SECRET GROUP HOLDS CLUES TO THE PAST
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2002
Genealogists all over America are eagerly researching their Wyoming Valley ancestors. Let's get right to some queries.
Q: Sina Morgan of Massachusetts is looking for information on Maneto Tribe No. 257, Great Council, Improved Order of Red Men. Ancestors Lewis T. Harvey, Mrs. Lewis T. Harvey and Benjamin F. Horton belonged to it.
A: Sina, there is lots of material available on the Red Men and on your ancestors. The Red Men had a strong presence in Wilkes-Barre a century ago. Tribe No. 257 was one of nine lodges meeting throughout the city, including two for a women's auxiliary known as the Pocahontases. It was evidently a pretty active group, with meetings every week at the so-called ``Wigwam'' on Public Square.
Who were the Red Men? Alan Axelrod's book ``The International Encyclopedia of Secret and Fraternal Orders,'' defines them as ``a fraternal, social insurance and political society in the United States for men over 18 who profess belief in a Supreme Being.'' It used stock American Indian lore in its vocabulary and rituals.
The group is still active, but from a high of more than 500,000 members in the early 20th century, it fell to about 38,000 in the 1990s, paralleling the decline of many other fraternal societies.
Lewis T. Harvey, according to the 1907 Wilkes-Barre City Directory, owned a livery stable on South State Street, and Benjamin F. Horton is listed as a boarder at Harvey's nearby home. South State, incidentally, no longer exists.
How can you find out more about the organization and your ancestors? Contact the Red Men's national headquarters at 4521 Speight Ave., Waco, Texas 76711-1708. Take a look at Axelrod's book for a thorough discussion of the group's history and rituals. Also, go to your Internet search engine and check out the informative Web sites of the
Phoenixmasonry Museum, of Florida.
Anyone who can help Sina Morgan may get in touch with her at email@example.com.
Q. Patricia Miller is uncertain of the spelling of the name of her ancestor, Josef/Joseph Wazlavek of Wilkes-Barre, his Daisy Lane address and his exact death date, probably from a mining accident - a mule kick.
A. Patricia, if you are within range of a Wilkes-Barre City Directory from your ancestor's time period of the early 20th century, that is where you should start. Check the listings for Daisy Lane (since changed to Bradford Street) to find your ancestor. At least then you will see (hopefully) the spelling he was giving out.
Second, I'm sending you the address of St. Boniface Church, which you say he attended, so you can try to pin down the death date. With that, you can go to Wilkes-Barre newspaper backfiles on microfilm to see if there is an obituary.
Equipped with the date, you can also get a death certificate from the state. Hopefully you will find the right spelling in all this paperwork.
It's unfortunately true that American immigration authorities routinely butchered the names of Eastern European immigrants years ago. Many other immigrants shortened or ``Americanized'' their names on their own as well.
Also, you say your ancestor died when he was kicked by a mine mule. Although it sounds odd today, a surprising number of anthracite miners died that way, since balky mules were used to pull cars around the tracks in the mines.
Anyone who can help Patricia Miller may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local History Moment
Checked out hotel room prices lately? They're probably a bit higher than those in a 40-some-year-old list from Times Leader files. Top of the line was Wilkes-Barre's Hotel Sterling, with rooms ranging from $6 to $16 a night. Most economical was the city's Hotel Hart, with prices from $3 to $8.50.
Peter Osborne, executive director of the Minisink Valley Historical Society, will offer a slide program titled ``The Silent Cities: Graveyard Art and its History'' at the meeting of the Genealogical Research Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania at 7 p.m. March 20. The meeting is set for the community room of the Lackawanna Heritage Apartments, 211 Susquehanna Ave., Olyphant.
Make reservations now for the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society's computer workshop and meeting at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre at 6 p.m. on March 26. Space at the terminals is limited. The library's phone number is (570) 823-0156.
Speaker Michael Strauss will show how to utilize the extensive genealogical holdings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Strauss, who has spoken at many genealogical conferences, is director of the church's Family History Center in Nazareth.
``Out on a Limb,'' the Times Leader's award-winning local genealogy column, appears every other Sunday. It is also accessible at www.timesleader.com and on the Luzerne County Genweb. Back columns are archived on the Genweb.
Contact Tom Mooney, Times Leader, 15 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711. E-mail is email@example.com.
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