Photo courtesy of Mike Clarke
Sullivan County Industries--Then and Now
Published by The Endicott Printing Company, Endicott, NY
The following named, present and former residents of our home land, have contributed data or manuscripts to this chapter of Sullivan County’s eventful history
Mrs. Myrtle Magargle, Maurice J. Harrington, A. F. Snider, T. O. McCracken, B. T. Martin, Frank Cox, Ralph King, Otto Little, Nelson C. Mullen, Mrs. L. L. Baumonk, Mrs. Emma Hesse, Mrs. Elizabeth Angle, H. W. Bender, Miss Jessie Wreed, Hon. Walter Baumonk, Roscoe Burgis, Wm. Monahan, Mr. And Mrs. Arthur Miner, James Bowles, Frank Bedinsky, Jr., Pete Kratcoski, Jr., Fred Rogers.
The purpose of these recorded facts, gleaned from records and remembered experience of contributors, is to bring to promoters and toilers in local industry appreciation and thanks for their efforts in contributing to the welfare of their fellow citizens by creating the necessary commodities, the sale of which provided wages for the toiler and, in turn, became the life blood of business, professions, churches, schools, liberal arts and crafts, created markets for the produce of agriculture and sustained every human effort for community betterment.
Paying tribute to local brain and brawn in cooperative industry, we honor America’s strength and the last best hope for world freedom. The useful lives of these community benefactors issue a challenge to future generations to produce, under more favorable circumstances, better products and improved opportunities for our fellow men and women, irrespective of race, creed or national origin.
Photo courtesy of Mike Clarke
SULLIVAN’S INDUSTRIES -- THEN AND NOW
Human existence has always depended on the untied efforts of the human family. In prehistoric days, man learned that cooperation was the cornerstone of the foundation upon which his superstructure of civilization rested; be it slave or free. If today we are to make our discoveries and inventions of benefit to the world, we must learn the art of working together, as well as living without dissentions. First of all, we start with our neighbors, giving them the right to exchange their products with us and with others in the same proportion of use and beauty that we expect for ourselves.
The dawning of the nineteenth century found homemakers supplying the most of their needs for food and clothing, tools and equipment upon their own farms. But into community life there soon appeared the local carpenter, mason, wheelwright, blacksmith, weaver, tinker (handy repair man), peddler, the itinerant preacher, and the schoolmaster frequently versed in the art of music and dancing; the cobber, dressmaker, milliner, the self-taught lawyer, bone-setter, the herb doctor, the coffin maker who usually made furniture, and in every neighborhood at least one genius who could turn his hand to anything, usually making a success of nothing.
Apparently the first cooperative effort in Sullivan County was the building of roads, closely followed by use of natural resources. Settlers of the land went together into the forest and burned lime and charcoal, boiled potash, made maple sugar by boiling maple sap, cured hides and furs from the wild animals, and built primitive water mills to aid in the manufacture of lumber and in grinding the grain, from which the miller subtracted his toll.
Maple Syrup on Sale
This is a picture of the sugar house belonging to Dale Bennett of Estella. The Bennetts sold maple syrup for many years, and Linda Bosnak, our contributor, can remember visiting and seeing how the syrup was made.
Photo courtesy of Linda Bosnak, the litle girl in the picture.
The year 1930 marked the passing of large scale industry, due to depletion of natural resources, including lumbering, tanning and mining, dealing a staggering blow to business and industry from which Sullivan County is now steadily recovering.
In 1895, our population numbered approximately 14,000, more than 5, 000 may have been wage earners in industry. Wages were considered normal by comparison with other localities where living cost were higher. Long hours and lack of machinery, plus company stores and other unfavorable conditions, lead men and women who remember these trying times to conclude that with fewer people employed, we of today are ahead both financially and in improved working conditions.
In 1950, the Pennsylvania Department of Internal Affairs reported 837 persons of legal age employed in twenty plants, with aggregate earnings totaling $1,692,2000.00. Capital invested in raw materials, machinery, and buildings amounted to $1,464,4000.00. The value of products was $4,850,7000.00.
Average labor today, earns more in two hours than was paid for full ten-hour day at the turn of the century. In many instances the worker earns more in one day than was paid per month on farms by the very few farmers employing hired labor. They worked them from daylight to dark at a monthly wage of from $6.00 to $12.00; board and sleeping quarters found.
In fact, pioneer land owners bred labor on their farms, practically holding sons and daughters in bondage until they were twenty-one years of age.
These conditions, as experienced by today’s grandparents, may give a clearer understanding of the `good old days’ of fond memory as compared with the `better days’ as of now.
The Glass Factory
The first industry in what is now Sullivan County was a glass factory located at Lewis Lake, now called Eagles Mere. It was built and operated by an Englishman, George Lewis, whose business brought him to New York, where he met Joseph Priestly, Jr. Priestly was interested in the sale of thousands of acres of Central Pennsylvania land that was owned by the his family. His glowing description of the mountain forest induced Lewis to buy 30,000 acres.
In 1880, he had the tract surveyed, and two years later he spent six weeks near the crystal water he named Lewis Lake. During this time, yellow fever raged in the city and he felt he owed his life to this time he spent on the mountain. Later, recalling the pure white sand of the beach it seemed to him an ideal place for making glass. He decided to do that, and to make his home there.
By 1808, he built not only the glass factory, but also a grist mill, dwelling for his workmen, a store, and his own residence. The factory was located on Mount Lewis, now the site of the McCormick and Young cottages, at the southeast corner of Laporte and Eagles Mere Avenues. Sand was hauled from the upper end of the lake by flat boats, and one old resident says that it was also dredged from the lower end of the lake and brought out by six-horse teams.
Stones from the ruins of this old factory have been used in the foundation of the Presbyterian Church and in cellar walls of a number of houses in the borough. Moreover, one of the old mill stones is found today in the Episcopal Church, where it serves as a baptismal font. Relics of glass have been found in fragments of amber, blue, red and light green. There are a number of pieces of hollow ware still in existence, all privately owned. The few pieces remaining today are said by experts to be of excellent quality.
The glass was shipped from the lake to Muncy in hogsheads and was packed with straw from the Robert Taylor farm, eight miles away. From Muncy it was reshipped to Reading, Lancaster and Philadelphia. Conestoga wagons weighing 3,000 lbs and drawn by eight horses were used and, due to the very bad road conditions, there was always considerable breakage.
But the business flourished until after the second war with England. Glass was then imported and sold cheaper than Lewis could deliver it. Consequently, Lewis’ business failed. Then, too, his health was poor, so he returned to England in 1830, leaving his affairs and his unsold land in the hands of his brother-in-law. Soon after reaching England, he died. Because it had been his wish to be buried at the lakeside, his body was shipped back to New York. The month was August, and the heat intolerable; so it was found necessary to make interment in New York.
In 1831 the glass works was sold to John J. Adams, of Washington D. C. Meanwhile, the workmen had found employment elsewhere and most of them moved away. There is no record of the number of men employed.
The next account of the business appears in an advertisement, saying the stock had been bought by N. G. Lyon and Thomas Wells, and that they had leased the works for three months. Nothing more is known until the year 1838, when a nephew of Mr. Lewis came to the lake to settle up the property. The glass business had ended.
Ruins of an effort to manufacture glass was found near the ghost town of Thorne Dale and gave the name to Glass Creek. No records of legends of this small industry seem to have survived.
Woolen Mills of the Past
The Rogers Woolen Mill was built in 1810 near the abutment of the covered bridge at Forksville by Samuel Rogers. It may have employed ten men, and prospered during the war years (1812 to ‘14). The delivery of the finished product, blue Kernsey cloth for the U.S. service uniforms, required six weeks by Conestoga wagon. This plant was destroyed by a flood in 1816. A new mill was built two miles down the Sock in 1826, by Samuel and Jonathan Rogers and was sold the same year to John Ostler. This mill prospered during the was among the States and was operated intermittently until 1885. Obsolete spindles, a loom and carding machines were still in place when the old building was torn down in 1916. The only relic now left of this pioneer industry is an old dye kettle on the lawn of the Rogers home in Forksville. This kettle rolled nearly two miles down the Sock in the 1816 flood and for ten years rested in a deep hole, still known as the old dye kettle swimming hole. It was dragged from its muddy bed by oxen, for use in the second mill. Most of the flax and wool used was grown locally.
If making “burr” flour is to be included among the county’s early industries, the Hazen grist mill below Sonestown, deserves a prominent place. Its customers came from Laporte, Lewis Lake, Elk Lick, North Mountain and farms between. Its owner was John F. Hazen who built it about 1850. He operated it with the assistance of his son John N., who was better known as “Honse” (probably a diminutive for John from the German Johannes). After his father’s death Honse continued to operate the mill until around the turn of the century when it was sold to A. T. Armstrong and William Taylor, who installed modern machinery to make roller flour but closed down after a few years. The mill was razed to the ground a few years ago. Ruins of grist mills could be unearthed in every township.
“Zack” Cole of Dushore, who is 88 years old, remembers the ruins of a water powered foundry at the top of Headley Avenue. Sections of the old dam still exist.
A second foundry in Dushore, now out of business, was owned by Monroe and Harry Bigger. Built in 1893, it was located near the high school. Old iron and junk was collected and sold there for twenty-five cents per 100 pounds. From this, castings were made into fly wheels, cast iron kettle, sap pans and many other articles.
As late as 1923, smaller foundries were built near the site of Harrington’s Creamery, and produced hand cultivators and farm machinery parts.
A Copper Mine
Streby’s History tells us that a copper mine was worked in Sullivan County near Beaver Dam, by a Boston capitalist about the time the county was separated from Lycoming, around 1849. It’s yield was too small to be profitable and operations ceased. It was again opened about 1900 by “Gus” Sones who had bought the Beaver Dam Hotel and adjacent land. This attempt also was a failure, although some zinc and silver were found, along with the copper, but not in sufficient quantity to justify production.
A cigar factory built during the nineties at Nordmont is almost forgotten. It was located here about the time the railroad extension to Laporte had sparked Nordmont into a second growth. James Deininger and his brother Al were the leaders in this little enterprise, which was short-lived when the building was burned by fire, along with the hotel next door. Probably a half dozen men or less were employed, the Deiningers from Hughesville and other local men. One-man cigar factories appeared at intervals in and around Dushore, making the good five cent cigar, listed by former Vice-President Garner as among our country’s needs.
The present price and restricted size of the glass of beer served over bars, causes old lovers of the amber brew to yearn for the days where for ten cents, one could have two quart growler filled, $1.25 would buy an eight gallon keg, and $1.00 would buy a case of twenty-four pints. On the backdrop for liquid drama would be painted the old Specht Brewery on Headley Avenue in Dushore, parts of which are now used as storage for a beer distributing plant.
In 1888, the ancient beer truck, drawn by mules, rumbled down to Forksville and Hillsgrove under cover of darkness and was met by young men, some of legal age, others under. The W.C.T.U. threatened dire punishment that failed to materialize, although Specht spent much time in jail for disturbing the peace. One aged resident of Dushore recalls that after moving to Ohio, brewer Specht figured in a domestic tragedy and murdered his wife. For this he was legally hanged, though the date and place of execution is forgotten.
Another liquid enterprise in the county, this one brought fame to Bernice for many years, was the Schaad Distillery. Very potent whiskey was distilled here and, in many cases, sold before it was sufficiently aged. Acquired by retailers in barrels and kegs; it found its way over bars in bottles bearing other brand names, thus aping the tale of the legendary stranger who produced every variety of wine from the same spigot of one cask during the Middle Ages.
Came the “noble experiment”, and the contents of the bond houses were taken over by the government. In some mysterious manner, better not remembered, it came into the possession of bootleggers and was dispensed; not altogether for medicinal purposes. This historic experiment is best summarized with the brief statement “gone but not forgotten,”
The following paragraph, clipped from the Review's “News and Views of 30 years Ago” may revive some memories.
Thursday afternoon county and state officers raided several places at Mildred and one at Laporte confiscating a large amount of wine, gin, whiskey, beer hard cider and moonshine. The largest haul was at Mildred where 49 barrels of Italian wine were found in one place. Sheriff Detrick deputized 10 men to dump the wine into the creek. Hundreds of spectators were on hand by that time and watched the wine run down the creek. Those raided posted bail for their appearance at March term of court.
Log Of Lumbering
Perhaps in some future age a musical genius will compose a symphony that will reproduce the chug of an old water wheel, the click of an up-and-down saw, the whine of a modern band saw, the deafening hum of a circle saw and the roar of a set of gang saws. The harmony of sound arrangement of wind, reed and string instruments would not be understood as were these strains in days of yore, when heard by toilers under the roof of an old saw mill.
Crude water powered mills for sawing lumber and for grinding grain made their first appearance in the section now known as Sullivan County, about 1800. Saw mills outnumbered grist mills in the ration of 10 to 1. Every airy dream of founding a town seemed to be built around a saw mill, a primitive arrangement--powered by an overshot water wheel which gave slow motion to an up-and-down saw which cut perhaps 1000 feet of lumber for ten hours of work per day. But these were the forbearers of the giant industry that gave prosperity to Sullivan County for a century.
In the year 1850, Isaac Lippincott and his son Augustus acquired a tract of land consisting of eight hundred acres, formerly park of the Hill holdings; and for ten years they cut and rafted the virgin pine down the Sock. They built four primitive houses and a store. One mile below Hillsgrove anti-dating this mill was one belonging to John Hill located where the church now stands and powered by water brought from mill creek by a race. Much of this land was purchased in the early sixties by Richard Biddle and Benjamin Huckell and is still in possession of grand children to the fourth generation.
The first steam whistle in the county sounded from a mill built by Michael Meylert at Laporte in 1850. During the next 100 years it was answered by portable mills in every locality within its borders. The ruins of disused water mills became themes for memories, pictures, poems and jokes. We recall strolling in the moonlight down by the old mill stream and finding the dam intact but the mill gone, and our gay companion quoting the ancient pleasantry: “Here is a dam by a mill site, but no mill by a dam site.”
Better railroads facilities in the eighties encouraged the building of big mills in the eastern section of the county. Lopez became a famous lumber town in song and story after J. S. Hoffa of Dushore built a large mill there in 1886. In 1888 the Hoffa interests were bought by the Jenning brothers, and Trexler and Terrill moved their mill from its location on Painter Den Creek to Lopez.
Jennings Bros. Then consolidated their mill on Taylor Creek near Seaman’s Hotel with the one at Lopez, and built factories to convert wastage into such products as kindling wood, clothes pins, broom handles, baseball bats, staves, washboards, matches and many other articles, many of which have been replaced today with plastics. The Jennings mill, factories, railroad and logging operation in 1900 provided employment for 600 men and gave Lopez a population of 1200.
Editor's Note: In 1899, the Jennings brothers began to relocate their enterprises to Maryland and West Virginia, where the forests had not yet been cut and opprotunities remained for a growth lumber industry. You can read the history of one such enterprise in West Virginia at Keith Allen's History of Jenningston.
Ricketts, in 1891, mushroomed around a big mill built by the Albert Lewis Lumber Co. It employed 150 men. The same year Trexler and Terrill built a mill large enough to have a daily capacity of 100,000 feet, also a stave factory and excelsior mill employing 150 men and a few girls.
Ricketts and Jamison City are divided by the county line and, though the mills themselves may have been located in Wyoming County, 80% of the logs they used came from the forests of Sullivan. The virgin timber that supplied these mills was exhausted in 1910 and the families that had known the kindness of these neighborly communities were scattered to who knows where?
No sign of human habitation remains at the bush grown site of Ricketts and there are few left in Jamison City, but the survivors and their descendents gather annually in a fond reunion and some of these perchance will go up on Red Rock Mountain where the government has located a radar project.
Editor's Note: In October 2004, we received the following e-mail message relate to the men in this picture: "During my last of many visits to your engaging site, I noted under SULLIVAN COUNTY INDUSTRIES Now and Then, a familiar picture. The man on the right, manning the cross saw is Herbert Leroy Farrar, the grandfather of my husband, Ira Bryan. Herbert had lived in the logging town of Masten, PA (now a ghost town). From family lore, the man observing was a salesman for the company who manufactured the saw they were using. Herbert was from Maine, having followed the lumbering enterprises to PA and Masten. He married Harriet Campbell, of Plunketts Creek Township, Lycoming County. Their daugher, Edith, married Benjamin F. Bryan, son of Benjamin H. and Philena Little Bryan of Hillsgrove, Sullivan County. Ira is Benjamin's son. Thanks to your efforts in providing us with this wealth of interesting items."-Evelyn McCarty Bryan, Picture Rocks, Lycoming County, PA.
In 1886 the Lyon Lumber Co. started to operate a mill on Muncy Creek below Sonestown. By 1872 it was floating logs not only down the Creek but also down the outlet of Lewis Lake, now called Eagles Mere. The outlet of the lake may have had a geographical name, but locally it was always called “The Outlet”. This company continued in business until the end of the century. Their contractor and business manager was John Paulhamus, who served the father and later the son when Howard Lyons took over the business at his father’s death. Lyons made his home a short distance below Tivoli at Lyons Station, on the W. & N.B. just opposite the one saw mill he operated on Muncy Creek. Every day however, he took the morning train to Williamsport where the company’s offices were located.
Four splash dams helped to float the logs to this mill. One was a mile or so above Sonestown up The Outlet. The three in Muncy Creek were at Sonestown, Nordmont, and six miles above Nordmont at Mostellers. When all four of these dams poured their water into the valley below Sonestown it became flooded and roads were temporarily impassible. Two “cribs”, great rectangular, high box-like affairs of logs filled with stones, protected the banks from erosion and a long “boom” made of logs held together and looking like a string of huge beads fastened at the upper end, but loose below, also held the floating timber in check as it passed the towns and farms on the sides of Muncy Creek.
A “log job” was taken in the early Spring by some man with a little capital--very little sometimes--hoping to make more by this means. It meant that he and his family would move into a “shanty”, probably on North Mountain if the “job” was to end eventually on Muncy Creek, and board and lodge the 12 to 20 men he employed to cut down great trees, leaving a stump three or four feet high. They peeled the bark from these fallen trees and piled up the denuded logs to be taken to the mill. They ere usually piled near a “slide” or rollway where they were later hurtled down the mountain to the banks of the Creek. The “slides” were trough-like, made of logs and located at a very steep place on the hillside. Not the least dangerous of feats in the making of lumber was putting the logs into this hollow trough. They were used most often in the winter when snow made them more slippery and a log often jumped out and injured or perhaps killed the man whom it struck.
Once on the bank of the stream, the log awaited the “splash” to take it to the mill. If the contractor who took the “job” at a stipulated cost could get men cheaply enough, and not go to too much expense to feed them, he made a profit; otherwise he “come out behind,” as the localism had it.
In 1901 the Charles W. Sones Lumber Company built a big mill on Kettle Creek, and in ten years had practically denuded the western section of the county of timber. They later sold the mill to the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company, whose mills were at Masten and Laquin. This added another ten years to the industry before the coming of the turbulent 30’s and the worst depression America has ever known.
“Charlie” Sones made further Adventures in lumbering, buying vast tracts of forest land, shipping its products down the Eagles Mere Railroad. Unmarried, he was something of a philanthropist to the deserving youth, albeit in a quiet way, and despite his wealth, retained his comradeship with old friends made when he was a bookkeeper for the Lyon Lumber Co. He often visited Sonestown with L. R. Gavitt, whose political influence though considerable in Sullivan county, did not mean much in Lycoming where Sones resided and from which county he was elected State Senator. His favorite investment was in farms, and on one of these near Halls Station, members of the Williamsport Consistory usually ended their June meetings with a mammoth picnic as guests of Mr. Sones, who was himself a 32nd degree Mason.
Forests were the foundation of Sullivan’s prosperity. In the beginning settlers were attracted to Davidson township by its maple trees that yielded sugar. From Columbia county men made an annual pilgrimage and stayed through the sugar making season; later some of them cam to stay when they found that they could make a living the rest of the year. One story is told of the Irishman Bradley who arrived later than other settlers, fresh from the old country in the Spring and deemed his neighbors lazy louts who pursued sugar making only a short time then stopped. “Begora”, said he, “I ain’t goin’ to quit like they do. I’m goin’ to keep on makin’ sugar all summer.”
Early sugar making is a story in itself, with its outdoor fires to boil the sap carried by hand from spile to kettle. It did no damage to the trees and only when maple lumber became worth more that the sugar did men sell their groves of maple trees. Lumber meant more than board feet. Its by-products were equally valuable. Its bark caused the importation of hides and the establishment of tanneries. Coal mining depended on planking props, cars and railroad ties for operation. Its wastage has already been named as embracing everything from a match box to big box, and not the least of these were the articles of household furniture such as chairs tables and chests, often hand made outside of the furniture factory which was a wooden building as were most of the houses and the shanties which sheltered the laborers who brought the giant logs to the mill.
The woodsman’s day was usually from “can see” to “can’t see”, that is, from dawn to dark. His only holidays were Christmas, “ The “Fourth”, and such rainy days as perforce kept him indoors. He was skillful in the use of his tools, but behind the skill was main strength, and to maintain that power he ate and drank he-man food from three to five times a day, according to his labor and the length of the day. Frequently in season he stretched the time at both ends. If the water was high, or the snow deep, no hour was wasted. Logs that must be moved and bark that must be peeled could not wait for favorable conditions. If the logs were too far from a stream to be floated to the mill, the loggers drove their yoke of oxen into the forest, tethered them at a safe distance, felled and trimmed the tree with sharp axes and sawed it into length the oxen could drag. They then hitched the oxen to the log, goaded them into high gear, perhaps as much as one mile per hour, delivered the logs to the saw mill and went back for more.
Through this system passed with the pine in the 1870’s the stumps have survived a century and are still to be found among the second growth in parts of our county, even as are the stumps that resulted from somewhat more modern methods of a half century ago. By comparison, a tractor load of second growth, knotty pine logs twelve inches in diameter, delivered at a saw mill, brings twelve times more money today than did the virgin pine delivered by old methods which would require a month for delivery. If virgin pine existed in Sullivan county today, the owner would receive about thirty times as much per 1000 feet.
When pine was gone, the mills used peeled hemlock. Incidentally, the hemlock bark was used by tanneries whose number grew as the supply of bark, which was worth $2.00 per cord, increased. Hemlock logs were used by mills thirty miles down the Sock, mills with band saws that were driven by steam, and later gang saws that would cut 100,000 feet of lumber every day. This called for quick transportation of logs. At flood the Sock ran twenty miles per hour. This called for splash dams and log drives such as were found in Muncy Creek. But the swift Sock also carried lumber by raft down the river to Harrisburg and even farther.
Few are left to remember just how lumber was carried by hand, laid down in water, pegged together with wooden pins driven through holes bored by two-handed augurs; how layer upon layer was added until the raft carried 40,000 feet or more. Giant oars were placed fore and aft, and the strength and skill required to build a raft and float it to market added up to a sum total of hard work and the risk of losing life or limb. Then the brief thrill of running the raft down the stream! All this seemed small in comparison with the slow and painstaking labor of tearing down the raft, piling the lumber on the bank and selling it in competition with city slickers at from three to four dollars per thousand. It sounds like highway robbery and explains why men and teams back home worked for $2.00 a day or less, and why they were frequently deprived of this pittance by the friend or neighbor who had risked his all and failed.
The late Dr. J. Newton Osler, in the last days of his retirement (remembering the strenuous years of his youth), built a model lumber raft--a replica of those floated down the Sock and the Muncy in the period from the early forties to the late eighties. The model is owned and exhibited by his nephew, Otto Little, prosperous lumber dealer and builder of Benton, Pa.
This model will eventually find an honored place in the Sullivan Historical Museum and become a lasting tribute to its builder and to the men who have engaged in so hazardous a vocation.
Volumes could be written about the adventures of these distant days. Few survive who have had the opportunity to listen with starry eyes to the thrilling tales told by their sires. There is only one man left who actually participated in this watery drama, daring its perils and enjoying its thrills. He is William Rogers of Laporte, now more than eighty years of age.
Numerous fortunes for land grabbers and speculators were made by the lumbering industry, but no Loyal Sock raftsmen were in this class so favored. Their riches lay in their adventures, and their fame is in the thrilling tales of toil that makes glamorous an age that we, in this day of labor-saving devices, know only in memory.
No more the shanty man in his caulked shoes and picturesque clothes, the tannery man with the diversified odors of his calling clinging to his person like perfume. But different, oh so different! The acid factory worker with scents almost as obnoxious, and the miner, black faced and soot encrusted, with his sweetheart the mine mule. They are seen no more in all the land; but we are refreshed by the Paul Bunyan-like tales of their endurance, their hardships, the dangers at which they laughed.
To summarize the successive epochs of Sullivan County’s fundamental industry: Ox, yoke, chain and two-wheeled cart were crowed out by horses, harness, and four-wheeled wagons. In turn, they were replaced by steam winder, steam engine, narrow gauge track and crude log cars; then coal took the place of wood for fuel: gasoline gradually was substituted for coal and motor powered gasoline tractors and trucks with solid rubber tires superceded steam. Road construction with back-breaking mattocks-- better known as grubbing hoes--was taken over by bulldozers and made the continued use of axes and cross cut saws unnecessary. Log drives and lumber rafting gave way to railroads--a speedier and safer means of transportation. Now oil and electricity have triumphed over steam, and the end is not yet.
But among us are some who die hard, who love to picture the “good old days,” when men were men and women were women, proud of their lords and masters and obedient to them. Or were they?
Every commercial enterprise is the lengthened shadow of a genius in organization and leadership. Let us glace at some of the men of local industry who have seen visions and translated them into forgotten achievements in the Loyal Sock watershed.
First of these captains was Bill Gouty in the seventies. He fed his men well. He paid them generously, and enforced discipline by his iron will and two rude and ever ready fists. He logged tracts of land near the village of Hillsgrove on Slab Run and Mill Creek, driving logs down both streams and down the Sock to Montoursville. He drank whiskey straight and drove a team of vicious horses. When apprehended by the Williamsport police for driving on city streets in a manner they considered dangerous, he usually paid twice the amount of fine imposed, informing the judge that he intended to leave town with the same speed. He left mysteriously in the late seventies and was last heard from in the wide open spaces of what was then the distant West. His quiet wife conducted a temperance hotel for many years at Barbours Mills.
Gouty was followed in the eighties by Roaring Jack Campbell, a man respected for his honest dealing and clean living, though prone to talk loud when excited. This was undoubtedly responsible for the nickname--a badge of honor among all good and true woodsmen. Mr. Campbell built two splash dams on Mill Creek and drove logs down that rock-bound stream until the nineties.
The year 1880 brought to Sullivan County a Canadian, Robert McEwan, who became a citizen of the United States as soon as that honor could be legally acquired. The year 1865 found him a laborer in the old Dodge Saw Mill in Williamsport, and the next few years gave him liberal instruction in the art of rafting and floating logs on the Susquehanna.
At the age of 19 he was a sub-contractor; at twenty-four, an independent contractor in the Pocono Mountains employed by the Jay Gould interests in tanning and lumbering. On the Sock he served the Pardee and Emery Companies. His life is a real epic of lumbering; it calls to memory lumber camps, log slides, log drives, splash dams, rough and tumble rollways, floating arks and all the thrills that their names imply.
Robert McEwan never learned to swim; he was ever a white water man, but he pitted his strength and agility against depth and current along with the most daring of his jam breakers. In 1885 he experienced a near tragedy and was carried by his workers and neighbors on a stretcher eight miles from the lumber camp to his home in Hillsgrove. Though suffering from a broken pelvis he soon resumed his duties with the aid of crutches and his faithful horse “Bay Dan.” Forty to a hundred men depended upon him for employment. He bought about 200 horses and used them humanely. He paid a million dollars for supplies to equip and feed his crews whose wages totaled to sums beyond the conception of the average citizen, even in these days of inflated values.
For sixty-six years he directed labor in the forests of Pennsylvania, twenty-five of them with the local industry. His success is outstanding in comparison with the failure of many of his contemporaries. It is estimated that the number of board feet of lumber driven down the Sock by his efforts would be at least 200,000,000 feet, and through all the marketable wealth he produced made millionaires of its owners, his own share was modest. His family enjoyed the comforts of a healthful life with no display of ostentation or special social distinction, and men who spent the best years of their life in his employ saved enough to insure a comfortable living and restful old age.
Other men of the eighties and nineties doing contract work included Henry Hulzsower, John Brey, James and Osborn Dutter, Lewis Wager, Miles Jenkins, Joseph Bachle, William Brong, Jud and Harry Rodgers, and later George Walker, who became the connecting link between the old and the new when log drives went out and railroads came into the Hillsgrove area.
Elkland men of the period were Jerry Osler, John Webster, Avery T. Molyneaux, John Rogers, John Wheeler and August Plotts, Jonathan, Edward and Sumner Rodgers.
In Forks Township two well remembered names connected with lumbering are those of Lyle Grange and George Ball. Lyle Grange was a man of might, skill and endurance. His record for sustained quality and quantity of bark peel in a season has never been equaled. It took two exceptionally skilled men to peel and pitch to the skid road four cords of bark in a long days labor. Lyle Grange and his helper, DeWitt Morsey, averaged four times that amount for every day worked in a fifty day season. He has yet another modest claim to renown, for he is the father of Harold “Red” Grange, internationally known football champion, who is proud of his birth and rearing in Sullivan County.
George Ball, the other man of distinction, lost his life in March of 1897 while breaking log jams on the Big Sock. His body was carried ten miles by the current and not recovered until the following August, in the deep back-waters of the big splash dam.
Another “Creek” man to lose his life on Muncy Creek was Isaac Wilson. He was carried through the open gate of the splash dam at the beginning of a drive. His widow assisted in the search for his body which was found months later far below the dam. Muncy Creek is so much smaller than the Sock that there is not such a roll of workers as are named on the Loyal Sock. One of the well remembered names there is Kiess; two brothers, Joe and John, were employed. Joe was boss and lived in Sonestown in the last days of the log drives.
There are many others whose names are now in possession of the Recording Angel. The boys who visited the camps remember best the stalwart forms and excellent meals there. Most of them have forgotten facts they learned there, one of which is that Sullivan County homes were built from Sullivan County lumber, and that every farmer built his hose and outbuildings from lumber cut on his own land, and paid carpenters, masons and painters with money derived from the sale of logs and hemlock bark. The same is true of 90% of the original homes in Sullivan County.
After exhausting all available virgin timber that could be profitably manufactured the big mills moved South. Small portable mills salvaged the partly decayed wastage for pulp wood, mine planks and various uses required short lengths of lumber. Tracts of land from which lumber is harvested revert to the state if not sold for unpaid taxes.
Second growth lumbering had its inception with the Citizens Conservation Camp in the turbulent thirties. These were located on Mill Creek and Dry Run, near Hillsgrove and Jakersville * and Laporte. They housed about one hundred men each and teamed with P.W.A. labor covered the county. The P.W.A. and C.C.C. are institutions we, as a nation, would like to forget; they were non-profit relief measures that gave sustenance to stranded youth of families on Federal relief. They came from all parts of the state; few if any remained; their work resulted in establishing recreation areas where the wreck and ruin of lumbering had created havoc. In these areas the Department of Forest and Waters is stressing the need for sane conservation by enforcing restriction in timber cutting, planting trees and propagating wild life. This has given a new beauty to State forest, providing revenue from the sale of standing timber, and brought prosperity to the revived lumber industry.
* Editor's Note: The CCC camp at Jakersville actually had their own camp newspaper, the Jakersville Echo. In the February 28, 1935 issue (Vol. II, No. 16), John Sweeny (sic) authored a poem "To the President" entitled Life is What You Make It:
Just take this tip from me,
For I like many others,
Have become a C.C.C.
Yes SIr, we knew its meaning,
Its very plain to see,
We are going to be the best of men
When we leave the C.C.C.
What power has changed our vision?
What light now shines for me?
'Tis a ray of light from Heaven,
Is the U.S. C.C.C.
And long may it continue,
In a fervent prayer from me;
And may God protect our President,
The father of the C. C.C.
It is not known for sure if John was actually John W. Sweeney (1870-1947), son of Martin and Julia (Wright) Sweeney, who lived on a narby farm in Ringdale. However, his family had for generations been part-time lumberjacks, so he would have been familiar with the types of work available in these camps and may well have been trying to find additoinal income in the midst of the Depression. John Sweeney was the brother of Peter Francis Sweeney (1878-1934), grandfather of Bob Sweeney, this site's administrator.
Among modern pioneers experimenting with new methods of lumbering can be listed the Ed Flynn Lumber Co. with saw mills at Lopez and Ringdale. More than a million feet are manufactured annually and delivered from tree to trade by motorized oxen. For strength and speed this would put Paul Bunyan and his blue ox in the juvenile class.
Hon. Walter Baumonk has factories at Forksville. He is interested in the Muncy Valley Industries; he cuts and uses more than a million feet of lumber in the making of reels, boxes, and sundry articles demanded by commerce. Modern saw mills, some of one million feet annual capacity, are scattered over the county in Hillsgrove Township. Gleason Lewis operates a large mill and uses much of his produce in the construction of vacation cottages. Westley Leonard owns a mill, temporarily leased to Henry F. Buck. Harry Ketchum and Robert Brown operate a mill and wood working factory at Lincoln Falls. There is also the Keith McCarty mill near Estrella, the Roscoe Burgis mill at Bethel, the Guy Baldwin mill at Muncy Valley and the Keneth Rose mill at Laporte; and in every township small mills that are run when logs are available.
Lest we forget, may we mention the autocrats of the woods, the log scales. These experts estimated board feet in standing timber, surveyed roads and decided best methods of moving logs to streams. Methods included sleds and teams, rough and tumble rollways, slides and splash dams. They were the law between jobber and owner, reporting logs left by jobbers, first to the jobber then to the owner. Though they have had much unmerited criticism, they were usually respected.
Saw Mills, on the Sock or its branches, that provided employment for many heads of families from 1880 to 1920 were the D. D. Brown mills and logging operations in Laporte and Colley Townships, the Reeder mill five miles below Hillsgrove, with enough shanties occupied by their workers to require a temporary school and post office. This mill was later moved close to Laporte on the road to Forksville. The Jakersville Mill is on the Commons near Ringdale. Jakersville was named from the favorite byword of the founder John Webster, “By Jakers!” The Chas. Sones interests took over and by 1910 had stripped the woods of all marketable timber. A present day by-product of mills is stove wood cut from mill wastage, sold at reasonable prices and donated to small churches needing occasional heat.
Lumber Town on Schrader Creek
Bradford County, PA
Undated Old Postcard
Photo courtesy of Deb Wilson
Laquin, a ghost town just over the north county line in Bradford County, flourished from 1908 to 1920. Its wood mills were kept buy with logs cut from the last virgin timber in Sullivan County. Several native woodsmen and their families lived there. Twenty years have passed since the last lumber camp was razed for second-hand lumber. The enclosed verses, author unknown, were found hidden and forgotten among the ruins. It may contain more truth than poetry or more exaggerated imagination than truth according to the viewpoint and memory of the reader. Names have been changed to "Doe" when references are uncomplimentary.
A PEN PICTURE OF LAQUIN, PENNSYLVANIA
Now I’ll spin you a yarn of a town called Laquin,
Through if ‘twas named Hell it would not be a sin;
For of all the bum places I ever have seen,
This town on the Schrader is surely the Queen.
Near Laquin, PA
Old Postcard Dated 1911
Photo courtesy of Deb Wilson
‘Twas built in this valley on account of the mill,
And if it had a wall round it, ‘twould beat Cherry Hill.
For they work for their board here and buy their own clothes,
And they’re covered with soot from their head to their toes.
Now the streets here are paved, you can bet they are nice,
In summer it’s mud; and in winter it’s ice;
And the nights here are black as the hinges of hell,
And if one takes sick here he never gets well.
There’s a plant in this town, it’s called the stave mill,
It’s way up the track at the foot of the hill;
And if I were to tell you what these men have to do,
When you get to Laquin you would surely pass through.
Then there’s the big mill, and the hub factory, too,
And the kindling wood joint where the dress in blue.
They are just alike right down to a man;
They will take the last drop of your blood if they can.
And of Sherman’s Distillery a verse I will sing;
They make liquor of basswood or any old thing.
That the men drink it days and keep fire with it nights
But it beats Laquin whiskey so far out of sight.
Now there are, of course, some good men in this place.
And some awful specimens of God’s human race;
And if the plain truth of these people you say,
They all live in Laquin for they can’t get away.
A doctor lives here and his name is John Doe,
He measures his dope always just so.
And he’ll send you a bill that you never could pay
If you worked in this town “till your hair all turned gray.
Another John Doe is a wonderful man,
Who does for the Company all that he can:
For he’s built him a mansion far up on the hill,
So he gets a good view of the men at the mill.
Then there’s also John Doe who came from the South,
You wouldn’t think butter could melt in his mouth.
He will give you a job, if you’ll trade at his store;
You know what that means, so I’ll say no more.
Undated Old Postcard
Photo courtesy of Deb Wilson
Original was posted on eBay
Undated Old Postcard
Photo courtesy of Deb Wilson
Now a company store is, of course, ‘gainst the law,
And this one’s the worst that the world ever saw;
For they’ll double the treble on goods that they sell,
And if this crew don’t get there, there’s no use of a hell.
Well, the men here aren’t suited, at least so they say,
And I guess it’s the truth, from the wages they pay.
It’s a dollar and fifty; go look where you will;
A man could do better in a old shingle mill.
For they hire Italians and Huns by the score;
A white man can’t get a job there anymore;
And if there’s a chance they will give you the run
And fill your place with an Italian or Hun.
And the time they keep is a sin and a shame;
They work these poor Huns in the snow and the rain,
And they expect to keep running for a hundred years more,
Till they clean up Hungary and Italy’s shore.
But there’s Leo McRaff, no harm would he do
And good Arthur Snell and Jack Anderson, too,
And Rockwell and Bademan are square as a brick,
Now on such men as these, we’ve no reason to kick.
And there’s Ellison Bennett, from Towanda he hails,
He’s a sawer of boards and a driver of nails.
At building new houses he’s going a fright;
It’s blueprint in the morning and you move in at night.
And we’ll mention Sam Doe, he’s a dealer in beef
If you buy meat of him you will soon come to grief;
For the steers that he sells and guarantees fat
Are bull meat unloaded at Mount Ararat.
Then there’s another fellow, it’s butter he brings,
And pork and potatoes and lots of such things.
There’s more we might mention but what good would it do?
For hucksters in general are a dishonest crew.
Then there is Fred Flick, drives the Company’s blacks;
He goes ‘round through the streets as if hitched to a hack.
He’s the nearest the thing, so the girls here all say,
That they’ve seen in Laquin for many a day.
Now ladies in Laquin are fair as the rose,
And why they all stay here, God only knows;
If they lived in Cold Spring it wouldn’t seem queer,
Or in any old place just to get out of here.
Undated Old Postcard
Photo courtesy of Deb Wilson
Original posted on eBay
Now there’s a crib here that they call a hotel.
A man can’t live long on the stuff that they sell,
For they make their own whiskey, and brew their own beer;
And if Bull isn’t rich it is certainly queer.
On the Company’s camps the bark peelers kick,
And there’s one thing that’s certain; the bugs are too thick,
The cooks are all Dutch, you plainly can see;
And often you’ll get a bed-bug in your tea.
The men here in Laquin sometimes get so drunk,
That they don’t know whether they’re in Ralston or Shunk.
And the best thing to settle their poor muddled brains,
Is the coffee they get up at good Mrs. Kane’s.
Now this worthy lady was never afraid
Of any human being that God ever made;
But if a small mouse in the dining room’s seen.
She can jump on the table like a girl of sixteen.
And the girls that she keeps are good waiters and cooks.
They are jolly young people--you can tell by their looks,
For they serve you the grub in a way that’s so neat
That a corpse would get out of the coffin to eat.
Then there’s John Doe who runs another hash plant;
He’d take all the boarders in town but he can’t,
For his house is so full, I’ve heard it said
That they now have to put three or four in a bed.
And there’s Board Master Barnes, a God-fearing man,
For he gives us fish whenever he can,
And if he was able much more would he so,
But the boarders he got are the devil’s own crew.
Undated Old Postcard
Showing Both Churches
Photo courtesy of Deb Wilson
Original posted on ebay
Now to save the whole town from utter disgrace
They are building a church or two in this place ,
And they’ll convert these poor heathen for one dollar per head
And guarantee them they will wear wings when they’re dead.
The Baptist preacher, from Elmira came,
As a builder of churches he get there just the same!
The ground is now broken and the church under way,
And we expect the new spire to be seen any day.
And the Methodists too, are not far behind, *
They are getting things fixed just about to their mind.
Their chaplain’s named Miller: he’s a Burlington man
And he’ll put a ringer in here if he can.
* Editor's Note:Since the photo of the completed Methodist Church shown below is on a postcard dated to late 1907, this poem must hae been written before then.
These city bred preachers will call at your place,
And they’ll read in the Bible with a long solemn face;
They will ask you to church where they’ll pray and they’ll sing,
But when they get home they’ll do any old thing.
Now these sinners in Laquin are doubtless the cream
Of any in the country that ever were seen.
And if they can get them here so they’ll hear a church bell,
They can tackle any place this side of hell.
For we wicked old hicks must someday walk the plank,
And the chances are that we’ll all draw a blank.
But if Gabriel should give us an old harp with one string,
We’ll just do our best with the angels to sing.
But if we had the choice of going to hell,
Or staying on here for a much longer spell;
We would get out of town on the first sulphur train;
For if you die in Laquin you go there just the same.
Now on the things past it’s no use to repine,
Though we’ve squandered our money on women and wine.
If we had it all back, we would borrow some more
And buy a through ticket to Africa’s shore.
And if I should live till I draw a full pay,
I’d leave this blamed town on that very same day,
And I’d hit the old hay road to York State once more
And bid farewell forever to the Schrader’s cold shore.
Old Postcard with Posting Date of December 27, 1907
Photo courtesy of Deb Wilson
This unfinished work is a labor of love, accomplished by a hard work, time and money given by us to the fulfillment of our dreams and it is our fond hope that future generations may add chapters when we of today shall be forgot.
“The old trees fall, but the young trees stand,
Even as you and I;
Stand in the stead of the pioneers
Who builded here in their fruitful years,
A faith that will never die.
So long as the pines shelter sprouting cones
The forests will never die;
The old will pass on to their sturdy young
The dreams they cherished, the songs they sung;
Even as you and I.”
Born December 29, 1889 in Grabowka, Poland, he migrated to America via the Prinz Oskar, through the port of Philadelphia on August 5, 1913. From there he found his way to Chicago, where he worked in the stockyards, went to barber school and had this photo taken. He came back east to Centre County, PA, where he met and married Mary Mihalik on June 18, 1918. They had three children. Then, sometime between late 1922 – early 1923, they moved to Bernice, PA. John worked in the mines at Bernice and they had eight more children. John passed away July 18, 1948. Mary passed away on September 19, 1995. They are both buried in St. Francis Cemetery in Mildred. Their children were John Stabrylla, Helen Morrissey, Agnes Zwanka, Anne Abbott, Pauline Themas, Veronica Gallagher, Frank J. Stabryla, Mary Hargrove, Joseph Stabryla and Blanche O’Brien. You can also learn more about the Stabryla and related families at the Stabryla Family Research Project.
Photo courtesy of Jim Stabryla, John's grandson via Frank and Ann Marie (Coyle) Stabryla.
DOWN IN THE COAL MINES
“Down in the coal mines underneath the ground,
Digging dusty diamonds all the year around.”
This ditty of driver boys whose sweetheart was a mule in the mines seems a fitting introduction to the record of an industry that through the years has brought to the world light, heat and power mixed with comedy and tragedy.
We in old Sullivan, who shared the toil and tears that were the fruit of our labor, go together down the drift of time, carrying in our caps the flickering lamp of memory in the hope of meeting and greeting men and boys who shared with us the peril of our vocation. May we hear again the kindly advice of the gray-haired miner for whom we loaded coal into a mine car - - “Have no fear, me lad. All we need to work in the mines is strong body and a weak mind.” Yet underneath this rough exterior was a heart of gold, set with gems of purest ray that sparked in sympathy for those in sorrow when tragedy was the lot of a fellow worker.
In early days, before safety devices and sane laws gave a measure of protection to workers in coal mines, every ton of coal sold was stained with human blood. Sullivan’s mines can thank a kind Providence for fewer accidents than fate brought to the other regions around us, and no major disasters cast a gloom over our past. Perhaps we are nearer to the men and mules that moved the coal than to the pioneer management that developed the industry. But records and tradition prove them to have been men of willing spirit that inspired them to deal justly with their fellows in the ranks of toil.
The late Myron Wilcox laid claim to be the first to find coal in the Bernice area. No definite date of discovery or opening of a drift known to the Shields, or Milheim drift, is recorded, but related happenings place it in the late sixties. This was an outcropping on lands formerly owned by Michael Meylert, later by Hon. George D. Jackson of Dushore. The coal was sold locally in lump size.
In 1871, the first Bernice breaker, modern at the time, was erected, and chestnut and pea coal in carload lots was prepared for Eastern Markets and shipped over the recently completed State Line and Sullivan Railroad. The moving spirit in developing this industry, the spine of local property for more than a century, was George D. Jackson. The village of Bernice and all of the buildings, company owned, grew around the breaker and was named for his wife. The eighteen years of his management were marked by friendly labor relations, proved by the fact that he was elected to the State Assembly in 1858 and re-elected each term until promoted to the Senate in 1866; continuing in office until 1879 when he died at the age of 52 years. His widow, Mrs. Bernice Jackson, carried on his works of charity and benevolence until her death in 1899. From these small beginnings, until the purchase of the property in 1903 by the Connell Mining Company, the enterprise had grown until three hundred men were employed. In 1898, Walter B. Gunton leased a large tract at coal lands from the Jackson heirs, built a new breaker and developed a profitable business. It lasted until 1906 when the supply was exhausted.
A few mine shacks of the period were built near the breaker but most of the mine families owned their homes in Mildred or lived on adjacent farms. These shacks were later bought by enterprising citizens and reconditioned into modern homes with present day conveniences.
Other mines in the Bernice area were the O’Boyle and Foy, a shaft mine opened near the Murray, a sizable breaker. Twelve miners’ homes were built and one hundred and fifty men employed. It was sub-leased to the Connell interests in 1915 and the workings dismantled with no trace remaining. The Pee Wee Mine, employing forty workers, was opened by Randall and Schaad but shared the fate of the O’Boyle and Foy. A small outcropping on Ketchum Run in Forks Township, known as Mercur Mine, was operated on and off for thirty years by one or two contracts miners; the coal was sold by sled load in winter to the rural trade. The Forksville Mine near Forksville was opened in 1943 and closed in 1951.
Murraytown About 1900
The community at this time had about two dozen company houses, a store, and offices of the Murray mines. Lopez and the Murray coal breaker would be off camera to the left. The O’Boyle breaker is in the distance in the middle of the picture. Reportedly, only four houses were still standing in early 2007. This view is toward the north in the direction of Bernice and Mildred.
Source: A photo from the Joe Tabor Collection
Reprinted in the Sullivan Review, January 25, 2007
The Murray Mines
A coal development within the memory of many present residents of our county was a big coal breaker and town built at Murraytown in the woods, one and a half miles from Lopez in 1901. This was park of the inception, growth, fall and decline of the Northern Anthracite Coal company for three decades. Scranton capital , in which Anthony J, and Michael J. Murray with P. H. Mongan held a controlling interest; leased a large tract of coal lands and built the largest breaker ever built in Sullivan County. One hundred sixty-nine feet high, with the steep inclined plane reaching from the mine shaft to the top of the breaker, it was an impressing sight. The town of Murray was superior to the surrounding towns. It consisted of twenty-five large comfortable houses, painted red, a big company building, housing three apartments, and the Murray Store and Post Office. This building is now a ruin.
The company headquarters were in Dunmore. During the construction, no roads existed except those brushed out by the builders, all building material was hauled with teams from Lopez. The W. N. B. Railroad laid a switch from the Lehigh Valley at Lopez to the Murray Mines in 1902.
In balmy days the carload shipments averaged 1,000 tons daily, with no account of wagon loads sold locally or coal used by the company’s power plant. Four hundred and thirty men and boys were employed at the peak in 1919 bi-monthly payroll exceeded $50,000. The enterprise flourished for more than twenty years with few slack periods until the coal strike of 1922 when the tide water markets were lost and the big veins gave out, leaving only shallow veins that could not be mined profitably. After 33 years, marked by honest dealing and fair treatment of their working partners, the Murrays abandoned the project. Murraytown is rapidly wasting away. The breaker fell into decay and late one night in 1935, during a summer windstorm it crashed to the ground, its rubble a monument to the success rather than failure of builders of history who will ever be held in high esteem. The names of men and their families that made Murray a good place to rear children are A. J. Murray, Incorporated and Mine Superintendent with his brother M. J. Murray as Mine Foreman. Later P. J. Murray and Peter P. Murray, sons of the Superintendent were Department Superintendents. Martin Lynch held the distinction of having the largest family living in Murray. Breaker bosses were William Mongon, William Banfield, Patrick McGee, Mike Chassock, A. W. Murray, James Gilligan, Roy Sterline and Frank Hoag. John Bonci was hoisting engineer at the shaft.
Families living in company houses were headed by John and Adrian Roberts, Jim Waples, Tom Donahue, Marvin and Daniel Potter, Richard May, Henry and Thomas Fell, Henry Johnson, William McGee, John Collins, the Cahill and Fitzharris families, James R. and William James Walsh, Tom McAvoy, Theodore Beaver, William Gribbon, Patrick Lynoot (Mine Foreman) Sid Sullivan, John O’Boyle, Mat Clemmons, John Shelvin, Robert Beckel, Mike Marshall, Frank Gutosky, Thomas Hope, Andy O’Malley [see photo below *], the Hurly family, Joseph and James Lang, Orazio Bonci, Martin Casper, Stanley Burke, William Van Horn (8 sons in the first World War - 11 children), James Lavelle, John Linkosly, Clinton Hurst, ( Mine Foreman), William Thayer, Mike Donavan and the Kawhan family. These good men raised families, paid their bills and taxes, went to Church and did their civic duties as they saw them in the building of America. Where have good Americans done more?
Family of Andrew J. and Catherine J. O'Mallley
Murraytown, Sullivan County, PA
Top, l to r: Irene J. (9/26/1897), Robert A. (4/3/1894), Gertrude C. (9/11/1895)
Middle: Andrew J. (3/15/1863), Mary E. (3/10/1900), Catherine J. (1/29/1873)
Bottom: Joseph J. (12/15/1905), William F. (4/25/1904), Anna K. (9/14/1908)
Note: Birth date in parentheses after each name. Andrew worked at the original Murray Mine near Wilkes-Barre before moving to Sullivan County. He was certified as a mine foreman. Catherine was born in "Weigand" (likely Wigan), England and came to the US at an early age. The children in the top and middle rows were all born in Avoca, PA near Wilkes-Barre; those in the bottom row in Murraytown.
Source: William O'Malley, April 1, 2011
Great grandson of Andrew and Catherine and grandson of William
The Connell interests with a monthly payroll of $80,000, employed 600 men from 1903 to 1932 then went into the hands of receivers. The Sullivan Coal Company 1932 to 1936, whose promoters were T. V. McLaughlin and John Faroni, employed thirty miners. The Brown Breaker was in operation by Saulsberg and Brown of Wilkes-Barre from 1932 to 1940. These Companies exhausted the veins that could be profitably mined. The White Ash Coal Company, developed by Andrew Perinski and Kline Richie, is now owned and operated by William Monahan.
On the outside looking in one would be foolish to speculate upon the future of coal as an industy in America. In the local field mining engineers agree that the vast tonnage removed through the years has made little impression on the quantity remaining and awaiting development. Once the only dependable source of light and power for world manufacturing and transportation is now priced out of the market and in competition with electricity generated by white coal (water power) and (black gold) oil and its derivatives. In the unpredictable future all of these commodities may be crushed by the atom or other scientific creations yet undreamed. New uses may be found for coal, and colum and slate dumps, wastage of mining, bane of the present, maw bless our prosperity. We are content to allow future residents to adjust themselves to future conditions and happy to record this moving picture of past events for the information of men and women of tomorrow.
Ten Thousand Years In Sullivan County
Ralph Vitale, owner of the Exchange Hotel Building in Dushore is the proud owner of our native terra at least ten thousand years old and perhaps several centuries more, a fallen tree stump taken from a fall of rock in the Connell mines at Bernice in 1942. Through the years of toil Mr. Vitale earned his promotion from breaker boy to mine foreman.
The oversized roots would place the tree in a prehistoric swamp with roots above the ground; veins in the bark indicate that it belonged to the maple family; weight of the reconstructed stump and roots is estimated half a ton; the substance is slate with no coal visible.
Under the Hide
The bush-grown ruins or sites that for sixty years housed the next largest industry in the county have now been converted to other uses. Prodigal sons, returning to the haunts of their childhood, yearn for friends and days long gone when they view these places. The tanning of leather has ever been a task demanding skill, strength, endurance and patience. These qualities seem to be bred in generations following this vocation, emphasizing the fact that tanners, like poets, are born not made. Modern machinery, aided by time-saving and wonder working chemicals, have revolutionized the process until the method of leaching tannic acid from oak, hemlock and spruce bark has become a lost art. That modern processes are far superior, we concede, but they lack the tradition and romance of yester year, so dear to older hearts; thus we try occasionally to rescue them from the limbo of things forgotten.
May we turn back the clock of years to 1851 and commune with ghosts of men that worked in the Meylert Tannery at Laporte? We find fifty hides bought from local butchers soaking in wooden barrels filled with solutions of salt and lime. Thus the hair was loosened and removed with dull scrapers that did not injure the grain. This ancient plant may have boasted one leach for boiling ground hemlock bark into liquor and six vats for tanning hides; the hides were shifted by hand from vat to vat until tanned. If upper leather was made, the flesh was covered with a dry mixture of saltpeter and hard wood ashes and the grain smeared with Neatsfoot Oil and Mutton Tallow. The tanning and rubbing required from eight to ten months; rolling and polishing were done with wooden blocks and rollers cut from black lignumvitae, the hardest and heaviest wood known. The finished leather was sold locally and made by craftsmen into saddles, harness and shoes.
Bark was ground in mills located in the open air because of the dust that rose like smoke from the bark and were operated by horse power. In the years from 1860 to 1905 three tanneries located in Dushore tanned hides for pioneer families from cattle, horses, sheep and dogs killed on their own farms. Three families of tanners with few descendants left in the County were the Cornelius Cronan children and grand children. The building that they used was located on the hill side above Marsh Run near St. Basil’s Church. Ruins of the foundation indicate that it measured 40 by 60 feet and housed vats and sweat pit for loosening hair. The Hoffa tannery, occupying the lot where the Hoffa home is located, was built by Aaron Hoffa about 1860. His seven sons and four daughters provided needed labor. John S. Hoffa inherited the business and family responsibilities at the age of fourteen. These two plants passed out in the 1870’s. In 1875 a tannery was built by Charles Moyer near the site of the silk mill on Headly Ave. ** It was smaller than the Cronan and Hoffa tanneries. The project was abandoned in 1905. Surplus leather made in the Meylert, Cronan and Hoffa tanneries was sold in Muncy, during the Civil War, to shoemakers making boots for the U. S. Cavalry.
**Editor's Note: Silk became a growth industry in this part of northern Pennsylvania for about 40 years in the early 20th century. You can read about the Sullivan Silk Company further down this page. After the invention and introduction of synthetics and the eventual movement of textile production to cheaper venues, silk manufacturing activity in the area came to an end. Here, for example, is an announcement made in 1905 that relates to the plans by three prominent local businessmen to go into the silk industry:
August 16, 1905
Application For Charter
Notice is hereby given that an application will be made to the governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on Tuesday the 5th day of September A. D. 1905, by Samuel Cole, Alfred R. Morrison and Harry N. Bigger under the act of assembly of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, entitled "An act to provide for the incorporation and regulation of certain corporations." Approved April 29 1874, and the supplicants thereto, for the charter of an intended corporation to be called the "Loyal Sock Silk Company" the character and object of which is to manufacture and sell textile fabrics and for these purposes to have, possess and enjoy all the rights, benefits and privileges of said act of assembly and its supplicants,
John H. Cronin, Solicitor
Dushore, August 8, 1905
James McFarlane purchased the Meylert in 1864; he enlarged and improved it, increased the capacity to 100 hides or 200 sides of leather daily. Transportation of hides and leather to Muncy gave steady work to four teamsters, driving covered wagons drawn by four big mules. Four long days were required to make the trip.
The Thornedale Tannery, four miles east of Laporte, was built in 1868 by McFarlane and Thorne & Co. Both plants grew to capacities of 400 and 500 sides, and the time required to tan was reduced to six months. The Thornedale tannery closed in 1893 and was dismantled.
The Hillsgrove Tannery, built in 1870 by Andrew Hawer, capacity 100 sides, was sold in “74 to McFarelane and Thorne & Co. then sold to Hoyt Bros. of Sanford Conn. In ‘78. The capacity then increased to 500 sides. All of these plants were bought in the Spring of 1892 by the United States Leather Trust, and the industry that had prospered and grown steadily since its inception began rapidly to decline. Watered stock in the combine fluctuated and long periods of idleness in the plants caused workers to move or lose their jobs. Former owners of the plants who had accepted stock in lieu of cash lost fortunes. Mismanagement and scarcity of bark caused the Trust to abandon the business in 1922. Machinery and buildings were sold at junk prices; tannery company homes were sold at $50.00 and razed for second hand lumber.
The Muncy Valley tannery was built in 1867 by L. R. Bump. It was a small affair with a capacity of 150 sides per day. After four years of operation it burned and was later sold at Sheriff’s sale. D. T. Stevens & Son bought it and ran it until in burned again in 1874. People of later years dated events from the second fire “Before the tannery burned” and “After the tannery burned.” Putting out either fire would have been impossible. Muncy Creek was at the other end of the village and what little water the community used was deep in the few wells. But Stevens & Son rebuilt and carried on more business than before. The town grew with men moving into it from distant farms. Foreign labor for $1.35 per day attracted workers. The output was then 750 sides per day. Muncy Valley was the largest town in that area in the 90’s, its general store the best shopping center north of Hughesville.
Many of the tannery employees were Polish. They were on the same hillside as the church and parsonage, but lower down and around a bend. Cottages behind the bark stacks were occupied by native Americans. At the turn of the century the population of the village was large enough to demand three rooms in the school building with every seat filled, and sometimes pupils standing on the floor or in corners.
The number of Catholic families justified the celebration of Mass by priests from Dushore and Blossburg. This was held in the schoolhouse, the altar being kept meanwhile by the James Monan family in their home. Before that time, one of the resident’s company houses was used as a chapel. Of the 26 buildings occupied by foreign families this is the only one standing. It is 85 years old and is the present home as well as the birthplace of Mrs. Elizabeth Scarbeck Angle. She is the last descendant of Polish settlers in the valley. Mrs. Angle remembers with pride that the first Mass celebrated in Muncy Valley was said in her parents home, with Catholics of four nationalities in attendance. Throughout the years all rites of the Church were performed here--marriages, funerals, baptism, confession and communion. The censor, candle holders and the ancient bureau that served as an altar are cherished heirlooms.
The Tannery closed in 1909, and Muncy Valley for many years was a “ghost town”. The Jamison City Tannery was built in 1889 and sold to Thomas Procter. It was similar in size and output to the Hillsgrove Tannery; most of the bark used came from Sullivan County. This tannery was sold to the Trust in 1902 and closed in 1909.
Thornedale, Laporte, Tannery Town and Hillsgrove became deserted villages. Many of the workers had moved to Endicott, N. Y., where good jobs awaited them and rapid advancement was the rule. Buying homes, but cherished memories often brought them back to their old friends in Sullivan on festive occasions. Space permitting, three thousand names could be added to this chronicle of real men who made history in making leather in the five tanneries, but few of their posterity remain to give to their memory the tribute of a smile. Three names are outstandingly remembered for their achievements. James McFarlane, practical, progressive and honest, established a record as builder and virtual owner of two tanneries that won respect and recognition in his field; James P. Miller, efficient Superintendent of the Muncy Valley Tannery for thirty-seven years was respected in his county and frequently called to counsel with tanners in matters of experiment and management; George Darby, big in body , mind and heart, devised a piecework system that equalized the work, raised wages and shortened the work day. He came to Hillsgrove with Hoyt Brothers and later added to his duties by managing the largest tannery in the State, owned by Hoyt Bros. at Hoytville, Tioga County.
The July 1951 issue of “Now and Then”, magazine of the Muncy Historical Society, carries a fine picture of a bark stack, once common at all five tanneries in the country -- Laporte, Thornedale, Muncy Valley, Jamison City and Hillsgrove. The snapshot from which the cut was made was loaned by Miss E. Wrede of Laporte.
The shaping and roofing of a bark stack, two hundred feet long, twenty-four feet wide and twenty feet to the eaves, was a liberal art requiring strength, endurance and skill. Remembered artists in this line were Jacob Fries of Laporte, Ezra Wagner, working his way through a long course at Bucknell University, and John Lucas, immigrants from several countries in Europe, the latter two were said to be able to roof stacks in fifteen different languages.
The history of tanning in Sullivan County is written and the books are balanced. To the most optimistic among us there seems little hope of a revival. We, to whom it brought joy and grief, miss the happy friendships made through its influence and feel that the sentiments of all concerned can be best summarized in two lines by Tennyson -- “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
In an old copy of the Sullivan County Democrat appeared an advertisement that awoke memories: “Hemlock pump logs for sale, one and a half inch bore, ten cents per rod.” The logs were square or round, six inches in diameter. They were fastened in a revolving vise and a ten foot auger pushed into the center to make the hole through which was pumped dirt to keep them in place. A present day youth would comment, “How crude”, yet there was a time that villages and towns depended on this style of conduit for their water supply.
The Emmons and Nordmont Acid Factories
Strolling down memories lane with Frank Cox and Ralph King we recall that the acid industry in Sullivan County has been reconstructed upon its ruins. Thirty men return to their round the clock labors seven day per week, converting two hundred and eighty cords of four foot length hard wood into charcoal; the fumes and smoke from the baking are distilled into wood alcohol, acitate, acitone and naptha, the charcoal mixed with quick lime to become the base for smokeless powder and dynamite, the liquids used in many industries including dyes.
Fifty men with axes, saws and wedges and many teams of horses were employed the year round in the vast timber tracts, cutting the wood and delivering it to points along the twelve miles of standard gauge railroad used to transport the forest product to the vast stock pile covering ten acres at Nordmont. The company owned enough hard wood timber to supply the factory for a century.
The Emmons factory was started in the late 1880’s and closed in 1899 when Nordmont Company purchased the tract. In 1918 the Nordmont holdings were sold, the factory abandoned, and the machinery junked. The virgin hard wood trees were converted into lumber, the wastage feeding the wood working factories at Sonestown, and the second growth was left to become the prey of forest fires.
Depression years and C.C.C. camps revived the value of these tracts that at present produce logs of legal cutting size. Thus, readjustments together with new users for wood fibers and chemicals make possible a come back of this industry. It should be remembered that, considering long hours and heavy toil, the wages paid were far from liberal.
The Nordmont Acid Works
This old picture from the early twentieth century shows the "acid works" at Nordmont. Here, tannic acid (tannin) was produced from hemlock bark. Tannin was used to process raw hides into leather. The by-product of the process, other than tannin itself, was tan bark. This residue was the crushed hemlock bark remaining after the chemical extraction of tannin. The residue, in the form of a brown colored powder, was used to cover cellar floors, horse stalls, and arenas. In this photo, empty wagons are returning to the woods for more bark. The plant, located upstream of the town of Nordmont along Muncy Creek, was shut down and the equipment sold or abandoned in 1918.
Source: An old photo reprinted in the Sullivan Review, March 22, 1907
Ralph King, a life-long resident of Nordmont, is one of the few remaining blacksmiths still shaping useful articles with hammer and anvil. Though living on borrowed time he recalls that in early youth old folks long gone and forgotten pointed out locations of primitive acid and potash works in Davidson and Laporte townships. Very early in the 1800‘s potash plant was operated at Elk Lick by a Mr. and Mrs. Mange, first settlers at Nordmont. Lye was leached from hard wood ashes and boiled down to potash in an iron kettle brought from Potsville by Joseph Converse in 1828. This kettle is still in use and has served as a watering trough near the junction of the Laporte and Muncy Creek roads. Daddy Converse was Mr. King’s great-grandfather. Twenty-five years ago ruins of two acid or potash factories were still in evidence. One was located in Laporte Township near Nordmont, the other at the junction of the Rock Run Road between Muncy Valley and Eaglesmere.
The Modern Method
Dale and Carol Brotzman Farm
Tuscarora Township, PA
Photo courtesy of Carol Brotzman. This photo was selected for a spot in the Dairy Market Services calendar for 2006.
A Primitive Industry
Gazing over the steep embankment across the highway near the railroad station at Dushore one observes a series of walls, suggesting that a large building once occupied the vacant space. Inquiry revealed that in the 1890’s a hay merchant baled and stored hay for shipment to feed hungry mules in the Wilkes-Barre coal mines. Power to run the baler was supplied by a blind horse walking in an endless circle. Surplus hay was the money crop of small farmers all over the county. It found market in the villages where horses were kept for pleasure driving and cows found pasture in the village streets. Present-day farmers cutting and bailing hay with modern machinery in their fields have no memories of primitive methods. This industry was perhaps the only one in the county and the owners name has been forgotten.
Photo courtesy of Scott Tilden.
Source: An old postcard manufactured by C. M. Williams and auctioned on ebay in July 2011.
Addressed by "Davey" to Mrs. G. A. Miller in Scranton, the Back Side of the postcard bears a one cent stamp.
The Sullivan Silk Company
Financed by local capital, this enterprise was launched in 1899 and for fifty-two years provided wages, stable but never high, for men and women needing employment. Growth demanded expansion and the old foundry building near the High School was pressed into service in 1910. One hundred workers were employed. Nylon and rayon substitutes caused a decline in the market; high prices of raw material transportation difficulties and scarcity of laborers caused a suspension in 1951. This is still in effect. The brick building on Headly Avenue stands idle and none seem willing to predict whether operation will ever be resumed.
In the early 1900’s several manufacturing plants employing labor were wiped out by a fire in Dushore. They were located near the site now occupied by the G.L.F. building. They included the L. S. Burch Saw Mill and Grist Mill and the Barth and Kester Planting Mill. In 1940, the Tubach Furniture Factory and the Humphrey Manufacturing Co. building burned, These were later replaced by the Valley Lumber Yards.
This industry was established as a small creamery in 1907 by J. S. Harrington and his son Maurice. After the senior Mr. Harrington withdrew from the business it was conducted under the name of M. J. Harrington until April 1, 1919, when it was incorporated as Harrington and Company with the following officers: M. J. Harrington, President; E. M. Dunne, Vice-President; Mildred Harrington, Secretary.
Harrington and Company operated and expanded throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, with plants at Newark, N.J., Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Sayre, Wellsboro, Williamsport, and Dushore, Pennsylvania. The dairy products were processed and distributed in large quantities from the Dushore plant.
Milk was brought from over a thousand farms to receiving plants at Benton, LeRaysville, Rushville, Dushore, and Wilkes-Barre. Producers whose milk was processed and distributed by Harrington and Company were located in Columbia, Northumberland, Montour, Luzerne, Lycoming, Sullivan, Bradford, Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties. Over 400 employees were needed to carry on this dairy operation in its various phases.
The development of the company has had a definite and valuable influence on the economics of Sullivan County. In fact, dairying has been developed to a point where it is regarded as one of the chief assets of the county.
On April 1, 1946, Harrington and Company was sold to the Philadelphia Dairy Products Company, at which time various changes were effected in territorial operations. However, the general policy has remained very much the same. The new subsidiary company’s name since 1946 is Harrington Dairy Company.
The Dushore plant has been enlarged to handle over 400,000 pounds of milk daily during the surplus periods. The milk of various kinds, powder milk, cream and fluid milk. These products are sold throughout eastern United States. New ice cream branches have recently been opened in Jamestown and Portville, N. Y.
The local officers of Harrington Dairy Company at the time are: Vice-President and General Manager, A. F. Snyder; Treasurer, H. C. Thomas; Assistant Secretary, J. A. Boyle.
All equipment at the various modern plants of the company is new and very efficient design and make. The new company, with its affiliated companies, is in a better position than ever to capably handle the farm products of its many milk producers.
10, 1953 a flash fire of undetermined origin completely destroyed the warehouse
and garage at the Dushore plant, burning supplies and motor vehicles valued at
$70,000. Loyalty of the workers and
courage of the management overcame the difficulties involved without
interrupting service to customers or producers; the loss was taken in stride.
Editor's Note: On March 16, 2006, Edward Kelly of Washington, DC, a native of Kelly Hill near Overton, wrote:
In 1952, the "average" dairy had 12 to 15 cows operated by the owner who managed to make a living, pay for the farm, raise the kids, and have a few dollars to spare. Today, there are 31 dairy herds in Sullivan County selling milk in bulk tanks. Bill Hart operates a dairy of 175 cows. He farms on land that once comprised the tillable land of 14 small farms, about 400 acres total.
The article does not say so, but our cousin, Patrick J. Cullen, operates a dairy of 200+ cows. He farms land on Sugar Ridge once owned by his grandfather, Thomas M. Burke, and his great grandparents, Francis and Catherine Dorsey Leahy. My uncle Tom Burke's property included the Judge Bedford and Watson Fawcett farms as well as the Fulmer and Dorsey farms, and he had 100+ dairy cows in the 1950s! Pat Cullen farms also the land in Albany Township once owned by his grandparents, Lawrence and Agnes Leahy Cullen, and leases the farms on Kelly Hill owned by my sister and me that are the original James and Johanna Flynn Kelly and Daniel and Mary Leahy Kelly farms.
Farm of Dale and Carol Brotzman
Photo courtesy of Carol Brotzman
The Baumonk Lumber Company
The Baumonk Lumber Company started at Forksville in 1938 and is supplied with logs cut and hauled from all over the county on company owned trucks. This enterprise has grown until it currently employs sixty men in various operations.
The mill cuts 10,000 feet of lumber daily, which is manufactured into pallets, skids and assorted crates. The finished product is trucked to distribution centers within a radius of 500 miles.
Hon. Walter Baumont, County Representative in the State Legislature, owns and manages the business with the assistance of his two sons, Milo and Dudley. Fire, the bane of all wood-working factories, destroyed the factory building in 1950; it was replaced in 20 days without loss of employment to the workers.
The Sullivan County Pajama Factory
Starting in the early years of the now forgotten depression, the Joseph G. Smith Company, now the Weldon Manufacturing Company, makers of men’s fine pajamas, have sustained the morale of local family like by providing needed employment for women since 1914. The factory is located in Lopez; where in happier days of lumber and mining prosperity more money was distributed per capita than in any comparable area in Pennsylvania. Self respect and independence have been created for families that otherwise would have been on relief.
Faith in the Company’s stability and mutual understanding of difficulties faced by labor and management have eliminated labor troubles. Proof of the Company’s interest in their working partners is evidenced in music enjoyed during the working hours, a fine cafeteria in the building of Lopez with food sold at cost, and a fleet of Company owned buses furnishing transportation to and from the workers homes. The parent enterprise in Lopez had branched into four factories employing 180 skilled workers. All products are sent to the Company’s warehouse and headquarter in New York City for distribution over the world.
Keystone Shoe Company
Undated Old Postcard
Courtesy of Deb Wilson
Original is a Caulkins Postcard
The Keystone State Shoe Company
The Keystone State Shoe Company is owned and operated by the parent Endicott-Johnson Corporation, owners of forty factories and eight tanneries located in Endicott, Johnson City, Binghamton and Owego, New York together with five started in the last decade in Pennsylvania. This industry adds materially to local prosperity. One hundred and thirty men and women are employed at present with prospects of expansion. They make a moccasin type shoe, 240 dozen pairs are produced daily, the weekly payroll is approximately $7,000.00. Benefits include recreation facilities, pay for holidays, paid vacations, free medical and hospital service, pensions and retirement and profit sharing bonus paid to twenty thousand E. J. workers in all parts of the world, including former workers serving in the armed forces.
Built in 1947, the factory building, located in a natural park at the intersection of the Bernice-Lopez highways, is a cheerful sight to passing motorists and is less than thirty minutes by auto from every point in the County. It is constructed of steel and cement blocks and measures 260 by 120 feet with 31,200 feet of floor space. A fire fighting apparatus and sprinkler system are supplied with pure water from a spring near the factory. Cost of the building, approximately $268,000 was raised by the sale of bonds in Mildred and vicinity, cost of equipment by Endicott-Johnson adds another $250,000. This community, rapidly approaching the status of ghost town lifted itself by sheer force of cooperative willpower into lasting prosperity. This is the right place to insert a gem of late George F. Johnson’s rare human philosophy, “So long as children are born barefooted there will be an increasing demand for our product.”
The incredible story of the miracle of picking $268,000 out of thin air is best told by T. O. McCrakken, Superintendent of the famous Turnpike High School, and magneto of The Sullivan County Industrial Corporation. A group of neighbors by enthusiasm, sacrifice and grit accomplished the seemingly impossible task.
Mr. McCracken in an address delivered before the State Chamber of Commerce in the State Capitol April 25, 1947 said in part “
I point out to you that our county is one of the smallest in the State in area and assessed valuation. Our population numbers less than 7000. Our community with 1000 population is not even a borough and had no organized business group until the formation of our corporation nine months ago. We organized in August, 1946, with capital assets of $85.00 and have to our credit a single undertaking in which we were motivated by the ancient law of self preservation. To this end we interested the Endicott-Johnson Corporation in a plant in Mildred. The chief resources of our county are coal and lumber. In despair we faced the depletion of these assets and the decline of employment from 1300 to 150. We saw properties with no means of maintenance and ghost towns around us were vanishing from the map. There were not even any closets left to hide the ghosts. Fruitless attempts had been made by organization, finances, prejudices, jealousy and self-interest frustrated these attempts.
Depression years with 90% of our people depending on some form of public assistance for living brought recognition of our desperate plight and a unification of our efforts to improve conditions. The war years forced laborers to go abroad seeking employment and leaving their families here because of housing conditions. These exiles hoped to return to their homes. The lush war years brought temporary prosperity and a desire on the part of business interests to secure manufacturing plants to provide needed employment. Chief among these was Leo Exley for twenty five years an E. J. employee who has earned promotion to Superintendent of a large unit in Johnson City. His influence and cooperation are largely responsible for the location of the Keystone State Shoe Factory in his boyhood hometown.
He arranged our interviews with Mr. Charles F. Johnson. After countless difficulties and disappointments, the perseverance of the committee won favor with Mr. Johnson, who announced his company’s full cooperation when a suitable building was erected. The heroic sacrifice and super human efforts on the part of our citizens to meet these conditions and the willingness of the Endicott Johnson Corporation to meet this project more than half way are an important part of local history.
Names of all having a part in saving our village from oblivion would fill a large volume.”
May we break into Mr. McCraken’s speech to record a well known fact, that the names of T. O. McCracken, F. J. Bedinsky, the late William Gilmore. Carl R. Weed, John Charnitsky and Albert J. Exley would head this roll of honor.
“The permanent bee hive of industry with its present production sold in advance seems destined to grow and glow into a safe neon light, guiding our prosperity to knowledge of the truth that our county can provide all that is needed for a happy and successful future for the common people whom Abraham Lincoln has immortalized. It proves that national economic stability and individual happiness rest in the survival of hamlets, villages and small towns.”
Credit and appreciation were fittingly accorded to Forest W. Luse, first Superintendent of the new enterprise. There is a truism recognized by men and women experienced in mass production of shoes that successful operators of intricate shoe-making machines are born not made. For five trying years Mr. Luse trained new workers, trying them out on various operations until he had developed a smooth working force. Since all promotions in Endicott Johnson come from the ranks, his merited success won for him advancement. The workers planned for him a surprise banquet with the President and high officials of the company as guests. The happy event also honored his successor, Mr. Paul Avery, a local worker well fitted for advancement in the factory. Continued success and harmony are assured under Mr. Avery’s efficient management.
Warm words of appreciation are due Mr. Harold Johnson, General Superintendent of all Pennsylvania factories, a practical shoe worker and department director all his life. His personality enables him to iron out minor misunderstandings and prevent the unpleasantness so often evident in factories operated by other firms.
The latest benefit coming as a complete surprise to workers in the factories of the Keystone State Shoe Company is that they may borrow at 3% interest the initial payment on houses they wish to purchase.
The Muncy Valley Industries, Inc.
This firm is an organization of business men with vision; their charter enables them to manufacture products involving the use of wood, plastics, rubber, glass, steel and related raw material. The corporation was formed in 1948 and buildings erected on land once owned by the Muncy Valley Tannery. Several acres were donated by H. W. Bender and Mrs. Emma Hess, public spirited citizens interested in providing employment for neighbors and friends who own homes in the vicinity. The buildings are of cement and steel construction with steel framed windows. Painted white, the plant adds a sense of cleanliness and sanitation to the landscape. The buildings house up to date machinery for manufacturing reels ranging in diameter from 12 to 80 inches. The reels are used by manufacturers of wire rope and shipped in the Corporations trucks to users at distant points. The trucks return loaded with steel nails, enamel, chemicals and other materials used by the factory, and bought in car load lots. The reels leave the plant complete, lacquered green with yellow stenciling or knocked down as the trade requires. Reels are made of soft wood of legal cutting size.
The buildings are heated and the steam used is generated with sawdust and shavings. A dutch oven heating plant insures sanitation and reduces fire hazards. Officers of the Corporation are Hon. Walter Baumonk, President; Robert Armstrong, Vice-President and H. V. Lundy, Secretary-Treasurer.
The Baumonk Pallet Factory
The only manufacturing plant in Fox Township, the Pallet Factory, was started in 1949 by L. L. Baumonk, owner and manager. The saw mill and factory are of cement block construction, fire resistant. Six thousand foot of lumber are cut daily. The first class product and the second class hard wood made into pallets, platforms much in demand by the U. S. Navy, Postal Service and warehouses. Large quantities of cases or cartons are moved with lift trucks. The weekly payroll averages $700.
Mr. Baumonk is interested in various other enterprises; he owns and conducts the historic Campbell general store and is Post Master at Shunk; he also owns a large depot for building materials and a fleet of trucks. He is the youngest director of The First National Bank of Canton.
Oil and Gas -- We Hope
Oil drilling in Sullivan County began April 1851 on the Bennet farm against North Mountain, formerly the James Amders place. It lies neighbor to the place now owned by Don Taylor of Harrisburg, once the property of Dan Phillips. Work was sponsored by the California Oil Company, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil. The Company bought leases from property owners, some of five years but most of them for ten. The rental is ten cents per acre per year, with the usual agreement as to royalties should oil be found.
This area for miles around is under lease and there are also portions of Laporte township, Elkland and Forks. Modern methods such as the use of a rotodriller have brought the well to a depth of 15,000 feet. Geophysical prospecting had been done for years before any leases were asked. Drilling was stopped and the well capped after a year or more of drilling.
At this writing a new well is planned on the B. J. Broschart farm in Forks township by The Blue Rock Drilling Company of Bradford. This Company will operate under leases held by the same company that capped the well on the Bennet farm. The prospect of an oil boom should stimulate building of modern low cost homes to accommodate laborers, and should encourage the planting of food crops for the expanding market.
The Wreath Factory
The latest effort to provide employment for women in Sullivan County was launched in the old Company Store building in Muncy Valley, July 1953, by the Wreath Company of New Albany. The raw material comes largely from the forests and fields of Sullivan County and is chemically treated in the parent factory. The venture represents a small capital investment for equipment. No power machines are needed.
Fifteen women and one man are employed at standard wages, with the prospect of larger earnings when speed and skill is developed. The pay checks are welcomed in both business and domestic circles and a growing demand for the product together with an unlimited supply of raw materials insures the growth of the business.
In 1845, when Sullivan County was organized, there were no railroads within its boundaries. Its products, chiefly lumber and leather, had to be hauled to market by horses or oxen over long miles of roads that were rough and narrow, muddy, dusty, or drifted, as the seasons advanced. They were often impassible in places, and detours were necessary. Realizing the necessity for better transportation, far-seeing business men began to talk about a railroad that would aid in the development of the county and bring larger profits to themselves. Men had a keener sense of money-making since gold had been found in California and some of them determined to “pan gold” from opportunities to be found at home.
Foremost among such “Forty-niners” were two men of Laporte, Michael Meylert and W. A. LaPorte. They prospected a survey that was completed in 1851 for a railroad to be built between Laporte and Muncy. George Jackson of Dushore, and M. C. Mercur of Towanda, joined forces with them to construct another railroad from Towanda to Catawissa. Mr. Meylert was a large land owner and was also Sullivan County’s Representative in the State Legislature. In 1852 he introduced a bill authorizing the T. & C. Railroad. It was passed and, with it, a charter for the proposed Muncy Valley Railroad.
There were no multimillionaires in those days, nor friendly Reconstruction Finance Corporations. Sufficient cash was not available and local credit was stretched to the breaking point; so promoters were juggled and more stockholders added until their influence changed the Towanda and Catawissa into the Sullivan and Erie, later the Sullivan and State Line. The project was stimulated about this time by the discovery of coal at Bernice. Grading on this line began in 1867 and in 1871 was finished as far as Monroeton, where the Barclay Railroad ran the few remaining miles to Towanda. These tracks were used by the S.&L.R.R. Co. After 22 years of effort Sullivan County finally had a railroad that was linked on the north with the Lehigh Valley.
Incidentally, the S. & L. was extended twenty years later to the east to join the Bowman’s Creek Branch of the Lehigh Valley, thus making a route through to Harvey’s Lake in Luzerne County.
Mr. Meylert’s first active project was issuing stock for the Muncy Creek Railroad and Coal Company at $50.00 per share. Two shares were purchased by John F. Hazen of Sonestown at par. His granddaughter, Mrs. George Edwards, treasurers these certificates among her souvenirs.
Michael Meylert’s pet project had been shunted of the main track and Muncy did not want a railroad junction near her staid and quiet streets. But Mr Meylert was not discouraged. A point farther west, on the Philadelphia & Reading, was chosen as the terminal of the Muncy Valley Railroad. This was Hall’s Station in the midst of farming country; most of its people lay in a graveyard on the hillside. It was also nearer the thriving lumber city of Williamsport. In 1867 survey and construction were started at that place and by another year nine miles of rail had been laid. By then the funds were exhausted and work stopped, but the towns of Hughesville and Picture Rocks had been reached. These names were properly reordered at their respective stations and presently people of the area began to call them by their proper names instead of saying “The Burg” and “Yankeetown”.
By 1872 another company was organized to continue work on the railroad. Apparently it did little more than to bring rusty nails into the hands of receivers in 1881. Mr. Meylert’s death occurred in 1883. In the meantime the Muncy Valley Railroad had been bought by a group of Williamsport business men and re-organized into the Williamsport and North Branch Railroad Co. They chose Benjamin G. Welch as general manger. Mr. Welch was an astute business graduate with wide experience. Construction was resumed and by 1885 it had penetrated six miles into Sullivan County with Sonestown as its terminal.
The railroad was responsible for several new names along its route. Not the least among them was Tivoli, as it was christened when the village became a station. The name was later changed to Chaumoni, a grandiose cognomen that after a few years reverted to Tivoli. But its first name and the one most used was Dogtown. To this day you may hear oldsters in the neighboring localities speak of someone who “used to live in Dogtown.”
As the railroad advanced, its manager set crews to clear well-selected places along its route for picnic grounds, and the one that lasted longest was at Tivoli. Here a majestic outcropping of rock overhung the village and a regular feat of most of the picnickers was to “go up the rocks.” From that point the town and its populace were the Lilliputians while tiers of mountains stretched in front of them as far as eyes could see.
The picnic ground itself was furnished with crude tables and benches and even swings for the youngsters. There was a pavilion, too: its first floor had the usual seats and tables while the second floor was smooth enough for dancing. The place was popular for moonlight excursions and a real Mecca for Sunday School picnics. Moonlight excursionists usually held a dance, but church picnics were always held downstairs for in that day and district no Sunday School member dared to appear on a dance floor.
Beyond Sonestown the grading of the road was much more difficult for the road had to be dug out of the side of the mountain north of Muncy Creek and high enough to be above the Creek when the water rose by “splash” or flood. The labor was all done by hand. Pick, shovel and “dump cart” were the tools employed. The workers were Italians who occupied old deserted buildings and cooked their own food. Some gangs had an outside bake oven, but many of the men hired local women to bake for them, buying the flour and paying so much per sack for its baking. The Italians were friendly little men. Most of them had learned to speak a little English and being, for the most part, quiet and peaceable they left a good impression on the communities.
By the time the railroad reached Sonestown its wood-burning locomotives had been discarded. This was lucky for passengers who were in a hurry to reach their destination., for the supply of wood did not always last out the trip and sometimes travelers had to sit as patiently as possible in the coach waiting while the engineer and fireman betook themselves to the nearest fenced field and there replenished their fuel--from the farmer’s fence.
When the grading had gone so far beyond Sonestown that too much time was consumed in taking a work train over the line, the Company built new story-and-a-half shanties above Long Brook for the laborers. By this time a number of Hungarians had been added to the work list and scenes of drunken violence were frequent after payday. A climax to these came to one of the shanties where six men were sleeping overhead; in the course of a drunken fight, fire broke out below them. The men were trapped, for the two tiny windows held them inside. Their remains were buried in Cherry Grove Cemetery, above Nordmont.
The Nordmont terminal remained on the north side of Muncy Creek for years. In 1893 Buffalo capitalist formed a company, headed by John Satterfield and Henry Taylor, and the railroad was extended to Laporte and Dohm’s Summit; which later became Satterfield. The first task was bridging Muncy Creek. A long fill or approach to the high trestle was made on the northern side and a deep cut into the mountain rocks opposite, where for a short distance the track ran almost parallel with that on the other side of Muncy Creek. The result was a horseshoe curve that exceeded in grandeur the famous one west of Altoona, Pennsylvania. More adjourning mountains were united in like manner although these were wooden trestles that stood a few months and trains swayed over them while passengers shrieked, until in the course of time, embankments of earth were built beneath theme and the train passed on terra firma.
The station at Lake Mokomo served the town of Laporte high above the lake. Passengers to the county seat were transported up the steep winding road in Ben Crossley’s “hack”. More mountains lay ahead until Ringdale was passed and the end of the survey was reached.
The usual picnic grounds were built at Nordmont and Lake Mokomo, and the same sore of excursions were held, although neither was ever as popular as those at Tivoli had been. This was largely because many people were afraid of the trip through the mountains. After Satterfield became the junction with Lehigh Valley, thus making possible one long train-ride between Harvey’s Lake and points on the P. & R. R.R., occasional excursions were made from Williamport, Montgomery or other various places on that line over W. & N. B. and Lehigh to Harvey’s Lake, once known as Shawnese.
These excursionists were packed, often three in a seat, in a dozen or more old wooden coaches borrowed from the Lehigh Valley. Some of them had to start before sunrise and returned home about midnight, having been bumped, rattled, jolted and terrified into an ecstasy of enjoyment for hours on end.
A high financial point on the W. & N. B. occurred during the nineties. The lumber boom was then at its peak; four tanneries were located at Laporte, Thorndale, Muncy Valley and Hillsgrove. An acid factory was operated at Nordmont, and washboard and clothes pin factories as well as the Lyon’s Lumber Co.’s sawmill were located at Sonestown. All these shipped their output over the W. & N. B. Bernice also sent part of her coal down this line. In the year 1896 the stockholders realized $47,471.78 from their investment. That was real money then, with no mention of the now too often repeated phrase “after taxes.”
The romance of the Eagles Mere Railroad includes wild scenery, nature’s opposition, man’s determination and moonlight in roofed-over flat cars. Lewis Lake was opened as a summer resort after the railroad was built as far as Muncy Valley and Hillsgrove. Stages carried the passengers up the mountain from Muncy Valley to the new hotels and the new farm houses that accepted summer guests. Guests were likewise transported to Highland Lake from Tivoli. The growing popularity of both places produced a rivalry in which Eagles Mere became the favorite, and when increased business suggested a railroad it was Eagles Mere that the promoters considered. A company was organized in 1891. The “Big Four” were Harvey Welch, William Waddrop, Joel DeVictor and J. R. T. Ryan, with offices at Hughesville. They agreed to construct a three foot wide railroad (for no standard gauge could climb the mountain successfully) and have it operating within the following year. To encourage the Company and hasten the time of opening the road, hotel keepers of Eagles Mere offered the Company a bonus of several hundred dollars if the work was finished and a train running by the first of July, 1892.
Junction with the W. & N.B. was made at Sonestown. The survey led up the outlet of the lake and plunged deep into the forest a mile above town. Here, too, the real mountain began. No foreign labor was employed this time, local men and boys did the grading and laid the tracks. All went well, and there was every prospect of meeting the July first deadline. Then the hurricane struck. It was the first and only one remembered in that country. It destroyed much of what had been accomplished in construction and felled great trees across the way ahead, twisting and piling them up in gargantuan barriers.
More and larger gangs were called into service. They worked day and night seven days a week, with all too few weeks to go. But they rebuilt what had been ruined and cleared the way before them. During the last few hours of June 30th, the little engine with car attached was driven foot by foot over the newly laid tract until the last spike was driven and the workman jumped for his life. It was 11:59 P.M. “The train” had reached Eagles Mere and was blowing a loud screech of triumph.
Local men made up the new train crews and took charge of the passengers at the Sonestown station, assisting them into closed coaches or open cars, as preferred. Venturesome spirits preferred observation cars, locally known as “bird cages”, while the more meticulous, who feared the rain of smoke and cinders more than they enjoyed the scenery, were seated toward the front of the train. Many had come from Philadelphia on a through Pullman; that was attached to the afternoon W. & N.B. and would remain on a siding until the evening with berths made up for the night’s sleep, then return to the city and passengers would awaken in Philadelphia next morning. After this the station was closed. During the summer season this station was a real community center for the young folks of this and neighboring towns who went there “to see the train go out.” Romances began and thrived, and many a couple who met there stepped from that station platform into matrimony.
Five thousand dollars was the yearly leased paid to the W. & N.B. by the E.M.R.R. Its income was derived from transportation of forest products, coal and tourists. This source lessened as tourists took to automobiles and production of lumber and bark decreased. It was always a hazardous road, and sometimes a killer of its trainmen; the tracks were constantly in need of repairs. Finally, its liabilities so far exceeded its assets that if was forced to close down. The last train left Eagles Mere October 8, 1923. The picturesque narrow gauge with its fascinating way-stations of Geylins Park, Winona Falls, Castle Rock and Shanersburg became only a memory.
Editor's Note: The Eagles Mere Railroad was organized for business in 1890 and provided service from 1892 until 1923. Investors in the railroad could purchase first mortgage bonds with interest payments every April and october, and the principal to be repaid in October 1943. Of course, the company did not last that long and the enterprise went bankrupt in 1928. Here are pictures of part of a $100 bond from 1912 that was auctioned on eBay in February 2005.
First Mortgage Bond
Eagles Mere Railroad Company
$100 Bond Dated 1912. 30 year term.
Uncanceled. 41 of 60 interest coupons remain attached, with the first one dated October, 1922.
Source: eBay auction in February 2005
The same fate soon became that of the W. & N.B. Benjamin Welch had done his best for the little railroad even as he had done for the older one years before. He deserves special mention for his services, not only as General Manager of both railroads but for his civic value in Sonestown where he spent the last summers of his life. Through his sponsorship this village and Muncy Valley as well were supplied with electricity from the power house at Hunter’s Lake. Through him the church was inspired both spiritually and financially. He was an inspiration to ambitious young people. We can repay him only in service to others.
Until it, too, lost by the decrease in trade, the W. & N.B.R.R. had operated six passenger and three freight trains daily. Then on August 26, 1926, a brief announcement in one of the Williamsport papers stated that passenger trains would no longer be run. Freight continued to be carried with one passenger coach attached to the train for a few years; then service was reduced to one train daily and the caboose replaced the passenger car at the rear. This continued until October, 1937. During seventy years of service it carried 10,000 passengers, and at one time was expected to become part of a trunk line between Philadelphia and Buffalo. Today the record of the W. & N.B. is found only in crumbling grades, in stone abutments once bound together with bands of steel, and in hazy memories of men and women now facing the sunset of life.
There is still the spring that was saved by a woman’s iron will. Here is her true story:
Sarah filled her two pails; then stood up to take a long breath. She was tired and it was quite a piece to the house, father from the spring since the railroad had moved it to put a switch where it stood. That was years ago. Now they were at it again, going to bridge the creek and go on to Laporte and making a fill right above her so they could cross the big road and the creek at the same time. It was almost supper time. She’d better start home. She stopped to pick up the pails and saw dribbles of dirt rolling into the water.
“Hey, up there,” she called. “You’re getting too close to the spring.”
A man peered down at her and jabbered something she could not understand. She called again and again. Finally, the foreman appeared above her. “What’s the matter?” he called.
“Your men are too close, they’re filling up the spring.”
“Too bad, Mrs. Laird, but we have to go by the survey.”
“Warren Watrous, you know this whole settlement gets its water here.”
“Sorry, but it can’t be helped. That’s the survey.”
“But what will we do? We can’t drink creek water, and it goes dry in summer anyhow.”
“Too awful bad, but I can’t help it.”
Sarah had an inspiration. “Most quittin’ time, aint it?”
The foreman pulled a big watch from his vest pocket, “Time to quit now, but we‘ll have to go on in the morning.”
Sarah forgot she was tired. She almost ran with her two pails. She set a bit of supper on the table and put the coffee on the back of the stove. She changed into a clean calico dress, wrote a short note to Thomas, took her sunbonnet and slipped out through the woods behind the blacksmith shop so that Thomas would not see her and stop her. She looked up and down the road for sight of any Hungarian and seeing none, stepped ahead.
When it grew dark, she lit her lantern. Once something screamed in bushes beside the road and she swung the lantern back and forth and shouted, “Git out, you catamount, you.”
It was long miles through the forest to Laporte, but at last she saw a cluster of lights and knew she had arrived at her destination. The Mason house was dark and Sarah knew her first fear. “Meebe he ain’t home.” she thought. “Be‘ins he’s a surveyor, he might have to be away all night.”
But she knocked resolutely, presently a man’s head appeared at an upstairs window, “What’s wanted? He called. “Who is there?”
“It’s Thomas Laird’s wife.”
Mason came down stairs, his wife close behind him. “What has happened? Surely you didn’t walk out here alone?”
Muddy shoes, drabbled skirt, briar-scratched face and limp sunbonnet hanging down her back were an answer, but she shoved back her thin white hair and told her story…. “You surveyed it, Mr. Mason, can’t you change it?”
I’ll be there in the morning ahead of Watrous,” and Mrs. Mason broke in; “Stay all night, Mrs. Laird, and go back in the morning with him.”
“Much obliged, both of you, but I’ve got to get home tonight. Thomas won’t sleep a wink ’til I get there..”
“then I’ll hitch up and--
But her lantern wick was turned up again and she was gone, the light already dimming in the distance.
The new survey changed the railroad’s bed only a few feet, but the spring was saved and was still in use when Nordmont waxed-fat during the acid factory’s duration. Thought a few wells were dug, there was no water as cold as the spring water, nor has any yet been found. In recent years the State Highway Department has posted a sign above it “Cold Spring.” Thirsty wayfarer lean to its face. You may do so yourself if you cross the old covered bridge over Muncy Creek at Nordmont, going north. If you linger in the shade beside it, you may even see a woman walking towards it, pail in hand, as women have done since the first settler arrived more than a century ago.
SUBWAYS there were, too, in Sullivan county, moved by mule or man power, and later, by motor in the Bernice and Murray mines. They, too, have their memories and their stories.
ELEVATED RAILROADS consisted of high-balling over trestles at Ringdale and Nordmont. They provided a real thrill up-in-the-air, more terrifying than the airplanes of today.
The Underground Railroad
No history of Sullivan County would be complete without mention of its underground railroad. This was a secret passage used only at night and had its first station on the White farm near Hillsgrove. There the owners Mr. And Mrs. William Jackson *, welcomed runaway slaves who were transported by their son, John W. Jackson, to a station near Shunk, which was kept by a Society of Friends. From there the Negroes were taken to Canton, then to Elmira, and eventually to Canada.
John W. Jackson was the grandfather of a recent owner of the farm, George
Boyles, who was born there and often expressed the wish to die there. That wish, however, seems doomed. The death of his wife and his own illness
made necessary the sale of the farm.
The title held by the Jackson-Boyles family for more than a century has
passed into other hands.
* Editor's Note: In May 2009, Mike Clarke wrote us from Hillsgrove:
When Sullivan County was separated from Lycoming in 1847 it inherited a variety of roads from its parent. These included turnpikes, state highways, county granted roads, pioneer sled tracks, pack-horse trails and Wyalusing Path, this latter being one of the original Indian arteries of travel.
According to records the Wyalusing Path was first used by a while man in 1772, long before settlers appeared. The white man was Bishop John Ettenwein, who led a band of converted Indians across the county and the state to another Moravian Mission on the Ohio. Of what later became Sullivan county, the good Bishop wrote; “We entered a vast swamp. The undergrowth was so dense that it was impossible to see a man six feet distant. It took five days to traverse the way to the end of Muncy Creek which we crossed 36 times on our journey.”
We learn further that the Path came from Wyalusing to Dushore, crossed to the waters of Muncy Creek and followed it down to the Warrior’s Spring near Muncy where several more Indian trails intersected Ettenwein and his Indians having reached the Spring, they turned aside to the home of Samuel Wallis at Muncy Farm, established in 1769. Mr. Wallis was the first settler and the only one marked on the map of 1770. Here at Muncy Farm the group rested and had worship services before proceeding westward a few days later.
Wallis owned land not only along the Muncy Creek but a large acreage farther west. In 1780 he had the land surveyed and for the convenience of his surveyors opened the Wallis Pack horse trail which went up Muncy Creek to the foot of the Alleghenies and crossed the mountain near Highland Lake. It led down the other side to the waters of Loyal Cock and became the first route to Forksville and Hillsgrove. One historian brings the trail first to Forksville, and it is further claimed that in 1794 he extended the pack horse trail to Asylum, a settlement of the French a few miles below Towanda, made during the French Revolution and now known as Rummerfield.
The pack-horse trail up Muncy Creek became the Corson Road after four brothers of that name had built themselves homes several miles up the Creek in the woods, along its route. Generation of Corsons have since lived at the homestead. This Corson road was continued up Muncy Creek and its shown on the maps of 1825 and 1832 as following the creek as far as the waters of Lewis Lake Outlet. Maps of this date can be seen, as well as one of 1770, in the library of the Pennsylvania State College. Both of them trace a road following the creek but crossing the outlets where Sonestown now stands and taking off north, whereas the creek’s direction is northeast. Because the two maps are very small, it is impossible to say where the road led to Laporte or to Celestia or to neither location, as no settlements in what is now Sullivan are marked on either one.
The next map pf the state in the College library is dated 1847, the year that Sullivan county was cut off from Lycoming. It is much larger than the others and bears the name of Hughesville. There is no change in the road location, but below Hughesville a new one branches off to the Sock at Hillsgrove, going by Hepburn. Hillsgrove itself is not designated; in fact, the only two names north of Hughesville are Hepburn and Shinersville. The latter we know was on the turnpike, as will appear later on. Indications therefore, are that the route leading north in 1832 somehow became a part of the turnpike, probably at the point where the turnpike crossed the Sock beyond Laporte or somewhere farther north.
It is interesting to know that in the large map of 1847 the only towns marked on the roads in this entire section of Sullivan and Lycoming counties north of the West Branch are Hepburn, Shinersville, Hughesville, and Pennsboro, now Muncy.
Of all the other highways mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, the Genesee takes precedence chronologically. It was opened in 1880 or thereabouts between Pennsboro (Muncy) and the valley of the Genesee river in New York as an accommodation to the many emigrants going northward to new and more level land. Running almost north from Pennsboro it crossed the present Sullivan line between the southwestern angles of the county and reached Ogdonia creek. It followed the stream to the Loyal Sock and up these waters past Hillsgrove into Elk Run to Lincoln Falls. There it went over the ridge to King’s Creek, turned again near Eldredsville over another ridge to Milestone Run and so along to a branch of Towanda Creek where it joined other roads that led to the Towanda river.
That this road was well patronized is recorded by Edward Eldred who opened an inn near the present village of Eldredville. He states that 211 persons, most of them on horseback, had passed his place during the summer and until the middle of November, 1801.
Although there were already a few pioneers in Elkland, and paths down to Forksville, this was the first genuine highway into the section. Now that there was a route open, more settlers arrived and better means of communication were fixed between all of them. One of the new roads branched off the Genessee into Shunk where a grist mill had already been built by Joseph Hoagland. Settlers there increased likewise, lured by the offer of Phineas Bond, an English speculator who offered 100 acres free to the first 12 families to locate on his land.
For many years this road from Shunk to the Genesee and from other pioneering homes to the main thoroughfare were the only ones into Forksville. In 1820, a road was made from Bird’s saw mill in Forks to Millview and on north to New Albany. Five years after that, a road from Williamsport to Forksville was made and continued to the Turnpike running between the two Socks up to Birds. This gave that section access both north and south to outside points with a choice of two ways northward. The road to Lewis Lake had already been established, some historians claiming that the Wallace Pack Horse Trail had included Mt. Lewis. Whether this be true or not of the Wallis Trail, it is certain that Mt. Lewis and Forksville were united by a road after the glass factory started operation. Forksville is declared to have been a shipping base for Lewis glass as well for the products of the Roger Woolen Mill at Forksville in 1810.
A second route by which Lewis might have sent out his wares was down to Muncy over the Rock Run road. This ran between Mount Lewis and Corson Road, once the Wallis Trail. The Rock Run road was opened after Lewis had moved to the lake. It was made first to reach from the lake to the farm of Robert Taylor eight miles southwest. Taylor’s farm produce was hauled over this primitive way to Mount Lewis. Taylor himself made a road “over the ridge” down to the Corson road and so by more direct track to Muncy by way of Muncy Creek.
It is highly probable, though not historical, that Mount Lewis and the Derr settlers at Sandy Creek had a path between them. Just when the road from Derrs down to Muncy Creek was made had not been learned. It may have been after Sandy Creek became known as the home of the Phillips family in 1812, but David Richart who accompanied Col. Derr on the discovery of this base of North Mountain about 1808 or earlier is said to have built in 1817 the stone barn so long a landmark at Eagles Mere. Thus there is no doubt that were comings and goings between these places. Such an existing path may have struck the Wyalasing Trail about the place the present road “around the mountain” branches off from Route #220 at Beech Glen a few miles south of Muncy Valley.
But the settlers of Sandy Creek, Phillips home or Hemlocks, had an early road to Columbia county, their native soil. It was known as Northumberland road and developed in 1808 by their own labor. It must have been little more than an ox road and its practically the same route over which Benton in Columbia county is reached today, starting from Beech Glenn on #220 and passing North Mountain post office, which is still in Sullivan County, although Lungerville and other hamlets so reached are on the line in Columbia or Lycoming county.
Transportation in the northern and eastern parts of the county began in 1808, with the entrance of the Turnpike at Long Pond, now Ganoga Lake. This project had been chartered in 1806 as the Susquehanna and Tioga Company, with the right of way between Berwick and Newton (Elmira) “by the best and nearest route.”
Stocks were sold at $100 par, 10% payable at purchase, the remainder in installments. Toll gates were to be erected and tolls collected to provide revenue until the stock was retired. Tolls were charged according to what passed over the road. A two horse vehicle cost more than one with a single horse; the coach had a yearly contract and if droves of animals were taken over the route, the cost varied according to the “critter.” Cattle, sheep or perchance a flock of turkeys or a drove of hogs might be urged along by irritated men and dejected boys, as often happened on turnpikes father south.
The composition of the road was of earth and gravel like that of the “Pike” it joined by bridge at Berwick. This latter ran between Berwick on the east side of the river and Mauch Chunk. The route of the S & T led past the present location of Mildred to a mile or so below Ringdale, Cherry Mills, the Heverly settlements, Overton, Greenwood, Towanda and to Elmira.
Men who built the road lived in shanties and moved as work progressed. At the Sock, below Ringdale, Amos Ellis built a shanty boarding house and tried to start a town but was unsuccessful.
New laws concerning the turnpike were passed by the Legislatures of 1812 and 1815 and later Andrew Shiner contracted to build the road at $1150 per mile with extra for bridges; half of this was payable in land at $2 per acre. He hired sub-contractors for $800 per mile and $4 per acre if they took half their pay in land. A great many men took advantage of this to buy farms in Cherry which they cleared and which in some cases their descendents hold today.
Travel on this road was especially heavy when raftsmen down the river were returning home to Towanda or other river towns. They frequently used the coach which was drawn by four horses, horses being changed every 12 miles. Settlers entering the district also came in over the turnpike and a number of offshoots were made from it to shorten the distance to outlying towns. Such a one was the road cut over to Mt. Lewis in 1821. Later it became a mail route when Eagles Mere was granted a post office.
An important point on this road was the inn first known as Paynes, later as Fairchilds on Bahr’s Hill. From this place a road branched off to Wyalusing; another left the turnpike at the Sock crossing and followed the stream about six miles. This was made in 1820. Sometime later the latter was extended back to the “Pike” at Long Pond and so a considerable distance was cut off for travelers who were going east but did not care to make the curve northward where the route led past what is now Mildred.
A fourth road was made from the turnpike in 1842 starting at the Ellis place and going to the Elk Lick settlement then 14 years old. It was seldom used a that time but later a part of it became famous as the plank road to Thorndale. This occurred after the Thorndale tannery had been established about four miles from the Laporte end of the way. The planks were about eight feet long, laid on wooden rails and secured by foot long spikes. A few of these have been recently found by hunters, but the road itself, once groaning under two and sometimes four horse teams of leather, bark or hides, had entirely disappeared. Only a fast filling swath through the forest reminds us that an industry once flourished on this path; that a village was built around it and that children were born here and grew into honorable citizens of the county, among whom is our good friend, Miss Jessie Wrede, to whom we are indebted for much help in gathering data for this history.
Among those who early walked the turnpike were two adventurers from Luzerne county, Huntingdon township. The first two who left the highway and advanced into the wilderness westward from Long Pond were James Rogers and George Wilson. Leaving Springbridge, they kept on until they had discovered a magnificent stand of sugar maples. Before going back home they made sap troughs to use the following springs, and for a year or so they and others came across the North Mountain to make sugar. Then families came with the men and homes were established on the side of the mountain above Muncy Creek. Beginning in the early 1820’s the little settlement of Elk Lick gradually grew until the family farthest west was that of Patrick Bradley, an Irishman fresh from the old country. Pat was an industrious man who turned up his nose at the sugar makers “I ain’t a goin to stop makin’ sugar when the rest do. I’m goin to keep on all summer,” he announced.
In 1825 request was made for a road from Hiddlesons (the Sick farm) across the mountain to the Fishing Creek settlements and so on to Huntingdon, the former home of most of the Elk Lickers. The petition went through the Lycoming county court, but much of the work was done in the beginning by men from Huntingdon who went back and forth at sugar making time. A second road was built in 1835 along the side of the mountain to the Phillips settlement at Sandy Creek; this was by petition to the Lycoming county court. Both of these routes are much as they were originally; the second one, the Hiddleson-Phillips road was relocated in certain places and built nearer the foot of the mountain toward the close of the century. Traces of the old one still existed a few years ago, but there is no sign that it joined the trail up to Muncy Creek below Sonestown after the Hazen grist mill was built below Sonestown in the 1850’s.
There was however, an offshot from the mountain roadway down to Muncy Creek. It, too, was petitioned from Lycoming county court; it began at Buckborn Bridge near the Asa Speary place and went down the steep hillside to the land of Charlie Glidewell. This road is used today. It is the one that leads directly up the hill after crossing the Muncy Creek about one mile above Sonestown, the second one that leads to the mountain side farms above Sonestown after the crossing of the Creek has been made at the bridge a mile above Sonestown. Both are on the right going north. This route and its spurs have never been state highways, but the 1825 road to Huntingdon enjoyed that distinction only a few years after the county roads had become state controlled.
For many years travelers preferred this steep way and mountain road to the one later opened that ran up Muncy Creek, although it was longer and more tiresome. The Creek road was always rough and muddy in summer, and so icy and dangerous in the winter that its travelers were few and far between before the era of better roads began. Today it is in excellent condition--a part of the old Wyalusing Path. There are still nine bridges over it, and the small runs meeting it, on the seven mile route between the covered bridge below Sonestown and the one at Bear Run above Nordmont.
The “vast swamp” of which Bishop Ettenwein wrote as being in eastern Sullivan was not the only one of its kind. Much of the low land was flooded and for this beavers were responsible. Lakes and ponds bear evidence of these busy little rodents that were found by the hundreds when settlers arrived. A number of so called lakes now on the map were started by beavers. The pioneers killed them for their pelts and drained their “dams” which then became “beaver meadows” and were exceedingly productive. Drainage was slow and took time that the pioneers were loath to grant, especially when the swamp forbade passage between neighbors. These men who were fertile of brain as well as skillful of hand constructed what we call corduroy roads and so outwitted the beavers and Nature herself. These are the bad twin of the plank road. Made of sizeable logs, possibly eight inches in diameter and seven foot in length, they were laid side by side at right angles to the supporting log rails beneath. Long after the county was well settled, one occasionally came across such a road. The shake and jolt of a vehicle over the bumps that made the corduroy is even harder to describe than it was to endure--unless one had a fund of inbred profanity.
Except for those on the turnpike, the early bridges were made of poles. They might be only a footlog, and some streams had no bridges at all and had to be forded. Muncy Creek has a scarcity of everything. Its torturous course has already been mentioned and how its passage was dreaded and remembered is illustrated by the tale of “Daddy” Converse of Elk Lick who was slightly deaf and had frequently to go to mill down the valley. One day his grandson inquired of him “Are four times nine thirty-six?” the old gentleman shook his head dolefully. “Yes,” he said, “its is. It is awful bad crossin” creeks.”
Johnny Hazen built his grist mill below Sonestown after he had dug a race and so made two more streams to cross, as his mill was on the opposite side from the road up Muncy Creek. This was in the 1850’s. For years there was only a shaky span of planks over this creek but in the early eighties a covered bridge was erected. This bridge is still standing Repaired many times, it is one of two still to be seen along Muncy Creek’s course. The other is at Nordmont, and still a third is found at Forksville. So far as is known, these are the last in this section of the state.
There were other roads in the county before it was cut off from Lycoming, but these mentioned seem to have been the most important. Pioneer paths, of course, were in use for years through woods where people wanted to “take a short cut,” but they are not recorded or of sufficient value to the public to be named. The main ones of that day are still the main ones of today with allowances made for relocations and improvements.
In 1874 when Sullivan became a separate unit, the state road laws of 1840 were in force and so continued until 1890. Included in these was the township system. By it the citizens petitioned the court for a new road between such points as they deemed necessary and this petition was turned over by judges, or viewers who he appointed. If no adverse petitions of sufficient weight were received and if the viewers reported favorably, the new road was let to bids by contract at so much per rod.
Once finished, the new road, as well as all other township roads, was under the care of a supervisor elected by the voters for one year. He had authority to decide on road improvements, hire workers, levy and collect “road taxes” and to permit taxpayers to work out those taxes by assisting him on the road on such days as he chose to work. These workers received $1.25 per day, this amount to be deducted from their assessment.
In certain sections, this was the era of the road machine. Enthroned on it, lordly state, sat the supervisor while teams dragged the red behemoth up and down the road he was supposed to be improving. Back and forth they went, cutting down the bank on one side, plowing up the earth on the other. A crew of men went ahead with shovels and picks, digging and throwing into the ditch such stones as lay in the path of the machine; behind came a second group of taxpayers similarly armed. They worked in the gutter and gravely tossed back into the road the same stones their forerunners had cast out. The result was that stones heretofore firmly fixed now became a rolling menace, and the condition was so much worse than before that if it chanced to rain, and the work had been done on a “dug road”’ all pedestrians (and almost everybody walked in those days) were forced to climb and cling to the hillside.
But in spite of difficulties, these roads were an improvement on the first ones, which were little more than widened horse trails. Stumps were often left standing in the road, if the tree had not been cut close to the ground. Rocks aslant sent vehicles at a terrifying angle, and dense branches kept out the sun, leaving perpetual mud holes so deep that detours were made around them. The roads were all narrow; often there was barely room for two “rigs” to pass and upsets were common. Vehicles sometimes stuck fast in the mud or froze fast in extremely cold weather. The hills were ungraded and so steep that men walked up to save their horses. The little ridges across a hilly road (“Thank you, Ma’ams”) not only turned aside water but provided a resting place for weary animals toiling up the hill.
There were no waterways. Outside the county the Sock broadened, but it was not navigable though Daniel Ogden paddled his family down its course when settlers came within a few miles of them. This is the only record of its use. Pioneer Ogden retreated before the country began to fill up. The waters of Muncy Creek have always been too shallow to afford any sort of craft.
After the county was formed, the first state road surveying was done in 1850. It ran a road from Sugar Run to Dushore past Colley Corners. There was little difference between any of the state roads and those of the township until the agitation for better roads was inaugurated by the bicycle craze of the nineties.
There are a number of reasons for the unspeakable plight of the highways; some are worth discussing. First of all, life was geared to a slow tempo; the turnpike speed was an average of ten miles per hour. Railroads were swifter, but half of the county was not served by the iron horse and still depended on those of flesh and blood. Churches and schools were within walking distance of everybody who cared to go to either one, and the public was slow to realize the school and economic value of intercourse with folks beyond its own orbit. Change came with the new century.
We like to think that part of that change--a large part of it--was the result of progress made in education beginning in 1896 with a summer school for teachers. The inspiration of educated men from notable centers of learning, communicated itself in some abstruse way to the people and created a demand for better schools in the county. The compulsory education law helped, as did also the setting up of high schools. All these required better roads to the school house. Rural mail delivery was another demand for an open road at all seasons. Economic and social values rose in public esteem, and finally, the automobile produced a race of drivers with cars full of people who were determined not “to take the other fellow’s dust”. The lethargic mind of the rank and file had become alert to their frustrations of travel and insisted on improvement.
New Jersey had organized a Department of Highways in 1891. Pennsylvania followed suit and approved state aid to counties in 1893. Following legislature made further improvements in which Sullivan shared and by act of one legislature, during the term of Governor Sprout, the county was given one half cent per gallon of all gasoline tax collected within its borders.
The year 1906 saw the first concrete road in the county. It extended from Bernice to Lopez.
The next spot of concrete reached from Colley to Saxe’s Pond, one mile. This was in 1911 and it was made of water-bound concrete. In 1914 the two miles from Lopez to Murraytown were paved. In 1918 a three mile section from Laporte to Ringdale was set with bricks, these being deemed a better surface, for horses on a hill than concrete. These seven and one quarter mile were increased and extended to other parts of the county by PWA labor, as Federal relief added its grant to the obligation of the State.
The map of 1911 shows interesting variations in roads that were then state controlled, both in number and location. According to this map, Route #220, the chief one listed on today’s highway map, did not go directly from Sonestown to Laporte but continued on the old Wyalusing Trail up the creek to Nordmont. It crossed the stream three times before turning left at Cherry Run to go under the old railroad fill and join what was then a township road, now the main #220, about two miles south of Laporte. Over this same route then went Route #16 from Laporte south as far as Long Brook. At that point it broke off to go up Long Brook and over North Mountain, and join the old route which had been made across from Hiddlesons in 1825. Route #16 has been abandoned as a state road but is still in good repair although it would have been hard to find a worse road than it was before the turn of the century.
Another road leading out of Laporte in 1911 was #29. This went down to Forksville, up to Lincoln Falls and down to Hillsgrove before passing out of the county. It, too was an overlay of one of the early highways. Route #17 left Laporte and led to Bernice where it divided, one section going to Lopez, Murraytown and Ricketts, the other north to Mildred, Shinersville, Dushore and up to New Albany. This same map shows no road at all between Forksville and Shunk, although we have seen that the Genesse road was part of the link between these two towns before Sullivan became a county, and was probably the equal of any other township channel in the area. Route #2 is shown as the old Northumberland road between the Phillips homestead and Benton. It continues from the Phillips place down to Beech Glen, where it becomes a part of #220.
Two much time and space would be required to list the many relocations between then and now. Most changes are minor and all are for the better. Curves have been eliminated; hills have been leveled; footage has been widened, in many places sufficiently to allow cars to be parked so their occupants may view the magnificent stretch of mountains, rising tier upon tier from green to hazy blue; and side road rests have been added for the convenience of picnicking parties who drive into them provided with hampers of food.
All this and much more that cannot be recorded, has been accomplished in the past forty years. Both settlers and law makers deserve credit. Among pioneer surveyors and road-builders was Ulysses Bird, of Elkland township. From his files comes part of this data. He was the fourth of his generation to labor for the benefit of Sullivan County by easing its hardships for the highway itinerant, and well deserves a place beside the ancestor who helped to settle it.
Gifford Pinchot, too, whose campaign slogan when running for governor was “to take the farmers out of the mud”, deserves more than a passing tribute. To be sure his “black-top” roads were not all that was expected of them. A layer of gravel with asphalt spread over the surface was not permanent, but his efforts were the spark, the stimulus, that brought research for something better. During his first administration, 1923-27, automobile owners were laying up their cars for the winter, and operating them only in summer in Sullivan county. It was during Pinchot’s term, too, that the Highway Patrol was organized and the law passed by which roads in boroughs benefited by state maintenance.
Since that time every political campaign in the state has included highway improvement among its promises; some have even fulfilled them. Governor Earle merged the Motor Patrol with the State Police, organized in 1905. During Governor Duff’s time the school bus stop law was enacted, and farmers were given certain refunds on gasoline money. Other administrations have kept pace as occasions have demanded.
In 1944 Sullivan had 194 miles of improved roads. Today there are 85 miles of improved highways and 206 of paved ones. There are no dirt roads under state regulation. Pennsylvania claims that it has a greater system of state-maintained farmer-to-market area than any other area in the world; that 98.4% of all year-around dwellings are on improved roads. Sullivan County’s percentage is not given, but according to our knowledge of conditions, it is safe to assume that the ratio is not far short of other less mountainous districts.
Today there are 100 employees in the State Department of Highways of Sullivan county. Included are laborers, foremen, caretakers, mechanics and operators, janitors, supply clerk, stenographer, bookkeepers, engineer, garage foreman, superintendent and assistant superintendent. The present superintendent is Sidney Peale of Eagles Mere; Wilfred Buck of Laporte is assistant superintendent.
To all these and their predecessors are due grateful thanks from home folks and from all others who use our smooth highways over Sullivan’s Endless Mountains.
Ancient snapshots of the long covered bridge the entrance to the wooden bridge that carried the narrow gauge railroad over the Sock at Hillsgrove recall landmarks that, in the next decade, may have disappeared from the local scene. Thirty of these structures spanned our streams in the gay nineties. Five are still in use; all are off the main roads and considered unsafe for heavy trucks. They are located at Forksville, near the Rinker farm, Bridge View in Hillsgrove twp., Campbellsville in Elkland twp., at Nordmont and on a North Mountain crossroad near Muncy Valley.
Before the age of steel and concrete, construction of a covered bridge demanded engineering skill that was seldom acquired in colleges. The name of Sadler Rogers should be immortalized by a bronze plaque in memory of his many contributions to bridge construction and primitive highway improvements, notably the bridge at Forksville built in the 1850’s. In his eighteenth year, Sadler Rogers carved parts with his jack knife and assembled a perfect model; from this plan he supervised the building of this wooden bridge that is still in use with more than a century of use to its credit.
Ten years later, a veteran of the Civil War, he accomplished what wise neighbors deemed impossible by blasting a narrow road around a cliff, thus shortening the distance to Hillsgrove two miles. His workers used scaffolding built of logs while drilling holes in the cliff. This project netted Mr. Rogers less than fifty cents per day for labor and supervisions. The road was black-topped in the late twenties and is still used by sportsmen and sight-seeing tourists at their own risk.
Reprinted 1993 by the Sullivan County Historical Society at The Sullivan Review Press, Dushore, Pennsylvania
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