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Bellefonte Secrets: Volume 3, Issue IV
By Richard W. Knupp, Sr.
July 11, 2010
July 2010 Issue
Bellefonte Secrets is about things we should know about Bellefonte and Centre County but for some reason we keep them a secret.
BELLEFONTE’S EAGLE SILK MILL
by Rev. Keith G. Koch
Proverbs 31:22 “She makes herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.”
The “Great Depression” during the1930's was not nice to many industries in the United States. The J.H. and J.K. Eagle Textile Company struggled through this time period, but one by one their various properties were forced to close: Plant #3 in Shamokin, PA closed in 1936 and in 1938 saw their mill in Gettysburg fail. In order to delay its death, the J.H. and J.K. Eagle Textile Company sold their Bellefonte mill and other properties to C.K. Eagle and Company, Incorporated, but 1938 saw even that company being forced into bankruptcy and their Bellefonte Mill was sold to the Reconstruction Finance Company which later would sell it to the Titan Metal Manufacturing Company in 1939.
Today, even the Titan, Cerro Copper and Brass, and Bolton Metal Products, as the successive owners of the old “Silk Mill,” have nothing to show but an old unused, unkempt warehouse building along Bellefonte’s Spring Creek which was the former Bellefonte Eagle Silk Mill.
But that was not how things started. Bellefonte was looking for new industries in the early 1920's. The J.H. and C.K. Eagle, Inc., a pair of brothers, were looking for additional places for their growing silk mills, to join the ones they already had in Shamokin, Mechanicsburg, and Gettysburg. The company was doing well financially, employed over 2,700 workers, and was the operator of one of the three largest silk mills in the nation.
The early American silk industry tried to import cocoons from silk worms from China and Japan with factories centered around New York and New Jersey, but neither the cocoons nor the labor force of these areas seemed to work. The silk industry then looked at Pennsylvania and the Eagle Textile Company saw in Bellefonte a source of good labor, a good water supply and power (along Spring Creek), and a good transportation system to get the raw materials to their mills and their finished products to their market.
Thomas B. Hill in April, 1920 bought about two acres of land from George and Amelia Gamble for $8,500 on the previous land site of the Crider planning mill. By July 26, 1920, he made good his investment by selling this property to the Eagle Textile Company. Rumors had already paved the way for Hill’s investment for it was already published in the Democratic Watchman, January 30, 1920, that 6 % bonds would be sold for a new silk mill that could employ about 125 workers in Bellefonte working two shifts from midnight Sunday until midnight Saturday. The estimated cost of the first 137' x 168' building was $100,000 with about $200,000 worth of machinery to be installed. A second building was rumored to be started about six months after the first was in operation. What a coming boon to Bellefonte!
Optimistic estimates told of minimum wages of $10 per week for the ladies and $15 for the men with the opportunity of making up to $18 to $25, respectively. The building of the plant would begin in April and it would be operational by July. None of which actually happened.
However, before the mill was even started 200 applicants made themselves ready for employment.
It wasn’t until May, 1920, that bricklayers began their work along Spring Creek. During June and July work was continuing in the erection of the brick, block, and steel building and the first part of the machinery didn’t arrive until mid August with its operation still several months away. By December of 1920 the silk market was growing unsteady and the Bellefonte mill was still not operational. However, by early 1921 all seemed to fall into place.
The J.H. and C.K. Eagle Textile Company had a buyer who went to Asia where he purchased raw silk that was shipped to Shamokin. This raw silk was then shipped to Bellefonte where the silk fibers were dyed, soaked, and spun to make thread. This thread was then returned to the Shamokin plant where it was woven into various silk products. As business increased, the Bellefonte mill employed about 200 people – mostly females. The ladies worked during the day shifts and the men usually worked during the evening/night shifts. Henry Reed was the mill’s first superintendent, followed by Danny Heim when Reed was transferred to the Mechanicsburg plant.
All went well until the 1930's depression at which time the Bellefonte Eagle Silk Mill came to a halt.
Revelation 18:12,14 “cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble;..."They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’”
THOUGHTS THAT MAYBE SHOULD HAVE BEEN HEEDED IN 1787
By Richard W. Knupp, Sr.
I am not a person who likes to write about politics. Is this article really about politics or is it about a person who from the onset of his political life helped develop a political situation in the United States and later in the Bellefonte Area?
The situation that created this article for me was a simple email question from a lifelong resident of Carlisle Pennsylvania. The question:
“Have you ever found any information on a man named William Petrikin and if so, what do you know about him?” His information on Bellefonte was that he had moved from Carlisle to Bellefonte around 1796.
Yes, Petrikin was a successful business man in Carlisle who for some mysterious reason had closed his business and moved to this area to help develop the town of Bellefonte before the land was purchased to build the town. It always seemed like Petrikin had great insight to the fact that Bellefonte would become a powerful political base during the first two thirds of the nineteenth century.
Some information supplied me by my new friend was a word I wasn’t familiar with “Aristocrotis”. I took the word and searched for information concerning Petrikin and Aristocrotis on the internet. I found many listings on the subject and found one very interesting subject:
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE ANTIFEDERALISTS by James P. Philbin
Philbin’s identification at the bottom of the first page: James P. Philbin is a graduate student in economics at George Mason University. He is grateful to Murray Rothbard for many lectures on history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and to Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Amy Marshall, and Fiametta Zahnd for helpful comments.
Journal of Libertarian Studies 11:1 (Fall 1994): 79-106 @ 1994 Centre For Libertarian Studies
There are twenty-seven pages of quotes and questions on material from documents; each is identified as to the publication and location where it can be verified.
This article is about the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There were the Federalists and their opponent the Antifederalists. Taxes: The Antifederalists biggest objection was the unlimited power of Congress to raise unlimited taxes.
Patrick Henry made this rebuttal to a Federalist defending the subject: I shall be told in this place, those who are to tax us are our representatives. To this I answer, that there is no real check to prevent their ruining us. There is no actual responsibility. The only semblance of a check is the negative power of not re-electing them. This, sir, is but a feeble barrier, when their personal interest, their ambition and avarice, come to be put in contrast with the happiness of the people. All checks founded on self-love, will not avail.
The previous paragraph was designed only to give my readers a sampling of the difference between the Federalists and the Antifederalist.
Philbin’s article does give insight into the history of how we are using the same pattern that destroyed all great nations throughout history and is worth reading. Anyone who would like to read Philbin’s article, and can’t retrieve it from the internet, can send me an email, or regular mail, and I will help you attain a copy.
What does all this have to do with William Petrikin?
William Petrikin was a well known Antifederalist who wrote literature that drew strong attention of those who were against the Constitution as written. The state met in Carlisle to ratify the Constitution and one of Petrikin’s articles supposedly caused a riot. Petrikin was arrested but
I cannot find where he was ever charged with anything. I also cannot find a reason why the Federalists, who forced their Constitution on the Antifederalists, suddenly became more co-operative with the Antifederalists when it came to writing the Bill of Rights.
I wonder if the Federalist’s realized the arrest of Petrikin for speaking his voice was negative publicity against the right of all citizens to be heard. In other words the Federalists may have realized that they were doing the same thing that the British had done that created the rift that started our country on a path to fight for our freedom.
Why did Petrikin leave a successful business in Carlisle, which he sold, and come to the wilderness? There could be the possibility that the founders of Bellefonte were also Antifederalists, John Dunlop did marry a granddaughter of William Findlay who was also an Antifederalist leader and the settling of the Bellefonte was people working together to make their lives better. This was an Antifederalist trait, verses relying on the state and federal governments to do things for them. The best example is Centre County, actually the founders of Bellefonte, developed the court system and building structures to house it at the expense of local people rather than it being a state expense.
As I have mentioned before many times, if you look at the history of Bellefonte you will find that this little town of Bellefonte drew many people not only for the prospect of making great wealth but people of great insight who understood that Bellefonte was way ahead of its time.
I would guess that Bellefonte was the first town in America to do away with slavery. It surely was the first town that was developed where slavery was not permitted since the laws of the land did not recognize the rights of all people, and especially slaves.
John Dunlop was only able to construct his iron works, create lumber camps to make lumber to build with and harvest the hardwood to fire the furnaces and people to operate the iron mines by bringing hundreds of former slaves to do the work.
John Dunlop did not break any laws by the way he protected people who were still slaves. The judges would still send the slaves back who were captured by the bounty hunters but only after the slave had a hearing. The county sheriff would be informed of the pending hearing and so he was off to the Stormstown area to visit with Henry Hartsock.
If you want to know what Henry did, go to the Stormstown Cemetery along route 550 and read the inscription on his tombstone. He was armed with his gun when he ambushed the bounty hunters. Henry was a nineteenth century Robin Hood.
The iron works, and the town of Bellefonte he later built, were properly named because it became known as a beautiful creation for what was accomplished here by John Dunlop. People who like to claim the word font means fountain don’t understand that in French the term font refers to molten metal.
Before John Dunlop was killed in a mining accident in 1814, he was visited by a group of owners of iron works, the Valentines and Thomas’s, who traveled the very dangerous trails that led them to Bellefonte to see the marvel that John Dunlop had created.
According to the history of the Valentines and Thomas’s, these people returned to their homes and were ecstatic about what they saw.
When John Dunlop was killed they were extremely sorry to hear the news but were elated by the potential opportunity.
Why did William Petrikin close a successful business in Carlisle to come to Bellefonte? Carlisle and Chambersburg (Path Valley where John Dunlop operated the Dunlop Iron Works), are in the same general area and he probably knew the Dunlop Harris connection. Both Petrikin and the Dunlop connection fled Scotland at the same time. Petrikin realized the potential that was in his move here.
William Petrikin was the first Bellefonte merchant and was an ardent supporter of liberty. He studied law but never worked as a lawyer. In 1796 he was appointed as Bellefonte’s first justice. On May 10 of 1809 he was appointed as Centre Counties first register and recorder. His children were all people of note and ability. The sons were all persons who served professionally and the daughters married people of distinction.
Each summer the Bellefonte Historical and Culture Association sponsors free concerts in the park on West High Street next to the Big Spring.
SUMMER SOUNDS FROM THE GAZEBO
July 11th: Tommy Wareham will make his annual appearance.
July 18th: Gary Brubaker will present Folk songs on his Guitar.
July 25th: Will find the “Little German Band.
August 1st: MIND SPINE will present Rock Music
August 8th: The Nittany Knights, Barbershop music at its best.
August 15th: Shiver Rock Music
Come to the park between seven and eight on Sunday evenings and enjoy the great music of our local musicians.