Saturday, January 26

From 1850 Philadelphia to the 1872 Catskills

I don't even know where the Catskills are. Let me look in my road atlas . . . not there. Oh, here they are in Northwest of NYC . . . 3500' to 4000' oddball range of 'mountains'. Beautiful, nonetheless.

And how did I end up in the Catskills? Or Caatskills as was originally written. More 1850 research on Philadelphia, that's how. I was looking for the whereabouts of Fort Gibson in Jones Woods near Hestonville, PA. That's where my gg-grandpappy's 116th PA Volunteers were sent after joining the Union Army in August 1862. They received their uniforms, accouterment, and drilling there before being sent to Washington, DC in October.

Well, I did a search and found an old PA Railroad brochure printed in 1855 that related the wonders of Philadelphia and its railroad. Did you know that in 1850, Philadelphia had more 'dwellings' than NYC, was the greatest manufacturing city in America and had 'public schools of the first order?' Anyway, the author of the article raved on and on about Philadelphia, then gave a visually descriptive commentary on the ride from the city to Pittsburg by steamship and rail. It is a wonderful view of life along the tracks 150 years ago, and pinpoints the little town I was looking for, of course (about 3-4 miles west). Are you still reading? Good.

Anyway, I scanned the long article all the way to Pittsburg, then linked back to the homepage of the article, which had a link to an 1872 newspaper article written by Fanny Fern (Sara Willis) of New York City. She had taken a vacation to the Catskills and was awestruck by its beauty. What interested me most was her comments on little children who grew up only knowing city life:

"A city child is a cruel, wicked, shapeless, one-sided abortion. 'Tis a pale shoot of a plant, struggling bravely for its little day of life in some rayless corner, all unblest by the warm sunshine which God intended to give to it color, strength, and fragrance. What wonder that the blight falls on it?"

She goes on to praise the glory of God's creation and how kids can appreciate it as well as adults and how a real and true education must include a first hand knowledge of all things bright and beautiful.

Parents, grandparents and friends of children: Make plans now to take your kids someplace special and let them enjoy this world that was made just for that purpose.

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