ON IMAGES TO
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
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
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.
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
The following information was received
from the National Archives in Washington,
first Post Office was established in 1847
first Postmaster appointed was Samuel
Edwards on March 8, 1847.
His successor, Josiah Ruggles, was
appointed on May 1, 1848.
Edwards was appointed on December 30,
James N. Edwards was
appointed on December 18, 1884.In 1881 he had founded and managed
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
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
Atlas.org/), and at
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 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
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
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
By the early 1900's, the Sweet Valley-area schools included the "Mott" (on the eastern hill above Harris's Pond),
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.
Road at the
of a mile
day views of the Green Valley Schoolhouse,
courtesy of Ron Hontz
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
(CAN BE SEEN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PHOTO)
and the Bloomingdale school
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 students were eligible to attend there, it 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 school systems in 1950
and Ross quickly joined them in 1951, at which point ALL Ross Township high school
students started trekking to Lehman.
1953 at a
1 through 6
were sent to
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.
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
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
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
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
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
BODIES OF WATER:
North Pond, later known as North Lake,
was measured to be about 80 acres in 1882.
William Hann, age 8, drowned in North Lake in 1921. In the 1950's and possibly
much earlier, it had a few year-round residents.
Mostly it consisted of summer cottages owned, for the most part by folks from "over town" in Plymouth and
Edwardsville. 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. 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
Its residents pretty much mimicked those of North Lake with the
that most of the summer-cottage folks came from the Nanticoke area.
In 1921 Richard Harris purchased the Eno Elley farm. At that time
the pond had an old wooden dam and was full of stumps. There was a saw mill, a
large house, and a barn. Mr. Harris moved the house to its present
location next to
the Sweet Valley Fire Company where it is better known as the former Davenport
residence. Amy and Leroy Callender lived there for a while, too. Harris built a new
house, a park, a swimming pool, a pavilion, a shooting range, a ball diamond, and a
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
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
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
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
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
White. (Search his name at
of this link
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.
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 this church can be found by using
the search engine at
this link-- Site
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.
the grove by
Sheldon Coolidge Wandel, at age 29 in 1954, opened what was called Sheldon's
Lunch at the fork where the road to Sweet Valley splits to the left off westbound
Route 115 (later 118.) The name was kind of ironic, for some folks wondered (wrongly) if he ("Shelly" Wandel) might have partially 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 back 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. Shelly completely remodeled and expanded it in 1982 but he died shortly
thereafter, on December 14, 1985. Wolfe's Grove closed
in 1965 and the
bowling alley has changed hands twice.
Shelly's Restaurant carries on as a family concern. His widow, Janette, still works there in
2005 and it's owned by their
daughter and her husband, Jill and Larry Scott.
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,
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 Barbaccci 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
Drive In), the chief customer complaint now is that with 4
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
is not to be
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
THE SWEET VALLEY HOTEL:
In the middle of Sweet Valley stands the
Sweet Valley Cemetery.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
THE DRESS FACTORY:
Janik, Emma Blaine, Bob Campbell
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.
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
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
Sorber, who dug the well, and George Wesley, who
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.
Row- Sophie Hasay, Mary Palmalski,
Catherine Janik, Bertha Meeker, Joan
Gregory, ??, Helen Petroski, Naomi Perry,
Sally Hutchinson, Esther Steinrock, Ruth
?, Mildred Blaine, Vicki Kutz
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
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
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.
Blaine, Catherine Janik, Sally Hutchinson,
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
Row- Catherine Price, Mary Marcinski,
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."
THE AIR FORCE BASE:
knew the base as the Red Rock Air Force Base but
the official Air
On January 1, 1963
the base took on additional duties when it became
a link in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s
air traffic control system.In so doing, it helped fill a gap that had
existed between New York and Cleveland.By adding the Benton radar, the FAA could
now better control the heavily-traveled air routes
along the East coast.An article announcing the commencement of
this duty described the site as utilizing an
“80,000-pound antenna atop an 85-foot concrete
tower.The antenna itself is 40 feet high, almost
half a football field long, and can withstand
winds up to 100 miles an hour.”
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.
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.
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.
THE JOB CORPS CENTER
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
(courtesy of Dave Kline at
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
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.
of the Ricketts "Stone House"
courtesy of David Kline
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
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
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
General stores were run by Corey Allen and
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
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.
From 1917 until 1921 Torrence Naugle ran the
US Mail stage from Sweet Valley to
"Hunlock Creek railroad station."
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
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
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
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.
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
On this corner was a building known as
1884, James N. Edwards ran the post office in that
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
across Main Road from “Oliver’s Store” was
“Corey Allen’s Store”,
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.
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
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.
building located next to the Moss Machinery was
once known as "Ord Trumbower's Store."
once stood a
As told by
new store on
same day her
all the way
On July 24,
started by a
died at the
scene and 13
three of the
of the North
twins at the
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
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
there was never a pharmacy in Sweet Valley until
1988, when Russ and Shirley Major opened one. It was located on the site of their former Arctic Cat
snowmobile business (Paul Farver’s old gas
station.) They sold it to Mark Williams in 1991.
He closed it in 1994.
Thus, the pharmacy lasted a much shorter
time than did the bank.
mystery has been partially solved.
Let me first explain how I came to even
learn there WAS a mystery.
While home in Sweet Valley on one of my
semiannual visits, I stopped to see Donnie
Rosencrans in Mooretown.
Having read my previous writings, he
suggested to me “You ought to see Tommy Adams.
He inherited a scrapbook of newspaper
articles that his cousin, Mickey, had kept over
the years. You
might find the idea for a story or two among
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—see
George Callender (father of twins Wayne and Warren
my genealogical work in the area, I could place
these men as having been active in the period
starting around 1870-1900.
to find out exactly where the track had been
located, I then set out to ask the oldest area
resident I could find.
Freece Morris is now 89 (born in 1917) and,
he says, the oldest man in Ross Township.
Although his memory is extremely sharp,
Freece couldn’t recall either his father or
grandfather ever mentioning a racetrack.
I also checked with other younger persons
who I knew to have grown up very near North Lake
and their answers were also negative.
early summer, 2006, I got lucky.
The webmistress of this site, Sheila
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 already on site (North
shows his grandfather’s dock which utilized as
pilings 55-gallon drums filled with concrete. The
biggest break was that Tom’s father has a MAP of
the lake showing the layout of those initial lots
and the racetrack that adjoined them!!
Sheila visited Tom and snapped pictures of
that early map plus another map showing how
crowded the area now is.
of North Lake by Tom Evans
is now quite clear that the racetrack lie
immediately next to those earliest lots.
The best point of reference I can draw
would be that it was near what was later known as
“Aunt Mae Hartzell’s store” (see “Lake
Side Store” at North
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
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
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
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
Kathleen recalled that they had no well but
got their water from an underground gravity-fed
She directed my attention to an old
windmill that I’d seen innumerable times but
never really thought about during my hitchhiking
It stood across Main Road from where the
Church Of Christ now (2006) stands and was behind
where the Cross family once operated a nursing
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.
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
Dick estimates the cistern to have been
approximately 8 feet by 12 feet and maybe 8 feet
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
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
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.
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
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
I can just imagine the factory’s founders
choosing NOT to depend on a water system that
would have been about 50 years old at that time.
Valley is not a municipality, but only a village
in Ross Township.
Accordingly, the courthouse records would
not reflect construction by any entity named
“The Sweet Valley Municipal Water Authority”
and I know of no other name to search.
It’s a cinch that it would not have been
a venture of Ross Township for it served just a
wee portion of the township.
Whichever entity built it very likely was
no longer active in 1949, for it is unfathomable
that they would knowingly have let the factory be
built atop their water main.
The leak occurred in 1974 and all its
former customers were forced to dig their own
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