Punxsy Historical Society welcomes History Center’s Civil War exhibit

PUNXSUTAWNEY — In a collaborative effort, two local historical societies are taking the history of the American Civil War and shrinking it down to a local, Jefferson County perspective.

From now through October, the Punxsutawney Area Historical & Genealogical Society will provide local residents with “Drumbeat to War,” an exhibit that was previously housed at the Jefferson County History Center (JCHC) in Brookville.

“As we were developing this exhibit, we thought it would be a good opportunity to display it in Brookville, and since the work was done and it was all put together, we also thought it was a wonderful idea to bring it down (to Punxsutawney),” History Center Executive Director Ken Burkett said.

According to Burkett, “Drumbeat to War” chronicles the first year of recruitment and going off to war.

Although the exhibit has changed very little from its original set-up in Brookville, Tom Curry, Board of Trustees member for the Punxsutawney Area Historical & Genealogical Society, said it has been changed around a bit to incorporate the “local flair.”

“The concept developed to share what we can,” he said. “It’s been a nice cooperative arrangement.”

Visitors to the exhibit will learn about the two principal regimental groups from Jefferson County — the 105th and the 62nd — and how they were initially recruited, formed and mustered into service, Burkett said.

“There is so much for anybody to really comprehend at one time, so our goal is to provide an appetizer for people who want to know more about it,” Curry said.

“Drumbeat to War” is the first of many exhibits planned to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which is being recognized for a span of five years.

The commemoration began in 2011 and will continue through 2015, mirroring the length of the war which lasted from 1861 to 1865.

“It’s the local scene that’s not in the history books, and I think that’s the advantage we’re talking about,” Curry said. “That’s what we can provide. What was the mood of the people and how did it happen here?”
To add a bit of local Punxsy history to the exhibit, Curry included an excerpt from a letter a Punxsutawney man wrote, which says: “I went along with them to Pittsburg and seeing them sworn in, it was a strenuous time, and the meetings that were held were exciting as the people were not all of one mind in references to the war and other questions and connections with it.”

Curry said the letter “reveals a mood” on how the war was accepted among the populace.

“It was such a major war that affected the emotions of families,” he said.

To continue to provide a local perspective on the war, the JCHC is planning another exhibit for 2013 specifically on the 105th regiment.
Burkett said he hopes to share the upcoming exhibit with the Punxsutawney Area Historical & Genealogical Society as well.

But he and Curry also ask local residents for any Civil War-era documents, letters or photographs they might like to share that may be hidden away in an attic somewhere.

“We’d like to have copy or record of them when possible, particularly letters and photos — they really hold a lot of history,” Burkett said.

So far, people have shared a great number of photos and documents with the JCHC, and some people have even loaned certain objects for temporary use.

“The Civil War was a complete change of life for people,” Curry said. “It’s the family connections that are important. The war was a life-changing thing for young people and famlies and mothers, fathers and sons, girlfriends ... young men who had no idea what war was like until they got out there and saw what was happening.”