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Derry Area Historical Society honors trio with Pomeroy Awards

| Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Tribune-Review
2013 Pomeroy Award recipients, (from left), Barbie Pickford, of Derry Borough, and William Snyder, Jr., of Derry Township, are presented with awards at the Derry Area Historical Society's John Pomeroy Awards Presentation, held at the Fulton House in New Derry on Monday evening, October 28, 2013. The third award recipient was Todd Clewell, of York County, (not present).

The Derry Area Historical Society honored three individuals who have helped bring local history alive during its seventh annual John Pomeroy Awards Presentation last week at the Fulton House in New Derry.

The Pomeroy Awards, named for one of the earliest and most influential settlers of the Derry area, recognize contributions to historical preservation and education, and often the awardees follow a common theme.

The 2013 awardees — William Snyder II, Barbie Pickford and Todd Clewell — all helped attract a younger generation to learn about the area's past.

“This year, I think more than anything, it was the young people,” said historical society board member John Matviya. “With Bill, it's all the students he's gotten involved in history. With Barbie, it's Facebook, and with Todd, his music being a medium for history education. That fell right into place.”

‘Ultimate recycler'

William Snyder II, a history teacher at Greater Latrobe High School and Derry Township resident, has restored or reconstructed a dozen historic log buildings since 1990, with another planned for next summer.

“We're pretty quick to throw things out and waste them,” Snyder said of his motivation for restoring and reconstructing the buildings. “I like to refer to myself as the ultimate recycler because I hate waste. My parents were raised during the Depression, and they instilled those values in me. It's not that I don't waste food, but I don't waste logs either.”

Many high school students from Derry Area and Greater Latrobe high schools assisted Snyder in restoring the barn and blacksmith shop behind the Fulton House.

“That barn and the blacksmith shop, about 90 percent of that was reconstructed with student labor,” Snyder said.

Snyder is a lifetime member of the historical society, as were his parents, and he has served as a board member and officer. His son William Snyder III, also a lifetime member, is the historical society's vice president and likely its next president after its Nov. 17 election at Simpson Voting House near New Alexandria.

“I appreciate it, obviously,” Snyder said of the Pomeroy Award, “but I think it's important for other people to get involved because that's the only way we're going to preserve history for future generations.”

A friend of history

Derry Borough resident Barbie Pickford was recognized for her efforts to form the “Remembering Derry” Facebook group, which includes hundreds of historic photos.

“It's humbling,” Pickford said of the award. “I'm just doing something I love, so it's cool to get an award for doing something I enjoy so much.”

The group, started in 2009, now has more than 700 members.

“I had been talking to my mom one day, and we were reminiscing about Derry, and I just wanted to get more people's point of view,” she said. “I figured I'd tap into social media and see what would happen with it. It kind of took off on its own from there.”

Pickford, who has helped the historical society archive roughly 2,700 photographs in New Alexandria, said the Facebook group has been helpful in identifying people and places in the old photos.

“Facebook helps a lot with that,” she said.

“We have a lot of unidentified photos, so I put them on there, and people can tell me who's who.”

Music preservationist

Todd Clewell lives in York County but earned his Pomeroy Award by bringing to life the music of Derry Township's most prolific songwriter, Sarah Gray Armstrong.

“The obituary for Sarah when she died in 1957 didn't mention one thing about her musical ability,” Clewell said. “And yet that is what we're going to remember Sarah Armstrong for today.”

He discovered Armstrong's fiddle music in 2002 and made recordings of 27 songs attributed to her in a book, “Hill Country Tunes,” compiled by Samuel Preston Bayard in 1944. Although Armstrong's music was recorded on paper in the book, no audio recordings of the songs existed until Clewell made his CD, “Sarah Armstrong's Tunes.”

Clewell and other musicians performed some of Armstrong's music at Derry Railroad Days celebration this year, and his “Sarah Armstrong's Tunes” CD is available for purchase through his website at or the Derry Area Historical Society.

The historical society will host an open house and election of officers and board members from noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 17 at Simpson Voting House on Route 22 near New Alexandria.

Other upcoming events for the historical society include the annual community sing-along at historic Old Salem Church on Dec. 9 and Christmas at the Fulton House on Dec. 13. Both events will begin at 7 p.m.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or

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