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Nora Alverta (Conn)
Nichols Snyder

(1892-1954)

 

  

Nora and Allen Snyder

Nora Alverta (Conn) Nichols Snyder was born on Sept. 9, 1892 in Jersey Hollow near Confluence, Somerset County, PA, the daughter of Alexander Wilson and Susannah (Harbaugh) Conn.

Nora was married twice. Her first husband was local school teacher Grover C. Nichols (1885-1913), son of William C. and Susan (Lucas) Nichols. They were wed on Nov. 20, 1909, when Nora was age 17 and Grover 24. He is thought to have been named for the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland.

They had two sons, Arthur Nichols and Clark Nichols, and resided in Draketown, Somerset County.

Grover taught school in Lower Turkeyfoot Township for several years in the early 1910s. Upon the completion of the term in the spring, said the Meyersdale Republican, he "usually worked in sawmills during the school vacation." Thus in April 1913 he obtained work at a United Lumber Co. saw mill at nearby Humbert. At the time, Nora was busy with two young sons ranging in age from two years to nine months.

 

Meyersdale Republican

Tragically, while at work May 14, 1913, Grover's skull was fractured in an accident involving band-saw machinery. "Soon after the mill started Saturday morning and he had begun his day's work, his clothing caught in one of the line shafts that run through the mill," reported the Republican, "and he was whirled around the shaft with such velocity that he was denunded of every stitch of clothing except his shoes. When the machinery was stopped it was found that one of his arms and one of his legs was broken, his chest crushed and his head badly injured."

Fellow workers rushed him to nearby Ursina using the logging rail spur of the Ursina and North Fork Railway. The dying man was then rushed to Connellsville's Cottage State Hospital, a distance of some 27 miles over steep mountain roads. He died "five minutes after arrival," said the Republican, at the age of 28. His remains were returned to Somerset County to be laid to rest at Jersey Church Cemetery near Confluence. Fred Younkin of Connellsville was the informant for his official Pennsylvania certificate of death. 

 

Stemwinders book

[An interesting history of the United Lumber Company, with photographs, is contained in Benjamin F.G. Kline Jr.'s booklet, "Stemwinders" in the Laurel Highlands, book number 13 in the series "Logging Railroad Era of Lumbering in Pennsylvania." Nora's cousin Cyril "Edgar" Ream contributed to the book and is named in the volume.]

Three months after Grover's untimely death, the Grim Reaper again took away its harvest when son Clark, suffering from cholera, died eight days shy of his first birthday. His official certificate of death gives his surname as "Nicklo" and "Nichola." The child's remains were interred in the Jersey Baptist Church Cemetery.

After 14 months as a widow and single mother, having lost her husband and son, Nora married her late husband's half-brother, Allen Sylvester Snyder (1870-1951), the son of Alfred N. Snyder and Susan (Lucas) Nichols of Scullton. (His name also has been given as "J. Allen Snyder.") The wedding took place on July 5, 1914, with the ceremony held at Draketown, Somerset County, officiated by Rev. E.B. Boyer. At the time, Nora at age 21 was less then half the age of her husband, who was 44.

He had been married once before to Almira C. "Myra" Hyatt (1872-1913, was widowed on June 28, 1913, and brought a daughter to his second marriage, Edna Ruane. He was a mine foreman at Windber, Somerset County at the time of marriage. Interestingly, he disclosed on his marriage license that he did not know the whereabouts of his father, but that his mother lived in Windber.

Allen adopted Arthur as his own son. He and Nora had two more sons of their own -- Wilson Snyder and Allen Snyder Jr. In addition, the couple took a number of foster children into their home -- James D. Snyder, Bonnie Snyder, Darlene Decker Snyder, Wilbur McGahan Snyder and W. Ross Snyder.

Bird's-eye view of Saxton

 

The family first lived in Windber, where Nora joined the Windber Methodist Church. they relocated during the decade of the 1910s to Huntingdon County, PA, settling on a farm in Saxton, Hopewell Township. Their home was located just over the Bedford/Huntingdon County line. Today the area is marked by the manmade Raystown Lake and Recreation Area, the largest lake located entirely in the commonwealth, completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1973.

 

Allen and Nora

The Snyders are shown there on the federal censuses of 1920 and 1930. By the late 1930s their residence was Aitch (likely shorthand for the town of Huntingdon), Huntingdon County. They occasionally traveled to visit Nora's mother back in Confluence, as shown by news stories in the Huntingdon Daily News. Despite the distance, Allen maintained his membership in the Vanderbilt Methodist Church.

The family also enjoyed traveling to attend the annual Harbaugh Reunion held in Kingwood, Somerset County. The gossip columns of the Huntingdon Daily News documented some of these trips:

  • Aug. 17, 1933: "Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Snyder, Mrs. A.S. Snyder and two sons, Allen and Wilson, motored to Somerset Sunday and attended the Harbaugh reunion."
  • Aug. 18, 1939: "Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Snyder and daughters of Huntingdon, Mr. and Mrs. A.S. Snyder attended the Harbaugh Reunion at Kingwood, Somerset county, Sunday."
  • Aug. 16, 1940: "Mrs. A.S. Snyder and son, Wilson, and mother, Mrs. Conn, attended the Harbaugh reunion near Somerset, Saturday."

On July 9, 1939, Nora and Allen celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a "delicious dinner" at their home. The Daily News reported that "Those present were: Mr. and Mrs. Tom Ruane and family, of Uniontown, Mrs. Perry Dell and children, of Somerset county, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Moore and son of Aitch, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Snyder and two daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Snyder, of Huntingdon, Mrs. John Treece and daughter, Milda, Mr. and Mrs. A.S. Snyder and son, Wilson."

In a summertime letter to a relative in the late '40s or early '50s, Nora's mother wrote: 

Nora's oldest boy Arthur and his wife was here last Sunday. The children Nora had all got Homes not to far a part. The 2 boys ar on farms that join and the boy that was in the army has his home with Arthur in Huntingdon and the oldest girl is working in a resterant in Saxton ware she went to school.

 

Railroad depot in Huntingdon

 

Having become senile, and burdened with heart disease and hardening of the arteries, Allen died at home on Dec. 12, 1951. An obituary in the Huntingdon Daily News noted he was survived by 14 grandchildren and by a half brother, Clarence G. Nichols of Persinger, WV. Although his death certificate notes that he was to be buried at Bethel Cemetery in Vanderbilt, his remains were returned to Scullton for burial at the Wesley Methodist Church Cemetery, rejoining his parents and first wife there in eternal repose.

 

Wesley Methodist Church Cemetery

Nora lived for another three years. In the autumn of 1953, she and her mother and son Wilson visited at the home of Nora's brother Clinton Conn in Mill Hall, PA. She was elected president of the Women's Society of Christian Service of the Russellville Methodist Church, said the Daily News, "but due to ill health was never privileged to serve in that capacity."

Her health declined significantly in early 1954. Having lost a lot of weight, she fashioned new dresses to fit her slimmed shape, and also made dresses for a granddaughter. But concerned about the sudden weight change, her sons took her to her physician, who diagnosed cancer which had spread widely through her body. She underwent surgery at the J.C. Blair Hospital in Huntingdon, but sadly died just three weeks later on April 25, 1954. 

After funeral services in Saxton, a motorcade traveled to the Jersey Baptist Church Cemetery for burial. Rev. Warren Swank of the James Creek Methodist Church officiated.

 

Nora's adult children, 1940s: Allen Jr.,
Wilson, Edna Ruane and Arthur.

In a letter in August of that year, her mother wrote: "We was at the Harbaugh Reunion last Sunday... My family was their all except Lester. He did not get their. Have not saw him since Nora funeral." In another August 1954 letter to a relative, Nora's mother wrote: "We was at the reunion last Sunday. My 2 girls was their and Jess and Clint, Nora youngest boy Wilson and his wife and children..."

Seen here are Nora's adult children, apparently taken during wartime: Allen Jr., Wilson, Edna Ruane and Arthur.

Son Wilson Snyder is known to have attended the Harbaugh Reunions in 1953-54-55, when he won awards for "Largest Family Present" (six members in '53 and four in '55).

In an October 1955 letter from Nora's mother to a relative, she wrote: "One of Nora's boys and his little girls was here the other Sunday to see us. Well we was glad to see them come."

 

Arthur, 1917

~ Son Arthur L. Nichols Snyder ~

Son Arthur L. Nichols Snyder (1910-1968) was born on April 2, 1910 near Confluence. He was only three years of age when he lost his father in the tragic sawmill accident, and likely had no strong memories of the man. His mother married again when Arthur was age four, and the boy was adopted by the new step-father.

At the age of nine, he moved with with his parents to a farm near Saxton in Hopewell Township, Huntingdon County, PA.

He married Elsie Treece ( ? - ? ) on May 15, 1933, at Cumberland, Allegany County, MD. They had three daughters, Ruth Reinhart, Ilene Stultz and Lucinda Snyder. 

 

Huntingdon's post office

Arthur was a longtime employee of the federal post office in Huntingdon, starting his post in about 1933, and remaining there for 35 years. Their dwelling was at 108 Pine Street, and they were members of the 15th Street Methodist Church.

At the end of August 1968, Arthur was admitted to the J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital in Huntingdon. He died there three days later, on Sept. 3, 1968. Burial was in the Russellville Cemetery. An obituary in the Daily News noted that he was survived by six grandchildren.

Daughter Ruth Conn married Ted Reinhart and lived in Alexandria, R.D., PA.

Daughter Ilene Conn wed Wilmer Stultz and made her home in Huntingdon.

Daughter Lucinda Snyder lived at home in 1968.

 

~ Son Allen S. Snyder Jr. ~

Son Allen Snyder Jr. (1916- ? ) was born on Aug. 24, 1916. 

In June 1937, when he was age 21, he received a contract to "carry mail between the Huntingdon postoffice and Williamsburg, a distance of 23.68 miles," reported the Huntingdon Daily News. His bid totaled $1,464 for the year. 

On Aug. 17, 1938, Allen wed Ruth Treece, daughter of John Treece of Aitch, Huntingdon County. The ceremony was held in Hagerstown, MD, with Rev. J.M. Carter officiating. The Snyder and Treece families were close, and Allen's brother Arthur wed Ruth's sister Elsie.

They had at least three daughters, Joyce Snyder, Beverly Snyder and Cathy Snyder.

Circa 1951, they dwelled in Huntingdon on Cold Springs Road. By 1968, they had retired to Orlando, FL.

L-R: Allen Snyder Jr. with his wife and baby Joyce; Allen Sr. and Nora; mother Susie; Wilson Snyder and his wife; Arthur Nichols/Snyder and his wife; and Nora's sister in law, Cornelia (Huntsman) Conn. Children in front: Arthur Snyder's daughters Ilene and Ruth, flanking Cornelia's son Teddy Conn. This photo was sent to Nora's aunt, Letitia (Harbaugh) Stoner, Robinson, IL.

 

~ Son Wilson Snyder ~

Son Wilson Snyder (1920- ? ) was born in about 1920.

He was married, and had at least one daughter, Judith Spickler. In 1951-1968, they resided in Hesston, Huntingdon County.

He is known to have attended the Harbaugh Reunions in 1953-54-55, when he won awards for "Largest Family Present" (six members in '53 and four in '55).

Daughter Judith Conn wed Preston Keith Spickler, son of Walter Spickler of McVeytown, PA. In 1963, they resided at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

 

~ Stepdaughter Edna (Snyder) Ruane ~

Stepdaughter Edna Snyder (1894-1972) was born in 1894. 

As a young woman, she enrolled in the Westmoreland County Hospital School of Nursing and completed her studies there in 1917. 

She married Thomas Patrick Ruane Sr. (1892-1964), the son of Patrick J. and Ellen (Kearns) Ruane. They made their home in Uniontown, Fayette County and had five children -- Myra Ellen Ruane, Thomas Patrick Ruane Jr., Maurice J. Ruane, Allen S. Ruane and Patricia Arnold Van Eman. 

Thomas was a self-made coal and coke businessman. Said the Uniontown Morning Herald, "at the age of 18, [he] was yard boss at Collier Mine and later at Oliphant Mine. He was elevated to mine superintendent and later as coal and coke inspector for the Frick Coke Co." One coal mine, at Wynn, Fayette County, was closed in 1926, but Thomas bought the ovens and kept them in blast until his retirement in 1953.

The Ruane Coal Company's Wynn coke ovens

 

Edna was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Col. Andrew Lynn Chapter) and the Catholic Daughters of America. Their residence was located at 70 Kensington Street in Uniontown.

Thomas died in Uniontown Hospital at the age of 72 on Jan. 4, 1964. His death made front page news in the Morning Herald. After a solemn requiem mass held at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, he was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery. 

Edna lived for another eight years. At the age of 78, she passed away on May 13, 1972. Her viewing was held at the Minerd Funeral Home of Uniontown, followed by a funeral mass at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. Msgr. Michael P. Kushner officiated. She was laid to rest in Oak Lawn Cemetery.

Daughter Myra Ellen Ruane (1922-1992) was born on Feb. 14, 1922. She apparently did not marry and resided at home during her adult life. She spent her career in social work, and in the 1950s was employed for eight years by the Fayette County Association for the Blind. In February 1958, she resigned and took a position as a case worker for the Department of Public Assistance. In 1943, she and friend Louise Watts motored to New York City the day after Thanksgiving, attending the Army-Navy football game and a dance at West Point, where her brother Thomas was a cadet. She was active with the Beta Mu Sorority of Pi Rho Zeta International and helped organize its meetings in Uniontown. She also was a member of Court Uniontown of the Catholic Daughters of America. She died in Uniontown three days after Christmas 1992 at the age of 70.

Daughter Patricia Ruane (1928-2009) was born on June 21, 1928. She studied at Mt. DeChantel Academy in Wheeling, WV and graduated from Seton Hill College in Greensburg. At the time of her marriage, she was a junior visitor with the Fayette County Child Welfare Service. She wed Stephen Joseph Arnold Sr., son of Jacob H. Arnold. They were wed in a double ceremony with her brother Maurice and his wife Margaret Louise Nelis. After the ceremony, held Dec. 28, 1951, they celebrated with a reception at the Uniontown Country Club. Stephen was a graduate of St. Francis College and was employed with Clipper Manufacturing Company in Philadelphia. The Arnolds resided in the Library section of the Mt. Lebanon suburb of Pittsburgh. They had these children -- Stephen Joseph Arnold Jr., Myra Ellen Arnold, Mary Pat Arnold, Clifford Arnold, Kathlee Arnold, Brennan Arnold, Roberta Arnold and Ronald Arnold. Later, after Stephen's death, she wed again, to Robert A. Van Eman. Active in the community, Patricia was a longtime member of the Mt. Lebanon Women's Club, Mt. Lebanon Parent-Teacher Association and Western Centers Parents Group, and were supporters of the Allegheny Valley School. She also enjoyed golf, bridge and bowling. Patricia died at the age of 81 on June 8, 2009. An obituary notice was printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Son Thomas Patrick Ruane Jr. studied at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point circa 1943 and then during World War II served in the Army Ordnance Corps. He graduated from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Later, in 1951, he obtained his law degree at the University of Pittsburgh. He became an attorney, first clerking with Judge H. Vance Cottom of the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas. He was a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in Uniontown and set up his own practice in the Morrow-Hagan Building. He married Shirley Johnson, daughter of Dorothy Johnson of Uniontown. At the time of their marriage circa 1952, she was employed as executive director of the Uniontown Girl Scouts Council. They had at least three children, Cynthia Ruane, Thomas P. Ruane III and Kimberly Biagioli. He often was pictured in the Uniontown newspapers for his legal representation on behalf of clients as well as in his community service activities. In 1963, he was employed as an assistant district attorney in Uniontown, and in 1972 was the county's public defender.

  • Granddaughter Kimberly Ruane married (?) Biagioli. The couple produced three children -- Adrian Alexander Biagioli, Francis Patrick Biagioli and Isabella Ann Biagioli. 

Son Maurice Ruane ( ? - ? ) graduated from St. Francis Preparatory School and St. Francis College. He married Uniontown native Margaret Louise Nelis ( ? - ? ), then living in Pittsburgh, in a double ring ceremony with his sister Patricia Ann and her husband Stephen Arnold. The ceremony was held the day after Christmas 1951. They lived in Uniontown, where he earned a living as a partner with his brother Allen in the Ruane Arnold Coal Company. He also farmed part time. Margaret was a graduate of Margaret Morrison College of Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh (later renamed Carnegie Mellon University) and received her master's degree from Seton Hill College. She was an educator and worked as a home economics teacher at South Union High School in Uniontown. Circa 1971, she was president of the Uniontown College Club. She was pictured on the front page of the Uniontown Morning Herald on Nov. 18, 1971 when greeting CBS-TV news commentator Charles Kuralt, who came to Uniontown Area Senior High School to speak as part of his national lecture series. In his comments, Kuralt said that he felt "a good many Americans [were] concerning themselves with things that are decent and compassionate ... who care for their country as well as themselves. I don't think we are a very materialistic society. I can't think of any other country where riches alone attract less awe, attention and public merit." Circa 1982, when listed in the CMU Alumni Directory, Margaret's home was at 93 Belmont Circle in Uniontown.

Son Allen S. Ruane (1929-1973) was born in about 1929. He married Abigail Whaley ( ? - ? ) and lived on Walnut-Mulberry Road in Hopwood, on the outskirts of Uniontown. They had five children -- Abigail Ann Ruane, Allen S. Ruane II, Dennis Ruane, Paul Ruane and Gerald Ruane. Following his father's entrepreneurial bent, Allen and his brother Maurice worked for the family business of Ruane-Arnold Coal Company. Active in the community, he was a member of the church school board of St. John's Roman Catholic Church and president of its athletic association, as well as treasurer of Forest Park Aquatics. Suffering from causes not yet known in his mid-40s Allen sought treatment in the Cleveland Clinic. He died there at age 44 on Aug. 30, 1973. Burial was in Oak Lawn Cemetery following a funeral mass of resurrection in the family church.

 

Copyright 2001-2002, 2005, 2008, 2013-2015 Mark A. Miner

Many thanks to Gary Ruane and Sharon Jo (Sheldon) Kern for sharing family photos for this biography.