African-American Settlement in Cambria County

This Settlement was founded in the late 1790's by Edinborough Smith and William Harshberger - whose families have called the Johnstown Area home for over 200 years.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day

In honor of the holiday - my home away from home - Browns Cemetery. Thanks to friends and family - we got the old place ready for what used to be known as Decoration Day.
From the planters to the bunting - we have it all decked out!
There are two Civil War Veterans buried here.
John Smith - USCT - 3rd Reg.
John Brown - Co. H - 4 Pa. Cal. 
54th Mass - Glory Brigade
Put some bunting on the wooden fences. It was really windy when I was taking pictures. So it's hard to tell from this shot. 
Thank you to all our veterans past and present...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Browns at Christmas Time

After working all year to spruce up the place and get the cemetery back in shape up at Brown's - the old African-American settlement. We decided to decorate the place for Christmas this year. My friends at Big City Signs in Ferndale kindly donated the large sign you see here. So we headed up a couple of weeks ago - before all the recent snow.
My favorite brother-in-law Roger bolted it to the tree. There is me as Little Red Riding Hood.
Good ole John Smith - Civil War Vet - USCT - a man whose life centered around the mountain.
John Brown - Co. H - 4th PA Cav - Black Civil War Veteran - who joined up in 1861 - he joined up with his friend Orange Dorman - another Black Civil War Vet and they both didn't come home until the war was over.
Some of the other graves - there are at least 77 people buried here - probably more.
At least I won't have to cut grass for a while. I believe there are most likely some hidden graves behind the large trees in the back - that will be one of my first projects come Spring.
This is one of the most sacred and spiritual places on the whole mountain.
Decked out in holiday splendor and we even have some solar lights thanks to a friend of mine.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bringing the Cemetery Back to Life

Now that I have the ability of riding up to Browns whenever I want. I have been working on my project to save the cemetery and bring it back to life. Here is John Smith.
And here is John Brown.
 Set up some flower boxes.
Along with some bunting and ribbons on posts.
 Lots of grass to cut, weeds to pull along with tons of birch and oak saplings trying to take over the place.
I would like to take the time out to thank a few people who - without their help - this project wouldn't have been able to get off the ground: Roger and Kelly Edwards, Elaine Adams and Joann Mock. Thank you really doesn't even cover how grateful I am to all of them - they have helped my vision of restoring this cemetery come true.
All that is left to do - is keep up on the grass cutting and weed whacking. We also found more graves underneath all the weeds and saplings.
The cemetery hasn't looked this good in years...
I also put up a flag - I just hope that the party crowd leaves everything alone and respects the fact that this is indeed a cemetery and not a place to party.
 Old Glory standing guard over Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

On this 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation - I can't help but wonder what my mountain gang thought about all this. They would only have heard about this by word of mouth - since most could not read or write. Living for decades as Free Colored - did this indeed really matter to them?

Ancient Edinbourgh Smith (abt 1760-1865) was a slave from Virginia that worked as a teamster with Washington at Yorktown before settling here around 1790 - I wonder what he thought. Old Lizzie Harshberger born in the 1820's who grew up in better times and was never a slave - did it matter to her - a mulatto washerwoman trying to support three children. Browns at times was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad - though only sparingly. So stories from runaway slaves would have been passed around - Jane Riley was a runaway slave from Virginia who married Orange Dorman and lived up the mountain for a time.

It did matter to men like Orange Dorman, John Brown and John Smith who all signed up to serve their country - some before the 1863 date. I think a lot about this point - did they do it out of a sense of duty or was it a deeper reason - wanting to prove that African-American soldiers were just as good as any others.

A while back - someone was talking to me about Browns - asking me all sorts of questions - but they said one interesting thing - they'd heard that Mr. Lincoln was the one that gave them their land. Even though they have been here since the 1790's - in a kind of round about way he did.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Site of Edinborough Smith Murder

I find the mountain the most beauitful in the spring. Heading to the farm of free African-American Edinbourgh Smith who was a Rev. War Vet and later farmed by his son Civil War Vet John Smith. There were more houses up the mountain than people realize. Take for instance here - there were two small ones along side the road.
This large - reworked spring was the main water source for this part of the farm.
Smiths is on the upper right hand side of the road.
I believe this low to the ground wall - might just hold a Naive American burial. Note how the rounded part looks turtle like.
This is hard to see - from my photograph - but this slight hole in the ground once the site of where Edinbourgh Smith lived. Remember that Edinbourgh - served as a Teamster with Geo. Washington during the Rev. War. He was brutally murdered either in this house or nearby in 1865. For more on the murder - CLICK HERE.
An old and unused road - next to the cabin.
Nice small spring.
Nice size cairn near the well.
And a large north/south wall.
This is just a brief look at the old Smith site.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Browns Farm - Early Spring

Nothing beats Browns in the early Spring. This is not a crick - but the road heading to the farm. It's wet because years ago - in order to try to protect the site - old Nick (One Eye - "how you doing there") Fratrick who was married to one of Elmer's daughters - popped alot of the springs along the way. This road is always wet - even when we have dry summers.
Location of where the log cabin was.
Heading towards the cemetery and pond.
Looking back towards the cabin area. Those big pines were planted by the state as a wind breaker.
Remnants of Harshberger's Grove - old Lizzie's beauitful apple trees.
The pond where all the Morrellville boys used to spend their summers. Elmer and wife Annie (Bowser) always had a very welcoming home.
Road along side the pond - leading to the other side of the farm.
Looking back towards the log cabin and springhouse area.
And another shot of the same general area.
Looking towards the cemetery - with the wooden fence we helped the state with last year when we did a survey of the cemetery. I'd like to eventually - when I get a couple of extra bucks - to get a proper plaque to put up there - so that the kids that go up there to drink and party realize that they are indeed on sacred ground - not party central.
The grave of poor old John Smith - he was sort of on the slow side - not sure if he was born that way - or suffered some type of injury in the Civil War. And his wife Maria (Mariah Dorman) Smith did not help matters - she had her fair share of trouble with the law - she was known as a very friendly girl....
And here is the grave of John Brown - Elmer's dad - John was not the nicest of people nor the most responsible - now a days - he would have been considered a dead beat dad. When he did work - he was a barber - but he spent most of his time - getting in and out of trouble.
Another shot of the cemetery from the opposite side.
Just past the pond road and heading towards the other side of the farm.
Another shot from the same area.
Heading towards the middle of the area.
Years ago - I found this cast iron wheel laying on the ground and propped it against this tree.
That's my 7 year old nephew - and this is his first trip up to the mountain.
Heading up the hill towards the top of the site. I said outloud when we got there - "Browns meet RJ and RJ meet the Browns".
If you go left - up to the top - if you go right - heading back to the log cabin area.
Heading up towards the Dry Hollow Area.
But first one of the large Native American (cairn) rock mounds up there.
The cairn was built with a hollow.
A smaller (cairn) rock mound next to it.
This is the top of the Cambria/Westmoreland County Line - to your left is the Dry Hollow Area.
Walking this old road to go to back down towards Browns - I always find Native American nutting stones - they are just laying all around - when we passed this way - I spotted a small one - all you have to do - is simply look down - didn't say anything to RJ - didn't he see it and pick it up - which pleases me to no end - because I now know that he also has an eye for these kind of things. Down below by the farm - I kicked up a small arrowhead - which was very cool - since I don't usually go looking for these things.
Top - left goes to New Florence - Route 711 - straight - towards where some of the George Gates family lived and to the right - back down to Browns.
This large puddle is a big frog area in the Spring and early Summer.
Old dirt road heading back down.
RJ taking in the scenery.
Even though it's hard to tell from this shot - in person you can see parts of Johnstown off in the distance. In the old days - since most of the area was clear-cut you could see even more. To help you get your barings - the log cabin would have been right behind that clump of pines.