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‘Meet the Authors’ at Tyrone History Museum to feature Paula Zitzler

This year Farm/City Day is moving back to downtown Tyrone and the Tyrone Area Historical Society will be a part of the festivities.
This Saturday, a booth will be set up along Pennsylvania Avenue, but a special event will take place at the Tyrone History Museum.
Four local authors will be on hand for a book signing under canopies outside, weather permitting.
The authors include Paula Zitzler, Jeffrey L. Adams, David Seidel and Luther Gette.
Zitzler’s book is titled Unscheduled Stop: The Town of Tyrone and the Wreck of the Walter L. Main Circus Train.
This book is hot of the presses and will be available to the public for the first time.
The book looks at the tragic accident that occurred 115 years ago on May 30, 1893, taking the lives of five individuals.
One hundred fifteen years ago on May 30, 1893 a train carrying employees and animals of the Walter L. Main Circus wrecked in Bald Eagle, near where the Tyrone Sportsmen’s Club sits today, killing five individuals and numerous animals.
With so many interesting stories coming from this one event, Zitzler felt it was a great opportunity to put them all together in one publication.
With the help of local historian Susie O’Brien, Zitzler’s book sheds some light on this tragic event.
Three of the five individuals who died in the accident were employees of the circus, while some were employed by the railroad. Others died of injuries received following the crash and during clean-up of the debris.
Also mentioned often is young John Strayer, a 13-year-old boy from Houtzdale. Strayer and a few of his young friends supposedly decided to run away from home and join the circus. The boys jumped the train in Osceola Mills, but Strayer later found himself alone on the train after his friends got cold feet and went home. He died in the accident.
This is just one of the personal stories linked with the train wreck. Other stories tell of local residents encounters with the circus animals that escaped from the wreckage and ran free around the Bald Eagle area.
From 1895 to 1939, the circus held a memorial service every year but eventually the Walter L. Main Circus disbanded, ending the services. After that, different circuses traveling through the area would stop at the site of the crash to remember those who perished in the train wreck of 1893.
In 1958, a special service was held at Grandview Cemetery, where some of the deceased are buried, with circus employees present.
A monument was dedicated at the wreck site in May of 1975 with local dignitaries and residents present, at which time a small tribute was performed.
O’Brien has worked hard to keep the memory of this event alive and each year plans a memorial service along Van Scoyoc Road at the site of the memorial. This year marked the seventh such service held since 1958 and organizers hope to continue the tradition.
She also has many artifacts, including animal bones, which are often on display at various locations, including trips to the elementary school where O’Brien shares her stories with the students.
Zitzler said, “As a researcher, I love it when a story comes my way.”
She went on to explain this book was a product of a conversation at the historical society earlier this year when O’Brien shared the story of the Walter L. Main circus train wreck.
Zitzler said as a result of that conversation, she felt a book was needed to share such a story.
“This has been a great opportunity,” said Zitzler.
She also added the publication was made possible by O’Brien, the board of the Tyrone Area Historical Society and with the help of America’s Stories Inc.
Zitzler, a professional archeologist and amateur storyteller, is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BA in anthropology in 1977.
She has directed archeological investigations at more than 2,000 sites throughout the eastern United States.
Zitzler is currently serving as president of the local story league and is editor of National Story League newsletter.