Gettysburg Battlefield on Lincoln’s Birthday 2018

Our practice while taking a long trip in the car is to travel during the day, when possible, and to stop for a rest and some exercise every two hours. We were returning to Ithaca from a long trip down south when, at about the time for a rest stop we crossed the Mason-Dixon line to approach the city of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on US Route 15.

The signed for the Gettysburg Battlefield pulled us in and we spent three hours looking around, longer than we planned for a rest stop.

The staff at the visitor center were very helpful with our off the cuff visit plan. With the auto tour in hand we made our way to the “High Water” of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, the Union battle line that marked the end of Lee’s second invasion of the north and the turning of the Civil War.

Pennsylvania Memorial Fact Display
The Pennsylvania Memorial near the Highwater Mark of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.

The expanse of the Gettysburg National Military Park warrants a stay of three days, at least.

These photographs from my cell phone, augmented with titles and description, will give you a taste of what this national historic site has to offer.

Fact board Soldiers' National Cemetery
Gettysburg National Military Park includes the graves of more than 6,000 United States Servicemen, including 3,580 Union soldiers killed in the Civil War.

Notably, the day of our visit, February 12, is Lincoln’s Birthday. February was a quiet time to visit and we were blessed with a sunny, mild day. In the warm weather the place is packed with visitors.

I have a feeling for the place because my 10th birthday in 1963 coincided with the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War. Also because a figure in the aftermath of the battle, David Wills, shares my surname. A lawyer who lived and practiced in Gettysburg, David Wills organized the burials and it was at his home that President stayed before the dedication of the cemetery and where the final touches of the Gettysburg Address were written. His home, a museum, is closed in the quiet season.

Most Americans alive today would not exist if this battle turned out differently.

One of the chilling realizations from the day is almost half the Union graves are for unknown soldiers.

Graves of Unknown Soldiers
Nearly half of the Union graves are unknown soldiers.


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Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Two Windows on Time

Insight from antique postcards

Our Black Friday visit to Jim Thorpe included shopping along Broadway.  One marvelous shop at 61 Broadway, The Vintagerie, offered a small bin of antique post cards.  Vaguely curious, I picked up a pile.  Many were unused.  A few, like the two below, travelled the US Mail, included post marks, postage and communications.

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Verna’s slanted and precise cursive, the message carefully planned to fit available space, demonstrate her to be stylish.  The bathing suit was purchased for the trip.  Before leaving, Verna shared the purchase with her acquaintance, Mrs. Nace (misspelled Nase).

Fourteen months after their vacation, the Stock Market Crashed, October 1929, leading to The Great Depression.  How were Fred and Verna affected?  Were there Atlantic City vacations?


The next card was purchased and sent from Allentown. It is unlikely Sara was on vacation, was it purchased during a rare trip to the city?

I know Verna misspelled Nace because, ten years into the great depression, Mrs. Nace, Emma, received this postcard from Sara.  The postage is still 1 cent.  Emma has moved to a new address.  The message is more significant, written in a hurried hand by Sara, who concludes with love.


Emma Nace kept these cards as treasured possessions and memories until, with her passing, they were acquired, maybe in an estate sale, bundled together, transported 54 miles to 61 Broadway to be found by me, scanned (digitalized), and sent along in this blog.


The contents of this blog are Copyright 2016 Michael Stephen Wills

Jim Thorpe Black Friday

Around and About the Town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Presenting impressions of Jim Thorpe town on Black Friday 2016: unedited shots taken in late afternoon.

The best place to park is behind the train station, along the river.  $5 for the day.

Hike up the hill to the Asa Packer Museum.  The attraction is closed for the winter, but well worth the climb past the Civil War monument, so steep there are switchbacks.

Even closed the site yields detail after detail, all interesting and worth learning more about.  I was fascinated by the casted buck sculpture, can you tell?  Placed to greet visitors, it demands your attention.

Climb some more to explore the porch…

The sun makes an appearance, drawing attention to the other mansion of the site.  Two brothers, and families, lived up here.



Of course, my interest turned to that neighboring mansion.  It is a B&B.  “Mystery weekends” advertised.  That is a two day event.  Guests, presented with a scenario, draw on their resources to solve…..a crime.  Today, the façade decorated for Christmas.  The entire village decorated for Christmas!!  Christmas!!  Christmas!!!  I just love CHRISTMAS

For me, the charm of these places are the details.  These pull the attentive visitor into the character of the owner and/or designer.  A simple storage room dug into the hillside, designed and crafted with love in the interest of the residents who experience it everyday.  Built for a lifetime and longer.  The door and fittings appear to be modern, “nice work.”


A substantial finial of a thick wrought iron fence rail.


More so, the choice of building materials for retaining walls.  These were spotted in the countryside, quarry or wherever by someone with an eye for unusual beauty…or a rock hounds.  The boulders are carefully dressed conglomerate specimens with interesting clasts and matrix.


The museum is a place to enjoy the gathering night.  Take note of the thick groves of rhododendron, native to this area: a reason to return springtime.
The surrounding hills, locally called mountains, increase the charm of the setting.

We descended into town for shopping, dinner at Molly Maquire’s and a show in the Mauch Chunk Opera house. The village was named Mauch Chunk previously until the town fathers decided to rename it to Jim Thorpe, the notable native American sports star, in a then failed effort to encourage tourism. The last decade business has improved.

Molly Maguire’s Irish Pub is a fine place for a companionable meal. Pam and I enjoyed the New York Strip steak with, of course, potatoes. A baked potato for me. Pam had the red skinned garlic mashed potatoes.

The pub is located near the train station.

If you don’t know about the Molly Macguires…google ’em.

A few more notable details.


Ahhhh, nature….


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The contents of this blog are Copyright 2016 Michael Stephen Wills