The Still family has gathered in Lawnside, N.J., for its family reunion for the past 141 years. This year’s reunion took place on a sunny Sunday last month in the backyard of 81-year-old patriarch Clarence Still’s home on East Oak Avenue, which has been the reunion venue for the past 28 years.
With a straw hat on his head, Still sat in a chair sipping on orange water ice and looking out over the hundreds of relatives who came from as far as North Carolina.
“The family reunion means a lot because there are so many people who want to know about the family history. And people get so excited,” he said.
The ancestral Stills left Guinea in 1620, chartered a ship and traveled to America as a clan of indentured servants. They began a new life working on the John Hugg plantation and settled in Lawnside, formerly known as Snow Hill. Two centuries later, abolitionist William Still was a leading organizer of the Underground Railroad.
For reunion day 2010, Clarence Still’s backyard transformed into an outdoor meeting hall. A blue tarp tied to surrounding trees served as cover for seating for 400. Line dances, such as the Cupid Shuffle, took over the driveway-turned-dance floor. Simmering barbecue ribs, collard greens and corn on the cob were among the foods served.
“This is where it originated,” said picnicker Winifred Still Davis, who also lives in Lawnside. “Oak Avenue was a street where most of the Stills lived at one time, so it’s history and we want to keep it going.”
“We are renewing friendships and trying to teach our younger generation how important family is,” said Howard Still, 69, of Lindenwold. “Family is all you have in this world, and you have to work at it or otherwise it falls apart.”