Deeply etched memories of the sights and sounds of iron-making and fond recollections of personages in the the insular village of her childhood pour forth from Elsie in a poem entitled simply, "Curtin". I don't know the writer's full name, but a typed version was presented by Bernice Dukeman Aikey (1896-1993) to Margaret E. Turner in 1979. It had been printed in the "Centre Democrat" *, July 12, 1945 and also reproduced in Jane Curtin Baum's book, The Roland Curtin Family of Centre County, Pennsylvania, 2002.
I searched early 1900s Boggs Township census records for an Elsie who might have been the poet, but wasn't able to identify a candidate. Anyone know?
The old furnace bell is down from fire,
And the casting pigs are gone;
The old forge trip-hammer's wheel is stilled,
But the old canal flows on.
The old blacksmith anvil doesn't ring
The mule shapes anymore,
When, as children, we heard it sing
And watched the sparks on the floor.
The old stone mill still stands by the race
Defying old Bald Eagle's crest ---
A relic of a former pace,
But the buddies have gone to rest.
The old iron ore banks of Nigh and Red
Are naught but holes of clay;
Tho they furnished the weal of liquid steel
In the pig iron blooms of their day.
The old charcoal wagons don't creak and moan
At the tug of a foursome of mules,
Drags them down the trail, at the speed of a snail,
And on to the road toward home.
Just across the bridge the old school stood,
Where Jennie and Laura taught;
It wasn't of brick -- just of common wood -
But our lives were moulded and wrought.
The 9:15 don't come any more
As a curfew to those who knew
She blew the signal for Shuteye Town,
And the kiddies guessed what to do.
I can stand at the top of old Furnace Hill,
Where the charcoal beds used to be;
I can see old Robert in the old stone mill
Waiving to hoist his fee.
I can see old Miles at the blacksmith door
Where he stood with smithy to wait
Till the mules were shod behind and before,
Then across to the mule barn gate.
I can see them run to the bellows house
And then to the wee furnace hole
To watch the brew of the white-hot stew
Of limestone and iron and charcoal.
I can see them arranging the furnace floor
And hear the ring of the bell,
As they came from their home when they stabbed the door
And the metal flowed to the well
I wandered then by the old office door,
Met Harry bent over the sales,
Then off to the station to wait for the train,
Met John and his egg crates and mails.
And just at the rear of the old store stood
An errand of mercy -- of fate --
To make someone happy -- to do someone good,
Jennie and old sorrel Kate.
I wonder if when we've answered the call
We'll all get together again;
That same dear old crew,
That family of Curtin men.
There were no Croesus of wealth to brag --
No scientist to crow;
There were no dullards either to snag --
Nor a flock of gas bags to blow.
Just a family of men that God endowed
With a generous hand and heart;
An assemblage that mingled with the crowd
And never shirked their part.
I wonder if St. Peter will call us
As Andy did in '61
To find as Grant in the army camp,
Finer men never carried a gun.
I wonder if we will all get together again
By the old Bald Eagle's flow,
Then upon the crest of old Sand Hill
Where the spruce and the pine murmur low.
I wonder if we'll know for a moment
Those dear ones of Curtin's crew,
Then pass to the ages of yesterday's men
And sleep for an aeon or two.
* The "Centre Democrat" newspaper itself has an interesting history. Founded in 1827 by Philip Benner to support the candidacy of Andrew Jackson, it was edited at that time by John and William Bigler. The brothers later were to be become governors -- John in California and William in Pennsylvania. Over the years, the paper came and went under several names, succeeded by "The Keystone Gazette" in 1989. Source -- Penn State University Libraries: LCCN Permalink. https://lccm.loc.gov/sn84009409
Notes: A number of people are mentioned in the poem. Miles Dukeman was the longtime Curtin blacksmith. Bernice Dukeman Aikey was his granddaughter. It is likely "Harry" Roland Curtin referred to in going over the sales, as he joined the company as bookkeeper and then became iron master. Jennie Curtin taught Sunday school, but I don't know if school teacher Miss Jennie was the same Jennie Curtin. Robert Jacobs was the village miller for a time before Will Allen took over in the 1880s. (Robert Gingher lived for a time in the house known as the Mill House, but it might have been called that simply because it was close to the mill, not because it was the miller's home.)
Jerry is a retired general surgeon and a new Board Member of the Roland Curtin Foundation. He has Curtin roots extending back to 1831, through four previous generations.