Thursday, January 29, 2009

Road Warriors--Tracing Great Grandmother VanGilder's Life on The Mon

Jessie and my Grandmother, Sarah Margaret VanGilder

     A couple of summers ago (August 2006) my brother Ken and I followed the Monongahela River (referred to as The Mon to those of us from Pittsburgh) from North Charleroi , PA down to Morgantown, WV. Least you think that we come up with some rather strange trips, the purpose was to visit the various river towns that our paternal Great Grandmother VanGilder, Jessie Pool VanGilder, lived in from about 1914-1919.  On second thought, perhaps this is a rather strange trip!!! 

    I have had an unquenched fascination with my Great Grandma VanGilder. I was born before she died and I know she held me as a baby and probably saw me as a toddler, but I have no memory of her. My aunt told me that Jessie was her favorite grandmother, the “nice” one, full of life and laughter. My father remembered her extraordinary cooking and baking. Once Aunt Faith mentioned that her bedroom set in the apartment at 168 Lincoln Ave in Bellevue first belonged to Grandmother VanGilder. I was overwhelmed thinking that I used to sleep in that bed as a child when I stayed overnight with Grams and Pop Pop. 

      For years I had stumbled about trying to find out more information about Jessie…to no avail. The genealogy room at WVU in Morgantown gave me no answers. One day while I was noodling around on up came a newspaper article about Jessie. To say I was in shock would be an understatement. The paper was from Charleroi, PA--a “society article” about Jessie and her sister, Sarah Pool Pinyerd (referred to by family as Aunt Pinny). The quest was on. I put every variation of Jessie VanGilder into the search engine and came up with a multitude of information. My Dad told that he though she cooked on a riverboat called LaBelle under the wheel of a Captain Faddis.   The newspaper reports gave various small river towns between Morgantown and Pittsburgh as her home.

Aunt Pinny's home in North Charleroi, Pennsylvania

     One place she stayed and actually lived in for awhile was her sister’s place in North Charleroi. That, I decided would be the starting point of our trip. 

     Aunt Pinny housed all her sisters in her home at one time or another and her mother, Sarah Louise Harner Pool, my paternal great great grandmother,  died in that house. I had struck a gold mine on ancestry. 

     Charleroi and North Charleroi are river towns built on the side of a hill that runs parallel to the Mon. The hill is so perpendicular to the main street at the bottom, that when Ken drove up one street, I had the feeling that the car would flip end over end back down to the river. Whew! 

     We found Aunt Pinny’s former home and there was a For Sale sign posted outside. That gave us the latitude to really give the place a good look and also take some photos (Miss Snap Happy strikes again!). I will admit I had a shiver run through me standing in front of the house. Knowing that several generations of my family once lived there and that my Great Grandma VanGilder had walked this same street and perhaps stood right where I was standing was too thrilling for words.

Lock # 4 on the Mon

     North Charleroi was, at one time, called Lock #4. The lock is located at the bottom of the street where Pinny lived. The locks are in the river to allow boats to pass through water that goes over falls. Boats enter the locks and water is either pumped in or out of the lock dependent on which side of the falls the boat is going. I might mention here that Aunt Pinny’s husband, John Pinyerd was a riverboat man. I don’t know much about him. Perhaps he even worked on the same riverboat where Jessie cooked or used his connections to get her the job.

Small towns line the Mon on both sides
as it snakes its way from Pittsburgh to Morgantown.

     We stopped in several additional small river towns on our way to Morgantown—Allenport and Rices Landing, both places Jessie called home.  It was an exciting day trip which brought me a little closer to understanding the life my Great Grandmother lived and adding to my admiration of her.

Since this was written in 2009, I have found that my great grandmother's time on the LaBelle was after 1920 and those travels were primarily up and down the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers.

Jessie Pool VanGilder Blogs on Facebook

-VANGILDER, JESSICA POOL--Carnival of Genealogy

-VANGILDER, JESSICA POOLE--Chow Time on the River:  A Transcription

-VANGILDER, JESSICA POOLE--Mrs. Van Stewardess on Steamboats

-VANGILDER, JESSICA POOL--Timeline on TimeToast

-VANGILDER, JESSICA POOL--Tracing Her Life on the Mon

-VANGILDER, JESSICA POOL--Identified at Poole Family Reunion

Updated September 18, 2022

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© 2009, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser

1 comment:

  1. how interesting! When I looked at the picture of Jessie I read it that it was a picture taken before she had a "golfer" removed.
    I thought how scottish!