President's Message

I had an interesting experience recently. This past month I had the opportunity to visit the majestic and awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Camping at an elevation of 10,760 feet and spending time hiking above 12,000 ft can sure make you appreciate the oxygen we have at our elevation.
As part of my adventure, I had the opportunity to learn about the pioneers’ way of life in the mountains. I found the similarities between the 1800s pioneers of the west and the 1700s settlers of the east (Pennsylvania in particular) to be interesting. In both cases a lot of the people moving into the areas were from Europe – Germany, Poland, Ireland, Scotland, England, etc. Travel for most was difficult and often dangerous.
When first moving into an area, they had to build their own homes by felling trees and building log houses, rugged log homes heated by stone fireplaces which were also used for cooking. Later, wood-burning cast iron stoves were used for heating and cooking.
A lot of Europeans moved to both areas to improve their lives, and most ended up working in similar industries – 1700s farming and eventually mining and timbering, 1800s mining and timbering. In the west, the mining was mostly for gold, silver, and copper, while in the east (in Pennsylvania at least) the mining was mostly for coal.
People would go to town for supplies and “social engagement”, and often ended up at the local store or tavern to learn of any news and to share gossip. This is how they would learn about the goings-on in other places since there was no mass media like we have today. Life was hard, work was hard, living was hard. Most dealt with the struggles of life just to survive.
In the west, eventually train tracks were laid to these small towns to transport the ore out of the area to be processed. With the introduction of the railroads, the population of most towns grew rapidly as more miners and citizens moved into the areas. The railroads dramatically reduced the time required to travel to these areas and significantly improved communications. In the last 120 years or so we’ve had the advent of air travel (since approx. 1900). In the previous 100 years before that (1800s)
we had the advent of the railroads. Both methods of travel have had monumental impacts on the movement of people.
What struck me in all of this was the constant change that makes up life. The influence of the railroads in the 1800s, though we tend to overlook it, was just as impactful as the advent of modern air travel. Both have significantly altered the lives of the people living in those periods. Today we tend to look at the chugging and churning steam locomotives with an eye towards nostalgia.
Perhaps in the future people will have a similar feel for our “modern” air travel.
History is life of the past, changes of the past. As with life, history is always changing, always growing. Your historical society is also always changing. Our dedicated volunteers and the board continue to look for ways to improve and expand the services and programs. See other areas of this newsletter for details.
Hope to see all of you at the programs and other events,
David Ruths

Mission Statement

The mission of the Northumberland County Historical Society is to encourage and stimulate interest in the rich history and diverse culture of Northumberland County and to preserve it by operating and maintaining a genealogical and historical research center and by caring for and increasing the Society's archives, photographs, and objects collections which document the county's history and culture and the lives of those who resided here; by educating through a museum at the site of Fort Augusta that features both permanent and site-specific exhibits and short-term county-specific exhibits of material culture; and by offering programs, special events, and publications to the general public and the membership thus serving as an asset to the residents of Northumberland County, the Susquehanna River Valley, as well as visitors to our region.