Wayne County History
In August, 1749, about 300 Indians of the tribes of the Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Tuscourara with the Seneca, Shawnee, Delaware and Mohican, realizing that the white race was gradually pushing them away from their ground, appended their respective seals to a deed, in consideration of the Proprietary Government paying them 500 pounds Sterling (about $2,500), and conveyed to the Government a strip of land containing what is now ten counties, Pike and Wayne, parts of Monroe, Luzerne, Carbon Northumberland, Lebanon and Dauphin Counties.
The tribe, which occupied eastern Pennsylvania, including Wayne County, was the Lenni Lenape, called the Delawares by the Europeans, after the river along which they lived.
A sub-tribe, Nini, meaning “people of stoney country” was the group, which occupied the upper Delaware Rive, including present Wayne County. Eventually, the Delawares moved west – mainly because of the white man’s encroaching society. Today, the Lenni Lenape are scattered from Ontario to Oklahoma.
Established in 1798, Wayne County was named for General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a hero of the Revolutionary War. He was famous for ending the Indian Resistance and destroying the Northwest Indian Confederation at the Battle of Fallen Timbers,Ohio. General Wayne died at Preque Isle less than two years before the county was created. The County seat has been at Wilsonville,Milford,Bethany, and now at Honesdale.
In 1828, the Delaware and Hudson Canal, a 108 mile waterway was completed to carry coal between Honesdale and New York, while another form of transportation was in the making. Honesdale became known as the “Birthplace of the American Railroad” thanks to the Stourbridge Lion.
David Wilmot, born in Bethany in 1814 was a member of the House of Representatives from 1845 to 1851 and was author of the Wilmot Proviso which stipulated that in new United States territory slavery should be prohibited. He was indirectly responsible for the establishment of the Republican Party.
Samuel Meredith, was the first treasurer of the United States under the Constitution, appointed by President Washington in 1789. During his service as US Treasurer, he lent the new government more than $100,000, which it could not repay when he retired.
New Englanders were the first settlers. Joseph Skinnner, one of 1,200 Yankees, came from Connecticut to Damascus Township in 1775.
Mohican, or Chushetunk Indians lived on the Delaware between Shehawken and the mouth of the Lackawaxen River. People were generally poor, most of the old men had been soldiers of the Revolutionary War. Wayne County was designated in old records a “Lacawa” settlement.
Wayne County was set off from the County of Northampton in the year 1798 and originally included Pike County. The boundaries were the northern line of the State on the North, the Delaware River on the East, Northampton (now Monroe) on the South, and Luzerne and Susquehanna counties on the West. The area covered was 1,492 square miles, and the population in 1800 only 2,562, which was an average of less than two persons to the square mile.
The courts for the new County were temporarily established in Milford. The location of the County seat must have greatly agitated the sparse population scattered along the valleys of the principal streams, for the next year, 1799, the Legislation removed the courts from Milford to Wilsonville, a small manufacturing village at the falls of the Wallenpaupack Creek, a few miles above the point at which it empties into the Lackawaxen River (this is now the location of the PP&L dam on Lake Wallenpaupack). This was to be the location of the County Courts until suitable land and buildings could be located within four miles of the Dyberry Forks of the Lackawaxen River (this is now Honesdale).
Wilsonville was named for James Wilson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Judge of the United States Supreme Court. He came to that area following the close of the Revolutionary War and established a weaving mill on the banks of the Wallenpaupack River, for the manufacturing of linen from flax. The business flourished for a time, but raw material became scarce and Mr. Wilson was unable to receive a sufficient amount of flax to continue his business.
The Wilsonville location proved unsatisfactory, even temporarily, so the Courts were again moved in April 1802 back to Milford for three years and no longer. Meanwhile, the trustees, under the organization act of 1798, accepted from Henry Drinker, a large land owner of Philadelphia, a tract of 999 acres of land in trust for the County of Wayne, to be laid out in town and outlots, and to convey to the County Commissioners such of said lots as they shall fix on for the purpose of erecting a Court House, Jail and Offices for the safe-keeping of records. (This is now Bethany). This deed, made in August 1800, was a compliance with the act of 1799, for the land it conveyed was within four miles of the Dyberry Forks. The land was divided into lots and sold for from a few cents per lot to twenty-seven dollars. The totals proceed came to $4,260.63.
Besides this sum was the land that forms the Public Square in Bethany and the site of the public buildings, and several lots given to the town for church and school purposes.
It was in this manner that Bethany became the County seat of Wayne. A frame CourtHouse and a log Jail were erected upon the square and the Court was moved there from Milford in 1805.
Great discontent among the people along the Delaware below Milford now flared up because of the great distance to be traveled to the County seat at Bethany. In 1810 legislation was sought to relocate the County seat at Blooming Grove (now in Pike County) but the lack of funds and tax burden already placed on the people prevented the building on that site and the County seat remained in Bethany. Pressure from the lower end of the County finally in 1814 caused the Legislature to set off this section as a new County to be called Pike, with the seat of Justice at Milford where it has remained to this day.
Pike County thus had an area of 772 square miles and a 1820 population of 2,894. Wayne County then had 720 square miles and a population of 4,127.
May 4, 1841, the County Commissioners fixed Honesdale as the new county seat and Bethany lost that distinction.
Dreher & Green Townships – In 1839, a section in the southern part of Palmyra Township, Pike County was separated to become Greene Township. What would become Dreher Township in Wayne County was separated from Sterling in 1877, and then included Lehigh Township until 1883. Both townships’ early histories were closely linked, as they are today, by the Wallenpaupack Creek, which forms a boundary between the two, encouraging travel back and forth through the valley of some five miles in length. Much of our history lies in the Moravian settlement of Newfoundland, the English of South Sterling and the Germans of Greene.
Early residents relied on the wealth of natural resources for survival and income. Subsistence farming was supplemented by a variety of industries including timber harvesting, sawmills, toy factories, wood stick mills and the Ledgedale Tannery. In winter, many farmers harvested ice followed by maple syrup and sugar-producing in early spring.
Beginning in the early 20th century when city dwellers learned of the crystal clear water and fresh mountain air, another industry, “tourism,” was born. While it began modestly enough with local farm families converting their homes to boarding houses in the summer and offering fresh grown vegetables and fruit and locally raised meat for dining, it continues to this day with quality resorts, restaurants and outdoor recreational activities in both townships.
Near the southern end of Dreher Township in South Sterling is the WSCS Hall. Built in 1904 for the Patriotic Order Sons of America (POS of A) Washing¬ ton Camp No. 422, the building was purchased by the South Sterling Methodist Episcopal Church’s Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) in 1946. The WSCS Hall has been the home of the Greene¬ Dreher Historical Society since 2006 and is located at 465 South Sterling Road, South Sterling. The illustration shows the WSCS Hall with the South Sterling Methodist Church in the distance.
HAWLEY – Originally named Paupack Eddy, Hawley grew with the railroad and canals through its silk cut glass industries located next to the Lackawaxen River. Named for Irad Hawley, the first president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company, an original passenger car from the Pennsylvania Coal Company, an original passenger car from the Pennsylvania Coal Company’s Gravity Railroad (circa 1850s) can be seen near the public library. The largest bluestone factory building in America built in 1865 still stands. Architectural variety can be found in various other historical buildings in town. An Art Deco Theater built in 1933 now is home to a local repertory company; the original Eddy Hotel, built in 1850 is a restaurant, a gabled Tudor Manor now serves as a country inn, and several churches and other buildings feature styles such as Greek Revival, Queen Ann Stick, Normanesque and Romanesque.
HONESDALE – Named for Phillip Hone who, among others, created plans for a canal to carry coal from Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City. Originally known as Dyberry Forks, Honesdale was incorporated in 1831. The first steam locomotive in the United States was imported from Stourbridge, England in 1829 and the Gravity Railroad was constructed soon after. The “Birthplace of the American Railroad”, Honesdale was the largest stockpiler of coal in the world. The smallest synagogue in America having a continuous congregation since its founding in 1849, the Beth Israel Synagogue, was erected in Honesdale in 1852 and is of Romanesque design.
LAKE TOWNSHIP – Lake Township was formed in 1877 out of the northern part of Salem Township and a small strip of South Canaan. The most populated area in the Township was Jones Lake. After the building of the Pennsylvania Coal Company’s Gravity Railroad, a post office was established named Ariel, after the airy spirit in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, at the lake.
Soon excursions were making their way to Jones Lake, the newest resort in Wayne County. The Gravity Railroad was abandoned in 1885 and replaced by a steam line (The Erie and Wyoming Valley Railroad) in 1887. Jones Lake’s name was changed to Lake Ariel. The name according to a newspaper came from the Bible, Isaiah, Chapter 29: “Ariel, the city where David dwelt…”
The popularity of Lake Ariel went beyond anyone’s expectations. The boating, fishing and Lake Ariel Park brought people by the thousands to the township. East Shore Drive was now dotted with cottages of Scranton’s eminent businessmen and being call “Millionaires’ Row.”
These men wanted the luxuries of Scranton, in the country for their summer months at the lake. One of these luxuries was a bank. All the banks in Wayne County at that time were located in Honesdale, the county seat, or in Hawley, both another 10 miles from Lake Ariel. Soon a group of businessmen secured the help of Merton J. Emery of Scranton as cashier. Work on the Lake Ariel Bank building started in June and was completed in November 1910. With 800 people depositing over $46,000 the first day, the success led to the opening of other community banks. The illustration shows the bank in 1915.
History provided by Kurt A. Reed for the Lake Ariel Region Historical Association (LARHA).
PROMPTON – Described as a bustling community in 1904, Prompton boasted an excelsior factory, mine prop business,creamery and two stores. The railroad station at Prompton was opened in 1912 by the D&H Company. Due to the large number of lakes and ponds in the area, the ice industry was the biggest business for a number of years. The final harvesting of ice was recorded in 1953 with the onset of electricity.
SALEM – Salem (“Land of Peace”) was set off from Canaan and Delaware Townships in 1808, but its history started decades before. An old Indian trail passed through what was to become Salem Township. The earliest mention of it is dated 1741. The trail ran east to west, coming from the Hudson River to the Delaware River and on to the Wyoming Valley. The Connecticut settlers going to Wyoming made this into a wagon road in 1762. This was the first road in what was to become Wayne County and is today Route 590. A few miles east of Hamlin was Little Meadows Gust before the Goose Pond Road at Route 590.) A clearing was made by beavers building dams, flooding the land, killing the timber, and making the meadows. Here a man by the name of Seth Strong, on his way to Wyoming in 1770, decided to make it his home.
The day after the battle at Wyoming (July 4, 1778), Strong with some others had a desperate fight with the Indians at this place. Strong and his family were all massacred and Jacob Stanton was the only man who escaped. He fled and notified the settlers upon the Paupack of their danger, thereby saving many lives. Late in the fall of 1779, Stanton came back to Little Meadows and found the Indians had burned down the house. He dug a grave, gathering up the bones of the Whites and Indians and placing them together, and he raised a mound over them. This later became the “Land of Peace” and was the only site of a Revolutionary War battle fought in Wayne County.
Other wars since the Revolution have come and gone, but thankfully no more have been fought within Salem’s boundaries. But they have taken Salem’s sons. The illustration shown here is Salem’s veterans of the Civil War, leaving the Hamlin Methodist Church (built in 1866-67 and burned in 1944) enroute to the Hamlin Cemetery to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades.
STERLING – Sterling was set off from Salem Township on April 25, 1815; Dreher including Lehigh was taken off September 7, 1877. Sterling is bounded on the North by Salem, Northeast by Greene Township, Pike County; Southeast by Dreher; South by Lehigh; and West by Madison Township, Lackawanna County.
Six creeks bless the township: Stevens, Wilcox, Hornbaker, Webster, Butternut, and Uban. They all flow directly into the West Branch of the Paupack.
The first settler of Sterling was Henry Stevens, a Hollander, who married an English woman and settled on the old North and South Road (Route 196) on a little hill near the Butternut Creek and !1 mile South of Noble Town in the year 1800. When the township was formed in 1815, it was named Sterling. Richard Lancaster was first given credit for the name as he was a silversmith living in the township at that time. However, there was a second reason why it was most likely named Sterling, for it was thought to represent the quality of its settlers.
Nobletown was the only town in Sterling Township and still is today. The name was derived from the Noble family who established the first store in 1821-22. It is not known just when the name Noble town was changed to Sterling, but it was not long before Sterling became one of the largest mercantile towns in the area, along with Hollisterville, both being thriving communities of new business and settlers.
The Cannon and Military Honor Roll are located in front of the old Sterling school now owned by the Sterling United Methodist Church located on Route 196. The first honor roll was placed at Sterling Corners in 1944 through the courtesy of John Gillner. Sterling High School pupils solicited the funds under the guid¬ance of Miss Ella Gilpin. Fifty-nine names were on it. Many years later the plaque found its way into a basement where it remained until the mid 1980s when it was moved to the front of the Sterling school. The honor roll was restored in 1994. In the year 2005 the honor roll was again restored by the Historians of Sterling Township. The honor roll now has 158 names listed on it. Since war and rumors of war were inevitable, space was made for names to be added in the future. A Memorial Day program is held yearly to honor those who have served and those who are serving in our military.
WAYMART – The first settlers located in Waymart around 1790, however the borough was not incorporated until 1851. The Borough included an area of approximately 1920 acres. In 1875, a Gravity Railroad Depot was built and is the only gravity station left in Wayne County. Early 1900’s industry included an ice plant, sweater factory, creameries, saw mill, lumbering, farming and a grist mill. The name evolved since this was a weigh station for coal shipped to the upper portion of the Delaware and Hudson Canal.
WHITE MILLS – Christian Dorflinger moved his glass making business in here 1862. One of the largest glass works in America, it provided specially ordered items to the White House from Lincoln through the presidency’s of Wilson.
WAYNE COUNTY – Formed on March 21, 1798, from Northampton county. Named for Gen.Anthony Wayne. Site of test run of Stourbridge Lion, first locomotive in U.S. to run on a commercial track. Honesdale, county seat incorporated 1831, was western terminus of D&H Canal. County Courthouse, Court St. between 9th & 10th Sts., Honesdale. Dedicated July 8, 1981.
SAMUEL MEREDITH – This memorial is a tribute to the financier-patriot of the Revolution who was first Treasurer of the U.S., 1789-1801. George Clymer and Meredith were large landholders in this area. Meredith died at his estate, Belmont, in 1817. Intersection PA371 &670, Pleasant Mount. Erected July 28, 1948.
DAVID WILMOT – The author of the Wilmot Proviso of 1846 barring slavery from territory acquired in the Mexican War, was born in this house Jan20, 1814. He died in Towanda, March 16, 1868, after a notable career in the State and Nation. Wayne Street off PA 670 at Bethany. Erected May 29, 1947.
STOURBRIDGE LION – A replica of the famous Stourbridge Lion, first steam locomotive to run on rails in the U.S., 1829, is housed here. Beside it is the Eclipse, the original passenger coach on the D & H Gravity Railroad. US 6 just west of Honesdale. Erected 1947.
HONESDALE – Named for Philip Hone, noted New York merchant-diarist, who pioneered in developing transportation and anthracite resources of the region. Laid out in 1827 at head of D& H Canal. County seat since 1841. US 6 & PA entering Honesdale from W&SE . Erected April 9, 1948.
LINCOLN NOMINATION – In May, 1859, Horace Greeley met with notable political leaders to create a boom to nominate Abraham Lincoln for President. The events that ensued at the Republican National Convention in Chicago paralleled the strategy planned at the parley held in this building. 115 9th St., Honesdale. Erected Aug. 26,1968.
DELAWARE & HUDSON CANAL – Terminus of the waterway uniting the Hudson and Delaware rivers. Built in 1825-28. A gravity railroad feeder reached to Carbondale. For 70 years it was the anthracite trade outlet for the region. US 6 & PA 191 (Main St.) at Historical Society, Honesdale. Erected May 29, 1947.
STOURBRIDGE LION – Here began the trial run of the first locomotive operated by steam on rails in the U.S., Aug. 8,1829. The Lion was English-built for use on levels on the gravity Railroad. It was piloted by Horatio Allen. US6 & PA 191 ( Main St.) at Park St., Honesdale. Erected May 28.1947.
DORFLINGER GLASS WORKS – Founded in 1865 by Christian Dorflinger on this site. Glass was made and cut here until 1921. Noted for the quality of Flint Glass, Dorflinger supplied the White House with sets of tableware through a number of administrations. US 6 at White Mills. Erected June 28, 1951.
CUSHETUNK – The first Connecticut settlement on the upper Delaware was made here in 1755, under the lead of Moses Thomas and Daniel Skinner, on lands called Cushetunk by the Indians. Settlement seized by Indians and Tories, 1778. SR 1004 (former LR63027) N of Milanville. Erected May 28, 1947.
The History of Pike County
The County of Pike was separated from Wayne County on March 26, 1814. Wayne had been separated from Northhampton on March 21, 1798, and Northhampton had been formed from part of Bucks County on March 11, 1752. Bucks was one of the original counties created by William Penn in 1682. When formed in 1814, Pike County included the Townships of Middle Smithfield, Delaware, Upper Smithfield, Lackawaxen and Palmyra. By the Act of April 1, 1836, a portion of Pike County was cut off to form part of Monroe County; otherwise, it’s boundaries remain as they were established by the Act of 1814. It was named for Zebulon Montgomery Pike, discoverer of Pike’s Peak and a General killed in the war of 1812. The County Seat is Milford. The original Courthouse was constructed in 1815. The present Courthouse was completed in 1874. The Administration Building was completed in 1985. The latest County facility is the Pike County Jail which was completed in 1995.
The central township of Pike County and the only township not bordered by another County, was established by an Act of Legislation on December 17, 1850.
Blooming Grove Township – History does not tell us the origin of the name, but two possibilities are considered. One is that the settlers found a grove of apple trees when coming here, and the other is the existence of an abundance of blooming pink Mountain Laurel. A map of Pennsylvania drawn by W. Scull in 1770 does indicate “Blooming Grove”, the ‘Sheholy” Creek and the “Sheholy House”. A writing about Sylvanus Seely, by Theodore Thayer, mentions that Jonas Seely obtained a warrant in 1765 which included the Blooming Grove tract.
When Blooming Grove Township was established, the principal occupation of the inhabitants was logging and saw mills. This remained true well into the 20th Century. One of the first known land developments was the property of the Lord family purchased when coming here in 1809. It seems a development was advertised in the Philadelphia newspaper and they came to see what it was, purchased the property and settled Lords Valley.
Blooming Grove Township has several thousand acres of State Forest and State Game Lands within its boundaries which will probably never be developed.
Delaware Township – Delaware Township is the oldest of Pike County’s townships. It was in existence before 1766 as part of Northhampton County. It was named because it bordered the Delaware River and originally extended west to the Luzerne County line.
Chief Thundercloud, the famous American Indian, believed to be the model for the nickel as well as the last five dollar gold piece minted in the United States, came from Dingmans Ferry in Pike County. He was a scout with the United States Army, worked in show business with P.T. Barnum as well as the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, and posed for leading American artists such as Fredrick Remington and John Singer. After viewing the American Indian artifacts at The Columns, as well as the exhibit dedicated to Father Craft, who lived for many years in Pike County and was a missionary and educator working with the Indians in the Dakotas, you might want to visit the gravesite of Chief Thundercloud in the Dingmans Ferry Cemetery.
The George W. Childs Recreation Site is a former Pennsylvania state park that is the site of a number of cascade waterfalls along Dingmans Creek; it has been part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area since 1983. It is located in Dingmans Ferry in Delaware Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania and is named for the late newspaper publisher George William Childs, whose widow deeded the land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1912. The site contains three main waterfalls: Factory Falls, Fulmer Falls and Deer Leap Falls and is a few miles upstream from Dingmans Falls and Silverthread Falls. The pools below the waterfalls were once a popular spot for swimming during its ownership by the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks. However, that activity had been banned upon transfer of ownership to the National Park Service.
Greene Township – Created April 24, 1839, from Palmyra Township. The township is named for the popular Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene, who fought at Boston, Long Island, Trenton and Brandywine.
Lackawaxen Township – Text contributed by John McKay with the cooperation of Township Historians Helene Langhorst and Clarence James. Lackawaxen is the largest and northernmost township in Pike County. It was designated Lackawaxen Township in 1798. Named for the river that flows 12 miles through the Township, Lackawaxen is the Indian word for “Swift Waters”. The Delaware River marks the eastern boundary of the township and joins the Lackawaxen River at the village of Lackawaxen.
Less than three centuries ago, the Leni-Lenape and Iroquois lived among the beetling rock outcrops and flat lands bordering the banks of these two rivers. Although the Indians never had any sizeable villages established in the region, it would appear that the rugged terrain provided a favorable hunting location for these earliest inhabitants. Numerous rock shelters and camp sites have been verified by the presence of various Indian relics, including; tools, pot shards and extensive bone fragments.
The first recorded presence of permanent settlers in the township were the homesteads of Jonathan Conkling and John Barnes. In 1770, they located near the confluence of the two rivers in what is today, the village of Lackawaxen. The presence of marauding Indians incited by the English during the Revolution made habitation by white settlers extremely perilous. An indication of the hazards of life in the Lackawaxen frontier is the Battle of Minisink in 1779. Directly across the Delaware from the village of Lackawaxen, approximately 45 settlers lost their lives to the superior forces of the English Colonel Joseph Brant (1742-1807) and his band of Indians and Tories.
During the early part of the 18th century, logging was the principal commercial activity in the township. Logs were fastened together and floated down the two rivers, eventually reaching their destination of Easton or Trenton. Because of the narrow channel of the Lackawaxen, smaller rafts, called “colts” were necessary to navigate the “swift waters”. It is estimated that during this period, 50 million board feet of lumber were taken down the Lackawaxen River annually.
In 1827, the Delaware and Hudson Canal began operation between Honesdale, Pennsylvania (on the Lackawaxen River) and Kingston, New York (on the Hudson River). The canal company was the largest, private, commercial undertaking of the time. Originally, there were 28 locks in Lackawaxen Township which raised the elevation of the canal waters 278 feet.
Along route 590 west of Lackawaxen, and along State road 51018 west of Rowlands, many of the old locks are still visible and several lock houses are now used as private residences. These two roads follow the same route that the mules pulling canal barges used and together they are locally known as the “towpath”. The canal linked New York City with the rich coal deposits of the Carbondale, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas, and provided the fuel to feed the foundries and hearths of that burgeoning city.
Moreover, the canal sparked enterprise within the township. The Honorable George H. Rowland built a store in 1852 (at the present day site of the Rowland’s Corner Store), cleared a farm and engaged in the lumbering business. In 1861, Rowland was elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature and served two terms. He won a seat in the State Senate in 1872, serving for 3 years and filled a vacancy in 1885.
Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968 and a National Civil Engineering Landmark, was constructed in 1848 as part of the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Designed by the future architect of the Brooklyn Bridge — John A. Roebling (June 12, 1806 – July 22, 1869).
Lehman Township – Lehman Township has been an established community since 1829. It is a residential community with beautiful scenery, surrounded by the Delaware National Park Service. The Township lies between Porter, Middle Smithfield and Delaware Townships. It is the home of the famous Bushkill Falls.
Listed on the tax rolls for Upper Smithfield Township in 1815 was Joseph Leighman, paying 55 cents on 442 acres. In 1824 his name was spelled Leaman and by 1832 it was Lehman. The Township is approximately 48.9 square miles or approximately 31,296 acres.
The Dutch Reformed Church of Bushkill was built in 1874 replacing an earlier structure. The church grew from missionary work done in 1737 in which year Rev. George Mancius ofKingstonorganized Dutch Reformed Churches in the Minisink area. The first church building, which was begun in 1832 on a lot donated by Henry Peters, cost about two thousand dollars. The present structure, built in 1874, cost $5,300. The church is now occupied by Bushkill Outreach and the congregation built a new church on Rte. 209.
The Community House once served as the Old Pine Ridge Church located on Bushkill Falls Road. It was moved to theVillage of Bushkillwhere it functioned as a library and a schoolhouse. Later, the Riedmiller Brothers constructed a stone foundation under the building, at which time it became the Bushkill Firehouse. The property is currently owned by the Federal Park System.
The first school, according to Simeone Schoonover, was on top of Hog Back Hill. It was made of logs and one side had tumbled down. Sheep often came in and had to be chased out by the children. In 1886 the listed schools in Lehman Township were Hemlock Grove, Brodhead, Schuyler’s Meadow Brook, Pine Ridge Barn Timber and Bushkill. The last one room school in the township, the Pigeon Roost School, still stands at the intersection of the Briscoe Mountain Road and Factory Road.
Toward the end of the 18th Century growth began in the area. John Heller opened a log tavern with a brown jug for a sign and Henry Peters, a merchant, was appointed the first postmaster in 1812.
Matamoras Borough – Incorporated as a borough on January 18, 1905, was originally part of Westfall Township. Named during the Mexican War after the American Army captured the Mexican town of Matamoras. That town had originally been named for Rev. Mariano Matamoras, a hero of the Mexican Revolution.
Milford Borough – Incorporated as a borough on December 25, 1874, and was originally part of Milford Township. Milford’s history dates back to 1733 when Tom Quick was the first settler. There are numerous historic buildings throughout the village, noteworthy among them are Forest Hall, Hotel Fauchere, the Court House, Grey Towers, The Columns, the Upper Mill and the Community House, the Callahan House, the Dimmick Inn and the Tom Quick Inn.
Milford Township – Created April 17, 1832, from Upper Smithfield Township. John Biddis laid out the village in 1796. Some say it was named for Milford Haven in Wales where William Biddis (father of John) was born. Other say the Wells’ Mill and the spot where the Delaware was forded resulted in the name Mill-Ford.
Palmyra Township – Originally much larger, was formed in 1798 as a part of Wayne County. Like Bethany, Caanan, Promise Land and Lebanon, it was named because of its Biblical connection. The ancient town of Palmyra (or Tadmor) today is in Syria.
Porter Township – was established on December 16, 1851, comprising lands that had previously been contained in Delaware and Lehman Townships. The name is said to have been chosen in honor of James Madison Porter who is believed to have built the first permanent residence in the area sometime around 1849. The only community of any sort listed in the township on an 1872 map of Pike County is the small hamlet of Portersville which existed around the present Honesdale feting the visit of Washington Irving., Porter is given credit for dubbing the steep cliffs on the town’s east side, Irving’s Cliff, which until that time had simply been referred to as the “Ledge”. David Rittenhouse Porter server as governor of Pennsylvania from 1839 to 1845 and there are some who believed the township might have been named for him.
The sparse population of the township can be explained to some extent, by the meager, inhospitable soil. Any areas that were cultivated usually supported a single homestead. Most of those who decided to make Porter their home were involved in some fashion with harvesting the timber that prevailed in the rocky terrain.
By the late 1800’s, reports indicate that most of the township had been cleared of timber leaving a desolate land of low brush and scrub oak. At the southern end of the township, all of the hemlock had been depleted almost half a century earlier in order to supply bark for a large tannery operation at Resica Falls, Monroe County. There are still residents of the township who remember hearing of the uncontrollable fires that raged through the denuded countryside. It is claimed that one such fire burned out of control from Promised Land in Greene Township, east through Porter, Lehman and Delaware Townships to the Delaware River.
In the center of Porter Township a wooden sign on Route 402 marks Ludleyville as the site of the first planting of trees on state forest land in October 1899. By virtue of several acts of the 1897 Pennsylvania Legislature the Division of Forestry of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture was authorized to acquire lands for state forest “reservations”. The planting that occurred in 1899 included ½ acre of Carolina Poplar followed by an additional 1000 Catalpa plantings in the spring of 1900. It is interesting to note that at the time of soil was made. The results of the test showed the ground to be of poor quality (a layer of thin loam under laid with clay), thereby substantiating the barrenness of the Porter terrain.
By 1913, the entire experiment was reported a failure due to “winter kill” (another testimony to the severe conditions in Porter and in Pike County in general). However, District Forester E. C. Pyle was able to see some value in the experiment and in 1949 he wrote: “Its failure (the planting experiment) is more impressive than had it been successful. It proves that nature will ultimately reforest if fires are curtailed over long periods.
After the acquisition mandates of 1897, the Forest Service began in earnest to place land in forest reserves throughout the state. By 1902 approximately 50,000 acres had been acquired in Pike and Monroe Counties, and this property made up what was then called the Minisink Forest. Under the administration of Gifford Pinchot, who was Commissioner of Forestry in 1921, all of the state’s forest reserve holdings in Pike and Monroe Counties were consolidated into Delaware State Forest which today comprises over 72,000 acres. By far, the majority (64,190 acres) of this popular recreational resource falls in Pike County with over 22,000 acres belonging to Porter Township. 58% of the township therefore, is within the state forest.
The first step taken to make Pike’s forest land available to the public came in 1913 when the Department of Forestry authorized the leasing of “small areas of land for the purpose of permanent camping and outing ground.” Since that time, over 1000 cabins have been built on land leased from the Forestry Department. Nowhere is the hunting cabin a more prevalent sight than in Porter, where they actually outnumber permanent, year-round residences. A typical example exists at Pine Flats where a 60 cabin colony and clubhouse stand near the Big Bushkill Creek. A similar cabin colony stands near Little Mud Pond across the lake from a natural cranberry bog.
During the 1930’s many improvements were made on state forest land by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Throughout the Delaware Forest the “C.C.C. boys” made a detailed survey and inventory of the timber land which provided information for a comprehensive management plan of the forest. Timber stand improvements were undertaken by removing inferior growth, thereby allowing more valuable species to develop. In order to minimize the risk of fire, a system of fire towers, telephone lines, fire lanes and truck trails was developed. In Porter, the corp was responsible for contracting a public recreation area and fishing access at Peck’s Pond, at the north end of the township. Here, a covered pump, a pavilion, rest rooms picnic tables and fireplaces were constructed and still exist today. Five mile Meadow Road, Flat Ridge Road and the Burnt Mill Road, are all trails that the civilian crew blazed some thirty years ago which are still enjoyed by hikers and snowmobilers.
Beyond the benefits to the public, the corp members, many of whom were jobless veterans, seem to have profited from their services in Porter Township and elsewhere in the Delaware Forest. In his review of the C.C.C project in Pike and Monroe Counties, the crew superintendent of the Edgemere encampment in Porter Township had the following comments: “. . . the work has had a large measure in bringing them back to a normal station in the world . . . Consequently they are benefited both physically and spiritually through the various camp activities.”
Lumbering operations in Porter Township also provided activity for German prisoners-of-war during World War II when the American government was seeking isolated, secure locations in which prisoners could be put to work.
Shohola Township – The Village of Shohola was settled in 1772. The 45 square mile township, extending from the Delaware River to Route 6 was formed on September 26, 1852.
While there were only a few farms in the area at first, growth began with the coming of the Erie Railroad in 1848. Seven years later, a bridge was built, replacing the ferry which connected Shohola with Barryville and the Delaware and Hudson Canal.
Boarding houses, which where once a rather large industry in Shohola, where replaced by vacation houses and these are being replaced by permanent residences.
Approximately one-third of Shohola is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with the Township containing a portion of the Delaware State Forest and sections of three state game lands.
Westfall Township – Created January 31, 1839, from Milford Township. Simon Westfall (or Westfael) first settled there before 1743. His son Simon built the stone house in Matamoras. Two descendants, Cornelius and Jacob served as Justices of the Peace.