I was looking through some old pictures last week and that set me to thinking of a special time of history that I had explored about our county. According to the record, Jefferson County in Pennsylvania was chartered on March 26, 1804, by act of the Pennsylvania Legislature. At the end of the second century, our state was still in business and it was time for a big celebration. In the summer of 2002, I received a letter from Randy Bartley, acting chairman of a new “Jefferson County Bicentennial Committee” to help coordinate a series of events to celebrate a year-long chain of events. Several county events were already under consideration and the plans sounded interesting.
When the first real meeting was held at the Pantall Hotel in downtown Punxsutawney in September of 2002, Evelyn and I made plans to attend. Randy Bartley of Brookville was chosen chairperson, Brookville librarian Rosalie Pitch as vice-chairperson, news writer Laura Lynn Yohe of Big Run as secretary, and Punxsutawney teacher Tom Curry as treasurer (to be replaced a year later by Judy Brady). The first project was publication of a timely new book – Jefferson County Pennsylvania, an Illustrated History – to be compiled by local county historians Carole Briggs, Thomas Curry, Eugene Deible III and James Sterrett. The book covers the years from native Americans through the time of writing the book and was available in local history centers.
Historian/Secretary Laura Lynn Yohe did an excellent job of setting the scenes with complete backgrounds for committee meetings all around the county over the two years of planning. She scheduled and arranged for us to get together from that first day at the Pantall on to the Foundry in Reynoldsville; Paradise Community Center in Henderson Township; the Samuel Irvin House (Historical Society) in Big Run; fire halls at Corsica, Sigel and Reynoldsville; municipal buildings at Pine Creek and Barnett Townships; churches at Brockway (Presbyterian where Evelyn and I were hosts), as well as Summerville, the towns of Grange and Sykesville; Gilbert’s (now Plyler’s) Restaurant at Brookville; Sykesville Town Hall; and the Conservation Center near the Fairgrounds. Certainly, a nice cross-section of the county with many enjoyable, interesting places to visit.
A Community Theater production was commissioned by Historic Brookville, Inc. for the regular Jefferson County Courtroom for Blind Justice, a play by Lisa Lepovetsky of St. Marys, to tell the real-life tale of Charles Chase who had been really tried for the murder of Betty Macdonald in 1867. Court records of the time were lost so it will never really be known whether poor Charlie Chase was guilty or not, but he certainly held the record for being the only person in the county to ever be hung twice. For this version of the court story, our own President Judge of Jefferson County John Foradora acted in the role of “Judge Campbell” and played the part to the best of his acting ability. The play was performed later in the summer at the Sawmill Theater at Cook Forest.
An original lithograph print of Jefferson County buildings and scenes was created by local artist Nevin DeLacoure of Jefferson County’s village of Coolspring. Only 200 prints were available for sale at the time. Some of them are safely secured in museums around the county and one hangs on the meeting room wall at Jefferson Place in Brookville. That one can be seen in the background of many pictures that show special activities taken at a commissioner’s meeting. Many of us furnished color photos of significant buildings from our own towns and these were then selected to be seen with a picture of the county courthouse.
There was a competition held in the county for designing of a logo to show the background industrial history of the county. Three winners were selected with prizes awarded to Michael Armstrong of Munderf as 3rd; Kyle Yales of Brookville as 2nd; and the winning entry by Jesse Stormer of Emerickville as 1st. The awards ceremony was held on September 28, 2003, so the logo would be available for the entire official week. Stormer created the actual design and turned it over to James Jones from Standard Pennant to bring it into reality. The logo shows a circle divided into 4 quadrants that represent farming, mining, hunting, and love of country. Evelyn and I each have a double fleece green pullover shirt with that logo over our hearts as a memorability to make 2004 an extra special year for the people of Jefferson County.
As the year opened in January of 2004, the committee expressed the thought that these special plans would not take the place of the regular events normally on the calendar such as the Groundhog Festival in Punxsy or the Laurel Festival of Brookville, or the Old Fashioned Fourth of July in Brockway or any other. But they were designed to enhance the year’s plans to make it SPECIAL.
The whole year was very interesting and we were pleased to have done our part in the festivities. When the next time for celebration comes around, we can tell people we were there last time (in 2004) and it will be up to new people to take over while we sit back and read about it.