Friday, June 29, 2012

Spanning generations

Every year that I go to Gettysburg to attend the Civil War Institute, I almost always seem to come away with something of worth.

It could be something educational, or something totally unforeseen, or something emotional. Sometimes, it's even something physical.

This year, it seemed to be a little of all of the above.

If you recall, I recently blogged that there was a possibility that I could come into possession of some Civil War artifacts belonging to a possible distant relative of mine, Albert Clewell (see here and here).

I say "possible" because I cannot draw a direct link to Albert's lineage. However, I do have two great uncles on my mother's side — William Clewell and his brother, Sylvester — who did fight for the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers of the 11th Corps. They, like Albert, enlisted out of Northampton County. They, like Albert, were born in Nazareth, PA, which gives me reasonable assurance that Albert is somehow related to William and Sylvester, and thus, to me.

In my blogs I wrote about a pawn broker in northeastern Pennsylvania, Paul Mastronardi, who had come into possession of some of Albert's things, including a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) kepi, a GAR ribbon, his discharge papers, and a couple of Clewell family reunion buttons from 1904 and 1907.

Mastronardi felt compelled to to find a living relative of Albert. Apparently, that's me.

So on a sunny Sunday afternoon, while I was attending this year's Civil War Institute, we met in the parking lot of a Gettysburg restaurant. Paul, his wife, Joann, and their 15-year-old son, Paul Jr., without fanfare but with plenty of anticipation, presented me with Albert's memorabilia.

Paul Mastronardi (left) and his son, Paul Jr., with Albert Clewell's artifacts.

To be truthful, not many of Albert's artifacts are of the Civil War, nor would they hold much value to anyone outside of the Clewell family. The GAR kepi is postwar and probably worn by Albert in parades or other GAR functions; an inscribed medal we originally thought celebrated Albert's 50 years in the GAR turned out to be an International Order of Odd Fellows presentation — Albert had joined the Odd Fellows, a charitable organization, in 1868 and he was recognized for his 50 years of service in 1918; his GAR ribbon announced that Albert had been on an excursion to Gettysburg in 1888 to revisit the battlefield for the 25th anniversary of the fight.

I am eternally grateful to the Mastronardi's for presenting me with these items. I learned a little bit more about the Clewell's, and it was clearly an emotional moment — something I didn't expect — for me to hold these artifacts in my hands.

And my plan for these items still stands. After showing them to my buddies in the Davidson County Civil War Round Table, I'll offer them to the Davidson County Historical Museum on loan for display for about a year or so. Then I'll donate them to the Northampton County (PA) Historical Society for perpetual care.

It's the least I can do for Albert.


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  2. What a nice thing to do! As a Clewell ancestor, I would love to someday visit Northampton County and it would be great to be able to see these items on display at the Northampton County Historical Society. Did they accept the items and do you know if they are currently there on display? Albert Clewell and his brother Joseph Lovin Clewell who both served in the Civil War (Joseph died of wounds received in the Battle of Antietam) were my 2nd cousins 4X removed. I made some comments on your other post regarding the Clewells. I'm sure you have a lot of information on the family, but if there is anything I can offer I would be happy to share the information I have on the Clewells and possibly assist in finding where you may be connected.