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CLYMER FAMILY REUNIONS

 

 

AUGUST 26, 1916

It is a clear and pleasant Saturday in late August. Two or three noisy automobiles and many carriages filled with children and baskets of food turn off Lower State Road in Bucks County, Pennsylvania into Eli Clymer's lane. The house and barn at the end of the lane are familiar sites. Some of the adults were born in the upstairs bedroom. Many of the children have traveled by sleigh to this farm for Christmas dinner. ALL have come one time or another to visit Eli and Magdalena or Elmer's family. Elmer, Eli's son, now manages his father's farm.

But this visit is different because ALL of the descendants of Mary Haldeman Benner (1818 - 1899) and Henry Kulp Clymer (1812 - 1865) AND in-laws AND sweethearts are gathering on the SAME day for the 6th Clymer Reunion. A year ago when Elmer and Laura offered to host the 1916 reunion, Eli joked that he had been given the "kiss of death"! It seems that each time a Clymer elder agrees to host or preside over the annual family gathering he/she doesn't live to see the day!

Eli's brother-in-law, Ephraim Kratz, gathered 74 members of the family for the 1st Clymer Reunion in 1910 at Daniel Clymer's farm in Tradesville. (Ephraim had lost favor with the Mennonites the year he decided to attend Millersville State Teachers' College and pursue a Bachelor's Degree. He then asked Kate Clymer to marry him but the elders told her that she would be excommunicated from the Mennonite Church if she did. She chose to marry him, left the Mennonite Church but not the Christian faith, and never regretted her choice! The elders later agreed that if she repented and said she was sorry they would allow her back into the fellowship of the church. She refused!) Ephraim and Kate invited the family to their home the following year but Ephraim passed away two weeks before the scheduled date and his funeral served as the annual family gathering in 1911. Eli's younger brother Valentine presided over the 1912 Clymer Reunion at his sister's home, was too ill to attend the 1913 Reunion, and died before the 1914 Reunion. Their sister, Anna Lapp, invited the family to her home at Grier's Corner for the 1915 Clymer Reunion, but died less than a month after giving the invitation!

At 75 years, Eli is grateful for the good weather and that he doesn't have to travel away from home. "Kiss of death" or not, he is delighted to host the 6th Clymer Reunion on the farm that he has owned for almost 50 years. He bought the 71- acre farm from John Grove shortly after the Civil War and is proud of the buildings and orchard he added, and the overall appearance of the place. The maples he planted long ago have grown so large they provide a canopy for the three long tables covered in linen. His son carves the ham from the hog butchered last fall. He watches the children climb from the buggies in their Sunday best and run to greet cousins and grandparents. Eli's great grandchildren finally run to greet him on the porch where he arranges

rocking chairs for the business meeting. After hugs and kisses and a request for him to show them the famous dumb waiter in the dining room of the old Bucks County farm house (used in the days when the kitchen was under the house), they run off to line up for a ride around the barn in one of the new noisy automobiles.

Magdalena, in her long black dress, high lace collar, and white Mennonite cap

(carefully placed on gray hair with a very neat center part), walks with daughters Flora and Ella and some of the toddlers through the flower gardens. Flora carries a trowel to dig and a bucket to carry home as many cuttings as possible. Ella and her mother discuss the recent rash of infantile paralysis cases. Ella bends down to lift up her 1 1/2 year old granddaughter Doris who begins to yank at the blooms. They discuss a homeopathic mixture for "polio" that Ella heard about on her recent train trip to Philadelphia to purchase yard goods for school clothes at a fabric store and homeopathic mixtures from a pharmacist. She glances at Doris and prays she will never need to test the "polio" mixture. (Ella's youngest son John developed polio shortly after this gathering and Franklin Roosevelt was stricken 5 years later.)

Dinner (the mid-day meal) is served under the maples and afterwards quoits and croquet are enjoyed on the lawn. The younger children participate in three-legged races, potato races, burlap bag races, and apple eating contests, as well as jump rope... and their favorite, hide-and-seek! About 3 o'clock the family gathers in the parlor for recitations and musical selections by children and adults.

Instrumental Solo

Mrs. Benjamin Singer

Vocal Solo and Duet

Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin Singer

Instrumental Solo

Miss Sue Clymer

Solo and Chorus of "Tipper"

Flora Mae Singer

Instrumental Solo

Dorothy E. Clymer

Instrumental Solo

Mrs. Benjamin Singer

Instrumental Solo

Herbert Singer

Instrumental Duet

Mrs. Harry A. Clymer and Mrs. Dorothy E. Clymer

Instrumental Duet

Misses Laura and Florence Swartley

Vocal Solo

H. Aubrey Clymer

Chorus

"How Can I Leave Thee?"

 

Everyone then moves to the porch for a short business meeting. The minutes of the 1915 business meeting are accepted as read. The secretary then reads excerpts from minutes of previous years that mention the parents of Henry Kulp Clymer.

1912

The president, Valentine Clymer, gave a brief talk dwelling especially on the virtues and genial disposition of his grandfather (Henry Johnson Clymer). He said that a kinder man never lived and it is said, "You never know a person until you live with him, so as I lived with my grandfather I knew him better than anyone here today. He always joined in our sports and was especially fond of horseback riding. Because we are such a happy family today might be attributed to the genial disposition of our forefathers, yet that is not the only reason, and the other is this, we are a Christian family and trying to live such a life cannot help but make us happy."

1913

The president, Henry B. Clymer of Jenkintown, gave a brief talk dwelling on the virtues of his grandmother whose maiden name was Elizabeth Kulp. He said, " We get our jovial disposition from grandmother, who was always ready for fun." The president closed his talk with prayer.

1915

The president, Henry B. Clymer, made a brief address in which he said, " God will take care of us. From the beginning God took care of His own and He will in the future. He took care of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...and others." Mr. Clymer told the story of Joab and thought it well for the young people present to study the Bible more during the coming year and learn the promises God has given us. If we will do this, we will live well and nobly.

1915

Mrs. Suzie Lapp Texter gave the following brief sketch "The Clymer homestead, the home of our great grandfather (Henry Johnson Clymer) , birthplace of our grandfather (Henry Kulp Clymer) and where my husband and I started housekeeping 20 years ago passed out of the Clymer family in the spring of 1915, after being in that family almost 100 years. Our great grandfather purchased it from John Harris in 1816. My grandfather, Henry Clymer, lived on the left side of the Limekiln Pike about a mile south of Chalfont, the last farm before State Road. This farm was in possesion of some member of the Clymer family for at least one hundred years. In his old age, after his son, Valentine, took over the farm he removed to a small place carved out of the original farm along the State Road. Here, my uncle "Harry ", great grandfather's namesake, often spent days or weeks at a time, especially after the death of his father, Henry Jr., my grandfather. I often heard him speak of these visits. He seemed to have enjoyed them and always spoke of the old man as "Granddaddy." The little anecdotes he told gave one the impression of a kindly good natured old man with a twinkle in his eye and a ready joke on his lips. The picture I have of great grandmother, Betsy Kulp Clymer, is somewhat different. Apparetnly she was lively, rather bossy and somewhat sharp spoken. You get the picture of the old gentleman and the little boy dropping everything when she called them to do her bidding. Not that she does not seem to have been kindhearted too, only not so easy going."

 

 

Eli Clymer is recognized as the oldest member present but he is not one for long speeches and exhortations as were his younger brothers and past presidents, Henry and Valentine. Ella and William Swartley (Ella is Eli's oldest daughter) invite the family to their "new" red brick home on Main Street in Chalfont for the 1917 Clymer Reunion. Eli agrees that it is time for the next generation of Clymers to host these events. Newlyweds Arthur and Grace Wiesel Swartley (Arthur is Ella's oldest son and Eli's grandson) now live on and manage the Swartley farm on Route 152, north of Chalfont. Anticipating William Swartley's inability to butcher hogs on Main Street, a motion is passed to ask the host to purchase a ham and ice cream at the expense of the reunion for next year's gathering. A framed copy of the picture taken at the 1915 Reunion at the Lapp home at Grier's Corner is introduced and passed around.

"Blest be the Tie that Binds" is sung in closing. The evening meal is set out on the tables under the maples. When the children finish the meal Eli keeps his promise to take them into the dining room of the old house to show them the dumb waiter!

Present for the 1916 Clymer Family Reunion

Magdalen and Eli Clymer

Ella and William Swartley

Grant, Florence, and Laura Swartley

Grace and Arthur Swartley

Ethel and Wilmer Weir

Florence and Doris Weir

Adelaide McEwen

Russell and Earl McEwen

Mr. and Mrs. William Worth

Harold Worth

Laura and Elmer Clymer

Gladys, Ellsworth, and Verna Clymer

Flora and Frank McNair

Margaret, Frances, Robert McNair

Emma and Norman Cornell

Ernest and Anna Cornell

Mr. and Mrs. Harry (Henry) B. Clymer

Sue and Grace Clymer

Abe Clymer

Minerva Clymer

Kate Kratz

Mabel Sellers

Melvin, Stanley, and Clint Sellers

Clarence Hittle

Leroy Kratz

Estelle Kratz

Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Clymer

Marie and Howard Clymer

Dorothy and Aubrey Clymer

Lillis and Furman Edwards

Samuel Clymer

Ida, Debbie, and Edith Lapp

Mr. and Mrs. Clayton Rickert

Harvey and Edith Rickert

Russel and Linford Rickert

Mae, Paul, and John Rickert

Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin Singer

Herbert, Benjamin, Flora, Samuel

Elsie and Barbara

 

AUGUST 1917

 

The Clymer family gathers for the 7th annual Clymer Reunion at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Swartley on Main Street in Chalfont. Family members arrive by horse and buggy, automobile, and trolley. The mid-day meal is served on the lawn of the Methodist Church next door to the Swartley home. After the men enjoy croquet and quoits, and the children participate in their games, all gather in the parlor of the Swartley home for the business meeting and program.

The bills for ham and ice cream and stationary are presented and paid. A collection is taken for the FIRST time to cover the expenses and the total comes to $15.10, a sufficient amount to cover ALL expenses. Births, marriages, and deaths of family members are recorded. The officers are re-elected and Mr. and Mrs. Norman Cornell offer their home for the 1918 gathering. The program features the talents of family members, including a humorous recitation by Miss Helen Texter. Then a special surprise-- a victrola is brought out to play a number of selections for the attentive group!

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Eli Clymer did not feel well enough to attend the 1917 Reunion. He died the following year, two weeks after the 1918 Reunion. The "Newlyweds" of the 1916 Reunion celebrated the birth of their first child, Elizabeth, two weeks before the reunion. Arthur Swartley, the new father, came along for a short time to help his father who was host. Paul and John were unable to attend the 7th Clymer Reunion because they were training in Gettysburg with the Fourth Infantry, Company D, preparing to fight in the WAR in Europe. Sadly, Paul did not survive the war. Serving in the Armed Forces was a new step for the Clymer family who had been pacifists and the founding members of the Salford, Franconia, and Line Lexington Mennonite Churches. By the first World War it was no longer important or relevant to the family that Clymers had paid hefty fines to the government for refusing to fight in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

 

AUGUST 1998

 

The humidity is oppressive and temperatures rise into the nineties under the bright sun. Air conditioned mini-vans, sports utility vehicles, and rental cars pull into the parking lot for Pavilion #1 of Peace Valley Park, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Teenagers in tank tops and short shorts carry large plastic coolers to the tables under the Wooden pavilion as they glance around for familiar faces. Name tags identify the "cousins" and only a few tags display the Clymer name. Adults greet each other and study the poster that explains who Henry Clymer and Mary Benner and their children are! A prayer of thanks is offered before the mid-day meal and parents encourage younger children to try one of the salad dishes on the buffet table. Relay races with feed-sacks, water balloons, raw eggs and hula-hoops are enjoyed by all and recorded on video tape.

The president, Dr. Bob Swartley, calls the business meeting to order. A family member opens the meeting in prayer. The minutes from the previous year are read as well as the minutes from 50 years ago! The oldest and youngest members present are recognized. Births, marriages, and deaths are noted and recorded.

When tributes to deceased members are requested, Ruth McDonald Scully speaks about the death of her father, Herschel McDonald. He was the husband of the 1 1/2 year old toddler picking blooms at the 1916 Reunion. Doris preceded her husband in death. Elizabeth Swartley Stover, the two week old infant mentioned at the 1917 Reunion, stands before the group with a cloth doll to illustrate some of the things she loved about her favorite aunt who died in 1998. The aunt, Florence Swartley Adams, was 16 years old at the 1916 Reunion and offered an instrumental duet with sister Laura. Janet Weir Null stands to say that she has wonderful memories of her "Aunt Florence"

 

The business meeting concludes with musical selections by a college student on his saxophone and by his younger high school cousin on her flute. Dr. Robert Swartley leads the group in a Bible Quiz and presents a lovely gift basket to Rob and Janet Weir, the winners.Very little about the business meeting has changed since 1910 until the president must determine which family has traveled the greatest distance. Families have come from as far away as North Carolina, Virginia, Haiti, Alaska, and Spain! Albert Cornell, the son of the hosts for the 1918 Reunion, agrees to reserve the same pavilion for the 1999 Clymer Family Reunion which will be held the first Saturday in August! The family then stands to join hands and sing "Bless be the Tie that Binds". Food is taken again from the cooler and placed on the buffet table....

 

BLESS BE THE TIE THAT BINDS

OUR HEARTS IN CHRISTIAN LOVE.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF KINDRED MINDS

IS LIKE TO THAT ABOVE.

BEFORE OUR FATHER'S THRONE

WE POUR OUR ARDENT PRAYERS.

OUR FEARS, OUR HOPES, OUR AIMS ARE ONE...

OUR COMFORTS AND OUR CARES.

WE SHARE OUR MUTUAL WOES.

OUR MUTUAL BURDENS BEAR.

AND OFTEN FOR EACH OTHER FLOWS

THE SYMPATHIZING TEAR.

WHEN WE ASUNDER PART

IT GIVES US INWARD PAIN.

BUT WE SHALL STILL BE JOINED IN HEART

AND HOPE TO MEET AGAIN.

 

 

 

 

Written by Donna Basinger 1998