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February 2001

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The 200th Reunion in 1898

Written by David Jenkins Morrison and Originally published in the Foulke Family Herald, April 1991

"In May, 1698, EDWARD and ELEANOR FOULKE, with their four sons and five daughter, landed in America. In May, 1898, over five hundred of their descendants met at Gwynedd Meeting House to celebrate that event."

These words prefaced the elegantly printed book, "Edward and Eleanor Foulke: Their Ancestors and Descendants: 1698 to 1898: A Memorial Volume," which was distributed to all who attended."

In addition to describing the occasion in entertaining detail, the book reviewed our Foulke Welsh ancestry as far back as King Cunedda Wledig of Gwynedd, who reigned in 330 A.D., and then proceeded to enumerate the American progeny of those 11 adventurous Foulke immigrants. Although the 1898 turnout was remarkable, it represented but a small fraction of living Foulke descendants, known and unknown.

It's safe to say that for some 17 centuries, the family has done a better than average job of keeping track of itself.

The 1898 reunion was largely the inspiration of Howard M. Jenkins, a publisher and historian whose home, "Avalon," was on ancestral Foulke property adjoining the Gwynedd Meeting House. (Edward Foulke was a founder of Gwynedd Friends Meeting and he and Eleanor were buried there.) Howard shared credit for the reunion idea with Lydia A. Foulke of Wenona, Illinois.

While the upcoming tricentennial reunion, wisely, will enjoy seven years of preparation, the 1898 committee gave themselves barely five months. At a January 7 meeting of some of the descendants at his Philadelphia office, Howard Jenkins was elected chairman of the executive committee. An association of descendants of Edward and Eleanor Foulke was formed at the next meeting, with William Dudley Foulke, of Richmond, Indiana, elected chairman.

The reunion was a day-long affair scheduled for Monday, May 30, which for all except farmers was the end of a three day weekend.

Though Lydia's and William Dudley's interest suggests nationwide participation, the vast majority of the participants still lived in Southeastern Pennsylvania, close to their Gwynedd roots.

To accommodate relatives coming from Philadelphia, a special train was engaged to depart Reading Terminal at 9:04 AM. A 45-minute layover at Penllyn Station permitted the travelers to visit the original Foulke homestead and be given an explanation of its artifacts and environs.

Arriving at Gwynedd Station, the group was ushered up to the Meeting House, "where the exercises will be held." An exhibit of old letters, pictures, manuscripts and the like was held "in the parlors of Mrs. Charles O. Beaumont, a short distance away."

At 11:30, two trees were planted on the Meeting House grounds, one each for Edward and Eleanor Foulke. This was followed by the taking of the official family photograph.

At Noon, lunch was served in a tent, for which tickets were made available to all registered members of the Association.

Following lunch, "exercises" lasting nearly three hours were conducted in the Meeting House.

The program began with an address by President William Dudley Foulke. The Foulke ancestral history, by Charles M. Ffoulke of Washington, D.C., was read by Eleanor Foulke of Quakertown. Howard Jenkins gave a narrative of Edward Foulke's "removal" to America, and Edward M. Wister of Philadelphia narrated "A visit to Coed-Y-Foel, the Welsh home of Edward and Eleanor Foulke."

Susan Foulke Lukens of Conshohocken spoke on Edward and Eleanor Foulke's Descendants, who early in the history of America became prominent in politics, steelmaking, medicine and the settlement of the frontier. Among other anecdotes, she told of that minority of relatives who spell their name ffoulke. It seems one finicky ffoulke so looked down on capital letters, saying such names "belonged to lately invented families," the family was certain he would die a bachelor. Alas, he met and married a widow, Mrs. ffaringdon, "and it was all owing to her two little f's."

Following was an opportunity for "general remarks by those present (limited to five minutes each)," the final topic was the reading, by Samuel Emlen of Germantown, of "Edward Foulke's Exhortation Addressed to his Children." This remarkable essay, composed in about 1725 at about age 75, offered sage advice on human relations, personal conduct, prayer, business ethics, the influence of good books, the threat of corrupt temptations, and the generosity of the Lord.

Though generations had passed, Edward Foulke's "exhortation" no doubt remained equally pertinent to his descendants in 1898 as they closed their reunion with a reflective moment of silence.

As they left that ancient Meeting House and boarded their special train, that ubiquitous symbol of an already mature industrial age, the distance between the Seventeenth century and the dawning Twentieth must have been ripe for measurement by more than a few brilliant Foulke minds.

David Jenkins Morrison, a member of the 300th Reunion Executive Committee, is the great-great grandson of Howard M. Jenkins, the five-greats-grandson of Sarah Foulke Jenkins, and the eight-greats-grandson of Edward and Eleanor Foulke.

The 1898 Memorial Volume and Edward's Exhortation to his children can be found online in the Historical Documents section of this Web site.

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