Sunday, February 21, 2016

Photo of the Week: That's Our Henry! (Henry Bowler, Center Township)

(By Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist)

Henry Bowler [1]
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: This week, the photo feature is from my personal collection. The few photos initially in my family’s custody when I began researching over 20 years ago, has been one of the catalysts for launching the Greene Connections Archives Project. In searching for my own missing history, I discovered how much is out there in boxes, drawers, attics, closets, and so on, going unseen. It became a quest to find a way to preserve and share those items. Now nearly 9,000 images are posted to Greene Connections. Over the years, some of those 9,000 have included my own ancestors and made what is already an exciting project even more so. Today’s focus is on one such photo and how this type of unexpected, but impactful discovery can redirect your research.

Henry Bowler and I met face to face, so to speak, for the first time, when my father’s cousin gave me his Cabinet Card photograph. As she put it in my hand, she commented that her son had hoped this scary looking fellow was no relation to us. She had dashed that hope by pointing out that he was our – her son’s and mine – third great grandfather. I was thrilled!

It is incredible, and sometimes overwhelming, to consider the number of ancestors that actually compose any single person’s family tree. As one of my favorite genealogy quotes points out, in family history, “whenever you solve one problem, you gain two more.” Every person in your pedigree has two parents, and each of those two lead to two more. Family trees grow exponentially in this way. Ultimately, a genealogist trying to compile the stories of long-ago relations, has plenty of ancestors to choose from when deciding whom to research each time they open the record books.

Sometimes, though, our ancestors make these decisions for us. Accidental discoveries of tombstones, newspaper clippings, family papers, or the occasional “scary” photograph, catch our attention and direct our curiosity. In this case, great-great-great-grandfather Henry had stepped up.

Henry's tombstone, Bowler Cemetery [2]
At the time I only knew Henry as a name on paper in the great genealogy records chase. So, I went to visit him. Henry is buried in a small family cemetery on the farm where he lived near Rogersville, in Center Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Beside his gravestone, markers still stand for his wife, Penelope (Stewart) Bowler, and nine of their close relatives. Standing on this hilltop a cemetery visitor can look out on the land where Henry spent his daily life.

Of course, the man in this photo, made me want to know what his life was like. Who Henry really was? Revealing an individual’s personality and personal story is not generally obvious, sometimes nearly impossible, to discover for ancestors who lived so long ago. We can often piece together facts from official records to recreate some sense of their status and lifestyle, and gain a sense of their priorities and routines, but not as often their personal description or nature.

Henry, however, was not done basking in the family history spotlight.

Obituaries from the early 1900s, have the potential to be non-existent, very brief, or alternatively awesome! Do not ever look to just one local newspaper and accept it as the only offering. In Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, several newspapers were in print at the time of Henry’s death and his family chose a less common one, the Independent, in which to publish his extended notice. The more popular Waynesburg Republican carried only a two sentence death notice[3] and if the research had ended there, we would have missed an incredible biography. This is an excerpt from Henry’s exceptional obituary published 26 May 1904 in the Independent:[4]

“Henry Bowler was one of the oldest citizens of the county and we might say in some respects a very peculiar man. He was never outside of Greene county but once and that only across the line for a few hours. He had never seen a train of cars nor a steamboat. Had not been away from the farm on which he lived but twice in the last fifteen years. Had not been to Rogersville, which is in sight of his farm, for something like thirty years.

Henry's funeral card [5]
Henry Bowler was a remarkable man in other respects. Being of a rugged constitution, his eyesight never failed him. Within the last two years he would go hunting and always with the old time piece, the rifle, and find more game than the young men with their latest improved hunting pieces. He had a remarkable memory and was a great reader. One would be surprised at his knowledge of affairs of the world, both past and present. Always taking the papers that kept him reliably informed as to what was taking place in the world, and in this respect he was a mine of information, and while a helper at home for many years he never lost interest in the affairs of the government, being a staunch Republican all his life and knew the party leaders and their positions on all the important questions. In early life he accepted the gospel and became a member of the Christian church and for some years was an active worker in the church which at that time met at Crouse's school house, just below Rogersville. He was a lover of music and in his younger days loved the service of song in which he took a leading part. In conversing with him a short time before his death he talked of the church and its work and was happy in the fact that the kingdom of Christ was advancing and reaching unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”

This account of my “peculiar” ancestor is a lively complement to the treasured photograph. Henry’s photo is the first one you will see if you ever open my Bowler family photo album. He never fails to make me smile.

Allow your ancestors to inspire and lead you on your search. There is a serendipitous influence underlying family history research that few genealogists will deny. Sometimes unexpected discoveries take you down paths to whole new branches of your tree waiting to be explored!

Henry’s extended family and additional photographs collected in the course of my personal research may be viewed in the Candice Lynn Buchanan Collection and by checking out the family profiles in the Greene Connections Tree (still very much under construction, but growing!).

(An earlier version of this article was originally published by Candice Buchanan in Greene Speak, April 2006. Updated 21 February 2016 for is a free local history archival project. Sponsored by LOLA Energy.

[1] Item # CAND_AN003_0001, Bowler Series, Candice Lynn Buchanan Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (

[2] Bowler Cemetery (Center Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania; About two miles southeast of Rogersville along a road that used to be called "Bowler Ridge." To reach the cemetery, you must walk through the field and climb the hill.), Henry Bowler tombstone; personally read by Candice Buchanan, 5 November 2004. "Henry Bowler / Born / May 27, 1818 / Died / March 18, 1904"

[3] Henry Bowler obituary, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 24 March 1904, page 1, column 7.

[4] Henry Bowler obituary, Waynesburg Independent, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 26 May 1904, page 2, column 1-2.

[5] Item # CAND_AN003_0002, Bowler Series, Candice Lynn Buchanan Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Photo of the Week: President Taft Poses on Greene Street, Waynesburg, PA

(By Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist)

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: In tribute to President's Day, this week we take a rare look inside a Greene County, Pennsylvania, home that was once visited by US President William Howard Taft.

On 4 November 1919, this photograph captured, left to right: former First Lady Helen Louise "Nellie" (Herron) Taft and former US President William Howard Taft, with Waynesburg residents, Ella Jean "Jennie" (Wilson) (Lindsey) Downey and Robinson Franklin Downey. The two couples posed on the porch of the Downey home, known as "Ivyhurst," located on the southwest corner of Greene and Washington streets in Waynesburg.[1]

Robinson Franklin Downey [1849-1923] and his wife, Ella Jean "Jennie" (Wilson) (Lindsey) Downey [1860-1934], were both graduates of Waynesburg College. He was a prominent lawyer and she a socialite, community leader. Influential in political circles beyond Greene County, the Downeys hosted at Ivyhurst,  in addition to the Tafts, such personalities as Woodrow Wilson's Vice President Thomas Marshall, William Jennings Bryan, and former First Lady Grace Coolidge.

Ivyhurst [4]
Later in life by the time they married on 6 February 1902,[2] the Downeys never had children of their own, but Jennie had one daughter, Claire (Lindsey) Reisinger, from her first marriage, who lived with them at Ivyhurst. Claire was tragically killed when a streetcar struck the vehicle in which she was a passenger, just a week before she would have graduated Waynesburg College in 1916.[3] As a result, the Downeys had no direct heirs.

After the death of Mrs. Downey in 1934, Ivyhurst passed into the ownership of Waynesburg College, which used it to house their Music Department until 1967, when Ivyhurst was sold and destroyed to make room for a gas station. Today, this spot is the location of Community Bank.

Ivyhurst remains a vivid memory to many Greene County residents and Waynesburg College alumni, largely from its era as the latter institution's Music Department. Community access to the facility meant that many children took lessons and performed recitals within these fancy walls.
Upstairs hallway at Ivyhurst with stained-glass window [5]
Though we can no longer walk the halls of this fine house, we have been left with two unique opportunities to revisit this historic home.

1. Before the destruction of the house, the incredible stained-glass window that was once the highlight of the stairway and upper hallway, was preserved and now is displayed in the Waynesburg University Paul R. Stewart Museum. You may visit it in person.

2. A magnificent photograph series maintained by the Greene County Historical Society, and shared here as a part of the Greene County Historical Society Collection in the Greene Connections' Photo Archives section, shows 11 interior room views of the house during the Downey residency. These are complimented by a handful of outside scenes including the carriage house. By zooming-in on these pictures, you can see the daily life details and decor of the Downey home. To begin your tour, click on this link to the first photo in the set of Ivyhurst images and continue to click the right arrow to turn the pages and view each picture in the group. To zoom-in on any photo, just click on it directly or download it at original size.

We do not often have the opportunity to view the interior of ancestral homes, certainly not room by room, so this is a very special collection. We are able to see the rooms much as President Taft would have enjoyed them on his visit to Waynesburg in 1919!

To learn more about the Downey family, view the Ivyhurst Memory Medallion and the Downey entries in the Greene Connections Tree. is a free local history archival project. Sponsored by LOLA Energy.

[1] Item # GCHS-AN027-0001-0149Greene County Historical Society Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (

[2] Greene County, Pennsylvania, Marriage License Docket 9: 268, Downey-Lindsey, 1902; County Clerk's Office, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[3] Mrs. Emory W. Reisinger obituary, Waynesburg Republican, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 8 June 1916, page 1, column 2.

[4] Item # WAYN_AN004_0010, Waynesburg University Museum Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (

[5] Item # GCHS-AN027-0001-0158Greene County Historical Society Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Photo of the Week: McKahan Wedding, Elm Street, Waynesburg, PA

(By Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist)

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Valentine's Day is always a proper occasion to look back at the ancestral couples in the family tree. We love to learn and share stories of how they met, courted, married, and lived.

A previous article, "Love Stories in Shades of Greene," captures an assortment of favorite moments shared through local research and family storytelling. To build on that theme, this time, we will delve into one of the best Keywords used in our Photo Archives to find images of couples posed together - "Wedding." Over 60 Greene County, Pennsylvania-connected images in the project are featured under this Keyword, and it is fun to scroll through and view the various families highlighted on their special day from the Civil War era through World War II.

Wedding photos are wonderful because adding a date and a story to accompany the picture is often easy to do.

In Greene County, marriage records were not kept officially until Pennsylvania began to require licenses in 1885. From this date forward, however, you can visit the Clerk of Courts office at the Greene County Courthouse to view the official documents related to your ancestors' wedding. has even digitized their microfilm of the earliest of these records, making them accessible for FREE online not only for Greene, but all Pennsylvania counties. Dates of the available digital records vary, but are well worth checking before you go to the courthouse. Visit FamilySearch's Pennsylvania, County Marriages collection to see these records. (This link is also on the Greene Connections Resources tab.)

In addition to the official record, and for weddings prior to 1885, many local newspapers ran marriage announcements with details of the event. These can be amazing and even entertaining. The benefit of Greene County's small town culture is that many of our ancestors made the paper, so don't pre-judge whether your ancestral couple were newsworthy or not. The Cornerstone Genealogical Society in Waynesburg has local newspaper microfilm. Links to online newspapers for our area can also be found on the Resources tab. Based on the wedding date, determine which newspapers were in print and if they were daily or weekly. Begin with the issue right after the wedding and check for several issues in case it took awhile for the article to run. Look not only under the obvious "Marriage Announcements" headline, but also in any areas for neighborhood news. Often you will see where someone came into town or left town to attend the wedding and that would make local news too. This can reveal where relatives lived and all kinds of other fun trivia.

Of special note, particularly for very early marriages that predate official records or consistent newspaper microfilm, try looking up anniversary announcements in later newspapers too, especially for couples who enjoyed celebrating their 50th or 60th wedding anniversary. Often family parties held on these occasions made the news, sometimes including not only details about the actual wedding day, but even an old photo!

One of the benefits to finding the marriage announcement is that it is likely to identify the wedding party. A bride and groom are easy to pick out in wedding pictures, but what about their attendants? The newspaper often details the ladies' dresses and flowers, names each role, and provides other notes that will help you pick out the people in your pictures. The article, and perhaps the official record too, is also likely to tell you where the wedding took place, allowing you to specifically identify interior and exterior locations in your photos.

McKahan Wedding, Elm Street, Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania

Leah Garland (McKahan) Carothers [1]
From our Photo Archives here is an example of research applied to some lovely 1920s wedding photos from the Nancy Laureanne (Throckmorton) Meighen Series photographs now archived as a part of the Cornerstone Genealogical Society Collection.

Nancy Laureanne (Throckmorton) Meighen, who lovingly preserved these photos, was not the bride, but a bridesmaid in these pictures, as we learn from the newspaper announcement below. Her Waynesburg College classmate, Leah Garland McKahan, was the bride. Both girls graduated with the Class of 1922 and their senior portraits can be viewed in the Waynesburg University Museum Collection for comparison (see Leah / see Nancy).

The groom was Edward Vernon Carothers Jr., from Allegheny County, who contributed just one groomsman to the bridal party. There marriage took place 22 June 1929 and was recorded at the Greene County Courthouse.[2]

In a case such as this, it is possible that Edward's hometown paper may have run an article too and that would be a good area for further research. Leah was, of course, the local connection to the announcement in the Democrat Messenger, that appeared not quite a week after the nuptials, on 28 June 1929:

"A prettily appointed home wedding was solemnized Saturday afternoon, June 22, at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John D. McKahan, corner of Washington and Elm streets, when their daughter, Miss Leah Garland McKahan, became the bride of Edward Vernon Carothers, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Vernon Carothers, of Crafton. The marriage service was read by Dr. James Edgar Wilson, pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Waynesburg, in the presence of members of the two families and several guests. The McKahan home was beautifully decorated with palms, cibotium, ferns, and summer garden flowers. Just preceding the ceremony Miss Frances Irwin sand 'I Love You Truly,' accompanied at the piano by Mrs. Harry F. Baily. The bride, who was given in marriage by her father, wore a gown of ivory satin fashioned with tight-fitting sleeves and an uneven hemline. Her tulle veil was arranged with a coronet of rose point lace caught with orange blossoms. She carried a sheaf of Calla lilies. Her attendants were her sisters, Mrs. Clarence F. Long and Miss Mary Sanford McKahan, and Mrs. Charles P. Meighen. They wore gowns of shell pink and coral, and carried bouquets of pink roses and delphinium. William Douglas Carothers, of Pittsburgh, brother of the bridgegroom, was best man. A reception supplemented the ceremony. The bride is one of Waynesburg's popular young women and is prominent in social circles. She is a graduate of Waynesburg College, and is a member of Theta Pi Sigma sorority and of the Junior League. For the past few years she has been librarian at Waynesburg College. Mr. Carothers is a well known young banker. He attended the school of banking and finance of the University of Pittsburgh and for the past six years has been connected with the Colonial Trust Company, of Pittsburgh. Following the reception in their honor, Mr. and Mrs. Carothers left on a motor trip. In the fall they will be at home in Pittsburgh."[3]

Carothers-McKahan wedding on 22 June 1929, pictured [Left-Right]: Mary Sanford McKahan, Laura (McKahan) Long, Leah Garland (McKahan) (Carothers) Ellenberger [bride], Dr. James Edgar Wilson [pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Waynesburg], Edward Vernon Carothers, Jr. [groom], William Douglas Carothers [best man], Nancy Laureanne (Throckmorton) Meighen [4]

Leah was wed from the home of her parents, John D. and Caroline (Helphenstine) McKahan, on the corner of Washington and Elm Streets in Waynesburg, Greene County, Pennsylvania. The precise location is wonderfully described in the news announcement and further embellished here by a circa 1930, family photo including the newlyweds in front of that very house. This image comes from the Greene County Historical Society Collection.

John D. and Caroline (Helphenstine) McKahan family home on the corner of Washington and Elm Streets in Waynesburg, Pa. Pictured [Left-Right]: STANDING - John D. McKahan and his wife, Caroline (Helphenstine) McKahan, with their daughter Laura (McKahan) Long; SEATED - Edward Vernon Carothers Jr. and his wife, Leah Garland (McKahan) Carothers. [5]

This Valentine's Day remember and honor those ancestral love stories, we would not be here without them! is a free local history archival project. Sponsored by LOLA Energy.

[1] Item # CGSP_AN001_0029Nancy Laureanne (Throckmorton) Meighen Series, Cornerstone Genealogical Society Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (

[2] Greene County, Pennsylvania, 21: 21, Carothers-McKahan, 1929; County Clerk's Office, Courthouse, Waynesburg.

[3] Carothers-McKahan marriage announcement, Democrat Messenger, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 28 June 1929, page 5, column 5.

[4] Item # CGSP_AN001_0028Nancy Laureanne (Throckmorton) Meighen Series, Cornerstone Genealogical Society Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (

[5] Item # GCHS-AN027-0001-0110, Greene County Historical Society Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (