle Norman. My uncle Norman went on to become chief engineer for a tugboat company in the New York area. My uncle Morey became a sea-tug captain. My uncle Fred joined The US Navy and later became a tugboat captain as well. Only my mom and my uncle Fred survive today.

My Uncle Morey and Uncle Norman were quite the pranksters back in the day. There are many low bridges crossing The Erie Canal along its length, with enough clearance for the barges. During Halloween, young ruffians would egg barges from the bridges, much to the annoyance of my uncles who had to clean up the mess. There was a water pump on the barge, connected to a hose, that my uncles used to wash the deck. They got their revenge though. My Uncle Norman would hide below the forward hatch, hose at the ready. As the barge passed below the bridge it would get egged. At a signal from my Morey, Norman would pop the hatch, yell “surprise!” and hose down the perpetrators from the opposite side of the bridge.

When the hold was empty, my grandfather would rig a wooden swing attached to a cross beam between the hatches. It was an unusual sight to see one of the children pop up on the swing from one hatch and then appear again, on the swing, from the other hatch.

Seventy-five years ago, my Uncle Morey was part of the buildup leading to D-Day in 1944. He was a pilot on The Erie Canal, guiding landing craft manufactured in Detriot, MI, that would carry troops to the beaches of Normandy, from Buffalo to New York City. As soon as he arrived in New York City, he would board a train back to Buffalo to guide another group of landing craft through the canal. At the time, my grandparents, and my other aunts and uncles lived in Brooklyn, NY. After one trip down to New York City, he sort of went AWOL to visit the family. He didn’t get very far before FBI agents challenged him and put him on the next train to Buffalo.

Flight 93 National Memorial

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Today, my wife and I traveled to The Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, PA. The memorial is about a 90 minute drive from our home in Stormstown. It was fitting that the weather was very much like that day on September 11, 2001.

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Black granite marks the final flight path of Flight 93 before impact at 10:03 AM EDT, September 11, 2001.

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The black granite path passes through the outside walls of the visitor center.

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The visitor center sits at the top of a hill, overlooking Memorial Plaza, the crash site and the 40 acre debris field. This is the final resting place of the 40 passengers and crew. The Red Cross gave each of the families of the passengers and crew a small vial of soil from the debris field.

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The visitor center as seen from Memorial Plaza. This was the site of The FBI command post during their investigation into the crash. It was also the site of the temporary memorials, which are now housed inside the visitor center.

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Black granite continues to mark the final flight path at the foot of the hill from the visitor center at The Memorial Plaza.

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At The Memorial Plaza, the names of the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93 are memorialized in slabs of marble.

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Todd Beamer was one of the passengers that attempted to take over the cockpit from the hijackers. His last words, heard by cell phone by an airline representative, were, “Let’s roll!” His Oracle ID card survived the impact and is on display inside the visitor center.

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A 17-ton boulder was placed by the point of impact.C7A5F819-155D-451F-6727AF151DF7D841-largeThe largest recovered piece of the Boeing 757-222 aircraft measured just a few feet on a side. Most of the debris was strewn over 40 acres. Lightweight paper items were found as far away as New Baltimore, eight miles away. Some of the debris is on display inside the visitor center. I only recognized parts of a scarred circuit board and some wire. Also on display are a drivers license and some ID cards. The impact made a crater 30 feet across and 15 feet deep. The plane hit at an angle of 40 degrees, at nearly 600 mph in an inverted attitude. The cockpit voice recorder and the flight recorder survived, and the recovered data contained a record of the aircraft’s entire flight. Portions are shown inside the visitor center in a flight simulator display.

Stormstown: A Brief History

The village that is now called Stormstown was located on one of the area’s earliest roads. Laid out in 1791-92, the road served as a main route for the shipment of Centre County iron west to Pittsburgh. First settler Abraham Elder’s tavern, on the east end of the village, was a stopping place for iron haulers. In 1812 David Storm recorded a plat of 30 lots, plus a school lot, that he named Walkerville, on the west side of present-day Municipal Lane in the middle of Stormstown. The origin of the Walker connection has not yet been tracked down. Some twenty years after Walkerville was established, Caleb Way slowly started selling off lots between Walkerville and the former site of Elder’ tavern, in an area that was briefly called Wayville. Eventually, by the time of the Civil War, the whole area was called Stormstown. The enterprises of the village included a gristmill, sawmill, distillery, tannery, wagon maker, and several craftsmen’s shops – blacksmith, weaver, potter, and chairmaker. An Easter fire in 1867 destroyed twenty-six buildings, many of which were never rebuilt. – See more at: http://www.centrehistory.org/abcs-of-centre-county/#sthash.RLS2TFw7.dpuf

Revolutionary War Antecedent 

Found out today that my 5th great grandfather, on my mother’s side,  was an officer in The Continental Army:

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Very apropos today.

His obituary:

In Greenfield (New Hampshire) on  (July 13, 1815) inst. Col. WILLIAM
SCOTT, Esq. in the 71st year of his age. In his death the companion of his bosom lost an enduring partner, his children an affectionate parent, his neighbors a kind friend, the needy a benevolent benefactor, and the inhabitants of the U.S. a worthy and venerable patriot.  

Col. Scott emigrated to America about 11 years previous to the revolutionary war, in which he took an early, and an active part, for his country’s rights. He was in the battles of Bunker-Hill, Trenton, Monmouth, White Plains and Saratoga, and in almost every battle of note during the war.