Remains of the day

It's been two years, and the mystery of the New Britain Township skeleton still nibbles at the edges of my thoughts. I was able to pin down the house where the skeleton was found, but I'm too much of a chicken to knock on their door. 

I'm curious, also, about where the mysterious remains ended up. I asked a reporter friend at The Intelligencer who covers police matters, and while he knew that official evidence is kept for a long time (I'd love to be that librarian), he wasn't sure if there was a time limit, or whether human remains were included. The mind boggles.

In the meantime, I've found two more articles regarding the discovery: 

The Gettysburg Times
 Saturday, April 27, 1940
Finding of Skeleton Revives Mystery

Doylestown, Pa., April 27 (AP) — Discovery of a skeleton buried in the concrete of a century-old farmhouse cellar brought a renewed investigation today of the mysterious disappearance 31 years ago of a one-time owner of the farm.

The bones, those of a man about 5 feet 8 inches tall, were found by a plumber renovating the rambling budding and were taken to Harrisburg for analysis. There was a hole in the skull and two ribs were missing.
District Attorney Edward Beister said the mystery concerned Christopher Rump, who bought the 65-acre farm half a century ago and disappeared 19 years later. The farm is near where artists and writers maintain summer homes.

Rump's wife died about 35 years ago. Later it passed into the hands of a Philadelphia notable, countess Maria Virginia Paris Cibotti.

The countess, a singer and patron of the arts, maintained an elaborate place until she died in 1938 at the age of 86.

Recently it was purchased by a New York attorney. It was being remodeled for him when the bones were found.

Chester Times
Friday, April 26, 1940
Find Skeleton; Scent Murder

Doylestown, Pa., April 26—(INS) — The skeleton of a man, believed murdered many years ago, was found buried beneath the concrete cellar of a 100-year-old farmhouse in Doylestown township two weeks ago, state troopers revealed this afternoon.

In recent years, the farmhouse and the 65-acre tract surrounding it have been used by an Italian Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for summer outings of the congregation.

Every effort to identify the skeleton has proved futile. It is five feet, eight inches tall and was found by Arthur Roberts, a plumber and one of a number of workmen engaged in remodeling the farmhouse for a New York woman attorney, who purchased the property recently. The skeleton was taken to the state's crime laboratory at Harrisburg for further investigation.

All former residents of the farmhouse are being questioned by state police. At one time the property was owned by the late Countess Maria Virginia Miles Cibotti, who died in Philadelphia at the age of 86. The countess willed the farm to the Philadelphia church.

Christopher Rump, who purchased the farmhouse about 50 years ago, farmed the 65-acre tract for a quarter century before he purportedly went to Germany. Rump's son, police believe, is now a resident of Chester.

The present owner, who is having the dwelling remodeled at a cost of about $20,000, is said to be Mrs.
Shirley Moore, prominent retired corporation lawyer of New York. A widow, she is said to have purchased the property to get the "peace and quiet" offered by picturesque Bucks county.

1940s Warrington Honor Roll

I borrowed this photo from Arcadia's "Images of America" book on Warrington. (Click the image for a larger view.)

In the mid-1940s, this World War II honor roll was erected at Bristol and Easton Roads, where the Warrington Shopping Center is today. The caption identifies the girl in the photo as "one of the Wiley children."

In the 1960s, when Easton Road was widened, the memorial was removed, with the plan to place it elsewhere in the township. The plan was never followed through and eventually the honor roll was destroyed.

Buckingham Friends, 1969

This photo, courtesy of the Buckingham Friends School, shows Philip W. Smith (left), Anna Johnson Smith, and James I. Smith. the picture was taken in June, 1969 when Anna, mother of the two men, was 103. (James was 83 and Philip was 81.)

As Quakers, the family were pacifists dedicated to equality and disarmament. Philip and James traveled to Russia to teach modernized farming methods, and in later years as part of a peace delegation.

The Northern Luffs

Two photos from Joyce and Frank Luff of South Carolina landed on my desk today. Both seem to have been taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Click either photo for a larger view.

The first photo, taken in Richboro, Bucks County, shows (back row) Charles, Grace, and Franklin Pierce Luff; in the front row, sitting, are Albert and Laura Luff.

The second photo shows the Luff family at Spring Lake Farm on Newtown Road in Johnsville. The photo's reverse reads "Baby: Franklyn Harding Luff (4/11/44); Father: Franklin Pierce Luff (4/9/1907); Mother: Ruth Thomas Luff (3/19/1910); Daughter: Marilyn Jean Luff; Older daughter: Ruth Ann Luff."

I like photos like this, where I've got some names and rough dates and nothing else. It makes me want to do research. For example, Franklyn Harding Luff, the baby in the second photo, is most likely the same Frank Luff who submitted the picture. I'm assuming that Albert and Laura, the elder two Luffs, sitting in the first photo, were the sender's grandparents. A quick search online reveals that Franklin P. Luff passed away February 22, 1989, age 81. His wife, Ruth, passed away in August 1979, age 69.

Frank's grandparents, Albert and Laura, were born in 1881 and 1877, respectively, both in Northampton. Laura's maiden name was Titus.

I could go on and on like this. I love it.

Bitzer's collapse

Intelligencer photo by Stephanie Veto
I grew up right down the street from this place in New Britain Borough -- the Intelligencer is calling it "an abandoned building" and I guess they're right. Some time yesterday (February 20, 2014) Bitzer bit the dust. I wish I'd had a chance to explore it before its untimely (or timely, I suppose) demise.

I can't remember ever going there when I was little, but we'd drive right by it any time we went to Doylestown. I'm still a bit of a youngster, though. How about you? Did Bitzer ever press your shirts?

Tunneling toward the twenties

Scott Carr writes:

"Hi Rayna,
I came across this picture that I thought you might enjoy. My Grandmother Veneta Kohl grew up at 376 N. Main Street in Doylestown (down near the Doylestown Shopping Center) and I believe this picture is likely from that neighborhood, though I can't match the architecture to anything still standing as seen on Google Maps.

This picture is of some unknown neighbors in that area and was taken in the 1920s, though I don't have an exact date either. This is the best version I have as the original photo is currently archived and unavailable to try and get a higher res scan.
Happy Snow!"

Eat at Joe's

Kurt Spence, a volunteer researcher with the Doylestown Historical Society, writes:

“I am doing a house history for the Rudolph building, 33 S. Main St., the corner of S. Main St. and E. Oakland Ave. I have discovered that after Fickes Dairy Bar (29 S. Main, now Stephanie’s) went out of business, a retired policeman from Lansdale named Joseph opened a luncheonette and pizza place. Before long, he moved around the corner to 17 E. Oakland Ave. In 1976, Jon Rudolph demolished the restaurant to add a two-story addition to his Appalachian Trail Outfitters store.

“Would anyone out there know anything about either restaurant, or have any more information on Joe?”