The names Elizabeth Weaver Myers, Sophie Keller Hall and Emma Hunter Stuart may be familiar to Boalsburg residents or history buffs, but until recently, many details about their lives remained unknown.
As part of its continuing observance of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, the Boalsburg Heritage Museum is taking a closer look at these three women and their role in shaping the village’s claim as one of the first places to honor fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.
The exhibit “Three Ladies and the Birth of a Tradition” contains recently uncovered letters, photos and other documents collected by museum volunteers over the past year.
“We became interested in the personal information we uncovered in the letters and wanted to find out how they lived their lives and where they were on that particular day,” said Susan Evans, the museum’s exhibits coordinator. She referred to the day in October 1864, when the women unknowingly celebrated the first Memorial Day by placing flowers on the graves of family members who had died in the Civil War.
Evans and the museum’s other volunteers combed through photos in Penn State’s Special Collections Library, spoke with the women’s descendants still living in the area and uncovered letters from Sophie Keller’s brother, Daniel.
“They paved the way for younger women being active in the community,” Evans said. “People know the names, see the bronze statue here in town and may have a vague idea of what the story is about, but we wanted to look at what motivated them that day.”
Civil War-era riflesAnother exhibit at the museum this season displays Civil War-era rifles handmade by local artist and gunsmith Philip Sauerlender. Evans said Sauerlender exhibited at the museum when it opened in the mid-1980s, and the group thought now was an appropriate time to bring his work back.
“I was just astounded at the level of detail that he has in these guns. ... You really have to admire his craftsmanship,” Evans said. “We thought his work would be a nice companion to the other exhibit as we continue the theme of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.”
“Three Ladies and the Birth of a Tradition” and “A Long Rifle Exhibition: Military and Civilian Muzzle Loading Rifles of the 19th Century” are on display from 2-4 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays, or by appointment, through Dec. 8 at the Boalsburg Heritage Museum, 304 E. Main St., Boalsburg. Call 466-3035 or visit www.boalsburgheritagemuseum.org for more information.