Destination Freedom Evaluation Survey

Good Afternoon All,

lakca-ug-railrodWe hope that everyone is continuing to enjoy the summer season. It is hard to believe that our Destination Freedom Interpretive Walking Tour has been operational for nearly two whole months now! As with all of our programs, the Waverly Community House will continue to develop this educational map to meet the needs of the community. In order to successfully do this, the Comm would like to kindly ask anyone who has taken the tour thus far, to participate in a very brief survey to evaluate the experience as a whole. We would love to hear any and all feedback from our community members regarding this new project. You can find a link to the survey at the bottom of this post or via our Facebook page. Maps are currently available at the Waverly Community House Monday-Friday from 9am-3pm in the Main Offices, and on Saturday from 9am-1pm in the Abington Visitor’s Center (Comm North Wing). They are also available outside those hours by appointment; reservations can be made by calling (570) 586-8191 ex. 7. Stay tuned for more updates and thank you all for participating in Destination Freedom!

Link to survey:      https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Z7KLVCB

 

Memorializing Village History: The Hickory Grove Cemetery

The Hickory Grove Cemetery currently stands as one of the oldest cemeteries in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The historic burial ground–formally established in 1807, not only contains the final resting places of village residents, but also holds a section dedicated to the former runaway slaves who established communities in Waverly during and after the Underground Railroad Movement. Additionally, the graveyard contains an area featuring the thirteen soldiers who voluntarily served the country during the Civil War. Hickory Grove remains a significant part of the region’s local history and serves as both an active burial ground and preserved link to the past.

CEM46897700_118765265795The Hickory Grove Cemetery began with a gentleman by the name of Elder John Miller; Miller, a 32 year old preacher moved to Waverly (then known as Abington Center) in 1802 from Upstate New York and built a log cabin home along what is now known as Miller Road. From his home, Miller established the First Baptist Church of the Abingtons and held meetings in the homes of members until a formal site was erected in 1821. In 1807, the cemetery was officially established in the village by Miller on a portion of his 326 acre farm. In 1847, the tract was then enlarged and Elder Miller donated another acre and a half parcel towards its development. The location was then formally named Hickory Grove Cemetery due to the large grove of hickory trees surrounding the area. The first board of trustees for Hickory Grove were village residents: Thomas Smith, Dr. Andrew Bedford, Nicholas Reynolds, Reuben Sherman, Nathan Sherman, John Stone, Norman Phelps, Isaac Sherman, Leonard Batchelor, and James Stone. In 1875, the cemetery was expanded again when an additional half acre was purchased from village residents Charles and James Tinkham. In 1883, a lot was purchased for the burial of Civil War soldiers from Waverly; land was purchased again following World War I by the Joseph Bailey Post American Legion for the internment of its members. Subsequent land purchases were made throughout the 20th century as well as efforts to beautify the property. The Hickory Grove Cemetery is located along Miller Road and is currently featured on the Waverly Community House’s Destination Freedom Map. Many of the village members represented on the walking trail are also buried in the cemetery including: Dr. Bedford, Leonard Batchelor, and Rodman Sisson. The grave sites of the freeborn residents and former slaves who later went on to join battle in the Civil War are all located in Row 5. The Comm is currently working on compiling a separate piece which will feature specific burial locations of all individuals on the Destination Freedom Map.

The Hickory Grove Cemetery is a complex cultural landscape encompassing and representing many elements of both national and local history. Since 1807, the location has withstood the test of time and remains commemorative of both individuals and historical time periods within the United States.

Summertime Celebration: The Comm Square Fair & Anniversary Gathering, 1995

“The Waverly Community House’s history since it was created, has been one of steady growth. Decades after being built, the Comm serves as a viable reminder of what one vision, and the support of several generations of enthusiastic volunteers can accomplish– proof that the sense of community of days gone by need not be lost by progress or change. (The Voice, Waverly Community House Anniversary Edition 1980)”

ParadeOn June 26th, 1995, the Waverly Community House held its 75th anniversary celebration with its opening event– the Comm Square Fair; “Celebrating 75 Years of Community History” was the theme and the affair began following a lively parade full of community members eager to show their support for the Comm. After the parade, guests were then met with the Almost Antiques Market, live music, entertainment for all ages such as: clowns, dancers, and the University of Scranton Jazz Ensemble. Many of the events were tailored exclusively for children including: a moon walk, dunk tank, obstacle course, and pony rides. Additional activities included crafts and local vendor booths. This anniversary celebration was an all day affair, beginning at noon and concluding in the evening; this event was simply one of the many ways that community members gathered in celebration of the Waverly Community House throughout its decades of operation.

Additionally, the Waverly Community House’s 75th anniversary was recognized withPlay the creation of a commemorative theatrical production entitled: “This House Builded,” a performance dedicated to sharing the history of the Comm’s origins and featured a cast of characters which included Paul Belin, Margaretta Belin, and George Lewis. The play honored the Waverly Community House’s journey throughout various decades of service and touched upon the innovative nature of all Comm programs. The show was written by Leigh Strimbeck and co-written by Elizabeth Markowitz, and premiered during the month of June 1995.

This year, the Waverly Community House will continue the late summer celebratory tradition with the Waverly  Township Community Fair. The gathering will be held this Friday, July 21st from 630-830 pm at the Waverly Community House. This year’s activities will include: a picnic dinner, bouncy house, carnival games, live music, and much more. All proceeds raised will also aid the Comm in creation of its latest community program– the Comm Children’s Interactive Center, which is currently in development and will make its debut in the near future. Stay tuned for updates in the upcoming year regarding this new venture!Community Fair 2017

As the Waverly Community House continues to thrive through another exciting, fun filled, summer season, we remain one year closer to approaching our centennial anniversary in 2019. The Comm is currently in the process of creating new programs, activities, and events dedicated to enriching the community for the next one hundred years. For now, some upcoming events to watch out for include: Cocktails for the Courts, Destination Freedom field trips, and Cars and Coffee. For more information on programs and events check our website for updates!

Underground Railroad Field Trips at the Waverly Community House

This past Friday, the Waverly Community House welcomed two groups of students from both the Newton Ransom Elementary School and South Abington Elementary School. Arriving on the Comm’s back lawn, students were eager to learn about the locations and individuals featured on the map, and their significance in our region’s local history. During the trip, the children learned about Leonard Batchelor, an abolitionist so dedicated to aiding the runaways that he hid them on his property and provided transportation to their next stops. They also heard about Dr. Andrew unnamed (1)Bedford, Rodman Sisson, Reverend Kennedy, Samuel Whaling, and John Raymond- all local residents who once lived along North Abington Road and had varying levels of involvement in the Underground Railroad Movement. Next, the classes were escorted to Carbondale Road, where they learned about the runaways and were able to view the first African Methodist Episcopal Church (currently a private residence), along with some of the homes of former slaves. Also included in the tour was information about the local churches and their contribution to the movement as well as the cemeteries where former slaves and abolitionists are buried.

Both groups of students learned valuable information and were able to learn how our local region played a pivotal role in a movement so crucial to the history of the United States. Children were also able to utilize the walking trail map in order to see the real life locations still currently standing and to visualize what transpired there in the 1800’s. The Waverly Community House will continue to develop this initiative and is currently accepting reservations for fall trips. To make a reservation, or to learn more about the map and future volunteer opportunities, please contact Gia Reviello at (570) 586-8191 ex.7, or Comm Executive Director Maria Wilson at (570) 586-8191 ex. 1.

Destination Freedom Update

UGRR

After months of development and anticipation, the Waverly Community House is pleased to announce that our Destination Freedom Walking Trail Map and accompanying companion reader has been completed. Both pieces will be making their inaugural appearance this Friday as we will be hosting two field trip groups from Newton Ransom Elementary School and South Abington Elementary School. The following week, the Comm will be having three more groups visiting from Waverly Elementary School. This is a project that the Waverly Community House will continue to develop over time as the potential and community interest remain limitless. Additional information on private and public tours will be made available in the near future after the initial walking tours.

Volunteers are welcome to participate and learn how to assist on both current and future field trips and group tours. Please contact Gia Reviello, Comm Classroom and Archive Coordinator for further details. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project on this blog and our Facebook page!

Finding Freedom along Carbondale Road: The Underground Railroad Settlement in Waverly

In the 1840’s, it is estimated that many fugitive slaves fleeing from persecution in the Southern states, began to make their way northward. Eventually, many started to
arrive in Waverly. They were welcomed primarily by many abolitionists who readily accepted them and aided them on their journey towards freedom. In this regard, the runaways were provided with shelter, food, and transportation to their next stop. Due to the comfort and solace they found in the area, many of them settled there, obtaining jobs and building properties along a street in the village named Carbondale Road. By the time the Civil War began, many additional runaways arrived with no further fear of pursuit and the total number of African-American residents in Waverly had once exceeded seventy individuals. Over time, these settlers created their own place in the region’s history and are perpetually remembered and commemorated by the community as many of the historic locations built and utilized by them remain in place today.

JSDuring the time of the Underground Railroad movement, Waverly’s Carbondale Road contained an undeveloped stretch of land, with many empty lots owned by a couple named John and Esther Stone. The Stones lived along the road amongst these unoccupied pieces of land until the runaways began to arrive sometime in the 1840’s. Initially, John Stone was a Democrat who opposed abolition; however, it appears that he eventually became sympathetic to the Underground Railroad Movement sometime after marrying Esther, the daughter of an abolitionist named Rodman Sisson. At some point, the Stones began to divide their  land into parcels which were then leased to the runaways on reasonable terms and installment plans. Stipulations included in the terms asked that the runaways maintain upkeep of the properties. Gradually, a settlement was built as runaways built and settled into their properties. They also obtained jobs as handymen, housekeepers, and nannies in order to support themselves and integrate into the community. As word traveled along the Underground Railroad system, more fugitives arrived in Waverly with the intention of joining the emerging African-American community. Names of the settlers are listed in numerous documents including the research of local resident William Lewis and are listed as such (in no particular order) : William Johnson, Richard Lee, John Lee, John Powell, George Keys, John Riley, Edward Smith, John Sampson, Samuel McDonald, Tom Williams, Benjamin Mason, John Washington, Thomas Burgette, John Mason, William Bradley, Paige Wells, William Fogg, William Talbot, Ignatius Thomas, William Allen, and William Wilson. Over the years, many more settled down in Waverly and a full list of those names can be found in the Waverly Community House’s Visitor’s Center.

In 1854, another significant development took place in Waverly. This was the year that the African Methodist Episcopal Church was erected along Carbondale Road. The church initially organized in 1844 with approximately twenty members; during this developmental time, services were held in the Fell Schoolhouse on North Abington Road. Land for the new building was deeded to church trustees by John Stone and provided a permanent place of worship, community, and refuge for the congregation members, many of them runaways. A Sunday school was also organized in 1856 with community member Joanna Raymond serving as the superintendent. The Waverly A.M.E. Church also had a literary society as well as a library; many runaways also learned to read and write sue to its creation. In addition to holding services at the church, camp revivals were also held in the woodsy space behind the building known as Fell’s Woods. These revivals were held regularly every summer until the 1900’s and drew crowds from outside the area who came to see the singing, dancing, and preaching activity. The church thrived for many years and is presently occupied as a private residence on Carbondale Road. During the time of its operation, it stood as a symbol of hope and unity for those fleeing from a lifetime of bondage and slavery.

As time passed, residents along Waverly’s historic Carbondale Road passed away and the fugitive population declined; by the year 1920, the A.M.E. Church had gone down to six members and was later sold in 1926. The rich memory of the Underground Railroad in Waverly is not forgotten however, and many of the historic properties presently exist in the form of updated private residences reflecting notions of the past. Furthermore, the Waverly Community House’s Underground Railroad Interpretive Walking Trail Map will shortly be available to those wishing to travel back in time to see the properties of the runaways, and the abolitionists who risked their lives to help them on their journey towards freedom.

 

Celebrating the Season: Spring Festivities at the Waverly Community House

Every year, the Waverly Community House prepares for the springtime in various ways; after the long winter months, community members look forward to the nice weather and the Comm readily creates fresh new events to mark the occasion. Today’s blog post will take a look at some of the Waverly Community House’s past spring events. Enjoy!

The Annual March Dance: Each year, beginning in the 1920’s, the Waverly Athletic Association would sponsor the March Dance; at this event, a 50 cent ticket would admit one person for an evening of dancing, refreshments, and socializing. Young children and adults were especially encouraged to attend these dances by Community House staff because they viewed dancing as a crucial developmental sport that had the potential to improve upon “speed, agility, accuracy, lightness of foot, readiness of hand, and the ability to be quick in thought and action.” Comm employees Gertrude Coursen, Helen Fish, and Ruth Harrison often attended these events and supervised the children; this community dance was a fun event that many looked forward to all year.

Spring Fashion Shows: Another way the Community House kicked off the season was with their Annual Spring Fashion Show titled, “Silhouette of Spring.” This show was held in collaboration between the Community Club and the Globe Store and featured local women and young adults modeling warm weather fashions for the community. The first show was held in the 1940’s and the event continued into the next decade.

Spring Music Festivals: Spring music festivals at the Waverly Community House began in the 1920’s and continued through the 1950’s. Many of them were held by the Waverly School and were very well planned events consisting of refreshments, elaborate floral displays, and many musical numbers performed by various members of the school’s chorus and glee club. The Spring Music Festival took place every March and were very popular among both children and adults.

May Festival: The May Festival was held on Community House grounds and featured May Festival 1927the crowning of Waverly’s “May Queen.” This was another festive way to kick off the season with a fun event; pictured in this photograph is 1927’s May Queen Susan Wheeler.

The Waverly Community House has always held festive events to mark the changing of the seasons and spring is no exception; this year, there is a lot to look forward to such as: the Second Annual Greenhouse and Kitchen Show, the Spring Photography Show, Waverly Waddle 5k Run Walk, and many developments in the Underground Railroad Interpretive Map. Stay tuned for these exciting events; happy spring!

Community Collaboration: the Scranton State School for the Deaf & the Belin Family

The Scranton State School for the Deaf (PA Oral School for the Deaf) has been a central element of the history of Northeastern Pennsylvania for decades. Interestingly enough,it is also strongly reflective of the Belin family’s philanthropic endeavors and their desire to better the community. In that regard, the Waverly Community House Archives is proud to share that history with our readers in today’s blog post.

The history  of the Scranton State School for the Deaf is traced all the way back to 1882 1889 SSDwhen a man named J.M. Koehler, assisted by a number of city residents, began to instruct a small class of eight deaf children in a room provided by the Scranton Board of Control. In order to extend the range of outreach, Mr. Koehler held a meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a formal facility for deaf instruction and education. Through community interest, attendees voted to create this institution which was initially conceptualized as primarily a “signing school,” to be instructed solely through sign language. Present at this meeting, Mr. Henry Belin Jr., was later appointed as committee chairperson; in preparation for the prospective school’s creation, Mr. Belin traveled to Philadelphia to visit the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. This school, featured a branch taught mainly by oral instruction as opposed to the signing method; the branch of the method was directed by Emma Garrett. After his visit, Mr. Belin was heavily inspired by the oral method of teaching and voiced his desire to emulate the prospective Scranton School after Miss Garrett’s branch. Garrett later visited Scranton in preparation for the school’s opening and aided Mr. Belin and the committee in hiring an instructor and finding a venue. On September 10th, 1883, the Pennsylvania Oral School for the Deaf was created and operated out of the chapel of the German Methodist Church until the facility on Wyoming Avenue was made available in 1886. On October 20th, 1883 the first formal meeting was held and a committee was appointed with the intention of “looking after the school and providing support.” Henry Belin Jr. served on this committee until his death in 1917.

In addition to Henry’s involvement with the school, Gaspard D’Andelot Belin also took great interest in benefiting the community through the Pennsylvania Oral School for the Deaf. Throughout adulthood, D’Andelot held various positions on the Board of Trustees of the institution. Letters in the archive also indicate the respect that many students had for Gaspard due to his generosity and frequent visits to the school to see the children and to bring gifts. An excerpt from a letter written to him by one of the many students reads as follows:

“Thank you very much for the delicious candy you sent us. I was very glad you had sent it because I like candy. We boys and girls hope that Governor Elect Earle will appoint you to the Board of Trustees of our school again. I hope you’ll be president for the rest of your life because you have been so kind and have never forgotten us.”

This heartfelt letter is simply one of many that indicate the impact Gaspard Belin had on the children at the school. It serves as a reminder of how community philanthropy and generosity can transform an entire community and genuinely make the daily lives of individuals and families better each day.

The Pennsylvania Oral School for the Deaf later became known as the Scranton State School for the Deaf; it is most presently called the Scranton School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and is headquartered in South Abington Township.

*Photo Credit: Scranton School for the Deaf, 1889.

Community Member Feature: Gaspard D’Andelot Belin

“Gaspard D’Andelot Belin must be prominently identified with public affairs and movements for the betterment of Scranton and its people. He is dedicated to giving the most unselfish service to the community and many who know him speak of his devotion to his untiring efforts (Scranton’s most Interesting People: Scrantonian, 1927).”

Today’s blog post will be dedicated to the youngest Belin child, Gaspard D’Andelot Belin; born in 1888, Mr. Belin went on to leave his impression on the community through various business and philanthropic endeavors. He is remembered vividly in archival articles stored at the Waverly Community House not only for his involvement with the Comm, but for his intelligence regarding business matters and his dedication to charitable efforts.

Following his childhood, Gaspard D’Andelot Belin attended Yale University, subsequently gdagraduating in 1908. He began his career shortly after, starting as a silk mill worker at the Klots Throwing Mill in Carbondale, PA where he made just six dollars per week. After six short years, Gaspard became manager of the company showing dedication and perseverance in his career. He later joined the E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company of Pennsylvania, where he eventually became President of the Executive Committee. In 1946, Mr. Belin became president of Scranton’s First National Bank, the largest bank in the area. In addition to his business related ventures, Gaspard held many positions in the community as well; some of his other involvements included: serving as President of the Scranton State School for the Deaf, Trustee and Treasurer of the Community Chest of Scranton, and President of the Community Welfare Association. He was also an active board member on the Hahnemann Hospital’s committee. In May of 1931, he attended the dedication ceremony for the Waverly Community House’s two additional wings where he presented the second family donation of land in facilitation of the expansion.


Mr. Belin died in 1954, but is fondly remembered at the Waverly Community House for his determination, and dedication to community welfare. The wing expansion is simply one of the ways Gaspard D’Andelot Belin has given back to the Comm and Waverly.

Building a Community: Abington Township’s Early Years

In 1806, Abington Township was formed by the court of Luzerne County; it was previously been part of Tunkhannock Township which encompassed areas such as: Clarks Green, Clarks Summit, Scott, Glenburn, La Plume, Waverly, Benton, Greenfield, and parts of Carbondale. Throughout areas of dense forest and wilderness,  there were a few scattered settlements; for the most part however, this area remained largely uninhabited until around 1820. Waverly, in particular was initially known as Abington Center and did not have many residents during its early years until the construction of the Philadelphia Great Bend Turnpike (now Route 407). After the creation of this road, more and more settlers arrived in the area and eventually it became a small village with many stores, roads, and residents; most of the townspeople came from the New England states of Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. Eventually, Waverly was established as a borough in Pennsylvania in 1853; the name derived from the Waverley Novels, written by Sir Walter Scott.capture

Waverly’s Earliest Residents

John Flanagan: Flanagan was a Scotch-Irish man from Plymouth, PA who built the very first house on the Philadelphia Great Bend Turnpike. He initially came to the area to work with coal.

Dr. William Nicholls: Nicholls built Waverly’s second home on the Philadelphia Great Bend Turnpike; he came to Waverly from Oxford, New York to practice medicine. He died two years later at the age of 28.

George Parker: George Parker built Waverly’s third property along the Philadelphia Great Bend Turnpike in 1828. His property later became the Wayside Inn, an Inn dedicated to providing guests with lodging, food, and a location to change horses. Parker arrived in the area from Rhode Island and fought in the War of 1812. The Wayside Inn was modeled heavily from New England architecture.

Dr. Andrew Bedford: After Dr. Nicholls passed away, Dr. Andrew Bedford arrived in Waverly one year later. Bedford graduated from Yale University and previously resided in Dundaff, PA. Dr. Bedford became the primary physician in the Abingtons. His home, built in 1828 still stands on North Abington Road today and is one of the region’s oldest residences.

As Waverly grew, many businesses were created by those who settled in the area; general stores, taverns, and blacksmith shops soon materialized. With the creation of the Waverly Community House in 1919,the area saw its first recreational facility emerge; those who live in the area can still see the beloved Comm grow and develop new programs every year.

This past week, the WCH Archives was featured as the NEPA Blog of the Week; NEPA Blogs is a website that specializes in providing links to blogs and and other sites about Northeastern Pennsylvania.