The name has special meaning for me. Growing up in Bucks County, my brother and sister and I spent many hours with friends, swimming and canoeing on the Neshaminy Creek. Day after day, we wandered through the woods, winter, summer, spring and fall. In winter, the creek froze hard enough for us to skate.
We didn’t know then how the Neshaminy flowed from border to border and its tributaries tied the county together.
Now the first issue of a journal called “Neshaminy” has been published and I am pleased to recommend it. I might do that for the name alone, but the contents are truly appealing. They are varied, informative, sometimes funny and charming, sometimes quite serious.
The journal is the work of the Bucks County Writers Workshop and published by the Doylestown Historical Society. It’s named for the waterway that wends its way from north to south in the long county, ending at the Delaware River near Bristol.
It’s history and fiction wrapped around history, tidbits that draw from legend and news, back to the Native American settlers, the Lenni Lenape, and into William Penn’s time through the Revolution, and a recent war. It draws on the lives of artists and writers – there’s so much to be said.
“There are rich veins of archival material to be mined here, including the collections of the Doylestown Historical Society, in which are stories yearning to be told,” David L. Updike, the managing editor says in his introduction.
Poet David A. Callum opens the book with “Nishen Mene” – say it quickly and you’ll hear the name we know today as Neshaminy. “Your shores were spectators to the dawning of freedom’s greatest experiment when Ross’s colors first unfurled in your garces,” he writes.
But history long ago is only one part of the journal. Linda Wisniewski aludes to Abbie Hoffman, one of the 1960s Chicago Seven who came to Bucks County to join the “Dump the Pump” fracas in Point Pleasant. The author finds a way to bring her story up to date in this era of cell phones.
Don Swaim, leader of the Writers Workshop, describes the discovery of the Lenape Stone, carved with an image of a mammoth, on a Buckingham Township farm and Henry Mercer’s quest to determine its age.
Bernard Hansell, the boy who found the stone, had a collecting relics from his field for some time. “I used to give things away to relatives of mine,” he told Mercer, “often boys, my cousins, when they came up from town. They had never seen anything like an arrowhead before.”
Swaim also recalls December 7, 1941 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor in a story of an aimless young Doylestown man.
Daniel Dorian, a Jew who managed to hide from the Nazis in World War II France, was surprised to find his Shangri-La in a house, complete with ghost, behind Phillips’ Mill in Solebury. He wanted to escape the hubbub in Manhattan where he was a film maker in 1984 and he writes about the days spent bringing the house into the modern world.
Dorian and his wife, Maria, have lived in that house with a remarkable history ever since.
Natalie Zellat Dyen reveals that a rainbow led Oscar Hammerstein and his wife, Dorothy, to their home outside Doylestown, Highland Farm, in 1941. She tells stories behind the scenes of the Broadway musicals Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers created.
Connie Wrzesniewski, a writer for the Herald, writes a poem to accompany Pat Achilles’ illustration of Dorothy Parker. “The casual observer views this icon’s likeness and sees a poised lady looking back in beauty and simplicity fooling everyone but herself,” Connie writes of the troubled “Queen Bee of the Algonquin Round Table.” Dorothy Parker once owned a house in Tinicum Township.
Even a Lenape-owned casino is brought into a Bucks County story by William O’Toole. It’s far away of course, in the West, where the Lenape Nation was forced to move. “The World-famous Bucks County Casino” won first place in a literary contest tied to the first issue of the journal.
In his introduction, Updike mentions that one of the goals of the journal was to involve young people in local history. “We reached out to the Central Bucks School District in an effort to encourage students to submit to the journal,” he said. “We are pleased that this issue includes an imaginative collection of fictionalized diary entries for Pearl S. Buck created by two students at Central Bucks South High School, Rechel Leopold and Reema Kalidindi. We hope that writing by local students will be a recurring feature of subsequent issues.”
And there will be more issues. Writers have already begun their endless stories.