By Patricia Patula, Town Archivist
The full title of this newspaper article of June 2, 1903, is Washington Grove Meeting, Many Improvements Have Been Made by the Association. Acknowledgement of the author is listed only as “Special to the Washington Post.” To one following the development of the Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association since its inception in 1873 as a religious endeavor, through the societal changes of the 1890s and early 1900s, this news would most likely have brought a sense of relief, most likely along with an “isn’t it about time?” attitude.
The challenges facing the Association in these earlier years were many: ill-kept stock records and delinquent stockholders, unsanitary conditions and storm water management problems of the camp, a weakening religious fervor, and concerns for demoralizing conduct.
The intense power and generational struggle within the Association throughout this time frame is described quite eloquently by Philip K. Edwards in his book, Washington Grove 1873-1937. In the chapter titled “A Classic Struggle,” Mr. Edwards quotes from Association records which are frequently written in a blunt and frank manner. The struggle was indeed a “classic,” and the story is filled with dramatic and surprising details. (Dig out your copy and read about ‘election shenanigans’ and ‘trouble within the ranks’ Pages 137-151.)
In 1903, however, positive change was underway. Our Post writer (always unknown it seems) described this stockholders’ meeting on May 30, 1903, as “largely attended and enthusiastic” and that the financial report “showed a healthy condition of the treasury, with a good cash balance in hand.” The professionally printed financial statement distributed to the stockholders states the “. . . assessments of the Association we are pleased to note are, with one or two exceptions, paid up to date, the first time such a business condition has existed in many years.”
The originals kept here in the Town’s archives are beautifully handwritten, and the financial portions have an auditor’s certification that ends with the words “. . . found them well and faithfully and correctly kept.” The records were indeed well kept, with every stockholder’s name entered in alphabetical order and the amount they owed and paid. Assessments ranged from $1.12 to $16 in 1903. (And yes, those numbers are correct.)
The Post writer goes on: “Many noticeable improvements have been made at the grove during the year, the widening and surfacing of Grove avenue, the renovation of the association store, and added conveniences at the hall being especially noteworthy.”
Henry. L. Strang, the Association president, reported in his annual statement to the stockholders at this same May 30, 1903 annual meeting, that the store was “opened by Mr. B. S. Pendleton, a grocer of experience who comes to us well recommended . . . who promises to keep all the good things to eat usually found in a first class store . . . kindly give him your patronage.”
And regarding the hotel, Mr. Strang added this: “The Hotel is under the same efficient management of last year. Mrs. May C. Jones has demonstrated her ability and fitness to cater satisfactorily to the exacting public. It behooves every stock holder to endorse our hotel and recommend it to inquirers.”
Both the Post writer and Mr. Strang refer to Chautauqua. The Post author reports that “The Chautauqua committee, through its chairman, Mr. W. H. H. Smith, presented the programme of events for the season. Many distinguished entertainers and educators are on the list.” Mr. Strang, however, in his annual report, approaches the subject from a different angle. He delights in the “great revival of interest in the Grove due to its attractiveness . . .” and attributes this to the Chautauqua movement. He boasts that there was a great “. . . demand for cottages leaving at this writing but three cottages that are not taken and perhaps a hundred applicants disappointed who were not able to secure a dwelling place.” Mr. Strang suggested “that authority be given the board of trustees to open Maple Avenue from Brown to Oak Street whenever the demand will justify the expenditures.” This would allow for more cottages to be built.
The Post article ends with a list of the men who were elected to the Board of Trustees for the upcoming year and a reference also to the cottages:
“The following trustees were selected to serve one year: President, Henry L. Strang; vice president, Robert Cohen; secretary, D. Elmer Wiber; treasurer, Robert L. Baines; H. Maurice Talbort, I. T. Fulks, John N. Bovee, John B. Davis, and I. Cabell Williamson.”
“Messrs. Williamson, Rynex, and Sparrow have erected handsome cottages on the grounds during the past season, the two latter on Chestnut avenue, which is fast being improved.”
Sources: The Washington Post (1877-1922); Jun 3 1903, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg. 5
President’s Reports, May 30, 1903, Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association Archives
Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association Minutes of May 30, 1903, Washington Grove Archives
Edwards, P. (1988) Washington Grove 1873-1937. Washington Grove: Edwards.