Facebook is great for learning about local history and much more

By Jennifer Hogan
For Pittsburgh Senior News

Do you use Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends? If you don’t, consider that besides staying connected with friends and family, Facebook has other exciting things to offer. Did you know there are a variety of history pages on Facebook, including many local ones? They offer a chance to connect with the past. They give you the opportunity to respond to what you find or add your own information to start your own discussion. There are tons of great old photographs that allow you to reminisce about places and see how things have changed. You may help solve another person’s inquiry about a specific time and place or have a great story of your own to share about something you see in another’s photograph. If you keep on searching, you never know what you may find. One page can lead to another and you might connect with a long lost friend, neighbor, or past love. You’ll also find some great websites along the way!

Type in a place, add the word “history” and see what results Facebook comes up with. I searched for West View, Butler, Ross Township, Cranberry and East Liberty Valley + historical society and found pages for each. If it doesn’t come up with anything, you may want to start your own page! Below, I’ll list some that I found to be interesting to get you started. I also got some input from John Schalcosky, president of the Ross Township Historical Society and author of Ross Township (Images of America Series). He has launched several Facebook pages of his own, including Ross Township Historical Society, West View Historical Society and The Odd, Mysterious and Fascinating History of Pittsburgh. You may have heard him on the KDKA 1020AM Morning News radio show.

John has been involved with local historical societies since 2009 and has helped them grow through the use of social media. He began gathering photographs around the community that had been stored in boxes and albums, scanned them all onto the computer and started posting them online. That’s when things started to take off. He sees these pages as tools to create a living history and has also deemed them as a way to exhibit “extreme hometown pride.” They have brought memories to life through pictures and discussions. There is no limit to the age of people joining these pages; John said he sees comments from eighth graders as well as 102-year-olds! All generations are able to experience and learn from shared memories, which are constantly growing and evolving. John doesn’t shy away from any subject involving local history, be it good or bad, funny or serious. There is anything from pop culture to local murderers.

Through social media, you get a chance to see how things have changed over the years and influence how they will change in the future. Take the Highland Park Country Club, for example, which was on the Ross-West View border. It is now being developed into a housing plan, but did you know there was a family cemetery near the 18th hole? The family of Casper Reel, who is believed to be Ross Township’s first settler, along with his six family members, is buried on the golf course. There was a memorial plaque at the 18th hole for Reel. When development was started on the land, John was able to draw attention to this family cemetery through Ross Township Historical Society and social media to get it preserved as a memorial park. He is involved today with the remake of Northway Mall. John told me that community leader’s take note of the public conscience through these Facebook pages and that their influence branches out from the digital world to the real world.

If you aren’t on Facebook, John says, “Don’t be afraid of social media, at least give it a try. You won’t be sorry for joining these history pages. You have a chance to relive your youth and share with others. You don’t want to miss out.” You’ll also see when live events are happening throughout the community. For example, the Ross Township Historical Society, which has been around since the 1930s and was formally sanctioned in 1979, is free and open to the public with bi-monthly meetings. They have guest speakers and discuss a variety of history subjects.”

I hope this gets you excited about exploring Facebook and connecting with our local past. I’ve spent hours discovering new things about local history through pictures and people’s comments. You never know what you might find. Don’t forget that Pittsburgh Senior News has a Facebook page, too!

Search for these additional pages on Facebook:
• Preservation Pittsburgh
• All About Pittsburgh
• Pennsylvania Trolley Museum
• Archives and Records Center of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
• Pittsburgh House Histories
• Memories of Living or Growing Up in Bethel Park, PA
• Pittsburgh: Off the Beaten Path and Local Curiosities
• Streetcars in the Early Pittsburgh Days
• If You Grew Up in Pittsburgh, PA Then You Remember…
• Pennsylvania Trails of History
• Kennywood Behind the Screams
• Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation
• Only in Pittsburgh
• Onlyinyourstate.com
• Madeinpgh.com

John Schalcosky
John Schalcosky
Pennsylvania Trolley Museum home page.
Pennsylvania Trolley Museum home page.
Pennsylvania Trails of History home page.
Pennsylvania Trails of History home page.
West View Historical Society public group home page.
West View Historical Society public group home page.