History Comes Alive begins on March 20

History Comes Alive begins on March 20Bill Stumpf (shown) portrays Gib Morgan. Photo credit: Ron Joyce.

“The focus of the 2019 History Comes Alive series is on Pennsylvania history,” said Kevin Connelly, executive director of the Deane Center for the Performing Arts.

“We are exploring how at various times, Pennsylvania was literally a world power; the impact that had on our land and water; and how that led to the birth of the conservation movement,” Connelly said.

Each of the six shows will be on a Wednesday and begin at 7 p.m. in the Coolidge Theatre at 104 Main St. in Wellsboro. “Audience members will get to ask questions, meet the presenters in person and take photos with them and of them,” said Connelly. 

The series will open on Wednesday, March 20 with the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania. Bill Stumpf, of Titusville, Pa., is portraying Gib Morgan who traveled throughout the Allegheny and Ohio River valleys working as a driller, tool dresser and notorious storyteller. His tall tales chronicle his adventures in and out of the oil industry, both real and imaginary. Stumpf will recreate the dry, subtle humor of those outlandish tales, which were Morgan’s trademark. He equates Morgan to a cross between Daniel Boone and Mark Twain.

Morgan lived from 1842 to 1909. He grew up in Western, Pennsylvania, fought in the Union Army and with the end of the Civil War returned home to an oil boom in Pennsylvania. He married and had three children. After the death of his wife, Morgan became a roving driller, spreading tall tales about himself across the northern oil industry for two decades before retiring in the 1890s. What Pecos Bill was to cowboys and Paul Bunyan was to lumber, Morgan was to oil – only he was a real person.

“I’ve been telling stories since 1976,” Stumpf said. He retired from the Titusville Area School District in 2006 after 35 years of teaching.

In 1986, Stumpf began working with the Drake Well Museum in Titusville after a former museum educator asked him to come and tell stories. “That’s when I discovered Morgan and his stories and just fell in love with the guy,” he said. Stumpf has been portraying Morgan ever since. He is the featured storyteller at the museum as well as a tour guide and operates the Drake Well replica’s steam engine.

The Wednesday, April 10 History Comes Alive program will feature Carole Hall as Ida Tarbell, a pioneer investigative journalist who took on Standard Oil; on Wednesday, May 8, find out about the lives of early coal miners from Fred “Powerhouse” Powers, a retired coal miner and teacher; on Wednesday, May 29, Rich Pawling will tell about wood hicks, bark peelers and lumbering in the PA Wilds; on Wednesday, June 26, Kenneth Wolenski will portray Pennsylvania Conservationist and Governor Gifford Pinchot; and on Wednesday, Sept. 11, Charles Sacavage will be outdoorsman and conservationist Teddy Roosevelt.

Tickets are $15 per show or $90 total and free for children 12 and under when accompanied by a paying adult. Being offered is a discounted package price of $75 for the six shows, a $15 savings.

For information or to purchase a ticket package or tickets for individual shows, call (570) 724-6220 or visit www.deanecenter.com.

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