SWEET VALLEY, PENNSYLVANIA
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE)
beginning, at the founding of Penn's Woods, the little corner of the world
on which we report was part of Northumberland County. Luzerne County was
carved from it in 1786. In the southwestern portion of the county was
Over the years, the following served as Justice of the Peace for Ross Township: John A Hess 1843; Philip Callender, 1855; George A Crocket 1845, 1850; John Blanchard 1850, 1855, 1860; Sylvester White 1860; A.W. Wilkinson, 1856; James Crockett 1865, 1870, 1875; H.C. Harvey 1870; Ira Rood II 1875.
numbers used herein were obtained from the US Census Bureau web site (Factfinder-census),
the Pennsylvania State Library in Harrisburg, Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S.
Presidential Elections (U.S.
Election Atlas.org/), and at (Ancestry.com)
Conclusions, calculations, and opinions are the author's.
The Cease and Benscoter surnames show up on the next page. Following service in the 85th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War, both brothers returned to Luzerne County and died there.
Notwithstanding the westward migration, Ross Township still managed to grow by 108 from 1850-1860. A large increase of 25.77% (284 persons) occurred from 1900 to 1910 and is attributed to a large concentration of lumbermen engaged in producing "props" for use in the Wyoming Valley's numerous coal mines. Beyond the native-born lumbermen, one finds on the 1910 census a large number of recent-immigrant "Austrian-German" lumber workers living as "boarders" in Ross Township homes or in one case, 15 such immigrants in one boarding house. I've been told that that logging camp was located at Mountain Springs. There was a large (28.81%) population decline in the township from 1900 to 1930, due, one suspects, to two factors: exhaustion of the timber supply and the nationwide osmosis from an agrarian economy to a more industrial economy centered in cities. The decade from 1970 to 1980 shows an almost astonishing LEAP of nearly 46% in Ross Township residency!! In just that ten years, it went from 2,323 residents to 2,634. One is tempted to say "Oh, that's when the baby boomers were aging from 24 to 34 and started having babies" but that assumption, which should also have been effected county and statewide (and isn't) would be wrong.
To this author's mind, there is only one answer-Hurricane Agnes!! Flood victims in 1972, the folks of the Wyoming Valley got smart and moved away from the banks of the Susquehanna! As of 2000, Ross Township was home to 2,742, an amazing 201% increase in the 40 years since 1960.
is written, Ross Township has existed for 162 years (1842-2004) but for
only 46 years did it have any local policemen. The very first was John
Lukavitch. John had served in the 1940's as a constable who, much as
constables do today, lacked the power of arrest. His duty was chiefly the
serving of legal papers. He became vested with full police powers in
approximately 1955 or 1956 and served for about five years until 1960.
the first schoolhouse was built. Joseph Moss (a\k\a "Little
Joe") and Anna Turner were the pioneer teachers, Mr. Moss teaching
the first winter and Miss Turner the first summer school. While classes
were not strictly divided by gender, for the most part boys whose labor
was needed for farm work attended in the winter while girls attended in
the summer. Overall, Ross Township had 7 schools by 1863, and the report
of the Superintendent of Common Schools on July 1 of that year cited the
further research remains to be done on the exact nature of these
"academies" (of which there were a couple of others in nearby
townships), the general thought on them is that they served dual purposes.
All of a township's children would start school at age 6 and attend the
various one-room schools up through the 8th grade but the Ross Township
schools operated for only the legally-required minimum number of days. The
Pleasant Hill Academy would run an initial Spring term of 4 weeks to
supplement this education and make it more equal to that of schools in the
neighboring areas. This term would be taught by a regular teacher from a
nearby school. Notably absent were the older boys who were need to help on
the "Hook" (see below) and, in the outlying areas adjoining Sweet Valley proper, the "Frisbie" (successor to the "Laurel Run School" on nearly the same land once owned by a Frisbie family on Grassy Pond Road near the "Iron Bridge") and, even farther back on what would become State Route 115 and then 118, "Retreat" or the "Mooretown" or "Kyttle" school. On the Mooretown Road which splits off 115/118 and leads eastward from that school toward Harvey's Lake stood the Agnew school, named for the Agnew family that lived nearby. The “Green Valley” school was established just off Mooretown Road at the foot of Trumbower Hill, 2/10 of a mile south on Green Valley Road.
It may well have replaced the Agnew school but it’s not certain. The “Green Valley” school itself closed in 1940. The most remote of Ross Township schools stood several miles west of the Retreat school on 115/118 and was known as the "Bean Run" school. Taught at one time by Velma Kocher and later by Celia Hortop, its students were comprised of the children of employees at the Mountain Springs ice dam. West of Sweet Valley proper, beyond Sylvan Lake, at the bottom of Ledge Hill stood the
and the Bloomingdale school
schools in Ross Township remained one-room institutions with one teacher
instructing grades 1 through 8 until 1953. At some point between 1900 and
1910 a two-story wooden high school had been built in Lehman. From its
construction until 1938, while Ross high school students were ELIGIBLE to
attend there, Lehman was nearly as far away as Nanticoke and few could
provide their own rides to Lehman. In 1938, busing began, with part of
Ross going to Lehman and part attending high school in Shickshinny.
The new Ross Elementary School was built by contractor Raymond Hedden in 1953 at a cost of $210,000 and was dedicated on January 2, 1954. All 160 students from grades 1 through 6 from the seven one-room schools in the township were sent to that single location. The new Ross Elementary School was opened on Tuesday, December 22, 1953 at a cost of $210,000 and all 160 students from grades 1 through 6 from the six one-room schools in the township were sent to that single location. Buses would collect all students from age 6 through 18 throughout Ross Township, drop off grades 1 through 6 at the grade school, and then continue on to Lehman with junior and senior high students.
A meeting was held in 1873 for the purpose of establishing the International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) # 874. Donations were given by the prospective members to build a combination Odd Fellows Hall and a school at Cramer Hook (#3 District.) Later Charles Long bought that property.
Those signing $25 contributions were: T. A. Long, C.H. Long, G. A. Wilkinson, Asa Wolfe, I. A. Long, George Wesley, William Rummage, Henry Williams, J. J. Hontz, Daniel P. Post, Daniel Moss, Samuel Montgomery, S. S. Shultz, J. S. Wolfe, I. Bronson, Daniel Bronson, Fred Naugle, Jr., Mr. Perry, W. H. Edwards, B. Edwards, Mr. Sharps, William Ruggles, and Mr. Ruggles. A contribution of $50 was made by P. D. Edwards.
Hook students transferred to the new Ross Elementary School in 1954
and the building was torn down in1966.
By the turn of the century, it was a “destination resort” for folks from “over town”. Newspaper society columns as early as 1906 cite Plymouth residents as having vacationed there. As seen at “Maps of North Lake by Tom Evans” near the end of this history, lots had been platted quite early on. By at least the 1940’s, it had a few year-round residents (see “THE FIRE COMPANY”) who had formed a “North Lake Association”.) In the late 50's-early 60's, teenage boys from Sweet Valley would hang out at "Aunt Mae's" store to dance with the town girls. Aunt Mae Hartzell got ready for bed and would turn off the jukebox and pull it from the porch back inside her residence\store. That was the signal for the boys and girls to finish up the evening's entertainment with a walk around the lake, "sparkin'" all along the way.
Its residents pretty much mimicked those of North Lake with the exception that most of the summer-cottage folks came from the Nanticoke area.
In 1921 Richard Harris purchased the Eno Elley farm. At that time the pond had an old wooden dam and was full of stumps. There was a saw mill, a large house, and a barn. Mr. Harris moved the house to its present location next to the Sweet Valley Fire Company where it is better known as the former Davenport residence. Amy and Leroy Callender lived there for a while, too. Harris built a new house, a park, a swimming pool, a pavilion, a shooting range, a ball diamond, and a tennis court.
1946, the Bible Baptist Church (formerly known as the Shickshinny
Protestant Church), under the tutelage of its pastor, Reverend A. F.
Birdsall, bought the 225 acre property from Harris. After
2 dormitories were built, campers were accepted in 1947. Formally titled
the “Independent Baptist Youth Camp and Missionary Fellowship”, it was
more popularly known as Forest Hills.
A program of Bible study combined with fresh-air recreation was the
agenda. The pond with its mud
bottom wasn’t suitable for swimming so the campers used the swimming
pool near one of the dorms. The
dorms were screened open-air
structures with double-deck bunks. Campers,
some from as far away as Brooklyn, were
obliged to bring their own bed linens but could rent blankets.
The main building housed the dining room, the kitchen with a
walk-in refrigerator, and the office.
Additional space was provided for study and recreation.
From the end of June till the end of July, boys and girls from ages
8 to 12 attended the camp and older campers followed later.
Medical care was provided by an on-site registered nurse and Dr.
Harry A. Brown was on call.
Mr. Birdsall directed it for eight years and sponsored the giving of the
property to the Baptist Bible Seminary of Johnson City, N.Y. to further
the interests of young people. In the mid-to-late 1960's there was a plan
to use the site as a rehab center for teenage drug addicts but it never
came to fruition. The property is presently owned by the Pennsylvania Fish
founders added a church hall in 1916 and later replaced it with a new one.
In 1937 evangelists Dr. Clyde Fife and his brother, Bob Fife, added 104
members to the church's membership. A repeat was held in 1938 with Bob
Fife playing a trombone and a hand saw and Mrs. Carola Sutliff Herring,
daughter of Oliver "Ollie" Sutliff and Susan "Susie"
Ellen Hontz, playing the organ.
[A complete history of what is most commonly called "The Brick Church", researched by Neva Edwards, can be found at History of the Brick Church. Additionally, Harold Bulford Elston has compiled a listing of burials in its cemetery. It can be found at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2393437&CScn=pleasant+hill+christian+church&. The obit of Asa M. Smith, who donated the land for the church and cemetery, is seen on that web page but, interestingly, he is NOT buried there! His first wife, seen as "Eliza A." on the 1880 census, died circa 1881, BEFORE the "Brick Church" had been established. Eliza was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=45350&CScn=maple+grove&CScntry=4&CSst=40&0 and, when Asa died in 1934, he joined her there.]
One of the major passions of folks from the Sweet Valley area for decades was square dancing or "farmer dancing." It's hard to track down all the places (or in exactly which years they operated) to which they traveled to indulge this pastime, so please forgive your author if he's missed some. At the lower end of Sweet Valley at Sylvan Lake was Wolfes' Grove (see below) and another hall stood at Broadway Corners. Just over the line into Lake Township near the present-day Maple Grove United Methodist Church was a hall run by "Tippy" Lewis which featured music by the Crane Brothers (Ed, Bill, and Elmer) and calling by Ossie Lewis, Tippy's son. Westward on Route 115 (later 118) stood the barn that belonged to the Izaak Walton League and, near the turnoff to Benton, the Red Rock Dance Hall. Eastward, there was the Kunkle Community Center and the Jackson Township fire hall.
in the road” where westbound old Route 115 (now 118) splits from the
road to Sweet Valley has long been a commercial site.
A triangle formed by this split widens as one moves westward.
A goodly portion of the triangle, possibly as far West as the Maple
Grove Church and most certainly the narrrowest, most eastern part of it,
belonged back in 1930 to one William Henry Gallup and his wife, Rosanna E.
(Wolfe) Gallup. Their
daughter, Hilda Ruth, had married Worden Jackson Updyke, Sr., in 1926.
I’m not aware of Gallup ever operating
a business in the triangle but, by the late-1920’s to early-1930’s,
with the advent of the internal combustion engine making automobiles more
plentiful, it became a good site for a filling station.
Given the dates involved, it’s my educated guess that Gallup was
the first landowner to rent part of the triangle as a gas station but I
can’t say if he himself constructed the building or installed the gas
pumps. The first tenant
I’m aware of was Alexander Ballantine, who had been born in Scotland and
had immigrated to the US sometime between 1910 and 1920.
In addition to gasoline, Ballantine also sold sandwiches and a few
other food items, although his establishment couldn’t properly be called
a “restaurant”. The 1930
Lake Township census shows Ballantine residing fairly close to the Gallup\Updyke
household. (Worden and Ruth lived with her parents.)
William Henry Gallup was already 74 years old, so he sold this land to his
daughter and son-in-law, the Updykes.
He died in 1944 and the Updykes took over leasing the land to
By 1952, Ballantine was about 69 years old and likely in declining health so he gave up the business. Updyke then rented the land and building out to Louise Hislop, who converted it into more of a true “restaurant”.
Circa 1952-1954. Courtesy of Bonnie Turchin.
Hislop only operated her restaurant for about two years, until 1954, I’m
told by Gloris (Steltz) Naugle, who worked there.
At that point, Sheldon Coolidge Wandel, at age 29, took over the
business and began a decades-long operation of what he re-named as
Sheldon's Lunch. The name was kind of ironic, for some folks wondered
(wrongly) if he ("Shelly" Wandel) might have derived it from his
wife's maiden name, for, coincidentally, he had married Janette Sheldon.
Regardless of the original name, for a half century now it's functioned as
a local landmark known as "Shelly's Restaurant" to the entire
community. Beyond being a source of tasty home-cooked meals for local
families and passersby, it also has served as a pit stop along the teenage
circuit since the late 1950's. My third cousin, Walt Hontz, lived all the
way down in Union Township near Muhlenburg. He relates the tale of how he
and his friends would start their evening at Wolfes' Grove, proceed up to
the bowling alley in Dallas, and then stop off at “Shelly's” for a
milkshake on the way home.
the first 18 years, “Shelly” continued to rent the site from Worden
Updyke and “Shelly’s” daughters recall Updyke often walking down for
a meal and pick up the rent. Around
1963, “Shelly” ceased selling gasoline. In 1972, Updyke was 66 years
old and he sold the 0.58-acres of land to “Shelly”
for $8,000. In 1982,
“Shelly” completely remodeled and expanded the restaurant, even moving
it a few feet westward. “Shelly”
Wandel died shortly thereafter, on December 14, 1985.
Starting in the late 1950's, the bowling alley on Memorial Highway in Dallas was one of the regular hangouts for most Sweet Valley teenagers. Bob Hanson, brother of Don Hanson who owned Hanson's Amusement Park at Harvey's Lake, built an 8-lane establishment in 1956. Finding immediate success, he had expanded it to 16 lanes in just 5 years and he sold out to Anthony Bonomo in 1961. Mr. Bonomo ran it for 25 years until his death in 1986. His two sons, Rich and Anthony, Jr. operated it for just one year and sold it to two gentlemen named Finn and Goldsworthy in 1987. They could not make a go of it and the Bonomo brothers reassumed control in 1989 and eventually sold it to a man named Bernard Stesney, who already ran the Colonial Lanes in Nanticoke. He still operates it, as The New Back Mountain Bowl, in 2004.
Along the way, Rich Bonomo had married the most beautiful girl in Sweet Valley, Lorelei Briggs, and their twin sons, Ricky and Rocky, grew up to be Pennsylvania state wrestling champions from Lake Lehman High School. Collegiately at Bloomsburg University, Ricky became a 3-time NCAA Division 1 champion and Rocky a 2-time NCAA Division 1 All-American, all while competing against such national wrestling powerhouses as Iowa and Oklahoma.
the 1950's and 60's , the Wyoming Valley area featured a host of drive-in
theaters including the West Side in Edwardsville Borough, the Comerford in
Dupont, the Wilkes Barre in Wilkes Barre Township, the Moonlight in West
Wyoming, the Riverview in Pittston, the Dallas in Dallas Township, the
Sandy Beach at Harvey's Lake, and the Garden in Plymouth Township. The
bulk of them featured general-audience films but the Riverview featured
what today would probably be R-rated flicks and was primarily the
bailiwick of teenage boys anxious to see Brigitte Bardot drop her
towel. While folks from the Sweet Valley\Ross Township region would, at
times, visit theaters "over town", they primarily attended the
Sandy Beach, Dallas, and Garden.
The Himmler was an indoor theater on Lake Street in Dallas that was opened around 1928 by Mr. Wesley Himmler, who lived just up the street on the corner of Lake Street and Center Hill Road. In the midst of the Great Depression in the mid-1930's Himmler knew that folks didn't have much money to spare so he ran a free bus around Harvey's Lake to bring in customers and charged only 5 cents for admission. It was a small theater and the ticket booth, distinct from the free-standing kiosks of larger theaters, was built into the wall on the right side of the building as one entered. The ticket seller had to pass through a tiny barber shop to get into the ticket booth. Area residents have fond memories of the time in 1947 when what looked like an army of school kids wended its way from the Dallas Township school down to the theater to view "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Around 1955 Himmler sold out to a man named A. C. Devens (whose family also ran a feed store on Mill Street) and Devens closed the theater in 1960. The building is now used for storage by Richardson Dodge.
in Shickshinny but information about it has been nearly impossible to come by. Despite calling six people, the most your author could learn was that, after it closed down, it was turned into a dress factory and then a grocery store for a while and that it eventually burned down
Immediately to the left of it is a lot which, as of the year 2003, has stood vacant for at least 50 years. However, the lot served for well over 75 years as the home of
the Sweet Valley Hotel.
It was initially constructed in the mid-1800's and its first owner, Joel R. Long, built it in 3 sections, the first section lying nearest to the cemetery. Long operated a general store there, as did the second owner, Isaac Hornbaker. The second section was built in the middle of winter and hauled across frozen North Lake to the site. The third section was later built on site and added to the first two sections. For a time the hotel served as a stagecoach stop and was used by traveling salesmen. In the late 1800's, several students attending the Sweet Valley Academy (a\k\a Pleasant Hill Academy) roomed there. At about that same time, a group of investors headed by George Callender purchased and operated the hotel. Later, William A. Farver bought it and the Farver family owned and operated it solely as a store for 30 or 40 years. His son Otis remained in the hotel business as late as 1981 at the Iola Hotel in Millville. While in the Farver family's hands, the hotel was comprised of three floors, which included the basement. Stables behind the building served as a feed and hardware store and the main building housed a general store. While the hotel initially served liquor, said practice ceased with Prohibition under the Volstead Act passed on October 28, 1919. Following repeal of the Act in 1933, Ross Township residents voted to remain dry and that status persists into the 21st century. Other names involved in the ownership of the property over the years were Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hontz, Eugene Naugle, Ben R. Kaylor, George Long, Samuel Shaw, George Wesley, Jr., and Sheldon Wandel. The Wandel family still owns the property in 2003.
In 1943 several buildings were destroyed by fire. They included: a combination store, garage, and barn owned by Herbert Britt; a barbershop and apartment also owned by Mr. Britt; Alfred Bronson's morgue which had been converted into a chicken house holding over 3,000 chicks; and George Wesley's apartment house. The explosion of a heating apparatus in the brooder house was the cause of the fire and over the approximate loss was $40,000. The first fire company to respond was the one from Harvey's Lake and townsfolk were afraid the fire would engulf the entire town before it arrived.
set up a
meeting of residents at the Church of Christ hall to establish a fire
company. Forty two people attended. The original officers elected were:
George H. Bronson, President, Wayne B. Callender, Secretary, and Daniel E.
Davenport, Treasurer. Fund-raising efforts yielded $11,000. The largest
portion, $7,100, came from the North Lake Association, the Back
Mountain Lions contributed $1,000, individuals contributed another $2,000
and $900 was raised from roast pork dinners. The first piece of equipment
purchased was a truck chassis from Warren E. Boston, a dealer in Pikes
Creek. Wayne Callender loaned the fire company $4,000 to buy the
truck and he and his twin brother, Warren, donated the land for the
firehouse in memory of their parents. On that land Roy Callender had
previously built a garage for his truck and later it was the location of a
gas station run by Earl White and then Harold Cragle. The old building was
torn down to make way for the fire house. George Wesley, Alfred Bronson,
Sherm Kunkle, and Warren Boston drove the truck to the John Beane Pumping
Company in Lansing, Michigan to have a "High Pressure Fog
System" installed and to attend a 3-day training session. The truck
was delivered, to much
In the late 1940's "King Coal", the backbone of Wyoming Valley industry for decades, began a major decline as the nation turned to cleaner fuels. Many Sweet Valley men lost their mining jobs and the community leaders devised a plan to create jobs for the women.
The Sweet Valley Improvement Company was formed to build a dress factory. Financial backers included Alfred Bronson (the funeral director), his brother, George Bronson (the postmaster), and Sherm Kunkle (the mailman.) Cliff Sorber, who dug the well, and George Wesley, who excavated the site, earned stock in exchange for their in-kind contributions, as did Dick Stroud who did some of the carpentry. It was finished in 1949 and a "redheaded man with freckles" named Morris Ember d\b\a Harvic Manufacturing became the first tenant. (Thomas and Alberta Foss, seeing a business opportunity, opened a restaurant next door to it to feed the workers.) Mary Palmoski was the factory's head floor lady, Dilys Hunter Culver was a floor lady, Sophie Hasay worked in the office, and Kathleen Hunter Cornell was a sorter.
The Sweet Valley ladies stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their union sisterhood and five even went to New York City to picket there.
the face of threats by "Three Fingers Brown" they persisted in
sitting on a sidewalk, blocking access to scab workers, and were
arrested for it. Meanwhile, back in Sweet Valley, the strikers strung some
dead crows on a line across the plant's driveway as effigies of their
bosses. One of the victories eventually won by the unionists was the
adoption of a union label, giving rise to the song "Look for the
ROCK MOUNTAIN: THE AIR FORCE BASE:
THE AIR FORCE BASE:
knew the base as the Red Rock Air Force Base but the official Air
On January 1, 1963 the base took on additional duties when
it became a link in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s air
traffic control system.In so doing, it helped fill a gap that had existed
between New York and Cleveland.By adding the Benton radar, the FAA could
now better control the heavily-traveled air routes along the East coast.An
article announcing the commencement of this duty described the site as
utilizing an “80,000-pound antenna atop an 85-foot concrete tower.The
antenna itself is 40 feet high, almost half a football field long, and can
withstand winds up to 100 miles an hour.”
The Air Force’s 648th AC&W Squadron was deactivated
in June of 1975 but the FAA continues to this day (2005) to use the radar
for air traffic control.
The “flyboys” from the air base were well known around
the Sweet valley area. Several of them at any one time could be found
living in off-base housing in the Pollock Plot in the middle of town. They
also frequented Wolfe’s Grove and Pete Wolfe would often arrange
softball games between the “flyboys” and the female nursing students
from the local hospitals. We local boys didn’t take too kindly to them
“stealing” our girls and bad feelings abounded. Around 1960 or so, Bob
Gross, several others, and I ventured up Red Rock Mountain to challenge
them to a softball game. They whipped us soundly and we never again went up
THE JOB CORPS CENTER
Federal legislation passed in 1964 established the Job
Corps, described as “a no-cost education and vocational training program
administered by the U.S. Department of Labor that helps young people ages
16 through 24 get a better job, make more money and take control of their
lives. Dave Kline’s research in 2003 reported “The former Benton Air
Force Station was turned into a Job Corps center in May of 1978 when the
first student, called a "corps member," was accepted. Over the
past 25 years, a gymnasium has been added, along with a new auto repair
shop and a health facility. Red Rock Job Corps Center has nine dormitories
and trains more than 450 students each year. The center has an academic
facility, several trade shops, a dining room, a recreation hall, health
facility, and administration building. The center employees over 120 local
people from various counties.”
When we drive to the top of Red Rock Mountain these days, we find the Red Rock Job Corps Center, a fixture there since May of 1978. The Center is a year-round center of instruction serving at-risk youth ages 16-24 and is at the location of the former Benton Air Force Station.
The concept of training kids on top of Red Rock Mountain is not new. Today we'll go back in time to 1876, when locally what is credited to be the first private summer camp in the United States was founded about six years after Elizabeth (Reynolds) Ricketts and Robert Bruce Ricketts opened "the stone house" as a summer resort and a large wooden building was built to accommodate the large number who came to the resort each summer.
when the "large and substantial two-story house, a three-story frame
boarding house, barns and other buildings," were operating in full
swing as a "Summer Watering Place," the school was gone.
the information for the following article comes from information first
appearing in the Bloomsburg Morning Press on August 16-19, 1941, in
columns written by William Reynolds Ricketts.
first heard about the North Mountain School of Physical Culture from Ron
Hontz, who helped author the History of Sweet Valley . Ron had written to
us asking if we knew where the camp was located and we were unable to find
any trace of it, except that it was "outside of Wilkes-Barre."
Ron then contacted Charles Petrillo, webmaster of Harveys
Lake, who provided much of
the information about the "first summer school for boys or girls ever
held, either in this country or abroad." The reference to the Morning
Press was provided by Petrillo.
summer camp was known as the North Mountain School of Physical Culture,
founded by Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock. Boys came to the camp near the
during the summer months with the intent of taking "weakly boys out
into camp life in the woods."
school for boys opened in the summer of 1876, under the watchful eye of
the man who later was the head of Pennsylvania forestry, Dr. Joseph T.
Rothrock, Wilkes-Barre. Dr. Howard Kelley, Philadelphia, one of the
founding physicians of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine,
was involved. Dr. Lewis H. Taylor, Wilkes-Barre, and an artist by the name
of Eugene C. Frank, Wilkes-Barre, who assisted the camp with painting and
drawing, were involved. William Reynolds Ricketts remembered that in the
first year there were "twenty-six scholars" attending for a
two-month period. The school consisted of two small one-story houses and a
"tent colony" for the boys and some of the masters. There was
also a large dining tent. The school continued in 1877 with 17 students,
but without Dr. Rothrock.
school was located in the "field and maple grove southeast of the
stone house." Aquatic sports were accommodated by a camp landing on
the "shore of the lake with boats for rowing and fishing and a raft
with a diving board for swimming." Reynolds noted that "from
this small beginning have grown the great summer schools of today."
early 1800's John George Long moved to what would become Ross Township and
built the log house that stood near Sylvan Lake (then called "South
Pond") until the late 1960's when it was sold and torn down. Another
log cabin stood near Harris's Pond for over 180 years.
stores were run by Corey Allen and businessmen -builders
Hollenback and Urguart who, at one time, owned the whole of Lake Township.
Benscoter's Lumber Mill
carried both the mail and passengers, with the first-class mail locked in
a pouch. First-class postage was 2 cents. Most of the time he made 2 trips
per day. When the roads were too bad for his truck (and later, his car),
he used horses. Mr. Naugle reportedly told an interviewer in the late
1970's that the first snow plow was built by the township supervisors and
was made of wood. V-shaped, it stood about 14 inches high and was pulled
by 2 teams of horses. Where the snow was too deep, it had to be
shoveled by hand and it often took several days to clear the roads. Mr.
Naugle also told of a road work program whereby folks who couldn't afford
to pay their taxes could "work them off" by laboring on the
roads. Mr. Naugle also served for a time as Justice of the Peace, lived to
be one of Sweet Valley's oldest residents and, at age 99, still kept busy
in his woodworking shop.
Several sites in the middle of Sweet Valley have served many varied purposes over the years. The first that we will discuss sits on the corner of Main Road and what is now known as Post Office Road. On this corner was a building known as
"View of Jim Edwards' store and adjacent buildings, circa 1884. Note the hitching post in front of the store. Courtesy of Ron Hutchinson."
In 1884, James N. Edwards ran the post office in that building. As the photo’s caption states, the original building was subsequently owned by Eugene Frantz, William Smith, Frank Oliver, Eugene Oliver, Joseph Wolfe, John Bogart, Harold Wagner, George Bronson, and Harold Britt. It’s not clear to this writer for what purposes all those owners used the original building but, as stated in the section of this history titled “The Fire Company” (see above), it burned in 1943. Following the fire, Herbert Britt rebuilt on the site and the new structure, too, had many occupants over the years. In the early 1960’s Britt leased the major portion of it to a Davis family who ran a small grocery store but Britt continued to operate a barber shop on the side of the store . The Davises later moved to Arizona. David Davis, the son of that family, became a professional bowler and, eventually, a member of the PBA Hall of Fame. Following the departure of the Davises, Michael “Mickey” Adams operated the grocery store. In 1970, the building once again reverted to being a post office, with LaVenia Briggs as postmistress and Charles “Chick” Kreller as the rural deliveryman.
across Main Road from “Oliver’s Store” was
which stood to the
left of the old Sweet Valley Hotel. Its
full history remains to be explored but, in the late 1950’s and early
1960’s, Bruce Andress sold kitchen appliances there.
On a lot three doors down from “Oliver’s Store”, in buildings of
various sizes over the years, could be found a blacksmith shop, the Sweet
Valley Band, the Woodsmen of the World and Grange fraternal lodges, and a
gas station owned by Frank Foss.
On a lot three doors down from “Oliver’s Store”, in buildings of various sizes over the years, could be found a blacksmith shop, the Sweet Valley Band, the Woodsmen of the World and Grange fraternal lodges, and a gas station owned by Frank Foss.
the 1950's and up to 1977 Glenn Morris operated a car body shop there.
In 2003, Moss Machinery, Inc., a lawn mower sales business, was
The building located next to the Moss Machinery was once known as "Ord Trumbower's Store."
On the northeastern corner of North Lake Road and Main Road once stood a small gas station and store. As told by Kathleen Hunter Cornell, her grandparents, Frank Hazlett and Ellen R. Davenport Hazlett, started building a new store on April 26, 1926, the same day her sister, Dilys Hunter, was born.
Kathleen and Dilys’s parents, Luther Herman Hunter and Inez Retha Hazlett Hunter, helped Inez’s folks run the store and it stayed in operation all the way until about 1960.
that, Loren Moss operated a restaurant at that location for approximately
3 years. In about 1975, Ronald “Ronnie” Thomas and his wife
opened Thomas’ Guest Home, which catered to the elderly. On July
24, 1985 a tragic fire was accidentally started by a resident and, despite
the location being only 200 yards from the firehouse, 7 residents died at
the scene and 13 were injured. Later, an additional 3 persons died
at local hospitals from their injuries.
Valley, for the greater part of its history, lacked a bank.
In October, 1978, one finally arrived in the form of a branch of
the Columbia County Farmers Bank out of Orangeville.
Housed in a mobile home behind the old Torrence Naugle home at the
convergence of Main Road, Broadway and Muhlenburg Roads, and Grassy Pond
Road, it lasted under that name for only 12 years.
In 1990 it was sold to a Wilkes-Barre area bank but they kept it
open for only another 3 years or so. As of 2005,
there has been a bank at Ruggles’ Corners for quite some time,
the latest incarnation being Omega Bank.
there was never a pharmacy in Sweet Valley until 1988, when Russ and
Shirley Major opened one. It
was located on the site of their former Arctic Cat snowmobile business
(Paul Farver’s old gas station.) They sold it to Mark Williams in 1991.
He closed it in 1994. Thus,
the pharmacy lasted a much shorter time than did the bank.
mystery has been partially solved. Let
me first explain how I came to even learn there WAS a mystery.
While home in Sweet Valley on one of my semiannual visits, I
stopped to see Donnie Rosencrans in Mooretown.
Having read my previous writings, he suggested to me “You ought
to see Tommy Adams. He
inherited a scrapbook of newspaper articles that his cousin, Mickey, had
kept over the years. You
might find the idea for a story or two among them.”
Tommy was kind enough to loan the scrapbook to me and let me scan
the articles. Among them was
a piece written by Bess Klinetob in, I calculate, about 1943.
Bess spoke of a old racetrack “on the borders of fashionable
North Lake” where various local men would race their trotting horses
(pulling a driver in a sulky.) She
named Joel Long and Isaac Hornbaker (the first and second owners of the
Sweet Valley Hotel), George Wesley (the undertaker and squire who was
involved in the Juber White story, and George Callender (father of twins
Wayne and Warren Callender.) From
my genealogical work in the area, I could place these men as having been
active in the period starting around 1870-1900.
to find out exactly where the track had been located, I then set out to
ask the oldest area resident I could find.
Freece Morris is now 89 (born in 1917) and, he says, the oldest man
in Ross Township. Although
his memory is extremely sharp, Freece couldn’t recall either his father
or grandfather ever mentioning a racetrack.
I also checked with other younger persons who I knew to have grown
up very near North Lake and their answers were also negative.
early summer, 2006, I got lucky. Sheila Brandon,
received an e-mail from a reader named Tom Evans. He told of how
his grandfather had bought one of first lots at North Lake back in the
1936-1938 time frame. In
fact, a picture shows his
grandfather’s dock which utilized as pilings 55-gallon drums filled with
concrete. The biggest break was that Tom’s father has a MAP of the lake
showing the layout of those initial lots and the racetrack that adjoined
them!! Sheila visited Tom and
snapped pictures of that early map plus another map showing how crowded
the area now is.
of North Lake by Tom Evans
is now quite clear that the racetrack lie immediately next to those
earliest lots. The best point
of reference I can draw would be that it was near what was later known as
“Aunt Mae Hartzell’s store”.
It’s awfully hard to tell from the map, but the track could have
encircled the lot where the store was eventually built.
OR all of it could have been behind the store—the entire area is
quite flat. What is clear
from the old map is that Isaac Hornbaker most likely owned the land it sat
on and invited his buddies to race on it.
Given that no one I talked to in Sweet Valley knew the track ever
existed, I hold little hope of ever finding out when it ceased operations.
Judging by the death dates of three of the racers, my educated
guess would be that it was finished by 1915 if it, indeed, lasted even
item on which we’d like more information on is the water system in the
middle of Sweet Valley.
It is estimated to have existed for approximately 75 years but the
exact date it was built or who built it cannot be determined.
I first heard of it from Kathleen Hunter Cornell.
She was born in 1929 and grew up during the Depression at her
grandparents’ grocery store, Hazlett’s, on the corner of Main Road and
North Lake Road.
Kathleen recalled that they had no well but got their water from an
underground gravity-fed water main.
She directed my attention to an old windmill that I’d seen
innumerable times but never really thought about during my hitchhiking
It stood across Main Road from where the Church Of Christ now
(2006) stands and was behind where the Cross family once operated a
Thinking topographically, it was the obvious place to start a
Eastward from that point, one encounters just a stretch of
“flats” and then a downhill to Harris Pond but, westward, it is all
downhill for over a quarter of a mile.
got really lucky in choosing the next person to ask about the water
Dick Thomas said that both he and his brother-in-law, Bob Adams,
had been responsible for maintaining the system for a number of years.
The windmill brought the water up from a deep well and emptied it
into an underground cistern.
Dick estimates the cistern to have been approximately 8 feet by 12
feet and maybe 8 feet deep.
Having notified all the water system’s customers to open their
taps at a given time, they would disconnect the windmill and wait until
the cistern drained. It was deep enough that Dick and Bob needed a ladder
to climb down inside to clean it.
to determine exactly how far the system extended, I spoke to various
To the best of my knowledge, along the north side of main Road it
ran as far downhill as Sherm Kunkle’s house. George Bronson, on one side
of Kunkle’s house, was known to have had that water service. It’s
about 98% certain that George’s brother, Alfred, had it, too, at his
funeral home immediately on the other side of Kunkle’s house.
Dean Long says that his grandfather, McKinley Long, had his own
well so I’m fairly sure that it ended at Bronson’s Funeral Home.
The system did cross Main Road, too.
On the south side of the road, nearly across from the funeral home,
stand a couple of bungalows, one of which is owned by Russ Major.
Russ said they had the service.
Dick Thomas bought his house from Doc Rummage in 1960 and it, too,
is on the south side of Main Road just east of where the Sweet Valley
Hotel once stood.
That house, like all others on the system, had a water meter in the
only fairly realistic guess as to when the system was built is based on
something Dick saw among his homeowner’s insurance papers.
He believes his house was built right around 1900.
Don Stroud, a homebuilder, agrees with that date. The style of the
house is similar to others known to have been built at that time, probably
by one of my ancestors, Jasper J. Hontz.
I don’t think I’m that far off in assuming that the water
system, too, dates back to the turn of the century.
That educated guess it supported by another theory I’ve developed
based on the reason that the system had to be abandoned.
Dick says they ran into a major problem with a leak they couldn’t
The leak was located directly below the dress factory and they
couldn’t get down to it to repair it !!
The factory opened in 1949 with its own well.
I can just imagine the factory’s founders choosing NOT to depend
on a water system that would have been about 50 years old at that time.
Valley is not a municipality, but only a village in Ross Township.
Accordingly, the courthouse records would not reflect construction
by any entity named “The Sweet Valley Municipal Water Authority” and I
know of no other name to search.
It’s a cinch that it would not have been a venture of Ross
Township for it served just a wee portion of the township.
Whichever entity built it very likely was no longer active in 1949,
for it is unfathomable that they would knowingly have let the factory be
built atop their water main.
The leak occurred in 1974 and all its former customers were forced
to dig their own wells.
Here’s another item we’ve dug up about which we would like more information. Apparently, the Pikes Creek Orchestra (PCO) had a very short existence. From information gleaned from The Dallas Post, we know that it was entered in a statewide competition in late 1935, a competition whose finals were held at the State Farm Show in Harrisburg in January, 1936. It is known that, in the preliminary round, the members traveled to Bloomsburg as the joint representative of both Luzerne and Columbia counties. Finding no competition there, they played their two songs and went home. It is further known that they then went on to win the statewide competition, not because of their extraordinary talents, but because they met NO COMPETITION whatsoever at any level!! We would love to write at length about how they made the trip to Harrisburg in the middle of the 1935-1936 winter, how many and what make of cars they drove, etc. However, we simply cannot find, amongst the members’ descendants, anyone who knows much about the orchestra. While we, on this site, do not write fiction, we do allow a wee bit of speculation from time to time. In this picture,
we can see that two members of the PCO, Alfred Bronson and Herbert A.
Bronson, were also members of the Ruggles’ Pioneer Band. We believe it
is fair to assume that the PCO may well have been just an ad hoc outfit
gathered together from various area bands solely for this
one-time statewide competition. It
may not have been important enough, even to its own members, for them to
carry its tale down through succeeding generations of family lore.
Beyond the two cited above, the other members of the PCO were John
Williams, Otis Allen, Walter Bronson, Walter Wolfe, and Mr. and Mrs.
Albert Ide. (Many thanks to Dave Konopki, editor of The Dallas Post, for
providing the above information.)
Researched by Neva Edwards Johns and Ron Hontz
Ronald E. Hontz
33 Whitcraft Lane
Shrewsbury PA 17361
cell phone (717) 309-1402