Harpers Ferry Area Heritage Society hosts pop-up museum for Memorial Day

Part of the collection is this photo of men standing on the steps of an unidentified building. One of the men was Regina and Patty’s great uncle, Pete (P.L.) Martelle and four other men are identified as Tim Collins, Emmett Houlihan, Joe Sullivan and George Martelle. All five of the identified men served in World War I, and Martelle’s enlistment date is June 25, 1918, which is the same date on the photograph. “It would be nice if we could identify the event, people and the place,” Regina said.

By Brianne Grimstad

Part of the collection is this photo of men standing on the steps of an unidentified building. One of the men was Regina and Patty’s great uncle, Pete (P.L.) Martelle and four other men are identified as Tim Collins, Emmett Houlihan, Joe Sullivan and George Martelle. All five of the identified men served in World War I, and Martelle’s enlistment date is June 25, 1918, which is the same date on the photograph. “It would be nice if we could identify the event, people and the place,” Regina said.

The Harpers Ferry Area Heritage Society (HFAHS) is sponsoring a pop-up museum on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Ethel Robinson Meehan Community Center, located at 234 North 4th Street, Harpers Ferry. 

Entitled “They’re More Than a Name on a Wall,” the museum will honor fallen Veterans from Harpers Ferry, Waterville and the surrounding area. The museum will also be offered during the annual American Legion Scenic Unit #722 pork chop dinner.  

The museum will include items from the collection of the late Lois Robinson, who collected various items dealing with the history of Allamakee County, including photographs and documents. Her daughters, Regina Manning and Patty Manning, inherited their mother’s collection will share these pieces of Allamakee County’s history with all. There will also be a special display honoring Regina and Patty’s brother, PFC Russell Robinson. Robinson was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger) 75th Infantry and was killed in action on October 25, 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. This will be his 40th Memorial Day. 

“A lot of the items in the collection on display this year come from one family in the Harpers Ferry area, but we are hoping to get artifacts from other area families for the future,” Regina said. 

Regina is a recent member of the HFAHS, and understands the importance of finding, collecting and preserving the history of Harpers Ferry and the surrounding area. 

“We need to keep our history alive,” she said. 

In sorting through the items their mother collected and working with fellow pop- up museum committee members Marita Clark, Sally Yuhouse and Ruth Ann Hawes-Cordova, Regina researched the 20 names on the memorial wall in Harpers Ferry, and also a 21st name that has not been added to the wall yet. She was able to find more information on these men, and she compiled a fact sheet for each of them. Those will also be part of the pop-up museum this year. The Roll Call includes soldiers from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Grenada. However, Regina also researched the book The Past and Present of Allamakee County, written by Ellery M. Hancock et al, and discovered the names of 14 Civil War soldiers from the Harpers Ferry area (including Waterville and Wexford). A poster with the names of these fallen Civil War soldiers will also be part of the museum. 

With this being their inaugural year for the Memorial Day pop-up museum, they are hoping that more families in the area will come forward with documents, pictures and other artifacts that can be displayed in the future. They would like to be able to have a special exhibit highlighting a different family each year as they continue. 

One item Regina came across that really piqued her interest was a picture of 29 men all dressed very nicely and standing on the steps of an unidentified building. One of the men was their great uncle, Pete (P.L.) Martelle and four other men are identified as Tim Collins, Emmett Houlihan, Joe Sullivan and George Martelle. Regina did discover that all five of the identified men served in World War I, and her great uncle’s enlistment date is June 25, 1918, which is the same date on the photograph. 

“It would be nice if we could identify the event, people and the place,” she said. 

If anyone has any information, they can share such as names of the men in the picture, the location, or the circumstances in which it was taken, they can contact any of the pop-up museum committee members. 

Any Harpers Ferry area families with items they would be interested in sharing for future Memorial Day pop-up museum displays can contact any member of the HFAHS. The HFAHS currently does not have a dedicated space to store artifacts, especially larger ones. Plans are moving ahead for construction of a museum to be built in the Martelle Heritage Park in Harpers Ferry. For more information, visit the HFAHS Facebook page or www.harpersferryheritage.org. 

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