It was a very scenic drive leaving the State College area and heading for Connellsville just south of Pittsburg. Beautiful green, rolling hills with a touch of early Fall color.
We stayed at another large KOA getting ready to celebrate Halloween this weekend. It is on the Youghiogheny river in a hollow. A very scenic setting. The weather was cold but fair while we were there.
My Mom’s family, Mary & Michael Kovach, immigrated here in the early 1910s from Checklosovakia. My nephew Adam told me he thought they could be Rusyn Americans. According to a person I met, a lot of Slovakian immigrants came to this area as miners.
The immigrants were of an Eastern Orthodox religious background. A Byzantine Church was built in the late 1880s about 5 miles outside of Connellsville in Dunbar township. This is where the 1930 census has my mother living with her older brothers and sisters. The groundskeeper at the church told me it was the first Catholic church built out of stone in the United States. It was striking (and a bit out of place) with the onion dome towers.
Behind the church was a larger, well-tended cemetery with the graves of her mother, father, and several of her older brothers and sisters.
Mom came from a large family with 10 brothers and sisters. Her mother passed from complications of the birth of the last child, George. The father, for whatever reason, did not participate in their upbringing. This left the older children to take care of the younger ones. Most of the younger children were girls and married, and left the area like my Mom.
Like in Snow Shoe, I tried to make a connection with these ancestors while there. Wondering what their lives were like in this beautiful mountain area.
Connellsville itself was a large town – almost a small city – with a lot of traffic. It sits right on the river which makes for some scenic views. I visited the waterfront and learned the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile hiking and biking route, runs through Connellsville.
This ends the ‘roots’ part of the program! Tomorrow we make our way south (through the remnants of Ian 🙃) through the Appalachians over three days and a long stop at my friends Bill and Laura Zweigbaum in Tennessee.
It was a quick trip to Bellefonte Pennsylvania for two nights while I started the ‘roots’ part of our adventure. A couple of hundred miles west of New York, this area was opened to commercial logging followed by coal mining in the 1800s.
We stayed at a nice campground that obviously catered to Penn State football fans in the Fall. A lot of unattended large rigs are covered with Penn State hoo-ha. They had a game the coming weekend so a few early birds were there. The facility was very nice, had a nice pond next to some horse pastures. It also had a rather elaborate set of tracks for motocross bike racing.
My 2 x great grandfather Thomas Tubridy immigrated with his young family to the mountains just north of here in what is now the Burrough of Snoe Shoe. His youngest son, Thomas Anthony, was a successful coal miner and his son Edward Bernard – my grandfather – went to college at Penn State nearby to our RV park. More detail is on my Tubridy page.
It was a steep climb to the exit right off of Instatestate 80 for Snoe Shoe. I identified three different places in my genealogy research: Snoe Shoe, Moshannon, and the village of Gillentown which lies in between. This is where my grandfather lived with his father and two aunts in the 1900 census.
I imagined my grandfather making his way down to State College where he attended Penn State in the 1910s. Did he ride a horse or have a carriage? How long did it take?
St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetary is located near the Catholic Church in Snow Shoe. Two generations of Tubridys and some of their children are buried here. The first generation headstones were in pretty bad shape but the second generation had held up very well. The cemetery was well kept up.
It was moving to touch the headstones knowing that my ancestors had once touched them too.
Moshannon is an unincorporated community about 3 miles outside Snoe Shoe to the northwest. Right before you get into Moshannon is the village of Gillentown. There is a large facility here that is part of the Snoe Shoe Rails to Trails Association. This provides access to the old railroad bed that was vital to the extraction of lumber and coal. Membership in the association allowed the use of the trails for ATVs.
I imagined if my ancestors would ride the train into the coal mining areas.
Moshannon has a Post Office and to my surprise a small memorial to the veterans that fought in World War One – including my grandfather Edward. Like the cemetery, the monument was well kept up.
I imagined being there when the locals including my family were there to see its dedication.
I was planning to visit a museum the Lions David House museum in Snow Shoe, but alas no one showed up at the time it was supposed to be open. It has a collection of memorabilia and books on local history – it would have been interesting to see what was in there.
I spent time driving around. It is rural, to say the least. Mostly nice brick ranch houses like I remember my grandparents had. Felt pretty red 🔴.
Snow Shoe had a pizzeria, a discount beer store, and a laundromat. There is a nice Catholic Church next to the Cemetary and a Firehouse / Community Center. There was a large veterans memorial next to the Firehouse. There is a very large area with baseball fields and a pool at the edge of town. Right outside of town next to the Interstate is a large FedEx facility.
I felt I had accomplished what I was expecting to create a better connection to my past. Makes sense given the fact that it’s really all we have, and all of that is responsible for me being here, now. Pretty ethereal if you ask me.