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Bridget Wingert: Happy to Be Here

With museum site, effort comes full circle

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Up and down Langhorne-Newtown Road (Durham Road, Route 413), back and forth, over and over again. That’s the road I traveled when I lived in Langhorne Borough.
Besides a couple of residential developments, the 3-mile section between Langhorne and Newtown boroughs is dominated on two sides by St. Mary Medical Center, and Pennswood Village, Newtown Friends School and George School on the west side.
An abandoned old farmhouse is tucked into the trees on the east side, just past the stone bridge over Core Creek. That is the new location of the African American Museum of Bucks County. It’s a marvelous site, seven acres of rolling hills, with two usable buildings known as the Boone Farm, a place where many worked during the Great Migration of Black families from the South. Some who settled in Bristol would come to the farm in a truck to work and return to their homes at night.
The farmhouse, known as the Godfrey-Kirk House and built in the early 18th century, is one of the earliest known houses in the county and the land features structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The house is adjacent to a small carriage house and the stone foundation of a barn from c. 1850.
The land, owned by Bucks County, is being leased to the AAMBC, under an agreement that specifies a fee of $1 per year.
The African American Museum, established as a nonprofit in 2014, had been quietly growing for many years. The year before, a handful of people came together in the basement of the First Baptist Church of Langhorne to talk about possibilities. Then they acted.
Last weekend, the firmly established museum volunteers, rejoicing in their newfound home hosted a brunch in that same basement with about a hundred guests. It was their first effort with a fundraising event.
“The biggest challenge when we started,” said Linda Salley, president and executive director of the museum, “was how would we tell our story, the mission to honor our legacy in Bucks County. The group had already collected documents and pictures, all kinds of artifacts relating to Black settlers.
They started going out, went on the road – to Warminster, Doylestown, Bristol, Upper Bucks – visiting businesses, schools, fairs, libraries and clubs. Volunteer drivers, Salley, Deal Wright, Roger Brown and William Reed, loaded their cars with the collection, set up displays at the destination and then packed it all up in their cars at the end of the day.
In the lead car, Salley said, “I was always looking in the rear view mirror, watching to see the cars behind me.” At a display in the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia the group discovered there was no place to unload – that meant trips back and forth from cars to the building.
“If I don’t kill these old folks, I’m going to kill myself,” Salley thought.
At an event to honor Richard Moore in Quakertown, the group found relief. Moore had aided more than 600 escaped slaves as they passed through his “station” on the Underground Railroad. “We were there with our display when in walked Diane Marseglia (county commissioner). ‘What do you need?’ she asked.

“Look at my people,” Salley answered. “We need to put them in one car.’ Marseglia arranged for a van to transport the volunteers.
At a meeting in 2021, the county commissioners decided to donate the building at Boone Farm for the museum. The building needed work and it was up to the museum to make repairs. “After that meeting the pandemic hit and all of Bucks County shut down,” Salley said. Through Zoom calls the group developed blueprints and created a wish list. The fundraising drive is to pay for repairs and conversion to office, classroom and display space.
The electrical, plumbing and drainage systems of the houses require updating, but the overall infrastructure of the buildings remain in good shape, according to the county. And this spring it was time to raise money to pay for the repairs. That’s where the museum stands today.
“My hope is that the museum will become known as the go-to source of knowledge about Bucks County and beyond,” Salley said. “the museum brings to life the untold stories, the rich history. We’ve learned so much, good and bad. As much bad as there is there is always someone to catch you.”
Bucks is remembered by most African Americans – the slaves who passed through – as a safe haven, Salley said. She talked about Black soldiers who served with George Washington, some free, some indentured servants, some slaves taking the place of their owners. After the Revolution, slaves went back to their owners.
And there are many more stories to tell.
Salley is hoping to record achievements by Black people who have determined not to be afraid. “We’ve all been through something,” she said, noting peoples’ accomplishments despite setbacks.
“The story that was never known, how African Americans left the South and worked on Boone Farm to get their start in Bristol, has come full circle and we are thrilled to be able to tell this and many other untold stories.”
The museum’s most recent exhibit, “Building on the Dream: From Africa to Bucks” is currently running at the Bucks County Visitor Center in Bensalem.
“For Juneteenth, we will load that van and go to Parx Casino (6/17), Pennsbury Manor (6/18) and Mercer Museum on Juneteenth Day (6/19). Travel is not as hard now,” Salley said.
By the way, she addedd, “It’s okay to donate.”
She added that the group is looking to hire a campaign coordinator. Contact 215-752-1909 or infoaambc.org.


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