Sunday, August 24, 2014


There has not been a lot of time for writing. I'm busy, but enjoying meeting people. I'm beginning to realize that I was probably dealing with depression for the last year. It's one of those things that you scarcely realize how deep and black the pit was until you begin to climb out of it.

In any case, I have enjoyed interacting with people again. Since I deal with names, I recognize many of them, and look up to see faces that I haven't seen in years. I've met four of my old teachers from high school. A professor from college. She told me that she still goes to the library to read my column, which came as a surprise to me, given our history.

A middle aged man was picking up a prescription for a woman. He was a plain faced working man, tall and pleasant. I mistakenly assumed that he was picking up for his wife, and referred to him as Mr. -----. He quickly said, "Oh. I'm not Mr. -----. I'd give anything if I was." He got a confused look on his face and said, "Well. I guess that I mean that I'd give anything if she was Mrs. xxxx. (providing what was evidently his own name). A little surprised at the turn of events, I said, "Well, have you asked her?" and he said, "Oh, yes." He sighed. He said, "It's complicated." I patted his arm in a comforting way when I gave him his package. "Good luck to you," I said. And I continued putting packages away. wondering about a man who is not afraid to confess his love to a total stranger in a crowded pharmacy. That's sweet.

I met the mother of a girl that I played with in elementary school and she remembered me as soon as I said my little girl name. My childhood friend from all those years ago just became a grandmother for the first time.

An extremely elderly couple came slowly through the store, she a tiny thing hunched over her walker, her husband tall and very thin, standing ramrod straight behind her. She stopped frequently to greet people, to tell a small child how beautiful she was. He smiled and listened as if he never got tired of seeing the world through her eyes. And by the time they reached the counter, I loved them already. Retrieving their prescriptions and chatting with the two of them, I rang them up, and handed the bag to the gentleman. "Would you mind carrying the bag for milady?" They both laughed out loud and he answered, "I think that's why she keeps me around."

I've met grumpy people. Angry people. Sick people. Relatives. Friends. Readers. I talked to them all, and tried to send everyone off with a good word. And in those small interactions, repeated one right after another, for 8 hours, 9 hours, 10 hours, even 12 hours, I feel like I am rediscovering something about myself that I'd forgotten.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014



I'm treading water at a furious pace, but so far am keeping my nose above the surface. Yay me!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Checking in

New job going well. I'm currently working 50 hours a week, dividing my time between two jobs (one full time, one part time), taking on-line courses in my off time. I have commuted an hour and a half to training and and hour and a half back from training twice in the last two weeks.

I've been busy. Not a lot of time for writing, but things are great.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ghost Stories

My little town is having a Civil War historical event. There soldiers in costumes. There is (erg) a reenactment of a civil war amputation. Apparently, that is a big draw. There is historically accurate music from the era. All sorts of stuff going on.

I am part of the 'ghost walk'. We'll be speaking from different sites in town. I'm speaking from the site of the former Fifth St cemetery, which was the official town cemetery for forty years, until everyone was dug up and moved to the new cemetery up on the hill. 

That old cemetery is behind my house. I love looking up this sort of material. It is fun. 

Here is the story that I will tell:

Up until the year 1823, Warren had no official cemetery. Graves were simply scattered up and down the river bank. An acre was donated from the Jackson farm, but the graves were usually unmarked, or marked by primitive monuments that sadly lacked permanence.

This means that a great many graves were ‘lost’, including the grave of Warren’s very first settler, John Gilson who died in 1811.

When his widow, Patience Gilson died at age 70, on April 4th of 1823, she was buried near the river in a hurriedly cleared gravesite. However, this time, the city of Warren made the decision to purchase two lots in the area of what is now East and 5th St. At the time, if you can imagine it, this was considered ‘remote’ and ‘rural’ and distant enough from the few settlers scattered along the bank of the Conewango river to not cause a problem for them.

A work bee was held and a number of citizens came to help enlarge the clearing from Mrs. Gilson’s new grave, and to create the municipal cemetery.

One of those workers was a high spirited man named Eli Granger. He called ‘dibs’ on a peaceful grave site beneath a hickory tree with a sweet glimpse of the peaceful river rolling by. “This is my spot,” he laughed repeatedly. “This is where you bury me,” he called out to other workers. He went so far as to charge Judge Hackney and Zachariah Eddy, two other of the local citizenry, to insure that he was buried in ‘his’ spot. Within the matter of a few weeks he had drowned in the Conewango Creek. His sad friends ensured that he was buried in ‘his’ spot. He was the first to be buried in the cemetery.

The story of the second person to be buried in the cemetery is no less riveting. Caleb Wallace was murdered. Jacob Hook was a local business man, the owner of vast expanses of timber and 5 sawmills along the Allegheny River. Now Jacob was having a rough week, on the receiving end of multiple lawsuits, including one in which he was accused of lying on the stand. A very ruthless man with a very questionable character. But he was also very wealthy.

One of the lawsuits brought against him was by an employee who accused Mr. Hook of not paying his wages. Both men were convinced that their position was right. A deputy was sent with a warrant for Jacob Hook’s arrest, but Mr. Hook arrogantly refused to accompany the deputy, saying that he’d been into Warren every single day that week, and that the law would simply have to wait until the following week.

This went over like the proverbial lead balloon, and the deputy came back to Warren to form a posse and headed out once again to forcibly remove Jacob Hook from his home. Jacob Hook decided he wasn’t going, and the posse laid siege to his house. Jacob Hook booby trapped his front door with a loaded musket set to go off when the door opened. Young Caleb Wallace was the unfortunate young man. He was almost immediately dead when the musket ball pierced his chest.

Caleb Wallace aged 28 joined Eli Granger in 5th St cemetery, the second person to be buried in the new municipal cemetery, joining Eli Granger. 

Jacob Hook turned himself into authorities the next day. Because the posse was not formed legally, he got away with murder. The prosecuting attorney was so very critical of the verdict that one of the jurors hung himself.

Of course there was a third person to be buried in the cemetery, and a fourth, and so on and so on and so on. It is the way of life. Each person who was buried in this cemetery had their own story. Unfortunately, due to the poor record keeping, we don’t have an accurate count of people buried here. There generally were no monuments, so the graves were poorly marked.

The cemetery was moved to the present day Oakland cemetery in 1863. Well. They tried. But with no monuments, no records, well…

Be it sufficient to say that there is a house behind Water St that required some repair. When the section of old basement wall was pulled away, the remains of a very old grave were discovered behind it. I’ve no doubt that there are others. Step carefully, my friends, lest your careless feet stir up something more than dust."

I think the story turned out very well, and I am proud of it. I have my long black skirt and my shawl. I have my kerosene lamp. The telling starts at 9 PM. I hope it doesn't rain, but the thunder rattling across the sky will lend a certain mystery to the old stories told by lamp light.