Watsontown Cemetery

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, May 24 – Thursday, May 28, 1914:  Nothing much doing.

Recent photo of Watsontown Cemetery.

Recent photo of Watsontown Cemetery.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This is the second of five days that Grandma lumped together into one diary entry. Her infant niece, the daughter of her sister Besse, died on May 23–and she apparently didn’t feel like writing.

Did they have a funeral for the baby? . . . I don’t know where is she buried.

I haven’t had a chance to get to the library to go through the microfilms to see if I can find the obituary—but I know that when I looked two years ago after the death of Besse’s first baby that I wasn’t able to find anything.

I also know that Besse and her husband Curt are buried in the Watsontown Cemetery—and that the two infants are not buried in that plot.DSC03518

Memorial Day wasn’t until May 30 in 1914, but on this Memorial Day week-end I thought you might enjoy seeing some additional photos of the Watsontown Cemetery. It is on a hill overlooking the town—and has an awesome view of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the mountains in the distance.

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The statue in the distance is a Civil War monument that was erected in 1902.

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1914 Mansion House Advertisement

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, April 11, 1914:  Nothing much doing.

Source: Watsontown Star and Record (April 3, 1914)

Source: Watsontown Star and Record (April 3, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The previous day Grandma went to shopping in nearby Watsontown. Did she walk past the Mansion House? It’s still around—though it’s morphed over the years from being a “modern” hotel to being a bar and grill.

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Recent picture of Mansion House Bar and Grill

 

Went to an Entertainment

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, February 3, 1914:  We went to an entertainment in Watsontown this evening. At first I doubted whether we would really get there. It was inclined to be rainy. T’was very good, but I missed part of it because we occupied a back seat.

Here's a Watsontown Opera House Ticket. I'm not sure what year it is from.

Here’s a Watsontown Opera House Ticket. I’m not sure what year it is from.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm . . . missed part of the show?  Who was “we”? . . . Since Grandma often did things with her sister Ruth, probably the two of them went to town, but the entry doesn’t really say that.

And, what was the “entertainment”? . . . a movie? . . . a variety show. . . a play? . . . a lecture?

Throughout the diary Grandma has only gone to movies and other “entertainments” occasionally—but only 10 days earlier, on January 24, Grandma went to a movie in Watsontown.

Grandma seems to be having a fun winter. Her social life was the busiest it’s been since she graduated from high school.

Went to Town and Admired the Xmas Fixings

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, December 11, 1913:  Went to Watsontown this afternoon. Admired the Xmas fixings and other things, but I’m not going Xmas shopping until next week. Then I won’t have to keep them so long.

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Recent photo of downtown Watsontown. In my mind I can see a bustling street filled with holiday shoppers admiring all the fixings.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Watsontown is a nearby town that was a little larger than McEwensville.

Watsontown is a charming town, but the downtown area is very quiet today. It was a little busier when I was a child, but it wasn’t a major shopping destination. In some ways, it’s difficult to imagine a time when Watsontown had “Xmas fixings” worth admiring.

Population of McEwensville, Watsontown, and Milton, 1910 – 2010, with Links to US Census Data

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, November 30, 1912:  Ruth and I washed this morning. Went to Watsontown this afternoon.

Click on graph to enlarge.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sounds like a nice way for Grandma to spend a Saturday—doing a little work in the morning with her sister Ruth, and then rewarding herself by going to town in the afternoon. Maybe Grandma started her Christmas shopping.

There are three towns regularly mentioned in this diary—all small in the big scheme of things, but within Grandma’s world there was a small town (McEwensville), a medium-sized town (Watsontown), and a large town (Milton).

Today none of the three would be much of a shopping destination—but  a hundred years ago transportation was so much more difficult and each had stores.

McEwensville was the small town, but the one Grandma went to the most frequently . It also was where she attended school.  McEwensville was about 1 1/2 miles east of the Muffly farm. It had a general store, a pharmacy, a restaurant, and a few other businesses.

McEwensville

Watsontown was the medium sized town and where Grandma went a hundred years ago today. It was also about 1 1/2 miles from the Muffly farm, but in the opposite direction from McEwensville. Grandma often walked to Watsontown. It was to the west and is located along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. It had a small downtown with a full range of stores where clothes, housewares, etc. could be purchased.

Watsontown

Milton was considered the “big city” in Grandma’s day—even though the population was only about 7,500 people. At the time, it was a considered a glamorous shopping destination with glittery department stores, women’s clothing shops, shoe stores, and restaurants.   It was about 5 miles from the Muffly farm. Grandma would have either ridden in a buggy to get there—or she could have walked into Watsontown and then taken the trolley from Watsontown to Milton.

Milton

Since all three towns seem very sleepy today, I decided to see it they’d lost a lot of population across the years (see graph above). I was surprised to discover that the population had changed less than I expected between 1910 and 2010. Milton and Watsontown have lost a lot of factories since the 1970s—and many people moved away. It’s nice to see that the population trends have turned and that the population is increasing.

Links to Census Data Sets

I used data from US censuses to make the tables. There is an awesome amount of census data available for every town in the US. Here are the links to the Census population data for each of the years.

1910 census

1930 census

1950 census

1970 census

1990 census

2010 census

Building the Brick Road Between Watsontown and McEwensville

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, September 23, 1912:  Walked the muddy way to school this morning. Don’t have much to write these days.

Recent photo of the road that went between McEwensville and Watsontown in Grandma’s day.  . . Once dirt, then brick, and now paved. . .

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

With all the mud, it’s a good thing that Grandma got new rubber overshoes  the previous Saturday. September, 1912 must have been a rainy month.  On September 18  Grandma also wrote about the muddy walk to school.

1912 was the last year that Grandma had to walk the entire way on dirt roads.  She lived between McEwensville and Watsontown, and a brick road was apparently under construction that would replace the old dirt road.

According to George Wesner in  History in McEwensville (1976):

The brick road leading from McEwensville to Watsontown was one of the first of its kind to be built in Pennsylvania. Construction was begun at McEwsville in 1912 and completed the following year. . .

It was built by the construction firm Fiss and Christiana of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. In grading, the ground was moved by horse-drawn dump wagons which were loaded by manual labor. While some local people were employed most of the laborers were Italian immigrants. Very few could speak English. They were quartered in a labor camp which was located in a ravine on the farm of Isiah Elliot,  now owned by Samuel Raup. All the materials, sand, gravel, brick and cement were hauled by teams and horses. The only mechanical equipment used was a steam roller. . .

On an occasion when a period of bad weather had caused the operation to run behind schedule, the contractors, in an effort to catch up, requested that they work on Sunday. . . .

I wonder if the wet days that Grandma wrote about during September 1912 were when the road-building crews got behind schedule.

Grandma would have walked this road to school every day while it was being transformed from  a muddy dirt road to fancy brick one. It sounds like a major activity to me, yet she never thought it worth mentioning in the diary. Sigh. . .

Watsontown Industries a Hundred Years Ago

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, August 21, 1912: Went to Watsontown this afternoon.

Site that once was the Watsontown Door and Sash Company (though the buildings are from a somewhat newer time period).

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Watsontown was about one and a half miles east of the Muffly farm. Why did Grandma go there?

Since school was going to start in a few days, maybe she went to Watsontown to shop for school supplies . . . or  maybe she went there to run an errand for her mother or father. . . or to . . .

I’ve previously shown you photos of downtown Watsontown, so today I’m going to show you some of the industries.

Watsontown was a small, but bustling industrial town at the time that Grandma was writing the diary. Over the last forty years or so, Watsontown has had lots of struggles as industries have moved abroad, but it currently seems to be on an upswing.

A hundred years ago the major industries were the Watsontown Door and Sash Company (later it was the Philco plant and now Moran Industries is located on the site), the Watsontown Boot and Shoe Company, and the Watsontown Steam Flour Mill.

Just outside of town were two brick Companies—Watsontown Brick and Keystone Brick (later Glen-Gery).

Bricks are still produced in Watsontown and sold nationally. The town is famous for its clay soils that make excellent bricks.

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