Hi Friends and neighbors, I hope this finds you doing well and interested in local history and heritage! In this issue you will find a portion of local history written by Lynne Jane Taylor Jacoby, a Smicksburg native whose writings have been donated to us by her family! Please make a plan to stop in this year. You will be glad you did! – From the desk of President Larry Bussard
Jane’s maternal Grandfather was John Newton Lewis, whose stone work is well known throughout the area. You can spot a few examples of his work right in Smicksburg near the Methodist Church and also the Veterans Memorial. Another notable example of his stone work is the round turret at the McCormick Mansion, the home of Mark and Ella Mae Stephenson on McCormick Road.
He was a stone mason by trade and built many beautiful porches and fireplaces around the area. In that era, wages were $1.00 a day. In the winter he would cut blocks of ice from the frozen waters of Little Mahoning Creek (it ran through Smicksburg) for the ice house up the road. They cut it, loaded it in a wagon with sawdust separating the layers of ice, then hauled it to the ice house where it was stacked to the roof and lasted until spring. Our winters seemed different back then. In those days, we had ice boxes for refrigeration and ice was delivered to the homes in Smicksburg every so often. The ice boxes had a porcelain interior and were placed on an enclosed porch without heat.
I enjoyed my grandpa Lewis. He was a tall man with strong, yet gentle hands. On summer Sunday afternoons, home from church and teaching Sunday school, we would go for a walk up the race in Smicksburg. He would point out different wild flowers, the white bark on the birch trees, Sassafras roots and the hickory nuts cradled in their harsh prickly exteriors. One time we came home with a little land turtle, Grandpa spotted, almost buried in the mud. On the way home we would stop at the horse trough in the pasture. The spring that filled the trough came from within the mountain, Grandpa said, and we would get a cold drink of water in out cupped hands. Sometimes we would climb to the top of the hill which we called the “round top” on the Paul Stiteler farm and pick trailing arbutus, a fragrant flower with pink and white blossoms that grew close to the ground. My sister, Bonnie, and I had many picnics, a sandwich and a cookie, on a huge rock on the round top.
Grandpa Lewis played the big bass horn in the community band and marched in the Memorial and Veterans Dav parades. His father was Capt. Even Lewis of Co. “A” 78th PA Volunteers. Capt. Even lived just across the field in Smicksburg and Grandpa went to visit him every Sunday when my mother, Grace (Lewis) Taylor, was young. He would take her hand and make the trip to Capt. Even’s where good smells of apples always came from the fruit cellar.
When I was young, in Smicksburg, we had Reithmiller’s General Store (everything from cookies, cheese, yard goods to gasoline); Dodson’s Creamery (where we could get a hunk of Baker’s milk chocolate for a penny); voting house, school, 2 churches, Elder McCurdy’s Carpenter Shop, Post Office, garage and Grandpa’s Bird House. People came from long distances sometimes to see the many mounted animals, birds and snakes. Grandpa Lewis was a taxi-
dermist, a hobby he taught my mother and they worked together on this. Taxidermy is the art of treating the skins of animals so that they retain their natural appearance, and also of stuffing and mounting them.
P.S. I forgot, we also had Dave Elkin’s blacksmith shop and the telephone board that Mr. & Mrs. George Welch took care of. He also rang the Methodist Church bell on Sunday mornings.
Grandpa was a naturalist, so he placed different mounted specimens in scenes like you might see in the woods; a squirrel climbing a tree or holding a hickory nut; snakes charming birds, a rattler coiled to strike; a weasel about to bite a pheasant. He even had a groundhog with a freak hard mask over its face abd a two-headed calf that was born, then died, two heads, 3 ears, one right in the center. Both my sons, Michael and Tom Jacoby, asked me to take this to school for Show & Tell when they were in Ben Franklin Elementary School. Mother mounted a ring-neck pheasant for my husband Chuck and the boys’ first squirrels.
Grandpa Lewis was a good fisherman and hunter. He always said, “Kill only what you need for food and take care of your game promptly and properly.” He had a little 22 pistol and if someone was ill, and needed a squirrel for broth, they would call on John Lewis. He would go out to the woods, wait real still so he could shoot, hitting only one eye, for the squirrel is a small animal and he didn’t want to destroy any flesh. Moneywise, ammo was hard to come by and none was used for practice. He was one of the few men who had a rifle and he would loan it out, when asked, and hoped it would be returned.
One winter when the snow was deep (up to my waist) I asked Mother if I could put my snow suit on and go to the Stiteler’s for milk. The snow was a chore to walk thru and I stopped at Grandpa and Grandma’s to get warm. Grandpa decided he better get dressed and escort me home, which he did.
He had a library of books of all kinds; The Pit and the Pendulum, by Edgar Allen Poe; bird books; several by James Fenimore Cooper,. The one I liked best was ‘The Last of the Mohicans’. I believe my son, Michael, has this book in his possession at this time. Another of his books was ‘House of Seven Gables’, by Poe; David Copperfield by C. Dickens; and many history books; Treasure Island by Robt. L. Stevenson.
John Newton Lewis married Lula Ella DeLancey on 13 March 1895 at her parents’ home near Beyer, Indiana Co, PA. He built their home in 1894 and took her there as a bride.
Children born to this union:
William Wade Lewis b. 13 June 1897 d. 25 Jan. 1984 m. Mildred “Pat” Love
*Grace Leone Lewis b. 17 Jan. 1901 d. 14 Dec. 1999 m. Thomas Monroe Taylor 22 Dec. 1920
Glenn DeLancey Lewis b. 3 Mar. 1906 d. 29 May 1959 m. Ist Leone Walker and 2nd A. Louise Shray
Sara Catherine Lewis b. 4 Mar. 1916 d. 28 June 1985
* My mother, Grace (Lewis) Taylor told me that in 1909, her father walked each day up to the site of the McCormick Mansion where Grandpa and his brother Milton Keel Lewis built the round tower. Mr. McCormick was a musician and had a harp shipped in from overseas and placed it in the tower room. Mr, McCormick was an elderly man, Mother said, when his son John B. and daughter, Margery were born. His wife, Mabel, was around Grandma Lula’s age and as a child. I knew Mable, for she visited Grandma often in the summer time. She had deeded the mansion over to Margery after Mr. McCormick’s death and built a home in Smicksburg about 1-1/2 blocks from Grandma Lewis.
Grandfather built the veterans war memorial in 1945, on the main street in Smicksburg
Wynne Jane (Taylor) Jacoby 24 Nov. 2000