Fred (Frederick Charles) Brenckman.

History of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, online

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Online LibraryFred (Frederick Charles) BrenckmanHistory of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, → online text (page 23 of 44)
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of the township, the greatest and most destructive
was that which began near the mouth of Mud run on
May 14, 1875. The fire burned slowly for eight days,
when a strong wind came from the west, and in a few
hours mills, houses, sawed lumber and standing trees
for miles about were reduced to ruin. The ravages of
the flames were not confined to this immediate section,
the fire spreading eastward into Monroe county and
doing much damage there. This was a great blow to
the prosperity of the township, and each decennial
census since that time has shown a decrease in its


population. In 1880 the district had 653 inhabitants,
but in 1910 the number had dwindled to 417.

Much of the unimproved land now produces large
crops of huckleberries annually, and the gathering and
marketing of these berries has become a source of con-
siderable income to the people of the district. Among
the natural products of the township are building sand
and ochre.

While the large timber has now practically disap-
peared, much mine timber is still being shipped.

One of the principal points of interest in the town-
ship is the hatchery of the Penn Forest Brook Trout
Company, which is situated at the junction of Hell and
Wild creeks. This is one of the largest hatcheries of
its kind in the world, and was established in 1895 by
H. A. Butler and W. A. Leisenring, of Mauch Chunk.
The land on which it is situated was purchased from
William Sebring. Additional purchases of land were
made from time to time, and the entire tract now con-
tains several thousand acres. A portion of this has
been inclosed as a deer park. The hatchery was for a
period under the immediate supervision of Nathan R.
Buller, now Fish Commissioner of Pennsylvania, and
regarded as the foremost trout hatcher in the country.
The controlling interest in the property has changed
hands a number of times since the establishment of the

About the year 1861 Samuel Donner commenced the
distillation of wintergreen here. Many others have en-
gaged in this business, as well as the distillation of oil
from the birch, since that time.

The oldest tavern now in the township is the Stony
Creek Hotel, which was opened by Enos Koch, one of
the first settlers, and kept by him for about half a cen-
tury. The present owner is J. J. Smith. A new build-


ing, replacing the original, was erected in 1860. About
1838 Frederick Suter opened the Hunters' Hotel on
the Pocono mountain, and on the state road leading
from Emmetsburg to White Haven. He remained the
landlord until 1850, when the place passed into other
hands. It was in this hotel that a recruiting officer of
the government was shot during the Civil War. The
shot was fired from without through a window by a
person whose identity has never been discovered. The
building is now occupied as a farm house.

The Idlewild Hotel, on the road to Mauch Chunk,
was first kept by Frank Eckhart, who secured a license
for the place about the year 1890. The original build-
ing was destroyed by fire, while the present house was
built by J. F. Christman who has been succeeded as the
landlord by W. H. Bauder.

The township early accepted the free school law,
and in 1844, a year after the organization of Carbon
county, three schools were in operation. At present
there are only two, one being situated at Meckesville,
in the eastern portion of the district, and the other on
Drake's creek, in the western end of the township.

Christ Lutheran church is the only house of worship
in the township. It is located on the road leading from
Mauch Chunk to Albrightsville, and was erected in
1883 on land donated by John W. Reed.


One of the most far famed spots in eastern Pennsyl-
vania is Summit Hill. It was here that the old hunter,
Philip Ginter, accidentally found anthracite coal in
1791. The town is about nine miles distant from
Mauch Chunk, and is situated near the summit of
Sharp mountain at an elevation of more than sixteen
hundred feet above sea level. This point of vantage


furnishes a commanding view of the surrounding
country for many miles, while the air, scented with the
fragrance of the verdure of the hills, is pure and in-

The surface of the soil here is covered with white
gravel, lending an appearance of neatness and clean-
liness to the streets of the borough not usually found
in coal mining communities.

This general locality was formerly known as the
*'01d Mines," because it was here that operations were
first begun in the anthracite coal region.

It was in 1818 that the Lehigh Coal Mine Company,
the forerunner of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation
Company, began active operations at Summit Hill, but
years elapsed before the settlement thus started pre-
sented the appearance of an established town.

One of he earliest residents was James Broderick,
who came to the locality in 1821, bringing with him his
wife, the first woman to make her home in the embryo

Other early settlers were Patrick Breslin, the grand-
father of Andrew Breslin ; Kobert and Andrew John-
son, and Joseph Gormley, the latter being accompanied
by his wife and nine children.

In 1826, there were but five houses in the vicinity,
while four of these were situated west of the present
site of the town. All were constructed of logs, and
that of James Lehman, a foreman, was the only one of
the five which was two stories in height.

The point where coal was first mined or ''quarried"
is a little to the southwest of the built up portion of
the borough. Lying south of Railroad street, and di-
rectly in the rear of the Summit Inn is a large bank
of clay; this was formed in layin'^ bare the first an-
thracite coal produced in commercial quantities in the


world. Here it was that that giant industry, which has
been such a potent factor in transforming our civiliza-
tion, bringing material comfort and greater happiness
to millions, had its birth !

Summit Hill did not begin to present the appearance
of an established town until late in the thirties, when
the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company built many
houses for the use of its employes.

It was not until ten years later, however, that lots
were sold and individual enterprise was permitted to
assert itself.

Among the first purchasers of lots were : J. Edward
Barnes, Nathan Patterson, D. D. Brodhead, Jacob
Minich, Charles Hoffman, James Denton, Merritt Ab-
bott, and Daniel Minich. In 1850 Abram Harris
bought a lot upon which he erected the Eagle Hotel,
which is still standing. Merritt Abbott and Alexander
Lockhart in 1851 secured title to a piece of land upon
which they built a foundry. This building stood for
about twenty years, when it was destroyed by fire, and
was never replaced. The development of the mines
was naturally followed by the establishment of mer-
cantile houses and other places of business, resulting
in due time in the growth of a village of fair propor-
tions on the mountain top.

In the early days of mining in this vicinity, leasing
and the giving of contracts was practiced to some ex-
tent. Among the prominent contractors were: Asa
Packer, Daniel S. Bertsch and Company, E. A. Doug-
lass, A. A. Douglass, Holland, Barber and Company,
and Belford, Sharpe and Company. At one period the
mines were leased to the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre
Coal Company. Most of these contracts or leases ex-
pired in January, 1866, a few continuing a year after
that date. With unimportant exceptions, the mines


have since been worked directly by the Lehigh Coal
and Navigation Company.

With the opening of the mines in the Lansf ord basin,
lying in the valley below Summit Hill, two inclined
planes were built to carry the coal from the valley to
the summit, whence it was conveyed to the Lehigh over
the Switchback Kailroad which was constructed from
this place to Mauch Chunk in 1827. The first of these
planes was placed in operation in 1846. The second
connected with the mines at Coal Dale. The building
of the Nesquehoning Valley Eailroad, which was be-
gun in 1861, together with other causes, operated to
draw life from the older town on the mountain and
bestow it upon the younger rival, Lansf ord, in the val-
ley below. Upon the completion of this railroad, which
later was absorbed by the Jersey Central system, coal
was no longer shipped by way of Summit Hill. In 1870
the construction and repair shops of the Lehigh Coal
and Navigation Company were removed from Summit
Hill to Lansford.

The driving of Spring tunnel during the forties
marked the beginning of underground mining in this

Perhaps the most far famed curiosity of the region,
and the principal attraction of Summit Hill, is the
Burning Mine, which was discovered to be on fire on
February 15, 1859. This mine was opened in
1850. The progress of the fire has been in a westerly
direction from the town, and during the half century
of its existence it has traversed approximately a mile,
consuming millions of tons of coal in its slow but deso-
lating march. Eepeated efforts have been made to ex-
tinguish this devouring under-ground conflagration,
and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company has ex-
pended vast sums of money in that endeavor. Quite

■IL. J"-


naturally the first attempt made to quench the fire con-
sisted in flooding the mine with water ; but, surprising
as it may seem, it was not successful, the heat being so
intense as to convert the rock bordering upon the coal
into a molten mass, which on cooling, crumbles to
pieces. The plan next tried was that of cutting off the
vein and boring holes down to the coal in advance of
the fire, and then filling these with water, mixed with
culm, or coal dirt. This scheme also proved a failure.
There being grave danger of the fire eventually spread-
ing to the mammoth workings of the Lansford basin,
turning the whole Panther Creek Valley into one vast
volcano, another heroic effort was made to head it off,
and it is hoped that this may be successful. The
method last employed was to cut a trench across the
vein and to build a solid clay barrier twelve feet wide,
reinforced on either side with walls of concrete, within
the opening. The execution of this plan, which was
conceived by W. A. Lathrop, president of the Lehigh
Coal and Navigation Company, involved a great engi-
neering feat, while requiring the outlay of hundreds of
thousands of dollars. The work was completed in 1010.

The origin of this famous fire is not positively
known, and the stories that are told concerning its be-
ginning are various. According to one account it was
started by some boys who were playing on the slope,
building the fire to warm themselves. In the early days
of underground mining, it was a common practice to
have a stove burning at the bottom of a ventilating
shaft in order to create a draft of air toward the sur-
face, and some well informed men hold to the theory
that the mine was set on fire by the accidental upsetting
of one of these stoves.

One of the landmarks of Summit Hill for many
years was the old town hall, which also served the pur-


pose of an armory. It was erected by a stock com-
pany, known as the Town Hall Association, which was
organized in 1854, principally through the influence of
Merritt Abbott and J. J. Wintersteen. Its walls were
of stone, and in appearance it resembled a French bas-
tile, being flanked in front on either side with towers
of solid masonry, each of which contained four long
and narrow windows.

This building became the home of the Carbon Guards,
a military company commanded by Wintersteen.

At the breaking out of the Civil War, the Guards
went to the front, but so few of the men returned that
the organization was disbanded. Later, the building
was used as an armory by Company F of the Ninth
Regiment, National Guard of Pennsylvania. About
1890, the hall was purchased by the municipality, and
an addition was built to it for purposes of a fire house.
The interior of the structure, which stood on the site
of the present town hall, was destroyed by fire on
March 25, 1908. The stones forming the walls were
used in building the foundations of the Citizens' Na-
tional Bank of Lansford.

Summit Hill formed a part of Mauch Chunk town-
ship until January 14, 1889, when it was incorporated
as a borough. At the first election, which was held in
the town hall on the 19th of the ensuing February,
Joseph Richards, a successful business man, now liv-
ing at Slatington, was chosen as chief burgess. For
years the borough was divided into four wards, but in
1911 it was reduced to three.

The postoffice here was established on February 6,
1832, Richard Hay being the first postmaster.

A building housing all the schools of the place was
erected in 1875. This, with an addition which was
added, is still in use. Close by stands the magnificent


new high school building, one of the finest structures of
its kind in Pennsylvania.

It is admirably adapted for the purpose which it is
intended to serve, and was built in 1911 at a cost of ap-
proximately ninety thousand dollars.

A new town hall, replacing that destroyed by fire
was put up in 1908. The ground floor of this building
is given over to Diligence Fire Company, No. 1, which
was chartered in the fall of 1897.

The borough is supplied with water by the Summit
Hill Water Company, which was chartered in 1876.
The principal source of supply is an artesian well in
Bloomingdale Valley, where a pumping station is main-
tained. A large storage reservoir is situated on top
of the mountain, sixty-five feet above the level of the
town. George Kline was the first president of the
water company.

A modern sewer system, costing $60,000, was but
recently built by the borough. Summit Hill has been
electrically lighted since 1894, the service being fur-
nished by the Panther Creek Valley Heat, Light and
Power Company, of Lansford. In 1897, the line of the
Tamaqua and Lansford Railway Company, an elec-
trical road, since absorbed by the Eastern Pennsyl-
vania Railways Company, was built into the town.

The principal hotels in the place are the Eagle and
the Summit Inn. The former has already been men-
tioned as having been built in 1850 by Abram Harris,
while the latter has been open for the accommodation
of the public since 1908, and is owned by T. E. Davis.

In 1873, Daniel Eveland and Robert Harris began
the publication of the Weekly Intelligencer, the first
local newspaper. It was issued for about two years.

During the fall of 1879, J. W. Malloy and P. F.
Gildea established the Summit Hill and Lansford Rec-


ord. Gildea retired from the firm in 1880, while Mal-
loy removed his printing establishment to Lansford in
the spring of 1884.

The Miners' Bank was organized in 1873, Anthony
Snyder being its president, and its capital stock being
fifty thousand dollars. In the fall of 1880 the bank
was transferred to Lansford; it was closed in 1883,
and its affairs were adjusted by assignees.

The Homestead Building and Loan Association,
which has been remarkably successful from the start,
and through the agency of which many of the people
of the borough have become the owners of the homes
in which they live, was organized in 1893. The assets
of the association at the end of its first fiscal year
amounted to $18,130.00, while in 1911, at the close of
the eighteenth year, the total had reached $387,000.00.
Excepting a period of four years, E. E. Scott has been
the secretary of the association since the beginning.

The Workingmen's Building and Loan Association,
which was chartered in 1906, is also in a flourishing

The adherents of the Presbyterian denomination
appear to have been among the first to take up church
work at Summit Hill, and the congregation they
formed was one of the pioneer religious organizations
of the Lehigh coal field. As early as 1835, Robert
Henry, a Covenanter, organized a Bible class at the
boarding house of Alexander McLean, also a Presby-
terian. During the following year, James Edgar
settled in the community and assumed a prominent
part in the weekly assemblages, which partook largely
of the nature of prayer meetings. Among the first
missionaries here was Rev. Richard Webster, for many
years thereafter pastor of the Presbyterian church at
Mauch Chunk. During the summer of 1836, Rev. Web-


eter induced Andrew Tully, a young theological student
at Princeton to come to Summit Hill to teach school
and to organize a Sunday school. The latter was es-
tablished in July of that year, and was led for three
successive summers by the young student. Later, G.
W. Smith, of Mauch Chunk, revived the school and
served as its superintendent. The church itself was or-
ganized on April 19, 1839, and was termed the Presby-
terian church of Summit Hill and Tamaqua. It began
with twenty-eight members, four of whom resided at
Tamaqua and the remainder at Summit Hill. In May,
1844, the congregation became independent of Ta-
maqua and was named the First Presbyterian church
of Summit Hill, Rev. A. G. Harned becoming the first
regular pastor. The congregation worshiped in the
school house until 1847, when a church building was
erected. This edifice was enlarged and improved in
1872, while the present brick structure replaced it in
1895. The Sunday school, which was the forerunner of
this church, has had but two superintendents in over
sixty years. J. M. McCready, who succeeded Nathan
Patterson as superintendent, has served in that ca-
pacity since 1878.

Missionaries of the Roman Catholic church paid oc-
casional visits to Summit Hill as early as 1826. Sub-
sequent to 1832 the priests stationed at Pottsville and
at Tamaqua came here quite frequentlj^ In 1849 the
Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company donated a piece
of land for the erection of a church and for purposes
of a burial ground. Under the leadership of Rev.
Patrick J. Hennegan the church was built soon there-
after. It was named in honor of St. Joseph. Father
Hennegan 's name is one of much prominence in the
early history of Catholicism in this region, and he
ministered to the spiritual wants of his people over a


large extent of territory. The first resident pastor
was Father Manahan, who came in 1852. During the
term of service of Eev. James WjTin, late in the seven-
ties, a handsome parochial residence was built. The
cornerstone of the present church edifice was laid on
June 21, 1881. The new church was dedicated on the
10th of December of that year by Rt. Rev. J. F. Shana-
han, Bishop of Harrisburg. St. Joseph's church is the
mother of St. Ann's, of Lansford, and of St. Mary's, at

St. Philip's Episcopal church was once commonly
known as the "Bell Church," because it was then the
only house of worship in this vicinity equipped with a
bell. The first baptism recorded in this parish was
performed by the Rev. Peter Russell, September 13,
1845, although a parochial organization was not ef-
fected until November, 1849. The cornerstone of the
church building was laid on the first Saturday evening
of July, 1850, by the Rt. Rev. Alonzo Potter, Bishop
of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. He was assisted by
the rector, the Rev. Peter Russell. In 1882, during the
incumbency of Rev. Charles E. Fessenden, the church
was remodeled and improved. Like most churches
planted in mining towns, St. Philip's has suffered
greatly from removals. During its history many
prominent coal operators and other influential men
have been connected with this little parish.

St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran church had its be-
ginnings about the year 1849. Prior to that time, loyal
Lutherans walked from this place to Tamaqua every
Sunday to attend services in a church of their own de-
nomination. Upon the organization of the congrega-
tion here by Rev. Oberfeld, of Tamaqua, services were
for a time held monthly in the Presbyterian church.
Services were also conducted in the old schoolhouse.


In 1865, the Reformed and Lutheran people erected
a union church in which both worshipped until 1880,
when the Lutherans secured the old German Methodist
church, and thereby became independent. For some
years the congregation had no regular pastor, and was
served by theological students. In 1897, during the
pastorate of Rev. H. C. Erbes, the present church was
erected. The corner stone was laid on September 5th
of that year, while the dedicatory services were held on
the 12th of December.

The First Baptist church was built in 1852. This was
the mother of the churches of that denomination at
Nesquehoning and at Lansford. Its membership has
been greatly depleted by deaths and removals.

St. Paul's Reformed church was organized by Rev.
John Eichenbach. He came here from Allentown in
1856, serving the congregation for about twenty-five
years. As has already been shown, the Reformed and
Lutheran people of Summit Hill worshipped together
until 1880, a union church having been erected in 1865.
The Reformed congregation became the sole owner of
this property, upon the withdrawal of the Lutherans.
In 1904 a handsome new church was built, and the so-
ciety to-day is thriving and prosperous.

The members of the Methodist Episcopal church also
maintain a flourishing organization here.

The various fraternal and beneficial societies are
well represented at Summit Hill. The Grand Army
Post, which was organized in 1869, was named in honor
of Colonel Eli T. Connor, one of Carbon county's most
gallant soldiers in the Civil War.

Summit Hill is remarkable for the number of ceme-
teries within its borders, there being eight, all told.
This is partly accounted for by the fact that it is the
place of interment for the people of both Lansford and


Coal Dale, in which communities there is no suitable
site for the location of a burying ground.

St. Joseph's Catholic church has two cemeteries —
one adjoining the church and another to the eastward
of the town. The latter was purchased late in the sev-

The Presbyterian cemetery was opened at about the
time of the establishment of that church, while that of
the Grand Army has been in existence since a short
time subsequent to the organization of the Post.

The other cemeteries are: St. Michael's Eoman
Catholic, St. John's Greek Catholic, Orthodox Greek,
and St. Peter's and St. Paul's Polish cemetery, all of
which are of recent date.

The romantic interest which naturally attaches to
this vicinity, as the place where anthracite coal was
first mined— the fascinating story of Ginter's discov-
ery, and the wonders of the Burning Mine — annually
draws thousands of sightseers and tourists to Summit
Hill. The majority of these travel over the Switch-
back Railroad from Mauch Chunk.



Towamensing township is bounded on the north by
Penn Forest, on the east by Monroe county, on the
south by Lower Towamensing, and on the west by
Franklin township.

The Poho Poco, or Big creek, flows eastwardly across
the full breadth of the township. Pine run and Wild
creek, flowing southwardly, are its principal tributaries
within the township. The surface of the land is of a
rolling nature, and is principally given over to agri-

Count Zinzendorf, the Moravian missionary, spent
some time in this portion of Carbon county in the year
1742, when he negotiated a treaty with the Indians at
the spot on which, a few years later, the mission of
Gnadenhiittten was established.

This whole section of country was christened by him
as ''Saint Anthony's Wilderness," and it was so desig-
nated on a map published in 1749. The name, however,
did not strike a popular chord among the settlers, and,
later, the term Towamensing, meaning a wilderness,
was applied to all that section lying north of the Blue
Ridge, and was known as Towamensing District.

In a petition for the division of the district, ad-
dressed to the Northampton county court, dated June
22, 1768, the length of the district is given as thirty-six

In response to the prayer of this petition, the Lehigh
river was made the dividing line, and the territory west
of the river was organized as Penn township, while
that on the east retained the name of Towamensing.

Online LibraryFred (Frederick Charles) BrenckmanHistory of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, → online text (page 23 of 44)