They Stick like Death to their Guns: Soldiery, Citizenship, & the Civil War Era in Waverly, Pennsylvania

Today’s blog post was written by E.J. Murphy; E.J. is a history teacher at the Howard Gardner School in Scranton and has written this post highlighting the Civil War and its significance in the Northeastern Pennsylvania region. Enjoy!

“This city feels dark…the Cabinet seems tumbling to pieces. Our armies do nothing, & despair is seizing hold of a great many people. The battle at Fredericksburg was a great disaster and a terrible loss of life to no purpose. If God is not with us in this fight, we are in trouble.”

Writing from Washington D.C. on December 19, 1862, four days after the conclusion of the lopsided Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia and eleven days after his confirmation as Supreme Court Associate Justice, David Davis could not contain his own despondency. About two weeks later, again writing to his brother-in-law, Northeastern Pennsylvania iron and coal magnate and President of the Lackawanna County Iron and Coal Company, Joseph H. Scranton, Davis’ emotion poured through the pages. “If the Country was at peace and my home was not broken up I should feel like another man.” Unbeknownst to Davis was that the Northern effort was destined to suffer further calamity. Commanding the Union Army of the Potomac was the famously whiskered General Ambrose E. Burnside, and Burnside was not about to see the Union’s largest fighting force disgraced under his authority. Toward the end of January 1863, looking to redeem his reputation which was now inextricably linked to the embarrassment at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside attempted to lead a rare and ill-fated winter offensive against Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia with the peripheral goal of boosting his troop’s sagging morale. While on the move in the wet and cold, the Army of the Potomac became bogged down attempting to re-cross the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, at which confident Confederate troops who had been eyeing the movement of the Union forces lie patiently in wait for the dispirited Yankees. Without so much as a skirmish, the offensive was aborted and with it President Abraham Lincoln’s faith in Burnside who would be replaced by the hard-drinking “Fighting” Joe Hooker on January 26.

Among soldiers, Joseph Hooker was a popular choice as Burnside’s replacement. “Under Hooker we began to live,” wrote one solider. “I have never,” conceded an officer previously skeptical of Hooker’s prowess, “known men to change from a condition of the lowest depression to that of a healthy fighting state in so short time.” Hooker, however, was a contentious man and was not afraid to speak out on his distaste for certain generals and his lack of confidence in the government (he had lambasted Burnside after the debacle at Fredericksburg and the Mud March). Regardless, Lincoln knew that he needed Hooker’s military acumen to succeed. “I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship,” wrote the President to his new commander. Lincoln hadn’t need to concern himself with the dictatorship as the success needed to yield such a dictator never came.

Hooker and Lee’s forces met from April 30- May 6, 1863 at the crossroads village of Chancellorsville. approximately ten miles west of Fredericksburg. Despite being outnumbered two to one, the Battle of Chancellorsville became Robert E. Lee’s masterpiece. In the face of superior forces Lee defied all accepted military convention by splitting up his army and sending Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on a twelve-mile flanking maneuver that would help crush Hooker and his Union troops. The victory would cost Lee his number one lieutenant in Jackson who would lose his left arm in a friendly-fire incident and later lose his life, but the victory at Chancellorsville would nevertheless boost the confidence of the now legendary general and lead him to plan an offensive of his own- one that would lead him and his army to a quiet, small town nestled in the hills of South Central Pennsylvania with the intention of finishing the war. Hooker on the other hand had begun to fall out of favor and as a result of this his time commanding Lincoln’s greatest army was slowly coming to an end.

Less than a month later both armies began to maneuver north. As the Army of Northern Virginia made its way into Maryland the Army of the Potomac stayed cautiously in between Lee and Washington. D.C. Hooker, still at odds with Lincoln over strategy, offered his resignation after a disagreement with General in Chief Henry W. Halleck regarding the use of troops stationed to defend the Union garrison at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia (which became a Union state on June 20, 1863). Lincoln happily accepted Hooker’s resignation and quickly found his replacement. On June 28 he made George Gordon Meade the fifth man to command of the principal Union army in the eastern theater. Marching with the Army of the Potomac was the 143rd Pennsylvania Infantry regiment. The citizen-soldiers of this regiment were recruited mostly from Luzerne County (of which present-day Lackawanna County was still a part) but also included troops from Lycoming, Susquehanna, and Wyoming counties. This horde of Northeastern Pennsylvanians had experienced combat against the Army of Northern Virginia during the defeat at Chancellorsville where the regiment arrived on the field of battle as Old Stonewall made his famous march. Part of the First Army Corps, Third Division, Second Brigade, the 143rd was one of the first regiments to arrive at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Second Brigade, which was comprised of the 143rd, 149th, and 150th Pennsylvania Infantry regiments, was a reformation of the famous “Bucktail Brigade.” While the 143rd was not considered a Bucktail regiment, the 149th and 150th were known to sport actual buck tails in their caps during battle. In any case of attire, these regiments would need to live up to the reputation that was born with the original Bucktails.

Crossing the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania was a joyful occasion for the boys from the Keystone State. Some men broke out into melody, gleefully singing “Home Sweet Home,” a saccharine song that both North and South tried to ban due to its evocation of home and family and its tendency to cause men to desert. “Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,” they sang. “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home/ A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there/ Which seek thro’ the world, is ne’er met elsewhere.” But the mood was not universally jovial. One of the boys from the 143rd remarked that “he could smell a fight.” As the men bivouacked on the night of June 30, Private Avery Harris noted that the men were uneasy and “anxiety seemed to be settling down upon them.” In charge of the Second Brigade was Colonel Roy Stone and on the morning of July 1 Stone’s men woke not to the usual noise of bugles and drums, but of officers warning the men against any unnecessary noise. Their supplies were late, so instead of a decent breakfast to fill their stomachs the soldiers were left to the infamous hardtack and coffee that was so often the undesirable option for a meal. In the distance, the sound of artillery began to ring out and the brigade then moved quick-time toward the action which was taking place to the northwest of town. The especially hot and muggy weather led many troops to fall out and seek water at nearby farm wells. As the exploding artillery became louder and louder the brigade moved on the double-quick along Emmitsburg Road. While passing over Seminary Ridge the soldiers ditched their knapsacks and blankets and amid the cannon fire a shell ricocheted and ripped off the haversack of one of the members of the 143rd. Recognizing the tactical disadvantage he now found himself in, the soldier remarked to his comrades, “well boys they have cut off my supplies.” General Abner Doubleday of the Third Division tried to rally and inspire the men who were somewhat wavering due to the intensity of the battle. What’s more, the Union had also lost one of its most promising generals early in the fight. John Reynolds, commander of the Army First Corps, a native Pennsylvanian, and widely regarded as one of the premier leaders in the army, had taken a bullet through the neck and was dead before his body fell from his horse to the ground. It was an inauspicious time, and the battle was just beginning.

Stone’s brigade started to take an initial position to the right of the McPherson Woods and the Iron Brigade, the Union’s most famous and hard-fighting unit, but the emergence of Confederate General R. E. Rhodes’ troops on Oak Ridge forced Stone to shift his troops north. “This movement had scarcely been completed when the enemy advanced against our entire front in large numbers, and, when within easy range, were received with an effective fire from our whole line, which threw them into confusion, and a charge by the One hundred and forty-ninth forward to the railroad cut being made, they fell back to a sheltered position, where they were re-enforced and their broken ranks reformed,” wrote Wilkes-Barre native and commander of the 143rd, Colonel Edmund L. Dana, after the battle.

The 143rd covered the 149th as they met North Carolina troops at the unfinished railroad cut but despite the appearance of initial success, the fight was not theirs to be won that day.  The brigade suffered crippling loss of command with Col. Stone, as well as his replacement Col. Langhorne Wister, suffering wounds that removed them from the field. Not all troops came out of the first day of battle with little reason to keep their heads high. For his heroic and successful attempt to save a wounded comrade under heavy fire, Wilkes-Barre native James M. Rutter would later be awarded the Medal of Honor. In any event, command of the brigade fell to Col. Dana of the 143rd, but the loss of their officers and the pressure being put on the troops by the Confederates caused the Yankees to retreat back through town to hills just south of Gettysburg. Lieutenant Colonel John Musser recalled after the retreat that the troops “sat down to rest, but could not sit still. Officers and men shook hands in silence great tear drops standing in their undaunted eyes, as they thought of the dead and wounded left in the hands of the cursed Rebels. We were almost afraid to ask each other where the rest of our regt. were, we knew most of them were either killed or wounded.” The Second Brigade entered the first day of battle with 1,315 men and by the end of the conclusive third day had suffered 850 casualties (killed, wounded, and missing), a staggering 65 percent of their manpower. The 143rd regiment itself entered the battle with nearly 500 men, of which 27 would be killed, 150 wounded, and 60 or 70 missing in action. While the battle would eventually be won by the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia would be sent back into Virginia to stay, this was not yet reality on July 1. Of those among the dead scattered throughout the site of the largest battle ever fought in the western hemisphere, after likely being wounded on the first day and dying as the 143rd assisted in the repulse of Pickett’s Charge on the last, was Waverly’s own George O. Fell.

Waverly and the surrounding communities were not immune to the divisiveness that helped lead the men of the 143rd and the rest of the country into war. A northerner wrote in 1841 that “the truth is I am jaded to death in wars of Abolitionism and other isms connected with it. The spirit which has been diffused through the length & breadth of our work is fraught with the Elements of faction & caters for anarchy. You may think this language too strong and that my fears are groundless or regarding them as the declaration of existing facts and a fair deduction you might think one wanting in courage or fidelity to leave the field in the midst of an engagement.” Throughout the country Northern and Southern Democrats divided themselves over the issue of slavery to the point of crippling their party and allowing the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The Republican party was also split among ideological lines with a faction of “radicals” who favored immediate emancipation and full citizenship and voting rights for African-Americans contending with moderate and conservative Republicans whose motivations and values regarding race were dubious (by today’s standards) at best and at worst just as racially prejudiced (again, by today’s standards) as their Democratic counterparts or even Southerners. While echoing the national mood to an extent, events in the years leading up to the war helped elevate Waverly into a unique position as a safe haven for those escaping bondage.

Since the 1840’s slaves fleeing from their masters, plantations, and the cruelty of slavery had made their way to freedom by following the Underground Railroad – a system of cities, towns, safe houses, and individuals sympathetic to the plight of the enslaved and determined to undermine Southern efforts to not only continue but strengthen the hold that the peculiar institution had on the country. The freedom seekers who ended up passing through or settling in Northeastern Pennsylvania largely came from Maryland and would enter familiar places such as the Gettysburg area, Wilkes-Barre, Tunkhannock, Montrose, and Towanda en route to upstate New York, New England, or Canada. As early as the 1830’s, antislavery societies had been sprouting throughout the region. One of the first was the Susquehanna Colonization Society, established in Montrose in 1834. Two years later the Susquehanna County Anti-Slavery & Free Discussion Society was formed under the premise of immediate abolition. This group garnered the attention of local Democrats who condemned the group as an “unlawful assembly” and its members “disturbers of the peace.” The first meeting of the group attracted over 100 attendees and within a year the group’s following had reached 275. By 1839 there were four more antislavery societies in the county. In February a convention for abolitionists from Bradford, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Luzerne (including residents of Waverly) counties was held at Montrose’s First Presbyterian Church. Over 500 people showed up and the group raised $123 (over $2,000 today) for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. The meeting itself was a strong political statement, but convention attendees sought more. Moral action was going to be key in achieving the group’s ultimate goals. Public debates over slavery and press coverage of abolitionist sentiment were needed to spread the ideas that the group was based upon. This call for public attention worked at doing just that, but the circulation of that information did not just reach the likeminded and curious. Opposition waited just around the corner and it did not take long for the opposition to show their political teeth intended to chew through the moral fiber of the abolitionist movement.

Southern slaveholders were more than well aware of what was taking place up north. As abolitionists became more outspoken and hostile towards slavery, southerners in Congress looked for ways to stem the tide that was seemingly sweeping over them. It was not just the abstract objection to slavery that worried slave owners. In the wake of the Mexican War the United States had enlarged its territory by nearly a quarter while reducing Mexico’s by half. The questions could not help but present itself: would slavery be allowed in these newly acquired territories? In 1846 David Wilmot, a Pennsylvanian Congressman from Towanda who also spent time practicing law in Wilkes-Barre and did personally share some antislavery conviction, put forth a proposal that would ban slavery in all territories gained from Mexico. Later instrumental in forming the Pennsylvania Republican Party, Wilmot at the time was a member of the Free Soil Party whose platform advocated for the abolition of slavery and the denial of slave property in the new territory not based on a moral unfriendliness to slavery, but in the interest of  protecting the welfare and future opportunity for the advancement of white men and their families, specifically out west in this instance. Nevertheless, Wilmot’s Proviso enraged slave owners and regular southerners alike and is seen historically as one of the central events that flamed the fires of secession and war. A leading national magazine proclaimed that “…the Wilmot proviso has been discussed in Congress, in the newspapers, on the stump, at the street corners, all over the country, until David Wilmot’s name is now mentioned more frequently than those of the candidates for the Presidency – because it stands wedded to a great principle of legislation.” The subsequent years did not quell the sectional divide. As the debate over slavery extension heated up, moderates in Congress tried to cool things down. In 1850 a compromise written by Whig party member Henry Clay and backed by Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas was passed to the chagrin of radicals on both sides of the isle. Among the provisions of the act was a strengthening of the Fugitive Slave Clause which was a part of the original design of the Constitution and called on all states, no matter location, to return escaped slaves to their masters. To northerners this was unacceptable. In effect the Fugitive Slave Law forced northern states to enforce laws that they did not believe in and found to be repugnant. Among residents of Waverly, this aggression could not stand. Waverly had been home to runaway slaves for nearly twenty years at this point, even to the extent that one of the largest and most successful African-American communities in the area existed in the village. Slave catchers had met early resistance in the area already and, now with the tipping point approaching, that resistance was hardening.

Waverly businessman John Raymond penned a letter a week after the passage of the new Fugitive Slave Act to Judge William Jessup, a prominent area abolitionist in Montrose, pleading with the judge to call for an abolitionist convention. “There seems to be a desire amongst some of the people that there should be a rally made or a convention of the Sons of Freedom in Northern Pennsylvania so that the people may know that the spirit of freedom is not entirely gone amongst us,” he wrote. Raymond’s appeal eventually showed corporeal results. The convention met in October in Montrose and adopted a resolution of resistance to the national concessions to slavery. “Resolved, that we tender the unhappy fugitives from the house of bondage our warmest sympathies – we know not how to advise them amid their deep trials – above all we pity those helpless women and children. We repeat we know not how to advise. Society and law have made war on the colored man; they disown and outlaw him, and afford him no protection; and if in this war he throws himself upon the rights of manhood and defends himself and his family, when no one else will defend, who can blame him! – and if the pursuer falls in the conflict, whom has he to blame but himself!” This resolution was more telling than the authors had probably considered. Thirteen years later African-American men from all across the north would take up arms and throw themselves “upon the rights of manhood” by defending themselves and their families when few else would. The African-American men of Waverly were no exception.

In the wake of the Confederate bombardment of Union controlled Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor that inaugurated the Civil War, enlistments in both armies had reached a fever pitch. In the North so many men volunteered that newly formed regiments and fresh recruits were denied because the government simply did not have the resources to equip them. The 1860 census showed that there were approximately 555,000 men of military age in Pennsylvania. One in every four of these men volunteered during the first year of the war. From April 1861 until early March 1862 Pennsylvania troops consisted of one-third of the total enlistments in the army which numbered about 344,408. As the Confederate tide began to roll into success following Union General George B. McClellan’s failed Peninsula Campaign to capture Richmond, Virginia and the emergence of Robert E. Lee, enthusiasm for the war effort faltered. In response to this and the diminishing number of men in the ranks, debates raged in both North and South over the use of black troops in combat. In the South, this debate raged for years in the face of blatant racism and skepticism of how African-American troops would handle themselves in combat until the final stages of the war when a scant amount of these regiments were raised but never used. The North, however, settled this issue not without resistance but still in time for these men to see combat. One of the African-American regiments raised in the north was the 22nd United States Colored Troops and in the ranks of this unit were a few good men from Waverly.

When the 22nd USCT organized at Camp William Penn just outside of Philadelphia in January 1864 they made have had an idea that they were going to see action during the war, but it can hardly be believed that they were aware that the campaign they would join would be the one that, for all intents and purposes, ended that war. Assigned to the Third Brigade, First Division of the Eighteenth Corps, the regiment eventually found itself, after drilling and construction duty (some of the menial assignments black troops were often only trusted with), staring down the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia that the 143rd Pennsylvania had squared off against at Gettysburg less than a year earlier. Now they were a part of General Ulysses S. Grant’s attempt to capture the city of Petersburg, Virginia, a rail hub south of the Confederate capitol at Richmond that if taken would cut off Richmond from the rest of the Confederacy and put Lee’s army out in the wind. The 22nd was assigned the task of leading a charge to capture a line of Confederate artillery works outside of Petersburg. Upon hearing that USCT regiments were to lead the assault on Petersburg, a white soldier showed his appreciation “for we knew we were to see fighting before night & we wanted to see these pets go in ahead of us & see how well they could fight.” Approximately 400 troops of the 4th North Carolina Cavalry and a section of guns at Petersburg awaited them.

The 4th USCT, positioned to the south of the 22nd, met the enemy first and inaugurated the Battle of Baylor’s Farm. So anxious were these troops to engage in combat that they could not even wait for orders to advance from the tree line they found shelter in. The 22nd and 5th USCT covered the desperate and failing advance, making sure not to minimize their exposure by taking advantage of that tree line that they were content to stay covered by. Eventually Colonel Joseph B. Kiddoo, commander of the 22nd, ordered his troops forward to capture the Confederate rifle pits covering the artillery. Cannons converged on the 22nd after the 4th’s desperate charge had been cleared and as the men made their way to the enemy they began to shout “Remember Fort Pillow!” in reference to the battle in western Tennessee where Confederates under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest had murdered surrendering black troops. With that in mind the men moved forward “with a wild yell that must certainly have struck terror into the hearts of their foe.” The attack on the rifle pits was a success and after the Color Sergeant of the 22nd planted his flag in the enemy breastworks the regiment, for a moment, basked in their success of capturing a 12-pound Napoleon howitzer cannon while holding the field. Another troop from the same regiment praised the efforts of the USCT saying that they “will keep on their feet, and move on, with wounds that would utterly lay out white men, and they stick like death to their guns.”

Like with the 143rd at Gettysburg, the 22nd’s initial success could not be celebrated because there was more fighting to come. As the 22nd advanced through the battle it had been shifted to the command of Major John B. Cook. His assignment was to “push their skirmishers well to the front and to charge the works as soon as the charge should begin to their right.” Cooks troops then advanced on an artillery position labeled Battery 7. The position was taken, but with heavy loss. A drummer boy from Maine recalled that “I beheld one of the grandest and most awful sights I ever saw. Those colored troops started on a double quick, and as they descended the hill, the fort poured volley after volley into them. The men seemed to fall like blades of grass before a machine, but it did not stop them; they rallied and moved on; it was only the work of a few minutes.” Col. Kiddoo took the leftovers of the 22nd that did not join Cook during his advance to assist with the capture of Battery 7. Upon seeing the works held and after running into the Colonel Elias Wright and the 1st USCT who had just taken Battery 6 Kiddoo decided it was time to press the assault. “I proposed that we unite our commands and charge Battery No. 8. He (Wright) thought it not safe, but proposed to support me if I would do so.” Kiddoo’s troops advanced on Battery 8 by crossing a deep, swampy ravine and caused the Confederate troops firing artillery to abandon their cannon and take up small arms as infantrymen. “My men wavered at first under the hot fire of the enemy, but soon, on seeing their (1st USCT) colors on the opposite side of the ravine, pushed rapidly up and passed the rifle-pits and fort.” An officer of the 22nd described the scene as the troops made their way up the side of the ravine while “all the time subject to a hot fire of grape and canister until we got so far under the guns as to be sheltered.”

The convergence of the 1st and 22nd USCT caused the rebels to abandon the position. Another daring charge by men who many in the country did not believe could be relied on in the field helped carry the attack. Even on the battlefield, though, couldn’t racial tensions be left at the door. Another officer of the 22nd, referring to the refusal of southerners to allow themselves to be held in the hands of such an enemy, had a matter-of-fact thought on the idea. “The real fact is, the rebels will not stand against our colored soldiers when there is any chance of their being taken prisoners, for they are conscious of what they justly deserve. Our men went into those works after they were taken yelling ‘Fort Pillow!’ The enemy well knows what this means.” Despite the efforts of the USCT troops on June 15, the initial assaults on Petersburg eventually failed and the army was forced to hunker down for a siege. It would take almost ten more months for the southern supply center to fall, eventually leading to the surrender of Richmond itself as well as the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse just a few days later. The United States survived the armed rebellion and jumped (for the short time being and with questionable results) the political and cultural hurdles of the mid 1800s on the track to becoming one of the foremost world powers in the twentieth century.

The cessation of hostilities did not mean that the effects of war ended as well. Some of John Mason Gravesite at Hickory Grove CemeteryWaverly’s fighting men made their way back home. John Mason, a private in the 22nd USCT, was wounded in the hand during the celebrated June 15 assault at Petersburg. Returning to Waverly on a disability charge, Mason was incapacitated to the effect of never again having a fully functioning right hand. With one hand still functioning, however, Mason was granted only one-half disability status. His pension was $8 a month. Others did not make it home. George Fell had joined the army in 1862 at the age of nineteen, serving under his brother Lieutenant Asher Fell. A year later George’s father John G. Fell, a local Baptist and abolitionist leader, ventured to Gettysburg in search of his son’s remains where they would be found on the field where he fell, wounded in the hip which was all too often a killing blow for the Civil War soldier. A memorial stone still remains in the Hickory Grove Cemetery in Waverly but this was not Fell’s final resting place.

On November 19, 1863 Abraham Lincoln presided over the dedication of the country’s newest national cemetery. Just yards from where Fell was eventually interred in what is now Gettysburg National Cemetery, the president, who himself would not get to see the world that this mighty scourge of war had wrought, spoke of “a new birth of freedom.” What would this freedom look like? That was to be seen, debated, and fought over the next century. Lincoln also noted that the world “can never forget what they did here.” The coming decades would see a cavalcade of commemorations celebrating the actions of brave men and women and memorials that would dominate the nation’s landscape. The 143rd Pennsylvania Infantry has two monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield, one of which depicts the regiments color-bearer, Sergeant Benjamin H. Crippin of Scranton, defiantly shaking his fist at his Confederate foes as the Union troops retreated to Cemetery Hill after the brutal fight on July 1. Witnessing the retreat was Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fremantle, a British observer who would later write a best-selling memoir about his time in the South. Fremantle noted that as the Federals made their way back to and through Gettysburg, “the colour-bearer retired last of all, turning round every now and then to shake his fist at the advancing rebels. General Hill said he felt quite sorry when he saw this gallant Yankee meet his doom.” It was actions such as this that Lincoln implored the nation to keep in its collective memory. Having been asked to give “a few appropriate remarks” at the cemetery dedication, Lincoln went on to give an oration that has trickled down through the ages as an outline for how the people of the war-torn nation would reconcile with the death and destruction that had plagued them. “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

Veterans groups emerged as some of the most influential and powerful congregations in the country that would lend it’s hand to the way that the war would be remembered as well as how veterans and their families would be taken care of. The largest of these groups, The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), even had the Sgt. George O. Fell G.A.R. Post 307 headquartered in Waverly that was among the racially integrated posts in the state. On July 29, 1927 the Waverly Community House held a reunion of G.A.R. members from five Pennsylvania counties as well as two from New York. In association with members of the Women’s Relief Corps and Daughters of Veterans, G.A.R. president William T. Simpson hoped “a large number will come and ‘Rally around the Flag’ once more.” Forty-five veterans did and “the entire day was given over to discussing plans for continuing the splendid patriotism work being done by the organization(s), and to hearing short talks on the war-time experiences of the veterans.” While the reunion was a success the principal speaker at the event, Reverend I.J. Beckwith of the Green Ridge Baptist Church, made an effort to note the “diminishing ranks of the G.A.R.” The organization dissolved in 1956 and found a successor in the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, a group still functioning today that even runs a Civil War museum located in the basement of Scranton City Hall. Today The Comm, in the spirit of the aforementioned groups, continues to help bring to the forefront the amazing history of the town and the era that forged our nation.

Visitors to the village can take the “Self-Guided Walking Tour of Waverly” and seeFell School and Fell Family House antebellum and Civil War era sites such as the Fell family home, the Fell Schoolhouse which served as the first meeting place of the local chapter of the African Methodist Episcopal church, and the Hickory Grove Cemetery where some of Waverly’s six African-American Civil War veterans are laid to rest among the rest of the village’s fighters and abolitionists. Waverly is a living memorial to these individuals, but in the current climate of history and memory there is even more room for the community to become a destination for the historically minded to discover stories long neglected in the national eye. Who knows? Maybe one day Waverly will be home to northeastern Pennsylvania’s premier Civil War museum. Maybe in time the recreated homes on Carbondale Road comprising the community established by those escaping bondage will serve as an interpretive center describing the Civil War era experience of African-Americans. In the spirit of the North Carolina monument at Gettysburg, visitors to Waverly can potentially visit a tangible testament to the six men who fought for their country, freedom, and rights in the face of a population that told them they were not worthy. As the Civil War continues to be fought at county courthouses, public parks, and through civil discourse, Northeastern Pennsylvania has a story to tell to add to the narrative and a history that is still yet to be fully uncovered.

 

Continuing Traditions: The Memorial Garden at the Waverly Community House

Those familiar with the Waverly Community House’s outdoor landscape often look forward to springtime each year as the flowers begin to bloom and greenery starts to show, indicating to everyone that warmer, brighter days are ahead. One of the most beautiful locations to witness this beauty on the Comm’s outdoor grounds is the Memorial Garden, which sits alongside the beloved Community House Playground. As with most of the additions at the Comm, the Memorial Garden has a history all its own, filled with a sense of beauty, community, and family.

The exquisite Memorial Garden at the Waverly Community House filled with flowers, Commander Peter Belin, 1948greenery, and seating for the public to enjoy was gifted to the Comm by Harry Lammot Belin in memory of his father, Captain Peter Belin. Peter Belin was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and spent part of his youth in both Istanbul and Peking, where his father, Ferdinand Lammot Belin was a Foreign Service Officer. Peter later received his education at schools in Switzerland and the United States, ultimately graduating from Yale University as a young adult in 1936. Captain Belin was a passenger aboard the ill-fated Hindenburg Zeppelin when it burned and crashed in Lakehurst New Jersey in 1937. He began his naval career later that year and spent most of it in intelligence; his overseas posts included London, Paris, and the Mediterranean. Peter Belin retired in 1960 and lived at “Evermay,” a historic estate in Georgetown; one of Peter’s great interests was historic preservation and he engaged in many conservation efforts throughout his life. Mr. Belin dedicated much of his life to service with one of his most significant contributions being the establishment of the Belin Arts Scholarship in 1964; this award continues to aid artists today and has been expanded upon and redefined throughout the years to reach individuals across the world. Captain Peter Belin died on February 23rd, 1982, however his presence reverberates through both the scholarship and Memorial Garden, established by his son, Harry Lammot Belin in May of 1996.

MG PamphletThe Peter Belin Memorial Garden at the Waverly Community House was designed by J. Wayne Pratt, R.L.A., landscape architect. It was installed by Four Seasons Lawn Care and organized by the Landscape Committee of the Waverly Community House Board of Trustees. The formal Dedication Ceremony took place on May 19th, 1996 at 12:00 noon with opening remarks, followed by a luncheon attended by Mr. Belin’s friends, family, and local community members. Opening remarks were made by Harry Belin who spoke fondly of his father, the Waverly Community House, and the Abingtons. Part of his speech is quoted below.

“Why Waverly for a family memorial to my father? After all, there were other places he enjoyed and loved such as “Evermay,” our estate and gardens in Washington D.C., or Chateau Andelot in France, or Conversation Peace at Virginia Beach. Each had its special spot in my father’s heart. But, as best as my memory can serve, we all know that he became the most excited to go, and he was the happiest and most at ease with his extended family in the Abingtons. My father enjoyed life to its fullest. In so doing, highest on his list of priorities was a childlike Joie de Vivre (with humor at its core), and family and friends. In this context, I believe he considered Waverly his most favorite “playground.” It is hoped that in establishing this Memorial Garden close by the Comm’s own playground, thus may my father’s spirit live on at the heart of the village he loved dearly and amongst one of the most joyful of sounds God has designed …..children at play.” — Harry L. Belin (May 19th, 1996)

The Memorial Garden at the Waverly Community House has been serving the community since its establishment in 1996. It was later upgraded in 2017, thanks again to the generosity and guidance of Harry Belin. It is a resting place, a play area, a quiet reflection spot, an area of tranquility for all to enjoy, and of course– it is a gift to the community, beloved by individuals and families of all ages and walks of life.

This garden is dedicated to the memory of Peter Belin (1913-1982). May the sounds of children at play sing of his love for Waverly, and the people of the Abingtons.

This remembrance is dedicated to our great friend, Harry Lammot Belin (1942-2019).Garden 7

Festive Fall Fun: October at the Waverly Community House

Each year, as autumn approaches the Northeastern Pennsylvania region, the Waverly Community House prepares for a very busy season full of activities to close out the remainder of the year. From costume parties, parades, children’s events, club meetings, classes, and other special programming, the building is enveloped in activity. Today’s blog post will highlight what makes the Comm so special during this time of year by taking a look at one of our archival newsletters from October of 1988. Enjoy!

Art Classes by Predrag Djordjevic: on October 10th, 1988, the Waverly Community House began a series of children’s art classes taught by artist Predrag Djordjevic. Djordjevic was born in Yugoslavia and studied at the Royal College of Art in London, England; he is a painter who has held one man shows throughout the United States and abroad. That year, Predrag taught children aged 9-12 drawing and painting in an effort to introduce them to new ways to tailor their craft. Art has always been an important part of the Comm’s mission and will continue to reflect on our mission statement through new art classes and programs currently under development for the upcoming year.

Parent Education Series: the Continuing Parent Education Series at the Waverly Community House was a sponsored program aiming to provide parents with advice, education, and guidance on a wide variety of topics. Childcare services were also provided at the Comm during the program for parents accompanied by their children. On October 5th, 1988, the series was hosted by Ruby Moye Salazar, a Ph.D. holder from Ohio State University specializing in developmental disabilities.

New York City Fall Bus Trip: On Wednesday October 26th, 1988, a bus trip, organized by the Waverly Women’s Club, departed from the Comm at 8:00 am., headed for New York City. The group then returned to the Comm at 10:30 pm. Tickets for this trip were $13.50 per person. This was one of the many opportunities for community members to engage in different types of activities with one another as organized through the Comm and it’s clubs.

Roller Skating at the Comm: In October of 1988, Roller Skating was held in the Comm’s gymnasium. The newsletter reads as follows: “Beginning on October 1st, the Comm will sponsor Roller Skating in the Gym from 10:30 am- 12 noon. So grab your skates, (or well soiled shoes as we only have clamp on skates) and come to the Comm. Our in-house DJ, Pete Sawchak will provide good music! If you have any questions please contact the Comm’s office.”

unnamedSome Ghostly Good News: The Comm held its annual Children’s Halloween Party on Monday, October 31st 1988 in the gymnasium from 3:30 pm- 5:30 pm. The party was free and refreshments were provided. This year, community members can look forward to a Harry Potter themed Halloween Party held at the Comm on Saturday, October 27th from 1 pm- 3 pm.

Some additional events from the October 1988 Newsletter…

United Methodist Church Bake Sale: October 12th, 1988 at 8:00 am.

Movie Night at the Comm: October 14th, 1988 at 7:00 pm.

Italian Hoagie Sale: October 14th, 1988 at 2:00 pm.

We would like to take this time to give a very special thank you to all of our very valued community members and followers. We love being able to share our history with you!

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!