Postcards generated communication among early residents
WILLIAMSPORT – During the early twentieth century, postcards were used like today’s mobile phones as a means of quick communication. Often a short note would be written on the back and sent by mail to a nearby friend or relative. This was pointed out as part of an informative lecture series last month at the Thomas Taber Museum by David Richards and Matthew Stackhouse, both natives of Picture Rocks. They collaborated their passion for these old postcards in a book “From a Bygone Era: Views of the Muncy Valley Then & Now.”
Formerly the two wrote a book “Ghost on the Allegheny” on the history of hotel “Old Essix Heights” in Tivoli. Much of their research was based on these images of surrounding buildings such as large hotels, lumber and textile mills, railroads, churches, and residential scenes from 1905 to 1920.
The historical relevance of these postcards depicts a life of the times. “I am crazy about these old pictures,” remarked Richards. “They are a communication sensation of the day.”
Both Richards and Stackhouse had acquired quite a collection of postcards from Muncy Valley, Picture Rocks, Sonestown, and Hughesville. With positive feedback from friends and the community, they published them to document the history. “These photos are beyond everyone’s living memory,” said Stackhouse who showed a pictorial presentation of about 20 photos highlighting the Hughesville area around 1915 as a thriving lumber town. “These are birds-eye views,” he said, as he showed fair photos from 1912. Muncy Valley had a Farmer’s Club and in 1915 the Lycoming County Fair was established. At one time the fairgrounds was an airport.
Another postcard revealed rarely seen snow of an old hardware store “Jeremiah Kelley’s”. The building still remains on Main Street. Many of the buildings were destroyed by fire such as JK Rishel Furniture. It was built in 1869 by James Laird and was a primary employer before its demise in 1965.
Ball’s Mill was another institution that burnt down in 1912 and in 1916 Fought’s Mill was built and still operates today by the same family. “The mill postcards are more rare,” explained Stackhouse who acquires most of the collectables through e-bay and auctions.
In 1931 the American House, a grand hotel located on N. Main and Water Streets in Hughesville burned down at a loss of $70,000. Just about every small rural town had a large scale hotel at the time, many with small businesses and restaurants on the first floor. The railroad industry made it easier for travelers who worked on the lumber mills. Postcards depicting railroad stations such as “The Depot” a stop at Halls Station were also popular. The Williamsport North Branch railroad was headquartered in Hughesville. Just traveling from Williamsport to Sonestown was a full day of travel according to the authors. At one time Muncy had five hotels.
Another outstanding past time popular to collectors is baseball. “Every little town had a baseball team,” added Stackhouse, “including Tivoli.”
Places of worship, schools, and milk wagons added to the authors’ series. Many of these complex buildings are now lost to history. Both Stackhouse and Richards were motivated to keep the memories alive, a lifestyle we can only speak of in classrooms, museums and collectors. “So much is not known,” they said. “We want to get out and explore more.”
Not only are the images expressive of the era, but also the informative text written on the backs of the postcards. “There was no extravagence in these working towns,” added Stackhouse. “Not a lot of excess.”
Collectively looking back, Richards who grew up in the 60’s, commented on the great changes that took place. “These photos capture a moment in time. A living memory is a finite thing.” Many in the audience recollected scenes and markers, brick pavers, landmarks, and places of employment. Many of these images were never exposed before according to Richards. “Some of these towns don’t exist anymore.”
Stackhouse also was present at the United Methodist Church in Muncy this past weekend autographing copies of the book.