In the 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 Huntington  Township. 

In July, 1813, part of Huntington Township was split off to form Union Township. Finally, in 1842, portions of Union Township and the adjoining Lehman Township were merged and became Ross Township.

What is now Sweet Valley was originally two areas: Cramer Hook and Pleasant Hill. The dividing line was more or less at the bottom of the hill on Main Road below where the Post Office now sits (in the year 2003.) Cramer Hook stretched westward from there to down below Sylvan Lake and was named for James Cramer, an early settler and hotel keeper. Pleasant Hill encompassed the area eastward up the hill, past the two churches, beyond Harris's Pond to the present day Farley's Golf Course.  When the residents wanted a local post office, they were told that they would have to decide on one name, for neither Cramer Hook nor Pleasant Hill was large enough to rate a post office of its own. As near as can be ascertained, the residents had a  meeting but neither side wanted to use the other's name. They finally agreed on "Sweet Valley" because of the many "sugar" maple trees in the area.

In 1835 Josiah Ruggles opened the first mercantile business.  He also owned 1,000 acres of timber. Josiah's father, Lorenzo Ruggles, arrived about 1797 from Connecticut and may be a 6th generation descendant of one John Ruggles, who came to America before 1655.


The following information was received from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.:

The first Post Office was established in 1847 .

The first Postmaster appointed was Samuel Edwards on March 8, 1847. 

His successor, Josiah Ruggles, was appointed on May 1, 1848.

Phillip Edwards was appointed on December 30, 1869.

James N. Edwards was appointed on December 18, 1884.In 1881 he had founded and managed the "Sweet Valley Stock Company" and, by 1894, in addition to being the postmaster, he also ran a general store. He was also a trustee of a Christian Church.


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.


Raw 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.

Pennsylvania-"The Keystone State", "The Breadbasket of the Revolution." Such were our state's nicknames in years past. A more modern nickname would be, I humbly suggest, "The Graying Old Lady" based on its steadily-declining position of power in the nation. While it HAS grown from a population of approximately 9.6 million in 1930 to approximately 11.8 million in 2000, that increase has only been a total of 23.01% over those 70 years, a figure that has undoubtedly been exceeded by many other states. While each decade from 1930 up to 1990 did show an increase, said increases were of the single-digit variety, with both 1970-1980 and 1980-1990 having an increase of less than one percent. In the 2000 census, the 1990-2000 decade actually showed a LOSS of 0.29%!! Perhaps our slippage is more easily seen in the continuing decline in the number of Electoral College votes we cast. From an all-time high of 38 votes cast for loser Teddy Roosevelt and his "Bull Moose Party" in 1912, we descended to casting only 23 beginning with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. Given the 0.29% LOSS in population revealed in the 2000 census, we have since had to re-district our congressmen once again and the list at (House by State) shows us to currently have only 19 congressmen. These 19 plus our 2 US Senators means we will cast only 21 Electoral College votes in the fall of 2004.

Luzerne County, as an entity, has fared even worse than did the state as a whole. The county clearly saw it best days in 1930 when the population stood at 445,109. Six of the seven decades since then have shown substantial losses while only one (1970-1980) showed a minimal gain of 0.33%. The county population in 2000 was only 306,418---a LOSS of some 31.16% over the 70 years!! The two largest losses occurred in consecutive decades from 1940 to 1960 and are no doubt largely attributable to the death of "King Coal" as the mines on which the county's economy had thrived began to close down with the national conversion to cleaner burning fuels and the miners were forced to move looking for employment.

Ross Township, however, has remained a shining star against the background of its otherwise-bleak surroundings. It was established in 1842 and only 709 people lived there in 1850. In the 1850's a westward migration began and is assumed to have been triggered, in part at least, by the growing shortage of area farms remaining to be handed down to the increasing number of sons being born to our ancestors. 

Two of your author's ancestors, brothers Solomon and Wesley Hontz (Honse), made the trek to Mason County, Illinois, where Solomon married Emeline Wandel (Wandell) in 1858. Emeline was most likely an émigré from either Ross Township or the McKendree area of Union Township, home of the Hontzes, and the surname Gregory, another familiar local name, appears on the same census page as they do. 

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.


As this 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.

From about 1960 to 1963, the job was held by Joe Kipp who, like Lukavitch, did the job absent any assistants. 

Mickey Niemchik served from 1963 to 1978, and he availed himself of a variety of part-timers that served on an as-needed basis. Among them were Clete "Junior" Holcomb, Albert Wallace, Charlie Masters, Herb Peiffer, Loren "Junior" Cragle, and Joe Kernag.

Joe Skibitsky assumed the mantle of office from Niemchik in 1978 and served until 1985 with the assistance of part-timers John Houssock and Brad Fleeger.

John Houssock took over from Skibitsky in 1985 and utilized part-timers Brad Fleeger and Chris Maransky. In 2001 the township supervisors decided that Ross could no longer afford its own police force. At present the township is totally dependent on the Pennsylvania State Police, as is neighboring Lake Township. 


In 1820 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 following statistics:

7 schools-average number of months in session was 5 or 6

Teachers: 1 male, 13 females
Average salary: Male $20.00 per month; Female $16.23 per month

Students: 167 males, 134 females

In 1881 a private school called the 
Pleasant Hill Academy 

was opened by Professor A. W. Moss on the site that has been known for the past 50 years or so as the "Pollock Plot."

While 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 farms.

The Summer term ran 6 weeks and was usually headed by a man who was a supervising principal at a nearby school. This was called the "Normal" term and was for students beyond 8th grade who wished to become teachers themselves. Enrollment at the Pleasant Hill Academy was approximately 65 students and tuition was 45-to-75 cents per week. They studied Latin, Algebra, Geometry, and "the common branches." Teachers were: Professor A. W. Moss, Professor Gaskill, D. M. Hobbs, Joseph Lord, E. B. Beishline, Asa E. Lewis, and Frank McGuigan. At one point, Asa E. Lewis became principal of the schools in Dallas Borough but returned to his home area of Sweet Valley to head the Academy for its Summer terms.

In the late 1800's there were no high schools "out in the country", the nearest being in Nanticoke, and some families would send their 14-year-olds there for 4 additional years. Children who had finished 8th grade at age 14 but COULDN'T afford to either go to high school in Nanticoke or to the Pleasant Hill Academy were, as now, unable to drop out until age 16 so they had to re-cycle back through the 8th grade two more times.

By the early 1900's, the Sweet Valley-area schools included the "Mott" (on the eastern hill above Harris's Pond), 

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Current day views of the Mott One Room Schoolhouse, courtesy of Ron Hontz

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.  

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Current day views of the Green Valley Schoolhouse, courtesy of Ron Hontz

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 

Ross Center school 

and the Broadway school 

and the Bloomingdale school 

were beyond that .

Public 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.

Neighboring Lehman and Jackson townships merged their junior and senior high schools in 1942. Ross quickly joined them in   1944, at which point ALL Ross Township junior and senior high school students started trekking to Lehman.

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. 

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Just up the road from Sweet Valley, Lake and Noxen Townships merged their educational systems in 1958. The State of Pennsylvania had 2,530 school districts in the mid-1950's and even more consolidation was desired. Over the decades of the 1960's and 1970's, that number fell by 77.8%, down to 505 and our section of Luzerne County was part it. Lake-Noxen and Lehman-Jackson-Ross became Lake Lehman in the 1961-1962 school year and that first year was a bit awkward while we awaited construction of a new high school in Lehman to replace the one that dated from the 1910-1920 era. Your writer recalls that our baseball team would board a bus after class in Lehman to travel over to the old Lake Noxen high school where we would meet our teammates for practice because they had the better baseball diamond. Practice over, we wouldn't see them again until the next practice or a game because we were still attending class in our old respective high schools. The new school opened in Lehman for the 1962-1963 year and for the first time students from all 5 townships attended class together. 

Beyond the mere physical merging of 5 townships, the curriculum changed as well. The class of 1964, I recall, was the guinea pig for a grand experiment. Before our class, only 3 years of Spanish were taught. Beginning with our class, the school board decided to find out if freshmen, mere FRESHMEN, had the mental acuity to begin learning a language, thereby allowing a 4th year of Spanish to be taught to seniors. That sounds silly in the year 2003, when grade school children are exposed to foreign languages, but that's the way it was back then. Taught by Mrs. Virginia Marchakaitus, wife of principal Anthony Marchakaitus, we "showed 'em." Several academic students (including yours truly), aced all 4 years as if we were standing still. 


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.

The upper floor of the Odd Fellows building 

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was used by the lodge and the first floor was the "Hook" school. The lodge terminated in 1938.

The Hook students transferred to the new Ross Elementary School in 1954 and the building was torn down in1966.

The Lady Fame Rebekah Lodge #582, a female adjunct to the Odd Fellows, was later formed. The other lodge formed later in the area was the Junior Order of United American Mechanics which may or may not have strictly hewed to the teachings of its parent order, the Order of United American Mechanics. More information on the national order may be seen at Masonic Museum Needless to say, the reference at that site to like philosophies being shared by the Order of United American Mechanics and the Klu Klux Klan is borne out by the fact that even up into the 1920's, cross burnings WERE seen around Sweet Valley.

Chapters of two other lodges also were organized in Sweet Valley over the years but specific dates are not known. They were the Woodsmen of the World and the Grange.


North Pond, later known as North Lake, 

was measured to be about 80 acres in 1882.

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.

South Pond, later known as Sylvan Lake, 

was measured to be about 130 acres in 1873.

Its residents pretty much mimicked those of North Lake with the exception that most of the summer-cottage folks came from the Nanticoke area. 

Harris's Pond: 

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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. 

In 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.  

Rev. 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 Commission.

Grassy Pond is estimated to be only 8 acres in size. Its chief claim to fame is that, in 1901, it was the temporary resting spot for the earthly remains of one Josiah Ralph "Juber" White. Just northward over a hill from the center of Sweet Valley, it bordered on lands of Russell Kitchen, George Gross, and Carl Rood, the first two of whom rented rowboats to fishermen. On the west side of George Gross's farm lies a former swamp that is the geological sister of Grassy Pond. In late 1967 and early 1968, Victor Hauze purchased 20 acres from George Gross, 17 acres from Stanley Hontz, and another unknown sized parcel from "Doc" Long. Hauze developed the swamp into what is now known as the Sugarloaf Peat Company and it is accessed via Peat Moss Road off Broadway Road just west of the Ross Elementary School. Hauze's son tells the story that peat moss is formed in a glacier-created pothole by the growth of certain plants, sphagnum moss and sedge reed, alongside a body of water. The plants expand until they eventually from a crust on the water and then sink to the bottom as they die off. The weight of new growth dying off and sinking creates, with the weight of the water, sufficient pressure on the old residue that it is compressed into peat moss. This process is estimated to take approximately 20,000 years, so there's no hurry to run and visit Grassy Pond. It can safely be said, from viewing the crust on it, that it is destined to become the next peat moss bog. The crust is strong enough to support a man's weight. Don Gross reports that he and his father, George, used to venture out onto it to pick cranberries. They'd sit on 3-legged milk stools and pick for about 5 minutes until the stools began to sink and they'd have to move. Droughts have since wiped out the cranberries.


The first church, built somewhere in the 1870's, was the Church Of Christ. 

Its 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 second church was formed in 1894 known as the Pleasant Hill Christian Church. It burned in 1926. It was rebuilt of hollow tile with steel-sash art glass windows and during the rebuilding, the congregation met in the Junior O.U.A.M. hall. The rebuilt church was named The Christian Church and its auditorium and classrooms had a capacity of 250. The church later became The First Christian Church and then the Community Bible Church. 

[A complete history of what is most commonly called "The Brick Church", researched by Neva Edwards, can be found at History of the Brick ChurchAdditionally, 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.]

Beyond these two formal churches, the citizens of Sweet Valley would attend revival meetings held by itinerant preachers in various fields around Ross Township. Then, too, the Patterson Grove Campground on the line between neighboring Fairmount and Huntington Townships has been a major religious institution for over 100 years. Its full history can be found by using this site's search engine (see above.) 



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 course of my research, I ran across many newspaper articles dating to just after the turn of the century that spoke of citizens applying for liquor licenses in Ross Township.  Among them were Theodore Frantz who, in 1901, operated something called the Klondike Hotel, the exact location of which I have yet to determine.  His application was followed by ones from William C. Baker in 1901 and again in 1905 and Frank Hazlett in 1907.  In all cases, a “remonstrance” hearing was held.  That being a term new to me, I found its definition to be “A remonstrance is the opportunity for the general public to voice its formal objection to either a new liquor permit application or the renewal of an existing liquor permit within its town.”  In all cases, the residents of Ross Township showed up to voice their opposition and the license applications were soundly denied.

Having resided in Ross Township in my youth and visiting it often during my adulthood, I knew that such a system is no longer in place.  The township has always been “dry” and I wondered WHEN the system changed.  I contacted the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and they kindly provided me with more information than I expected.

The system first changed on January 29, 1920 , the effective date of the 18th amendment to the US Constitution, popularly known as Prohibition.  (It had passed the requisite 36th state’s [Utah’s] approval on January 16, 1919 but did not take effect for another year. For what it’s worth, Pennsylvania’s ratification was the 45th in line; next-to-last of the then-46 states, not occurring until February 25, 1919 after the issue was no longer in doubt.)  During Prohibition, of course, no intoxicating beverages were sold LEGALLY anywhere in the nation.

Prohibition lasted for nearly 14 years, being legislated out of existence by passage of the 21st amendment on December 5, 1933.  During this time, the Pennsylvania state legislature had figured out that holding a remonstrance hearing each time someone applied for a liquor license was unnecessarily time-consuming.   Very shortly in advance of the 21st amendment, on November 29, 1933, it passed the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Act, now known as the Liquor Code.  It provided the system that we know today: a municipality-wide election would be held to determine if ANY licenses would be issued within its boundaries.   If the vote was for “dry”, there would be no more remonstrance hearings, for there would be NO application for a license at all.  (I haven’t asked, but I believe that, in “wet” municipalities, neighbors can still object to the LOCATION of a drinking establishment but not to its mere granting per se.  Additionally, I believe that PA state law now limits licenses to one for every 3,000 population.)

So what happened in Ross Township?  Despite, the fairly frequent applications earlier in the century, the residents didn’t hold a vote until 1937.  On the question of hard liquor, the “drys” barely prevailed over the “wets”, 129 to 126 (255 total votes). Beer was a separate question and it, too, failed, but by a MUCH wider margin; 188 to 115 (303 total votes).  For the life of me, I’ll never figure out why 48 more people cared one way or the other about “hard stuff” but didn’t vote either way on beer.

Twenty years then passed before the issue was again bought to a vote.  In 1957, the township again voted “dry” on both counts but the PLCB didn’t provide the vote totals. 

In 1959, a third vote was held and the results mirrored those of the first vote.  The “drys” defeated the “wets” on the question of hard liquor, 268 to 147 (415 total votes) and beer went down to defeat 268 to 174 (342 total votes.)  As in 1937, way more folks voted on the liquor question than did on the beer question.

That’s all there is to report.  There have been NO other votes in the past 49 years!  How would a new vote be held if the residents chose to hold one?  The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Act requires that a petition be signed by at least 10% of the highest vote cast  in the latest municipal election (probably for supervisor.)  Said petition, when presented to the Luzerne County Commissioners, would then cause the question to be placed on the ballot.  


The “fork 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.) 

In 1940, 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 Ballantine. 

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.

Louise 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.

For 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.

Wolfe's Grove closed in 1965 and the bowling alley has changed hands twice but “Shelly's Restaurant” carries on as a family concern, some 54 years after Shelly first opened it.  It is now operated by his youngest daughter, Jill Wandel Scott, her husband Larry, and members of her extended family.


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.


During 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 Sandy Beach drive-in ran only 20 years, from 1948 to 1968.

The Dallas drive-in was opened around 1953 and operated until at least 1966. It's been said that the marquee cost $1,000 to construct—an amazingly high figure for the times. An unusual feature was the midget-car racing by children that used to run in front of the movie screen before dusk. 

The Garden drive-in theater was opened in July, 1952 by Theodore Cragle and 4 other investors between US Route 11 and the Susquehanna River. Eventually his son, Arthur, took over and ran it until 1986, when he sold out to Nelson and Diane Fey. They operated it until 1990 and their daughter, Kimberly Barbacci now owns it. From 1979 onward David Hudzik has been its projectionist and he has been the source for most of the info you read herein. The Garden's sound system was comprised initially of the old-fashioned speakers on posts. In 1986 it was converted to short-range radio on the AM band and FM was introduced in 1990. Given its locale, the Garden is naturally pre-disposed to being flooded regularly by the Susquehanna and Hurricane Agnes in June, 1972 caused extensive damage with water over the roof of the concession stand\projection booth building. Following that event, Hudzik has gotten the removal of equipment down to a science. A team of 5 guys can now remove all the valuable items in 3 hours. Their last scare was in 1996 but the river never even reached the foundation of the building at that time. One of this writer's fondest memories of the Garden was the 3 holiday eves (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day) when an all-nighter of 5 movies was presented. To the best of Hudzik's recall, this practice stopped at the Garden and all other area drive-ins around 1980.

Why did the Garden survive when the others closed? The major reason is calculated to have been the cliché of real estate—location, location, location. The others were on land found to be more valuable for other commercial purposes, e.g., Wal-Mart and Sam's Club replaced the Wilkes Barre drive-in, and what was the Sandy Beach drive-in is now a home. The Garden, however, being subject to frequent flooding was less valuable for those purposes which would have required a much larger investment in fixed assets that could not be removed by 5 guys in 3 hours. The Garden now opens only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from the first week in April until the third week of October and generates additional income from a flea market on Sunday. 

However, beginning with the 2002 season, it added a second screen on the southeastern corner of its property next to Ken Pollock Trucking. (The original, or "main" screen is at the north end of the property, nearest West Nanticoke and viewers, face upriver.) The sound system is comprised of two separate FM frequencies. The main screen features parking for approximately 450 cars and another 250 or so can view the second screen. Prior to installing the second screen, the Garden was relegated to carrying "sub-run" films that had already had a several-week run at indoor theaters. With a second screen, it could now offer "first-run" movies and compete with the indoor venues. The initial film that first year, 2002, was the blockbuster "Spider-Man." Garden management ran it to a packed 450-main screen lot. They then switched it to the second screen and hoped for maybe 60 to 75 cars per night. Wrong! It ran an additional SIX WEEKS on the second screen!! Adding the second screen fits in neatly with what Hudzik explains as the "nature of the business. Drive-in-goers are "repeaters"—they like to come to the movies most every weekend and, with double the number of screens, we can keep them coming back. With "first-run" contracts requiring us to hold a movie for at least 2 weeks, those repeaters wouldn't want to have to see the same movie twice. We can now shift it for the second week to the second screen and show a new "first-run" on the main screen." Judging by the comments in the Guest Book at the Garden's web site (Garden Drive In), the chief customer complaint now is that with 4 movies (two double features) instead of the old 2 to list, one must necessarily use smaller letters on the marquee and they are harder to read when passing by at the speed limit. Management has promised to address this for the 2004 season.


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.

There also was once a Center theater 
(photo is the property of Sheila Brandon and is not to be copied in any manner)

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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


In the middle of Sweet Valley stands the 

Sweet Valley Cemetery. 

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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. 

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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.

In January, 1945 George Bronson and 
Daniel Davenport 
(also served as the postmaster for Sweet Valley for some time)

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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 
fanfare amid a chicken dinner, in March, 1947.


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Catherine Janik, Emma Blaine, Bob Campbell

1958 Harvic Factory

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. 

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1st Row- Martha Kusakoski, Ann Lukavitch, ? Petroski, Bertha Meeker, Mary Maranski, Sophie Hasay, Mary Palmalski, Joan Roberts, Helen Petroski, Stella Kittle, Sophie Kasmerski, Catherine Janick, Buliah Farver, Marie Evans

2nd Row- Clara Cragle, Pearl Brink, Mildred Rittenhouse, Catherine Price, Ilene Goodman, Vicky Kutz, ??, Ester Trumbower, ??, ??, Sally Hutchins, Pearl Edwards, Lottie Jacobs, Emma Blaine, Bertha Meeker, Catherine Janick, Helen Petroski, Pearl McKeel, Margaret Culver, Reva Masters Pahler Eck, Ann Farver, ??, Stasia Yurko, Catherine Lynn, ??, Ellie Jones

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.

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1st Row- Sophie Hasay, Mary Palmalski, Catherine Janik, Bertha Meeker, Joan Gregory, ??, Helen Petroski, Naomi Perry, Sally Hutchinson, Esther Steinrock, Ruth ?, Mildred Blaine, Vicki Kutz

2nd Row- Rose Rebelis, Martha Evans, ? Sherlock, Pearl McKeel, Stella Kittle, Marie Evans, Pearl Edwards, Sophie Kasmerski, Clara Cragle, ??, Ruth Belles, Ann Lukavitch, Margaret Harned, Dorothy Witkowski, Catherine Price, Agnes Goodwin, Pearl Brink, Mildred Rittenhouse

3rd Row- Joyce Adams, Catherine Kozkowski, Reva Pahler Eck, Ruth Brink, ??, Mary Wolfe, Gertrude McKeel, ??, Ann Farver

Ember did not own it all that long, selling out after just a few years to Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese (better known as "Three Fingers Brown") and his partner, Harry "Nig" Rosen Stromberg, who named it Budget Dress. Lucchese was later proven to be connected to New York mobster Carlo Gambino, whose Consolidated Trucking, it is said, "was the only company to truck anything out the NY garment center"  (can you see a connection between the NY garment center and a sewing factory in Sweet Valley?). The Gambinos and Luccheses gave added meaning to the term "crime families" when Gambino's son married Lucchese's daughter. At first, relations with the employees ran smoothly and the ladies were proud to show off the products of their work by wearing them while riding in a factory-sponsored float in the Sweet Valley firemen's parade. However, a nationwide strike of 100,000 workers over 8 states by the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) in 1958 did close the plant down for nine months. 

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Emma Blaine, Catherine Janik, Sally Hutchinson, Reva Pahler

Taken in New York City 1958

The Sweet Valley ladies stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their union sisterhood and five even went to New York City to picket there. 

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Front Row- Catherine Price, Mary Marcinski, Robert Campbell

2nd Row- Emma Blaine, Lottie Jacobs, Helen Petroski, Reva Pahler Eck

Even in 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 union label."

Following the strike, the business was sold to Harry Lieberman and Joe Snarski who re-named it Jay Fashions but not much is known of their tenure. For about 2 years in the early 1960's, the business was operated by Charley Cefalo who named it Monday Fashions in line with the Sunday Fashions he already operated in Hudson, PA. "Why not?", said Charley, "you need clothes every day!" Cefalo's son Jimmy played football at Penn State and with the Miami Dolphins of the NFL and is currently the Sports Director for Channel 10, an NBC affiliate in Miami. Charley Cefalo sold out to William Carter, who was also running a factory in Harveyville. Carter at first leased the building from the Sweet Valley Improvement Company but then bought it from them in 1972. Carter operated initially as Karen Sportswear and later used the name Karen Manufacturing. Carter's son, Neil, took over the operation in 1981  and continued operations up until 1994. At its peak during its 45-year run, the factory employed between 75 to 100 workers. Although William Carter did, in the early days of his ownership, make some dresses from scratch, for the most part the factory functioned as a subcontractor to larger firms from New York who employed dress designers. The larger firms would design the dresses, buy the material, cut it , and ship it to the Sweet Valley factory which would assemble the garments and return them. Neil Carter reflected on his father's relations with the indomitable Min Matheson, who helped found the ILGWU. He said "Min was a peach of a lady. At one point when the union called a minor strike, my father told our people 'This will all blow over soon. Go ahead and walk out so as to not defy your union.' " Asked how the factory managed to stay in business for 45 years in the face of foreign imports and competition from non-unionized factories in North and South Carolina, Neil Carter replied "Because we had good employees."


Locals knew the base as the Red Rock Air Force Base but the official Air Force designation was the Benton Air Force Base.Its initial mission was to detect incoming enemy aircraft and missiles.  Official word from the Air Force says   “The 648th AC&W   (Aircraft Control and Warning) Squadron activated a pair of AN/CPS-6B radar at this site starting in October 1951.  The search radars remained active until 1961.  In 1958 a pair of AN/FPS-35 search radars replaced the AN/CPS-6B height finder radar.  In late 1958 Benton began providing data for the SAGE System.”  This system is described at 
as “The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, completed in the early 1960s, revolutionized air defense. The integrated radar and computer technology that was developed for SAGE also contributed significantly to the development of civilian air traffic control systems. With the increasing possibility of a large-scale bomber attack on the United States in the mid-1950s, it became evident that further improvements in the nation’s defense capability were needed. As the air defense system matured, the Air Force pursued the development of advanced command, control, and communications systems. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Lincoln Laboratories was commissioned to develop an automated nationwide computer-based air defense system. At Hanscom Field, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's new Lincoln Laboratory (1951) and its spin off, the MITRE Corporation (1958), worked to bring the SAGE system to completion. The end result of MIT’s efforts was the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment System, which consisted of a network of computerized control centers throughout the United States.

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 mountain.  


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.”

(courtesy of Dave Kline at Benton News )

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. 

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Photos of the Ricketts "Stone House" and "Hotel", 
courtesy of David Kline

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By 1883, 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.  

Some of 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.  

We 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.  

The 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."  

The 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.  

The 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."


In the 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.

In 1865 an oil well was sunk 1 1/2 miles east of North Pond (now known as North Lake) and another was near Fairmount Springs. No results are known from those two.  A third well WAS drilled at Dodson's Mill near Long Pond (also previously known as Robinson's Pond and currently known as Lake Ganoga.) The pond lies not far from Sweet Valley at the top of Red Rock Mountain, just over the county line in Colley Township, Sullivan County. This well, however, was a scam perpetrated by a man named Hadley who had "salted" the pond with oil balls which floated to the surface. After attracting investments of $40,000, Hadley vamoosed into Canada.

1880-1921 An undertaking establishment was conducted by George F. Wesley.

In 1881 a newspaper called The Pleasant Hill Item was published by A. W. Moss and Son. A. W. also taught at the Pleasant Hill Academy and ran a general store.

In 1885 S. L. Frantz ran a blacksmith shop and W. R. Farrell was a wainwright (wagon maker.) 

General stores were run by Corey Allen and businessmen -builders Hollenback and Urguart who, at one time, owned the whole of Lake Township.

In 1893 T. D. Wolfe had a marble and granite business and around that same time George Callender ran a cider mill and a sawmill. James Dodson had a blacksmith and wheelwright shop. G. P. Wesley ran a furniture store.

In the late 1800's John Benscoter ran a water-powered sawmill at South Pond.

Benscoter's Lumber Mill

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From 1917 until 1921 Torrence Naugle ran the 
US Mail stage from Sweet Valley to the 
"Hunlock Creek railroad station."

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He 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.

In the 1930's Samuel Moore was known as "The Candy Man." For many years he traveled (walking mostly) a regular route through Sweet Valley, Mooretown, Broadway, and Bloomingdale carrying boxes of candy on his back. Many a boy and girl waited anxiously (with a penny or two) for him to arrive. 

In 1939 the Pleasant Hill Academy building was used by the Junior O.U.A.M. Later Michael Adams used it to show movies and hold dances.

In 1940 the Sweet Valley Band was organized by Mr. David Anstett of Wilkes Barre and he served as its director. There were 27 members. Also in 1940, Charles H. Long started a farm equipment business.

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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

 “Oliver’s Store"

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"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.

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 Immediately across Main Road from “Oliver’s Store” was
“Corey Allen’s Store”,


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. 

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In 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 located there.

The building located next to the Moss Machinery was once known as "Ord Trumbower's Store."

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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.  

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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. 

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Following 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.

Another interesting note was passed along by Kathleen Hunter Cornell. At one point, three of the four corners of the North Lake Road\Main Road intersection were populated by sets of twins at the same time.  They were Kathleen and Kenneth Hunter, Wayne and Warren Callender, and Richard and Ronald Thomas.

Sweet 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.

Similarly, 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.

A 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.

Seeking 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.

In 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.

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Maps of North Lake by Tom Evans

It 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 that long.

Another 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 teenage years.  It stood across Main Road from where the Church Of Christ now (2006) stands and was behind where the Cross family once operated a nursing home.  Thinking topographically, it was the obvious place to start a gravity-fed system.  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.

I got really lucky in choosing the next person to ask about the water system.  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.

Seeking to determine exactly how far the system extended, I spoke to various sources.  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 basement. 

My 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 fix.  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. 

Sweet 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, 

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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 Rebannack,

Charles 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.)

Photos are courtesy of the following community members: Neva Edwards, Maude Luskey, Reva Masters Pahler Eck, Kathleen Hunter Cornell, Sheila Brandon, Harold Benscoter, Frank Regulski, Ron Hontz, David Kline

Researched by Neva Edwards Johns and Ron Hontz


Ronald E. Hontz

33 Whitcraft Lane

Shrewsbury PA 17361

(717) 235-5791

cell phone (717) 309-1402

e-mail: Sweetvalleykid@gmail.com