Burroughs to give presentation

BURGETTSTOWN – The Fort Vance Historical Society will host A. Parker Burroughs, “Washington County Murder and Mayhem: Historic Crimes of Southwestern Pennsylvania” author and former Observer-Reporter executive editor, when he presents “An Unholy Passion: The Tragic Tale of Martin Reed” at 1 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Burgettstown Community Library located at 2 Kerr St.

Burroughs will discuss the Martin Reed case, which includes a love triangle, poisoning and prison break, all occurring against the backdrop of the 1891 Burgettstown Agricultural Fair.

“He hid with friends and family in the area – they had a $500 bounty on him,” said Debbie Vraninin, historical society member. “There were friends and family who didn’t believe he was guilty, and they hid him. He also lived here almost all his life, and he knew the woods well. He escaped capture for awhile.”

The book examines six Washington County cases, including “An Unholy Passion,” “Shreds of Quivering Flesh: The Explosion That Rocked Washington,” “The Wreck of the Cannonball Express” and “The Murder of Thelma Young” and two that were previously published as serials in the Observer-Reporter – “A Death in the Lyric” and “The West Enders: A Story of Murder in Desperate Times.”

Burroughs, an award-winning writer, was a newspaperman for more than 40 years and has taught writing courses at Bethany College. He also has written “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor” and has edited “200 Years: Our History Through the Pages of the Observer-Reporter.”

The event will include light refreshments and is open to the public. Admission is free.

In other projects, the historical society continues to add material to its online database. The group currently has more than 1,500 obituaries from Burgettstown Enterprise back issues available online.

“Each obituary needs to be scanned and the name typed in,” Vraninin said, noting uploading the obituaries is an on-going project, updated monthly.

The historical society’s information on local history, ranging from business, churches and schools to military service, sports and local organizations, are available at the library’s website, burglibrary.org. Much of it has been drawn from newspaper accounts, meeting minutes, personal histories and commemorative booklets that are part of the society’s collection. Vraninin has curated much of it, organizing it in categories ranging from one-room schoolhouses to the Civil War.

The historical society has made several items available for sale, including prints of the William S. Bradley Camp No. 96 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War flag. The camp’s name honored the first Burgettstown-area soldier to die in the war.

“If the flag dates back to the founding (of the camp) in 1906, then it’s more than 100 years old,” said Vraninin.

The historical society had hoped to mount the flag for display, but the treated, hand-painted silk had been exposed to sunlight and the elements when it was in use. The flag – measuring approximately 6-and-a-half feet by 5 feet – would have been secured to a wire-and-muslin mount, with each stripe sewn to the mount to anchor it and prevent sagging or stress on the material. The cost to properly mount the flag would have been around $20,000.

Instead, the group has had the flag professionally photographed and printed with archival ink on archival-quality paper in a limited run of 100 numbered prints. Prints are available for purchase for $50 each. Post cards featuring the flag also are available for $1.

“We wanted to make it accessible to everybody,” said Vraninin.

The historical society has a number of historical maps available for sale, including two versions of Burgettstown – one with archival ink and photo paper for $20 and one with archival ink and paper for $30.

“They’re suitable for framing,” said Vraninin.

The historical society also has made arrangements to print four-page folios of the first Burgettstown Enterprise edition, dating to 1879 and featuring a history of the borough, and the Dec. 23, 1896, edition. Both are available for $30. The group also is working to have an archival-quality reproduction of the first page of the October 1878 Business Man, another local paper, produced for purchase.

Copies of historical maps of Smith, Independence, Mount Pleasant, Cross Creek, Hanover, Jefferson and Robinson (then known as Robeson) township are available for $1 each.

New members are welcome, and those interested in sharing photos, histories and other items of local historical interested are asked to call Vraninin at (724) 947-5441. Photographs and histories can be scanned and returned, and copies of the Burgettstown Enterprise from 1914 to 1915 are of especial interest.