Spain in our Hearts

April 11th, 2016

For anyone stirred by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the recently published book by Adam Hochschild is a must read.  Spain in our Hearts.  It is a painful, tragic, true history of the war.  What I liked most about the book were the final chapters where Hochschild documented the lives of the survivors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  


My good friend, Sue Hanna, introduced me to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  Together we attended many of the annual reunions of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (ALBA) in New York City on May Day weekend.  Those trips were memorable days.  Keynote speakers included Pete Seeger, Harry Bellefonte, Amy Goodman, Judge Baltasar Garzon …  One reunion was held at the Cooper Union building using the actual podium where Abraham Lincoln gave his campaign speech in 1860.  To be sure that was “fitting and proper”.  At the reunions, the living veterans would address the crowded auditorium with endless enthusiasm and spunk.  It was intimidating and encouraging at the same time to be in such a crowd of liberal people.

The last ALB veteran, Delmer Berg, died on 28 Feb 2016.  He was 100.  For me it was a sad day.  I lost a hero.  The world lost a good man. 



Sue Hanna with Jack Penrod in 2006 (F Nash Collection)

Ms Hanna and I followed, and honored, Jack Penrod (1913-2008).  Born in Birmingham, Al and raised in Johnstown, PA,  Mr John Arthur Penrod was a graduate of Pitt in 1936.  Working as an activist organizing steel workers at the Jones & Laughlin plant in Aliquippa, PA, he was fired for his efforts.  Always idealistic, he went to Spain in 1937 to fight Franco fascism.  He led a sniper squad in the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion of the 15th International Brigade in Teruel and was wounded before the famed retreat across the Ebro River and the departure parade for the International Brigades along the Diagonal Ave in Barcelona.  That departure parade was witnessed by 300,000 people of Barcelona on 28 Oct 1938.  (Two weeks after the farewell to the International Brigades, Nazi storm troopers attacked 1,000 synagogues and 7,000 Jewish businesses in what became known as Kristallnacht.)  When Franco “liberated”  Barcelona two months later the Diagonal was empty.  After serving in the Philippines during WW II, Mr Penrod became a professor and later Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Florida.  According to Hochschild, Mr Penrod destroyed his memoir of the Spanish Civil War because “at one time I didn’t know whether they (FBI) might actually get a search warrant to search our house”.  Mr Penrod was in his nineties and hatpin sharp when I last spoke with him.


Sherron Biddle toasting Ernest Hemmingway with her Cava in the Hotel Majestic 2014 (F Nash Collection)

Fellow world traveler, Sherron Biddle, and I have visited together the Barcelona and Ebro River area of Spain.  Today its Montsant and Priorat wines (DOQ) are celebrated worldwide.  While in Barcelona, we toasted Ernest Hemmingway and the other  Spanish Civil War journalists with a glass of Cava at the Majestic Hotel where he lodged during the war.  We also walked the Diagonal on a wet and dreary day in solidarity with the ideals of the ALB.


Have a look at the The Volunteer.   It’s a quarterly magazine featuring current news about the Spanish Civil War and the history of the volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  The 2016 ALBA award ceremony is Sat, 7 May, honoring Lydia Cacho and Jeremy Scahill. 


For supplying the oil, trucks, and tires to Franco, damn Texaco, Firestone, Ford, GM, …  It did not occur to me that I could be so moved by a history book.

Although this post has nothing to do with steamboats, it is near to my heart.


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The White City

April 5th, 2016

The national bestseller (2003), Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is a wonderful book about Chicago in 1893.  The White City is the World’s Columbian Exposition.  The devil refers to a serial murderer who used the fair to lure his victims to their deaths, at least nine and maybe a total of two hundred. 



Pass to the World’s Columbian Exposition (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

For some unknown reason, I have a pass for 9 Oct 1893 with a hand written number – 716,881.  That day, Monday, had been designated Chicago Day.  Chicago was proud of its fair.  Every business closed for the day.  The weather helped also.  It was an “apple crisp” day according to Larson.  On that day 713,446 people paid to enter and another 37,380 visitors used passes.  The total was 751,026, more people than had attended any peaceful event in history.  It easily surpassed theformer world’s record of 397,000 at the Paris exposition. 




Pass to the World’s Columbian Exposition obverse (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

I have had this Chicago World’s Fair ticket for many years but until I read Devil in the White City I had not understood its meaning.  The ticket was included with the Jacob Poe family memorabilia.  I still have to determine to whom the pass belonged.   In 1893 a round trip fare to the world’s fair on the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line was advertised at $18. 


To me every trip to a library or an archive is like a small detective story.




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All Rights Reserved

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More Sad News

March 6th, 2016

Delmer Berg, the last known living US veteran of the Spanish Civil War, died on 28 Feb 2016.  He was 100. 


I have had a long interest in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the 2,800 American volunteers who fought for the elected Spanish government against the fascist insurrection led by General Franco backed by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.  In fact, a friend and I used to attend the annual reunion of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in New York City for many years.  A fun day.


Our last trip to Barcelona was partly planned around a theme of the Spanish Civil War.  Sherron and I followed in the footsteps of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade as they marched down the Diagonal in a departure parade witnessed by 300K citizens of Barcelona.  When Franco’s troops “liberated” Barcelona about 30 days later, the same streets were empty.  Delmer Berg, according to his obituary, served in the Battle of Ebro River.  The Ebro ran red as Republican soldiers attempted to swim across it to safety.  On our vacation we drove along the Ebro for miles and may have passed the ground that Berg was defending.  We also tipped a glass of Cava to Ernest Hemmingway in the Hotel Majestique (still standing in Barcelona ) where he lived during the latter stages of the civil war.


Volunteers like Delmer Berg fought alongside Spanish Republicans.  Their cause was reported by Hemingway, Robert Capa, Martha Gellhorn, Eric Blair (George Orwell), and others.  The book, Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War, is a well written story about the devastation of the Spanish Civil War.  The Hotel Florida which was in Madrid was demolished. 


I feel sad because I lost a friend.  The world has lost a good man – Delmer Berg.



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Troubling News

February 24th, 2016

The Beaver Co Genealogy and History Center (BCGHC) is facing a serious financial funding problem due to budgetary irregularities in Beaver Co.  The county commissioners cut all discretionary spending, including 100% of the funding directed to BCGHC.  The reduction was effective immediately. In our current climate of no new taxes even for good purposes, it is unknown whether these funds will ever be reinstated.  The funding represented 52% of the BCGHC budget.


This organization is quite frugal.  It has no salaried employees. Operational costs are covered by membership dues and research fees, and for each of the last 30 years a grant from the Beaver Co Board of Commissioners. 


The BCGHC needs your support.  We are all touched by local history.  The work done by the BCGHC volunteers collecting and conserving historical records has been astonishing.  Their help has been instrumental to my efforts to record the history of the GeorgetownSteamboats.  The boats themselves disappeared more than a hundred years ago.  The masters and pilots, engineers and clerks, mates and roustabouts have likewise gone.  Today, the records of the lives of those who manned those steamers are only found in places like the BCGHC.  Our forbearers deserve the honor of remembrance.


The history of Beaver County may be lost if the BCGHC if not properly funded.  Local history is a gift, and a responsibility.  It is up to us to preserve it and pass it along to future generations.  If you agree, please consider sending a donation. 


Beaver County Genealogy and History Center

Beaver Train Station

250 E End Ave

Beaver, A 15009



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The National Archives

January 23rd, 2016


Last week I made my 9thtrip to The National Archives.  Usually a trip to DC is an overnight stay in a hotel or B&B.  A morning drive from Carlisle, PA allows one “pull” of references at approx. 1:30 PM if I arrive before 11:00 AM and meet the request time.  For reasons I do not understand, my requests take more time than most.  An archives reference specialist must “spot” my requests before the volumes are located and obtained.  Inadvertently I lose much valuable research time. 

Str Fearless Cert of Enrollment (The National Archives)

Although I made some progress last week, my pull request on Mon at 3:00 PM did not arrive at the reference room till almost noon on Tue.  This steamboat interest, obsession according to my wife, is expensive as well as time consuming. 

The jewel of this trip was the proof that the owner of the str Fearless was Capt Thomas S Poe just months before his death. 


My Monday request of four volumes of Certificates of Enrollment resulted in three on Tue.  By the time I realized I was missing a volume, my “archives vacation” time expired.  It was too late to submit another pull before I had to drive home.


Four more “full” days before I complete the review of the Certificate of Enrollments for the port of Pittsburgh.  By another measure, two overnight trips to DC.


I also need two or three days to review the Vessels File, Record Group 92, to complete the review of the service of the Georgetown civilians during the Civil war.




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New Year Musing

January 1st, 2016

Am I an expert on the Civil War?  No. 

Do I know a lot now about Ohio River and Civil War packets? Yes. 

Will I ever write a book about Georgetown packets and the Civil War?  Most likely not.



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Post Christmas Dinner

December 28th, 2015


Spread Eagle Tavern (F Nash Collection)

The Spread Eagle Tavern is a special place.  My sister and Bro-in-law treated my wife and me to a wonderful dinner at the seasonally decorated and fire-lit restaurant and inn.  The building is one of the finest examples of Federal Period Architecture in Ohio. 


In 1837, the tavern was built on the Sandy and Beaver Canal which connected to the Ohio and Erie Canal.  The Sandy and Beaver Canal was completed in 1848.  At that time the Spread Eagle was a flourishing place of commerce. The canal was abandoned in 1852 and with its loss commerce of the town also declined. 

By the way the Sandy and Beaver Canal was built along the west branch of the Little Beaver Creek which empties into the Ohio River at Smiths Ferry – opposite Georgetown, PA.


If ever road-weary along the Sandy and Beaver Canal, I highly recommend the Spread Eagle for lunch or dinner.    





Copyright © 2015 Francis W Nash  All Rights Reserved

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Change in Site Rules

December 10th, 2015


The function of subscribing to this site has come to an end.  Many subscribers, using throw-away email addresses from strange IP addresses, have been submitting commercial advertisements which I have not approved.  Rather than waste my time continually deleting these users and their proposed comments, I have decided to disable the subscriber function. 


Early subscribers and those subscribers who have provided their names and thoughtful contributions are still active.  RSS feeds are  available to them.

New subscribers should email me and I will establish a user who can receive RSS feeds and submit comments.


If you want to comment on my posts, feel free to drop me a line at the following email address: .  I will add your contributions to the discussion.  Site Rules still apply.



Copyright © 2015 Francis W Nash  All Rights Reserved

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Vive la Climate Summit

December 10th, 2015

It is a parody of hell around here.  Heavy fog.  Air quality alert.  The backyard looks unusually grey.  Not a single bright autumn leaf remains on our huge sweet gum tree.  In fact, the whole of Carlisle seems to have been drained of all color. 


The six fish I live with are active and swimming.  By this time in past years I have removed the pond filter system and pump and the fish are dormant.  Not this year.  And the weather forecast is much warmer for the next few days.  White Christmas?  I do not think so!


I hope that the Paris Climate Conference ends with meaningful good news.



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Another Vintage Book

October 16th, 2015


Emmet C Trimble (Photo by Janet Ryan Waite in 2007)

For me, indescribable is a crazy understatement that fits the  deeply held feelings for the Civil War. There is an unconditional affection for the sacrifice and pain endured by the soldiers on both sides.  Know that those feelings are still intense after one-hundred-fifty years.

Last week, I found another used book: A Pennsylvania Quaker in Andersonville (The Diary of Charles Smedley) published by the Fulton Counnty Aid Society in 1865.  The diary is mainly concerned wiith the Andersonville prison.  My interest was peaked because I have a great-great uncle who died there.  However, my ancestor’s name was not listed in the Quaker’s diary with the prisoners who died in Andersonviille, GA.  Curious.  So I Googled the 101 PA Vol Inf and found the folllowing correction to my long held beliefs.


TRIMBLE, Emmet C. – Private, Co. G. Born 4 April 1842 in PA, the son of James and Mary Magdeline Trimble. Enrolled from Hookstown, Beaver Co., PA. Mustered in 2 Dec 61. Captured 20 April 64 at Plymouth, NC. Held captive at Andersonville, GA & Florence, SC. Arrived at the Florence Stockade 5 Oct 64. Paroled 10 Dec 64 at Charleston, SC. Died 18 March 65 of Erysipelas at U.S. General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA. Buried in Georgetown Cemetery, Georgetown, Beaver Co., PA. GAR # 1103.


Emmet C Trimble was a prisoner in Andersonville for six months.  He was transferred to Florence, SC and later paroled.  Over the years the family story of Emmet C Trimble’s captivity obviously grew.  Even after someone dies, one-hundred -fifty years later  you can still learn new things about them.


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