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Happy to Be Here: "The guy who hangs the flag"


The Solebury Township Historical Society selects the Distinguished Citizen of Solebury every year and announces the name at the New Year’s Day brunch.

The names have included artists and designers like William Lathrop, Daniel Garber, Edward Redfield and George Nakashima, and Noemi and Antonin Raymond, philanthropist Stephen Raab, historian Willis Rivinus, business owners and community supporters Sue and Bill Tinsman Sr., and conservationists like the Families of Honey Hollow.

This year a former award winner, Bill MacDowell, long dedicated to the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve and the Bucks County Audubon Society, was asked to introduce the Distinguished Citizen of 2019.

MacDowell took a while to lead up to the winner’s name. He mentioned the history – a family who lived in the Delaware Valley before there was a United States of America. He related a vignette from the winner’s childhood – put off the school bus and told to walk home. And he told how change came as a boarding student at George School – a leader of younger students.

“Then back home, to join the family business,” MacDowell said.

And, he said, “He’s the guy who has been hanging the American flag on the Lumberville Bridge over the Delaware River ever since September 11, 2001.

At that point, most in the audience recognized the honored citizen, Bill Tinsman.

The business Tinsman returned to in Lumberville was not an ordinary business; it was Tinsman Brothers Lumber, which had been around since 1785 and operated for four generations before him. It is the oldest continuously family-operated lumber yard in the United States.

Bill and his brother, Tom, operate the lumber yard today.

After he settled into the family business, Bill Tinsman could see and understand the danger to Solebury Township of uncontrolled development. Lower Bucks County was already overbuilt and builders were spreading across Central Bucks, acquiring farms for residential use.

“He became a pioneer in Solebury’s land preservation program, working with residents and specialists like Natural Lands Trust, Brandywine Conservancy and the Heritage Conservancy,” MacDowell said.

Tinsman, with other residents, founded the Solebury Land Use Committee. Tinsman ran for township supervisor, was defeated on the first try but tried again and won. During Tiinsman’s tenure, the supervisors voted to put an important conservation measure in practice. They offered citizens a referendum to vote for investing in land preservation by purchase of development rights.

“During that period, over $40 million was pledged by you and me,” MacDowell said, “creating one of the most effective preservation models in the country – with the result that about a third of Solebury’s acreage is now presreved.”

MacDowell called Tinsman a driving force in local organizations. He has supported Bucks Audubon, Bowman’s Hill, the Delaware River Flooding Task Force, the Paunacussing Watershed Association and the Delaware Wild and Scenic River task force.

Husband of Melody Hunt and father of Will, Bill Tinsman is “an alpha male, who uses the alpha largely on behalf of civil and human rights, and on causes important to all of us ... clean water, clean air and science-based issues,” MacDowell said.

As is the tradition, the gathering ended the meeting with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.”