In my family history research I have the opportunity on occasion to read from older newspapers. Just going back a few decades you notice a difference. Going back 160 years and the differences between today’s journalism can be both painfully sad in their descriptions while hilariously funny in others. The saying, the times, they are a-changin’ will never grow old and is never more obvious when reading from old newspapers.
Among my readings from that by-gone era are from Clearfield County, PA. It’s an area I’ve written about before and from which a large part of my known family history takes place. What follows are some of the more memorable tidbits I’ve seen from an era with language and sensibilities all its own. Originally published in the long defunct Clearfield Republican each preceded by the date of publication and my own introductory title (in bold-face). I hope you enjoy them.
January 16, 1852
Died on Friday last …very suddenly, Michael Schnell, aged 78 years.
A correct sketch of the life of the deceased would fill a volume of stirring interest. He was among the number who sought our inviting shores as a refuge from the wrongs and oppressions of the old world, during the first few years of the present century. We believe he was a native of the city of Hamburg, and served in the wars of Europe, first against the French, but being made prisoner, afterwards espoused the cause of Napoleon, and served through several campaigns up to the battle of Austerlitz, at which place, we believe it was, he was severely wounded. He then returned to France, and married a wife in the city of Lyons. He has resided in this county for twenty-three or four years.
There’s Bear in them Woods!
February 27, 1852
Mr. Isaac Scofield, of our town, went into the woods the other day prospecting, as they would say in California. Towards evening, when he had turned homewards, he fell in with a whole family of bears – an old one and three cubs. A battle ensued, which resulted in Mr. S. bringing his whole four victims safely home. The first engagement was anything but a pleasant one.
A Cooling Drink of Water
February 27, 1852
Died on the 5th instant, at his residence … Mr. Isaac Draucker, aged 45 years.
The deceased … was married to Miss Mary Bloom; they had fifteen children, eleven still live to mourn the loss of a very kind and affectionate father; the widow mourns for her kind and beloved companion. He died of a fever, about the 9th day during his sickness we had the privilege of conversing with him on the subject of religion; he was deeply engaged for the salvation of his precious soul; we prayed with him, and when we had left the room he remarked to his wife, that he felt as much refreshed as if he had taken a cooling drink of water.
Old News is Stale News
March 5, 1852
We understand that the contract for carrying the U.S. Mail, daily, from Spruce Creek to Curwensville, thro this place, has been awarded to Mr. Eder. It is to be carried in four horse coaches. This is something like treating us as being within the limits of the United States, and after the contract goes into operation, we may expect to hear the news of what is going on in the world with some regularity, and before it has become too stale to possess interest.
January 1, 1853
Our town and community in the death of Mr. L., loses one of its most useful, enterprising and exemplary citizens. But few men discharge all their obligations as citizens and as Christians more worthily than he discharged his. Though long afflicted with disease, he yet attended faithfully to all the requirements of a good neighbor, a kind husband and a worthy parent, and was seldom heard to complain or repine. If a fellow creature was in want, his hand and his purse was ever ready to relieve, and this he would do without first inquiring into his place of nativity, the color of his skin, or the shrine at which he kneeled.
Philadelphia: Some Things Never Change!
July 1, 1853
We regret to learn that while Mr. Thomas Shea, an industrious mechanic of our town, was in Philadelphia, last week, some one of the long fingered gentry who infest some portions of that city, succeeded in getting hold of his pocket book, and extracted therefrom the sum of two hundred dollars.
Thanks… But No Thanks!
July 1, 1853
6 Cents Reward.
Runaway from the subscriber on or about the 1st of March last, my son Jacob Hess, aged about 18 years. Said Jacob is stout built, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high. The above reward but no thanks will be given for this return, and the public are cautioned against harboring or trusting him on my account, as I will pay no debts of his contracting after this date unless compelled by law. Isaac Hess, Boggs township, May 20, 1853.
November 3, 1853
During the past winter, a reverend clergyman in Vermont, being apprehensive that the accumulated weight of the snow upon the roof of his barn might do some damage, resolved to prevent it by seasonably shoveling it off. He therefore ascended it, having first, for fear the snow might all slide off at once, and himself with it, fastened to himself one end of a rope, and giving the other to his wife, he went to work; but, fearing still for his safety, “My dear,” said he, “tie the rope around your waist.” No sooner had she done this, than off went the snow, poor minister and all, and up went his wife. Thus on one side of the barn the astonished and confounded clergyman hung, but on the other side hung his wife, high and dry, in majesty sublime, dangling at the other end of the rope. At that moment, however, a gentleman luckily passed by, and delivered them from their perilous situation.
To be continued…