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The Tower of Darkness

The Tower of Darkness

Monday, September 24, 2007

So I had a delicious three course breakfast courtesy of the Quality Suites people and went into downtown Crafton and waited for the Library to open at 9 AM, at which time the Historical Society room would supposedly be open. Of course it wasn't. The people at the desk said "That's open only by appointment." The fact that I pointed out the Crafton Historical Society's inability to answer my phone calls made little impression. But I had a backup plan -- the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, which reportedly had master files on all the marriage and death notices in the newspaper from 1780 until 1916.

I drove to the Penn-Lincoln Parkway (now I - 279) and discovered the mother of all traffic jams waiting to get through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, so I got off at Greentree, took the road north to the West End, and entered the interstate at the tunnel's egress. Negotiating two lane changes in the space of the bridge's span, I went east to Forbes Street, getting off to see that marvelous structure pictured above. The Cathedral of Learning. I first saw this structure fifty years ago when we went to see the dinosaurs at the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History. It is part of the University of Pittsburgh. Not surprisingly, as my father had attended Carnegie Tech next door, he referred to it as the Tower of Darkness. But, you see, it was black then. The entire city of Pittsburgh has since been sandblasted for your comfort and safety.

Found the Carnegie Library next to the Art Museum and the Natural History Museum. The slogan used as today's title is in six foot high letters carved in the marble. This is the coolest library I have ever seen. Specially niched ceilings to prevent noise, left from the original construction. Electronics everywhere. And a full coffee-bar/lunch counter on the first floor, with brownies the size of a laptop for only $1.80 (with or without peanut butter).

Oh yeah, the genealogy stuff. Everything is on microfilm. I pulled out 16 possible references to Perrins and Wentz's from the marriage and death notice indexes (now on microfilm, made from the original index cards). Then to the grueling work of piling through the microfilmed Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, later the Pittsburgh Gazette Times. I will have to spend some time sorting out the Wentz material, as much of it is not the right family. Similarly, there were two Perrin death notices from the progeny of Edward Perrin (another son of John Sr.) who settled in Independence (Washington County), PA and managed later to make it to Carnegie, PA to die.

But two big scores. Unlike the other 15 people I looked up, Florus R. C. Perrin got not just a death notice, but a real obituary, on the editorial page of the January 19, 1910 Gazette Times.

Florius RC Perrin, aged 47, a photographer with a studio in the Arrott Power Building, died yesterday morning at his residence, 120 Noble Avenue, Crafton. He leaves a widow, Asia Kramer Perrin, and seven children. Funeral services will be held at the family residence this evening at 8 o'clock.

Family lore does not spell Florus' name this way. But no matter; the notice was in bigger print than the usual death notices, and actually mentions his work.

The other interesting notice had to do with the death of his first wife. This is dated Oct 17, 1892.

PERRIN. On Saturday October 15, 1892, at 5:40 P.M. Jennifer M. Maxwell, wife of F.R.C. Perrin. Funeral service at her late residence, Crafton Station, P.C.C. & St. Louis, on Monday October 17 at 1 o'clock. Train leaves Union Station at 12:40 P.M. Internment private.

Jennifer's father (still alive at this point) had been a policeman in Pittsburgh, and was known as Captain in the family. I get the impression that everyone expected quite a turnout, to list the correct train to take to the (less than 15 years old) new suburb of Crafton. I don't know what the abbreviation "P. C. C. & St. Louis" means yet.

But now I am in Uniontown, at a Marriot with actual internet connections, looking forward to going next door for some fine Chinese buffet cuisine.