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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

Anna Bullis in her Long Eddy garden

How Does Her
Garden Grow?

By Ted Waddell
LONG EDDY — August 31, 2001 – It was a simple little ceremony – only about five minutes long, in fact – but it said a lot about the heritage of a small community along the river and a 96-year-old matriarch who recalls the town in the bustling heydays of the early 1900s.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, as July edged toward August, Anna Bullis was honored by the Basket Historical Society of the Upper Delaware Valley, based in Long Eddy.
As friends and neighbors gathered in front of the Basket Historical Society building, Society President Jack Niflot unveiled an engraved bluestone slab dedicating the new flower garden and interlaced stonework patio as “Anna’s Garden.”
“Today, in our small way, we gather to celebrate a life and share a moment with someone who has earned our respect for a life devoted to her family and her town, and for the last 20 years, our historical society,” he said.
“Anna Bullis has come to mean something very special to us all,” added Niflot. “To show her our special affection for just being herself, we dedicate this patio garden to our dear friend with the hope that she will enjoy it and share it with us for many years to come.”
After the short ceremony was over and Bullis was nestled in a corner reminiscing with well-wishers, Niflot said, “Nobody’s done more for Long Eddy over the years than Anna. She’s the heart of the town. . . . She raised countless generations of children as well as her own. Anna’s the matriarch of the the town. . . . She’s seen it all come and go.”
Anna “Annie” Bullis is a regular fixture at the Basket Historical Society. On most sunny days, you’ll find her perched on a bench watching the comings and goings of the modern world – and perhaps reflecting upon growing up in Long Eddy during its glory days.
She was born Dec. 2, 1903, up the river a ways in Starlight, Pa. She came to Long Eddy at the age of two with her parents Ira Rivenburgh and Minnie Merwin, when her father took a job hauling wood by horse and wagon in the town’s new acid factory when it opened in 1905.
Stopping to talk with Anna about days long gone – and for that matter, current affairs – is a real treat, as her memory is sharp as a tack when she vividly recalls the past.
And what wonderful tales they are, if only you take the time to listen.
As a child growing up in Long Eddy, Anna recalled the town “as a beautiful place with classical music . . . six hotels, three stores and sometimes several dances a night.”
The house where Alma and Henry Doyle used to live was used as a theatre and dance hall.
“I can well remember the lights around the stage and the velvet curtains,” said Bullis.
Although all but one of the hotels burned down over the decades, she recalls being let into the rooms by the chambermaids to sneak a peek at how other people lived.
“The last hotel, the Porch House, was known for its fine food and hospitality,” said Bullis. “The band used to play in the town square, and I remember hanging onto the second porch post watching the dancing bears.”
As a child, Bullis went to school in a four-room schoolhouse in Long Eddy, above where the new post office is now located.
“The teachers we had were really something,” she said. “We were taught a lot more than “one-two-three,” you know, and ladies learning how to walk like ducks. . . . Back then, we had to learn how to dance as well as the ABCs.”
During the summer of 1914, or perhaps it was 1915, she saw two rafts of logs manned by the then-dying breed of famed Delaware River raftsmen float downriver past the shores of Long Eddy.
Speaking of raftsmen, she recalled they used to congregate at a local tavern. But the often rowdy raftsmen never bothered the young village girls.
“I can remember the good and the bad,” she said. “There was people who drank, but you never had to be afraid of them, [because] our fathers would have torn ‘em apart.”
A year or so later – in May of 1915 or ‘16 – she watched as the Gould Mill burned to the ground. The fire was apparently started by a hobo sleeping in the boiler room.
As the factory that made ironing boards, rolling pins and magazine racks went up in smoke, the firefighters – “everybody in town was a fireman back then” – and three little girls (Anna Bullis, Lois Hulse and Margaret Kenney) watched “big boils of black smoke. . . . It burned for days.”
“This one day us three little girls were down by Grandma Lahanhan’s, and the one o’clock fast train came in and we ran down to see who came, and I can see ‘em yet,” said Bullis.
And thus begins one of her most intriguing stories.
According to Bullis, a “buxom lady all dressed in white ruffles” and four companions debarked from the train and went to the best hotel in town, where they sat on the front porch.
“Our elite – the doctor’s wife, the druggest’s wife, the minister’s wife and the schoolteachers – went to the hotel to meet them,” she recalled. “We didn’t know what was going on, but we sat there.”
A short while later, the suffragettes and the “elite” women of the town came out of the hotel and, four abreast, started walking around the block past all the hotels.
“Each time, the men made fun of them,” said Bullis.
As the smallest of the trio of young girls, Bullis got pushed up front by her companions as the “buxom women in white” made a speech to the townsfolk.
“I was up in front by the stage, the curtains parted and there she was,” Anna recalled. “I didn’t know what she was talking about, and then all this commotion started, so I left. Come to find out, they were suffragettes.”
“To this day, I hate to vote, but I always go,” she said of listening to the woman in white as an 11-year-old.
In the Flood of 1933, Anna Bullis watched the town’s telephone office get washed away by the rising waters and then catch fire in the roiling flood.
“That was a bad flood,” she said.
Later, during the war years, Anna Bullis moved to Deposit and worked in a defense plant in Sidney making engines for bombers.
After leaving Long Eddy in 1942, she returned in 1950 – and has been a fixture in the community ever since.
Her reaction to having a patio garden named in her honor?
“It was a joy,” said Bullis. “Perhaps there’s people who think, ‘Don’t she think she’s something!’ but I could care less. You get that way when you get old.”
And as others tend to her garden, Annie Bullis is content to sit quietly and recall the past while dreaming of the future.

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