‘A Noble and Generous Act’
For many years thousands of people in the area have enjoyed the peace and beauty of Brandon Park. One man made this possible. A man whose name is now virtually forgotten—Andrew Boyd Cummings.
Cummings was born in Williamsport in 1807, the last son of James Cummings, one of Williamsport’s earliest prominent men. James Cumming ran one of the city’s earliest hotels and established the first mail route in the area.
One of Andrew Boyd Cummings’ brothers was Alexander Cummings, who “attained high distinction as a journalist and politician and who later became the territorial governor of the Colorado Territory<’ according to noted local historian John F. Meginness.
Cummings also had a sister, Jane, who married John Brandon. In 1829 he became partners with and assisted Brandon with the publication of the “Lycoming Chronicle,” one of the early predecessors to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. He remained with the “Lycoming Chronicle” for the next seven years.
He was one of the organizers and a charter member of the Williamsport Gas Company, but was never greatly identified with business interests in Williamsport.
When Cummings’ sister died in 1840 at the age of 34, he was devastated.
Sometime after his sister’s death Cummings moved to Philadelphia, where he became a successful businessman. His visits back to Williamsport were few but he never forgot the place of his birth, a place he still had extensive real estate holdings.
It was in February 1889 when Cummings made the lasting gift to his hometown that he would be most noted for. He turned over to the City of Williamsport 43 acres to be used as a park, a park that would be named “Brandon Park” in honor of his beloved sister.
The “Gazette and Bulletin” acknowledged Cummings’ generosity in a February 26, 1889 editorial that read in part, “Cummings has performed a noble and generous act that will forever keep his name fresh and green in the hearts of the people. The gift indeed is magnificent, and every citizen will rise up and bless the name of the donor.”
Despite that praise, two years later, on March 1, 1891when Cummings died and his body was brought back by train to Williamsport for burial, only one city official, a city councilman, met the train.
The “Gazette and Bulletin” condemned the apparent indifference of city officials to Cummings’ death. A subhead to an article about it stated, “Twas a shame and a disgrace.”
The article said in part, “Is there any reason except lack of respect? Why weren’t resolutions introduced and arrangements made for city officials to attend the funeral. Words are inadequate to cover the monstrous bulk of ingratitude.”
They added a note of praise to Cummings, “Rest generous spirit, the citizens of Williamsport will ever hold your name in sweet remembrance and will reverently gather at your grave.”
They would gather there if they only knew where his grave was located. He was interred in Williamsport Cemetery on Washington Boulevard, but to add his indignities, his heirs chose not to place a marker on his grave, so he lies in an unmarked grave, despite leaving behind an estate of more than $500,000.
But perhaps the best monument to Cummings’ memory is the beautiful park he left behind. There is a bas relief sculptured image of Cummings and his sister at the entrance to the park, placed there in 1926.
By Lou Hunsinger, Jr.