Hank Crawford, the president of the Yardleyville Protective Company, won't be gaveling to order the 154th annual meeting of the horse company come early January. It is the first time in the group's more than 150 year history that the annual meeting has been cancelled.

YARDLEY >> Instead of riding again, the Yardleyville Protective Company will be holding its horses come 2021.

For the first time in its 154 year history, the board is canceling its annual meeting scheduled for January 12, 2021 and recommending that its members “hold your horses” until 2022.

The reason for the cancellation is the coronavirus, which has upended much of 2020 and is now extending its reach into 2021 with event cancellations.

“Board members are sad that the 2021 Annual Meeting has to be cancelled, but it is concern for everyone’s health and safety that this decision is being made,” reads a letter being sent out the company’s membership.

“It’s a shame,” said Hank Crawford, president of the organization. “But it was the right thing to do. We polled the board and they all agreed that with the governor’s restrictions it was impossible” to move forward with the event, which would have been the company’s 154th meeting.

The restrictions would have limited attendance to between 50 and 60 people. The event typically draws around 150.

“Plus a lot of our members are older. And they’re a little cautious,” said Crawford, adding that the cancellation was the right thing to do considering the impact the virus has had on the older generation.

And Yardleyville isn’t the only Bucks County horse company cancelling its annual meeting.

The Newtown Reliance Company, by far the largest horse company in Bucks County, has also decided to cancel for 2021. Its meeting is traditionally held in late January and attracts more than 300 members.

The Warren Company, home-based in Warminster, has also cancelled its general meeting and oyster and turkey dinner scheduled for November.

Back in the days before organized police departments, Protective Companies kept order in the Bucks County countryside. And in the case of the Yardleyville company acted as an insurance company for its members paying out claims for lost and stolen livestock, property and horses.

“They served a purpose not just in Yardley but in other parts of Bucks County and other parts of the country,” said Crawford. “They were the vigilantes. They were the people who protected people’s property.

“A horse in those days was your means of transportation. It was your survival. And if that horse was stolen, which many were back in those days, they relied on the protective companies to find them,” said Crawford. “It would be like if your car was stolen. You’d want someone to find it. These companies served a useful purpose. And it wasn’t just horses. There were claims in for chickens and other livestock.”

The companies were composed of neighbors who would get together to help neighbors after they fell victim to thieves.

“This is part of Yardley’s history,” Crawford continued. “While it doesn’t serve a purpose any more, to be a part of an organization that’s been around that long is something special.

“This is a piece of local history to cherish and support because if we lose it it will be gone and we’ll never get it back,” said Crawford. “We’re blessed here in Yardley that people have kept it going.”

Unlike meetings from a century and a half ago where members were busy forming posses, posting rewards and tracking down horse thieves and other villains, today’s annual meeting is about socialization, tongue and cheek humor and keeping a piece of local history alive.

“It’s all about having a good time together as a community and as part of a group that goes back more than 150 years,” said Crawford.

Mark your calendars for 2022. The 155th meeting is scheduled to convene on January 8.

“We, as members of the Yardleyville Protective Company, need to be optimistic in all the gloom and doom,” wrote board members in their letter. “We need to see how much closer we may have become to our families and friends when we reach out to make sure others are doing well. We need to continue to support our local business owners, local food banks and other helping hand organizations.”

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