PBS “History Detectives To Film In County
The Lion TV film crew, which is based in the United Kingdom, is tentatively scheduled to travel from the U.S. Archives in Washington, D.C., to visit locations in McConnellsburg and Burnt Cabins on January 21 and 22. Stops currently agreed upon by the crew, but subject to change, include either the Fulton House or the Fulton County Historical Society’s research room at the Fulton County Library; the Hustontown residence of local historian Kenneth Keebaugh; and a “roll through” of the village of Burnt Cabins.
The footage along with advanced research completed by Keebaugh, the show’s local expert, will lay to rest the mystery posed to “History Detectives’” fact finders as to why John Blair Welch wrote to Clara Barton of the Department of Missing Men to find out the fate of American Civil War soldier Israel Brown. Questions have also arisen as to why Brown, a native of Burnt Cabins, joined the Army’s war movement at the late age of 38.
According to Keebaugh, the letter written by Welch was actually found in a book purchased at a yard sale by a resident of Indiana. The individual could likely be featured in the crew’s footage.
Possibilities are numerous in connecting Brown and Welch in this mystery, said Keebaugh, who added even though the two families may not have been direct relatives, ancestors of the Brown and Welch families were neighbors prior to the French and Indian War.
“Both families were from the area before Burnt Cabins was even Burnt Cabins,” said Keebaugh, 58.
In addition, John Blair Welch served as postmaster from his Burnt Cabins store and often times settled the estates of local residents. The building has been gutted since those days and the original facade is missing, but the building still stands adjacent to the existing Burnt Cabins Post Office.
“As the crow flies” Israel Brown resided an estimated onemile away from Welch’s store, said Keebaugh. He fathered six children to his wife, Susan. Three of those children died between March 31 and April 25, 1863, and ranged in age from 1 to 12. More than one year later on May 12, 1864, Brown enlisted with Pennsylvania’s 184th Army regiment of volunteers.
During Brown’s time in the Army, he fought in the Battle of Cold Harbor, “the final battle of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign during the Civil War and is remembered as one of American history’s bloodiest, most lopsided battles.” Keebaugh noted half the regiment died within a two-week period, while Brown was forced to march from Andersonville to a Confederate prisoner of war camp in the Carolinas where he later died.
Only six years following his enlistment, the remaining members of the Brown family appear to have disappeared and moved from the Burnt Cabins area. No connection has been made by Keebaugh between the Israel Brown family and the existing Steve Brown and Nook Brown families. Through marriage, Israel Brown’s family was also connected to the Frakers, but no familial connection has been established with the Frakers of nearby Fort Littleton.
While the scope of the film crew’s project is unknown to Keebaugh, the possibility exists much of the footage and actual program to be aired on “History Detectives” could focus on Clara Barton and her role with the Department of Missing Men in locating missing soldiers.
“History Detectives,” which just completed its’ sixth season, is “devoted to exploring the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out the facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects. Hosts of the program includes auctioneer/ appraiser Wes Cowan, appraiser/ art historian Elyse Luray, professor/author Gwen Wright, professor/author Tukufu Zuberi and professor/guest detective Eduardo Pagan.