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Coal Country Hangout research project reintroduces Johnstown students to their own backyard

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

JOHNSTOWN — Fourteen high school students from the Coal Country Hangout have been researching their backyard.

Through the direction of Deacon Ann Staples, executive director of the Coal Country Youth Center, the students discovered that the coal town of Moss Creek was walled off from the rest of the world.

Founded in 1902, Moss Creek was walled off to keep away union agitators who sought to stir up local coal workers. Residents of the coal town had to sign in and out to come and go.

Moss Creek was privately owned until the mid-1940s when it was sold to the local water authority, which owned it until the 1980s. The students are researching all of Moss Creek's buildings, interviewing residents and searching for remains of the wall.

Staples said the students hope to have a video documentary completed by June. They are working with the Cambria County Historical Society in their efforts to learn more about local history.

Staples said the project is important because most students don't get to learn much beyond their school's curriculum.

“Their studies concentrate on national or state history,” she said, “and sometimes they might not know what is around in their own backyard.”

Staples said the project is voluntary and not required for graduation or a grade.

“It's so popular that the minute (projects) are said out loud, they're signed up,” she said.

All of the Coal Country Hangout projects are grant funded, and this project is funded by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

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