Previous to the summer of 1875, nobody had heard of a week in the country for a city child. In that year, young Mrs. Eliza Sproat Turner, founder of the New Century Club for women, who had a gift for making people hear of the unheard, and who owned a farm in Chadd’s Ford, persuaded “12 startled parents of 12 little girls that it would benefit the children to spend a fortnight on her farm as her guests.” Mrs. Turner and her friend, Mrs. Fannie Weitzel, collected the wondering children and were the escorts of the first Paradise Special. Our humble beginnings coincided with the Fresh Air Fund movement in Boston and New York. In terms of social work benefitting the City of Philadelphia, CCWA is clearly a pioneer organization.
As more and more children were sent out, volunteer caretakers and counselors were also sent to stay at the farmhouses. It was their duty to amuse and direct the morals and manners of the children. By the 35th year, 1910, 3000 children were sent to 25 farms during July and August. Board members would visit farms and sign up those that approved. Sometimes they walked from one farm to another or rode in a roadcart. Then came the speeding auto.
In 1912, the organization purchased “Paradise Farm” opening a new era in Country Week work. On June 28, 1913 Paradise Farm Camp was formally opened in the “healthful surroundings of the beautiful rolling country of East Bradford Hills.” The farmer in residence grew vegetables for camp use. Campers picked beans and peas. Milk was eight cents a quart. Large wooden boxes kept all food cold – great chunks of ice were hauled in daily from Downingtown at a cost of $45 a season. Children ran down to the creek to wash. That summer, and in many to come, the “shallow stream, the Valley Creek, furnished the joy of paddling, fishing, boatsailing, and guidance in aquatic sport.” The big barn and all its operations were to help promote in the boys the desire to handle livestock and crops in the future.
A quote from the 1927 minutes: “The greatest marvel and entertainment and novelty of all was the country itself – on which so many children had never laid eyes before. Many had never ridden on a train, some had never crossed Market Street. This big thing, this marvel was uppermost to these seemingly sophisticated children of 1926 who talked glibly of radio and movies, who danced the Charleston in the streets of the city to the tune of a gramaphone instead of a hand organ.”
“Herein lies our greatest work – extending a helping hand to those who from force of circumstances cannot help themselves.”
Adapted from “A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION” by Mrs. Charlotte Colley