Growing up, Daily Stories of Pennsylvania by Frederic Godcharles was one of the few books I had read and reread until I had most of the stories memorized. The collection of stories helped foster my love for the state’s history as I often found myself lost in those stories.
It was this book that brought me to Milton to visit the resting place of the gentleman who wrote it.
Although I had passed the community of Milton countless times on Interstate 80 or Route 15, I had never detoured to enter and explore the town. It was all changing as I exited Route 15 and entered town on Route 642. I crossed the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Milton State Park and entered the town located on the east bank of the river.
“You have directions?” mom asked as she flipped through my notes for the day’s journey.
“They’re in there somewhere,” I responded as I drove through the stone arch that appeared to have once been a part of a gatehouse and onto the sacred grounds of Harmony Cemetery.
Not knowing where he was buried within the borders of Harmony Cemetery, I sent an email to Heather, a friend who lives in the area. She sent directions that had me standing at the Godcharles plot mere moments after entering the cemetery.
The simple marker in the family plot rested next to the grassy roadway The marker that appears to be like many in the plot and remembers the man buried there. “Frederic A. / Godcharles / 1872-1944.”
On June 3, 1872, Frederic Antes Godcharles was the first of five children to Elizabeth and Charles Godcharles, a local businessman. Frederic was born and raised in Northumberland and graduated from Milton High School before attending Lafayette College. Godcharles returned to Milton and owned and operated the F.A. Godcharles Company, which manufactured iron and steel products.
Godcharles entered the political arena in the early 1900s. He represented Northumberland County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (1901-1902) and Union County in the Pennsylvania State Senate (1905-1908). In 1908, Frederic was elected as a member of the Republican National Convention.
In addition to political service, Frederic served in the military. He was a member of the Twelfth Regiment of the United States Army during the Spanish–American War and as a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard during World War One.
In 1927, Godcharles was appointed to serve as Pennsylvania State Librarian. The same year he became the Director of the State Museum of Pennsylvania, a position he would hold until 1931. Under his direction, the museum increased daily visitors. Unfortunately, his attempts to secure additional funding and his attempt to extend the museum and its collection were limited due to the onset of the Great Depression.
Godcharles started writing as the owner and editor of The Miltonian.. In 1911, he published the two-volume set Freemasonry in Northumberland & Snyder Counties, Pennsylvania. His next book was published in 1924. Daily Stories of Pennsylvania, which collected newspaper articles he wrote about Pennsylvania’s history. The book is organized with each day of the year having a story that connects to the date it was published. In 1933, Godcharles published the five-volume Pennsylvania: Political, Governmental, Military and Civil followed by the four-volume set Chronicles of Central Pennsylvania in 1944.
After retiring as the Director of the Pennsylvania State Museum, Frederic and his wife moved to Leonardtown, Maryland. He passed on December 30, 1944 and his body was returned to Milton and buried in the family plot in Harmony Cemetery.
As I stood paying my respects, I couldn’t help but reflect on the impact his writings have had on my own writings and love of Pennsylvania’s history. The way he captured and held my attention in his stories is something I have strived to put into the stories I’ve written. I finally stepped away and left him to rest in the family plot, thankful for the impact his love of history has had on my own life.