Since the fall of 1996, UMHA has grown and expanded tremendously. Here are some of the highlights of how we got started. If you'd like more details, the full ten-year report is available on the Publications page.
During a work session on the history of the Upper Moreland Public Library, Township Commissioner Thomas P. Murt and Library Director Lillian Burnley discovered the need to form a community group to gather the history of Upper Moreland. They printed an article in the Fall/Winter 1996-1997 Township Newsletter citing that the Township and Library were interested in forming an 'Advisory Committee' or 'Historical Council' and soliciting interest on the part of local residents.
Commissioner Murt sent a follow-up memo to those responding to the Newsletter article, setting the date of Tuesday, November 26th, 1996 for an organizational meeting. Those in attendance were: Mrs. Burnley, James Cunningham, Doreen Foust, Eric John, Elaine Leibrandt, Karen McQueen, Edward Momorella, Mr. Murt, Joe Thomas, Dr. Millie Wintz and Steve Worthington.
At this meeting, it was decided to call the organization the Upper Moreland Historical Association. Tuesdays were agreed to be a generally satisfactory night for meetings.
Mr. Murt distributed copies of the Upper Moreland Open Space and Environmental Protection Plan provided by Montgomery County. Avenues for publicity were discussed, and the group decided to research the reproduction and sale of an old township map hanging in the Township Building. Mrs. Foust volunteered to take minutes at future meetings.
Following these discussions, Ms. Darcy Fair, Children's Librarian, gave a brief presentation on the proper procedure for gathering historical data through oral interviews.
The group's first meeting concluded with the following assignments: Mr. Murt would develop a mission statement for the new organization; Ed Momorella would secure a copy of the Montgomery County Historical Society's mission statement; Joe Thomas would develop a list of five or six possible subcommittees; and Mr. Murt would research the reproduction of the old township map.
The second meeting of the new group was held on January 28th, 1997 and was primarily spent discussing the new mission statement and the committee recommendations. Committee recommendations were:
By-Laws (an ad-hoc committee), Archival, Preservation, Data Entry, Oral History, Public Relations, Fund Raising, Historic Sites and Genealogies.
The group agreed to create an Executive Board consisting of five members, and an Executive Committee that would include the Executive Board and the chairs of all operating committees. The five people who volunteered to form the first Executive Board were Karen McQueen, Ed Momorella, Ray Stahl, Joe Thomas and Dr. Millie Wintz.
The first Executive Board meeting was held on February 5th, 1997 in the old library. The following pro tempore officers were agreed upon: Joe Thomas, President; Karen McQueen, Vice President and Millie Wintz, Secretary. Ray Stahl volunteered to be Treasurer as well as chair of the ad hoc By-Laws Committee and Ed Momorella would become the Membership Officer. The By-Laws Committee would consist of the entire Executive Board.
The Executive Board decided to expand itself to include seven members: the current Board plus a Commissioner Advisor and a Member-At-Large. The Board decided that General Meetings would be held on the fourth Tuesday of the month; the Executive Committee would meet earlier in the month and the Executive Board would meet only if it was deemed necessary.
To solicit volunteers to serve on the various committees, Dr. Wintz offered to prepare posters to explain the committee functions and have them posted during the General Meeting.
The Board agreed to establish these committees:
Archival, Audio & Visual, Data Base Entry, Fund Raising, Natural History, Publications, Public Relations, Sites Research andGenealogies, Social History, Technology
The organization name was ratified and the Mission Statement was corrected and adopted. A letterhead design submitted by Thomas was approved.
The mission of the Upper Moreland Historical Association is to identify, collect, study, preserve, and protect the historical heritage and folklore of the Upper Moreland Township community.To accomplish this mission, the Upper Moreland Historical Association will:
A. Identify and collect, data regarding the history of Upper Moreland Township and its people. This data to include, but not limited to: tapes and transcripts of verbal interviews of residents, genealogies, historical documents, property deeds, histories of local businesses, government, schools, churches, and civic organizations; newspapers, periodicals, manuscripts, letters, photographs, diaries, maps, and other relevant documents;
B. Identify, register, and preserve historical sites within and around Upper Moreland Township;
C. Promote and stimulate interest throughout the community in the collections gathered and work done by the Upper Moreland Historical Association;
D. Present displays, exhibitions, publications, and educational programming regarding the historical heritage of the Upper Moreland community.
The first Executive Committee meeting was held on March 18th, 1997 with Murt, Thomas, Doris and Stew Boerner, Jim Vandegrift, Anita Smiley, Ray Stahl, Karen McQueen, Joan Miles, Eric John, Ed Momorella and Dr. Millie Wintz in attendance.
Meeting dates were approved and speakers for those meetings were decided. Thomas submitted a short-range plan. Committee action reports were given, and Ray Stahl reviewed the By-Laws. Finally, Ed Momorella led a discussion of membership.
The first General or Public Meeting was held on February 25th, 1997 in the Council Room of the Township Building with twenty-two residents in attendance.
During the meeting, the Executive Board was introduced including the two new positions: Member-At-Large Anita Rothwell-Smiley and Commissioner Advisor Tom Murt.
Ray Stahl gave a status report of the development of the By-Laws. Mrs. Burnley, the library director, gave a report on the progress of the new library. Volunteers were solicited for the various committees. Committee chairs were decided as follows: Joan Miles chairing Archival, Eric John chairing Data Base Entry, Doris and Stew Boerner chairing Natural History, Ed Momorella chairing Publications, James Vandegrift chairing Public Relations, Dr. Millie Wintz chairing Sites Research, Karen McQueen chairing Genealogy, Paula Gidjunis chairing Social History and Ray Stahl chairing By-Laws. Other volunteers included Elaine Leibrandt, Gail Gustafson, Kathy Hagstrom and Steve Worthington.
The featured speaker for this first meeting was Dr. Millie Wintz, who gave a presentation on the mills along the Pennypack Creek.
Commissioner Tom Murt made a few remarks on the progress of the Association up to that point. Refreshments were provided by Mr. Murt following the meeting. The business-speaker-refreshments format for public meetings has been continued for every meeting since.
After four drafts, from February 11th to April 15th, the By-Laws were ratified by the Board. This full text of this document can be found here. It covers the following articles: Name of Organization; Purpose; Membership; Dues; Voting; Meetings; Executive Committee; Officers; Duties of Officers; Nominations and Elections; Amendments; Disbursements; and Dissolution or Relocation.
They were slightly amended in October of 1999, again in September 2003, and again in April 2004 when the Association became incorporated and filed for tax exemption.
By direction of the Executive Committee, President Thomas and Commissioner Murt requested the consideration of the Board of Commissioners in granting the Association formal recognition as a Township Commission.
On July 7th, 1997, representatives from the Association appeared before the Board of Commissioners to present their case. Speakers for the Association were Murt and Thomas, Dr. Millie Wintz, Edward Momorella and Karen McQueen.
The Association representatives were invited to attend a Board of Commissioners meeting on August 4th, 1997 "to be sanctioned and officially recognized by the Board of Commissioners."
The Association was presented with the following: RESOLUTION R-97-24
A RESOLUTION OF THE TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND GRANTING FORMAL RECOGNITION TO THE UPPER MORELAND HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION.
WHEREAS the Upper Moreland Historical Association has requested formal recognition from the Board of Commissioners of Upper Moreland Township; and WHEREAS the Upper Moreland Historical Association was formed for the following purposes: to collect and preserve data regarding the history of Upper Moreland Township and its people; to identify and maintain historical sites in and around Upper Moreland Township; to promote interest in the work done by the Association; and, to prepare displays, publications, and educational materials related to the heritage of the Upper Moreland community, and WHEREAS the Board of Commissioners of Upper Moreland Township supports the objectives of the Upper Moreland Historical Association;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Commissioners of Upper Moreland Township this fourth Day of August, 1997, that the request by the Upper Moreland Historical Association for formal recognition is hereby approved.
RESOLVED this 4th day of August, 1997.
Board of Commissioners Attest: Brian L. Mook
Township of Upper Moreland Township Secretary
By: Jack Tarman, President
The Pioneer America Society, presented their Historic Preservation Award of Merit Honorable Mention to the UMHA at their annual dinner on October 22, 2004.
The award was presented for the UMHA’s initiatives to have the Upper Moreland Board of Commissioners adopt an historic preservation overlay ordinance and also for their efforts to save the four historic structures on the Township-owned Boileau Farmstead.
The Association's first newsletter, "Moreland Memories" was published by the chairman of the Publications Committee, editor and writer Ed Momorella, in the Spring of 1997 and consisted of 6 pages. It has become a mainstay in keeping our membership informed and varies from 12 to 18 pages of Association information, articles, and photographs. Other publications that were produced during the first year were a membership recruiting brochure and two Natural History Walking Tours brochures. We now have over a dozen historical publications for sale, including collections of back issues of the newsletter.
The first Walking Tour was a short stroll through Willow Grove's War Memorial Park and was held on Saturday, May 3rd, 1997 with ten people attending. The tour was sponsored by the Natural History Committee under the leadership of Doris and Stew Boerner with the tourdocent being Dr. Millie Wintz. The tour included not only the history and historical sites surrounding the park, but a complete explanation of the flora and fauna within the park.
Since that first walk, a total of sevel local walking tours have been researched, designed, and narrated by Dr. Millie Wintz. While UMHA includes one walking tour a year in their general schedule, any tour can be given on demand for interested groups. Details of upcoming walks as well as past ones are available through our Events section.
The first historic bus tour of Upper Moreland was held on March 21st, 1998 and was well received, with the bus filled to capacity. The tour was narrated by Dr. Millie Wintz and Ed Momorella and took in the areas of the center of Willow Grove, the Masons Mill area, Morganville, Yerkesville, the Hydropathic Institute, Sampsons Hill, Huckleberry Hill, the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, and Fraziers Hill.
The same tour narrated by Ed Momorella was again conducted as a goodwill gesture for the Board of Commissioners and the township employees on September 22, 1998.
Starting in 2000, the Association has sponsored historic bus trips to other sites including Pennsbury Manor and the Civil War Museum in Philadelphia. More details about past and current tours can be found in the Events section.
The Association’s first archaeological dig, at the recommendation and under the direction of John Eichman, chair of the Archaeological Committee, was held on Sunday, June 14th and Saturday, June 20th, 1998 in Upper Moreland’s War Memorial Park.
Following a fruitless search for evidence of buildings belonging to the 1803 Mineral Springs Inn, the dig group was advised by Mrs. Linda Knouse, who happened to be in the park that day, about shards that had been exposed beneath a tornado uprooted tree. At about the eighteen inch level next to the tree, a dump belonging to the inn was opened and hundreds of shards, bottles, graniteware and dinnerware were gathered. A number of pieces of dinnerware were imprinted with the Mineral Springs name. These artifacts are at the present time on display in the Township Building.
The Trail of History is a self-guided walking tour of some of the sites that figured prominently in the history and development of Upper Moreland and Willow Grove. Work on the trail began in September of 1998 with research on historic marker producers. A committee was formed in March of 1999 consisting of Ed Momorella, Ray Stahl, Tom Murt and Joe Thomas. The project included sites text and illustrations, sites locations, permission to install markers from current property owners and fund raising to underwrite the project.
Ten trail markers were installed between September of 2001 and January of 2002 by the U.M. Public Works Department under the direction of Mr. Roger Derbyshire. A Trail brochure was developed by the Association and is available free to the public. Following is a list of the Trail Markers and their sponsors.
Since those first organizational meetings with 11 attendees, our Association has grown to over 250 members members in 17 states across the country from New Jersey to California and from Massachusetts to Florida.
Our members' interests have also expanded, and the original committees have evolved into our current network of committees including: Archaeology, Archives & Displays, Business & Industry, Finance, Genealogy, Historical Sites, Membership, Meetings & Programs, Natural History, Newsletter & Publications, Oral History, Publicity, Social History, Special Activities, Ways & Means, Website, and Willow Grove Park. Each committee has ongoing projects including research and preservation of some aspect of local history.
Initially, the Board of Commissioners instructed the Association to set up headquarters in the Public Library’s History Room. This, in a short time, proved to be too limited in space to accommodate the growing collections of UMHA. All collections were then moved to the basement of the Township Building vacated by the former Public Library.
The archive collections began with two property deeds from the 1700 and 1800 era, followed by the acquisition of two shard displays from the vicinity of Benjamin Franklin’s home in Philadelphia and two major artifacts from Morgan’s Mill.
Following the resignation of Joan Miles as chairperson of the Archival Committee, Lori Momorella assumed the responsibility in January of 1998. Under her direction, a catalog system was developed and exists both on computer and in printed form. Acquisitions have increased substantially, and displays of the materials have been arranged in both the library and township building. Dr. Millie Wintz assumed the helm of the Archives Committee in 2000 and has overseen the accession and cataloging of more than 5000 documents and artifacts.
The headquarters of the UMHA, Suite 500 in the lower level of the Upper Moreland Township Building, is open to the public for visitation and for serious research on Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. or by special arrangement. Membership is not required and all residents are encouraged to visit our displays and files.
Ancestry.com, a genealogy web site, is available during the daytime public research hours cited above for persons interested in researching their family genealogy. Genealogies on file with the UMHA are accessible to those tracing their family roots. Township residents are encouraged to contribute their family histories for future generations to access.
Source: Upper Moreland Historical Association: A Summary of the First Ten Years, by Joe Thomas (2007)