In late September 1918, the Pennridge region was deeply involved in the effort to end World War I. Little did people know the Spanish flu epidemic had arrived in their own backyard, starting perhaps the toughest five-month period in our local history.
Today, the 1918-1919 global influenza pandemic is getting new attention as America deals with the COVID-19 outbreak. To be sure, the coronavirus situation deserves public scrutiny and preparedness. But any comparison to the Spanish flu epidemic should be made with great caution.
As a public service, here is basic information about federal, state and local programs to provide financial help, along with social services, during the COVID-19 Crisis, to individuals, families, and businesses.
The list will be updated as more news becomes available about government and community charity programs related to Bucks County. Please check your community pages on Facebook about efforts related to your town run by more local groups.
There is one topic dominating local talk in the Pennridge region this winter, and it is not the upcoming presidential election. The fight over an old quarry containing naturally occurring asbestos is the talk of our region, and its 45,000 residents.
Mention the name “Rockhill Quarry” in East Rockhill Township at the grocery store, your church, a local restaurant, or on social media, and you will surely get a response. And the Rockhill Quarry is indeed old. The Perkasie Central News archives show granite was discovered there in 1888. By 1890, early quarry operators were “getting out blocks for building purposes and road paving,” at a time when few roads were paved. The General Crushed Stone Company began operations there in 1903, providing materials for “macadamizing, cement work and building purposes.”
In 1895, the residents of the upcoming Upper Bucks County village of Benjamin lost a court fight to form their own borough. Today, the region known as South Perkasie retains much of the history from that era.
In 1899, Perkasie and Benjamin residents rejoiced at the news of their merger.
Benjamin’s hotel, two mills, a general store and one of its churches still stand as do more than dozen of its houses. Its former turnpike is Walnut Street (Route 152). Its covered bridge was moved in 1958, however.
This month, Bucks County begins another set of repairs on Mood’s Covered Bridge in East Rockhill Township just outside Perkasie. It is the second covered bridge at that location, replacing one that lost in a 2004 fire.
The repairs are part of a $2.5 million project to update all seven covered bridges owned by Bucks County.
Mood’s Bridge in the 1950s. Photo by John C. Sinclair
Edward L. Smith was Perkasie’s town architect for nearly 40 years but his wife Katie served as a source of community inspiration as she battled an incredibly painful disease for 23 years.
On February 24, 1938, the Perkasie Central News announced that Mrs. Smith had passed away a few months short of her 51st birthday at the family’s modest home at 519 Vine Street. “Death, shortly after 9 o’clock on Tuesday evening, claimed Kate Smith, Perkasie’s most widely known resident,” the newspaper said. That wasn’t a boastful claim. Katie Smith kept a list of people who visited her after she was confined to her sickbed in 1918. Her last visitor, Mrs. O.B. Sellers, was visitor 49,364 in her bedside guest book.
One day each year, Bucks County’s most unique National Historic District is open for public tours. In 2019, that day is Saturday, August 3, as a new non-profit dedicated to the regional impact of the Victorian-age Perkasie Park Camp-Meeting holds its annual Founders Day celebration.
The Perkasie Park Historical Foundation, a 501(c)3, will offer self-guided tours of selected cottages and the Park’s outdoor auditorium on 21 acres tucked away on Perkasie’s Ninth Street. The privately owned Park’s Victorian architecture and unique landscape never fail to give visitors a sense of stepping back to a simpler time.
Today, this National Historic District isn’t widely known outside of the Pennridge region, and even many local residents don’t know that 60 cottages and an acoustically perfect outdoor auditorium sit across from the Perkasie police station and Penn Community Bank on Ninth Street. But 130 years ago, the annual Perkasie Park assembly brought thousands of people to its rolling grounds. In Bucks County during the late 1880s, its attendance was only surpassed by the annual Bucks County fair.
On May 29, 1903, the Philadelphia Inquirer featured the graduating class of Perkasie High School – all six students. Despite the small class size, about 1,000 people attended graduation at the Perkasie Park camp-meeting auditorium.
At the 1903 commencement, Addie Maurer gave the valedictorian address. In the back row in this rare picture are, left to right: Gertrude Cressman, Richard Harr, and Addie Mauer. The front row: Alice Rae Thompson, Flora Rickert, and Nora Pfleiger.
After World War II concluded in August 1945, the Perkasie News-Herald listed the names of 40 local men who died or were missing in active service – and one woman. This is her story.
Major Emily H. Weder (far right)
Major Emily Helen Weder was preparing in 1943 to leave her post as assistant chief nurse at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington for duty off the south of France to support the expected Allied invasion whenever it took place. She was in charge of all operating rooms at Walter Reed and highly respected. But Major Weder was diagnosed with cancer and died at the age of 49 in September 1943.