Who was St. Nicholas? Nicholas was a 3rd century Greek Christian (and later bishop)who was very pious and mystical towards the poor and the sick. During his lifetime,he cared for the needy by filling their shoes with gold coins;if they did not own shoes,he bought them and filled them with money while they were asleep. Nicholas was a special protector of sick and dying children. According to legend,he resurrected dead children by prayer and fasting for those he came in contact with. His reputation of gift-giving eventually became associated Santa Claus(this name dreived out of the Dutch spelling of “Sinterklaas” which was a transliteration of the Greek spelling of “Saint Nikolaos”. During the Middle Ages,his popularity grew immensely and many churches and shrines venerated his name. In the Eastern Orthodox Church,his memory is celebrated on almost every Thursday(together with The Apostles)in the liturgical book known as “Octoechos”(book of prayers and hymns from the 9th century). Theologically speaking,St. Nicholas(according to tradition)was present at the First Council of Nicaea and signed the Nicene Creed. Many celebrations and traditions of this saint are found throughout the world. You can read more about this fascinating man here: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/around-the-world/
I wish to extend to ALL of my Jewish brothers and sisters a Happy Hanukkah! The traditions of Hanukkah are preserved in the first and second book of Maccabees;ironically,these books are not part of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). But they are recognized in Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic translations of the bible. Remarkably(this year),Hanukkah will be celebrated along with Thanksgiving;this will not occur for another 70,000 years! We live in such a unique period of time! (Hanukkah will commence this evening.)
The “Troy Hill” section of Pittsburgh,Pa houses an enchanting and mystical secret. It is home to more than 5,000 Christian relics that is only exceeded by the Vatican in Rome! To name just a few: the skull of Saint Macharius(he was bishop of Jerusalem in the 4th century);a splinter of the True Cross;a thread of the veil worn(according to belief)by the Blessed Virgin Mary.It is with reverent humbleness,in that I take pride in that this holy place resides in my area. If you are a skeptic,an ascetic,or pious in your faith,it is paramount that you make arrangements to visit this lovely place;it is a miracle waiting to beam inside of you.
Please come and celebrate our German heritage in Beaver County. There will be food and craft shows at one of the oldest churches in the county. http://www.stjohnsambridge.org
Please join your local authors in celebration and conviviality this Friday and Saturday at the Bridgewater Bookfest! There will be authors,booksellers,and food vendors! Please join the event…
For more info: http://www.bridgewaterbookfest.com
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is upon us. Sometime ago,I wrote an article on a very prominent Beaver Countian who spilled his blood in this epic. Richard P. Roberts was a very established and respected citizen prior to his involvement in the Civil War;he had possessed a very profitable law practice in Beaver;however,it was surrendered instantly as soon as his requisition to join the Union cause was granted.I have since “revised” my presentation of this man to include the ambiance of his character as a gentleman,as well as his audacious and flawless accomplishments as a military commander.R.I.P,Col. Roberts…and THANK-YOU for your ultimate sacrifice. (The anniversary of his death,consequently,is today.)
On September 21,1789, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania bestowed to Levi Dungan Sr., a tract of land in Hanover Township,PA known then as “Bachelors Hall”.He then passed this land on to his son,Levi Jr., to whom in return bequeathed 70 acres to his daughter Ruth and her husband John Roberts; this is where Richard P Roberts would be raised and cultivate his childhood. Eventually, this land would pass on to his sister, Anna Maria Roberts and her husband Andrew Stevenson. Richard P. Roberts was born on June 5,1820, on a seventy acre farm near Frankfort Springs,PA.
In 1845 Richard Roberts moved to Beaver,PA in order to study law under the supervision of attorney N.P. Fetterman; he was admitted to the bar on March 15,1848. On May 1,1851, Roberts married Caroline Henry of Beaver,PA. She was the daughter of Thomas Henry(1781-1849) and Sarah H Henry.
Thomas,and his older brother William, settled in Beaver,PA in the early dawn of the 19th century. In 1811 Thomas received a patent from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a plot of land in Beaver,PA,lot 119. It was bordered by Fourth Street on the north, Turnpike Street on the south, Market Street on the east, and lot 120 (the Moore-Agnew house) towards the west. This would become the official residence of Thomas Henry and was called “The Mansion House”.
When Thomas Henry died in 1849, Richard and Caroline Roberts purchased the lot from Evan Henry, Caroline’s brother.
In 1857 Roberts brought into his office a young intern,Henry Hice, son of William Hice and Hannah Eachel of Hopewell Township,PA. When Mr. Hice completed his internship and became admitted to the bar in June of 1859, he formed a partnership with Richard Roberts which continued until Robert’s death; Mr. Hice would have a splendid career in Beaver County, first as a successful attorney,then as a judge of the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas.
In 1868 Hice purchased the Robertson property; it was torn down in 1876 and replaced with a large imposing Victorian mansion. The building can still be seen at 804 Turnpike Street and is the current residence of Reed, Tosh, McGregor, and Wolford law firm. Caroline Robertson succumbed to a lengthy illness and died on February, 4, 1862. She was 31. Six months after the death of his wife, Richard Roberts enlisted in the United States Army. He quickly rose, because of his legal education perhaps, in rank; first as a Captain, then quickly to a Colonel which would empower him to take command of the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment.
On August 13,1862, an article appeared in the local newspaper of Beaver County which read as follows: “Being authorized to recruit a Company for three years or the war, the subscriber will receive recruits at his office in Beaver. All reporting themselves will be subsisted for 20 days, at least in Beaver”.(August,6,1862:Richard P. Roberts) As a result of his tenacious efforts, three companies were formed consisting of 100 officers and men; numerous men from all parts of Beaver County volunteered their services. Three companies were as follows: Company F, commanded by Captain Richard P. Roberts, Company H, commanded by Captain Marcus Ormond, and Company I, commanded by Captain James Darrah.
On December 20,1862, at Falmouth Virginia, the 140th Pennsylvania joined the Army of the Potomac and saw its first action at the Battle of Chancellorsville the following May; after the battle, Col. Roberts requested a medical leave and returned home to Beaver,PA. He subsequently rejoined his regiment on June 27, 1863.
However, on November 6,1862, Captain David Acheson, had strong feelings of resentment towards Col. Roberts; as well as another complaint by Capt. Acheson to his father… “I have a growing dislike to our Col. Roberts.Nor am I alone in this. Six other Captains besides myself detest him as cordially as I do. Roberts has been too much elevated by his promotion. He has treated all other Capts than those from Beaver County with cold indifference…Roberts is a fool and knows nothing about military affairs. I do think he made a great mistake when he entered upon a military career”.
In Roberts defense however, a large portion of the officer corps during the Civil War was civilian soldiers. This meant that they had little or no military experience or training. As such they should not be, in most all cases, be held accountable for any ineptitude regarding military actions.
On February 4,1863,Col. Roberts drafted yet another letter requesting a leave of absence for the following reasons:
Captain John Hancock
2nd Army Corp.
“I respectfully ask leave of absence for fifteen days for the following reason. On the first of September last, a time when troops were greatly needed, I suddenly left my home and received commission with the army, leaving a large profession/legal and private business in an unattended condition, being also trustee for large estates and interest. My personal attention is necessary to save myself and others from pecuniary losses. I desire to visit an aged parent who I am informed cannot long survive. My place of residence is in the extreme southwestern corner of Pennsylvania,but the transaction of business will necessarily require me to visit the state of Ohio.There are no field officers absent from the regiment.”
Between his personal life and medical leaves, Col. Roberts was often attacked and ridiculed for his shortcomings as a commander. However, there is nothing in his military record that shows any disciplinary actions or serious doubt of his overall performance as head of the PA, 140th. His final medical request was granted on June 22, 1863.
From his early correspondence, it was very evident that Roberts was a pious Republican and fearless abolitionist and campaigner for the Lincoln administration. On March 11,1861, Roberts expressed his zealous political sentiments to a friend in Europe:
“I love my country,am the descendant of Revolutionary Sires, and am willing to contribute in my small way to maintain its honor,its integrity and its glorious flag,but I have to stand by and see it trailed in the dust by its enemies. I believe there is a God who presides over the destinies of Nations and of Men,who will,as he has heretofore done,preserve the nation and punish both here and hereafter the men who have labored to destroy it.I have passed a Winter of anguish by day and night,seeing the glorious fabric my fathers helped to rear, tumbling to pieces around me, with the imps of hell all over it with their sacrilegious hands speeding their work. Oh God! I invoke the wrath upon the enemies and destroyers of my country, in the name of the heroes who cemented the fabric,my own ancestors among them the number_I invoke it!”
A mass meeting,called “The Peoples Meeting”, was held in Beaver,PA on February 4,1861. Both Democrats and Republicans spoke their minds concerning the national crisis and what proper action would be taken to best represent Beaver County. As a result of this meeting, it elected officers who then appointed a committee on resolutions,which included Roberts,to implement a contagious goal for the preservation of the Union. After the failed Peninsula campaign,President Lincoln requested the states to furnish him with 300,000 men to the war effort. Within 3 weeks,Governor Andrew Curtain,of Pennsylvania, authorized the immediate establishment of 21 new regiments of volunteer infantry. Roberts,however, did not wait for Gov. Curtain to make the official announcement;as soon as Lincoln made the call,Roberts contacted Curtain to obtain permission to recruit a regiment in Beaver County.
For a time afterward, he personally recruited in Beaver County: one such incident is mentioned in the diary of Joseph Moody, who was signed by Roberts.
“Monday,July 18,1862,in the Presbyterian Church at Hookstown there was a meeting held and presided over by Rev.R.S.Morton()Pastor for the purpose of raising a ()to form a regiment Col. R.P.Roberts,Revt Marcus Ormond and R.S.Morton,spoke about 75 men signed their names the next night there was a meeting held at Frankfort where 25 Signed which was called Roberts 2nd Co including the “Hookstown Boys.”
Roberts passion and dedication for the preservation of the Union was quite extensive. He would deliver anything in his power to maintain this purpose, even if it required him to orphan his only living daughter. As commander of the 140th Pennsylvania, it is without question that he was the most honorable gentleman for the job. No man in the regiment instituted more favorable and practical actions to construct a program solely for the citizens of Beaver and neighboring counties.
Col. Richard P. Roberts was killed in action on July 2, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg. He is buried in the Beaver Cemetery.(Beaver,Pa.)
“MEN OF THE 140th! RECOLLECT THAT YOU ARE NOW DEFENDING YOUR OWN SOIL AND ARE FIGHTING TO DRIVE THE INVADER FROM YOUR OWN HOMES AND FIRESIDES. I SHALL THEREFORE EXPECT YOU TO CONDUCT YOURSELVES AS IN THE PRESENCE OF YOUR WIVES,YOUR SISTERS, AND YOUR SWEETHEARTS, AND NOT TO DISGRACE THE FLAG YOU BEAR OR THE NAME OF PENNSYLVANIANS.” Col. Roberts at Gettysburg…(HIS LAST WORDS)…
Tragically, this man’s poetry is rarely recited(read)today; Mr. Robinson won 3 Pulitzer Prizes in his lifetime in the American poetry category. He has been a tremendous influence on my writing in several(though quite personal)ways. I am quite intrigued how he can take simple words and paint such a SERIOUS portrait of life’s events. This evening, I present two of my favorite:
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
“Mr. Flood’s Party”
Old Eben Flood, climbing alone one night
Over the hill between the town below
And the forsaken upland hermitage
That held as much as he should ever know
On earth again of home, paused warily.
The road was his with not a native near;
And Eben, having leisure, said aloud,
For no man else in Tilbury Town to hear:
“Well, Mr. Flood, we have the harvest moon
Again, and we may not have many more;
The bird is on the wing, the poet says,
And you and I have said it here before.
Drink to the bird.” He raised up to the light
The jug that he had gone so far to fill,
And answered huskily: “Well, Mr. Flood,
Since you propose it, I believe I will.”
Alone, as if enduring to the end
A valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn,
He stood there in the middle of the road
Like Roland’s ghost winding a silent horn.
Below him, in the town among the trees,
Where friends of other days had honored him,
A phantom salutation of the dead
Rang thinly till old Eben’s eyes were dim.
Then, as a mother lays her sleeping child
Down tenderly, fearing it may awake,
He set the jug down slowly at his feet
With trembling care, knowing that most things break;
And only when assured that on firm earth
It stood, as the uncertain lives of men
Assuredly did not, he paced away,
And with his hand extended paused again:
“Well, Mr. Flood, we have not met like this
In a long time; and many a change has come
To both of us, I fear, since last it was
We had a drop together. Welcome home!”
Convivially returning with himself,
Again he raised the jug up to the light;
And with an acquiescent quaver said:
“Well, Mr. Flood, if you insist, I might.
“Only a very little, Mr. Flood—
For auld lang syne. No more, sir; that will do.”
So, for the time, apparently it did,
And Eben evidently thought so too;
For soon amid the silver loneliness
Of night he lifted up his voice and sang,
Secure, with only two moons listening,
Until the whole harmonious landscape rang—
“For auld lang syne.” The weary throat gave out,
The last word wavered; and the song being done,
He raised again the jug regretfully
And shook his head, and was again alone.
There was not much that was ahead of him,
And there was nothing in the town below—
Where strangers would have shut the many doors
That many friends had opened long ago.
A week before the First Battle of Bull Run,Sullivan Ballou,a Major in the Second Rhode Island Volunteers,wrote home to his wife in Smithfield:
July the 14th, 1861, Washington D.C.
“My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death—and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.”
Sullivan Ballou was mortally wounded along with 93 of his men just 7 days later at the First Battle of Bull Run and died shortly thereafter at the age of 32 with his wife being 24. The letter was found in his trunk and delivered to his wife by Governor William Sprague, who had traveled to Virginia to retrieve the remains of the fallen Rhode Island soldiers. (This letter fervently captures my admiration for such classic eloquence in letter writing…now,a lost art.)