Posted By Norman Gasbarro on July 26, 2011
The Williamstown-Williams Township Historical Society is located at 115 W. Market Street, Williamstown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Within the building are many collections related to local churches, schools, military, sports, and family history. The historical society also includes Wiconisco and Tower City, the two neighboring communities which have a similar past. One of the centerpieces of the society is its Coal Mine Museum which focuses on the history and operations of the world’s largest anthracite producing coal colliery. Coal mining was a significant economic activity in the area at the time of the Civil War and for several generations after.
The Civil War Sesquicentennial has offered new challenges as society officers and members work to discover as much as possible about the men who served in military units who had some connection to Williamstown or Williams Township – and to find out more about their military records, to locate their graves in local cemeteries and elsewhere, to seek out genealogical information about them and their families, and to develop displays and programs related to the Civil War. To accomplish this the officers have already set up a museum display of Civil War-related items and invited a re-enactor to give a talk. In addition, they are working cooperatively with the Gratz Historical Society to share information as it is discovered.
Pictures of some of the Civil War items on display are shown below:
Interpretation of the Civil War items on display is given to all visitors to the society museum.
One of the central aims of the Williamstown-Williams Township Historical Society is to identify all the veterans who have had some Williamstown or Williams Township connection. A portrait of Capt. Richard Budd (1832-1904) hangs in one of the historical society’s museum galleries. Richard Budd was the Captain of Company K of the 96th Pennsylvania Infantry and served from 23 September 1861 through 31 August 1863 when he was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability. Richard Budd was born in Ireland and came to America around 1840 with his parents. He worked as a teamster and a coal miner. The Budd family was active in the establishment of the first Catholic Church in the area of Upper Dauphin County. Originally, Richard Budd was buried in Old Catholic Cemetery. In 1985, a full military ceremony was given as he was re-interred in Sacred Heart of Jesus Cemetery in Williamstown. The documents relating to his re-interment can be obtained either through the Williamstown-Williams Township Historical Society or the Gratz Historical Society.
Several months ago, a post on this blog featured Capt. Richard Budd: Capt. Richard Budd – 96th Pennsylvania Infantry.
A recently discovered, interesting story relating to the descendants of both Richard Budd and another Civil War veteran Harrison Riegle can be told here now. Harrison Riegle (1840-1899) was a Civil War soldier who served in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company G. Harrison Riegle was a staunch Lutheran and a coal miner who lived on the northern side of the mountain in Lykens Township. Harrison’s son Charles Riegle was killed in a mine accident in 1913 and four small children survived him including Lucy Riegle who was only six at the time. In the 1920s, Lucy, who was raised Lutheran on the northern side of the mountain, met William Budd (the grandson of Capt. Richard Budd) who was raised Catholic on the southern side of the mountain. In 1929, they married and Lucy became a Catholic. It must have been quite difficult for the families at the time because the Ku Klux Klan was active in Upper Dauphin County and was specifically opposed to Catholics and immigrants who were seen on the northern side as “coming in taking jobs in the mines.” Lucy lived out her life with her husband William Budd in Williamstown. William first worked as a laborer in the mines, but the mines closed in the early 1930. He then had a career as a civilian employee at Olmstead Air Force Base. Both Lucy and William remained active in Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Williamstown. Ironically, the grandchildren of two Civil War veterans who fought to preserve the Union had to take part in another north-south struggle over a marriage-union more than 50 years after the Civil War. The documents of the re-interment of Capt. Richard Budd clearly show Lucy’s involvement in the process to move his remains as well as the ceremony itself and are available at either the Williamstown-Williams Township Historical Society or the Gratz Historical Society. One of the documents was posted on this blog in February.
The leader of the society and the Williamstown-Williams Township Civil War Project is Janice Culton. Janice can be reached at the society e-mail address – click here to send a message. The society also has a developing web site. Hours that the museum is open vary, so e-mail ahead of your visit to insure that the museum will be open.
This post is the first of a series to show what other historical societies in the Lykens Valley area are doing to recognize the Civil War Sesquicentennial.