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.

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.