2009-04-30 / Front Page

Society Names Two Historians Of The Year

Coleman, Mentzer get top honors

John Mentzer John Mentzer The Fulton County Historical Society made history of its own Friday night, naming not one but two historians of the year for the first time ever at its annual dinner meeting held at the Hustontown Firehall.

Historical Society board members Edith "Edie" Coleman of Crystal Spring and John Mentzer of Mercersburg were given the awards for their exceptional volunteer work in 2008.

In her two years as the society's Fulton House museum curator, Coleman has been unfaltering in her efforts to make the museum more accessible to the public. Society board member Ruth Reeder, who presented the award, said that because of Coleman the Fulton House museum, in 2008, was open for more hours than in recent years, including one day each week over the summer.

Reeder also recognized Coleman for leadership in grant writing and paper preservation and for fundraising efforts that have benefitted the Historical Society and the conservation of its museum collection.

During her five years as a board member, Reeder said, Coleman has attended workshops on grant writing, small museum operation and paper preservation. As museum curator she plans two special exhibits at the Fulton House each year and, according to Reeder, Coleman's two 2009 exhibits will feature old toys and items in the Historical Society's collection belonging to Lafayette C. Baker (1826-1868), a United States investigator and spy, serving for the Union Army during the Civil War and under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.

Edith Coleman Edith Coleman Notable among the numerous fundraisers Coleman has spearheaded are teas at the Fulton House, resurrecting the society's annual soup sale at the Fulton House's old log kitchen during the Fall Folk Festival and having souvenirs, such as mugs, Tshirts, magnets and key chains, made to sell in addition to the society's usual books and prints.

Accepting the award, Coleman joked that until Friday evening she had no idea she was so important. She thanked all those who had helped with her projects and also thanked the nearly 90 people who attended the Friday evening dinner for coming.

"I certainly am honored to be named Historian of the Year," Coleman said.

Mentzer was awarded Historian of the Year for his documentation of the signatures left by Union troops at Tonoloway Primitive Baptist Church when they had been hospitalized there during the time of Stonewall Jackson's bombardment of Hancock, Md., in 1862.

The 140-page book - "Tonoloway, If Its Walls Could Talk" - took two years to research and write and was published by the Friends of Tonoloway Primitive Baptist Church in August 2008.

To date, the Friends have totaled more than $7,000 in book sales, said Lindsay R. Mellott, Friends board member, who presented Mentzer's award on behalf of the Historial Society.

Calling him a passionate, amateur historian, Mellott said Mentzer, who was raised in Mc- Connellsburg, has also complet- ed two family genealogies that have been published, is working on a third and is active in several other historical societies.

Mellott said she knew of no one more deserving of the Historian of the Year award than Mentzer.

"His published research on Tonoloway is a significant contribution to the public record of Fulton County history," Mellott said, "and a reminder of the important role Tonoloway Primitive Baptist Church has played in the story of Fulton County."

Besides thanking the Historical Society for honoring him, Mentzer expressed his appreciation to longtime friend and fellow McConnellsburg High School classmate Harold Largent, who helped decipher the soldiers' signatures; and Joan McCulloh of Mercersburg and Anna Maye Sigel of Warfordsburg for editing his manuscript.

Concluding his remarks, Mentzer said, "Tonoloway, If Its Walls Could Talk" is a tribute to the early families in Fulton County and to the patriots in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars."

Prior to the announcement of the historian of the Year awards, outgoing Historical Society president Dick Newman presided over a short business meeting that included the nomination and election of society officers: Dick Miller, president; Monica Seville, vice president; and Ken Keebaugh, secretary. Elected to three-year terms as directors were Linda Garber and Summer Stiffler. Dick Newman was elected to a one-year term as director, and Gene Leese will take over the duties of treasurer from Dan Swain.

The society's annual meeting concluded with Burt Kummerow from Historyworks Inc. of Baltimore, Md., presenting highlights and local stories based on his research for the guidebook "Pennsylvania's Forbes Trail: Gateways and Getaways along the Legendary Route from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh."

Kummerow said the story of the Forbes Trail is "a story to be proud of."

"It's all around us in Pennsylvania's historic nooks and crannies."

Return to top