Recommended News Stories – 2016


See my full compilation on

Here’s my list of my favorite news articles and blog posts from 2016, posted on my award-winning website, These stories, written by [generally] objective, knowledgeable experts who have examined their subjects in detail, reflect my belief that we are living in a time of unprecedented cultural upheaval.

In our chaotic world filled with fakes, frauds, copies and charlatans, our need is greater than ever for things that are “really real” and for understanding highly complex issues involving the human condition and what unites and divides us as people.

The stories cover a wide sweep of Americana from media coverage of the presidential election to the lingering impact of slavery to historic preservation. Enjoy.

Confessions of a Columnist” – by Ross Douthat, New York Times, Dec. 31, 2016
It’s nearly 2017! Can we finally retire the current year as an argument for social change?” – Washington Post, Dec. 30, 2016
Original Portrait of Charles Dickens’ Wife Found Beneath Cover-Up” – Fine Books & Collections, Dec. 27, 2016
Duchess of Roxburghe Bequeaths ‘Extraordinary’ Book Collection to Wren Library” – Fine Books & Collections, Dec. 22, 2016
‘We Couldn’t Believe Our Eyes’: A Lost World of Shipwrecks Is Found” – New York Times, Nov. 12, 2016
Disruption Will Rule, and Obama’s Legacy Will Wash Away As If Written on Water” – by George Will, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 10, 2016
News Media Yet Again Misreads America’s Complex Pulse” – New York Times, Nov. 9, 2016
Channeling Ida Tarbell: An Unlikely Muckraker” – by Tom O’Boyle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 6, 2016
New Looks at Laurel Hill” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 5, 2016
New Exhibition at the Morgan Library Explores the World of Martin Luther” – Fine Books & Collections, Sept. 20, 2016
Jerusalem as a Place of Desire and Death, at the Metropolitan Museum” – New York Times, Sept. 22, 2016
Scanning Software Deciphers Ancient Biblical Scroll” – Associated Press, Sept. 21, 2016
Through the Place” – Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation documentary, September 2016
How a Dutch Businessman Fulfilled His Dream to Open a ‘World-Class’ Museum” – New York Times, Sept. 14, 2016
Heinz Awards Recognize Inspiring Ideas That Address Global Issues” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 14, 2016
Landmark Labor Ruling Rooted in Beaver County” – Washington Times, Sept. 10, 2016
Almost 50 Years Later, Lawsuit Seeks to Fix Blame for Farmington Mine Disaster” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 4, 2016
Public Permitted to Peruse State Library’s Rare Books” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 4, 2016
Georgetown University Plans Steps to Atone for Slave Past” – New York Times, Sept. 1, 2016
Ken Lopez Updates His Views on Modern Book Collecting Trends” – Rare Book Hub, September 2016
Wreck of Sloop Built in Erie Found Deep in Lake Ontario” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 20, 2016
Why John Oliver Loves Newspapers” – by Kathleen Parker, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 11, 2016
In Frank Lloyd Wright Country, Architecture and Apple Pie” – New York Times, July 27, 2016
Huntington Announces Crowdsourcing Project to Transcribe, Decode Civil War Telegrams” – Fine Books & Collections, June 22, 2016
American Death Rate Increases, Reverses Trend” – Washington Post, June 3, 2016
Stolen Columbus Letter Found at the Library of Congress Returned” – Rare Book Hub, June 2016
Archaeologists Closing in on Finding Captain Cook’s Ship, the Endeavour” – Rare Book Hub, June 2016
‘Roots’ for a New Era” – New York Times – May 22, 2016
Folk Art Starts Here” – New York Times, May 20, 2016
Unearthing the Secrets of New York’s Mass Graves” – New York Times, May 16, 2016
One of Florence’s Oldest Families and Its 600-Year Archive” – New York Times, May 11, 2016
Civil War Museum Transfers Collection to Gettysburg with Constitution Center Exhibit Planned” –, May 5, 2016
A Foundation and a Museum Battle Over Maurice Sendak’s Estate” – by Michael Stillman, Fine Books & Collections, May 1, 2016
Why More Suicides?” – by Ambassador Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 27, 2016
An Ambitious Renovation of August Wilson’s Boyhood Home Will Be Good for Pittsburgh and the Arts” – by Christopher Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 24, 2016
Letter from Albert Gallatin Donated to Friendship Hill Historic Site” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 23, 2016
Top Court Rejects Challenge to Google Book-Scanning Project” – Reuters, via, April 18, 2016
Georgetown Confronts a Haunting Sale of Slaves” – New York Times via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 17, 2016
Amateur Snapshots Provide Window to American Culture” – Fine Books & Collections, April 15, 2016
Pope Francis Urges Compassion for All in Landmark Statement on Family Values” – The Guardian, April 9, 2016
Supreme Court Finally Puts an End to Long Running Apple-Amazon Price-Fixing Case” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book HUB, April 2016
Bob Dylan’s Archive to Be Housed in Oklahoma” – Rare Book HUB, April 2016

Guard Duty at the Execution of Lincoln’s Assassination Conspirators


Alexander Gardner’s famed photo of the public hanging

One of the newly discovered Civil War soldiers in the extended family was Andrew Jacob Sturtz — of the family of Susanna (Gaumer) Sturtz Baughman — who served in 6th U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry, Company A. He was a carpenter who had migrated from Adamsville, OH to Hazel Dell, IL, and stood 5 feet, 8½ inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair

Andrew and his fellow soldiers of the 6th U.S. Infantry were assigned to guard duty at the the Washington Arsenal on the excessively hot July 7, 1865, the fateful day when the four co-conspirators convicted in President Lincoln’s assassination were executed by hanging — Mary Surratt, George Atzerodt, David Herold and Lewis Powell.

While standing at attention in the heat, Andrew fainted, possibly suffering a sunstroke. He “fell near me,” wrote fellow soldier R.E. Holloway. “I thought he was dead but found upon opening his collar that he was still alive.” He was carried into a tent or shack to recover and then was treated at a camp hospital. Wrote another soldier, William Ross: “I was standing near and helped to carry him into his tent and helped to take care of him afterward and after that his eye sight failed him so that he could not see to wright his Letters or Read….”

This famous image, courtesy of the Library of Congress, was made by famed photographer Alexander Gardner using wet glass collodion technology in use at the time. It shows the bodies of the conspirators dangling at the end of their nooses, having been dropped from the scaffold platform, surrounded by soldiers and spectators who are beginning to depart the scene. A crack in the glass plate is noticeable in the lower left-hand corner.

This was not Jacob’s first wartime ailment. A few months earlier, wile on duty at Camp Stoneman, MD on or about May 15, 1865, he was on the sick list but was ordered out to gather wood for a cooking fire. He was pulling a sapling out of the ground when he slipped and may have fallen. Apparently the same day, while driving a mule-drawn wagon, the team bolted and ran away, upsetting the wagon and throwing Andrew underneath, catching his leg in the hub and fracturing his leg from the knee to the foot. He was sent to a hospital, but when seeing other patients there suffering from smallpox, he panicked and crawled out. Somehow he found a crutch and “hobbled back to his company,” he said. He was treated by a Quaker physician and took on light duty as company cook.


Jeff Minerd and The Sailweaver’s Son


If you attended our 2000 National Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor Reunion, you will undoubtedly remember our guest speaker and author Jeff Minerd and his insightful, forward-looking presentation about “21st Century Families.”

Now, 16 years later, Jeff has published his first book, a fantasy adventure novel named The Sailweaver’s Son (Silver Leaf Books, 310 pages). The work has been well-reviewed and is available in hardcopy, Kindle, Nook and iPad formats. In a summary of the book, the publisher states that The Sailweaver’s Son:

…combines epic fantasy with a dash of steampunk and creates a world unlike any other – Etherium. A world where mountains rise like islands above a sea of clouds and adventurers travel the sky in sail-driven airships. When fifteen-year-old Tak rescues the survivor of an airship destroyed by one of the giant flammable gas bubbles mysteriously appearing in the sky of Etherium, the authorities react like a flock of startled grekks. Admiral Scud accuses Tak of sabotage and treason. Tak’s father grounds him for reckless airmanship. Rumors spread that the bubbles are weapons devised by the Gublins, a race of loathsome but ingenious underground creatures. The King’s advisors call for war, hoping to win much-needed Gublin coal. To prove his innocence and prevent a misguided war, Tak must do what anyone knows is suicide – visit the Gublins and find out what they know. When the wizard’s adopted daughter, an oddly beautiful and irksomely intelligent girl from the Eastern kingdoms, asks Tak to help her do just that, he can’t say no. The adventure will take Tak from the deepest underground caves to a desperate battle on Etherium’s highest mountaintop. It will force him to face his worst fears, and to grow up faster than he expected.

Jeff has spent much of his career as a science and medical writer for the National Institutes of Health, MedPage Today, The Futurist magazine, and the Scientist magazine and has had his fiction published in the prestigious North American Review. He and his parents Tim and Gerry Minerd reside in Rochester, NY. He is the grandson of William Melvin and Hannah (Guzzy) Minerd and the great-grandson of Rev. William Mullen and Violet Pearl (Johnson) Minerd of Westmoreland, Armstrong and Somerset Counties, PA.

Here, he and his family promote the book at a publication party — left to right: brother in law Chuck Ruffino, father and mother Geraldine “Gerry” and Tim Minerd, Jeff, sister Laura Ruffino and nephew Stephen Ruffino. Learn more about the book on and Goodreads.

Heinrich Schanckweiler: Jailed on Orders of President Adams


The Child’s History of the United States,1849


America’s presidential election this month — perhaps the most contentious in memory — underscores the influence of the nation’s chief executive in determining the extent of citizens’ personal liberties. In March 1799, our outspoken cousin Heinrich “Henry” Schanckweiler, husband of Elisabetha Gaumer, was arrested at the order of President John Adams for speaking out on what he believed to be his legal rights as a taxpayer.

Heinrich opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts, commonly known as the “Gag Law,” considered by some as Adams’ “reign of terror.” The Acts gave Congress the power to deport immigrants and made it more difficult for aliens to vote, and they spelled out disciplinary measures for citizens who would “write, print, utter or publish” comments that the government considered “false, scandalous and malicious.”

In March 1799, federal marshals arrested the German-speaking Heinrich at his log house in Millerstown, Lehigh (formerly Northampton) County, PA, for comments against legislation which he claimed deprived him of his rights. He and other similar offenders were marched to the nearby town of Bethlehem and held as prisoners even as law enforcement officials went into the local Sun Inn to drink beer. A group of Heinrich’s friends, led by John Fries, who was running an armed rebellion against government oppression, surrounded the inn and rescued Henry and the others.

For his role in inciting and supporting the broad insurgence, Fries was sentenced to death by hanging. As Fries had 10 children, one just a newborn, friends circulated a petitioned signed by thousands, asking Adams for a pardon. Popular history suggests that Fries’ wife traveled to Philadelphia to present the document to the president. Apparently Adams was merciful, or politically astute, and signed the reprieve. This woodcut image, from Charles A. Goodrich’s 1849 book The Child’s History of the United States, shows the meeting between Adams, Mrs. Fries and her offspring.

Our Heinrich eventually was tried and convicted for his outspokenness and spent a year in jail in Philadelphia, paying a fine of $150.

Later, the Schanckweilers relocated to New York State on a farm near the town of Fayette. Heinrich was profiled in the 1890 book Centennial Historical Sketch of the Town of Fayette, Seneca County, New York (Geneva, NY – prepared by Diedrich Willers), which said that he had:

…purchased a fine farm near the center of the town in May, 1813, where he resided until his death. The interest he took in the management of public affairs in his native State, soon induced him in his new home, to familiarize himself with the local government of his town and he was early chosen one of its commissioners of highways and overseer of the poor. In 1823, and again in 1824, he was elected supervisor of Fayette, one of the first of the sturdy Pennsylvania Germans who served the town in that capacity. 


Ebenezer Bell Polen’s Farm Sale Poster


In October 1944, having sold his farm near Cadiz, Harrison County, OH, Ebenezer Bell “E.B.” Polen (1882-1947) held a public auction, offering for bidding his cattle, hogs, chickens, hay, grain, farm implements and household goods. To advertise the sale, he had this poster printed on orange paper.

He was the son of Nathaniel “Lewis” and Ida (Welsh) Polen of Hopedale, Harrison County.

Ebenezer married our Ella (Miner) Pritts, a widow who had spent 27 months alone following her first marriage. They united themselves in marriage in Uniontown, Fayette County, PA on Jan. 2, 1906, after first securing a marriage license. Ella was age 31, and Ebenezer age 23. Hebrought young a son to the marriage, Carl Polen.

The couple relocated into Ebenezer’s home in or near Hopedale, about 18 miles to the west and slightly south of the city of Steubenville. The United States census of 1910 shows “Ebinezer” and “Ella” Polen living as farmers in Green Township, Harrison County. At the time of the census, they had been married for four years, but had no children. 

Ella and Ebenezer were mentioned by name in a Minerd family history written in August 1913 by cousin Allen Edward Harbaugh (“The Mountain Poet”), and read aloud at the clan’s first-ever reunion at Ohio Pyle, Fayette County.

After the outbreak of World War I, Ebenezer was required to register for the military draft. Age 36 at the time, he disclosed that he resided in Bloomingdale, Jefferson County, and was a self-employed farmer. He named his nearest relative as “Ella Rogers Polen.” The registration clerk listed him as of medium height and build, with brown eyes and black hair.

By 1920, the Polens migrated a short distance away to Wayne Township, Jefferson County, OH. That year, Ebenezer was a brakeman in a local coal mine. Ebenezer’s 17-year-old son, Carl Polen, also made his home with them that year, with Carl working as a yardman on the section railroad.

The Polens’ marriage dissolved by the mid-1920s. Details and dates are not known.

Ebenezer married again in about 1926, to Anna Lisle (1886- ? ), daughter of Elizabeth M. Lisle. In 1930, census records showing them living in Archer, Harrison County, with Anna’s aged mother under their roof, presumably on the farm of Anna’s parents. It was located one quarter mile east of the Gilmore schoolhouse, six miles northwest of Cadiz.

This original poster was found in a rare book store in Columbus, Ohio in October 2016. It is now safely preserved in the Archives.

Green Thumbs Frank and Mary Enos


Frank and Mary Enos at home


Having seen horrific fighting with the U.S. Marines in the South Pacific during World War II, Frank “Buddy” Enos and his wife Mary Louise settled in the middle of Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County, PA, where their home was widely known and admired for its beautiful hanging flowers.

The son of James M. and Elizabeth (Eberhart Sargent) Enos, Frank was employed for 30 years by Fisher Body and General Motors and for three decades was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard.” Said the Greensburg Tribune-Review, “He was known by all who traveled Main Street, Mt. Pleasant, for his Easter display and also for his beautiful spring and summer flowers which grew in front of his home.” He received the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club’s Community Above Self Award, and was featured and pictured in a feature story in the Aug. 9, 2001 edition of the Mt. Pleasant Journal, headlined, “Enos, Example of Service Above Self.”

In the spring of 1992, Frank and Mary graciously opened their home to the founder of this website, accompanied by their nephew Jack Campbell, for a visit to talk about family history. More>>>

Frank’s father, James M. Enos, worked as a pumper in the coal mines, and later was a maintenance worker of the Pennsylvania Department of Highways (now PennDOT). As with many Western Pennsylvanians of German descent, James often talked of seeing “ghosts and tokens”” mysterious lights in the night sky. He told of driving to Indian Head, Fayette County, in 1932 to visit his ailing mother. There was a bright flash of light behind his vehicle, nearly blinding him with its reflection off the rear-view mirror. Then the light went away. He looked at his wristwatch, and it was 8 p.m. When he arrived, he found that his mother had died while he was en route. When he asked when exactly she had died, he was told “8 o’clock.”

Civil War Veteran Cyrus Lindley’s 15 Minutes of Fame

Cyrus Lindley, far right [enlarge]

Civil War veteran and wagon-maker Cyrus Lindley (standing, far right) achieved his 15 minutes of fame when, on Nov. 12, 1900, following construction of the new Washington County Courthouse in Pennsylvania, he was named to sit with its first-ever grand jury.

A resident of Amwell, Washington County, he was recognized for this quirk of fate in the 1902 book, Courts of Justice: Bench and Bar of Washington County, authored by Boyd Crumrine. Wrote Crumrine, the jury “appeared in session in court-room No. 1, to join in the first act of judicial business ever transacted in the new court-house.” A group photograph was made by (?) Hallam, and the halftone for the book by (?) Bragdon.

During the war, Cyrus served as a member of the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Gettysburg. Cyrus was married three times and produced a total of 17 children. His third and final wife was Elizabeth “Lizzie” Minor, daughter of Catherine (Minor) Bedillion of Greene County, PA.

During the Civil War, Cyrus enlisted in the Union Army on Aug. 9, 1962. He was assigned to Company D of the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In a cruel twist of fate, his first wife Lucinda gave birth while he “was absent serving in the Army,” but she and the baby died in childbirth. In his own words, Cyrus “did not get home even to attend the funeral.”

With the 140th Pennsylvania, Cyrus and his fellow soldiers were bloodied in some of the fiercest action known during the war. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, on May 3, 1863, he “received a shell wound of the left hip [or back] while supporting battery” of cannon. A loud shell explosion also caused him some deafness. While in the Battle of Gettysburg just two months later, he was wounded again during the fighting at the Wheat Field and on Little Round Top. He received a bayonet wound in the right leg “while charging on enemy” during the final day’s action on July 3, 1863.

Cyrus’ name appears on the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg, along with the names of all the other members of the 140th Pennsylvania Infantry and other Pennsylvania regiments who served in action at the bloody battle.

In the postwar years, as he aged, Cyrus began to feel the effects of his wartime illnesses. He applied for and began receiving a pension from the federal government as compensation. Circa 1900, he was receiving $6 per month through the pension agency in Pittsburgh. During an 1892 medical examination, required to maintain his pension, he stood 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighed 122 lbs., and had a pulse rate of 72. In 1898, a physician wrote: “[His] nutrition is good, muscular development fair, his palms show evidence of hard labor done in the past, at present quite soft.” Cyrus’s original pension file is held today at the National Archives in Washington, DC, with a copy in the Archives.

Death finally took Cyrus at age 69 at their Amwell Township home, on Jan. 17, 1908. The Washington Reporter said he was “an old soldier” and that his “death was sudden, as he had been sick only about eight hours.” Burial was in Washington Cemetery.