“Ligonier Valley Vignettes” is on the road in July!

Hello all! I have some exciting news: I have two upcoming author events scheduled for July! It’s going to be a busy month!

Westmoreland Arts and Heritage FestivalStop by the annual Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival on Friday, July 5, when I’ll be selling and signing copies of my book, Ligonier Valley Vignettes: Tales from the Laurel Highlands from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.  The festival will be held at Twin Lakes Park near Greensburg, PA and features a variety of performing arts, handmade crafts, cultural heritage activities and ethnic food.  Later on that day, I will be helping out at the Westmoreland Heritage booth from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., providing information on all of the wonderful historical and cultural sites throughout Westmoreland County. Additional festival details, directions to Twin Lakes and information about recommended shuttle transportation can be found on their website.  Also, Pittsburgh Dad is going to be there that day from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. – I hope he stops over!

Westmoreland County Historical SocietyIf you can’t make it to the festival, I will also signing my book at the Westmoreland County Historical Society Pollins Library during an Ice Cream Social on Thursday, July 18 from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The WCHS will also have copies of my book for sale.  Please call 724-532-1935 x210 for more information. Please come out and support this wonderful organization that promotes the education and preservation of Westmoreland County history through its enormous research library, archival and archaeological collections, the historic site at Hanna’s Town and various educational programs and materials, among the Society’s many other endeavors.  The WCHS is where my local history research started in 2004 with my article on Idlewild Park, so we go way back. Plus, YAY for ice cream!

I hope to see you all soon! Thank you to both the Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival and the WCHS for their support! Keep updated on the places Ligonier Valley Vignettes will be this summer and fall by checking out my Author Events page!


Joint Issue of The Civil War in Pennsylvania Available Now!

The Civil War in PennsylvaniaThe special joint Civil War issue of PA Heritage, Western PA, and PA Legacies is now available online at http://emag.heinzhistorycenter.org/ or you can purchase a print copy of the magazine here: http://ow.ly/mkTlW. Pennsylvania played a significant role in the Civil War and many soldiers from the state participated in battles. Over 1,100 (and counting!) of those Civil War soldiers were from the Ligonier Valley and are documented in the Ligonier Valley Library.

Genealogy Tools: Relationship Chart

While nebbing around Pinterest today I stumbled upon a great chart for those of you interested in tracing your family tree, courtesy of RootsWeb, an Ancestry.com Community.  I don’t know about you, but I often get confused as to how to refer to extended family, so this relationship chart is a big help! A printable PDF is available here.

Relationship Chart

Social Media is a Full-Time Job

I have to agree with Dave that real, honest to goodness social networking involves face-to-face contact with another human being. It involves a handshake, a shared smile or exchanged business cards. It’s important not to lose touch with the real world in favor of an alternate reality online.

That being said, if it wasn’t for this website, I can’t say that I would have published Ligonier Valley Vignettes at this point in my life. Establishing this website allowed me to post samples of my history stories online, which attracted The History Press to approach me about an opportunity to write a book on the Westmoreland County region of Pennsylvania. So my website has been an invaluable tool in that sense.

For a while I’ve been trying to establish an online presence through my website and various social media in order to promote my writing and make connections with people I wouldn’t normally meet in any other way. It’s definitely a game of checks and balances regarding the amount of information you can and should make public. On the one hand, you don’t want to broadcast your whole life and either bore your audience or gain a stalker. On the other hand, you want to share just enough of yourself to come across as friendly and engaging.

It’s also been quite a lot of work trying to make sure that the information I post on one social media platform is the same or as similar as possible to the other platforms I use. It can definitely be a full-time job, even for a freelancer like me. But I know that not everyone uses one particular social media platform, so that’s why I’m trying to branch out.

I’ve established social media accounts for myself and for my new book and I have tried to connect everything as much as possible. So far, besides this website, I’ve set up a personal Facebook profile and a Ligonier Valley Vignettes page. I have a Twitter account. I have a Google+ profile and book page. I’m listed on LinkedIn. I also post on Pinterest. I just established two new Tumblr blogs: one for myself and one for the book. On top of that I’m listed on Amazon Author Central. It’s overwhelming!

I’m trying to keep everything as streamlined as possible and cut down on the amount of time I spend posting and re-posting blog entries, tweets and Facebook links. I’ve tried to connect some accounts, but I know I can’t connect everything together and that’s sometimes frustrating. I don’t want to spend my time blogging about my life instead of living it. I’ve gotten some helpful advice from friends so far, but I’d love to hear more about what social media platforms my readers are using and how you are using them efficiently. How am I doing?

Following the Drumbeats of the Yankee Drummer

I love to spend time in the library doing traditional research and interviewing people for my history stories, but it’s really cool to get to experience history as it’s happening in person.  That’s why I had embark on a mini-quest to find the Yankee Drummer today.

I previously wrote about the parallel journeys of two pairs of American military veterans separated by a century but connected by a passion for music.  Civil War drummer Peter Guibert and Comanche Indian War veteran John Conroy walked from Pittsburgh to Gettysburg in the spring of 1913 to join Union and Confederate veterans at the 50th Anniversary Reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg.  A hundred years later, their modern counterparts – Yankee Drummer Jim Smith and friend and fellow veteran Ray Zimmerman – are replicating the 1913 trek in order to educate the public about military musicians and commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg sesquicentennial.  The pair are joined on their journey by the brass-shelled snare drum that Peter Guibert played at the Battle of Gettysburg, now owned and restored by Jim.

The modern-day Peter Guibert and John Conroy marching along the Lincoln Highway. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)

Jim and Ray have been making their way through Western Pennsylvania this week and I really wanted to try and meet up with them before they got too far east.  Just before lunchtime I found the duo marching along the Lincoln Highway in the sweltering heat right outside of Jennerstown on their way to Stoystown!   In tow were trek coordinator Len DeCarlo and friend and retired teacher Greg Sweeney.  As I gained on the convoy slowing moving down the road and pulled over at a local watering hole I could hear the drumbeats from the antique drum that not only survived a brutal war but also the passage of time.

It was so cool to meet Jim Smith (left), Ray Zimmerman (right), and the awesome 19th century drum.

It was so cool to meet Jim Smith (left), Ray Zimmerman (right), and the awesome 19th century drum. (Photo by Leonard DeCarlo)

I’ve really enjoyed corresponding with Jim and Len over the phone and through email and it was a pleasure to meet them in person, along with Ray and Greg.  I was afraid bad timing might cause me to miss them as I drove through the area, but lo and behold I spotted them! I couldn’t believe it! The group pulled over into the same little parking lot I was in to rest in the shade and grab a well-deserved drink of water.  The sweaty, dusty and sun-baked journeymen  shared stories about their amazing but difficult journey since setting out from Pittsburgh’s Northside on May 26.

When I met up with the Peter Guibert Trek, they had finally overcome a difficult walk up the Laurel Summit, just east of Laughlintown, which Jim said he could not have done with his friend Ray to motivate him.  According to the Len, the group is trying to average about ten miles per day in order to keep on schedule. Jim told me that yesterday they stayed overnight with the Metz Family, a local Jennerstown family who learned about the trek and offered the travelers their home as accommodations.  I imagine that Peter and John would have received the same hospitality along the Lincoln Highway on their way to Gettysburg, back in 1913.   In today’s world, it’s very touching to find that there still are kind and generous people out there willing to extend a helping hand and excited about historical projects like these.

Peter Guibert played this lovely instrument during the Civil War, even on the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Peter Guibert played this lovely instrument during the Civil War, even on the battlefield at Gettysburg. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)

It was so awesome to see Peter Guibert’s drum in person.  What an amazing historic artifact from an incredibly important time in our nation’s history.  It’s incredible that this instrument has survived all this time. Until I spoke to Jim, I never knew that the role that military musicians (drummers, fifers and buglers) played during times of war was so important.

After a short break from the heat, the group set out again towards Stoystown.  Tomorrow they plan to perform at the 1806 Old Log Church in Schellsburg at 10:30 a.m. with Professor Guibert’s Blue and Gray 1913 Reunion Band.  Afterwards they will provide campfire entertainment at the Bedford Historical Society in Bedford at 2:30 p.m.

The Peter Guibert Trek resumed from this spot just east of Ligonier Township this morning.

The Peter Guibert Trek resumed from this spot just east of Ligonier Township this morning. (Photo by Jennifer Sopko)

After I parted ways with the Peter Guibert Trek and headed back west I stopped at Walat’s, just outside of Ligonier Township on the Lincoln Highway (Route 30), to take a picture of the marker that Jim and Ray left there yesterday. Throughout the journey to Gettysburg, they plan to mark every spot where they decide to stop for the night, along with the date.  The next day, when they resume their journey, they will mark the same point with the day’s date.

If you see the Yankee Drummer, his drum and his fellow musician marching down your way, stop and say hi or give them a wave to encourage them along their trek! If you miss seeing them in your town, you can follow their progress at www.peterguiberttrek.com.