Portage Area Historical Society

Portage Area Historical Society We are dedicated to the preservation, education and exploration of the rich history of Portage, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding local area.

Operating as usual

Christmas Break - Portage PA is all decked out for Christmas.  Thanks to Bruce Walkovich for sharing the photo.  More to...

Christmas Break - Portage PA is all decked out for Christmas. Thanks to Bruce Walkovich for sharing the photo. More to come in the next few days. Hometown Christmas.

Christmas Break!  Some great ads from 1960.  Do you remember them?

Christmas Break! Some great ads from 1960. Do you remember them?

Christmas break!  A Christmas Carol book from Frank R. Beckley, Publisher, Portage PA - 1960.

Christmas break! A Christmas Carol book from Frank R. Beckley, Publisher, Portage PA - 1960.

Ghostlore - there is a house on Wayne Avenue with a lot of paranormal activity.  The prior residents used to play with a...

Ghostlore - there is a house on Wayne Avenue with a lot of paranormal activity. The prior residents used to play with a Ouija Board - up until the time they were playing and all of a sudden all of the doors slammed and locked! After that, the grandmother threw away the board.

Many spirits have been seen in the house. Upon getting up to go to the bathroom at night, you may meet a woman who puts a finger up to her mouth as though to tell you to be quiet. Footsteps are always heard going up and down the stairs, but when you look there is no one there. Another woman has been seen with long black hair and a beautiful blue dress on.

One time a prior owner was trying to get into the house and was pushing and pushing on the door but it would not open. She finally said "Come on guys, let me in." and with the next push the door came open,

A visitor to the house was sleeping in a spare bedroom. She woke up in the middle of the night and saw a woman sitting in a chair in what appeared to be an all black nurse's outfit. Could the nurse have been wearing one of these outfits from 1922?

We will continue with our Ghostlore after the First of January.

Ghostlore - Angela Bertrum shared this story with us:  "Not really a ghost lore but very interesting  anyway, my sister ...

Ghostlore - Angela Bertrum shared this story with us: "Not really a ghost lore but very interesting anyway, my sister and I were walking our dogs one evening,the snow was coming down the moon was full,because of the snow there was no traffic, we always would walk all around the lower end of town inclunding past the museum (we lived on Washington Avenue). As we were walking under the underpass right by the museum, while we were coming under we had a very weird feeling and we heard sounds of the past. We heard the sounds of an old steam engine train coming above, we heard the voices of many people talking as they were waiting to board the train, we heard the sound of a horse and buggy coming up the road. It was so awesome, it was like we walked through a stitch in time. We were not frightened at all, it was so amazing even though it was all audio. I wish we could have seen it also We just stood there for a while and enjoyed the sounds and the feeling of it all. "

What a great story. Perhaps this is a residual haunting. Residual haunting activity can be caused by positive energy blasted into the atmosphere. Many times you have heard ghost stories where people can hear the sounds of a party. They hear music, singing, dancing, laughter and when they enter the room where they hear the party, there is no one there. It is like a tape recording of history playing over and over. Perhaps that is what Angela and her sister heard. Has any one else experienced this?

Photos are Lee Street tunnel then and now

Ghostlore - Sigmund Schoenfeld was one of the first Jewish men to settle in Portage.  He built the Schoenfeld Building a...

Ghostlore - Sigmund Schoenfeld was one of the first Jewish men to settle in Portage. He built the Schoenfeld Building at 900 Main Street in 1919. There he and his descendants ran the Schoenfeld's Department Store until 1984. The building now is owned by Bob and Bonnie Fox, who operate the Chatterbox - a coffee cafe and gift shop.

Bonnie reports that they hear footsteps all over the place all the time. Particularly if they are in the basement, they can hear footsteps upstairs when no one else in in the building.

They also see an apparition of a woman standing on the main floor under the Mezzanine. The woman is dressed in a long dress from the early 1900s.
Bob and Bonnie would see her standing and watching during periods that they were very busy. One day after a particularly busy lunch period, Bonnie said to Bob "Well, that was a bit unnerving." and he answered, "Yes it was!". They had both seen her watching but did not mention it to each other!

An outline of a woman can also be seen up in the Mezzanine where the old shoe department used to be.

Bob and Bonnie at no time feel threatened or really uneasy. They feel that it is the spirit of Ann Schoenfeld, Segmund's wife, just watching over the place.

Here is another version of the White Lady of Willow Beach - this is the version that Mr. Makosky would tell his classes ...

Here is another version of the White Lady of Willow Beach - this is the version that Mr. Makosky would tell his classes every year.

The Ghost of Willow Beach

“If there really is a ghost at Willow Beach, she’s sure to be out tonight, “remarked John. At the same time he tries to speed up the air driven windshield wipers by letting up on the gas petal. As the wipers began to swing faster back and forth across the windshield of the 1929 Model A Ford coupe, the car began to jerk and vibrate. Without a thought, the operator depressed the clutch and shifted the lever into a lower gear position and pressed down on the gas pedal. Instantaneously the increase in acceleration caused the generator to turn faster. The result of these mechanical combinations caused the dim lights to brighten suddenly. However, even at the height of power, the yellow rays were unable to penetrate the dense fog that had rolled down the mountain sides and into the valley.
A sudden gust of wind, accompanied by a blinding flash of lightning, and followed by a loud crack of thunder, left the trio in the Model A with momentary loss of sight and hearing. Another blinding flash and the sound of a tree being felled by a bolt of lightning, added to the mechanical conditions of the machine in which the boys were riding, prompted Ted to say, “Hockey cats, let’s stop this car over where the shale pile is and wait for the storm to pass. We’re not going anywhere special anyway.” Okay. I’ll pull over on this side of the shale pile. There’re no trees there and it’s safer. My Pop always tells me never to go under a tree during a lightning storm. ”Suites me,” butted in Joe, the third member of this triumvirate.
After the car had been parked in the safety of the open space, the boys settled down in the seat and waited for the storm to subside. “You think maybe the ghost will be out runnin’ the river tonight?” ask Joe lazily as he began to squirm and shift his body to find his tobacco and cigarette papers. “Well, like I began to say, this is the spring of the year. The weather is wet and foggy. If the rain and storm blow over and the moon comes up about eleven o’clock, she may be out, continued John.
“What’ya say we go back to town and shoot a couple games of pool, and then later, if the weather clears up, we can go down to Willow Beach, park somewhere and see what happens,” suggested Joe.
The three young men agreed on this suggestion, and within a few minutes the car had been turned around and was heading towards town. When they entered the pool room, they headed for the one vacant table. The game began and continued without incident. After

several games of eight ball, Joe looked out and noticed that the rain had stopped falling. Puddles had formed on the street, and a small rivulet was flowing into the street drain. Clouds were slowly floating across the heavens; stars were beginning to shine between the clouds, and in the east a bright spot in the sky indicated that the moon was about to rise.
Joe placed his cue into the rack, paid his share of the cost of the games and remarked, “Everyone knows there aren’t any ghosts, not at Willow Beach or anywhere else. But, if you fellows want to waste gas money and sack time, things look just right for her to be out tonight. Let’s go down to Willow Beach and see what develops.”
The three youths agreed. They got into the Ford and drove north on Main Street, to the state road, followed the road to Wilmore, turned right and, after a moment more of bouncing along the secondary road, found themselves at Willow Beach. They drove over the bridge, past the old dance-hall, and by the remains of an old swimming pool.
“Go up to the road a little way,” said Ted. “Turn off to the right and we’ll go down into the field along the ‘crick’. May as well park there in the field. We can see everything.” “O.K.” replied the driver. A turn of the steering wheel, a few spins of the rear wheels, and the car stopped in the forementioned spot.
The boys were in a happy, carefree mood. It amused them just to sit in the car, roll cigarettes, and wait. The driver of the car suggested that he should watch the left window; Joe, who sat between the other boys in the one-seater car, could watch the front windshield. He could also keep an eye on the rear window by looking into the rear-view mirror. Ted was assigned the right window.
The weather outside was a spring night that was common to the mountains of Pennsylvania. The night was very wet—the remains of a rain storm that had previously subsided. Shining stars slowly dimming, and eventually would be completely obliterated by the soft light of the rising moon. A lazy fog seemed to creep out of the soft moist earth, rise about five feet from the ground, turn and fall slowly into the leveled furrows of last year’s corn field, from which it emanated. An eerie stillness covered the land. The silence was deep-set in the whole atmosphere. A steady, even, light roar of the swollen streams could be heard from the distance, mingling with the sudden quietness. The fresh green leaves of the hanging willow trees stretched down to the fog. A multitude of creeping and crawling insects and bugs echoed and re-echoed their night calls in an even pattern of light clamor and steady turmoil. Yet, all this noise was surrounded by the calm and stillness of the night, shattered only by a sudden call of a night owl as he complained to the moon about the unnecessary illumination being cast down to the earth.
The watchers had finished their cigarettes. They wiped the inside of the windows, cleaning away the condensation to make visibility possible. Each side window was opened about an inch to allow fresh air to circulate and clear out the rancid smell of stale Cutty-Pipe tobacco. All was in readiness and the jovial group turned a serious eye to the assigned posts. “As long as you can hear the crickets and the bugs chirping and hollering in the night, you don’t have to worry,” mumbled Joe. My pop always tells me that if the bugs are making noise, don’t worry, nothing is out there in the darkness prowling around. When the bugs stop making noise, then begin to worry.”
“Yea, your pop is always teaching you something, huh Joe,” complained John.
After a short time of disgusting silence within the car, Ted decided it was time to roll a new cigarette. As he patted the tobacco, there was a sudden silence outside the car.
“According to Joe’s pop,” thought John to himself, “I should start to worry now. Maybe something is outside wandering around. I guess a fox or a rabbit is out there.”
“I wonder if Joe’s dad knows what he’s talking about,” Ted asked himself. At the same time he let the half-rolled cigarette fall to the floor of the car.
Joe wondered, “My pop is almost always right. I hope this is one of those times he’s wrong.”
As he wondered, Joe cast his eyes into the rear-view mirror, and tilted his head to the right in order to get a broader view.
There she was, lying across the back of the coupe. Her hands were under her chin. Her forehead, her nose and her chin were pressed against the rear window. The face was flattened against the window with white, red and purple colors showing. The Ghost had a smile on her face, long black stringy hair falling over the shoulders, and water dripping from her face.
The instant Joe saw the Ghost, he mumbled incoherently, pointed to the mirror, and slumped in his seat as if he were trying to hide from the spirit. John and Ted turned their heads at the same time to see the maiden as she peered in at the trio. The sudden stillness was interrupted by the grinding of gears and the spinning of wheels. The Ford finally found its way to the secondary road and without any hesitation the three found themselves in Wilmore. John stopped the car at the gas station. “What’s the matter boys? Looks like you saw a ghost.”
“We did,” was the answer.
The boys got out of the car and related their story to the gas station attendant.
“------- and after we got the car turned around we saw her running, no-----it was more like floating along the ground heading towards the crick. Her arms were outstretched and pointing towards the heavens. As she ran, her long black, stringy hair fluttered in the air. The long white gown she was wearing floated behind her, it’s train trailing behind her for about twelve feet. The sea of fog seemed to part as if to allow her to pass. When she arrived at the stream, the apparition skipped lightly across the top of the water, entered the woods and raced up the hillside towards the Wilmore cemetery. The next thing I know, here I am at your station.”
The attendant noticed something on the trunk of the car. “Look here,” said he, “look at the wet spot on the trunk of your car. It goes from the back window way down to the spare wheel.”
“That’s where she lay across the trunk. You know, she was dripping wet. I guess the car got wet from her wet gown,” muttered John, in explanation of the wet spot.
“Come inside,” requested the owner of the filling station. The four entered into the sales room of the station where four or five older men sat, smoking their pipes and discussing some current news topic.
“Hey, fellas,” interrupted the host, “these boys just saw the Ghost down at Willow Beach!”
“Yep,” puffed one of the old timers, I reckon she would come up out of the crick on one of these wet, spring days. She hasn’t been seen for a couple of years.”
“What do you mean ‘come up out of the crick.” We didn’t see her come out of the crick.”
“Let me tell you the whole story,” continued the pipe smoker. “A few years back, ah—maybe 1912 or 13, Willow Beach was a real wild place. It was the place where all the miners gathered on Saturday night. A dance was held, and the booze flowed like the crick. Not far from Willow Beach is Whiskey Springs. The men would bring the whiskey and beer to the springs in the morning, put the barrels into the cool water, let them set until evening, and then bring the barrels to the dance hall in the evening. Families came to Willow Beach to spend the evening dancing and drinking. The remains of the pool that you see there now was once a nice swimming pool with a beach. The whole length of the crick up to Wilmore Dam was good trout fishing.
One night an engaged couple went to the dance. During the course of the evening the two became involved in an argument. They decided to go for a walk and settle their differences between themselves. No one knows exactly what happened while the couple was out walking, but the man killed his fiancée and threw her body into the crick.
“Everyone knows that if the corpse is not properly buried, the body roams restlessly throughout the countryside.”
“Yea that accounts for the ghost,” added another one of the older men. “But you know, it’s funny that she showed herself to you. Usually she comes up from the stream when lovers are in the area.”
“Not too many years ago a fellow was driving past Willow Beach with his girlfriend. Suddenly on the curve he got a blow out on his right rear wheel tire. He stopped the car and proceeded to change tires. His girlfriend was holding the flashlight. After the new wheel had been placed on the car, the man looked up. Boy did he get a shock! The Ghost was holding the flashlight and his girlfriend was lying across the front seat of the car.”

Note: This story was a favorite at Portage Area High School. Mr. Joseph Makosky always shared it with many of his classes when he taught there.

Ghostlore - we have all heard the stories of the 'white lady of Willow Beach' haven't we?  For those who haven't - it is...

Ghostlore - we have all heard the stories of the 'white lady of Willow Beach' haven't we? For those who haven't - it is said that what is called Willow Beach outside of Wilmore, on the road to Ebensburg, is haunted by a white lady. This poor woman was killed on her wedding day when the horse and buggy she was riding in had an accident due to the horse spooking at something. She was thrown from the buggy and killed. She has haunted the Willow Beach area ever since. Many locals tell of seeing the White Lady and even that she has joined them in their vehicles.

Another death occured in that vicinity not too long ago. A teacher was looking for frogs to take into his classroom. He was on the road, and a car struck and killed him. A Psychic visited the area recently and reports that the spirit of the man killed there has now taken the White Lady and they have both passed on. There are no more spirits lingering at Willow Beach.

A second story of the White Lady of Willow Beach will post at 10:00 today.

Ghostlore - The area where Miller Shaft was located, and the Old Fiddler's Green saw mill are said to be very haunted.  ...

Ghostlore - The area where Miller Shaft was located, and the Old Fiddler's Green saw mill are said to be very haunted. There is even an area of Route 164 that is called 'ghost curve'.

It is said that ghosts inhabited the old saw mill at Fiddler's Green. Mysterious sounds could be heard at night. Once upon a time a man was killed there. He fell against a forty-inch circular saw. Shortly after that incident another man just up and vanished. Perhaps these are two of the spirits haunting this area.

There are many ghosts at the site of the notorious Miller Shaft where many murders have been committed in years gone by A "conjure woman" was even contacted to see what could be done about the spirits according the 1910 newspaper article. Her decision was never made public.

And then there is the ghost of a mule - there was a cave in at the mine. A poor mule was stuck in the mine after the cave in. The miners tried and tried to get it out, but to no avail. So the miners did what they could and took the animal food and water daily. It lived out its life stuck in the mine. It eventually died there. It is said that when you go past that area at night, you can still hear the mule braying.


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Looking for info on Myra. My GG Grandfather WS Confer was the post master in 1890
I’d love to know if anyone remembers this fella, his wedding or his sister/brothers.
Conemaugh Ave in the early 50's...pretty snazzy stroller...lol
My Dad Harold Stombaugh (in his uniform) with my Grandma Agnes Stombaugh and her son (Dad's brother) Charles. They were from Portage and Grandma had 4 sons serving in WW2 at the same time. They all came home safe and sound. I know my Grandparents spent a lot of time on their knees praying.
All the old places....enjoy. Many photos donated by the Portage Historical Museum
Hello all my Portage friends and family... My father found this cleaning out my grandfather's stuff. Wanted to know if anyone knows anything about it? Thanks...
I hope this is ok....
I am trying to plan ahead for the winter. I am willing to do plowing for elderly or people unable to do it themselves. I wont charge as i think we need to get back to a caring community. I will do this as long as i can until the police give me a ticket for riding sxs on the road to plow.
My cousin in Sweden,who is a family historian is putting together a book of the those of our family who immigrated from Sweden to the U.S. My grandparents, Charles and Hilda (Johnson) Peterson are part of this. Both grew up in the late 19th century on the island of Olande off the coast of Sweden arriving in PA around 1900 in Gallitzin and moved to Portage after their marriage in 1904. Their children are Carl, Manfred (Red), Ralph (died 1955), Carolyn (Gunhilde), and Robert. Many of you probably remember Red Peterson. I am particularly interested in the Sven Johnson family who came in 1889. If you have any information that might help us please contact me at [email protected] By the way,my connection: I am the son of Carolyn Peterson and Clarence Mansell of Cassandra. Thank you.
Hello. My great grandfather John LAIRD, a coal miner (age 35, married with Children)from Uddingston, Lanarkshire, Scotland caught a ship (Glasgow, 24 Sept. 1903) across to NY - destination: Johnstone, PA, and c/- a niece (Laird's?) - Mrs Cummings, of Moss Creek, Spangler, PA. LAIRD came with another coal miner from Uddingston: Thomas DOWNS (age 43). See their info at the bottom of the passenger manifest. I am not sure how long they were in the USA, but John was back for his daughter Elizabeth's conception late 1905. Could anyone point me to further information etc about their likely lives, etc, at this time ? Thanks - Julie (Tasmania)
This is the 1924 Portage School picture, some are named. IF you know any Unnamed, please add them. ENJOY
When my father died one of his friends wrote me a very nice card of sympathy and mentioned how my Dad's father would often visit, I think he wrote a Social Club? Maybe an Italian club of some sort? This would be back in the 1930's? Does anyone know about this club? tx