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Authors pay tribute to Williamsport's founder

June 30, 2008

WILLIAMSPORT - When Civil War historian Steve French was doing research for a book on a Confederate brigade that retreated to Williamsport after the Battle of Gettysburg (Pa.), he turned to Williamsport residents to help him fill in the blanks.

"People remembered old stories," said French, who researched the book for more than 14 years. "They had photographs. They showed me where the old roads were."

Now that "Imboden's Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign" has been published, French was eager to return to Williamsport to share it with the town.

He had that opportunity Sunday at the town's annual tribute to Williamsport founder Otho Holland Williams, where French spoke along with historian Roger Keller, who recently released an audio book about Williams titled "General Otho Holland Williams, Hero of the American Revolution."

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Having two local authors available to discuss and sign their works was a bonus for the event this year, said Joan Knode, events coordinator for the Town Museum of Williamsport.

About 45 people attended the event, which was held in the museum portion of the historic Springfield Farm Barn.

"The history lesson was very good," said Richard Pulaski of Lufkin, Texas, who was soaking up local color while visiting relatives in the area.

Williamsport resident Debi Carbaugh Robinson said hearing about Williamsport's role in the Civil War made her curious to know if her pre-Civil War house played any part.

"I just wish walls could talk," she said.

Outside at the town's patriotic tree memorial, museum chairman Jerry Knode paid tribute to Seaman Craig B. Wibberley and Fireman Patrick H. Roy, who died in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

"We know that there's people in service today, who, without them, how would we feel that we have any kind of freedom?" Joan Knode said.

The museum will continue its recognition of Williamsport's role in wars throughout history with a World War II-themed program at the barn on Sept. 13, Knode said. The town's mayor and town manager will serve a mess tent-style dinner and the Ray Birely Orchestra will play for a dance on the barn's second floor, she said. World War II-era newsletters produced in the town and sent to local servicemen also will be on display, she said.

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