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A library and a foundation


Dear Friends,

For 231 years, the Richland Library has been at the forefront of Quakertown since its founding in 1788. A few days ago, it held its annual meeting.

Richland library began as a Quaker institution and still has plenty of Quaker influences, frugality being one of them. Richland Library recently built a major addition, doubling its size, and paid cash for its new building. Richland Library’s balance sheet shows no liabilities, no debt … That’s remarkable.

I sat with Carolyn Potser, a retired Quakertown High School teacher. An octogenarian and smart as a whip. Carolyn told me that in 1937 when she was in the fifth grade in the Quakertown elementary school, she paid 10 cents per month for membership. The only library, other than Richland Library, was the high school library which was closed during the summer recess. An avid reader, Carolyn used Richland Library to exercise her hobby. We all did.

Ann Hellmann is Richland’s president; Rodney Henry, the treasurer. Ann introduced Karina Rilling who gave an update about the story of the Latvian community near Applebachsville and how the Latvians immigrated to America. The book is expected later this year.

The meeting room was packed, not only to learn how the last year fared, but to hear the guest speakers, Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin, talk about their new book, “Tasting Freedom.Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America.”

Both writers were reporters at the Philadelphia Inquirer until their retirement. Daniel Biddle was a Pulitzer Prize winner. Both were introduced by a Richland Library member, and Daniel Biddle’s brother Stephen Biddle. It was a family affair.

Speaking in tandem, the two writers alternated between telling the audience that the book took seven years to write. They’ve been on an extensive book tour and have spoken about their journeys at 150 venues. Their presentation was gripping.

There has been much praise for the book. “Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin have brought to life a leader of the Civil War era struggle against slavery and for equal rights for blacks,” the back-jacket reads. “This dramatic book not only rescues the intrepid Octavius Catto from obscurity but reminds us that this struggle…and violent opposition to it…long predated the modern civil rights era.”

Catto died in 1871, the year African Americans received the right to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. (Women couldn’t vote until 1920). At his death, Catto was only 61. His statue stands next to Philadelphia’s City Hall. Mighty Betsy and I are reading “Tasting Freedom.” It’s fascinating and we recommend it to you.

I had a chance to speak with the authors after the meeting. I told them that one of their colleagues at the Inquirer, Ed Glover, was one of Penn’s journalism teachers when I was an undergraduate in the 1950s.

They laughed when I shared memories as a “stringer,” an unpaid reporter who would phone in the murders at the old Philadelphia General Hospital, a real snake pit at the time … gone now; the Harbor Patrol, to list who had been “fished” out of the Delaware River; the City Morgue at 13th and Filbert streets, where employees would conduct races with cadavers strapped to gurneys in the hallways; and two police precincts to discover who was locked up.

Looking back on that time in my life, it probably was dangerous work but as a 20-year-old, the thought never crossed my mind. I should have been paid combat or hazardous duty pay.

I’ve included that chapter of my life in a book (“Across the Street”) which J. Lawrence (Larry) Grim Jr., my Perkasie lawyer friend, and I are writing together. It’s about four generations of Grims and Merediths living in close proximity since the 1880s. Larry’s efforts are way ahead of mine. His chapters have actually been published in handsome book form. Mine are in still the early stages.

Stay tuned.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

By the way, the Upper Bucks Community Foundation Fund met recently in Quakertown at the Michener Library in Memorial Park. The members of the local committee are Ann Hellmann, Doug Hutchinson, Alan Miller, Bob Moffett, Dr. Stephen Smith, and Susan Ziegler. This Upper Bucks committee is part of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation.

The Upper Bucks Foundation (UBCF) provides grants to nonprofits serving the Upper Bucks region in perpetuity including the Richard Gasser Fund, which benefits education interests, and achievements in technology and science; and the Erwin and Gertrude Neutsch Fund which supports education programs in the visual arts, industrial arts and the preservation of rural life.

Doug Hutchinson announced the establishment of the Bucks County Free Library Endowment Fund. He also acknowledged grants to: the Bucks County Opportunity Council, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Heritage Conservancy, Lenape Chamber Ensemble, National Inventors Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Phoebe Ministries, Pipersville Free Library, Quakertown Alive!, Riegelsville Public Library, River Valley Waldorf School, Valley Choral Society, Upper Bucks County Technical School and the Upper Bucks YMCA.