Family Home Travelogues

Cruising Family History

Travelling out to Ohio yesterday, I decided to do a little family history detective work. I took the kids on a side trip to Butler, PA, which is where my dad’s side of the family hails from. Using some info that my cousin Shari found, as well as some I tracked down on my own, I found this building, where my grandfather was born.

124 Elm St, Butler

Yes, it’s now a paint store, next to a garage and a parking lot. I’ll have to ask around to see if there are any vintage-1900 photos of it anywhere.

Another spot I was looking for was the Beulah Baptist Church cemetary, about five miles out of town. This is where, in 1893, my great-great grandfather was buried. His name was Benjamin J. Lackey, and he was a civil war veteran. We drove up and down the remote road where it supposedly was:

Beulah Rd., Oakland Township, Butler Co. PA

Somewhere between there and here

Beulah Rd., Oakland Township, Butler Co. PA

Was where, but there wasn’t a trace of it visible from the roadside. Farmland, woods, and very recent housing are all we could see. I hope one of these new homeowners isn’t about to get a Poltergeist moment!

Claire took more pictures of downtown Butler, which isn’t a bad-looking burg at all. Some very distinguished older buildings in the tidy and active downtown, and two music stores!

Watch for more live blogging from our Ohio vacation in the days to come!

14 thoughts on “Cruising Family History”

  1. It was our great-great-grandfather William J. Lackey that was buried at Buelah as you know. Benjamin A. McGee is buried at Calgary in Cleveland in a grave only marked by the cemetery’s little round numbered markers. He’s right by the side of one of the roads but you have to ask them to look up the number.

    That picture looks like the place where Buelah is, especially where the trees are because it is in an area like that. That could be the place. I remember the trees very well because the area around it had no trees and belonged to the man in the pickup truck with the rifle standing prominently and visibly up in the front seat for us to see. I probably told you this already, but when the woman who took me there (from the Butler Co. Hist. Soc.) saw him, she asked him “aren’t you so-and-so’s husband who gives all the Halloween parties?” He said yes, and of course they recognized one anothers surnames and our lives were out of danger.

    If you drive up that road a little further you would find a damn that was built later, in the early 1900’s if memory serves. We drove around the area trying to see if we could find Williams home which was on the other side of the water but they didn’t have addresses per se on that old map and it was impossible to determine which if any of the houses was his.

    At the time that William lived in that area there was no water there and so they would’ve walked across the area where the water is now to get to Church if that was in fact the Church they attended. And i think i told you but just in case there was a little one room school house directly across the road from the church and cemetery. Beyond that is where the water is now. It’s a nice spot, where the school house was. It’s on a hill or a “knoll” with some trees and i could just picture the kids playing out there.

    To find the graveyard is probably impossible without the help of the Butler County Historical Society since kids on drugs in the 1960’s threw all but a handful of headstones into the street or just took them and there is so much myrtle there you have to dig around to find even those. This info about the kids destroying the headstones came from the man with the rifle who has lived there since that time.

    The woman who gave me the tour attended that school and remembers the cemetery. She remembers when the church burned down too. That would’ve been in the early 50’s.

    I agree that Butler is a cute little town with lots of character but apparently little money or prospects. I thought it would be a nice tourist attraction for genealogists and mentioned to the historical society that they should arrange some group tours like the one the gave me. They are hurting for money and when they told me my little $200 donation was the most they ever received i was appalled. The problem Butler has is no jobs, people leaving, and there is no easy access to the place. But those cobblestone alleys and old brick buildings are a treasure and it’s a shame that they can’t find a way to turn that into something good for the community.

  2. We did drive down to the end of that road, and saw the dam and the lake. It looked like a nice spot, and I wondered what the landscape had been like before it had been built. Next time, I’ll try and arrange the time to drive around the far side and see what I can see. If you’ve got any info or maps relating to the house, pass it along and I’ll see what I can find. If I go out in August, I’ll probably be by myself which will allow ample time to wander about without interruption.

    Funny, Butler looked to be thriving, but that’s probably just some residual civic pride keeping it neat and clean. We took a lot of other pictures of town hall, the veterans memorial etc., and it all showed very little signs of the kind of decay you see so much of in semirural America. You’ve got to wonder, what can a young person there do for a living? It’s one thing if you’re the established doctor, dentist, lawyer or some other professional. But what if you’re not?

    One interesting thing I made a mental note to look into, three different music stores downtown. As in, sheet music and musical instruments. Heck, Brooklyn doesn’t have that many I don’t think.

    You’re right of course about the GGPs’ first names; that’s what I get for not proofreading my work!

  3. Yeah, the main downtown area is kept up pretty well and i suppose it’s the “poverty” (relatively speaking) of the people that is the reason the houses are so rundown. I don’t love LOVE the architecture, but a coat of paint wouldn’t hurt some of them.

    One of the first questions i asked the Butler Historical Society gal was “what is your economy here?”. She said most everything is gone except a few banks and a couple hospitals. But they do care a lot about the place because they have roots there, thus they do what needs to be done to keep the public areas upkept and to maintain those war memorials and such. Down in the basement of the Courthouse is a treasure trove of info and if i weren’t alone and had to find my way back to Titusville i would’ve spent more time down there. But they’ve got a load of old books and microfiche etc.

    I’ve been there three or four times already and never noticed the music stores. I was always nervous and very careful not to get lost as i was always alone except last time when i had the escort.

    Does Cleveland have many used record stores? If so where are they? I want to tell my dad because he was amazed with the 4 near our house in San Jose. Like a kid in a candy store he was.

  4. The map i’m referring to which shows where Wm. J. Lackey’s property was is that old Oakland Twp (or was it Millerstown) map circa 1878. I’ll find it and send you the link. I’m sure you’ve seen it already tho.

    We had the map with us on the ride but there was just no making heads or tails of any of it. You could see where the little school house was as a reference point, but that didn’t help much (at all). I’m thinking maybe the house was where the water is now and no longer exists.

    I believe the last place Wm. lived was Petrolia or Millerstown, which i think are names for sections of Oakland Twp that broke off into their own (not unusual) at some point. IOW, Wm did live in Oakland at one point and i don’t think he moved, but maybe they just changed the name of the place.

    See sometimes at the same period he’s listed as living in Oakland, so i think maybe Oakland was the post office but Petrolia or Millerstown was what they now called the “burrough” they actually lived in.

    According to the last census of Civil War vets during Wms lifetime, his residence was Petrolia (or Millerstown, i can’t remember which). But i found this out in an archive less than an hour from my home, so this census is not hard to get.

    These are the things that drive a nerdy genealogist nuts and yet we love this. It’s a big puzzle but the pieces are people and their lives. We make up scenarios and test them and then when they flop, we start over again from scratch.

  5. Here’s the map of Donegal Township where James Lackey lived. You’ll see him right under where it says “Barnharts Mills P.O.”. That isn’t Jacob Lackey because by that time he was in Clarion County with his new wife Catherine Slator. East south east of James Lackeys property was the property of the Wolfords, James’ first wife’s family.

    Still can’t find that street map. But still looking….


    This is the 1803 tax list for Middlesex County. I remembered there was a connection to Middlesex but couldn’t remember what it was. It was where Abram Ozenbaugh was a resident at that time. That is the grandfather of our g-g-g grandmother Mary, but i don’t know which of his sons was her father. That’s our sticking point. But i’m confident i could figure that one out if i had the time because the LDS have a slew of info on these people. But i only spent a few hours going over the microfiche. And others out there probably know more which will help.

  7. Have you compared these maps to Google Earth at all? I’ve spent some quality time with the first one. You can see that the roads were reconfigured, probably when that main north-south route became more of a highway. That means what the 1874 map shows as the fourth property north of the intersection is now the third.

    If you look at the topographic view, you can see where the streams that are indicated in the old map lie (obscured by trees in the satellite view). There might be enough clues there that by dead-reckoning we could figure out at least which property corresponds to the Lackey property, and maybe even be able to figure out if it’s the same structure.

  8. That Donegal Co. map was tough to figure out. Barnhart’s Mills is now called “Chicora,” and it’s one of those areas Google Maps only has very low-res maps for. With the clear markers of the river and the bend in the road, the plot of land ought to be easy enough to find.

  9. Yeah, i know that’s our (or my) next move. Trying to put these maps on top of one another and figure out what’s what. And oh, yeah, i forgot about Chicora. Another name for the same place. But that’s ok. This is not the biggest concern. Finding out which of Abraham Osenbaughs sons was Mary Osenbaughs father is what we need. And hey, maybe i’ll get the $250 grant i applied for this morning. Oh go ahead and laugh. I’m just practicing this grant application business. I’ve got to find a way to present this to these people to make it sound like it’s a worthy cause. Got any ideas? Maybe the Butler Hist Society will give me some tips. But i’m not so sure they’ve even applied for a grant. There are so many ideas I have that could turn that society around. Well then again, maybe they’ve tried, but it didn’t seem like it. That place is genealogy heaven and they should be all over that.

  10. Here’s what i’d do if i were in charge of the Butler Co Hist Society. I’d set up a week in the summer for a genealogy convention. Naturally, there’d be a charge for this and for all events one wants to participate in. This could bring in some cash to the city’s motels and restaurants. I’d work with the local colleges to offer credits to students who take the people on tours and help them with their research in the library, Courthouse, etc. Have some professors and members of the BCHS do seminars on topics such as the history of Butler and the migration patterns. For instance if someone came into the country thru the Philly port, they’d likely move thru these counties, if they came in thru NY, they’d move thru these counties. Have some work groups maybe based on related surnames where people like you and me could exchange info with people like us. Then i’d have an outdoor bazaar where the local community and the surrounding counties could present their artifacts or antiques for sale. Also, i think the city of Butler should find some incentive to get the people to paint their houses and the shopkeepers to spruce up their storefronts. Just a few ideas…

  11. How much interest do you see out there for Butler Co. genealogy, besides you and me? You don’t have to be in charge of the Historical Society to put on an event. All you need is a big room.

    That’s really oversimplifying things, I know. But I wonder if they’d be interested in you being the catalyst?

  12. I’m not entirely sure about the level of interest, but i know it’s not just you and me. And i don’t have that account anymore but if memory serves (and i could check GenForum to see) Butler County was one of the busier message boards. And since you brought it up, this could go beyond Butler County since you to include the surrounding counties where so many of our ancestors (and presumably others too) pioneered or moved to.

    I don’t know what you mean by me being the catalyst, but if you’re thinking what i think you’re thinking then no. I can’t do this and work at the same time. And maybe i’m way off base and this idea is totally lame, because if it were any good, wouldn’t they have done it already? If it were profitable, wouldn’t they have done it already? To me it seems feasible. But again, maybe i’m nuts. However, the first time i saw that place i saw potential everywhere. And being in this genealogy thing for 7 years on and off i’ve seen the interest grow. When i first began, Butler County’s website didn’t even contain a genealogy link. It does now. And there is so much more out there now then there was before. That old 1858 map for instance….i never saw that before last night and i’ve been around the genealogical block a few times. I see genealogy as a hobby growing in popularity, and PA is one of the places that so many families come from originally. Let’s say half the time, if people trace their roots, they’ll end up in PA at some point.

    PA has no more steel industry, but they’ve got a pretty landscape and some lovely old barns and with a little imagination and marketing, they should be able to draw some revenue in thru tourism. But it’s not so easy to sell PA as “THE hot vacation spot” on barns alone. I mean, a few more hours drive and you’re in FLA for crying out loud. So i say, try this idea. What have you got to lose? It could be a family affair. Hopefully there are some waterparks or themeparks nearby.

    Other seminar ideas would be “How to Organize Your Data Effectively”, “Efficient Methods of Searching”, junk like that.

    I said i could be nuts…..

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