Alice and the Rabbit Hole

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Some times I feel like Alice in Wonderland after she has fallen down the rabbit hole. Just peaking in the hole is never enough; one must fall in head first and see where you land to really be satisfied. The crawling back out part can be a bit confusing.


I started meandering around the family tree, looking up random information on my Burgess line. I was on, they have it back up and running after moving their servers from what is now a pretty water soaked Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I plugged in Burgess in Pennsylvania and started clicking on the results.


In the process I found the last name of the wife of Benjamin Franklin Burgess, my great grand uncle, born in 1872, in Bradford, Pa. The article was about his father, Benjamin Franklin Burgess, Sr. and the purchase of a hotel in Meadville, Pa., called the Gable House. I have mentioned my great-great grandfather before; he was a Civil War veteran and from all accounts had owned and operated multiple hotels in the western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania area. The article went on to mention Ben Jr. and his ties to a flood victim in Titusville, his father-in-law John Reinbold, also another hotel operator.


This of course took me on a merry chase of the 1892 flood and fire in Titusville and Oil City. Hard rains had swelled the rivers and broke a dam which flooded Titusville and Oil City. Stored oil containers had leaked into the flood waters and a spark set the whole mess off into a blazing inferno. John Reinbold had managed to save his family, went back to save the horses in his livery stables ajoining the family owned Bellevue Hotel and lost his life. The hotel burned to the ground along with the livery stables.


More digging turned up John Reinbold’s wife’s maiden name of Saltzmann. Of course her family had its own interesting history which caused this century’s Alice to fall farther into the rabbit hole. Her dad was John J. Saltzmann. John was born in France and came to the United States and began both working and owning breweries in the Buffalo, New York and surrounding areas. In 1866 he moved into the Oil City, Pennsylvania area called Palace and at first, like many others, drilled for oil. Oil City at the time was named Cornplanter after one of the Indians from the area. It would soon be changed to Oil City for obivious reasons. After running his course in the oil business John J. Saltzmann returned to brewing beer and built his first brewery in Palace Hill.

The Palace Hill brewery would burn down and he rebuilt, first on the same spot and then later he would rebuild on Union Street in Oil City. The building as of 1974 was still standing. John J. Saltzmann would continue to operate the brewery until 1920 when the Volstead act that began prohibition. He tried to keep the plant operating in some capacity until the 1930s when the building was sold to grocery wholesalers. At the time of prohibition, Oil City had three breweries in operation, Wurster, Kemp and Saltzmann.


1 comment

  1. Thank ;you – I enjoyed this! I am a great-great (maybe another one?!) grand-daughter of John J Saltzmann. Just another tid-bit on John B. Reinbold, when I was waiting in the Venango County Treasurer’s Office one day I was looking through an old records book that was laying on the counter. On the day before the fire/flood John B. Reinbold was in the treasurer’s office purchasing dog licenses; I recalled seeing a picture in my great-aunt’s home of a picture of a relative with a number of boston terriers. Don’t know for sure if it was him with the dogs, but that is how I decided to record it in my mind.

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