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Civil War veterans hall found on Clinton farm

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By Jessica Turnbull
Monday, Jan. 11, 2010

The saying "History is everywhere" once again has proven to be true — this time in a pasture in Clinton Township.

John and Kathy Allen discovered their property, Armstrong Farms, holds the remains of a Grand Army of the Republic building, where Civil War veterans met starting in 1886.

All that's left of the G.A.R. — an organization similar to a VFW or American Legion, but whose members fought for the Union in the Civil War — is the building's foundation, but the historical significance is still there, John Allen said.

Allen also found two Civil War uniforms, complete with velvet collars, in the corner of his barn and is researching how to preserve the artifacts. Considering the uniforms sat in a barn for at least 40 years, they're in surprisingly good shape.

"I've always wanted to do something with them," said Allen, who bought the farm in 1967.

Local historian Drenda Gostkowski is researching the site and assembling a book about the G.A.R. She also founded the South East Butler County Historic Resources.

"The Civil War seems to have come alive again," she said.

Gostkowski and the Allens said they hope to preserve the site by placing a plaque near the remains, where they keep finding pieces of history in the soil.

A local man who uses a metal detector at historic sites for a hobby has found several artifacts in the pasture, including the top (finial) of a flag pole and a half dime, which was used before the nickel, she said.

The site was the James Harvey Post No. 514, which was organized March 25, 1886, at Clinton Township's Schoolhouse No. 2. The land was donated by John S. Love, whose farm bordered Harvey's. The two served together in the 137th Pennsylvania Regiment.

Gostkowski, who also runs the Web site Saxonburg Area Local History, said she believes the post was named for Harvey because he died before the building was completed. The G.A.R hall was part of a small village called Riddle's Crossroads along Westminster Road.

The building likely was only a one-room schoolhouse that looked like a shanty. But it was the place where Civil War veterans from the area could come together for outings and events and to reminisce about the war, Gostkowski said.

"Back then, you didn't run off to a therapist after you came back from war," she said. "This was almost like therapy."

Names Gostkowski has associated with the G.A.R. site included charter members William Harvey, John S. Love, John B. Cummings, J.P. Kirkpatrick, William Thompson, M. Thompson, G.P. Harvey, John Halstead, Mark Gibson, H.H. Halstead and E. Sefton. Other members included Adam Ekas, William Carson, A.B. Katz, Joseph Jones and W.J. Gillespie.

Additional Information:

Calling out

South East Butler County Historic Resources is looking for anyone whose ancestors served in the Civil War with the 137th Regiment, Company D; the 18th Pennsylvania Calvary, Company F; the 11th Pennsylvania Reserve, Company C; the 103rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, Company K; the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment and 169th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, Company E. The historic group is seeking photos, documents, family histories and even family lore. Please contact Drenda Gostkowski by e-mail with any information.

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