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Historical Society Presents on Tuesday September 8th at 730 PM

Dark Run University- a presentation of papers read from 1951 on Facebook Live

Speaker: Vanessa Couvreur

In June we presented our first ever virtual lecture via Facebook Live with a piece entitled “Swimmin’ Holes I know”.

In that paper, writer W. Hepworth mentions Dark Run University saying, “It ain’t any college- Just where the gang spends a lotta time an has plenty of fun”. In this follow up piece we’ll explore what Dark Run University was in the 1890’s and the area around it.

 

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The Cowden Drum and the Battle of Gettysburg

The Cowden Drum

From the time the first William Cowden immigrated from Ireland in the 1840’s, the Cowden family has played a prominent role in the history of Philadelphia generally, and in the Northeast section of the city in particular.

The elder William Cowden joined the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War, and his son, also named William, while only in his early teens, enlisted as a drummer boy, as was customary at the time.

During one of the Virginia campaigns in 1862, the marching band of the 114th Regiment, to which the younger William Cowden belonged, after spending the night sleeping in a ditch unseen by the rest of their compatriots, missed the call to evacuate their newly won turf. The band members awoke to the bayonets of their Confederate captors, and were taken to the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond—their instruments confiscated. The 114th Regiment wore the exotic Zoave uniform, as seen in the photograph from 1864.

Marching band of the 114th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers

The imprisoned musicians of war were eventually repatriated in a prisoner of war exchange. The people of Frankford magnanimously took up a collection to replace the instruments appropriated by the band’s Confederate captors. This drum is believed to be one of those replaced instruments, and its later use by the younger William Cowden at the Battle of Gettysburg is documented in our acquisition records at the Historical Society of Frankford (HSF).

The drum was donated to the HSF by the Cowden family in 1963—exactly one hundred years after the Battle of Gettysburg—along with the musket used by the elder William Cowden at the landmark Battle.

The younger William Cowden later went on to join the newly reorganized Philadelphia fire department, and right up to the present, several of his descendants have distinguished themselves as local firefighters. He died in 1913—fifty years after the Battle of Gettysburg— while still a resident of Frankford.

The Benjamin Rush Chapter of Questers visited The Historical Society of Frankford and became aware of this drum and it’s history. The idea of conserving the instrument was discussed and raising of funds began.

The Questers is an organization devoted to studying, preserving, and sharing knowledge of history and antiquities. An estimate of work needed to bring the drum back to it’s former condition was obtained by HSF from Lara Kaplan, object conservator. A matching grant from the Pennsylvania Questers was applied for and received.

On July 1st 2020 the check from Pa. Questers was handed to HSF President Jerry Kolankiewicz from Benjamin Rush Quester Mildred Noonan.

The drum was handed over to Lara to begin the restoration.


It is unknown when the repair will be completed at this time. Many months of detailed restoration work are required. When it is returned to the HSF, It will be on permanent display. The exhibit is being planned and lecture in the future will be scheduled.

 

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Historical Sites of Frankford in Philadelphia

Looking for something new while waiting for COVID-19 to go away?

Come sail with The Captain as he walks Rick The Puppy through the streets of Frankford. The Captain made a few friends who are in The Frankford Historical Society. They told him some stories that he could not believe he never knew before. They told him about how important Frankford Ave and who used to travel on it. The Captain learned about the term “The Frankford Advice” and the important location that advice was given in. He sees a graveyard older than the United States and so much more.

 

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“Frankford Heroes” Were Remembered At The Historical Society of Frankford’s November Meeting!

Bob Smiley, Editor, “The Frankford Gazette”, and Richard Johnson just released their second book which contains the stories of local brave men and women in the service of their country. Each November, our hearts and minds remember all those who so selflessly gave their time and sometimes even their lives in the service of their country. Every one of them deserves our thanks and appreciation for their willingness to die, if necessary, to preserve our freedoms. “Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition” is a tribute to them and tells their stories so that they and their sacrifices live on!

Taking us from a small 17th Century village in Philadelphia county to a 21st Century neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia, PA, Frankford has a long history of proud military service. This new edition has 142 brave men who would not return from war. In addition to their stories, those men and women who have been profiled in the Frankford Gazette as “Veteran of the Month” are also included. These were the lucky ones who made it back home yet still bore the scars, and in some cases, disabilities that killing causes.

In the early years, records are scarce, but it is known that a Frankford resident, General Isaac Worrell (a Frankford street bears his name) served in the Revolutionary War. We have the names of a few hundred men who served in the War of 1812 and it was said that Frankford sent more men to the Civil War than any other town of its size. Think about that for a moment. We also have the first documentation of deaths in service available from newspaper reports in the 1860s. Our local patriots continued their service through WWI, WWII, Korea and the Vietnam War. Service continues today with our young men and women on active duty and in the reserves.

Bob Smiley, “Frankford Heroes Remembered” at The Historical Society of Frankford

Tuesday, November 12th, was a brutally cold day, yet we were very gratified to see familiar faces and new ones who were heroes, themselves, for braving the cold and coming out to The Historical Society of Frankford which is a treasure in our community. Smiley, along with Pat Smiley and their son, Jim Smiley, the co-founder of “The Frankford Gazette” and the developer of our online presence and all things “techie”, participated in the presentation aptly titled, “Frankford Heroes Remembered”. The Smileys really like to keep everything a family affair – and we have a big, extended family – it includes all of you! We really enjoy being able to return to Frankford as needed and when we can because Frankford is a family!!

Today, most people focus on the individual but the sacrifices of these men and women and their families should not be forgotten. For that reason, Bob thinks it’s so very important to tell their stories. Here is a quick glimpse of some of the highlights of Bob’s presentation! It was passing by the tombstone of Joseph Alexander Coyle that first ignited Bob’s passion for these unsung heroes. In Bob’s words:

Back in 2014, I was working on another project, documenting St. Joachim’s Cemetery and I was taking pictures of all the headstones.  I was almost finished, when I came upon this one.  It is unusual because it is a military burial, a young man killed in the First World War and yet it is not the standard issue military headstone.  I was curious and decided to see what else I could find out about that guy. A few days later, I found him on Ancestry.  It is one thing to be looking at a stone with a name on it but it is an entirely different experience to see him as a person.  A young man, sitting proudly for a portrait, with his whole life before him, not knowing that he would die in France within a few months. 

‘Joseph was born in Frankford on January 26, 1892 and lived at 1325 Sellers and 1629 Fillmore Street. He was a shipping clerk at S.W. Evans and Son on Paul Street when he was inducted into the Army on May 25, 1918. On July 9, 1918 he shipped out on the USS America bound for France.  He was serving with Company K of the 315th Infantry, 79th Division when he was wounded on August 28, 1918. He died of pneumonia on October 28, 1918. He is buried in St. Joachim Cemetery in Frankford. He was survived by his father, John, and his mother, Anna, and many brothers and sisters.’Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition, pg.

Stephen Paul Blanchet

I had seen all the war monuments in Frankford.  A few had long lists of names of those who served and died.  We have their names etched into stone, but we do not KNOW who they were.  That was when I decided to take a closer look to see what I could find out. That closer look lead me to find a total 142 men who died in service to their country.”

Stephen Paul Blanchett was born on October 20, 1947 and lived at 1813 Foulkrod Street in Frankford.  He enlisted in the Army early in 1965 and served as a corpsman. He was Killed In Action on March 7, 1967. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously.He distinguished himself by exceptional valor while serving as Medical Specialist for his unit when it came under heavy small arms fire in rice paddies northwest of Dong Tam, Vietnam, on March 7, 1967.

As the unit was maneuvering slowly through several rice paddies, they came under enemy sniper fire. Immediately, one of the unit’s leaders was hit and severely wounded. Private Blanchett, 350 meters to the rear, was notified, and began racing through the paddies in order to reach the wounded man. When he had come to within 50 meters of the casualty, he was urged by fellow comrades to go no further, due to the increasing amount of hostile fire. He courageously disregarded the warning and with fire all about him, ran to the side of the wounded man. He then pulled the wounded man behind the safety of a dike separating two paddies and administered vitally needed first aid. This courageous act was one of many times he unhesitatingly risked his life in behalf of his fellow soldiers.”

He was single and was 19 years old when he died. He is buried in the Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey.  Frankford’s American Legion Post 224 2nd floor meeting hall has been named in his honor.  He was survived by his parents, four brothers and two sisters.

Stephen’s parents were awarded his Silver Star in a ceremony at City Hall a few months later. Blanchett and Lloyd Wilson were childhood friends growing up in Frankford.  They were 2 of the 4 African American soldiers from Frankford who died in service.  It is hard to believe but it took many years for Black Americans to earn the right to fight and die for their country.  Today, the Armed Forces could not function without their participation.

Theodore “Ted” Laurer Fischer

Bob’s “Frankford Heroes” project has become very personal to him. He got to know each of these men and women by researching and hearing their stories, many times directly from family members. It becomes more personal, too, when you recognize someone from the neighborhood. Karen Mangan Lash and her husband, Cliff, were in attendance this night. Karen and I had both worked for the School District of Philadelphia and we were together in the Fairhill section of the city. Karen recognized “Ted” and told us after that she had grown up with him and it brought back many memories. We know this can be very hard for families but, to a one, they wanted them to be recognized for the sacrifice, service and courage they exhibited. And then we would hear even more stories about other Heroes. That’s why the book has grown and will continue to share examples of other Heroes we don’t even know about yet.

Theodore Lauer Fischer was born on August 15, 1943 and when his father became Rector of St. Mark’s Church, the family moved to a home on Harrison Street. He had a “Back” position on the football team at Frankford High School and a strong voice which he used in the a cappella choir. “Ted” Fischer led a very active life during his high school years. Teachers there remember the 1962 graduate as an honest, hardworking student with a dramatic flair. 

Fischer enlisted in the Marine Corps in November of 1962. Now 22-years-old and a Lance Corporal, and a radioman for Company A, of the 1st Battalion, 4th, Marines Division, died in the hamlet of Phu Bai, Quang Tri, Province, on March 20, 1966.  He was survived, by his father, Albert, Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, his mother, Elizabeth, and his sister, Barbara. He is buried in Whitemarsh Memorial Park in Ambler, Pennsylvania. 

Joseph Coyle’s Headstone
2014 and 2019

This picture tells the story. Earlier, Bob explained how he first became interested in telling the stories of these “Frankford Heroes”. As members of St. Joachim, we have a cemetery that’s over 170 years old. It is in need of restoration and upkeep as most of our smaller cemeteries in the city are. The photo on the left shows Joseph Coyle’s headstone suffered significant damage. These are the types of things we need to get repaired.

Keep the Faith in Frankford and  Holy Innocents Parish (of which St. Joachim is a Worship Site) formed The Friends of St. Joachim Cemetery. Chaired by Joe and Maureen Taylor, they have begun cleaning the cemetery, giving educational tours and collecting donations to begin some of the restoration projects – like new benches in the cemetery. They have had volunteers coming out to help them but what’s really needed now are dedicated committee members. If you would be interested in helping to plan activities and help with fundraising, etc., please contact Joe via email at joseph.m.taylor12@gmail.com, or text/call his cell at 215-360-6818. Joe’s story is also in the “Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition” book as well!

We would like to offer our sincere thanks to Jim Young, President, (you were sorely missed, Jim), and other Board Members Jerry Kolankiewicz, Bruce McKenzie, John Buffington, Susan Couvreur, John Hewitt, Fred Prescott and Diane Sadler who were in attendance and most helpful to us as always. Susan gathered and displayed some of the Society’s artifacts related to Veterans this evening. Thank you, Susan! They enhanced the presentation! The refreshments that follow these presentations are worth attending for sure! A double bonus! For more information about the Historical Society of Frankford, please visit their website, https://www.thehistoricalsocietyoffrankford.org/ and find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheHistoricalSocietyofFrankford/?ref=br_rs .

Enjoy the slideshow of the Presentation at The Historical Society of Frankford and also an interview with the author, Bob Smiley!! Thanks for reading! If you have any “Frankford Heroes” you would like to share with us, Bob’s email is in the next paragraph!

Interested in getting a copy of “Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition” for yourself or for a Hero in your own life, please click here – Lulu. Then email gil@frankfordgazette.com to get your free ebook which contains even more details and links about our local Heroes. 

A slideshow of the November meeting at The Historical Society of Frankford!

Here is an interview that I did with Bob Smiley regarding his new book, “Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition”!

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Exhibit at the Historical Society of Frankford

New exhibit opening at The Historical Society of Frankford

The Early Photographers of the Frankford Area

Drawing from the archives at the historical society, the exhibit displays images by the men and women both professional and amateur who lived or worked in Frankford from 1850 to 1930.

Starting October 8, 2019 and continuing through 2020

Open during lectures or by appointment 215-743-6030