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…bringing our past into the future


ByCarol Eddleman

Nov 8, 2010

The County’s First Fifty Years Celebrated in a Grand Jubilee at Hollidaysburg.   

Blair county awoke from a repose of 50 years, on Thursday morning of last week, and the proceedings of military and Grand Army day of the county’s semi-centennial celebration were of a brilliant and most successful character.  Hollidaysburg, a quiet, ancient and pretty town of 6,600 population, was startled by the number of visitors that poured into its gates, 150 carloads of pleasure-seeking humanity being emptied here by the Pennsylvania railroad company.  There was a suspension of traffic on the Logan Valley electric line in the morning, because the electric motive power was insufficient to carry the multitude.  Fully 20,000 visitors arrived there within two hours’ time.  The hotels could not accommodate the sojourners, and every church opened its doors to feed the hungry.  The result of the day’s trade is that every church debt in the town was wiped out.   


The military demonstration was participated in by the citizen soldiery, and the Grand Army, the order of march being as follows: 

First division — Chief marshal, Col. Theodore Burchfield and staff; Altoona City band, Fifth regiment drum corps; Fifth regiment, N. G. P.; battery B, of Pittsburg; Sheridan troop, N. G. P., of Tyrone; carriages containing Gen. John A. Wiley and staff and other distinguished guests.   

Second division — Marshal, J. A. Calvin and staff, Hollidaysburg band, Post No. 39, G. A. R.; Logan band; Post No. 62, G. A. R.; Roaring Springs drum corps, Post No. 82, G. A. R.; Continental drum corps, Post No. 172, G. A. R.; Post No. 74, G. A. R.; Post No. 426, G. A. R.; Reese’s Cadet drum corps, Post No. 464, G. A. R.; Post No. 474, G. A. R.; Post No. 574, G. A. R.; People’s band, South Fork; Encampments Nos. 17 and 37, Union Veteran Legion, Camps, Nos. 12, 89 and 234, Union Veteran Legion, carriages containing old soldiers, Bellwood band, German Veteran association, Altoona.   

The German veterans are naturalized citizens, who fought under Von Moltke in Franco-Prussian War.  The organization was one of the finest in line.   

Capt. Francis Cassidy presided in the afternoon at the unveiling of a soldiers’ monument, the county’s tribute to its heroic dead.  The oration was delivered by Adjt. Gen. Thomas J. Stewart.  The semi-centennial chorus of 200 voices, under the leadership of Charles Geesey, sang the national anthems.  Battery B of Pittsburg, fired a salute of 50 rounds in honor of the county’s 50th birthday.   

At the reunion of the Eighty-fourth regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, held in the afternoon, Capt. T. E. Merchant, of Philadelphia, presided.  It was decided to erect a monument to the memory of William G. Murray, the colonel of the regiment, who was the first Pennsylvania colonel killed in the Union cause.   

The board of judges on the best original semi-centennial poem awarded the prize to Ida Clarkson Lewis, of Altoona, who is the poet laureate of the anniversary.   

Eastern pickpockets plied their art well.  Over $1,000 in money was stolen in the crowds.  The largest individual loss was suffered by Judge A. S. Landis, from whom $190 was taken.  John McConkey, highway commissioner of Harrisburg, lost $100.   

A G.A.R. campfire was held in the county court house in the evening.  Capt. Robert Johnston, of Altoona, presided.  Addresses were delivered by Justice John Dean, Hollidaysburg; Congressman J. D. Hicks, Altoona; John P. Blair, Indiana; Maj. Robert C. McNamara, Bedford; P. M. Lytle, Huntingdon; Gen. Harry White, Indiana; Capt. F. J. Koozer, Somerset; Capt. Wm. L. Neff, New Haven, Pa.; Capt. T. E. Merchant, Philadelphia, Pa.  Rev. Morgan M. Sheedy, pastor of St. John’s Catholic church, Altoona, offered the closing prayer.   


There was a large crowd  in Hollidaysburg on Thursday, but the attendance on Friday exceeded it, the numbers being estimated at 50,000 to 60,000.  It was a perfect day and it was the biggest event ever witnessed in the conservative old town.   

The procession started at 10:30 and including the business floats of Business houses which brought up the rear was forty-five minutes in passing a given point.  There were about 4,000 men in line, who were skillfully managed by Chief Marshal W. C. Roller.  First came the county’s guests in carriages, then in order came a band of Red Men in savage costume and hideously painted faces, Odd Fellows reinforced with two live goats, Boys Brigade, P. O. S. of A., Knights of Pythias, Junior Mechanics, Oneida Club, Artisans, Knight of the Golden Eagle, Catholic societies, Young Men’s Institute preceded by a beautiful American flag, firemen and rolling Mill employees.  Then came the floats, one representing the old stage coach driven by James Lyon, a veteran wagoner, who drove the same outfit fifty-two years ago; a Conestoga wagon 72 years old, canal boats on wheels, old hand fire engine, followed by a float representing the goddess of Liberty, another with two white swans driving a shell boat, another represented historical characters, succeeded by various industrial floats.   

The anniversary exercises were held in the Court House at 2:30.  Judge Bell presided.  Music was furnished by the Altoona City Band and a chorus.   

Then came the poem contribution by Mrs. Ida Clarkson Lewis, of Altoona, the talented daughter of the late Hon. David Clarkson, of Cassville, Huntingdon county, deceased.   

(Source: The Martinsburg Herald, Thursday, June 18, 1896.)

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