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100 years and counting

WAVERLY — There are not too many families that can claim that aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins and more have been getting together for the past century.

But the Henson family from Waverly can.

On July 21, the Henson family will celebrate its 100th family reunion, which started in 1917 and only paused for two years during World War II.

This year, one of the reunion’s organizers and Henson family members, Kim Fuller, is planning something special this time around — a big family trip to a Knoebel’s amusement park.

“I’ve been going to Knoebel’s for years and I really wanted to try to do something to draw the younger family members to the reunion,” she said.

The Henson family reunion is rich with history, which is something that Fuller has painstakingly recorded, researched and compiled for years.

“I have traced the Henson line back to Elisha P. Henson,” Fuller said, adding that she tracked her down from a book entitled Tri-Counties Genealogy and History by Joyce M. Tice.

“Elisha P. Henson, a native of Windham, Conn., settled in West Burlington, 1815,” Fuller said via the book. “He built a grist-mill and saw-mill which he operated some years then cleared and improved a farm where he died, 1860. He married Experience Pratt and had children, Erastus, Simeon P., Simon B., Martha (Mrs. David Corby), William I. N. and George W.”

“All of the family that attends the reunion are descendants of Elisha’s son, George Washington Henson, from above,” she added.

Fuller also noted that she traced Elisha’s wife’s lineage all the way back to a Mayflower passenger who also signed the Mayflower Compact — an individual named Degory Priest.

Like the Henson family itself, the reunion has its own history throughout the past 100 years.

“When the reunion first started and up until the late 1960s the reunion included singing songs and reciting poems and stories,” Fuller said. “I wish I had been around then. I would have loved that. I guess I am just an ‘old soul’ as they say.”

Fuller said she remembers as a child going to other theme parks such as Skyline Park and Eldridge Park for the reunions, but she typically enjoyed the stories shared by older family members the most.

“I guess that’s probably what led me to be so interested in the history of the family and tracing the genealogies,” she said. “We used to hold formal reunion meetings using ‘Roberts Rules of Order’ and elected new officers each year. We recently, in 2015, voted to stop doing that and use a reunion committee for planning and carrying out the reunion. I write up minutes and a treasurer’s report each year so that others can view them.”

For years, the invites for the reunion were sent out via postcards in the mail, explained Fuller. Gradually, she embraced social media formats and sent out invites through email and Facebook. There’s even a Henson Family Reunion Facebook page where the family shares news and photos, Fuller added.

“I try to have something fun for people to do each year and arts and crafts,” she stated. “I usually have a scavenger hunt prepared for the kids and a little tougher game for the adults. One year I just printed out pictures of some of the older relatives and they had to try to identify them. Another time I printed photos of parents and their kids and they had to match them up. I have also made up reunion bingo games where you had to find someone who was a farmer, or someone who had flown a plane, etc..”

Fuller explained that, while attendance has dwindled from over 100 in years past to approximately 40 more recently, the family has been doing some fundraising for the last four years in preparation for the big day on July 21.

This year’s trip to Knoebel’s will include catering, custom t-shirts, door prizes, raffles and camping.

“Many of the relatives will be camping for the entire weekend,” Fuller said. “I am really looking forward to that. We plan to get together at the campgrounds and have some s’mores and just chat and have fun.”

Fuller also noted that she will be sharing a chart of the family’s genealogy for the reunion.

“I think family is one of the most important things in life,” she said. “And I hope this is something we can keep doing for another 100 years.”

editor / Pat McDonald/Morning Times  

East Smithfield held its annual Fourth of July parade on Thursday. Pictured here, kids pick up candy as fire trucks drive by during the parade.

editor / Jen Rodriguez/Morning Times  

The Kirby Band performs at a ceremony honoring the 128th anniversary of the Tioga County Civil War Memorial in Owego on Thursday. For more photos from the ceremony, check out page A2.