Historic Landmarks of Waverly: Documenting the Past

In the 1800’s, Waverly (known as Abington Center until 1853) saw much growth and development in the form of infrastructure additions and the creation of many local businesses. In fact, due to a “building boom,” which took place in the 1840’s, Waverly rivaled Scranton as a small-scale industrial center.  By the later half of the 1800’s, Waverly became home to a number of stores, including three general stores, as well as a hotel. Additionally, there were two blacksmith shops, a post office, a drug store, a farm machinery shop, and a tinsmith shop. The aforementioned name of Abington Center was bestowed upon Waverly in the early years due to its categorization as the trading center of the region. In this blog post, we will take a look at some of Waverly’s historic buildings, all of which made a considerable impact on society during that time period.

General StoreThe Waverly Corner Store: The Waverly Corner Store was one of the oldest buildings in the town; it was the very first store of its kind in the area and was started by local residents Stephen Parker, John Stone, and Elder John Miller. This store was built in 1830 and stood on the northwest corner of the Philadelphia Great Bend Turnpike in the village.It operated as a general store for a number of years until it was converted into an office building for the architect engineering firm Von Storch, Evans, Scandale, and Burkavage many years later; it then became an antique shop and is now the Waverly General Store.

The Fell Schoolhouse: The Fell School was one of the earliest schools in the Abingtons;Schoolhouse classes were conducted in a single schoolhouse modeled in Greek revival style. The schoolhouse was built in 1830 and remains a prominent historical landmark in the Northeastern Pennsylvania region due to its ties to the Underground Railroad Movement. When runaways began settling in Waverly, this building was used for the early services of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; prior to the permanent church’s erection along Carbondale Road, the Fell Schoolhouse on Main Street served as a place where congregation members held church services and also attended Sunday School. A gentleman by the name of Wanton Sherman helped to facilitate the idea of conducting Sunday School services at the location and his son Gilbert served as the instructor. In 1855, the official A.M.E Church was built along Carbondale Road, however the Fell Schoolhouse remains an important landmark in the region; it was renovated in 2017 and currently stands as a private residence.

Madison Academy: One of the most important sentiments of the village has alwaysMadison Academy been education; the historic Madison Academy served as a testament to this notion. In 1844, a group of investors facilitated the creation of this co-ed institution which was a private school known for its rigorous curriculum. Families traveled throughout the state to visit and enroll their children in the school due to its outstanding reputation; many future judges, lawyers, and doctors attended the school during its years of operation. Tuition ranged from $2.00- $10.00 per quarter, with the neighborhood boarding house charge of $1.25 per week. The private school ceased operation in 1878 and was utilized as a public school; the building was damaged by a wind storm in 1896 and was later torn down. At that time, the site of what is now known as Waverly Elementary became the center school of the town, serving all grades. The Waverly Elementary School was later built and officially dedicated on September 22nd, 1996; the bell to Madison Academy stands behind the Elementary School as a testament to the early educational institution in the region.

Bliss’ Store: In 1848, Bliss’ Store was built in the village; it was run by two gentlemen Blissnamed John Stone and Thomas Patterson. In addition to fulfilling the town’s needs as a general and dry goods store, a second floor was also furnished as a multipurpose location where many organizational meetings were held. Some of the organizations which assembled in the upstairs meeting hall were: the Odd Fellows Lodge (1847), Waverly Lodge of Masons (1856), George Fell GAR Post 307 (1883), and the Patriotic Sons of America (1890). The Waverly Post Office also served the community at this location for thirty-six years beginning in 1849.

The Waverly House: Village residents Dr. Andrew Bedford and Lemuel Stone formed a Waverly Hoteltemperance company in the mid 1800’s; this company consisted of Bedford, Leonard Batchelor, John Fell, and John Stone. They later persuaded a local tavern owner by the name of Alvah Parker to sell his tavern for the creation of a temperance hotel. Bedford and Stone’s company later bought out Parker and this hotel was built on the southwest corner of Main Street and Clinton Street. When Abington Center became Waverly three years later, the building was named the Waverly House. It was operated with strict temperance guidelines and became a village landmark. Due to low profits it was later sold in 1856 and changed hands a number of times before it was eventually razed in 1919.

The aforementioned sites are simply a few of the historical landmarks in Waverly. In the early years of the village’s development, these locations served the community’s needs in the form of education and recreation. Presently, Waverly remains an educational and recreational hub with the addition of new businesses and of course, the Comm. The history of the village also remains as many of the significant sites are either still standing, or documented in educational materials.

Visit our website for more information on current efforts to highlight the history of our region such as the Abington Visitor’s Center and the Destination Freedom Walking Trail.

Collective American Memory: Post Civil War Commemoration at the Waverly Community House

The American Civil War remains one of the defining events in United States history; between 1861-1865, American soil was inhabited by conflicts, battles, and general unrest. This four year war between the Union and Confederate armies forever changed the country’s dynamic leaving lasting effects throughout the nation. This crucial period in American history is recognized and commemorated through publications, archive collections, and various other means of remembrance. One particular way that the Civil War stays in American memory is through the organization of veterans groups and associations designed to serve as a meeting ground in the post- war world dedicated to linking individuals together through their collective war experiences. In addition to providing a refuge for runaway slaves during the Underground Railroad Movement, Waverly also served as a significant meeting ground for the aforementioned early Veterans’ Association meetings following the war. These meetings were held at the Waverly Community House and were well received and highly attended; this is exemplary of the Comm’s dedication to community needs throughout history.

In an archival letter dated July 29th, 1927, Mr. W.T. Simpson, organization president writes:

Dear Comrade,

The Civil War Union Veterans’ Association of the counties of Broome, NY, Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, and Wyoming Pennsylvania will hold their reunion at the Waverly Community House in Waverly, Pennsylvania on Friday July 29th, 1927. It will be held at 9 am and continue all day. Two bus lines will leave Scranton for Waverly as follows: the Scranton and Binghamton area has a bus leaving from the station at 231 Wyoming Avenue at 8 and 10 am, returning bus leaves Waverly at 2:10, 4:10, and 6:05 pm. There is another bus leaving from the 600 block of Lackawanna Avenue near the D L& W Station at 9:30 am and 12:40 pm. This bus leaves Waverly at 3:34, 6:04, and 9:14 pm. This invitation is extended to members of the Womens’ Relief Corps, Daughters of the Union Veterans, GAR Circle and their auxiliaries, and Sons of the Union Veterans and their auxiliaries. Dinner will be served free to all present. Hoping a large number will come and “Rally around the Flag” once more.

A short time later, a follow up letter was sent to the Waverly Community House addressed to Paul Belin. This archival piece reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Belin,

At the Annual Meeting of the Seven County Reunion, held at the Waverly Community House on July 29th, 1927, a resolution was adopted to send you a tremendous vote of thanks for your kindness in carrying out your mother’s wishes and making it possible for us to have one of the most enjoyable reunions ever held. Everything certainly was arranged for the comfort of all present and we want you to feel that we highly appreciate it. 

Finally, an additional letter sent to Mr. Belin from the Daughters of Union Veterans indicates:

Mr. Belin,

CW2On behalf of Elizabeth DeLacy Tent N. 10 Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, I wish to express our sincere thanks for the courtesy and wonderful dinner given by you, in your mother’s memory, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the old veterans and members of our Tent at the recent Seven Counties Reunion in Waverly PA.

In the letters above, it is revealed that Paul Belin served as one of the principal organizers of the reunion dinners in memory of his mother Margaretta; her death that preceding February remained in the background of the occasion however, it respectfully did not overshadow the primary message of the event– to honor the Union veterans of the United States. These types of events became prominent throughout the country in the years following the Civil War which demonstrates the national imperative to collectively commemorate this period of time in American history. The Waverly Community House, still relatively new at the time, certainly made an impression on the authors of the above written letters by serving as a meeting ground for their much valued reunion. In the years to come, the Comm would develop and serve the community in various similar ways; with its centennial anniversary approaching, all of these ways will be highlighted in our blog and we look forward to continuing to provide our readers with these significant historical milestones.

Community Member Feature: Gertrude Coursen

“Community Houses are more or less a new idea in this country and we know that they have come to remain, for they meet a real human need. It is up to us and to others who are pioneers in this field of activity to set our standards and ideals high. These ideals can be made practical only with the help of each and all. The grown ups cannot do it alone, the young people cannot do it alone. If the people of the community continue to pull together, as they have begun, toward the goal of health, happiness, and service, this community will become more and more as one upon a hill, which lets its light shine in rich blessing to others.” (Gertrude Coursen, April 1926)

The Waverly Community House Archives would like to wish all of our readers a very Happy New Year– we have a lot of exciting events planned for 2018 and cannot wait to share them with all of you! Today’s Community Member Feature will be dedicated to Gertrude Coursen, a very ambitious, enthusiastic woman who remains present in spirit, especially through our Archive and educational programs at the Waverly Community House.

GC 2Gertrude Coursen was born in Scranton on July 16th, 1882; she was just in her late twenties when she began her career as Community House Secretary in 1920. In this role Miss Coursen, as she was known, supervised daily operations at the Comm; her tasks included but were not limited to: helping organize the Annual Fair, providing Annual Meeting reports, conceptualizing new programs, and much more. Although she was very passionate about all of her tasks, her greatest joy, evidenced in her archival recollections, was undoubtedly her role as kindergarten teacher. Coursen cared strongly about the children of the community and was constantly seeking ways to enrich their lives in both educational and recreational aspects. Likewise, as evidenced through her Annual Meeting reports, she was dedicated to conducting research in order to seek innovative ways to enhance the Comm’s Kindergarten program. From 1930-1931, Gertrude Coursen took a sabbatical from her duties at the Waverly Community House and spent several months studying social welfare work and traveling to other community houses throughout the country; some of the places she visited included New York City, Chicago, and areas abroad in Europe. While there, she observed kindergarten classes in order to determine how the Comm’s program measured up. In a 1931 letter, she assured the Board of Trustees that the curriculum, as well as the operations of the Waverly Community House as a whole, were as advanced as those in larger cities. When she returned, she remained passionate about her role as kindergarten teacher and she frequently sought out new ways to aid the children on their journey of becoming well rounded adults; her Annual Meeting reports were filled with quotes and research conducted from various publications such as the National Education Magazine. Throughout her time teaching, she not only focused on education, but insisted on dedicating ample time for recreational activities as well as evidenced in this quote from the 1932 Annual Meeting: “Children have a right to health, to normal growth and development, to security, and to the happiness which comes from true play.” Constantly striving to make the community a better place through education and recreation was a passion of Miss Coursen and it showed throughout her work as both Comm Secretary and Kindergarten Teacher; those who wrote of her in archival publications spoke of her, and the program’s success fondly and often. Henry Belin Jr. III, wrote of Coursen and the Kindergarten in 1938 as follows: “The kindergarten, under the direction of Miss Coursen, assisted by Miss Eynon and Mrs. Doud has maintained the usual high standard that we have been accustomed to in Waverly. It is a great satisfaction to all of us to realize that people from as far away as Scranton prefer to have their children attend the Waverly Kindergarten. Miss Coursen has ably carried on the duties which are required of her at the Community House, which has run smoothly under her able guidance.”

While highly successful in her instructional duties, Gertrude Coursen’s significance cannot simply be measured in that regard however; Miss Coursen was one of the first creators of what is now an entire archival collection housed at the Waverly Community House. Beginning in 1920, Coursen meticulously collected each and every newspaper article, photograph, and report regarding the Comm; she then organized them into scrapbooks arranged by date and year. These books were added to regularly until the late 1940’s when Coursen left and other methods of collecting materials by her successors began. The Waverly Community House Archive would not be complete without Miss Coursen and for that we are grateful. We will close out today’s post below with a memorable quote from her 1922 Annual Meeting report.

“We as a community have a big place to fill in serving– many other communities are hoping and working so that they may too have a community house. In a measure, they are looking to us. May we always remember that its the spirit which counts– that the Waverly Community House may be one of true happiness, example, and service.”

Kindergarten


In other news, the Waverly Community House is currently accepting donations of materials in preparation for our centennial anniversary. If you have any memorabilia, photographs, news articles, or materials relating to the Comm and Waverly that you would like to donate, please contact us at: (570) 586-8191 ex. 7, or via email at greviello@waverlycomm.org. We would love to be able to feature your memories in our centennial!

‘Tis the Season: Holiday Celebrations at the Waverly Community House

“We are always glad for the opportunity to turn the pages of the year and there we find much interest and significance. We find a spirit of helpfulness, friendliness, and cooperation among our staff and community members. The same spirit brings us excellent volunteer leaders for our clubs and classes; it has also brought us a community Christmas tree from the Waverly Grange. It has made possible the work of various committees and the Board of Trustees, and the great success of our programs. On the page of memory, which will remain with us always, we find the meaning of true friendship in the interest, understanding, sympathy, and generosity of Mrs. Henry Belin Jr. who has made possible for us this work.” (Gertrude Coursen, December 1929)

The Waverly Community House has always finished each year with both new and traditional programs to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season with community members. As the Comm brings another promising year to a close, this post will serve to reflect on some of the historical celebrations of years past.  We would also like to remind everyone that the Waverly Community House Archives is open daily through appointment for anyone who would like to access our space; contact information will be supplied down below. Stay tuned for updates, volunteer opportunities, and more via our blog; we have lots of new developments which will be taking place in 2018.

Christmas Carol Program 1Seasonal Christmas Productions: Theatrical productions served as a prominent way that the Waverly Community House would celebrate the holiday season. Such plays would take place during the month of December and would feature a different theme each year. On December 20th, 1944, the annual play was titled “the Community Christmas Program” and was directed by Frances Dewey Fausold. The production was held at 8pm in the Comm’s auditorium and was heavily inspired by the work of playwright Joyce Vernon Drake. This year, community members can look forward to attending “A Christmas Carol” at the Comm performed by Robert Hughes this Friday, December 15th at 7pm; it is open to the public and light refreshments will be served.

Music Programs: In a similar fashion, the Waverly Community House held a variety of musical programs to ring in the Christmas season. On Christmas night, 1941 the Comm held a candlelit caroling program featuring songs, poems, and stories. The accompanying piece to this production features performances such as:

“The Holly and the Ivy” (solo)

“Ring out Sweet Bells” (carol)

“A Carol for the Children” (poem)

“A Christmas Letter” (story)

This program ended with a story entitled “The House of Christmas,” and was heavily attended by community members after their family gatherings.

Another way the Comm celebrated the season with music was through the organization of Christmas carolers. Each year, beginning in the 1930’s, the Boy and Girl Scouts would assemble a gathering of Christmas carolers to travel the neighborhood stopping at each house with a lit candle in their window. This tradition would typically take place on Christmas Eve and lasted for nearly a decade.

Community House Canteen: The Waverly Comm Canteen would also partake in a festive overhaul during the holidays; in early December, notices were sent out reminding community members that the Canteen was stocked up on Christmas candy for the public to utilize as gifts. A December 9th, 1933 notice reads as follows:

“Save yourself a trip to Scranton and order your family boxes of Christmas candy at the Community House Canteen. We also have decorated wrapping paper, twine, Christmas cards, and seals.”

Community members certainly took advantage of this offer, often purchasing many of their holiday essentials at the Waverly Community House Canteen.

Toy Donations: Toy donations were one of the many ways the Comm encouraged community members to give back during the Christmas season. During the winter months, the Comm would take donations of gently used toys and other items to donate to those less fortunate. Any broken toys would be repaired at the Comm before given out at the Annual Children’s Christmas Party. Many members of the public participated in this activity and began the Christmas season in the spirit of giving through the Waverly Community House.

Comm WinterThroughout the years, the Waverly Community House has withstood the test of time through its spirit of community and giving back. The Comm has served to bring community members together in various ways and the holiday season was no exception. As we bring 2017 to an end, community members can look forward to all of the great programs that 2018 will have to offer at the Waverly Community House. Stay tuned for all the exciting new developments. As always, we wish all of our valued community members a safe and happy holiday season.

The Waverly Community House Archives is located in the Comm’s South Wing; we can be reached at (570) 586-8191 ex. 7, or via email at greviello@waverlycomm.org.

 

The Waverly Community House’s Early Years: Postcards from the Past

“Even greater than its material success, is the spirit of helpfulness and good will– which has made Waverly unique in its rich community life.” (Gertrude Coursen,  Waverly Community House Annual Meeting 1924).

In 1921, a series of postcards was created utilizing photographer John Horgan Jr.’s captivating images of the Waverly Community House’s initial years. These photographs, featured below, depict the Comm’s earliest days of existence and adequately reveal the essence of a building that is timeless in both nature and spirit.

Airplane View

Aerial view of the Waverly Community House: As seen in this image, the Comm’s two wings were not yet in existence; also absent is the auditorium expansion which was not added until 1958.

Front

The Waverly Community House: Although many additions and renovations have taken place since 1920, the Comm retains its original mission statement which is to “enhance the lives of individuals and families in the region by fostering educational, recreational, and cultural opportunities.” The Waverly Community House has served the community for nearly one hundred years.

Lounge

Waverly Community House Lounge: Now known as the Lobby, the Comm’s central area is used primarily for seasonal displays and decor; as the Comm has expanded, meeting space has become readily available in the two wings and other locations within the building. This year, during the Artisans’ Marketplace, visitors can look forward to seeing the Comm’s Hearth Booth in the Lobby.

Playground

Waverly Community House Playground: The Comm’s Playground has served to provide recreation to children for almost a century. Although is has gone through extensive changes throughout the years, it is still a crucial element of the building’s landscape and purpose, and has gifted the children of the community with an outdoor space for activities and entertainment.

These postcards depict a building that has gone through many alterations throughout the years; however, as the Waverly Community House approaches its one hundredth birthday, it is evident that it continues to serve the community in a vital way. As for current events and updates, community members can look forward to the 34th Annual Artisans’ Marketplace which will be taking place next weekend, November 18th-19th. This year the Comm has over 35 juried artisans and a luncheon provided by Constantino’s Catering. There will also be a special exhibit titled “Winter” featured in one of the Comm’s newest spaces, the Small Works Gallery which is set up in the North Wing of the building. For more information on this event, please visit the Comm’s website!

Autumn Traditions at the Waverly Community House

The autumn season has always been full of activity at the Waverly Community House; throughout the years, the Comm has held many trips, parades, dances, masquerades, and theatrical productions in celebration of the fall and subsequent occasions such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. This post will focus on some of the ways the Waverly Community House has celebrated this time of year in the past, while also revealing what we currently have in store for the upcoming season. Community members will have a great deal to anticipate as the Comm finishes another fantastic, fun filled year.

Halloween DanceHalloween Celebrations: Beginning in the 1920’s, Halloween has been celebrated in numerous ways at the Comm; costume parties, dances, masquerades, and parades filled the calendar in October every year as children and adults prepared for the fall season. In 1928, the Comm held a Halloween Masquerade Dance for adults which was filled with dancing, refreshments, and music; 18th century colonial attire was the common theme of the event as costumed adults poured into the building for a night of festive entertainment. Similar events were also held for children, usually held by the Boy and Girl Scouts on Halloween afternoon; an invitation from the 1928 event reads as follows: “You are invited to a Halloween Frolic on Wednesday, October 31st from 3-5 pm at the Waverly Community House.” As the years passed, Halloween has always remained a celebratory occasion at the Comm and to commemorate the holiday this year, there will be a Family Halloween Party held on Saturday, October 28th from 1-230 pm; on this year’s schedule: a haunted house, trick or treat, crafts, games, dancing and a bake sale.

Fall Concerts: Autumn concerts began in the 1920’s and were presented by the Waverly Grade School and Jr. Sr. High School. These productions typically took place in early November and were filled with numerous themed musical numbers and demonstrations. The program for the 1942 Fall Concert includes acts thematically named “Salute to the Armed Forces,” “Salute to Washington,” and “Our Flag.” These concerts continued for years and often took place numerous times throughout the season; this was yet another way that the Waverly Community House utilized the arts in celebration, which still continues in our current programming.

Autumn Theatrical Productions: Another popular way the Waverly Community House celebrated the seasonal change was through theatrical productions. Each November beginning in 1926, the Comm would hold its “Thanksgiving Play.” This demonstration was given by the Waverly Grade School and Jr. Sr. High School. The program from the 1936 production indicates that it took place on November 25th at 2pm and featured a waltz, march, and proclamation.

Thanksgiving 1940Thanksgiving Dances: During the 1920’s and 30’s, dances were a very popular way to commemorate many occasions at the Waverly Community House and Thanksgiving was no exception. Each year, the Waverly Athletic Association held the annual Thanksgiving Dance at the Waverly Community House. This festive dance featured orchestral music and refreshments; admission was fifty cents. The invitation from the 1926 Thanksgiving Dance reads as follows: “The Waverly Athletic Association is giving a Thanksgiving Dance on Friday evening, November 26th, 1926. Good music– Eddie Moore’s Orchestra. Prize Fox Trot, confetti, streamers, and a guaranteed good time.”

Thanksgiving Night at the Waverly Community House: Shortly after the Comm opened in the 1920’s, another Thanksgiving tradition was born. In early November, community members were sent letters inviting them to the Waverly Community House Thanksgiving night following their dinner celebrations for “candy, dessert, and coffee.” This sentiment only lasted a few years however it served as an endearing, intimate way that the Comm encouraged community gathering and celebration.

CaptureThroughout the years, the Waverly Community House has served to bring community members together in various different ways; as the Comm aims to finish another year, community members can look forward to events such as: The Northeast PA Film Festival’s opening night, Halloween Party, Artisan’s Marketplace,and much more. Happy Fall!

End of Summer Celebration: Labor Day at the Waverly Community House

In the 1930’s and 40’s, the Waverly Community House– still in its early years of development, held annual events in observance of Labor Day. Considered the unofficial end of summer by many, Labor Day was celebrated at the Comm with many recreational activities designed to appeal to all age groups. On a letter sent out to all community members dated August 15th, 1933, physical director of the Comm Wallace Rubright writes: “With the desire to make Labor Day a pleasant holiday for our townspeople, we have roughly outlined a plan which we believe would make for much fun and enjoyment of those participating. Events will start at 9:00 am. Take particular notice of the dancing for the evening, we are arranging to have good music and light refreshments. Admission will be 25 cents for the ladies and 50 cents for the gentlemen. We ask for your kindly support in checking the events you wish to enter and returning this form. Any suggestions or requests will be appreciated sincerely.” The events list enclosed contains an outline of the above mentioned events and activities which began at the Comm at 9 am. Some of the functions included: tennis, baseball, potato sack races, mushball, nail driving, a picnic, and card party; the night then commenced with a Labor Day Dance held on the Community House lawn. Labor Day 1936

The Waverly Community House has remained at the center of holiday celebrations for decades. As we close out the summer of 2017, the Comm is preparing for many more fun filled activities and events to finish off the year including the annual Halloween party and Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival. Stay tuned for all updates regarding these two events and many more via the Comm’s website and Facebook page. We hope all of our readers had a safe, happy Labor Day!

 

Historical Legacies: the Civil War in Northeastern Pennsylvania

Good morning everyone, today’s blog post is brought to you by Comm Camp Director E.J. Murphy. It highlights the history of the Civil War in the United States, and how our region, and its residents contributed to both the war and Underground Railroad Movement. Enjoy!

On Monday, July 10, 2017, a Confederate battle flag was hoisted outside of the South Carolina statehouse. When asked to explain the motivation behind the unofficial flag raising, South Carolina Secessionist Party President James Bessenger deferred to a vague self-defense, and in turn, self-preservation. “They are trying to demonize and vilify our ancestors,” he claimed, “150 years after their deaths.” It is Bessenger’s opinion that the removal of the Confederate monuments and flags adorning state government buildings amounted to the erasure of a critical component of Southern history, heritage, and pride. The protest, being held in conjunction with the second anniversary of South Carolina’s decision  to remove Confederate banners from state government buildings, was met with equally strong sentiment dissenting from the SCSP perspective. “Go home, you’re not welcome here. You lost then and you’ll lose again,” shouted a loudspeaker-wielding counter-protestor as the “Stars and Bars” ascended over the crowd. “Go home Confederates!”

BattleOfCorinthThe confrontation between the two-dozen or so Confederate supporters and the much larger assembly of counter-protesters was a microcosm of the ideological divide that this country has struggled with since the end of the Civil War in 1865. Geography will naturally play a large part in formation of opinion and remembrance regarding the war. South Carolina was the cradle of secession. On December 20, 1860, following the election of the nation’s first Republican president, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. On April 12, 1861 at 4:30 a.m. the Civil War began in the Palmetto State with the bombardment of Union-controlled Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor by Confederate batteries.

The legacy of the Civil War is one of dissension–of values, of identity, and even of history. As James Baldwin once wrote, “the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. ” So how do we, as citizens of northeastern Pennsylvania, reflect on and relate to a historical phenomenon that began over 155 years ago? As historian David McCollough reminded us in Ken Burns’ highly acclaimed 1990 documentary miniseries on the Civil War, the war was fought in 10,000 places: the bucolic fields of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania where the men of the Union Army of the Potomac pitted themselves against Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia; the swamps of the Mississippi Valley where Ulysses S. Grant fought tirelessly to dislodge the Army of Mississippi from its “Gibraltar of the Confederacy” at Vicksburg; the far-removed New Mexico territory where the “Gettysburg of the West” raged at Glorieta Pass. Northeastern Pennsylvania was one of the few regions of the country not to be ravaged by combat in the Civil War.

Although detached from the exploding artillery and relentless musket fire, it does not take a concerted effort to see the impact that the war had on our little corner of the Keystone State. Take a stroll through the Willow Grove Cemetery right here in Waverly (along with countless others in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties) and you will see gravestones decorated with Grand Army of the Republic insignia. At Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton stands the most imposing memorial to the war in the city, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which pays homage to the men who went off to fight in places with unfamiliar names. A quick walk around the block to the corner of Adams Avenue and Spruce Street will introduce you to General Philip H. Sheridan, preserved in concrete and bronze to commemorate his successful campaigns during some of the final engagements of the war in the Shenandoah Valley and at Appomattox Court House. If you are fortunate enough to have some free time on the third Saturday of every month, you can visit the impressive Civil War museum that is tucked away in the basement of Scranton City Hall.

While Scranton and the surrounding communities, with their rich history in the coal, iron, and railroad industries, were major suppliers of raw material for the Union, it is important to understand that real men left their families, careers, and lives on the line to join a fight that was waged for reasons numerous. Like most of the states committed to the Union, the citizens of the area showed support for the government, but Scranton was not without its Confederate sympathizers and anti-war opinion. A draft office in Archbald was attacked, as was a common scene throughout the country. These frustrations regarding the war are reflected in the voting numbers of the presidential election of 1864 during which Abraham Lincoln became the first president in history to seek re-election in the midst of civil war against his former commanding general, George B. McClellan. McClellan, a Democrat disgraced by Lincoln after being removed from command of the Army of the Potomac for his inability to crush Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia during Lee’s failed Maryland Campaign of 1862, received 9,541 votes to Lincoln’s 6,646. Had McClellan won the election nationwide it is likely that he would have sought a negotiated truce with the states in rebellion, ended the war sooner, and put a large question mark on the future of slavery in North America.

The 1860 Census identified Luzerne County (Lackawanna County had not yet been formed) as having a population of 90,390. The county had furnished 5,500 troops including approximately 2,000 from Scranton and the neighboring region. Over 100 commissioned officers came from the area now comprising Lackawanna County, including Colonel Richard A. Oakford. As commander of the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Oakford was killed at the Battle of Antietam while attacking the Bloody Lane, a battle which thwarted Lee’s first invasion of Union territory and lead Lincoln to issue his now famous but contemporarily unpopular Emancipation Proclamation. Prior to the battle, Oakford found himself without a horse. In a letter to Joseph H. Scranton, an early investor in the iron and coal industries in the city that bears his family’s name and later the executive head of the Lackawanna Iron & Coal Company (now site of Scranton’s Historic Iron Furnaces on Cedar Avenue), Oakford pleaded his case, begging Scranton for a proper fighting horse. “It is an old adage that there is no use in having friends unless you can use them. Now I think this saying is true & take the liberty of calling on you for a little help just now,” he began. The Union government was not helping Oakford’s cause. “The Army having lost very heavily in horses as well as men has sent all the spare horse forward to the front & it is utterly impossible for us to get horses from the Government.” His desperation comes to surface later in the letter. “If you will help me out of the dilemma in which I find myself, I will promise as the Irishman in his prayer did. I am nothing like the other blaggards asking favors of you every day but Good Lord only just be after helping me this time & it will be a long time before I be troubling you with any prayers of mine.” This was an ominous foretelling, as Oakford would be dead only two weeks later.

Captains Patrick De Lacy of Carbondale and John C. Delaney of Dunmore were both awarded the Medal of Honor for their participation and bravery during the Battles of the Wilderness and Hatcher’s Run, respectively. De Lacy performed particularly heroic during a battle that some historians consider the worst, if not the biggest, battle of the war. “On the 6th day of May in the Wilderness I captured a rebel battle-flag on the breast-works and led the charge that re-captured the line of works from Longstreet’s corps, which they had just previously taken from Hancock’s men, and for which Congress presented me with a Medal of Honor,” De Lacy recalled in his memoirs. He would have to wait over three decades after the cessation of hostilities to receive this honor. This was not De Lacy’s only heroic endeavor during the battle. While the men still fighting at the Wilderness took to each other with rifle and bayonet, the wounded were in perilous danger. The Wilderness was a heavily wooded area and the leaves from the previous year, due in part to burning lint and linen from rifle and musket cartridges as well as cannon fire, started to burn. As their brothers in arms listened in horror to the screams of the men unable to escape the flames, De Lacy took action. “The situation was alarming; I suggested to the commanding officer, Col. Charles M. Conyngham, that we fight fire with fire, as I had seen done when a boy on the farm. It was a hazardous undertaking, because it was directly between the two armies, and in line with the fire of the enemy. The Colonel hesitated to give permission, thinking we would not live to accomplish it; he said we would never come back alive, but gave permission.” De Lacy, along with a few volunteers, approached the edge of the fire and when they arrived “the enemy could not help but see us, but we kept right on scraping up the dry leaves and brush, catching up burning brands and back-firing. We succeeded in preventing the fire from extending any nearer our wounded, who were being carried back while we were fighting the fire. We all three believed the enemy spared us, knowing we were engaged in such a humane undertaking.”

So where does Waverly fit into this narrative? While many residents of Waverly ventured to areas that would become this country’s most hallowed ground, a recent book by journalist Jim Remsen, “Embattled Freedom”, highlights Waverly’s fascinating history of abolition, African-American settlement, and participation in the Underground Railroad. Remsen shares the stories of prominent citizens of Waverly and their impact on the racial and cultural makeup of the town and surrounding areas (you can grab a copy of the “Self-Guided Walking Tour of Waverly” pamphlet at the Waverly Community House and experience for yourself the living history of the town). Many escaped slaves and freeborn men and women came to call Waverly home, settling in what became the largest African-American community for miles. Residents of this community, which existed along what is now Carbondale Road, also gave what may have not been their last but was certainly a full measure of devotion on the battlefield. The final chapter of Remsen’s book offers short profiles of some of the men who so consecrated the battlefield and helped change the hearts and minds of some of their white comrades in regard to the capacity of African-Americans in fighting and in citizenship. Francis Asbury Johnson (freeborn son of a slave), George Keys Sr., John Mason, William Bradley (all three born into slavery in Maryland), and John W. Washington (born into slavery in Virginia) all enlisted in the 22nd U.S. Colored Troops regiment and were engaged in the Siege of Petersburg. The Petersburg operations, just like those at the Wilderness and Hatcher’s Run, came toward the end of the war and served as General Grant’s final push toward the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. Samuel Thomas escaped slavery in Virginia and became a cook in the immortal 54th Massachusetts regiment whose actions are portrayed in the 1989 film Glory starring Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew Broderick as Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the 54th Massachusetts. As to what motivated these men to fight for a country that largely did not see them as equals before God and the law, that is a discussion for another occasion.

During a time when news headlines seem to be constantly shedding light on the ongoing debate over the war and the preservation of its memory and legacy, this history is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss as irrelevant or unimportant. The causes of the war and the impact of its consequences reverberate throughout the nation today. On July 8, a Loyal White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan protest consisting of about 50 members of the North Carolina-based group and its supporters, objecting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, was met by hundreds of counter protesters. Police lines were drawn, taunts were thrown back and forth, and eventually police had to intervene with tear gas and arrested 22 people. Virginia, one of the oldest and most prominent states in our history, sat at the heart of the physical and ideological conflict of the 1850’s and 60’s and that conflict still rips at the social fabric of today. Historians have more recently focused a large effort on the concentration of social history and how it plays out in modern society. “Historians have been using evidence about class, race, ethnicity, and gender to gain insight into Americans’ everyday lives–their work and leisure, their culture and ideology, their relations with one another and with the political and economic systems under which they have lived,” explained eminent Civil War historian James McPherson. This evidence has been collected and written about by the likes of McPherson, Eric Foner, Drew Gilpin Faust, and David W. Blight, but the understanding of that evidence seems to still bemuse the public at large. Clearly the debate is not over and the question now remains; where do we go from here?

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 eight of 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.