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‘Dare To Dream’

By Staff | Mar 13, 2012

New officers, trustees and board members who attended Sunday's program at the Muncy Historical Society are (left to right): Bob Olmstead, Paul Metzger, Nella Storm, Steve Fairchild, Kathy Heilman and Judith Youngman.

MUNCY – Volunteers and members of the Muncy Historical Society came together Sunday afternoon to acknowledge their past accomplishments, retrace their challenges and take on new ones as they embark on a new project this month.

After newly elected President, Paul Metzger introduced the new board members, Linda Poulton recapped the major undertakings of the Historical Society since 1997 when they first restored the Old Walton Graveyard on Water Street. “We dared to venture well beyond expectations along the way,” she said as she retold how the cemetery was in such disrepair along the Muncy road bridge. “It suffered from years and years of flood damage,” Poulton related. Originally two tombstones were found. Later 30 more tombstones were discovered and marked. Betty Fisher would use a pitchfork to dig down into the dirt to find them so they could be marked with wooden sticks. Thus, they were ‘forked’, the land was cleared and graves recorded. Some had to be dug down further than 8 inches before the gravestones were located, some almost three feet digging through much mud and debris to identify them. Finally a year later the cemetery was re-dedicated and recorded as Muncy’s first public cemetery.

“One of the prettiest tombstones was founded there,” Poulton said. Dated in 1825, it was marked ‘Little Boy Fletcher.’

Next came the Old Hill Burying Ground, another cemetery that was a sacred place near the Muncy Cemetery across from the telephone company. In 1998 Construction Specialties started to clear the land and assisted the historical society. Today both cemeteries are maintained by community service workers.

A year later, the society took on another project, the Eight Square One Room School House in Moreland Township after they acquired it from Moreland Baptist Church. As shown in Poulton’s slide presentation, vegetation had completely taken over the structure making it completely obscure. For days on end the group would meet to refurbish the building. Terry Buck helped with the stone work, Howard Beaver rebuilt the steeple and Ann Lyon refurbished the bell. “It was a tremendous amount of work,” Poulton added. The inside of it was trashed by bees, mice, and rodents. “Everything in the school had to come out.” On rainy days they worked inside, nice days outside. They borrowed Oliver Stone’s fire truck to put the bell back in its place. A community service award was given to the society by the state for the project.

Acquiring and restoring a Canal Packet Boat was probably one of the most challenging projects. To keep a canal house built around an authentic packet boat in Northumberland from being torn down, the group rescued it and brought it back to Muncy in 2001. Along with a crew of young people, the group cut it away into little pieces and removed it from a front picture window to bring it here. For three years they worked on its restoration. Bill Kennedy helped with building the support jacks to hold the house while they removed the support beams.

Today the John Waldron Packet Boat is used for field trips, schools, parades and scheduled tours.

An ongoing project captured by the society is the Civil War Soldiers Monument. There are 63 names from the area of soldiers killed in the Civil War. More need identified with brick markers according to Poulton. Every year they are marked with flags on Memorial Day and removed again by the students on Veterans Day.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment so far for the community is the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail. The site is part of the crash of the last raft, marked on the National Registrar of historic places. Lycoming County archaeology students have been digging on the site extracting Native American artifacts and remnants of the canal days. Last November another phase of this master plan was completed when the markings and interpretive panels were added for the trails and the tow path identified. “The road and parking area are now done,” Poulton added as she described how the trail leads down to the river view’s edge.

And for this new year, the society has decided to place “Emma the Canal Boat” from Easton on the Heritage Trail once it is finished. The National Canal Museum will be dissolving in Easton and moving its exhibits elsewhere. So the Muncy Historical Society took the canal boat and the locktenders, and they will be rebuilding a new facade near the site of the original canal locktender’s house. “We took the stern, the bow and it took us over three days to bring it back,” Poulton announced. The design for the Pavilion and the Canal Boat Exhibit is now in the works.

Special recognition went to the following for their hard physical work: Ann Corson, Locke Cunningham, Bob Goodenow, Dick Gottschall, Laure Houseknecht, Bill Kennedy, Bob Knertz, Ray Pence and Mike Slease.

The next program scheduled with the Muncy Historical Society will be on April 14 featuring Alvira Revisited.