Columbia-Montour Quarterly Vol. 7: January-March 2023



Volume 7 January - March

Your All-Access Guide to Columbia & Montour Counties!





An Early Bird Tradition 5

8 12

Susquehanna’s North Branch: Nominee for River of the Year


Events Calendar


Following an Artistic Dream: Dyelute

21 Finding the Stories Behind the Signs (Part II) 26

St. Gabriel’s in the Pines: Columbia County’s Oldest Church

Member Spotlight 31



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by Jenn Puckett

The Early Bird Sports Expo at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds has been an event that outdoor enthusiasts have looked forward to each year since 1988. Started by Tom and Mary Austin, this four- day outdoor extravaganza was taken over in 2006 by Dave and Betty Broadt. The event showcases the best of outdoor sport- ing activities like hunting, fishing, archery, trapping, boating, and more. Vendors from all over set up at the event with outdoor

New owners: Jarrett and Jenna Swartz & Family

The newest commemorative patch with artwork by Ken Hunter will be available at this year’s Expo!

sport-related products and displays, and events throughout the weekend provide plenty of entertainment for the public.

After the 2020 show, the Broadts decided it was time to find new ownership, and vendors Jarrett and Jenna Swartz jumped at the chance to take over the event. I recently had an opportunity to speak with Jenna regarding her and her husband Jarrett’s commitment to this long running show, and the importance of carrying on the tradition. Jarrett owns Timber to Table Woodworking, designing custom furniture from purchasing the tree, cutting it down, drying it and creating beauti- ful unique pieces. He is a long-time outdoor enthusiast engaging in hunting and fishing. Jarrett introduced Jenna to these interests soon after they met. Their two children both hunt and fish as well. Jenna’s enthusiasm for getting families into the outdoors, wheth- er it be birdwatching, fishing, hiking, or hunting was amazingly apparent after speaking with her. As a mom myself, I know it is


If you’re looking for a new bow, fishing lure or turkey call this the place to be. ATV’s, outfitters, wildlife art – there is far too much to list. Jenna and Jarrett work to make sure that the vendors are unique and each bring something different to the show. Beyond that, this hardworking couple also partners with the Pennsylvania State Game Commission to offer a Hunter Safe- ty Course. It is set for Thursday evening (1/26) and Saturday morning (1/28) so kids can participate. This is a two-day course; students are required to attend both days. The cost of the class is $40 per person. Check out the Early Bird Sports Expo this Janauary 26 -29, 2023 at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds. Parking is free, and kids 12 and under get free admission. Entry fee for anyone 13 and over is only $7.00. Learn more at Don’t miss this amazing event!

hard to pry kids away from their iPads and game consoles. I may be dating myself here, but when I was growing up there was no Internet, phones were still attached to walls and we had four television channels. We had to make our own fun and most of that came from being outside. After talking to Jenna, I told my 12-year-old about the Early Bird Sports Expo and the things to see and do there. He can’t wait to go! The Early Bird Sports Expo is not just for hunters. This inclu- sive event is for everyone. Some of the activities include a scavenger hunt for kids 12 and under – there are representa- tions birds, reptiles and mammals (11 of each) hidden on the various booths throughout the show. Lasertag, 3-D archery shoots (bring your own bow), paper shoots, axe throwing and more are available. Don’t forget about the food – soup, hot sausage, apple dump- lings, French fries, subs, kettle corn and more. I got hungry just writing that!


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Susquehanna's North Branch a nominee for River of the Year



Article by John Zaktansky, Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association

As Angie Tuttle paddled and fished her way down the North Branch of the Susquehanna River from Howland Preserve to Riverside Park in Tunkhannock, she had a feeling something was watching her and following along. “I just kept fishing and floating and then I heard cracking branches up on the bank,” she said. “I looked and saw a tiny little fox face looking around a tree at me! That little fox followed me for a while and kept me company.” Those sort of experiences keep bringing Tuttle back to the North Branch and has sparked numerous posts on her river- centric blog feed, the Little Plastic Boat Yacht Club.

“What I love most about our North Branch section of river is the ability to use it for multiple seasons and with different vessels. The river is big enough water and has the resources (boat launches, river town parks, etc.) for jet boats, John boats, canoes and kayaks,” she said. “Recreationally there’s always something to do at the river and the tributaries that flow into it. You can really reconnect with yourself and nature by being next to the water or playing out in it.” The North Branch of the Susquehanna River is one of four finalists for 2023 Pennsylvania River of the Year recognition, with the winner being determined via online vote between now and 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 18, 2023.

“We are excited to once again kick off the public online voting process for Pennsylvania River of the Year,” said Janet Sweeney of the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers in a press release from the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “As we all continue to spend more time outdoors and deepen our appreciation for the beautiful natural resources of Pennsylvania, the annual River of the Year voting process is a fun way to rally behind and support your favorite waterway.” Other finalists include the Conestoga River, a tributary in the Lower Susquehanna watershed, and both the Schuylkill River and Perkiomen Creek from the Delaware River basin.


VOTE HERE FOR the Susquehanna river

A VARIETY OF THREATS Recognition from a River of the Year win would help partnering agencies tackle a number of issues the North Branch faces, according to Cain Chamberlin, executive director of the Endless Mountains Heritage Region, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2023 and co-nominated (with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership) the river for consideration. “There is definitely a need for more public access points along the North Branch, which requires the maintenance of our existing accesses as well as riverside communities to create new ones along the water trail,” he said.

Another continuing issue for the North Branch involves excessive sedimentation. “When it rains, the river really lives up to its reputation of years past as a ‘muddy river,’” said Tuttle. “Some of the tributaries contribute an increased amount of sediment runoff which we see for almost a week before it clears up.” That erosion, along with an increase in invasive species such as the emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid and spotted lanternfly, has led to a higher number of dead trees along the river’s shores, according to Chamberlain. “Those trees eventually wind up falling into the water and creating strainers for paddlers and boaters on the Susquehanna,” he said. “In our region, volunteer first responders have graciously removed some of these larger obstacles on the river to eliminate these safety hazards, but these local fire companies can only do so much and water trail management organizations like the EMHR do not have the capacity or resources to take on these tasks.” Like most rivers that travel through a variety of population hubs, the North Branch of the Susquehanna has a long history of industrial pollution.

events that sweep debris into the water and those who purposefully dump unwanted items into the Susquehanna through the years have created a major challenge for organizations like ours,” Chamberlain said. “While the Susquehanna is much cleaner now than it was decades ago prior to environmental regulations, we still have a great deal of work to do.” AWARENESS INTO ACTION That work can be made easier via better awareness that can come from a River of the Year designation, according to Alana Jajko of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, which has seen an explosion of public interest in paddling excursions, including a North Branch sojourn this past summer that sold out in a few weeks. “Events like this serve as a gateway for people to really experience the river first-hand and understand the work that still needs to be done,” she said “By providing access to these outdoor opportunities, we’re hoping to build a bridge that can help transform that enthusiasm into action.” The Endless Mountains Heritage Region manages the upper leg of the North Branch water trail from the Columbia/ Luzerne county line to the New York boarder (146 miles). In addition to the

Kayakers enjoy the North Branch between Berwick & Bloomsburg during the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s 2022 Susquehanna Sojourn.

“Centuries of industrial growth and operations along its shores, flooding


regular monitoring and public access sojourns the association offers, it hopes to coincide a River of the Year designation with its 25th anniversary for a special week-long sojourn from Sayre to Shickshinny in early June. The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership manages the remaining 36 miles of the North Branch of the Susquehanna River to its convergence with the West Branch in Sunbury. In addition to a sojourn, the

association has plans to incorporate River of the Year programming into two events already on the books for 2023. “Our Susquehanna Greenway Cleanup week in April engages communities, trail organizations and advocacy groups from across the Greenway in a coordinated cleanup effort of the area’s land and water trails,” said Jajko. “Last year, the cleanup effort hosted 12 sites, engaged over 400 volunteers and

removed 13,000 pounds of litter.”

The Greenway Partnership also plans to hold its second annual Outdoor Expo at the Shikellamy Marina on June 3, 2023. “This free-to-the-public event will engage outdoor organizations, businesses and vendors in a single- day exhibition focused on providing educational programming, access to gear, informational presentations, and skills clinics to the public to help connect them with the outdoor opportunities along the Susquehanna Greenway,” she said. The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association also has plans to be involved with River of the Year festivities and awareness if the waterway wins the designation via expansion of its youth environmental education programs in the region. This includes its popular HERYN (Helping Engage our River’s Youth with Nature) kayaking and fishing program days and enhancing a network of STEM-related family environmental education in schools, community libraries and other venues. “River of the Year recognition would help spark important conversations with communities throughout this section of river about a wide variety of topics,” said Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper John Zaktansky. “From historical

Photo by Angie Tuttle (from original article shared on Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper website)

VOTE HERE FOR the Susquehanna River Reminder!


and changing as the river itself, shifting from rolling meadows and forests to seemingly endless mountains, vibrant cities with industrial pasts to quaint river towns that dot the winding river valley,” she said. “The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership is proud to manage a piece of it alongside many noteworthy partners, all of whom will do their part to improve the health and accessibility of the river should the North Branch receive this very special designation. “Now, it’s up to our friends and neighbors to show their North Branch love. Vote and help us foster this treasure that runs right through our backyard!” One vote is allowed per email between now and 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 18, 2023. Learn more about each of the River of the Year finalists here: --> the-year-nominees/ About the Riverkeeper: John Zaktansky has been the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper since Feb. 17, 2020. He serves an 11,000-square-mile watershed defined by the North & West branch- es of the Susquehanna River and all the tributar- ies that feed it. Stay up to date with Riverkeeper news at:

Courtesy of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership; from 2022 Susquehanna Sojourn

incidents like the Knox Mine Disaster to more current issues such as acid mine drainage, concerns about fracking and emerging contaminants such as microplastics and PFAS, programs that open a line of public discussion at the family and community level are a critical Digital quarterly 22 ad_Layout 1 6/9/22 2:18 PM Page 1

first step toward realistic change.”

According to Jajko, the North Branch is a living, breathing thing.

“It has a character that is as unique

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reading with reptiles January 7, February 4 & March 4 Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland 570-538-1869 • white rabbit red rabbit – bloomsburg theatre ensemble January 12 - 14 Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Alvina Krause Theatre 570-784-8181 • propagation of house plants January 14 Penn State Extension - Master Gardeners of Montour County 570-316-6519 • ries-propagation-of-house-plants 6 th - 12 th grade science fair January 19 The Children’s Museum, Bloomsburg 570-389-9206 • 34 th annual early bird sports expo January 26 – 29 Bloomsburg Fairgrounds 570-437-2460 • brewski ’ s bluegrass brunch January 29, February 26 & March 26 Brewski’s Coffee & Bar 570-317-2865

parker quartet February 3 Bloomsburg University – Kenneth S. Gross Auditorium, Carver Hall 570-349-4409 •

alash February 8

Weis Center - Campus Theatre 570-577-1000 •

bte improv February 10 Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble - Alvina Krause Theatre 570-784-8181 •

doug mcminn blues band February 11 Music Hall at Phillips Emporium 570-387-8027 •

planting for pollinators in sun and shade February 11 Penn State Extension - Master Gardeners of Montour County 570-316-6519 • ries-planting-for-pollinators-in-sun-and-shade

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divi roxx kids March 11

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the wicked chicken February 22 Weis Center - Campus Theatre 570-577-1000 •

trinity irish dance company March 24 Weis Center for Performing Arts 570-577-1000 • bloom CON hak 4 kidz March 25 The Children’s Museum, Bloomsburg 570-389-9206 • ajijaak on turtle island March 25 Bloomsburg University – Haas Center for the Arts 570-389-4409 •

maple sugaring open house February 25 Montour Preserve • 570-336-2060 six characters in search of an author – bloomsburg theatre ensemble February 23 – March 12 Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble - Alvina Krause Theatre 570-784-8181 • MARCH danú March 3 Weis Center for the Performing Arts 570-577-1000 • ‘ the griegol ’ / trick of the light theatre March 7

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Following An Artistic Dream

By Nancy Bishop

Berwick resident Jordan Franklin forges path as concept artist

Like most people just graduating from college, Jordan Franklin needed to find a job in 2013 to pay the bills.

So, he went to work remodeling stores for a large national chain. It was good work. He got to travel, and he made money. But his first passion was art. After all, his bachelor’s degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh was in Video Game Art and Design. As a kid, he loved art and gaming. And he was a big fan of the late Frank Frazetta, often called the “Godfather of fantasy art,” who lived for a time in East Stroudsburg where there’s a museum of his work. Along about 2020, Franklin started to take the art that had become just a hobby to do after his work hours more seriously. He realized that he wasn’t happy. So, he decided to do what he really wanted to do. In 2021 he


moved back to Berwick where he had spent his early years before moving to Lock Haven and graduating from high school there.

And thus, the art business he named Dyelute was born.

Dyelute, which is a play on the words dye (a type of paint) and dilute (to thin out), is not your typical art. Franklin’s focus is on concept art and fantasy art. What is that exactly? Concept art shows visually an idea that can be used in films, video games, animation, comic books or other media before it’s developed into the final product. And fantasy art brings to life supernatural themes, ideas, creatures or settings. “It’s not the conventional art that people go to see,” Franklin told me when I visited his Berwick studio recently. “People want to see art they can hang on the wall. I’m creating original work out of my own imagination. “I whole-heartedly enjoy making ideas into fleshed out creations and seeing the immaterial become reality.”

Jordan works on his next creation using a digital sketch tablet.


The various design stages of one of

Jordan’s past projects, titled “Punk Rock Corgi”


Franklin does commission work for people who have a specific project in mind. He also has several projects of his own currently in work, including a coloring book and a pirate game. He showed me concept art that depicted what enemy characters might look like in the game.

Jordan’s visualizations of various ships for his current pirate game project.

He’s already published one game, “Not A Knight”, that has gamers “…rise from nothing and become the knight you’re meant to be!” Working their way through the game lets the player “…sneak past enemy guards, master archery, show off blacksmithing skill and gain riches.”

Above: Jordan’s booth at the 2022 Covered Bridge & Arts Festival at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds. Right: A screenshot from Jordan’s first published game, titled “Not a Knight” - players must be sneaky!


Stages of Jordan’s “Dragonborn Paladin” project

One of the characters on Dyelute’s website caught my eye. Called “DragonBorn Paladin,” Franklin says he created it as a way to develop a character design for a “Dungeons and Dragons” idea. He wanted to work through developing the look, feel, and equipment that this character would use. My oldest grandson is a big Dungeons and Dragons gamer who plays every Saturday with a group of his friends, and I knew he would love it. As Franklin showed me around his studio and the projects he’s working on, we talked about his commission work for clients. That takes precedence over his own projects, he told me, adding that he’s trying to develop that business.

Of that immediately made me think of another teenage grandson who collects “duck stuff” as he calls it and has a birthday in January. What could make a better gift for a doting grandmother to give than a piece of original artwork to hang in his room? Hope he likes what Franklin comes up with! course, Have a project you’d like to see him do? Go to and send him an email!

Jordan’s first draft of “Duckman” for my grandson.

My take home pur- chase from Dyelute after visiting with Jordan in Berwick.


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Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Julie Beishline and Meg Geffkin about the St. Gabriel Church in Benton. These ladies are part of the St. Gabriel Cemetery Association which manages the grounds at the church. What I Learned about this quaint little church was very interesting. In the year 1793, Columbia County was still very wild. A handful of settlers populated the area around Cole’s Creek north of today’s Benton. Every Sunday they would meet for church services at the “stone house” of Ezekiel Cole, for which the creek was named. The congregation’s first recorded service was in 1795. Their Reverend, Caleb Hopkins, was a Lieutenant in the Patriot Army of the Revolutionary war. He and his wife, Mary, were the first to service this small congregation and did so faithfully until 1824. In 1810, the people of the area decided they wanted a proper church and so, for $200, a pine log church was constructed next to the cemetery on land deeded to them by Ezekiel Cole for fifteen cents per acre. It would have a gallery on three sides, crude wooden benches, and a fire pit in the center for warmth. It was completed in 1812 and was the only church from Bloomsburg to the New York border and from Jerseytown to Wilkes-Barre. In 1818, the church was consecrated as “St. Gabriel’s Church” but was known locally as “St. Gabriel in the Pines”. On Palm Sunday, 1876, the fire pit was lit in preparation for services that morning. The smoke would escape through cracks and crevices in the roof and walls as it always had done, but on this day, sparks went through the cracks and landed on the roof, unnoticed by anyone until it was too late. The little church in the pine grove burned to the ground.

The congregation wanted to rebuild as soon as possible and by that autumn, a wood plank church was completed. The cornerstone from the log church was retrieved from the ashes and utilized in the new church. A memorial altar window, matching the window in the Christ Church in Oxford England, was donated by the Bernard family and placed in the chancel. A church bell was gifted to the congregation in 1884 by Mrs. Blanch Bernard and her sister, Mrs. Katherine Swartwart of Benton. The bell was cast in 1882 and brought in from Troy, New York. It was dedicated to the church on Easter morning at 6 a.m., 1884. The bell was mounted on a wooden frame and hung in a large pine tree. A major storm subsequently caused the old


Below: Mrs. Katherine Swartwart (right) & her sister Blanch Bernard provided the funding for the church bell in 1884.

pine tree to fall, damaging the bell. It was later hung between two pine trees on wooden framing. St. Gabriel’s owned the distinction of being the only church anywhere in the world to hang its bell from a tree.

Right: the bell in early years, hung from a single pine. Below: the bell was later hung between two trees.

On October 18th, 1893, at the age of 40, Ned passed away. To honor the horse for his years of service, Ned was buried near the church by a big oak tree. Once the tree died, its stump marked his grave. Today, it is unknown where Ned is buried. Upon the deaths of the Rockwells, they were all laid to rest behind the church in an enclosure under the altar window.

In October of 1889, Mr. Schrader of New York donated a pump organ to the church. This organ remained in the church for many years. It is not known when it was removed or why. It was recently found in the Ricketts Mansion at Lake Ganoga and was returned to the church along with the key that makes it work. The organ has been played at a couple of ceremonies held at the church since.

On September 29th, 1896, a severe storm blew through the region. Several trees came crashing down onto the church’s roof, destroying the memorial altar window, and bringing down the bell once again. After the storm, the church closed until the first Sunday of Lent, 1897. Over the years, life was more normal for this little church. Reverends came and went, as did families.

Rev. John D. Rockwell was a “circuit rider” minister and served this congregation from 1879-1899 with his wife, Julia Anne, and daughter, Lily. He rode a horse named “Ned” between churches and services.

Ned was called the “Missionary Horse” and served Rockwell for over 30 years. As Ned grew older, he was fed strained food and mush.

The Rockwell family plot, located behind the church.


At the end of World War I, Mrs. Katherine Swartwout of Benton rang the church bell marking the end of hostilities. Then again at the end of World War II, Mrs. Swartwout rang the bell again in hopes to end all wars. She was 81 years old and one of the women who originally donated the bell to the church in 1884. In 1948, the church doors were locked and services suspended for reasons unknown. It was at this time that the bell went missing. Then on April 1st, 1951, Rev. Bishop reopened its doors and services reconvened. Four stained glass windows were donated to the church, honoring early pioneer families that supported the church. They were provided by the Daughters of the American Colonists and hung on Oct. 26, 1952. The bell was returned to the church after it was found in a local barn in the late 1990’s and on July 18, 1999, it was restored and rehung on a wooden tower in front of the church. It was rung 11 times at 11 a.m. after over 50 years of silence. In December 2018, the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania voted to end its affiliation with St. Gabriel’s congregation due to a lack of membership. The church was attached to the old cemetery. The new cemetery is a separate entity. The Diocese asked the St. Gabriel Cemetery Association, which was already responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the newer cemetery, if they wanted to take ownership of the church and old cemetery. After much deliberation and prayer, they agreed to take ownership of this historic property.

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The association has restored the church property to its original name, “St. Gabriel in the Pines” and its new purpose in the community is still evolving. It has hosted weddings, art shows, boy scout meetings, and holiday events. It is available to the community for their events and services upon approval of the association. •

The church and bell today.


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by Laura Klotz, MarkerQuest Blog edited to fit magazine by CMVB Staff

Finding the Stories Behind the Signs

Part II

One woman’s quest to photograph and research all of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's historical markers recently brought her to Columbia & Montour Counties. NOTE: Part I of Laura’s visit was documented in our previous edition of the magazine, which you can read by clicking here.

James died shortly before the American Revolution began, but Mary remained on the family farm and continued to run it until the Battle of Wyoming, a bloody skirmish in 1778, which has its own marker so I’ll tell you more about it later. Deciding that the fron- tier was too dangerous, the plucky widow packed up everything she could and put it on a raft. She then gathered her four children - James, Margaret, Presila, and Joseph (sometimes identified as Josiah) - and a friend, Mrs. Lazarus Stewart, whose husband had been killed in the battle. Together, the six of them floated down the

I’ve lived in eastern Pennsylvania for over forty years, which is the closest I’m going to get to telling you how old I am. My maternal grandfather’s family has lived in Lehigh and Northampton Counties since before the American Revolution, and the various branches of my family tree are tied to the commonwealth’s history in a lot of different ways. I’ve been fascinated with these blue and gold markers since I was a kid, but when you’re driving past them, you don’t often really have the chance to read what they say. I always thought that was un- fortunate since they seemed interesting, and as an adult, I’ve occa- sionally wondered if most people pay attention to them at all. I de- cided that this project would be a fun way to make sure that at least a few more people get to know about them and the information they contain. So, with the blessing of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (the people who have been putting the signs up for over a hundred years), I launched this blog. Because I’m a very well-rounded sort of nerd, I decided to treat it like one of the collection quests in my video games, and this is my quest log.

Fort McClure Marker; Columbia County

When I wrote about Fort Wheeler back in August, I mentioned that the story of Moses Van Campen continued in the history of Fort McClure, so let’s resume telling that tale. The story of Fort McClure begins with James and Mary (Espy) Mc- Clure, the very first non-Native settlers of what would eventually become Bloomsburg. They were among the earliest Europeans to settle in that part of the commonwealth, having moved there from the Lancaster region, and their eldest child was the first baby of European descent to be born in the area.


1805, with his services at the fort no longer needed, Moses and his family relocated to New York, where he continued to hold a number of respected legal and church offices until his death at age 92. Unlike many of the other forts of which I’ve written, there doesn’t seem to be a surviving description of Fort McClure. But also un- like those other forts, a description isn’t actually needed, because Fort McClure is, at least in part, still with us. The farmhouse may have been rebuilt in or about 1820 by James and Mary’s son James, who seems to have jointly owned the property with his brother Joseph/Josiah until their deaths; however, it’s not clear whether the house belonging to James replaced the original house or was a second house built on the extensive McClure property. Whichever the case, the land was sold off in lots by de- scendants of the brothers, and the parcel of land containing the farmhouse was eventually sold to the town of Bloomsburg itself. Since 1955, the farmhouse has served as the headquarters of the Fort McClure chapter of the Daughters of the American Rev- olution, who have owned it since 1960. Though I didn’t get to visit it on my trip to Bloomsburg, the house is open for public, docent-guided tours by appointment in exchange for a dona- tion. It’s also used from April to November each year for chap- ter meetings and events. Can’t get there anytime soon? Photos of both the exterior and interior can be viewed by visiting the Moses Van Campen website linked in my sources. The DAR is committed to the preservation of the home, which is just one of the many unique chapters in Bloomsburg’s rich history.

Susquehanna River all the way to Lancaster. By all appearances, they remained there until after the end of the war, then returned home to revive the family farm. Meanwhile, as mentioned in the Fort Wheeler post, Moses Van Campen was an accomplished officer in the Pennsylvania militia, rising through the ranks to become a major. He established Fort Wheeler and was stationed there until 1780, when he and his fa- ther returned to their family home and tried to rebuild what had been destroyed during the American Revolution. Tragically, the Van Campens were the victims of a surprise attack on the morn- ing of March 29th; Moses was taken prisoner, while his father and brother were murdered. He managed to escape after only a few days, leading his fellow captives to freedom. By the time he returned from his ordeal, Fort Jenkins (which also has its own marker) had been destroyed, leaving a gap in the ‘chain’ of forts protecting that section of the frontier, so Moses set to work help- ing to repair the forts which had been damaged and establishing a new one on the McClure farm. The stockading of the McClure farm was completed in 1781. The picture below, which depicts the farm as it appeared in those days, seems to be an old postcard; I found it on AccessGene- Moses took up residence on the farm as its com- manding officer, which brought him in close communion with the family, and roughly two years later he married the eldest Mc- Clure daughter Margaret. Their first daughter, called Mary after her maternal grandmother, was born in 1784 and was followed by four younger sisters, Anna, Priscilla, Elizabeth, and Lavina. In


First Iron Rails - Danville; Montour County

Montour Iron Works is no longer standing, but is depicted in the historical image below. It is also showcased on the side

of a building situated at Walnut and Mill Streets in Danville. Its creation began in 1838 when Thomas

Anyone who’s been reading my blog (or any of the other countless sources of information about our commonwealth) for a while knows that Pennsylvania is full of firsts. During my visit to Montour County earlier this year, I encountered this one, which is probably one of the lesser-known firsts, but railroad enthusiasts might be familiar with it. Railroading in the United States dates back to around 1830, at which time the first locomotives were brought here from Europe. By that point, railroads had been in general use in England’s northeast landscape for roughly twenty years. These earliest trains were drawn by horses (hence the use of the term even today of “horsepower”), and then later engines used steam or, more commonly, coal. Railroad tracks, meanwhile, were another story, and they’re the focus of this week’s quest. The crafting of rail iron in Danville can be traced back to Col. Robert L. Stevens, an en- gineer who was president of the Camden and Amboy Railroad when it was founded in 1830. At that time, railroad tracks were made of wood, usually pine, and the weight and fre- quency of trains caused them to deteriorate quickly. Some of these wooden rails had trips of flat iron attached to them. Stevens, howev- er, urged the C&A to adopt the use of all-iron rails. The only problem was that in the United States, there were no mills which could pro- duce the rails he had in mind, so he had to travel all the way to England to purchase what he wanted. Stevens devised a form which is known as a T rail. These flanged rails were given the name because they resembled an inverted capital letter T. He also created a hook-headed spike to fasten the T rails to the wooden ties, and rails were connected by what he called an “iron tongue.” His first order of T rails arrived in Philadelphia from England in May of 1831 and were placed on their tracks in this manner. Al- though modern railways use fishplate connec- tors, and fasten their rails with the use of screw spikes instead of hooked spikes, the T rail be- came the standard form of rail used across the United States and has remained so ever since. Of course, ordering the T rails from England was both costly and time-consuming, so there gradually developed a need to manufacture them here in the U.S. It was in Danville that, in 1845, the first iron T rails were rolled at the Montour Iron Works. Whether these were ac- tually the first ones made in the entire country is a subject of some debate, as the community of Mount Savage in Maryland also makes that claim; but Montour’s were, if nothing else, the first T rails manufactured in Pennsylvania.

Chambers, a local industrialist, purchased a large quantity of land belonging to Alexander Montgomery, a son of William Montgomery. Chambers was familiar with iron smelting and wanted to set up furnaces that could create pig iron. He partnered with E. R. Biddle, the president of New Jersey’s Morris Canal, to buy a furnace in 1840 and adapt it for this purpose. After a few years’ worth of learning

curve, the Montour Iron Works was off and running. In 1844 they added their first rolling mill, which at

the time was the largest in the country. The first T rails were produced on October 8, 1845, and the design took the highest honor at the Manufacturing Exhibition at

Above: The Montour County Iron Works, circa 1860.


Above: A tribute to the men who contributed to the iron work in Danville is on permanent display outside the Montour County Courthouse on Mill Street.

The iron industry dominated Danville for most of the 19th century. However, toward the dawn of the 1900s, steel began replacing iron as the preferred metal of construction, and the iron manufacturing began to wane. The Montour Iron Works are long gone. Danville continues to recognize its iron heritage, however. At the Montour County Courthouse, a monument displays a mine car loaded with iron ore, such as would have been brought up from the mines to the iron works, and stands as “a tribute to those men and their con- tribution to the industrial revolution.” The industry is also part of the annual Danville Heritage Festival, which used to be called the Iron Heritage Festival, conducted every year on the streets of Danville. Join locals for living history pre- sentations, live music, train rides, fireworks, and other activities to celebrate the spirit of Danville, past and present. Keep an eye on the website for details about next year’s event, which will be held September 8 - 10, 2023.

Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute that same year. Iron production be- came the area’s biggest industry, and when Montour County was established in 1850, this is likely at least part of why Danville was named the county seat. Over the next several years the process was refined and improved; the discovery of several sources of high-quality iron ore in the Great Lakes region during the middle of the 19th century led to the creation of even better quality T rails. More rails were produced at Montour in the 1850s than any other rolling mill in the country. By 1859, the Sunbury and Erie Railroad (later the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad) had finally overcome its various financial difficulties and begun work on its contracted plan to construct a railroad link- ing the two communities of its original name, and they ordered 30- foot rails from the Montour Iron Works for this purpose.

Be sure to follow Laura’s journey & read her other fascinating stories behind the state’s recognizable historical blue markers!



Puzzles & Games!

& A FINE SELECTION OF BODACIOUS CARDS! Open Thursdays 10am - 6pm Fridays 10am - 7pm & Saturdays 10am - 4pm (on Music Hall show dates, hours extended) 12 East Main St., Bloomsburg 570.387.8027

50+ Interactive exhibits Birthday Parties Group Tours Events Programs 2 West 7th Street Bloomsburg, PA 17815 570-389-9206


Member Spotlight The Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau is proud to welcome the following businesses as recent new members to the organization!

berwick historical society 344 Market Street (Rear), Berwick, PA 18603 • 570.759.8020

We preserve Berwick History including Berwick properties. We currently have tours of the Jackson Mansion, and of our headquarters, The David A. Sadock House. Two other properties will be open for tours soon! We also have a two-story gift shoppe selling antiques, lighting, and seasonal merchandise.

blossoms in bloom by megan , llc 421 Central Road, Bloomsburg, PA 17815 • 570.317.2753

Blossoms in Bloom by Megan is a full-service flower store offering everyday, sympathy, funeral, wedding, and event flowers. We also have gift baskets, plants, & locally made gift items. Delivery and pick-up are both available.

something borrowed by t & m , llc 421 Central Road, Suite 3, Bloomsburg, PA 17815 • 570.795.4977

Something Borrowed by T&M is a decor rental company offering customers the option to rent the decorations needed for their wedding, bridal shower, baby shower, etc.! Instead of buying all new decorations for your one-day event, you can rent them from us at a cheaper cost without the hassle of having to store them.

telum concepts , llc 99 Main Street, Benton, PA 17814 • 570.337.7166

Telum Concepts is a firearms training company. We train both civilians and law enforcement personnel to use weapons platforms safely and effectively. We offer a variety of classes de- signed to accomplish particular objectives, but can also provide custom courses tailored to your specific group or circumstance. We are especially skilled at teaching new shooters, who are often intimidated by those with more experience. We are also licensed firearms dealers. While we specialize in tactical weapons and equipment, we are also happy to assist you with all of your shooting and hunting needs, including guns, optics, and accessories. We offer special discounts to military, law enforcement, and other first responders.


Van ' S musical Corner Van Wagner | Born in Pennsylvania. Lives in Pennsylvania. Makes music. Mined coal. Logged trees. Teaches kids. Van Wagner is an educator. In the classroom, he teaches Environmental Science at Danville Area School District. He has been selected as Conservation Educator of the Year in 2005 from Schuylkill County and in 2007 and 2009 in Union County. In 2012 he was awarded the Sandy Cochran award for natural resource education from the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. In 2015 the Red Cross presented Van with the Robert N. Pursel Distinguished Service Award. Outside of the classroom he educates audiences with his music and programs on Pennsylvania History. He received an Outstanding Achievement Award in 2018 from the Pennsylvania Heritage Songwriting Contest. His music has been featured on the History Channel, WVIA TV, as well as Country Music Television (CMT). He has released 29 original albums and published a book entitle “Coal Dust Rust and Saw Dust.” His music and programs not only entertain but inspire audiences to become involved in learning about Central Pennsylvania and beyond.


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