A Letter From Hugh Douglass

Author: Unknown

Publication Date: 1967

Edited: 2021 


A letter from Hugh Douglass, the founder and first president of the Guelph Historical Society, was received in Guelph early in June. As many members inquire for news of him, it was thought that extracts from this letter would be of interest. Dated at Greenwood Forge, Atglen, Pennsylvania 19310, the letter proceeds:


“Life has been hectic for the past few months. I belong to the executive of the Christiana Public Library – or, more correctly, the William H. Moore Memorial Library. As a matter of fact, I am the President. Since last fall, once every week a group of three men and I, forming the building committee, have met to thrash out ideas, locations, costs of maintenance and other matters of discussion. Of course, we have got nowhere as yet, but we certainly know where we can’t build, and how much more we can’t get from the borough council, and other prohibited or unallowable activities...


Last Monday (May 29th) there was a sale of used lumber at the Mennonite Church. Just above us on Swan Road. I was able to purchase over 70 2”x 5” pine 14’ long; 40 2”x 12” pine 14’ long; and 43 pieces of 1”x 12” pine 14’ long. They are to be used for [sic] but I forgot to tell you.


Last April, I saw an advertisement in the Lancaster paper stating that several old barns were for sale, north of Ephrata. I went up and saw that one especially was in excellent condition. Now Ron, my nephew, wants to build a house on our property and we have the 'ruins' of a stone dwelling around the corner from us. I have persuaded Ron to use the stone walls and to have built, inside the walls, a barn-like construction. The idea would be to have hand-walls, a barn-like construction. The idea would be to have hand-adzed beams pegged together. The barn – or half of it – that we purchased is exactly that. Ron and a friend of his who works with him in Philadelphia, rented a truck and the three of us took out al the pegs from the barn, made it ready for demolition, and pulled it down. We loaded the truck full of these hand-adzed oak and chestnut beams three times and brought the barn frame to Ron’s place. At the same time, I got some of the bar flooring and got it down here to make into a new old kitchen floor for Greenwood Forge. The planks are two inches wide by 12 or 14 inch solid oak and hard as nails. I will have a contractor rip out the old flooring (two of them) that exists on the kitchen floor and have them replaced with this type of random oak widths.


That is why I was purchasing the 2”x 5”‘s and the 2”x 12”‘s and the 1”x 12” from the church last Monday. The 2”x 5”s are to form the rafters for Ron’s house; the 2”x 12”s are to be flooring for him and the 1”x 12”s are useful as shelves, stairs, etc. Ron plans to have Amish carpenters build the inside wooden frames and will do much of the finishing himself...


Last Wednesday night (May 24th) was my final night for a night school course that I have been taking since the beginning of January. It is a course that I must take for certification of my permanent certificate. This course is called 'History of U.S. and Pa.' It is a very good course, excellently presented by a very fair, yet critical teacher of U.S. history. He opened the eyes of many students I am sure, for he provoked many arguments from them. He began with 1066 then moved to the Magna Carta. He taught English history for about a month, then after the Civil War in England he switched to American history, dating it from 1607. Collaterally with American history, he talked of world affairs and how the Americans often took advantage of England’s position to better themselves. At the same time, all laws that he discussed, he brought down to the present time and showed us how we have benefited from their passing throughout the last nine centuries.


He had to skip the 40 years before the Civil War, skimming over them quickly, because he said that after the formulation of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and the formation of the Supreme Court, the history of the U.S. until 1860 was mainly one of individual contributions.


The teacher’s name is Dr. Houpt. His mother was born in the West Indies, and they now live in Atlantic City. He has a sister who lives in Toronto and works for Encyclopedia Britannica, and another sister who lives in Vancouver. He knows far more about the West of Canada than I do. He was with the R.A.F. for a while as an officer in the Intelligence Corps in India and Burma. After the War, he did several photographic jobs for some of the big magazines like Look and Life. He is on the administrative staff of West Chester College and did the stint of teaching our history course with no monetary remuneration. He said that they weren’t able to procure a professor for the course, so he offered his services gratis. I’m sure there aren’t too many people in the world today willing to do what he did for us last term. His lectures were so good that not one student skipped a class. One man told me that he missed one during a snowstorm, but he tried to get to class and his car broke down. A lady told me that she counted the people every night we met and that except for the one man who couldn’t get there, everyone was there for the full-term.”


With several long omissions, this brings us to page ten of the 17-page letter, but it is enough to let Hugh’s Guelph friends know that he is well, working hard, and still full of ideas and energy.