Welcome to South Waverly Borough!
The History of Our Borough
As early as 1615, Etienne Brule, a scout for the French explorer Champlain, visited the northern tier of Pennsylvania on a recruiting mission for Native Americans living in the vicinity of South Waverly and Spanish Hill. Thereafter, it is believed that Jesuit Missionaries followed Brule in an attempt to Christianize the Native Americans living in this valley region. Moravian Missionaries from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania also visited the area to attempt this Christianizing effort.
The northern tier of Pennsylvania became even more active during the Revolutionary War as English soldiers and Native American allies wreaked havoc upon villages throughout the Susquehanna River Valley from Tioga Point down to the Wyoming Valley. General George Washington ordered General Sullivan and Clinton in 1779 to follow the river’s path northward and eliminate this threat throughout these northern territories. It has been recorded that nearly 5,000 men descended upon the Valley and Tioga Point during this campaign, where hundreds of soldiers used South Waverly’s Pine Flats as a camp. After Sullivan and Clinton’s campaign was a success, many soldiers that made this land safe from attacks came back to reside on this fertile land to make their homes. The land was so primitive and wild that one historical account states that:
“One officer was nearly trampled to death by a charging deer as it headed for the river near Spanish Hill.”
John Swift, a veteran of the Sullivan-Clinton campaign, was one of the first settlers in South Waverly at the east slope of Spanish Hill and along the west side of what is now known as Elmira Street. In 1805, he sold his entire farm, approximately 400 acres, to Alpheas Harris. Alpheas Harris happened to be one of the men who resurveyed the state line mentioned in the following paragraph.
Settlement of the Valley and South Waverly began shortly after the war, but, as early as 1786. In 1786-87, it is interesting to note that the New York / Pennsylvania State line was established as being the southern boundary of South Waverly Borough. This was then corrected with a re-survey, as a permanent northern boundary of South Waverly became the new state line.
South Waverly’s first roads were Elmira and Bradford Streets, the latter being a connection from Milltown to Elmira Street. By 1850, portions of Fulton and Loder Streets were built as a result of extensions south from Waverly N.Y.
The Borough of South Waverly was incorporated on January 28, 1878. At the time, South Waverly had been an outgrowth of Waverly, N.Y. in what was known as “Factoryville” due to the existing grist and fulling mills along Cayuta Creek. The communities of Waverly N.Y. and South Waverly P.A. have had close ties to each other ever since the communities were incorporated in each state. For many years, South Waverly Borough received fire protection, mail service and city water from Waverly, N.Y. The borders of South Waverly Borough were established as follows: New York State to the north, Sayre Borough on the east and southeast, Athens Township on the south and southwest. The Southern Tier Expressway of New York State from exit 60 to 61 traverses through northern portions of the borough. The highway formerly known as Route 17, proposed to be known as I-86, was built by New York State and continues to be maintained by NYDOT.
In 1878, the D.L. & W. Railroad began serving this area and the street railway system followed around 1905. The railroad industry became an integral part of South Waverly’s History in 1890 as the John H. Murray Coal Company established its business within the limits of the borough. In these early years, the railroads were very active and run by coal-fired steam engines. Just to the south, in Sayre Borough, existed the Lehigh Valley Railroad yards where some of these coal-fired steam engines were built and repaired. The convergence of the Southern Tier Railroad in New York State and the Lehigh Valley Line that traversed southward towards Pittston created an opportunity for businesses such as the John H. Murray Coal Company. The DL Railroad Water Tower was located in South Waverly near the John H. Murray Coal Company. The Murray Company was established in 1890 and is still in operation today. Fuel oil has been added as a heating fuel to that of coal. The company today is known as John H. Murray and Son, Inc. Still standing near the Murray Company is the oldest stone house within the borough. Although still owned by the Murray’s, it is not their current residence and has been converted to an apartment. Both the rail and street rail transportation services ceased to exist years following due to the depression in the 1930’s and the establishment of the four-lane Route 17 corridor that utilized the old railway easement.
In reviewing South Waverly’s past, it is also noted that the borough was once serviced by trolley lines and later by the Valley Bus Service that also stretched into Waverly, N.Y., Sayre and Athens. South Waverly prided itself on providing corner stores, fruit stands and ice cream shops. It is also noted that many businesses were not located on a traditional Main Street or Central Business District, but within single family homes.
The first school in South Waverly was built around 1884 for 8 grades; it was a two-story building. In 1888, two additional years of classes were added, thus the school began a grade and two-year high school. Students wishing to complete 4 years of high school would go to the Waverly, Sayre or Athens Schools. The two-year high school closed in 1943, which left the school providing for grades 1 thru 8. In 1957, this changed again as the school housed grades kindergarten through 6th grade. South Waverly then joined the Sayre School District in 1951 after a devastating fire destroyed the school in 1947. During the time South Waverly did not have a school, pupils were temporarily housed in the South Waverly Community Hall and the Elmer Avenue Elementary Building in Sayre. After the devastating school fire in 1957, a new brick building was built on the site of the original school and dedicated in April 1960. Thereafter, the H. Austin Snyder Elementary Building was built in Sayre as the new South Waverly School was closed and shortly thereafter sold to Polly Onofre who operates the Tom Thumb Nursery and Day Care there. South Waverly is now part of the Sayre School District, which is comprised of students from Sayre Borough and also Litchfield Township.
South Waverly Borough is not devoid of historic landmarks. In fact, several still exist out of the previously mentioned history, that include the John H. Murray Coal Yard Building, the oldest house in the borough – the Murray Stone House, Yanuzzi’s Restaurant, the Keystone Baptist Church and St. John the Evangelist Church on Division Street. The first church of this parish was a wooden frame structure that was torn down after sixty years and replaced by the current red brick structure. The site of the first church is now the current parking lot. The Keystone Baptist Church on Fulton Street began in the home of a minister, Reverend Donald Green in 1954. The congregation of this church expanded rapidly and was reported to have a membership of 500 in 1974. On Pitney Street, one of the borough’s newest churches has been built as the Kingdom Hall Jehovah Witness.
It is obvious that these historic structures served, and continue to serve a valuable purpose in the community and carry on a tradition of days past. It is recommended that the South Waverly Borough Council monitor the condition and availability of these valuable historic sites so that they may not be lost to future development or demolition. It is anticipated that these structures will be used within the duration of this plan and maintained by their rightful owners.
South Waverly Borough has exemplified the word community in many ways, especially with what began in 1972 as a borough-wide celebration better known as the “Reunion”. Founders of the “Reunion” are known as the Volunteer Association and were originally comprised of the following members: Francis Cummings (now deceased), Leo Bentley Sr., Ruth Relea Bloss, Joe Yanuzzi (now deceased) and Mary Betty McDonald. The Volunteer Association published a pictorial book that gave an interesting account of South Waverly Borough. In 1992, the name of the Volunteers Association was officially changed to the South Waverly Borough Community Association, Inc. Some of the accomplishments the “Volunteers” accomplished during their time included the development of the fire company – equipping and maintaining it for the borough’s protection, renovation of the borough hall and erecting a monument for the borough citizens that lost their lives in the service of their country. In addition, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Fire Company is part of the “Volunteers”. Two of the most recent projects the “Volunteers” engaged in include the completed handicap access ramp to the borough hall (dedicated to Leo Bentley, Sr.) and the Pavilion (dedicated to Joe Yanuzzi). The Community Association will strive to complete more projects in the near future as the renovation of the police department facilities looks to be their newest project. All of the above-referenced projects have been completed at no cost to the borough. The Community Association has a proven track record of improving citizen’s quality of life in an innovative manner.
In most recent borough history, in 1996, the borough formed the South Waverly Municipal Authority under the leadership of Lance Bentley, Chairman. Sanitary sewers were installed throughout much of the borough to deter any environmental hazards that may be created with the existence of faulty septic systems and deep soils. The sewers would also allow for additional growth within the borough. In June of 2000, Leprino Foods requested the borough to vacate a portion of Bradford Street to accommodate a $ 20,000,000 industrial expansion within Pennsylvania and the borough. Again, under the leadership of Borough Council President Lance Bentley, a corridor study was completed for the area between the I-86 exists of 60 and 61 and Bradford Street was realigned to accommodate both Leprino Foods and the residents within the corridor. Bradford Street was consequently renamed “Michael Yanuzzi Drive” to recognize the contributions the Yanuzzi Family has made to the community over the past several decades.
South Waverly has evolved into a residential-bedroom community within the “Valley” region. Over the years, small, tightly knit neighborhoods have developed that promote a small-town rural atmosphere. Business amenities have developed on the eastern edge of the borough abutting Sayre Borough and industrial uses, such as Leprino Foods have developed on the Northern Tier of the borough abutting New York State. Virtually the rest of South Waverly developed as a residential community with opportunities for more residential development on several existing vacant parcels within the borough. One of the most prominent characteristics of South Waverly is its diverse housing stock that exemplifies an almost equal cross-section of low, moderate and higher income homes. Considering South Waverly’s confining border between New York State and the Pennsylvania municipalities of Athens Township and Sayre Borough, there is no chance that the borough will expand or annex other territory for growth and development. Therefore, this Comprehensive Community Plan will focus on potential land uses on the previously mentioned vacant parcels, promotion of South Waverly Borough as the ”Valley’s” premiere residential community” and developing strategies to improve other aspects of community development within South Waverly Borough. These other aspects may include traffic circulation in trouble areas, prioritization of sidewalk improvements, promotion of aesthetic development standards, just to name a few.