Our last day in Pennsylania, Shari and I decided to get up at 6 a.m. to try and hit a few last locations before we headed back home. After checking out of the hotel, our first stop was the burg of Chicora.
By the way, pronounce that with a soft “ch”, as in “Chicago.” According to this map, in the 1870s a J. Lecky was a property owner here. You can see his name just east of the town marked Millerstown, where the road takes a slight S-bend and crosses a stream.
Then-Millerstown is now called Chicora, but according to the obituary of John McGee, our great-great-grandfather, he died in a buggy accident on the very road on which we were travelling. We got there a little before 8 in the morning, and the sun was just barely coming out.
Chicora is one of hundreds of small burgs throughout PA that have seen their glory days in the rear-view mirror. Once oil and coal were the big money items around here. Most (but surprisingly not all) of the oil is gone, and the coal centers have moved elsewhere. But there’s still some activity. Here’s looking from the side of the old Hays store (see photo below).
In order to find the old Lecky plot, we too East Slippery Rock Road out of town a few miles, and traced along the curves and bends in the road until we found this stream crossing. The yellow arrow sign helpfully points to roughly where his land was.
Up at the top of the hill, probably where the house was, is a decrepit mobile home. Really decrepit, such that I didn’t even take a photo. There is such a thing as beautiful decay in photography, but this wasn’t it. It being private property and all, and being a little suspicious of the kinds of folk who’d live in a trailer like that, we eschewed going out on foot into the woods looking for traces.
Somehow — and this is just an indication of how overloaded with information I was getting — I’d forgotten that just the night before we’d tracked down a cemetery we wanted to look at. I’d even hand-drawn a map of the plots. Fortunately, after a few back-and-forth trips along the roads for gas etc., Shari remembered. We first tried looking behind one of the churches on the main drag, and found nothing there but parking lots. But a nice lady out walking her dog pointed us back the way we’d come (and right next to the gas station).
As we pulled up, we met John Callahan, who helps maintain the cemetery and walks the grounds several times a day. His family had been in Chicora for centuries, and they had a large family plot over on the north end. Like so many people we met there, he was incredibly generous with his time and energy. He gave us some good information on where to find the Lackeys (Lecky is one of the alternative spellings), and right off we found this stone:
Try to follow this: My great-great grandmother on my father’s father’s side was Laura Lackey. Her father was William J., who is in the abandoned cemetery from a couple of days ago. His brother was James K. Lackey, who had married Elizabeth Wolfer. This is she.
While we were looking and taking notes, John had gone back home and came back to us with a book about local history. He’d remembered a photo in it of the Lackey Hotel, an establishment in town that William had owned for twenty years after retiring as a blacksmith. The building still stands, with some renovations.
The enclosed area above the porch used to be an open balcony, and the pillars used to be simply 4x4s. In the 1920s, the entire building was lifted up onto rollers and moved back twenty feet from the road.
The road plan of Chicora has changed surprisingly little since the map above. Here’s the Google version of today. Look for the “68” marker on the highway just southwest of the town. There’s a little cluster of roads just beneath it — that’s the cemetery.
By the way, no one knows where the name “Chicora” came from. There were two other Millersburgs in the state, and only one could remain, so the name change was a must; but despite a lot of research on the part of the people who’d assembled the book John showed us, no one has been able to figure it out. The best guess is a freighter in the port of Erie with that name, but that’s not very convincing to anyone.
[googleMap name=”Chicora, Pennsylvania” directions_to=”false”]Chicora, PA[/googleMap]