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Coal Country Connections

Coal country
By Melanie Akren-Dickson 

How finding an 1800s autograph album led to a quest to find its signers in coal towns of northeastern Pennsylvania

Previously published as "This, Their Monument" by Melanie Akren-Dickson. The discovery of an 1800s autograph album from the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania led to a journey to learn about the album signers' lives. The signers of Mary Boyd's autograph album lived places like the historic towns of Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), Eckley (now the outdoor museum (Eckley Miners' Village), and Old Buck Mountain (a village that no longer exists), as well as Freeland, Hazleton, and even Philadelphia. With the use of online and hard copy records, newspaper articles, interviews, cemetery walks and family records, an amazing amount of information was found about the album signers and their families and reveals a fascinating group of people connected to each other through Mary's album. This is an updated edition with additional information and nearly 70 new images.

Available on Amazon

Conversations with the Court House Deer

Conversations with the court house deer
By Melanie Akren-Dickson 

Timely thoughts on local matters.

The Court House Deer in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania is a life-size iron statue which has graced the lawn of the courthouse for over 150 years. In his early days the Deer was a celebrity, the subject of a column in a local newspaper. He and a young reporter named Ernest Hanson discussed local people, news and politics, and the Deer wasn't afraid of giving his opinion, often to the dismay of those he talked about.
The following are quotes from the Deer, describing the reactions of some of those people:
"...he got so mad that he kicked me in the ribs and said if I talked any more about him, he'd have O'Riley put me in the pound as a public nuisance."
"He came and looked at me the other day until I pretty near shed my other horn...I'll have to be a little more careful about what I say to you."
"A couple of nights ago one of the policeman came along and hit me on the nose with his club. He said he understood I'd been saying the police force of this city was not composed of first-class men. I told him that was four weeks ago, and he said that didn't matter, he'd only just heard of it...I could not help remarking that that was about the way with our policemen, they don't hear of anything until four weeks after it happens, and he hit me on the nose again."
In their conversations in the articles, the Deer and the reporter were champions of the working class and the poor, and critical of abuses of power by the wealthy and powerful.
The Court House Deer articles form the core of this book, supplemented bydozens of images: of Hanson, the Deer, and several people and places mentioned in the articles. An index with brief biographies of the people mentioned is provided at the end of the book.

Available on Amazon

You Dream Every Night That I am Home

You dream every night
By Melanie Akren-Dickson 

Letters from a young Civil War soldier to his wife in Eckley, a town in the anthracite coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania

Based on real-life letters discovered in family records, You Dream Every Night That I am Home is the tragic story of a young Civil War soldier from the anthracite coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania. The title is a quote from one of his letters.
John Williamson was a 22-year-old mule driver in the coal mine, newly married and with a baby on the way when he enlisted with Company K of the Pennsylvania 81st Infantry in the fall of 1861. His letters to his wife Hester form the core of the book.
Through his letters, we follow John on his journey from Eckley, Pennsylvania to training camp, on to Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, Virginia, and finally the Virginia Peninsula. And with the author, we retrace his journey and see through then-and-now photos and images how some places have changed dramatically and others very little.
Insightful, observant, and sometimes humorous, we get to know John Williamson through his writing. As he heads into his final days, filled with battle, we are the unwitting observers of the approach to the inevitable conclusion.
Filled with color images, maps, and other first-hand accounts, You Dream Every Night That I am Home offers a vivid account of the final weeks, days, and hours in the life of John Williamson and goes on to tell what happened with those around him after he was gone. 

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USS Monitor: A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage

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By John D. Broadwater
On March 9, 1862, the USS Monitor, prototype of a new class of warships, fought the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack)at Hampton Roads, Virginia, after the Virginia had ravaged the Union fleet blockading the James River, sinking larger, seemingly more powerful wooden warships in a potent demonstration of the power of an armored, heavily-gunned, steam-powered warship. While a technical stalemate, the events at Hampton Roads changed naval warfare forever. Less than nine months later, the now-famous Monitor was under tow, heading south to Beaufort, North Carolina, when she sank in heavy seas, with substantial loss of life.

In 1973, Monitor’s remains were located, and in 1974 investigation of the wreck began, under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the US Navy. This book is the story of this decision, the raising of the turret, and the subsequent management of the historic resource. Sidebars in the book flesh out details. Lavish illustrations complement the informative and highly readable account by the archaeologist who planned and directed the major expeditions that resulted in recovery of many of the Monitor’s most significant objects.

Mary Lincoln's Flannel Pajamas and Oher Stories from the First Ladies

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By Feather Schwartz Foster

Mary Lincoln's Flannel Pajamas are various STORIES about First Ladies between Martha & Mamie, centering on some items of their clothing, whether it is a gown, or a pair of shoes, a hat or piece jewelry. All stories are real stories, between 600-2000 words each; it is not a fiction. The clothing is either factual, actual or metaphorical.

Mary Lincoln’s Flannel Pajamas and other Stories from the First Ladies’ Closet is available in trade paperback, hard cover and e-book.  It can be ordered now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

The First Ladies

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By Feather Schwartz Foster

Brief snippets of the OLD First Ladies - Martha thru Mamie.  Easy to read and understand.  A perfect gift book.

Click here to learn more about Feather Schwartz Foster and her books.