Harveys Lake History

Wiant's Museum

Charles R. Wiant and Jessie M. Wiant
Wiant's Museum

For twenty-five years, from 1954 to 1979, Charles and Jessie Wiant operated a unique visitors' experience, Wiant's Museum, in Pleasant Valley, not far from Red Rock, Pennsylvania. For another twenty-five years, the Wiants and their daughter, Doris Wiant Harvey, maintained the museum in their home by appointment to view the Wiants' varied collections.

Charles Rittenhouse Wiant (1891-1983) was born in Pleasant Valley in Fairmount Township. "Charlie," as he preferred to be called, graduated in 1912 from Bloomsburg Normal School (now Bloomsburg University). After graduation, Wiant taught school at the Loyalville and Mossville schools. He then was employed by the Lehigh Valley Railroad in Sayre. Wiant entered federal service in 1915 with the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries, Department of Commerce, and he was initially appointed as a fish culturalist in Tupelo, Mississippi, where in 1916 he began to collect arrowheads and became interested in taxidermy.

Charles R. Wiant and Jessie M. Wiant (1895-1992) were married in 1916. Born in Philadelphia but raised in Pleasant Valley, Jessie Wiant studied music at Bloomsburg Normal School, and shared her husband's enthusiasm for Native American relics. Charles Wiant's work with federal fish hatcheries for the Bureau of Fisheries took him to Mammoth Springs, Arkansas. Then he served stateside with the U. S. Army from July 1918 to February 1919. He returned to Tupelo and in the Fall of 1921 he was transferred to Wytheville, Virginia, and in 1924 he was back at Tupelo, Mississippi. In 1933 Wiant supervised the construction of the world's largest fish hatchery at Marion, Alabama, where he would become the superintendent and responsible for all federal fish hatcheries in a five-state area. At these stations and in travel across the United States, the Wiants continued to collect a wide array of arrowheads, beads, axes, pottery and other Native American relics.

In 1939-40 the Bureau of Fisheries was transferred to the reorganized U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the U. S. Department of the Interior. In 1949 Charles Wiant retired from federal service and he and Jessie returned to Pleasant Valley. But in addition to their Native American relics, they had also accumulated a large taxidermy collection, guns, tools and farm equipment, Civil War items, historic literature, and numerous oddities.

Wiant's Cabin
Shickshinny Echo,
August 27, 1954

The Wiants wished to share this vast collection with the public. On Labor Day weekend, September 4-6, 1954, the Wiants opened Wiant's Cabin near their home, to the public, as a museum to view the Wiant collection. Arrowheads were grouped in artistic arrangements in glass-topped cases, which could be hung on walls. Native American axes were fixed to wood panels. At the cabin the Wiants could display a portion of their collection of Native American relics, Civil War items, mounted birds and animals, and an array of miscellaneous curiosities. The cabin was open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 12:00 noon to 9:00 PM, and Sundays, 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM, with additional openings on Memorial Day and July 4. The Wiants did not charge an admission fee.

Wiant's Home and Museum

After the July 4, 1958, holiday, Wiant's Cabin was closed to permit the Wiants to relocate the museum.

On August 1, 1958, the Wiants reopened their museum in an annex they built to their home at the foot of Bethel Hill. The museum was open Wednesday and Sunday afternoon and evenings. Again, no fee was charged to visit the museum. The Wiants sought to display a significant portion of their thousands of Native American relics, 100 mounted birds and animals, and antiques including Revolutionary Era period donations presented by friends of the Wiants.

Wiant's Museum
Arrowhead Collection

The Wiants published a pamphlet which described their collection. The highlights of the collection included 8,000 Native American beads made from a variety of materials including shell, glass, baked clay, lime and stone. Beads were generally used as a form of currency for trading. Some of the beads were made in Jamestown, VA, and others were from the Mississippi region.

There were 6,000 arrowheads mainly from Mississippi and Alabama made of jasper and a few of white quartz. There were also Pennsylvania examples made of flint, stone and slate. There were also mortar and pestle stones, axes and hoes. At North Mountain near Wiant's Museum a Native American bone sewing awl was found for the collection.

C. R. Wiant and Snowy Owls

Charles Wiant's taxidermy collection included snowy owls, ringneck pheasants, grouse, ducks, squirrels, bobcats, foxes, weasels and a loon. Many were from the southern United States. Some of the bird specimens required a permit from the Alabama Department of Conservation to capture and conserve them for scientific purposes. They also required federal and state permits to move the mounted specimens to Pennsylvania.

A few of the mounted animals were captured locally by Wiant, or gifted to the museum. These included a black pheasant, albino squirrel and a nearly white muskrat. A bobcat was trapped at Berwick after it escaped from a carnival and it was gifted to the museum, as was a honey bear which escaped from the Red Rock Game Farm. It was killed when it jumped in front of a highway snowplow and the crew gave it to Wiant.

Bobcats

Wiant's Museum also had a collection of guns, some from Charles Wiant's ancestors. There were also Civil War-era muskets and other historic guns. After a Sunday opening on October 25, 1970, Charles Wiant discovered that several items were missing from the museum including two strings of Native American beads and a pipe ornamented with a goat's head. There is no report the items were recovered. On October 29, 1975, three males entered the Wiant home and attacked Charles Wiant, 84, leaving him unconscious but Wiant recovered. The thieves had stolen five antique guns and a sword. There is no record if they were caught.

Wiant's - Bird Collection

The Naturalist's Corner at the museum was dedicated to both common and unusual items. A few examples were a large butterfly collection, an armadillo shell, petrified wood from Alabama, a bill from a spoonbill catfish, sharks' teeth, and containers of preserved snakes.

An assortment of Revolutionary War items included a bayonet supposedly carried by one of the three Colonial soldiers who arrested the British spy, Major John Andre, in the plot of American General Benedict Arnold to surrender West Point to the British. Andre was executed in October 1780 and Arnold fled to England.

At the end of July 1979, the Wiants announced the closure of the museum.

C. R. Wiant and Visiting Children

While Wiant's Museum was officially closed, the museum collection remained in place for nearly 25 years. The Wiants' daughter, Doris Wiant Harvey (1928-2004), oversaw the museum contents with her parents and would generously welcome friends and curious visitors to her home to view the museum. Doris Wiant Harvey was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and attended the University of Montevallo, Alabama. She became a teacher at the Huntington Mills Elementary School. She was also a lay teacher for the United Methodist Church and had a Bible study and prayer group at the Dallas State Correctional Institution.

Charles R. Wiant died on February 21, 1983, and Jessie M. Wiant died on October 10, 1992.

Second from left: C. R. Wiant; third, Jessie
M. Wiant; fourth, Doris Wiant Harvey

Doris Wiant Harvey was also an accomplished local historian. She was the earliest historian of the Mountain Springs ice industry near Ricketts Glen. She interviewed retired workmen from Mountain Springs and published a series of articles about the industry in the Suburban News in April and May 1967. In 1982 Doris Wiant Harvey published "Wiant-Bogart, Cross-Country Odyssey 1915." This was an account of Doris Wiant Harvey's grand-parents, William and Nora Wiant, with their son, Charles, and Jessie, who the Wiants were fostering, on a road trip in a Partin-Palmer automobile, across the U.S. to California. They were joined by Sam and Lucretia Bogart from Town Hill in a Model-T Ford. The account was based on the grandparents' diaries and the memories of Charles and Jessie Wiant Harvey. Doris Harvey also gathered the early history of Patterson Grove, the Bible conference camp. Her history of the camp is on the Patterson Grove website.

Doris Wiant Harvey was married to Herbert L. Harvey, who worked for the Crawford Smith & Son Lumber Company. He died in February 1998. After the death of Doris W. Harvey in February 2004, the contents of Wiant's Museum were auctioned by Traver's Auction Barn on August 3, 2004.

 

Dallas Fair Poster - 1999
F.C. Petrillo and Dallas
Librarian Martha Butle

Afterword

A prized artifact in Wiant's Museum was a large colored 1899 Dallas Fair poster. The Dallas Fair was organized on July 9, 1885, with its first fair on October 7, 1886, on the W. J. Honeywell farm near Dallas. The final Dallas Fair was held on September 20-23, 1921. Doris Wiant Harvey entrusted the poster to this web author who had it professionally curated and framed. Doris Wiant Harvey supported the poster's donation to the Dallas Library in memory of Charles and Jessie Wiant in January 2000.

Photographs for this article were courtesy of Doris Wiant Harvey from the Wiant family collection or taken by the web author at the Wiant Museum in 2002 and may be subject to copyright by the Wiant Estate or FCP Collection.

 

© Copyright March 2021 F. Charles Petrillo