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Susquehanna Life

Historic Meeting House, Book Donation to Public Library, Festival Turns 50, Floating Classroom: Life Around The River

Historic Meeting House

The Blooming Grove Dunkard Meeting House, in Cogan Station, Lycoming County, was built in 1828 by pacifist German settlers—Quakers—who came to America seeking religious freedom. More than 190 years later, it depicts the history of those original pioneers.

The site includes the meeting house, museum and cemetery. The original museum was built in 1928 with local field stones; auxiliary areas were added in the early 1990s and in 2005.

“What makes the museum unique is that items in the museum can be traced either to the original families who settled in the area or to the local community as a whole,” said archivist Greg Thomas.

The meeting house served as the colonists’ church. Services took place Sunday afternoons, and lasted two to three hours, Thomas said. Women and men entered the building from opposite sides of the steps and sat apart. A main spiritual leader—the term “minister” was not used—and four to five men served as community spiritual leaders.

The spiritual leader sat at a table, called the pulpit, with an open Bible and recited a sermon. As is customary in the Quaker tradition, the community spiritual leaders also presented a sermon, as the spirit moved them. The singing, absent musical accompaniment, was led by a foresinger, who sang a phrase, which was echoed by the congregation.

“Their love of music was not limited to the meeting house itself,” Thomas said. “It was in their homes as well. In the museum there is a piano built by an early settler, Jacob Heim, whose keys are made out of oxen bones. Written records state that while Jacob’s mother lay dying in another room of the house, people sat around the piano singing. It pleased the dying woman so much, she passed from this plane to the next with a smile on her face.”

In dress, community members were most closely associated with the Amish/Mennonites, but theologically speaking, they were more in alignment with Universalists, in their belief that all souls are eventually saved.

“As the community evolved, they become more stringent in their beliefs—they were encouraged to abstain from the manufacture and use of spirituous liquors and tobacco, settle their differences amongst themselves—and not go to the law or war—and use plainness of speech and modest apparel,” Thomas said.

The meetinghouse was in use until the late 1890s. Most of the original families had left the community and erected churches closer to their homes.

The museum and meetinghouse are open from the first Sunday in June until the last Sunday in September from 2 to 5 p.m. and any day, by appointment. To learn more, visit -- Jennifer Pencek

Book Donation to Public Library

Susquehanna Life Magazine has added to the Public Library for Union County’s Susquehanna Life Magazine Pennsylvania Collection that it started nearly a decade ago by donating 37 books either about Pennsylvania or written by Pennsylvania authors.  

“We established the Susquehanna Life Magazine Pennsylvania Collection—and our ongoing donations to it—in appreciation of the role the library plays in cultivating connections between and among the communities it serves,” explained Susquehanna Life magazine founder and publisher Erica Shames. “Donating books about Pennsylvania is our way of furthering the library’s goals.”  

To date, Susquehanna Life magazine has donated over 400 new books and CDs about various aspects of life in Pennsylvania—history, culture, outdoor recreation and biographies—and a complete set of Susquehanna Life Magazines to the library’s collection.  

The collection is a treasure trove of discovery. Spotlighting life in Pennsylvania from many different perspectives, the books draw attention to the hidden jewels and undiscovered gems within the state. Dozens of first-edition books are included, as are several out-of-print works.

The Susquehanna Life Magazine Pennsylvania Collection is housed in a shelving unit located to the left of the newspaper section in the library. Comfortable seating nearby encourages readers to relax and browse these regionally-related materials that offer glimpses of the positive, little-known and under-appreciated aspects of life in Pennsylvania.

Throughout its 25-year history, Susquehanna Life magazine, headquartered in Lewisburg, has built a powerful connection with residents and visitors to the 27 counties within the middle slice of the state in which it circulates. The magazine’s unique content encourages readers to see, do and discover all that this special region has to offer.

“Likewise, we encourage library patrons to seek out the Susquehanna Life Magazine Pennsylvania Collection and peruse the many truly high-quality books it includes,” added Shames. “There’s so much of interest to learn!”

Festival Turns 50

The Lewisburg Arts Festival is 50 years old; plans to highlight this milestone continue to honor artists and craftspeople from near and far.

Celebratory events will be incorporated into the Celebration of the Arts, April 26 through May 11, a two-week period that showcases arts in the community, bracketed by the Lewisburg Arts Festival and the Lewisburg Live! music festival. In between are exhibits, hands-on workshops, Plein Air Day and even events sponsored by other groups.

The Lewisburg Arts Festival, April 27 this year, is when all the hard work comes together. It includes more than 100 juried artists exhibiting in booths on Market Street, three entertainment stages with performing arts, two food courts, an artisanal food area, activities for kids and more. Plans for the anniversary include an exhibit at Faustina Gallery to highlight Featured Artists from previous years.

Another exhibit at the Public Library for Union County showcases festival posters and programs from the past. In August there will be a tribute to Woodstock—also celebrating its 50th anniversary—as a fundraiser for the council’s Friends of Music in the Park, which coordinates the popular Music in the Park summer program. September will feature a fundraising gala at Fero Winery.

“The biggest changes over the past 50 years are the size and the move to Market Street,” said Sara Kelly, board member. “It started in what is now the M&T Bank parking lot. We still hold a multi-day event to showcase arts, with only one day as the Arts Festival.”

Kelley said board members and volunteers always have big plans, but its volunteers bring those plans to fruition—and more volunteers are always needed.

“A big effort for us will be to involve more people in creating events, activities and opportunities,” she said. “We are an all-volunteer organization. We are unusual in the Central Pennsylvania arts community to have no paid staff. We work hard and would love to have more people join us.”

Kelley attended her first Lewisburg Arts Council meeting in 2002, two months before the Arts Festival—about the same time she started working for the Packwood House Museum. She thought it would be a good way for the museum to connect to the arts community.  

“I liked the people involved, so I stayed,” she said. “Eventually I became president of Lewisburg Arts Council and coordinator of the Celebration of the Arts, as well as serving on many committees.”

Learn more about the Lewisburg Arts Council, Celebration of the Arts and Lewisburg Arts Festival at—Jennifer Pencek

Floating Classroom

Learning isn’t limited to the traditional classroom. Since 2018, the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat in Williamsport has housed a floating classroom utilized by both children and adults. A partnership between Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, Inc. and the staff and crew of the Hiawatha, the program provides hands-on learning in a unique setting.

“The Floating Classroom Program has filled an untapped void,” said Carol Parenzan, Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “It allows families to learn and grow together—and not just traditional families. There were numerous grandparent-grandchild teams traveling with us during the summer adventures too.”

The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper® is dedicated to protecting, improving and preserving the health of the Middle Susquehanna River Watershed, starting at the confluence of the West and North branches and continuing to the headwaters of the West Branch to just south of the New York border on the North Branch.

The Floating Classroom program was piloted in March 2018 with five scheduled excursions, each focusing on a unique aspect of the river. It started as a cold-weather idea during the off-season and quickly blossomed into a popular family adventure.

Parenzan said one hands-on, hour-long educational adventure was scheduled for each month in 2018, starting in May and concluding in September. All cruises are open to the public.

Depending on the focus area, other partners are invited to ride along. For the May 2018 Floating Classroom Program, for example, Lycoming Audubon traveled with the team to view an eagle’s nest and its occupants.

Each cruise is open to 80 ticketed passengers. Lower and upper boat decks house learning stations, and guests are invited to wander from station to station at their leisure to explore and learn.

“This relaxed atmosphere also allows families to simply ‘be’ on the river and take it in,” said Parenzan. “These are not passive, lecture-style classrooms. This is a jump in feet first, dive into the river exploring program. The average age on board is about 7, but we create activities that can be easily modified to fit the skill level and interests of guests.”

Parenzan said the team is currently exploring expanded environmental education and career exploration learning opportunities for youth, especially those in underserved communities, and seeks adult scientist-volunteers to help.

“Ultimately, we would like to see this program be a catalyst for other programs with the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper,” she said. “In 2019 we will be working with our partner ALLARM from Dickinson College to launch volunteer river-watching and water quality monitoring programs in Lycoming County. Some of those volunteers will be parents or grandparents.”

The 2019 season on the water is expanding to include Saturday morning floats with ten scheduled excursions between May and September. The full schedule is available at and Tickets, $5 each, can be purchased through Hiawatha.

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