A severe thunderstorm blew across the Susquehanna last Wednesday evening. Relentless rain doused convivial members of Lancaster County’s Tucquan Club as they celebrated their 150th anniversary on the front porch of their clubhouse on the York side of the river.
Most of the men moved inside the old stone building.
Just as they completed a stanza of the “Tucquan Song,” sung to the tune of the “Wiffenpoof Song” (“We are poor little lambs who have lost our way....”), lightning cracked a tall silver maple several feet from the clubhouse. The strike propelled tree bark onto Tucquaners who had tarried on the front porch. Some “poor little lambs” nearly jumped out of their footwear.
Don Harnish, a 21-year member of Lancaster County’s oldest social club, had just informed The Scribbler that “we’ve had fun through the years. That is the only reason we exist— enjoyment for the members. There’s a little bit of BS going around, too.”
A little bit of BS and a big bang of thunder.
The day had begun more calmly with a bagpiper leading the 50 members of the Tucquan Club from the Pequea Boathouse to a spring along the Conestoga Trail about half a mile south. The spring is thought to be the club’s original meeting place.
Then everyone boarded a bus and headed over to the clubhouse, a former warehouse on the old Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal along Route 425, just upriver from Indian Steps Museum.
Members gathered there to eat, drink, play horseshoes and camp out overnight in the upstairs dormitory. Until formal pictures were taken along the Susquehanna, most remained clothed in a variation of black bowler hats, white shirts and black pants held up by suspenders.
“We’re not sure which period this clothing represents,” admitted Rob Schroeder, the club’s president. “It’s just for this special occasion and probably won’t be worn for another 25 years.''
This club of jolly, overdressed comrades for a century and a half has initiated many of Lancaster’s leading citizens into the joys of camping.
John Eshelman, club historian and a former member, explained that the Tucquan Club was founded in 1869 as an outgrowth of the Linnaean Society, a group interested primarily in the area’s flora and fauna.
“It was getting a little too heavy in floral interests,” Eshelman said of the Linnaean Society, “and now it was time to fish.” So the Tucquan Piscatorial and Scientific Association went camping and piscatorialing.
The club remained based in Pequea until it crossed the river and purchased the warehouse in 1912.
This long history became significant recently in preserving the Tucquan Club’s nearby caretaker’s house, one of several cottages along Route 425 that Brookfield Renewable (owner of nearby Holtwood Dam) turned over to the Lancaster County Conservancy.
When the conservancy suggested the caretaker’s house might be removed, the Tucquan Club engaged the assistance of preservationist Randy Harris. Harris shepherded the application process to have the Tucquan campus, including the caretaker’s cottage, made eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its association with the Linnaen and Tucquan clubs. So the cottage will remain.
But to return to last Wednesday’s program, the Tucquaners accepted proclamations from the Pennsylvania General Assembly, enjoyed a steak dinner and picked pieces of tree bark from the porch and the hoods of nearby cars.
“It’s exceptional for a group of men to endure as a fraternal organization for 150 years,” noted Bob Groff, a Tucquaner since 1984, as he surveyed the band of merrymakers. “This is an exceptional occasion.”
Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes "The Scribbler'' column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at firstname.lastname@example.org.