Historical 'Around Connellsville' book now available

| Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 4:17 p.m.

A lifelong history buff whose love of the past has been a true passion, Karen Hechler of Connellsville recently saw a dream come true when the book “Around Connellsville” hit the shelves for sale in November.

Working for many years as the driving force behind the Connellsville Area Historical Society, Hechler has worked hard over the years collecting old images of the city and the people of the town, those who helped to paint the picture of the foundation and lay the groundwork of city she calls home.

“I really never dreamed that I would be where I am today,” Hechler said of her new role as author of a book, but the new writer is quick to point out that the undertaking of the creation of the book would not have been possible without the help of the book's co-author Paul Eckman of New Jersey.

“I don't think I would have ever been able to do this without his help,” she said. “He is the one that approached me about the book because he was impressed with the number of photographs that the history society has.”

The pair went public with their intentions, asking those in the area to bring potential photos to them for consideration in the book.

The finished book now holds more than 200 pictures starting from the 1850s and has proven to be a big hit for the group, which plans to use the proceeds from its sales toward the restoration and remodeling of the Gibson House, which is owned by the society.

The book contains images from past industries, sports teams, churches, school groups, community events and much more.

“Sales have been wonderful,” Hechler said of the book that was published by Arcadia Publishing, a New Hampshire-based publishing firm that specializes in historic books, especially the pictorial and image type that have been released in towns such as Scottdale and Everson, Norvelt, Donora, Dunbar, Greensburg and the Mid Mon Valley.

Mt. Pleasant will be the next town added to the list from a local level, as members of the Mt. Pleasant Friends of the Library are now in the process of putting together a similar book about their town.

“We love our town and are interested in learning the history of it,” Friends of the Mt. Pleasant Library president Nancy Sebek said. “Most of us are locals and are enjoying reading texts and looking at the older pictures. It may not be a big fundraiser, but it will help us to help our library and the children's programs.”

The group in Mt. Pleasant began to meet on a regular basis a few months ago, and now meet at 1 p.m. every Monday at the library to sort through the photos that they are receiving and to go over new ones.

“We really need some newer photos,” Friends vice president Bonnie Wilson said. “Most of the ones that we have gotten so far are really, really old. We need more from the 1940s through 2000.”

The group are accepting photos from the Mt. Pleasant area, including Bridgeport and Standard Shaft.

“When this is done, I think it will be an exciting resource for the community,” member Karen Stefl said. “I think that its going to be great for the community.”

Photos will be accepted through March 4 for consideration in the book and can be dropped off at the library any time during business hours.

Photos will be copied and returned and for those who do not wish to leave their photo, appointments can be made at the library to have the photos scanned on site.

“Proceeds from the sales of the book will go back to the library,” Sebek said. “We are looking forward to seeing how it all comes out.”

The book is expected to be released in the fall.

And for the Connellsville Historical Society, the sales and profits have been steady.

“I see a lot of these books being purchased and sent all over the county,” Hechler said, adding that one man purchased 16 copies of the book to send all over the U.S. to various friends and relatives.

Hechler said that now that the book is selling, the group is planning to use some of the proceeds to build book shelves in the upper room at the Gibson House, which will then house some of the hundreds of research and reference materials that are being cataloged by Margaret Hewitt.

“They (new shelves) will make the material so much more accessible and easier for people to see what we have here,” Hewitt said.

Hechler hopes to see the sale of the book continue, and for present, does not plan to author a second in the series, although the idea is not entirely out of the question.

“People have been asking if there is going to be a sequel, and if another book is in the works” Hechler said. “Right now, we were just happy to have received so many new old photos from people of the community that we were able to scan and add to our files here. This turned out wonderful for us.”

The book will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday in the historical society area on the second floor of the Connellsville library.

A check for $21.99 plus tax can also be mailed to Connells­­ville Area Historical Society, 299 S. Pittsburgh St., Connellsville, PA 15425.

The book can be obtained by calling 724-628-5344.

Anyone interested in scheduling an appointment for the scanning of a photo for the Mt. Pleasant book can call 724-547-3850.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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