Brandon Park, an 1889 gift to the city’s families, named for sister
The year was 1889, Victoria was queen and Charlie Chaplain was born, ironically or prophetically, that same year in which Thomas Edison also showed his first motion picture. At the beginning of the year, Benjamin Harrison had been inaugurated as the 23rd president and the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris during the World’s Fair being held there.
By the middle of that year, residents in Williamsport were facing a horrific flood, which covered the lower part of the city.
“The memorable flood of June 1, 1889, has passed into history as the highest and more destructive to life and property ever known,” John F. Meginness wrote in his History of Lycoming County in 1892.
“Rain fell incessantly for nearly 48 hours with the wind strong from the southwest. It seemed that the windows of heaven had opened and the water descended in a solid sheet,” he continued.
According to the historical account, the water rose to just over 33 feet and the destruction of property was incalculable. Crops, houses, bridges, saw mills and lumber were swept away. Once the flood waters subsided, the area in the city that had been flooded was described by Meginness as a “scene of desolation.”
“Scores of people in the lower part of the city were taken out of their houses in boats and carried to places of safety,” Meginness wrote.
“A great camp for the sufferers was established in Brandon Park and as soon as possible the state furnished tents to shelter them,” the historical account related.
Brandon Park was a gift to the city that year from Andrew Boyd Cummings.
Born in the city, Cummings resided in Philadelphia for many years before his death, according to Meginness.
“To him the city of Williamsport is indebted for the magnificent gift of Brandon Park,” Meginness wrote.
The park is comprised of 43 acres in the middle of the city. Through the years it has hosted community sings, community concerts, egg rolls in the spring and Christmas programs in the cold of December. There are tennis courts and baseball fields and a recent addition of a nature play area for children.
All this was made possible because of Cummings’ gift made to honor the memory of his sister, Jane.
Jane Cummings was Andrew Cummings’ only sister. According to an announcement in The Lycoming Gazette, Jane had married John Brandon, one of the early publishers of The Gazette, on May 31, 1826.
Jane Brandon died on Sept. 13, 1840, outliving her husband by 11 years. Her property, located at Market Street and Rural Avenue, was then passed to remaining siblings, and eventually to Cummings. He then gifted it to the city with the requirement that it be named Brandon Park to honor his sister.
The fountain at the Market Street entrance to the park was dedicated in 1901 in honor of Oliver H. Reighard, a local state legislator, according to an announcement in The Gazette and Bulletin.
Then, in 1914, the bandshell was dedicated. It still stands today, offering the community a stage for everything from classical concerts to rock concerts.
“The park will forever remain as a memorial of its generous donor, who cherished such an affectionate regard for his sister’s memory and the place of his birth,” Meginness wrote.