CLIFFORD TOWNSHIP PA — As another year winds down, the holiday season is a wonder-filled time of year when folks take time to think about their blessings and the many gifts they have received over time. Here in Clifford Township, residents have been particularly blessed with some unusual but quite generous gifts … those reflected by an exciting history and a rich heritage.
Through the Clifford Township Historical Society (CTHS), these gifts have been continually brought to life through the many activities and events that the Society has endeavored to develop and grow since its inception during the planning of the township’s bicentennial celebration in 2006.
Recently, this writer reached out to a varied group of community members and organizations to gain their thoughts about the CTHS’ first decade and its many works. The comments received help paint a clearer picture about and give insightful life into each of this group’s projects and the people that help make things happen for the rural township they call home.
Throughout Clifford Township, history is realistically brought to life … from the initial founding of the Dugout Canoe that now ‘talks’ and literally provides a voice to the CTHS in its continually evolving Museum of Local History, to the Hoover School that reflects back to the time and stories of ye-old one-room school days. The Yarns Cider Mill at the Suracci Farm is an ongoing project of careful reconstruction, while the Agricultural Museum at the Clifford Volunteer Firemen’s Picnic Grounds will also continue to develop through the years. And the ever-growing Children’s Garden is perhaps one of the group’s livelier current projects, as its progression to date has literally brought together folks of all ages from in and around Clifford Township.
“Like all historical societies, the CTHS is the structured expression of a core group of players with a strong belief in the future of the community,” said Dr. Robert Powell, president of the Carbondale Historical Society. “Using the history and traditions of the community as a bridge to the future, the CTHS has demonstrated to the greater community that the path to the future is not only broad but accessible to all. As the CTHS has repeatedly shown, the journey down that path requires endless hours of hard work for all concerned. But it is a journey that is rewarding in a thousand ways to those who have the courage and foresight to proceed down that path. And in so doing, they bring into existence the future of the community.”
Comprised of approximately two dozen supportive and dedicated volunteers who give generously and tirelessly of their time and talents, their energy and skills, the Society looks to each of its historical projects as fun challenges to ensure Clifford’s past is indeed kept alive for future generations. One might say theirs are gifts of foresight that keep on giving.
But keeping history alive through major projects like these does not come without a cost. While volunteer time and donations in kind may be one thing, there are extensive very costly items that cannot be met without some serious funding. As a result, CTHS members have learned to apply for and write grants, through which such successful funding has helped to ensure the group’s continuance. For instance, “what the Society has been able to achieve with grant funds from the Endless Mountains Heritage Region is no less than amazing,” said Annette Schultz, executive director of the EMHR. “With projects like the garden and the cider mill, the Society has mobilized the wider community to actively participate in heritage projects, instilling pride and ownership, outstanding successes that we are thrilled to have supported.”
As Township Supervisor Barry Searle reiterates, “This historical society remains a critical partner in the plans of the Clifford Township Supervisors’ efforts to improve the quality of life for our citizens. The Society’s contributions – both as a group and individually – combine with the ‘community involvement’ fostered by spin-offs, such as the Children’s Garden and Christmas Village group, which have enhanced the livability of Clifford far beyond what was envisioned just a few years ago. Without the dedication and contributions of the Society’s members, the progress made by the township in the recent past would not have been possible. And we continue to look for additional help for the good of our citizens.”
When the CTHS was formed a short ten years ago, no one foresaw the extent of its reach or the wealth of its findings. Back then, ideas were like wishes and dreams, and hope was something that was instilled in its originators. “But the Clifford Township of today is a different, better place than it was when we all celebrated its bicentennial in 2006,” noted Sally Fischbeck, who initiated the early meetings to help prepare for the township’s 200-year celebration and co-authored the book, Clifford Township – 200 years 1806-2006. “The largest agent for change has been the CTHS. The Society grew out of the bicentennial and has kept the positive momentum of the celebration going strong. It has a physical presence in the township through the museum and its ongoing projects. It is also an energy center for future projects and grants. Countless valuable pieces of Clifford Township have been donated and saved through their collective efforts. This all ensures that future generations will be able to learn from and understand our past.”
Former CTHS director Larry Wilson shared that “the CTHS has played a very large role in encouraging pride and volunteerism in our township. Their support for historical preservation, the Community Center, and the Clifford Park has been one of the reasons that we as a community have accomplished so much in these last ten years.”
With its cited mission to “collect, document, and preserve historical information and memorabilia relating to the early settlement of Clifford and the surrounding areas,” the CTHS’s gift-giving decade of successes thus far will indeed “foster in our residents an appreciation of our area’s rich history through community programs.”
To learn more about this little society that does big things, or to become as a volunteer or donor, contact the CTHS at PO Box 161, Clifford PA 184113, firstname.lastname@example.org, or at www.cliffordtownshiphistoricalsociety.org, or call 570-679-2723,
Written by Union Dale freelance feature writer Karen Bernhardt Toolan for the Clifford Township Historical Society, with thanks to the Susquehanna County Room Tax Grant Fund through the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau.
The Clifford Township PA logo, designed by residents Helmut and Barbara Kunst, reflects a significant part of the Township’s history: (clockwise from top): the dominance of farming from the past to present; the natural beauty of the woodland mountains, wild life and stone walls; the volunteer work exemplified by the Clifford Township Volunteer Fire Company; the importance of the community, its churches, the one-room schoolhouses, and its residents. Clifford has a long tradition of people working together to make the community a better place for all.