Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Coal Dust, Rust & Saw Dust (and more!)

Howdy! It's been a while since my last post - I've had some concerned readers email recently to check in on me - I've been busy! One humongous project I had been working on for the past 6 or 8 months is the book Coal Dust, Rust & Saw Dust - it was finished at the end of February. Coal Dust, Rust & Saw Dust is a collection of essays and songs written by my good friend, musician, historic interpreter and teacher, Van Wagner. The collection spans a number of subjects including the Pennsylvania frontier, coal mining, logging and log rafting, iron manufacturing, charcoal production and local life, accompanied by the lyrics of 28 of Van's original songs that follow the subjects of each section. There is a special tribute section to Danville, PA, Van's hometown.

There are a number of photos documenting Van's various pursuits throughout the book. Also included are several of my own photos from local ghost town areas like Fall Brook, Landrus, McIntyre and Masten, PA. I designed the layout as well as the wrap-around cover image, based on the log raft re-enactment that was performed by Van and his crew in 2003-2004.

The book is now available for sale! The cost is $20.00 and this includes the book (128 pages), plus 2 CD's with all the songs contained in the book! It's a wonderful book for an awesome price! You can order the book directly from Van on his website www.vanwagnermusic.com - or, you can order it directly from me if you're in the area of Mansfield, Blossburg or Wellsboro, PA and I'll deliver a signed cop
y to you personally - just email me - sarah [at] insanart.com.

Otherwise, things on the Insan Art front are the same as usual. I'm busy researching local history and of course, I'm still working on Landrus projects - the website is being built, very slowly. I recently laid out a trail that makes a hiking loop up the old inclined plane to the mines and then back down into the center of town. Please email me if you're interested in taking a guided hike.

I recently went out to Klondike, PA and finally got some nice photos of the foundations up there. You can see them here in my photo gallery.

I've been researching local iron furnaces and I recently found another one south of Ralston, PA that is absolutely amazing. It's almost like a castle or cathedral in the middle of the woods. This furnace south of Ralston is much more intact than the other furnace north of Ralston (even though it was apparently used more/longer than the north furnace). You can see my photos of the furnace south of Ralston here (the north photos are in the same parent album).

Finally, I've recently had a boost in excitement over my property here in Blossburg, PA. In some of my recent research, I found a photo of Blossburg from 1874 that shows my house! Now, I knew that my house was OLD - it's a one of those "salt box" type coal mine houses, and it is in pretty bad shape. We've got original lathe exposed in the upstairs, a bathroom (watercloset) floor that's about to cave in, windows and doors over a hundred years old and virtually no heat or insulation. The deed lists this house as 1900, as is common with houses built before 1900. With this photo, I can now date it to at least 1874. This weekend, my husband took apart our old kitchen door to repair the latch and the latch plate had a date of 1871! What makes me most interested in these recent developments is the fact that we have an old outhouse hole on our property - this hole COULD date back as far as 1840! I now have an archaelogical dig site right in my back yard! I'll keep you posted with what I find in there as it gets excavated!

Monday, May 19, 2008

1st Blossburg Geocache Event!

Hey Geocachers! I just wanted to let you all know that I've put together a small geocache event for Blossburg VIBE and it will be starting this Friday, May 23, 2008.

You may or may not know, the Blossburg State Coal Festival is this weekend (actually starting on Wednesday) and Blossburg VIBE wanted to try something fun and original to coincide with the festival.

And...the 1st Blossburg, PA Geocache Hunt featuring historic locations around Blossburg was born!

This is our first geocache event and we have only 3 caches, just to kind of test the waters. If things go smoothly, we hope to do another, larger event in the fall that would include locations in Blossburg, as well as Fallbrook and Landrus.

If you're not interested yet, we also have a few prizes to offer from some great sponsors! Wild Asaph Outfitters (Wellsboro, PA) has donated gift certificates, coupons and free rental tickets, Angelina's Pizza (Blossburg, PA) has donated gift certificates and Blossburg VIBE has furnished their awesome personalized water bottles - each cache will be contained in one of these bottles, while there will be a second bottle attached as a prize! (I will also be randomly placing more "prize" bottles on the caches after Memorial Day weekend/the other prizes are gone).

So, get on over to Blossburg for some geocaching and the State Coal Festival. For more information on the geocaching and coordinates, please visit:


New Forest Sign Vandalism

(please click on image to see it larger!)

Landrus is no stranger to sign vandalism (or other vandalism) - see my previous post about this other sign at Landrus.

This is the latest. I was out doing some maintenance on my portion of the Mid State Trail and taking some GPS readings on foundations when I found this sign ripped out of the ground. It marks (or marked) the split on the old rail grade between the Mid State Trail and the road up to the former location of the Landrus mines.

As I came upon it from down the trail it looked like a tree had fallen on the sign. On further close inspection however, it has clearly been pulled out of the ground (unless, it just happened to fall over due to the moisture in the ground, but I, doubt it...). Close views of the hole (below, left) and sign (above, right) both how they were found. I managed to stand the sign up and prop it up on a tree between the split in the trail, so if you're out there on the trail, you'll know where you're going...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Beaver Fever!

Sometime between late last fall and early this spring, beaver(s) have moved in to Landrus. Now, I have heard and read plenty of stories about beaver from the old days of town, but never in my 6 odd years at Landrus have I seen so much beaver activity!

The beavers have chewed down a large
number of small trees as far upstream as the waterfall about my baptismal hole. There is a HUGE new network of beaver trails, some I will certainly use as part of my trail system, but overall their whole setup is just a bit excessive. I was impressed, yet worried when I saw that they had gobbled up the tops of every single briar between the falls and their mound.

I'm also not too sure about their choice of location for their damn/home/mound thingee. It's right at the mouth of a very narrow section with small rapids. So far, it is only extending about a third of the way into the creek, but I'm watching it! The photo at the top was taken about 2 months ago. The other photo of the same location below (with my husband) was taken a week ago and the mound is clearly growing. (the other photo in the middle shows the gouged "trail" to the mound on the creek bank)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Aerial Photography, Ghost Towns and the Internet

When it comes to ghost town hunting, there never seems to be a good way to "get the big picture" of something you're researching - especially when you're at the location, face to face with crumbling structures surrounded by grown in surroundings. It can take days of hiking and keen observations to actually "get the big picture" and start to make sense of ruins and remains.

The internet can give you a HUGE boost in that "big picture" department. There are a number aerial map interfaces and archives available online, but none that is so all-inclusiv
e and user-friendly as Google Earth.

Click the photos to see larger!

While Google Earth has always been really great, it just got even better for those of us in Pennsylvania.

Maybe some of you had tried Google Earth before for PA areas and were disappointed by the lack of detail available, like I was. For areas around me in Tioga County, the amount you could zoom in before it got fuzzy was fairly pathetic.

That is all different now! PA DCNR just recently integrated their updated aerial photo archive into Google Earth and the difference is amazing! You really have to check it out for yourself (especially if you're a ghost town enthusiast), but, I've included these examples here to give you an idea of the kind of detail you can get.

The top photo is of what I like to call "downtown Landrus" - it's the "four corners" type spot where the stone monument stands. You can also see the creek quite nicely, the little waterfall is the location of the old log-jam dam.

You'll notice at the four corners that there are two vehicles and just below and to the left of the vehicles, a smaller rigid shadow - that is the stone monument. But what about those vehicles?

(sidenote: if you look in my driveway back in Blossburg in the aerial photos, there are no cars in the driveway)

As I zoomed in on this spot initially, I realized that the vehicle parked next to the monument is none other than my Jeep!! Either that, or it's someone else with a white Jeep with black hardtop that parks in my parking spot!

Have fun! I have another great vintage aerial photo resource, but I'll save that for another day...

Full Landrus Website

SOON! (later than sooner) But, soon there will be a complete Landrus website! I'm just working on the full layout and getting together the exact content, but the full Landrus, PA website is in the works!

The website will be a hub for information on both Landrus the town AND Landrus the man - Henry Jackson Landrus that is. H.J. Landrus was a foreman with Bloss Coal Company whom the town was named after. He never lived there himself but he is forever connected by the namesake.

I frequently receive inquiries from folks asking about both Landrus situations, so I felt it is only appropriate to feature both on the website.

I hope to have the site up by May. We'll see how things go!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Please Pray for Meredith Emerson!

(UPDATE: Monday, January 7, 2008, 9:45pm. I just read that authorities have found the body Meredith Emerson. My prayers go out to her family and friends - you may send a note to her family here.)

(I apologize to those who read both my blogs, this is a repeat from my other blog, but I think it is very important and also relevant, thanks!)

I've been watching this story ever since New Years day - Meredith Emerson, 24, and her dog Ella have been missing since then when they went out for a hike on an Appalachian connector trail in Georgia -
link to the story, link to the site: http://www.helpfindmeredith.com/

This morning's news on the story wasn't very positive, but I still wish to ask for you all to pray for a miracle that she might be found alive! Please keep the searchers and her family in your prayers as well.

I immediately took notice of this story since it reminded me of an encounter I had 2 or 3 years ago with a strange man at one of my favorite recreation spots, Landrus, PA (link to post about it). Since this occurred, I am truly afraid to go enjoy Landrus alone and I have a hard time going outdoors by myself without some kind of weapon or pepper spray (pepper spray is good for bears, too!).

So, please keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers! Ladies, please be careful when you're out by yourselves or go out with a buddy!!!