"Gone But Not Forgotten"
Updated: May 13
My cousin has a few words to say to the 21st century. Her epitaph is the title of our new book, "Gone But Not Forgotten".
"Hello, My name is Katie McCracken. I am from Mooresburg Pennsylvania where I taught at seven different schools one-room from 1859-1877. I am truly delighted to be with you on National Teacher Day and Appreciation Week here in the United States of America! In my time, our country was painfully divided, North and South, and fought and lost so many young men on both sides of the war to bring our country back together. And here we are!
I am pleased 'head over ears' to be able to finally publish my poems! My words have never been seen by human eyes, outside of my own family that is to say - and that was 160 years ago. And I am honoured that you would take such an interest in my humble writings. My book will be available to you quick as a wink, in two shakes of a lamb's tail, so please be patient. It won't be long till the postman will bring it to your door!"
This book affords a teacher the opportunity to reach out and give the reader one last history lesson - from someone who was there." Miss Catharine A. 'Katie' McCracken was a teacher who taught in one-room schools in Montour County Pennsylvania from 1859-1877. The schools offered grades 1-8, and boys and girls were taught separately. The seven schools at which she taught were located miles from each other. One can only imagine the children walking to school in knee-deep snow in the cold northeast climate, carrying books, along with firewood for the classroom's stove. Or Katie traveling by horse and buggy from one school to the next on dirt back roads in the rural countryside.
But this book isn't a look at their lives from the outside. It is a look at the mind of a 19th century educator, a person who saw her growing country divided, literally fighting for unification, and the pain and frustration that caused for a single, young woman who was in political opposition to the nation's president. For solace, she composed and copied poems that spoke to her. The poems written in the pages of her attendance record book were about friendship, love, grief and longing - all very compassionate human qualities.
Though she disagreed with Abraham Lincoln's political views, she did support the troops, wanted victory for the Union, and healing for the nation, including in her book the poem, "Union War Song" dedicated to the local 'men in blue', The Iron Guards of Bloomsburg PA, who in 1861 were stationed in Washington to protect the city. She was also a dedicated community figure, observing and documenting the smallest of details in her immediate surroundings; local births and deaths, community events, and when the time came on April 14, 1865, a personal note on the assassination of the president, and fate of his assassins, having a respect for the office of a man whose political policies she disliked. Or, in the end, a respect for "Mr. Lincoln" himself, by way of noting the way he died.
"J.A. Willoughby offers historical insights that gives the reader a perspective on the time in which Katie lived as well as comparison and commentary on the Age of Invention to our own Information Age. He also provides current photos of the schools at which she taught as well as scans of the actual pen and ink handwriting from her ledger, and family photos from the McCracken family photo album."
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book from my website or from personal appearances is donated to The Thomas Beaver Free Library, Danville PA