So here we are again with part two of the A G Happer Historical Marker debacle. Last time, I provided the background and associated nonsense perpetrated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the PHMC. Today, I will let you all in on what's been going on behind the scenes.
After our original application was denied, it became obvious that this wasn't about Happer's qualifications. Jeff & I both thought it was all political. Major Happer just wasn't in the right demographic for these governmental hack social justice warriors to approve. They do not want to "over represent" Civil War guys, but have no problem with approving large numbers of abolitionists for example. Happer easily met any and all the requirements that the PHMC demands. I should at this point, reiterate that it isn't the actual commission that vets these applications. Rather it is a staff committee that supposedly does this task. The actual commission usually merely rubber stamps whatever the vetting committee recommends.
We are required to submit twelve copies of the application, in our case it meant twelve copies of the multi-page written app, the addenda we included, the video, the Power Point Presentation, my book, and all other exhaustive documentation we provided. So you see, it's no small endeavor. But they NEVER really even look at them! Also, the PHMC brags at great length about how they have noted historians, researchers, academics and others examine all these applications for accuracy.
Uh Huh. Right. Sure they do. During our conference call with the Executive Director Andrea Lowery, and Historical Marker Program Coordinator Karen Galle, after some careful questioning by Jeff Bunner & myself, we got them to admit that NOBODY actually examines these applications. There are NO historians, academics etc. that even look at all of them. It's only just the staff that vets these applications.
So, after a year's work by Jeff Bunner, two classes of his students (soon to be three), State Rep (now Judge) Brandon Neuman, Washington & Jefferson College, The Washington County Historical Society, the City of Washington PA, and myself, we had to decide on our course of action. Whether we continued on with this disingenuous state farce, or give up entirely, or erect our own marker, or solicit other ideas.
Well, I personally was angry and disappointed. I really felt bad for all those students who did great work on their own time to bring this to fruition. I researched the historical markers and documented the approved ones. By that time I was even angrier. I saw example after example of approved markers that well, I couldn't believe they were even in consideration. An organization on the Terror Watch List?! Someone wrote a book about maple syrup?! Really? A parking lot!? A playground?! A gay pride march?! The richest black man in the state?! There are literally hundreds more.
So I decided to write about this, but do it in such a way as to not destroy any further chance of being approved in the future. Everyone else wanted to re-apply this year (2018). I wasn't so sure it was worth it. So I made posts a while back slamming the PHMC point by point, but kinda in a semi-soft way. I got the results I wanted. The PHMC doesn't like bad publicity. They have many problems in many areas. Too bad, maybe they wouldn't have so many difficulties if they actually knew what they were doing, & did their job correctly.
Then in early April 2018, I was informed that Jeff had received a letter from the PHMC granting "provisional approval." Great! What did that mean? It really meant nothing. They wanted us to provide a new application with new material documenting Happer's statewide and national impact. Big deal, we had already provided all that, enough to qualify for multiple markers in fact. But OK, we decided to forge ahead and see what we could come up with.
I plunged ahead into research on any new info I could find. After several weeks, Jeff found an article about the "Fishing Creek Confederacy." Cool! I was aware of this, but I didn't know the extent that Major Happer played a part in it. He played a much larger part than I expected, so it made for a fortuitous find for our new application. Happer is even mentioned in a book by authors Richard A. Saures and Peter Thomasak called "The Fishing Creek Confederacy." This book was released after my book. For those who don't now, here's an excerpt from the book.
"Egged on by the anti-Lincoln newspaper editors, a number of men avoided the draft and formed ad hoc groups to protect themselves from arrest. The shooting of a Union lieutenant confronting draft evaders in July 1864 resulted in military intervention in the northern townships of the county. The troops arrested more than one hundred men, sending about half of them to a prison fort near Philadelphia. Some of these men were subjected to military trials in Harrisburg, the state capital, that fall and winter. The arrests led to bitter feelings that were slow to die. The military intervention eventually impacted a Pennsylvania gubernatorial election and led to a murder trial." A. G. Happer was one of the judges. He presided over the trial of Valentine Fell.
Well that would definitely be an example of the statewide impact that Major Happer had I would say.
I also dug even deeper in the entire Lincoln Funeral Train episode. I was able to absolutely document that Happer was invited by Governor Curtin to accompany him as a dignitary on the Lincoln Funeral Train in Pennsylvania. He was NOT there in any military capacity such as an orderly, courier, bodyguard, or staff. He was the Governor's personal guest in recognition of his incredible service to the commonwealth. Also, Happer was the ONLY man so honored. All other soldiers were there in their capacity as military & were doing their duty as such.
So there I provided more than ample documentation of both a statewide and national significance. Along with all the other incidents, I strongly felt at the time & feel now that we met the PHMC requirements with plenty of room to spare. No one could question Happer's impact on a wider scale than regional or local. Especially compared with the other markers that have been approved. Heck, explain to me the historical significance, and statewide and national impact of a book about maple syrup.
I wrote all this and much more in an additional addendum to add to our new application. I will post this addendum today.
I then had a direct call from one of the Commissioners. Actually, he left word for me to call him. We had a great two hour conversation. Really good guy. He explained that everything I said was true. ie: it was all political. No kidding (s). He advised to re-submit the application with the additional info I described and it should go a lot easier and be approved this time. Ok, so we proceeded on that path with that understanding. I should have known better.
In our next exciting episode I will reveal even more. Stay tuned!