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A family journey through the Scripture Rocks

BROOKVILLE — Since it opened in 2016, Scripture Rocks Heritage Park has attracted thousands of visitors from near and far to wander through its trails and admire the landscape, the geology, the birds and the many rock engravings done by one of Brookville’s most enigmatic figures, Douglas Stahlman.

However, Tuesday, Nov. 28, the park had a very special guest, Douglas Stahlman’s great-grandson, David Alsobrook.

Alsobrook grew up in the Atlanta suburbs and has lived there for most of his life. He graduated from Florida State in Tallahassee and married his wife, Debbie, with whom he has four boys. Alsobrook has worked most of his career at Cisco Systems in product management and business development.

Until recently Alsobrook knew nothing about the mystery behind his lineage. In fact, it wasn’t until Brian Fritz, co-author of “The Scripture Rocks: Why Douglas Stahlman Carved His Legacy in Stone,” called Alsobrook one day offering a manuscript copy of the book.

“I will say it was really cool when Brian called me on the phone,” Alsobrook said. “It was completely out of the blue. Most people don’t get that kind insight into something like that.”

Alsobrook’s grandfather was Stahlman’s younger son, James. It was shortly after giving birth to James that Stahlman’s wife, Marion, died of blood poisoning. According to the local newspaper, Stahlman had dismissed his wife’s doctor in favor of the practices of faith healing to cure his wife. He was arrested on charges of being insane and dangerous. His wife’s brother, James Alsobrook, ultimately won custody of Stahlman’s two sons, Glen and James. It was soon after that Stahlman returned to Brookville and began to formulate his “rock plan.”

Today, Scripture Rocks Heritage Park has had thousands of visitors, and was recognized with the American Association of State and Local History’s 72nd Annual Leadership in History Award. Fritz had told Alsobrook about the plans to build the park and the History Center updated him with its progress, but once he saw his great-grandfather’s work on a Roadside America’s list travel destinations in Pennsylvania, he decided it was time to take a tour for himself.

The History Center’s Executive director, Ken Burkett and JCHS Board President Eric Armstrong, guided Alsobrook and his wife on their tour, explaining their process for uncovering the rocks as well as piecing together from their extensive research the context behind each of Stahlman’s engravings in the park.

Alsobrook and his wife noted with admiration the size and spacing of the lettering and the beauty of the landscape. “You read about the extent of it, but it’s different when you actually see it,” he noted. “This was a lot of work. The fact that he did all of this in about two years, it’s amazing the amount of intense focus and effort.”

Alsobrook added that despite the dismissive language that many people have used in describing Stahlman as “crazy,” his commitment and faith in his work and in God was evident. “Most people don’t have a masterwork, but you can definitely say this is a masterwork,” he said. “I think people appreciate it more now. He is like an awful lot of people throughout history who were not appreciated until after they died.”

Although Stahlman seemed to be very troubled, Alsobrook says he connected with his great-grandfather’s ability to find spiritual understanding through the contemplation of the natural world. “I’m a Christian and have usually felt my strongest connection to God when I’m out in nature,” Alsobrook revealed. “So I certainly appreciated and enjoyed taking advantage of the opportunity my great- grandfather wanted to create for me and many others this week in Brookville.”

Alsobrook and his family enjoy traveling across the country and around the world. Every time they visit an area, he likes to find museums or hiking trails to learn about the geography and history of the area. However, he admitted that he’d never seen anything quite like Scripture Rocks Heritage Park. “This is unique,” he said. “I’ve been around the U.S a lot and many other places in the world and this is pretty unique. And it’s even more incredible when the history is also connected to you.”

For Alsobrook, his experience visiting the park sparked his curiosity to know the rest of the story, particularly how Stahlman lived out the rest of his days at the Dixmont Hospital and how Ella Alsobrook raised Alsobrook’s grandfather, James, and his older brother, Glen, on her own after the passing of her husband in 1909. “How did she end up going to Nashville and then Atlanta?” he wondered. “I assume part of it was trying to get away. How did she do that? I would love to hear that part of the story. A lot of people have their bootstrap stories. They, effectively, start a new life. My grandfather and great-uncle both did well for themselves. So, it struck me, how did they do that?”

Though Alsobrook wishes he had the opportunity to ask his grandfather these questions, he remains grateful for the information he has gotten due to the efforts of Ken Burkett, Brian Fritz, Eric Armstrong, and many others who made Scripture Rocks Heritage Park possible.

“Most of the time when you see a big park like this, you think the state runs it. But this is a small town effort to put this together. Someone just said, ‘We’re going to go do this.’ And then a bunch of people took their time to do it. It’s really cool.”

Arthurs Library welcomes new director

BROOKVILLE — Starting January 2,2018, Janine Strohm, the current library director for the Redbank Valley Public Library, will officially take over for Rose Pituch as the director of the Rebecca M. Arthurs Library in Brookville.

Strohm and her family live in Corsica. She has a degree in Library Science from Clarion University, but she attributes the start of her career to her experience coming to the Arthurs Library as a young mother. “I started coming to library when my oldest daughter was two and a half with Miss Beth,” Strohm recalled. “She was wonderful. Watching her, I thought, ‘Oh man, that’s an actual job you can do?’”

Soon after, when that position opened, Strohm became the new children’s coordinator at the Arthurs Library. “I did the summer reading program and everything,” she said. “I just really loved it.” It was during this time that she began working on her degree at Clarion University. Once she graduated in 2016, a friend encouraged her to apply for an opening as at the Redbank Valley Library as the Library Director. That friend was Rose Pituch.

Strohm admitted that she was surprised to hear when Pituch announced her plans to retire given the commitment and caring she had demonstrated throughout her career.

And although Strohm says she enjoyed working at the Redbank Valley Library and loved the community there, she is grateful for the opportunity to return to her home library.

“The people here are wonderful,” she said. “They are so awesome.”

During her time transitioning to the position, Strohm says she is focused on working with Pituch to get a better understanding of the contacts and connections involved in running the library in Brookville. She is also learning more about the library’s relationship with the schools and other groups in the community.

In particular, she plans to expand upon the library’s children’s programming. But in general, Strohm says she believes that people need libraries now more than ever and she wants to dedicate herself to serving each person’s individual needs.

“A lot of the things here are already established and I would like to continue with them,” Strohm explained. “But I’m open to any opportunity that comes along. I would love to have the library be like a community center where people can come for maybe a healthcare class or a financial class. Obviously we will have reference books and technology, but even just to use the building.”

Strohm says that in many ways, she hopes to follow in Pituch’s footsteps, particularly when it comes to creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for library patrons.

“Rose absolutely cares about all her patrons,” Strohm said. “Each individual person. And she just has such a nice presence around people and wanting to bring them together. She definitely did that for me and she inspired me.”

Most of all, Strohm recognizes the responsibility of serving a community where she and her family live. She hopes that any changes she does make to the library down the road will improve a community she knows and love, “It’s wonderful to think that I can change the lives of people that I know and make it better.”

Gill elected BASD board president


BROOKVILLE — The Brookville Area School Board will be under new leadership for the coming year. During the board’s annual reorganizational meeting held Monday night, Don Gill was elected unanimously to serve as president of the board for the coming year. Also elected unanimously was Dr. Fred Park, who will serve as vice president.

Prior to the election of officers business administrator Ellen Neyman reported that the Jefferson County Board of Elections has certified the election of six members of the board. Elected to two-year terms were Frank Bartley and Melinda Hall. Elected to four-year terms were Roberta Ganoe, John Pozza, Carol Schindler and Chase Shick.

The newly-elected members were given their oath of office by Kerith Strano-Taylor, who served as acting president during the elections.

Later in the evening, during the regular board meeting, action was tabled on the resignation of board member Chase Shick. Resigning because he has accepted employment outside the area, Shick will submit his letter of resignation in January.

Park chaired the remainder of the meeting in the absence of Gill.

The board set the third Monday of each month as the regular meeting time for the school board. Meetings will be held January 15, February 19, March 19, April 16, May 21, June 18, July 16, August 20, September 17, October 15 and November 19.

Work sessions will be held the second Monday of each month, with no sessions to be held in July or December. Work sessions will be held January 8, February 12, March 12, April 9, May 14, June 11, August 13, September 10, October 8 and November 12.

The December board meeting will be held December 3, immediately following the annual reorganizational meeting.

All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. in the LGI room at Hickory Grove Elementary School.

Several appointments to other boards were also approved during the meeting.

• Frank Bartley will continue to serve as the board PSBA liaison.

• Roberta Ganoe was appointed to serve as the board’s representative to Jeff Tech. She will fill the term of Carol Schindler, who has stepped down due to a change in her work schedule, serving until December 2020.

• Don Gill was appointed to serve as the alternate representative to Jeff Tech for the next three years.

Ganoe has been the alternate for the past three years.

• John Pozza was appointed to serve as the board representative to the Raider Scholastic Foundation. He had been filling the unexpired term of Marjorie McKnight.

• Pozza was also appointed to be the board’s representative to the IU6 board. He will fill the unexpired term of Kerith Strano-Taylor, who has resigned that position.

Established as working committees for the coming year were the security and transportation committees. Board members who are interested in serving on either of the committees are to contact the president.

Following the reorganizational meeting the board held its regular meeting.

Three accused in 'snail mail' bust head to court

BROOKVILLE — Three of the people arrested in “Operation Snail Mail” will have their day in court following preliminary hearings before District Judge Gregory M. Bazylak recently. Sufficient evidence was introduced in the preliminary hearing of two of the defendants to merit their cases being sent to the Court of Common Pleas. A third defendant waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

Daniel K. Hopkins, Jefferson County Jail, is charged with corrupt organizations, conspiring to manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture of deliver (two counts), manufacture, delivery of possession with intent to manufacture (18 counts). Bail was set at $300,000.

Larry J. Dean, Jefferson County Jail, is charged with corrupt organizations, conspiring to manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture of deliver (two counts), manufacture, delivery of possession with intent to manufacture (18 counts). Bail was set at $250,000.

Dale L. Hanlin, Jr., Jefferson County Jail, is charged with corrupt organizations, conspiring to manufacture, deliver or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver (2 counts), manufacture, delivery or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver (7 counts), Bail is set at $250,000. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

In September, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced criminal charges against 30 drug dealers in connection with the shipment and sale of $1.6 million in crystal methamphetamine in Jefferson, Clarion, Clearfield, Elk and Forest Counties over the last year and a half.

The crystal meth was shipped to Jefferson County and the surrounding area through the U.S. mail from drug dealers in Arizona and California. It was then sold throughout North Central Pennsylvania by a network of 30 drug dealers. The 35 pounds of crystal meth that they sold, broken up into gram doses – produced between 32,000 and 64,000 doses of the drug that were sold in the 5 North Central PA counties.

Most of the crystal meth shipments into North Central Pennsylvania were done by Larry Dean, 58, who maintained residences in Mayport, PA and Tucson, AZ. A willing recipient – and seller – of the crystal meth that Dean was mailing to Dale Hanlin, 66, of Cooksburg, PA.

Hanlin and other drug dealers charged earlier had a group of loosely connected dealers standing by to sell the drugs once they got to North Central Pennsylvania.

Investigators used a series of controlled purchases, court-approved electronic surveillance, package interceptions and other tactics to identify the drug dealers involved.

Two men arrested after I-80 pursuit

BROOKVILLE — Two men who led police in a 10-mile pursuit on Interstate 80 in Jefferson County early Saturday are now incarcerated in the Jefferson County Jail.

According to DuBois-based state police, at 2:19 a.m., police initiated a traffic stop on a 2014 Nissan Altima displaying a stolen registration plate on I-80 westbound near mile marker 88.8 in Washington Township. After police spoke briefly with the driver, Ibrhima Dukuray, 22, no address given, he fled in the vehicle.

A pursuit ensued for about 10 miles until Dukuray lost control of the Nissan while trying to leave the Interstate at exit 78 in Brookville. The vehicle hit a road sign then overturned, coming to rest near the off-ramp.

Dukuray and the vehicle’s other occupant, Alhaji D. Jatta, 21, Bronx, N.Y., fled on foot. They were apprehended after a brief search of local businesses, police say.

The Altima was later determined to have been stolen.

Both men were arraigned before District Judge David B. Inzana and their bail was set at $500,000, each.

Jatta is charged with receiving stolen property, fleeing and eluding police, and possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Dukuray is charged with receiving stolen property, fleeing and eluding police, DUI, recklessly endangering another person, providing false ID to law enforcement and multiple summary traffic violations.

They were unable to post bail and were remanded to the Jefferson County Jail.