Harrisburg, PA – Singer/songwriter Jim Croce, Pulitzer Prize–winning author John Updike, and the Bethel Burying Ground, an early African American cemetery, are among the subjects of the 18 new Pennsylvania Historical Markers approved by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC).
The new markers, selected from 55 applications, will be added to the nearly 2,300 familiar blue-with-gold-lettering signs along roads and streets throughout Pennsylvania.
Since 1946 PHMC's historical markers have chronicled the people, places and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries. The signs feature subjects such as Native Americans and settlers, government and politics, athletes, entertainers, artists, struggles for freedom and equality, factories and businesses, and a multitude of noteworthy topics.
Nominations for historical markers may be submitted by any individual or organization and are evaluated by a panel of independent experts from throughout the state and approved by the agency's commissioners.
More information on the Historical Marker Program, including application information, is available online at www.PAHistoricalMarkers.com.
The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Media Contact: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639
The following is a list of the newly approved Pennsylvania Historical Markers with the name of the marker, location, and a brief description:
Alien Gun Law of 1909
Hillsville, Lawrence County
Following the 1906 murder of Deputy Game Protector L. Seeley Houk, allegedly by members of the Italian Black Hand organization, legislation was passed to disarm noncitizen immigrants in the commonwealth. The Pinkerton Detective Agency conducted the investigation. Although the law was challenged, it was upheld in the Supreme Court and remained in effect until 1967.
Anna T. Jeanes (1822–1907)
A Quaker abolitionist and activist, Jeanes made plans for her substantial fortune to further several causes upon her death. Most notably, her contributions enabled the establishment of Jeanes Hospital, dedicated to cancer research, and the Jeanes Supervisors program, the precursor to the Negro Rural School Fund, which educated many African American teachers and students across the southern states.
Bethel Burying Ground
This early African American cemetery was established in 1810 by Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church after the burial ground at the church had been filled. The ground was purchased by church members and may be the first independent cemetery for the interment of the African American community. After the land had been sold several times, the Weccacoe Playground was built over the burials rather than having them relocated.
Charles Freemont West (1899–1979)
Washington, Washington County
An African American athlete who won the National Collegiate Pentathlon Championship at the Penn Relays, West was named to the 1924 Olympic track team. While a student and football player at Washington & Jefferson College, he became the first African American quarterback in the Rose Bowl. When Washington & Lee College demanded that W&J bench West for the 1923 game because he was African American, West refused to sit out and was backed by coach John Heisman and the college administration.
Cynthia Catlin Miller
Sugar Grove, Warren County
An active organizer of the abolitionist movement in Warren County, Miller harbored many freedom seekers in her home. She founded the Female Assisting Society and the Ladies' Fugitive Aid Society. One of the leading planners of the 1854 Sugar Grove Convention, she hosted speaker Frederick Douglass in her home.
Dorothy Mae Richardson
Richardson was an activist from Pittsburgh's Central North side who in 1968 launched Neighborhood Housing Services, a progressive resident-led model of community development to combat poor and unsafe living conditions by changing financial lending practices in urban neighborhoods. Her program drew the attention of federal officials and led to its replication in 1978 with the founding of NeighborWorks America, a congressionally chartered nonprofit that supports community development.
Dr. Thomas E. Starzl (1926–2017)
Starzl performed the first successful liver and kidney transplants and became the foremost authority on transplantation. He launched the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's (UPMC) transplant unit, which became the largest and busiest in the world. At UPMC, he developed the immunosuppressant drug that is used worldwide to prevent organ rejection.
FBI Office Burglary
Media, Delaware County
The documents obtained during this 1971 operation by the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI exposed the FBI's civilian surveillance program, COINTELPRO. The program was created to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the US. Following the Washington Post's publication of some of this material, the FBI's questionable methods were uncovered and COINTELPRO was shut down.
Fruit Research & Extension Center
Butler Township, Adams County
Established in 1918, the Fruit Research & Extension Center (FREC) conducted extensive research into diseases and pests attacking Pennsylvania fruit trees and developed treatments for them. FREC is credited with eradicating plum pox, substantially reducing losses due to pests, and increasing yields for more than a decade. It has affected fruit growers, distributors and consumers nationwide.
James Joseph "Jim" Croce (1943–1973)
Lyndell, Chester County
Successful singer/songwriter Croce's work rose to the top of national and international pop music charts for singles and albums in the 1970s. His songs have been covered by hundreds of performers. He is known as a folk storyteller, with such iconic hits as Time in a Bottle, Operator, I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song, and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. He was killed in a tragic plane crash at age 30.
John Updike (1932–2009)
Shillington, Berks County
One of the most influential American writers of the 20th century, Updike was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He was inspired by his mother, who was an aspiring writer, and his home and hometown were included in many of his writings, most notably his Rabbit novels. He was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of the National Medal of the Arts and the National Humanities Medal.
Marianna Mine Explosion
Marianna, Washington County
This tragic incident occurred in 1908 and is one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history. It gained national attention, catalyzed public awareness, and along with other accidents in the early 20th century led to the establishment of the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM). Before it was dissolved in 1996, the USBM conducted research and disseminated information on the extraction, processing, use and conservation of mineral resources.
Springfield Township, Mercer County
Now a historic archaeological site, Pandenarium was a community of free manumitted slaves from the 1850s through the 1930s. Established as part of a small movement intended to afford economic independence through agricultural enterprise, this site offers a rare opportunity to study this type of community and adds to our understanding of the African American experience in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Memorial Home
Brookville, Jefferson County
Established in 1890, the Pennsylvania Memorial Home was open to Civil War veterans and their families, widows and orphans. It was the first veterans' home in Pennsylvania and one of the first nationwide that was so inclusive, serving as a model to others across the country. Local Women's Relief Corps member Kate Scott worked with social reformer Annie Wittenmyer to establish this facility and to urge Pennsylvania legislators to provide funding.
Thomas J. Gola (1933–2014)
Considered one of the greatest basketball players of the mid-20th century, Gola received numerous individual achievement awards, leading the LaSalle College team to victories in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and the NCAA Championship. He went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA and is one of only two players to have won the NIT, as well as NCAA and NBA championships. He represented the U.S. in the 1964 "Behind the Iron Curtain" tour and was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Thomas Wistar Jr. (1798–1876)
Abington Township, Montgomery County
Wister was a Philadelphia Quaker who served for nearly 40 years as a recurrent Indian commissioner during the administrations of seven presidents, from Zachary Taylor to Ulysses S. Grant. Wistar made more than 20 trips to western states to act as a negotiator. In the mid-19th century, the U.S. government considered two means of dealing with Native American populations: extermination or civilization. Wistar developed Grant's Peace Policy, based on empathy toward native tribes and "gradual civilization," which left a mixed legacy.
William J. Murtagh (1923–2018)
One of the nation's leading preservationists, Murtagh was instrumental in the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is considered a founding father in the field of historic preservation. He was also a leader at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the first keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. He received numerous preservation awards and served on the boards of national and international preservation organizations.
Women's Pa. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
This early animal welfare organization established the first animal shelter in the nation and became an inspiration and model for similar groups. Founded in 1869, principally by social reformer Caroline Earle White, the organization pioneered humane standards in animal capture and transport, housing and sanitation, employee training, and euthanasia. It also initiated educational programs and organized the nation's first junior humane societies.