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Tamaqua relic found 85 miles away after surviving 54 years

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF EILEEN BARRON Tamaqua Historical Society members Jim Barron, Andrew Leibenguth and Dale Freudenberger maneuver the heavy 13-foot, 3-inch totem pole off Freudenberger's truck and into the Tamaqua Historical Society Museum, 114 West…
    PHOTO COURTESY OF EILEEN BARRON Tamaqua Historical Society members Jim Barron, Andrew Leibenguth and Dale Freudenberger maneuver the heavy 13-foot, 3-inch totem pole off Freudenberger's truck and into the Tamaqua Historical Society Museum, 114 West Broad St.
Published July 29. 2011 05:02PM

A historic relic, made to help celebrate Tamaqua's 125th year as a borough, was reunited with its native town recently after it caught the eye of a local sharp-minded individual.

About two weeks ago, Michael J. O'Malley III, of Hometown, was browsing an antique shop in Lemoyne, Pa., near Harrisburg, when he spotted two familiar dates, 1832 and 1957.

Those dates were painted on the bottom of a colorful 13-foot, 3-inch hand-carved, hand-painted totem pole, which was displayed upright and for sale at the shop.

Those dates popped out at O'Malley, a member of the Tamaqua Historical Society, who quickly knew their significance.

The year 1832 signified Tamaqua's incorporation as a borough, while 1957 represented the borough's 125th anniversary celebration and parade.

"Nineteen-fifty-seven marked the borough's largest community anniversary celebration and parade ever held in Tamaqua," Dale Freudenberger, Tamaqua Historical Society president said.

People dressed in patriotic and Indian attire to show pride for the town.

Sections of the borough even divided into tribes to display the Indian heritae.

Freudenberger pointed out that the Indian word "Tamaqua'" means, "Land where the beaver dwells in the water."

After O'Malley bartered the shop down to $600, a few members of the historical society made the 85-mile trip to pick up the relic.

The totem pole, which weighs several hundred pounds, has numerous characters and images carved into it, including an owl, birds, tiger, Indian masks and even a squirrel holding a real walnut.

Despite attempts at researching the pole's origin or initial owners in Tamaqua, no information could be found.

Anyone with information or photos is encouraged to contact the historical society.

"This totem pole is a great historic representation of Tamaqua folk art," said Freudenberger, "and will make a great addition to our already considerable collection of Indian, cultural and historical treasures in our museum."

The 125th Anniversary Celebration commemorating Tamaqua's incorporation as a borough stretched the entire year, but main festivities were held the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 5, 1957.

Some of the activities included a Princess Ball; townwide Pow Wow for all tribes at the YMCA field; cutting of the ceremonial birthday cake; dancing; anniversary church services; concerts; a youth day; a grand parade; U.S. Army Band Concert; Indian and children's pageant followed by "Wedding of Pocohontas;" Mahanoy City Barber Shop Quartet; Mardi Gras Parade; ceremonies, rituals, and a grand finale anniversary parade.

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