MIFFLINBURG – You won’t find these stories in the history books, but fortunately a historian has found them in the pages of local news — back in the time when “dirty laundry” sparked sales of newspapers.
Join the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum’s Scandals and Scoundrels Historical Walking Tour on three different dates, Sept. 5, 12 and 18, all from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The tours start at the museum on 598 Green St., and cost $10 per person.
Mary Sullivan, volunteer and tour guide for Mifflinburg Buggy Museum’s annual Ghost Tours, which will take place in October, got the idea for the Scandals tour when she purchased 10 years’ worth of the town’s newspaper, the Mifflinburg Telegraph, from the 1880s.
“It was great, over a long winter, to sit there and read through about all the big names, the prominent people of the area,” she said. “We forget that people are people. We’re doing the same things people have been doing for 200 years.”
The one-and-a-half-mile walking tour will meander past some of Mifflinburg’s grand old homes and the cemetery, where Sullivan will divulge the stories — some silly, some shocking and some “spicy” — that she’s learned about people’s lives during the past two centuries.
“Some of it is funny dirt, and some of it is, ‘Oh my God, what the heck?’” Sullivan said.
To help piece together the stories, she also talked to some old-timers in town and read newspapers from surrounding areas.
“What was interesting was that Lewisburg was much more willing to print the dirt on Mifflinburg than Mifflinburg was,” she said. “Even a Tyrone newspaper from 1920 had a story of (buggy maker) Jacob Gutelius’s wife that I thought would be embarrassing to the family.”
Her research helped her understand some nuances to the town’s history, like why a certain house was painted a particular color or what drove Elias Youngman, founder of the town, to leave the safety of Sunbury in the midst of Indian uprisings and move to Mifflinburg — which was nothing but forest at the time.
“If you go back and look at Northumberland and Lycoming County history, Elias Youngman is mentioned in a very different light,” Sullivan said. “There’s a tie-in to what he did in Sunbury and why he left there. He was up to some interesting things in Sunbury, and I think he might have left because of that.”
These and other stories will add a more human aspect to Mifflinburg’s early leaders.
“It was funny because some of these names would start appearing, like (buggy maker) Hopp, and you’d see that some of the things they were doing were illegal or what we would define now as immoral,” Sullivan said.
“It’ll be a bunch of great stories from 100-plus years ago,” said Eva Linke, board member of the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum. “Way better than Facebook.”
The tour will show what was going on in people’s lives even as they struggled to run their businesses, raise their families and build their community.
“You’ll see the prominent people of the day in a different light because we have a tendency to glorify them, and we forget that they’re people,” Sullivan said. “They do things they probably regret later.”
Wear good walking shoes, bring a water bottle if you like and stroll through this historical borough for a fresh take on its beginnings.
Tour size is limited and tickets must be purchased in advance at the Mifflinburg Buggy Museum’s Facebook page or in person at Tack Room Inc., 6506 Old Turnpike Road, Mifflinburg. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Email comments to her at CindyOHerman@gmail.com
— Cindy o. herman