NOXEN — They came with last names like Schenck, Grey, Keiper, Davis, Korbiel, Maculloch and Wright. They ranged in age from the elder statesman at 83 to the newest member of the clan at 6 weeks old. They were more than 35 in number, tall and short, all shapes and sizes.
But they all had one thing in common: a genetic connection to Thomas S. Crispell, who settled in the Noxen just over three centuries ago.
And this was the 105th time Pennsylvania branch of Crispell descendants came together on the second Saturday in August to celebrate family in Dymond Grove near Noxen. Some came from as far away as the Lower Tier of New York state. Some live less than a mile from the picnic pavilion. Some live less than a mile from each other.
Many of the family members grew up in Wyoming County then left to work in other parts of the country. Then, they came back to the place where the family settled and where they call home.
“It’s a good get-together for no particular reason,” said Cheryl Maculloch, of Monkey Hollow. “We just want to get together with our cousins.”
There are, however, reasons for the annual get-togethers.
There are lots of hugs between family members who haven’t seen each other for a while. There are stories so folks can catch up on each other’s lives. There are recipes to be exchanged. There are memories to capture and a family history to recount.
John Crispell and his wife, Marie, from New Paltz, N.Y., shared a brief history of the clan. It started in North America with Antoine Crispell, one of a group of Huguenots who escaped religious persecution in France, traveled to Mannheim, Germany, and in 1660, sailed on the “Gilded Otter” to settle in the areas now known as Hurley and Kingston, New York.
After several generations, several of the Crispell clan left the original settlements and headed north to the Ithaca area and south to Wyoming County. There is also a branch of the Crispell family in Michigan. And they are now all a part of the Crispell Family Association.
In Noxen, there were two brothers, Thomas S. and George, and the cousins all can trace heritage to one or the other.
“In fact, last weekend, we were just down the road at the George Crispell reunion,” said Audrey Wright, of Buckwheat Hollow.
There are stories from the Tom Davis, 83, who was a high school science teacher in three states before he retired to the Noxen area. Guests got to coo over 6-week-old Raylynn Keiper, whose mom, Kassie, brought her from their Lehman home to meet her relatives. Raylynn is the great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Crispell.
Five-year-old cousins Rose Marie Bowles and Karina Sunshine Korbiel, from Noxen, ran around in the woods near the pavilion with a mysterious game only they knew the rules for and planned to eat lunch together.
Marshall Schenck, who organized the picnic and runs the “business meeting” after lunch, said he was disappointed this year because he wouldn’t be able to read the “century minutes.” Five years ago, he shared the minutes of the first reunion meeting in 1911 with the crowd, a practice that is now a tradition.
“But all of the books and the materials are locked up because the woman who was president died last year,” he said. “We have to wait for her sister to come and go through the house. And then we can get the records, the old pictures and ‘The Crispell Chronicles’ from her house.”
There is also, of course, food. The buffet table groaned with picnic fare, from salads and casseroles to corn on the cob, each brought by family members for the feast. After Barbara Sidorek gave the blessing, folks dug in.
There’s the family photo, one large group shot that will go in the archives with copies to the participants.
There’s the white elephant raffle, another table lined with wrapped gag gifts that bring about a lot of hilarity when the winning tickets are drawn and the gifts unwrapped.
“And the tough part is, you have to take the gift home,” said Joanne Koechel, of Buckwheat Hollow, “whether you want to or not. And some of those things are strange.”
The raffle, like the reunion, has another purpose as well. Money raised goes into the fund for next year’s reunion.