This story is about two families that moved to the Mifflin Community in June 2016. These families were strangers not only to Mifflin but also to each other. They lived only five or six miles from each other. What is so unique is the fact that they are of Dutch ancestry. My story is of how they met this past May on a Sunday afternoon at Jimmy Wells’ Grocery. The saying, “It’s a small world,” truly has meaning.
On May 27 around 3:15 p.m., I was having lunch at Wells’ Grocery. I like to eat there to visit Jan and John, who manage the store. Wells’ Grocery is a gathering place for friends and neighbors in the Mifflin community and surrounding areas. There is good food and conversation to share with others. While I was eating at the long tables in the back, in comes one of the colorful characters who is a part of the “Long Table” discussions that are held every morning with other men in the community. His name is Johnny Johnson. Johnny ordered his favorite sandwich, fried bologna, which he calls the poor man’s steak sandwich, and sat down to visit. We were talking about the weather and the happenings in the community.
Frank and Miriam VanNes are new in our area, but Johnny and I know them as friends through meeting at the store. Frank and Miriam sat down to eat with us, and in conversation Miriam told us they were from Holland but lived in England before coming to the United States. They were looking for farm land, and a real estate agent led them to Chester County. They found the farm they liked in the Mifflin and Luray area and settled here. Miriam said she missed talking in Dutch, but there was no one here that could speak Dutch.
Well, Johnny, knowing all the news or most of the community news, knew that Marjorie Nicolay, who works at Wells Grocery, had mentioned that their family was of English or Dutch descent. In fact, Marjorie’s mother-in-law was visiting from California, and she could speak Dutch. Jan called Marjorie and asked her to bring her mother-in-law to the store to meet Frank and Miriam. Miriam’s eyes lit up, and she wanted to meet this wonderful family. The minute the Nicolays walked into the store, Miriam and Shirley Nicolay began talking in Dutch. There were stories told of family and friends from Holland. It was just a joy to listen to these two families share their excitement of meeting each other. Shirley Nicolay lives in California and is 87-years-old. Her son, Ed, brought her to Mifflin to visit with her son, Jim, and his family. Ed Nicolay had lived here years ago but moved back to California. While Ed lived in Mifflin, Jim and Marjorie would visit him, and they liked the town so much that they moved here 20 years later. Jim and Marjorie have two children, a son, Brand, who attends UT Martin, and a daughter, Meike, who attends Chester County High School.
Frank and Miriam have four children, Franklin, Vince, Naomi and Lucas. Vince helps Frank farm. Naomi is in school in North Carolina. Franklin and Lucas are away at college in Boston, Mass. This once in a lifetime meeting took place in a little community in Chester County. This meeting took place because Johnny remembered Marjorie speaking of her mother-in-law’s visit, because the gathering place at Jimmy Wells’ Grocery keep in touch with the people that trade with them.
You might want to visit the store in Mifflin. You never know what you will learn or who you might meet. Stay and eat and have good conversation at the “Long Table” at Jimmy Wells’ Grocery on the corner of Hwy. 200 and Mifflin Road. “It’s a Small World After All.”
Nancy B. Taylor