In early August, the privately owned Perkasie Park National Historic District will hold one of Bucks County’s most unique historic events. Its Founders’ Day open house allows visitors to stroll through its collection of 60 Victorian cottages and an outdoor auditorium.
The event would not be possible without the cooperation of two men more than 140 years ago who also were leaders of rival political parties: John Schwartz and Henry G. Moyer.
On June 30, 1882, the two men met at Moyer’s office in Perkasie with leaders of the Evangelical Association, a religious group also known as the German Methodists, and secular leaders to form the Perkasie Park Association. Over the following years, the park became a community gathering place for annual camp meetings, Sunday school picnics, summer school camps, public school graduations, and Memorial Day ceremonies.
The partnership between Moyer and Schwartz worked because the two leaders left their own personal politics outside the camp meeting’s gates. John Schwartz, a staunch Democrat, served two terms during the 1880s as a state representative. Henry G. Moyer, a progressive Republican, started the Perkasie Central News in 1881 and served as a state senator in the 1890s. (Moyer and his business partner Samuel Kramer sold the newspaper in 1903 to a young publisher named Charles M. Meredith.) Both men also were county political organizers.
But Moyer’s newspaper endorsed Schwartz as a Democrat twice. After the 1886 election, the Central News told readers that it would support its co-owner, Moyer, in the next election. “Many Republicans doubtless voted, both times, for Mr. Schwartz. A sense of gratitude, if nothing else, will impel many Democrats to vote for Mr. Moyer two years hence.” But Schwartz retired from politics after the 1888 election.
Moyer grew up in Hilltown and went to business college in Philadelphia. Schwartz’s family lived in Philadelphia. John was sent to seminary school, but he enlisted in the Union army instead in 1861. Schwartz was at the battle of Gettysburg and other fights. During the 1870s, Moyer and Schwartz were among the residents who petitioned Bucks County to grant borough status to Perkasie in 1879, and Moyer and Schwartz were appointed as the town’s first justices of the peace.
During the 1880s, the new Perkasie Park thrived as a regional attraction, and in the early 1890s only the county fair drew more tourists to Bucks County each summer. The Association added improvements including a preachers’ stand, a feed area for horses, water closets, and eventually cottages. During one season, 40,000 people visited the park during its 10-day camp meeting.
In September 1887, Central News editor Kramer knew both men well and wrote of their legacy: “John Schwartz: the friend and champion of religion undefiled, politics unpolluted, and education for the masses. Henry G. Moyer, one of the editors of the News, indispensable to the community, a lover of a good joke; representative of sunny religion, essential manhood, tact, industry, and good judgment.”
In today’s world, politics unpolluted and good judgment would be a refreshing change. That is a lesson in civility that we often mention to visitors at our annual Founders’ Day event as they walk by the cottages owned and Moyer and Schwartz that still sit next to each other at Perkasie Park.
Scott Bomboy serves on Perkasie Borough Council and chairs Perkasie Park’s Founders’ Day committee. This year’s event is Saturday Aug. 5 from noon to 4 p.m. The park is located at 200 S. Ninth St.