Museum exhibit features local organizations

An exhibit at Venango Museum of Art, Science and Industry highlights the Belles Lettres Club, the Petrolia Lodge No. 363 F.&A.M. of Oil City, Calvary United Methodist Church and the Silver Cornet Band. (Photos by Richard Sayer)
From staff reports

072016VenMusannivshow2The Venango Museum of Art, Science and Industry is hosting an exhibit that celebrates many local organizations. The exhibit highlights the Belles Lettres Club, the Petrolia Lodge No. 363 F.&A.M. of Oil City, Calvary United Methodist Church and the Silver Cornet Band.

Belles Lettres Club

Belles Lettres Club, one of the oldest women’s clubs in Pennsylvania, as well as the regions longest serving civic 072016VenMusannivshow3organization, is celebrating its 127th anniversary this year. The club was organized in 1888 by a dozen women who previously belonged to the First Shakespearean Club and then shifted to calling themselves the Saturday Afternoon Club.

These women, keen on promoting the arts especially literature, drew up plans to reorganize and become a literary club. They drew up a constitution and voted unanimously to call themselves Belles Lettres Club. Their 072016VenMusannivshow4literary ambitions were to have a library in the city. The club members worked with the city fathers to raise money for a library. By 1900 the club had raised $11,000 and arranged for the city to purchase a building site on Central Avenue for the library.

Andrew Carnegie gave more than $45,000, the Belles Lettres Club donated more than 5,000 books and the Carnegie Library Building opened on July 6, 1904.

072016VenMusannivshow5Although many things have changed over the years, good music, literature and the performing and creative arts, education and civic concerns are very much alive and active at the Belles Letters Club.

Petrolia Lodge

Petrolia Lodge No. 363 F. & A.M. in Oil City is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The story goes that in 1863 two masons, Brothers Preserved Smith and Walter R. Johns, were standing on the Creek bridge and talked about gathering their brother masons together into a lodge of their own. They held a series of informal meetings and then sent a petition to Grand Lodge for a charter for the institution of a Masonic Lodge to be known as Petrolia. The charter was signed in December of 1865. The first meeting was held March 21, 1866, in Oil City. They met in a building on the southwest corner of Main and Oak streets until a fire destroyed that building July 31, 1868. They then met in the third floor of the Windsor Block at the southeast corner of Sycamore and Elm, which was one of the earliest brick buildings to be erected in the city.

The group outgrew this location and on Sept. 6, 1901, a procession of 300 masons formed on Sycamore Street. They proceeded via Seneca, Main and Relief streets, over the new bridge and marched to the spot on East First Street where they laid the cornerstone of the building which they still use. Since 1921, they have shared the responsibility of maintaining the lodge with sister lodge, Oil City No. 710, and in January of 1940 also the Masonic Hall Association.

The fundamental values of the masons lie in the sense of personal responsibility which it imposes on every one of its sons to embody in his life the moral and spiritual teachings of his mother lodge, its lessons of faith, of tolerance, of straight living and of charity.

Calvary United Methodist Church

Calvary United Methodist Church is celebrating 150 years. The church began in 1866 and in 1915 was called the First Evangelical Church. Eventually the name was changed to Calvary United Methodist Church and they are still going strong today.

Silver Cornet Band

Silver Cornet Band is celebrating 160 years. One hundred sixty years ago there were 25,000 residents in Venango County. Musical entertainment was sparse, so in 1856 some gentlemen decided to form a brass band to play in parades and in people’s front yards, according to Peter Greene. The Silver Cornet band played in Philadelphia for both the centennial and bicentennial celebrations. This band is still going strong and as civic organizations go, the band has many unique features. In particular, it is one of the few places that groups where people will find members ranging from their early teens to their 80s.

Also included in the exhibit is a case dedicated to the American Federation of Musicians known as the AFM which began in the 1800s and served both the United States and Canada. On display in this exhibit are some unique instruments as well as a photo of the Oil City Marching Band from 1981.

This exhibit will be on display until Oct. 30.

Regular visiting hours to the museum are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and museum admission fees apply.