Attorney Fremont McKendrick went home Wednesday.
McKendrick, 90, walked down the street from where he resides in Ebensburg and went to the Cambria County Courthouse.
He said it was to be part of the 210th birthday party the commissioners were throwing. But he really wanted to look around the courtrooms where he spent so much of his time as the son of a judge and decades as a practicing lawyer.
“I have a pretty good hold on the history here,” he said as he sat in Courtroom One waiting for others to speak. “Look at that dome. Isn’t it something?”
McKendrick was one of several hundred people who made their way to the courthouse during the three hours of celebration, which focused on the history and future of Cambria County with displays and programs.
President Judge Timothy Creany and Judges Linda Fleming and Patrick Kiniry gave visitors tours of the massive three-story structure, and Creany, as one of the keynote speakers, recalled the tumultuous battle in the early 1900s when the structure was made “bigger and better.”
Creany recalled a day as a young attorney doing a title when he went to the basement of the courthouse for access to old records.
“It was late afternoon, a warm, sunny day, and I dug out the records of my grandfather,” he told the audience in Courtroom One.
Creany’s grandfather emigrated from Italy in 1910, leaving his wife and daughter behind until he could become established. He worked in the coals mines near Nanty Glo.
“I felt about how easy my life is in comparison, then I thought of the people who came here 200 or 250 years ago, the passages they had to open, the challenges they faced,” Creany said.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, the keynote speaker, had high praise for the county where Johnstown, the city that has three times been devastated by floods and rebuilt, is located.
He spoke of the tolerance and tenacity of Prince Demetrius Gallitzin, who gave up royalty to bring the Catholic religion to the Allegheny Mountains.
Cawley reminded the residents of people like Charles Bronson, Pauline Frederick, Carol Baker and Buzz Wagner, plus many more who called Cambria County home.
Special note was taken of Victor Heiser, a man who survived the 1889 Johnstown flood and developed the first effective treatment against leprosy.
“They did not accomplish these things in spite of Cambria County, they accomplished them because of Cambria County,” he said.
The steel manufactured in Johnstown’s mills carried the nation west, Cawley said, and the coal pulled from beneath its earth helped fuel the nation.
State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, presented the commissioners with a citation from the Pennsylvania Senate.
He termed the mural project planned for the front entrance of the courthouse one that will make Cambria unique among all the state’s 67 counties.
Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.