Redbank Valley Historical Society
president, Cindy Morgan holds a copy of the new 440-page hardcover book just released by the decade-old organization.
NEW BETHLEHEM—The Redbank Valley Historical Society has announced that it has published and now has available to the public a 440-page hardback book that is the culmination of work that had been on the drawing board since the infancy of the organization when it was founded a decade ago.
The new publication, “Voices from the Redbank Valley,” was released just before Christmas, and is a publication that focuses primarily but not exclusively on the history of the municipalities that comprise the school district with the same geographical boundaries—about 165 square miles.
Cindy Morgan, president of the organization, noted that plans had been to have the book available to the public earlier, but the publication date—like innumerable other plans—was delayed by the impact of COVID-19 on businesses associated with the publication process. Now the society members hope those who will purchase copies of the book will believe the end product was worth the wait.
Looking back to the original plans to publish a comprehensive book on the history of the primary service area, society members recall that there was—and remained—a commitment to print a document that would resemble the thick county histories that were common in the late 1880’s. These early county histories, Morgan noted, were like the A.J. Davis History of Clarion County published in 1887. Armstrong, Jefferson, Butler and Venango counties were among neighboring counties that had similar books printed in that era and are still valued by local history buffs.
The new “Voices from The Valley” is in an 8 and one-half inch by 11-inch format contrasted with the 7 by 10-inch page size common in the early county histories, it was noted.
The society’s desire with the new book was targeting not only the southern Clarion County-northern Armstrong County areas, but also the personalities or events or structures since the publication era of the former county histories.
With the intent to have the book concentrate on the defined geographical area, the Society’s thinking was to focus on area history dating forward from the era of the thick county histories of yesteryear, but “we found it necessary in some cases, and very helpful to the understanding of those persons who were not familiar with the earlier publications, to provide a background of some of the earlier happenings.” An example, Morgan said, is a comprehensive article by Ken Burkett, a Fairmount City resident and recognized expert on the early settlements and activities of the Native Americans. That article goes back to very early activities of those indigenous people.
A Smorgasbord of Interests
The new publication covers a wide variety of subjects, running the gamut from communities that comprised the Redbank Valley area to individuals who achieved recognition in business, community leadership, sports, military distinction (like Jeremiah Zaccariah Brown, who was Clarion County’s first Medal of Honor winner in the Civil War) Other area military heroes whose wartime contributions are highlighted include two men—Walter W. Craig, a World War I hero for whom the local American Legion Post is named, and Russell J. Hilliard, a World War II hero for whom the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post is named.
Starting off with a colored map of the Redbank Valley area in Clarion and Armstrong counties are stories on the legendary Leatherwood Anti-Horsethief Association, the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in the area about a century ago, a former local preacher who rose to national prominence as head of a well-known national bible institute, a former brewery that today houses the Smuckers Peanut Butter factory, and numerous other diversified subjects, Morgan noted.
Another major difference between the earlier “big book” county histories and the latest contribution to local history, it was noted, is that the new publication includes numerous photographs and illustrations—many of which are printed in color, reflecting the advancements in printing technologies. The original county histories of more than a century ago often contained drawings of prominent people of that era, or maps or other hand-drawn illustrations of buildings or locations. Illustrations of that era were printed with black ink. No color was used in printing of the early histories unless they were hand-colored lithographs like those used in such publications like “Caldwell’s Illustrated Historical Combination Atlas of Clarion County,” published in 1877.
The new book is dedicated to “a demographic category not usually singled out for such recognition—those brave souls who provided so much to our heritage even though they were folks who may not have had any distinguished pedigrees or even individually notable achievements in their time on this earth.
“Their contributions to our communities may have started with the earliest pioneers and continued through subsequent generations…..These are the people we honor and remember with this publication—not because all were saints or pretended to be. But by and large they have continued with each generation to make a stamp of improvements for themselves and their heirs.”
The “Voices from the Redbank Valley” books are available for purchase for $65 at the New Bethlehem office of The Leader-Vindicator, 435 Broad Street, or the society’s web page at RedbankVHS.org web site. Also, contact may be made to Morgan at 814-221-6225. If purchasers wish to have a book mailed to them or elsewhere, there is a $10 per book shipping charge, Morgan concluded.