There’s an interesting story behind this Grand Army of the Republic photograph, with a York County twist.
Angelo Scarlato of Etters ran across a photograph of grizzled Civil War vets than piqued his interest.
“History Detectives” became involved and effectively unraveled the mystery, as reported by the Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard:
Cazenovia has a starring role in a television documentary tonight that looks at the beginnings of integration after the Civil War.
It’s the story of a New Mexico descendant of slaves who traces his roots to Cazenovia and of a Pennsylvania Civil War buff who bought a century-old photo that brought the two men together in Cazenovia.
And it’s the story of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans that had a racially integrated chapter in Cazenovia.
“Integrated GAR posts like Cazenovia’s were the first racially integrated organizations in American history,” says “History Detectives” host Elyse Luray during the PBS show, which airs at 9 p.m.
The roots of the show began when Angelo Scarlato, of Etters, Pa., bought a photograph in Gettysburg. The photo, taken in about 1900, shows a group of men in Civil War uniforms who were members of GAR Post 160 in Cazenovia. Scarlato was surprised to see blacks and whites in the same organization during an era of extreme racial intolerance.
“I’m most intrigued about these two African-Americans, given the social climate at the time,” he tells Luray in the show. “I find this to be rather unusual.”
Luray set about finding out who the two black men were. With the help of national and local historians, including Eaton town historian Sue Greenhagen, the show turned up not just the names — John Stevenson and Alberto Robbins — but a descendant, who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., was known in Cazenovia genealogy circles through his online research and postings.
Researchers for the show tracked him down, and he uncovered an old photo of his great-great-grandfather, John Stevenson. The resemblance to the veterans’ group photo was unmistakable.
In February, PBS flew Geder and Scarlato to Cazenovia, where they stayed at the Lincklaen Inn in the center of town. Geder had grown up in Binghamton but had never visited Cazenovia.
He met Scarlato, and even visited the grave of his great-great-grandfather, who was born a slave and eventually enlisted in the Union army.
“This is really huge for me. I didn’t even know that my great-great-grandfather was in the Civil War,” Geder said from his home in Santa Fe. “I was just blown away by the whole experience.”