Monday, June 28, 2010

Schuylkill County Prison and The Mollie Maguires.

Not too far from the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville lies a castle of solitude. The Schuylkill county prison was originally built in Orwigsburg in 1814. After some expansions and renovations it became too small and was changed into a school house. In 1851 the prison moved to it's current location in Pottsville. Completed with a castle facade, it was surely meant to intimidate.

The prison consisted of 38 cells, each cell holding 2 inmates. In 1876 a new addition was added to the fortress. A total of 86 new cells along with 6 solitary confinement cells in the basement were added. The following year the prison would gain much of it's infamy. On June 21, 1877 the largest mass execution in Pennsylvania history would take place. Six Mollie Maguires were hung at the prison, while another four were executed at the prison in Mauch Chunk. All ten men proclaimed their innocence. The whole history of the Mollie Maguires is shrouded in much doubt and full of conspiracies through large coal companies. In order to accommodate the hangings the Schuylkill county prison had a six man gallow built, though they opted to hang the men two at a time instead of all six at once. On the night of the executions miners and their families gathered outside the prison in silence to claim the innocence of the lives that would be lost here.

The county of Schuylkill executed a total of sixteen people by 1911, including nine Mollie Maguires. The state took control over all executions in 1911, though none remain as controversial as the ones that took place on that early summer evening in 1877.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pennsylvania Serial Killer: Mathias Schambacher

In the June zine, we visit a bird sanctuary that has quite a horrendous past. Long before the conservation area was put into effect, this mountain was home to one of Pennsylvania's first serial killers.

Sometime during the mid 1800's an aspiring business owner named Mathias Schambacher bought a homestead on the mountain that was once the site of brutal family attack in the 1750's. He and his wife turned the home into a roadside tavern and an overnight inn. Overnight visitors to the inn claimed to feel an overwhelming sense of doom surrounding them. Many reported hearing strange noises and footsteps in the middle of the night. Most who stayed vowed to never stay again, but others weren't so lucky.

The locals began to grow suspicious of the activity's surrounding the inn. Some guests who stopped in were never seen from again. Locals claimed to have seen Mathias cleaning blood off the walls of his barn, others reported that their horses wouldn't even near the property. Mr. Schambacher was even seen selling the merchandise of a traveling salesman who had disappeared. Though all these little clues added up to no hard evidence.

In 1879 on his deathbed Mathias urged his wife to contact a preacher so he could confess his sins. "I have taken the lives of men" Mathias stated. Than continuing to describe the grisly manner in which he slaughtered so many road weary travelers. Detailing how he chopped the men up with an axe, than displaced their bones in the woods to be cleaned by the animals. The number of victims is not known, Mathias lost count after he filled his well with skulls. The meat from the victims was never discussed, though it is rumored that sausage appeared on the tavern menu shortly after the first victim disappeared.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yuengling Ice Cream

When you think of Yuengling you usually think of beer, more precisely lager. But what most don't know is that ice cream may have helped to save the brewery. During prohibition Yuengling was no longer allowed to make alcoholic beer. They instead made a non-alcoholic near beer, but it may have been the creamery across from the brewery that kept the Yuengling name afloat. The ice cream packages back in those days also contained baseball cards, many of which are quite valuable today, and often difficult to find. The amazing thing is how long they continued to churn out ice cream even after prohibition. The Yuengling creamery continued serving customers in the nearby communities up until 1985 when they closed the creamery for good.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yuengling Mansion

In 1914 Frank Yuengling, owner of Yuengling brewery, and his family moved into a large mansion on Mahantongo street in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The home had a total of 20 rooms and also housing quarters for maids. But long since the Yuengling family moved out, their spirits may still remain.

The house served as a home to 3 generations of Yuenglings. In 1978 the home was deeded over to the Schuylkill county council for the arts. And in 1979 the home was placed on the national register of historic places. But many believe not all the members of the Yuengling household have left completely.

Many paranormal investigators have visited the home and have discovered some unnatural phenomenon. Most of the sightings take place on the third floor which housed the maids, and where the young children of the family favored to play. There are thought to be two spirits which roam around the top floor and also the various staircases in the home. One spirit is thought to be a former maid who lived in the home with the family, the other spirit is that of a young, female child. EVP's of both spirits have been captured, cold spots have been felt throughout the third floor, and other strange activity has been also witnessed. The house isn't the only place on the property thought to be haunted. The nearby carriage house has also been investigated and strange anomalies have been sighted as well. A recent investigation team noticed a large brown orb floating near the carriage house.

I have found no reported deaths to have taken place on the property or in the home. Perhaps these spirits died many years after leaving the house, and maybe this is the place they'll always remember as home.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Our Yuengling Brewery Tour

On a rainy weekday, we decided to have an adult day while the young one was away. We took a pleasant drive up Route 61 to the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville. They run 2 tours: 1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. We opted for the afternoon, as I like my beer after my cereal.

Apparently quite a few other folks had the same idea. We all met in the gift shop, which also acts as a small museum, giving you the history of the Brewery and displaying bottles from times past.

The tour begins in the famous Tap Room, which is featured in quite a few commercials. When specialty networks do a piece on the Brewery this is also the room that’s usually used. There you receive some history from an educated guide and learn about the rich family history of this brewery.

From there, it’s off to see the beer made. They’ll show you the entire process from start to finish. The day we were there we got to see bottling done. Having been a loyal customer of Yuengling’s for many years, the smell in the bottling area brought back memories: some good and some bad.

The tour ends in the caves where the beer was made many years before refrigeration was available. You’ll see the wall the United States Government put up during Prohibition and learn how Yuengling survived during this tough time.

Then it’s back off to the taproom for some free samples. They have all of their beers to chose from as well as birch beer for the young ones or nondrinkers. Though the birch beer is very tasty, I still opted for the Porter

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Father's Day in Berks County Pennsylvania

For the upcoming June zine we're gonna celebrate Father's day. As we climb the mountains in Berks and Schuylkill county, we'll show you some Outta the Way places every Dad would enjoy. First we'll take you to a sporting goods store that's sure to impress any outdoorsman. Even if Dad's not a hunter, he's sure to be impressed by all the animals on display, and by what I can only describe as a hierarchy to taxidermy. With deer mounts surrounding the walls, some as massive as 30 point deer. They are certainly see to believe.

Afterwards we'll climb higher into the mountains to a sanctuary specializing in raptors of all sizes. Overlooking the beautiful vistas of the mountain you'll be spotting hawks, eagles, and other large birds of prey. Besides being a conservation area for these magnificent birds, the area also has quite a horrid past. Even if your father enjoys ghost hunting this is a place you'll wanna visit.

Finally we'll stroll up into Schuylkill county and visit America's oldest brewery. Here Dad can take a tour of this historic beer making facility and learn how this wonderful beverage is made. Later he can wet his palette with their variety of free samples, even Root beer if so desired. All this should make for a great outta the way day for Dad and the entire family. So get outta our way, we're going Outta the Way!