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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Underground Railroad Field Trips at the Waverly Community House

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

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

Destination Freedom Update

UGRR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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