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Chronicling Changes in Exchange

By Staff | Jan 19, 2010

Mary Hickey Brouse recently compiled a book looking back at the people and places of Exchange, a village in the shadow of the Muncy Hills.

South of the Muncy Hills and surrounded by rolling terrain, Exchange was named due to its location where horses were exchanged during mail coach runs between Danville and Muncy.

Fresh mounts were needed to ascend McKee’s Heights, the most challenging pinnacle after leaving Exchange before crossing into Lycoming County and descending into Muncy.

Information of the village’s past was gathered and compiled by Mary Hickey Brouse. For 31 years, the Watsontown native calls the Exchange area home since her marriage to Robert “Bob” Brouse, a native son.

“I hadn’t intended to compose a book,” she said, “rather it began by organizing photos languishing in my sister’s home. My original plan was to put them in an album for her children.”

The sister, Elizabeth “Betsy” Dennen, resides in a brick and pillared home once a hotel on what is considered the village square. It was the family home of Betsy’s late husband John Dennen, to whom the book is lovingly dedicated.

As a member of two early families, “John’s interest was so well known, people often gave items of historical significance to his keeping,” Brouse said.

Soon after her 2002 retirement, word of Brouse’s intentions spread and the project grew as interest budded among other residents.

William “Bill” Hartman aided in deed searches and provided information on Dennen and the Watson families. Of the book Hartman said, “I’m tickled pink,” adding that “People should put identities on photos.” He shared how nearly a hundred pictures with only one identified was found in a valise in an attic.

Working “hands on” with a layout designer and publisher, Brouse was able to make the book uniquely her own. Between a hard cover graced with collages, the sections include views of Exchange, dwellings accompanied with deed searches, local industries, Anthony Township Schools, the bank, the Grange, musical groups and churches.

The book notes the Ellis family was instrumental in establishing the Episcopal Church, which continues to be affiliated with Muncy’s Episcopal Church.

Shortly thereafter, the erection of a Catholic Church with masses first held in 1859, inspired by the arrival of two additional Irish families, Brannen and Dennen.

A short distance northeast of Exchange, the congregation founded St. James cemetery, the only Catholic burial ground in Montour County beyond Danville.

As Exchange is nestled in close proximity to the counties of Lycoming, Columbia and Northumberland, the histories of its people intertwine with those of neighboring areas.

Recognizable examples include Pine Summit native William C. Houghton, who in 1906 purchased property eventually transferred to son Rancy Houghton, a garage/gas station owner/operator until 1946.

In 1897, Harvey Litchard, a descendant of the Litchard family first established locally in Muncy Creek Township, was one of three trustee signer’s for a property on behalf of Exchange Grange # 65 P of H.

In 1964, Moreland Township’s, Lawrence Koch was executor of the Martha Mohr estate, a property purchased by son LaVerne Koch and wife Betty.

Currently, John Vermilya, Jr and wife Schawanna Eddy of Muncy and Hughesville respectively, reside in a home which until 1935, served as a post office with postmistress Sue Seibert.

Packed with photos, one from the not so distant past includes the late Boyd Ellis, longtime member of Sprout-Waldron’s janitorial staff, wife Sarah, his brother, John Ellis and wife, Sarah Hill of Opp.

The compilation included extensive genealogies of the Ellis, Dennen and Brannen families.

Side by side photos in the book capture past and present views of several dwellings. Images of old time business receipts and maps aid to chronicle people, places and events in Exchange, a hamlet established in 1840.

Books are available at the Tin Cup, Turbotville, or by phone at 437-2613 and mailings.