In June of 1763, John Woolman, a Quaker living near Mount Holly, New Jersey, traveled with a fellow Quaker and with four Indian guides to Wyalusing, an Indian village along the Susquehanna River in northern Pennsylvania. The trip came right at the end of the French and Indian War, the frontier was still unstable, and the trip would be difficult and dangerous, but Woolman felt that it was his duty to go to listen and try to understand the condition of the Indians living there, a few of whom he had previously met in Philadelphia. Woolman is still known today for two major reasons: his efforts to end slavery, and his journal, which documents his spiritual growth, his travels, and his efforts to truly live a life in accord with the principles of Christianity.
The eight in for the long haul, plus Carol and Jack Walz of the John Woolman Memorial Association.
What does this have to do with us? Well, in 2011 I heard about a letter in Friends Journal, noting that the 250th anniversary of that visit was approaching, and that it seemed worth celebrating. Margaret Wood was talking about an event in Wyalusing, and the first words out of my mouth were “I want to walk the route.” At the time June 2013 seemed like a long way off, and we had 6 months in South America to look forward to first. But time keeps going, and in fall 2012 at the fall quarterly meeting, the idea came up again. Margaret was still organizing the event in Wyalusing, and we arranged for the walk to get there in time for it. So it began to take shape, a 200 or so mile walk, taking about two weeks, ending on June 22. There was lots time spent looking at maps, then using google walking directions and streetview, then lots of contacting Quaker meetings, and many trips to scout paths, roads, sidewalks, and traffic. We had invited others to join us, and Leon and Louisa, Leticia’s parents, offered to join us in a supporting role. There were five others who planned to join us, but, for various reasons, three weren’t able to. So there would be eight of us along for the whole trip – 6 Webers, Loomises, and Weber-Loomi – plus Christian and Megu, a couple associated with the Grafton Peace Pagoda in New York State. I spend much of late May feeling like I was drowning in logistics (perhaps I should mention we were also putting our house on the market), and I thought when June 7 finally came, the walking would be the easy part.