Early Geological Times. Reynoldsville and vicinity is located above an old ocean bed which existed millions of years ago in the early geological age, the imperishable records of, which have come down to the present through the tremendous, unfathomable abyss of time. The stratified rock proves to the geologist that during a long period in the misty past, billows rolled over this very spot. At times placid waters and again tempestuous sea covered this entire region during much of the early life of the planet.
Eventually the ocean receded and later, during the Carboniferous age, the region where Winslow township is located, became a vast swamp. The vegetation then was not like that of modern times. The plants and trees were endogenous or center growing. No annual rings were formed on the outside as now. There are but few plants of the present day at all like those growing then. The only ones in this vicinity are ferns and the ground pine (lycopodium). Impressions of the latter plant, now found on rocks, which grew during the Carboniferous age are eight inches in diameter and 75 and 80 feet long. None of the varieties of the present fern grew then. Some of the ferns of that time grew in the form of trees. The vegetation was essentially tropical. The atmosphere must have been warm and moist and heavily charged with carbonic acid gas. Through this ancient swamp ran meandering streams and their beds have been traced in the coal mines as they lie deep under the ground. In time this swamp was flooded and covered with large quantities of sand. Then a second marsh was formed and that, too, was covered with sand. Many swamps, in time, were created one upon the other during the Carboniferous period. As the ages advanced these numerous buried swamps became beds of coal. How long a time must have passed for sufficient vegetable matter to accumulate to form one of the workable seams can only be conjectured. However, it has been demonstrated that five feet of vegetations makes one foot of coal. Whether the plants which composed the coal beds about this region all grew here or whether part of them grew elsewhere and were washed here, is not known. Several of these veins are so far below the surface that eventually, it will be necessary to go down to them through shafts and it will require many years to mine the coal in this vicinity.
For a period during and after the Carboniferous age the surface of this region was undoubtedly level 4 but the constant erosive action of the water gradually wore away the earth and rocks until hills, valleys and streams were eventually formed and now, after unknown time, too vast for the human mind to comprehend, through the acts of mutable nature the present surface has been formed.
Until long after the Carboniferous age had passed all life was in the water. The land was yet nothing but rock, bare and desolate. There was no sound of singing birds and chirping insects. Only the crash of the lightning, the roar of thunder, and the moaning of the wind broke the stillness as the storm beat against the rocky hills.
When the Carboniferous era had passed away there came the Triassic, then the Jurassic and the reptile age, and the Cretaceous period. Later was the Post-Tertiary era. With these divisions of time came new animal and vegetable life.
In the glacial period, of the later era, the cold was intense, the climate being like it now is in Greenland, where in- the valleys ice is often several thousand feet thick and is deep on high elevations. While there is abundant evidence of such a period having existed in sections of what is now Pennsylvania there is but little proof of it in some of the central counties including Jefferson. But it must have existed here at least at intervals, the glaciers coming from the north.
At that time an immense, quantity of earth was dug out in this vicinity', by the action of ice making a depression which later created a lake, as is shown by the present formation of the surface of the ground. The foot of this body of watery was just below Reynoldsville, and extended from near the present railroad cut to the opposite side) of the valley. A ridge yet remains which made a barrier to the lake. It wore through this ridge after a great many centuries, emptying itself, and what is now the Sandy Lick Creek was then gradually formed. Previously the water ran out through a more shallow channel a little south of the present course of the creek and flowed into what is now Trout Run a short distance above its mouth. One branch of the lake extended to the present location of Rathmel, and another to that of Soldier, a distance of two or three miles from the foot. The head was near what is now Sabula, making it not far from 13 miles long. A part of the present sites of Falls Creek and DuBois were covered by it. The same region even now is so level that were the Sandy Lick Creek just below Reynoldsville damed to 83 feet above its present level the lake would reform and its waters would flow eastward through the Sabula tunnel. In the ages following its formation the bottom was covered with sand and gravel which washed into it and now when digging water wells on the low ground in Reynoldsville no rock is found, only sand and gravel being encountered.
On the flats at DuBois when drilling for water, and after having gone( through sand and gravel for nearly 90 feet, a small piece of a tree trunk with fresh appearing bark on it came up. The wood was perfectly sound. It had evidently sunk to the bottom of the lake and later had been covered over by the deposit of sand and gravel.
Last came man. Who the first was, and when he came will never be known. He must have been uncivilized.
Topography. The area included in this history comprises the territory lying within the boundary of Winslow township, Jefferson county, Pennsylvania, which includes Reynoldsville. It lies a little south of the central part of the east boundary line of the county. The county lies a little west of the center of the State. The altitude above the sea on the Pennsylvania Railroad, at Reynoldsville, is 1,372 feet. On the hills In the township it ranges from 1,450 to 1,650 feet and over above sea level. The distance from Reynoldsville to Pittsburgh, by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Is 120 miles to the southwest, and from Reynoldsville eastward to Williamsport 137 miles. Winslow township is nearly square. It is situated west of the crest of the Allegheny Mountains. The main stream is the Sandy Lick Creek which runs through the township. The Indians gave it its name which when translated from both the Seneca and Delaware languages Into English means sandy lick. The Senecas called it the Oh ne sah geh Jah geh da geh gah yon ha da* and the Delawares the Legamwi Mahonne. In 1798 the stream was designated by statute the Sandy Lick.
Norris, McCreight, and Prospect Knobs are the highest points.
Much of Winslow township is valuable for farming though a small part is tool hilly. The principal farming settlements In the township are Paradise, form and Fye.
The Wilderness. The forests in this region being mostly of pine must have existed from remote geological times.
This section, about the beginning of the 19th century was variously known as The Backlands, The Wilderness, The Indian Country, The Pine Country, The Pennsylvania Backwoods, The Pennsylvania Northwest, and The Fort Stanwix Indian Purchase.
If an early pioneer had climbed to one of the highest elevations in this locality he could have looked for 20 or 30 miles in any direction and have seen hills and valleys completely covered with primeval forests of pine and hemlock. There would not have been a spot free of trees to break the sea of dark bluish green which gradually faded into a purplish haze as It neared the horizon.
In the autumn the gorgeous hues of those boundless forests which greeted the eye of the first settlers were a night of transcendent beauty. Many small areas of bright variegated maples were made vastly more brilliant by contrast with the immense background of dark green pine and hemlock which was far more beautiful than a single unbroken color.
Huge tree trunks lay decaying every rod or so on the forest floor where they had fallen during a storm after they had lived their natural life. The wilderness In these unexplored wilds before the advent of civilization was very dense, hemlock and pine trees with immense trunks towered to a great height. The dark deep woods were moist and ferns grew in abundance.
Nature was exhibited at that time in her wildest grandeur. Such sublimity can never be seen again. How beautiful must have been the verdant old forest in its solitude to the Indian hunter as he stood amid the moaning pines and the sparkling, dew covered foliage all the gray dawn! The thrush, the oriole, the wren, and the chickadee sang from twig and branch and squirrels barked as they sprang from tree to tree. Looking across the valley over the morning fog the hunter could see the brow of the eastern hill and behold the golden sun breaking through the boughs of the massive pine trees and view the rose tinted sky just over the horizon.
When this was a wilderness, and for many years after, the present business section of Reynoldsville was a swamp. It extended from about 100 feet east of what is now the corner of Fourth and Main Streets to about where Coal Alley now crosses Main between Fifth and Sixth Streets. The marsh also covered the land from a short distance below what is now Jackson to Hill Street. Swamp Alley crosses what is now Main between Fourth and Fifth Streets and today has no evidence of ever having been a swampy section. Willow Alley which runs east and west between Main and Grant Streets, crosses what at one time was the deepest part of the bog and received its name from the willows which grew there when it was laid out. While the turnpike was being constructed though it in 1820 and afterwards, the workmen had much difficulty in building the road. The gnats were so extremely annoying that fires had to be kept burning all night at the camps to enable the men to sleep.
It was necessary to corduroy the pike in the marsh by placing loge side by side across the road through the mire. In time these loge became buried in the mud and then a second and third layer were put down. In later years when ditches were dug through Main Street many, of these logs were found. No large trees grew in the swamp. It was covered over by a dense growth of alders, willows, and swamp grass, and was the home of owls, water snakes, frogs, lizards, muskrats and turtles.
Fauna and Flora. Forbears of the birds and animals that were here when white men came undoubtedly roamed over this locality during remote antiquity. That time was so long ago in the geological period that the era of the old cities of Babylon and Ninevah was modern by comparison.
The native fur-bearing animals of Winslow township were the buffalo (properly called the bison), panther, catamount, moose, elk, timber or gray wolf, wolverine, pine-martin, black bear, beaver, red or Virginia deer, otter, wild cat, muskrat, opossum, porcupine, skunk, mink, groundhog (or woodchuck), raccoon, red fox, gray fox, northern hare, cotton-tailed rabbit, long-tailed weasel, common weasel, least weasel, black squirrel, gray squirrel, red squirrel (or pine squirrel), flying squirrel, fox squirrel, chipmunk (or ground squirrel), black bat, gray bat, brown bat, jumping rat, woods rat, field mouse, house mouse, white-footed mouse, pine mouse, jumping mouse, common garden mouse (or silver mouse), short-tailed meadow mouse (or vole), short-tailed shrew, long-legged shrew, mole shrew, star-nosed mole, and common garden mole (or silver mole).
Domestic animals which have been found by experience to do best in Winslow township on account of the climate are horses, hogs, sheep and cows, the sheep for wool and the cows for milk and butter. Sheep are frequently annoyed by dogs. Cattle for meat cannot be raised here at a profit on account of the long winters. Mule breeding is unprofitable for the same reason. Goats, rabbits and hare could be raised profitably in the township.
The buffalo, panther, catamount, moose, elk, wolverine, pine-martin, otter, and beaver are now extinct and some of the others are quite rare in this region. The last buffalo is said to have been killed in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania near the end of the 18th century. There were buffalo-wallows in Elk county and along the Clarion River in Clarion county. Buffalo and moose runways (they used the same) were found in Elk county. Skeletons of buffaloes are said to have been discovered by early settlers near Driftwood and Altoona, and many were shot in the eastern part of the State. They generally frequented the vicinity of rivers and large creeks.
The wolverine (or glutton), been here by the first settlers soon became extinct In this region. It inhabited the United States far to the west and Jefferson county was about on the eastern boundary line of its habitat.
In 1825 there yet remained beaver dame at the upper end of where Rathmel is now located. These dams covered a large area. The last elk was killed in our northern forests about 1850. The last panther was killed in Jefferson county in 1866, and the last in a neighboring county in 1870. Wolves, which were so plentiful at one time, suddenly became scarce. By 1860 only a few remained and the last were shot in Winslow township soon after 1865. Their sudden disappearance was attributed to hydrophobia which is said to have become epidemic among them. Wild cats are shot in the township every few years. Rabbits are probably the most common of all game and are more plentiful now than formerly. Norway rats were first brought here in box cars about 1898. Agents once came to Jefferson county on the turnpike from Philadelphia stopping at Woodward Reynolds' tavern, where Reynoldsville now is, and bought furs of all kinds. They were supplied by men who made their living by hunting and trapping and when the agents left, their wagons were heavily laden with pelts which brought high prices in the city. The Longs were the principal hunters and trappers in this region. Jacob Smith and William Johnston were the principal trappers in what is now Winslow township.
The English sparrow is the most common bird in this vicinity. Some of the birds which were very plentiful in 1820 are now rare. Wild turkeys at that time so numerous, became extinct. The last killed in Jefferson county was in the early '70's near Falls Creek. In the spring they went about in pairs, later in the season in flocks of 10 or 15, consisting of the mother bird and her young, and in the winter they congregated in large numbers. Until the early '40s there was a roost where turkeys spent the winter on the hillside just west of where Reynoldsville is now located and south of West Main Street. There, with their gobble, gobble, gobble, they called back and forth to the domestic turkeys at Woodward Reynolds' log cabin across the creek. The raven, quite plentiful until after 1850, is now very rare. Eagles, vultures, and a few other birds common long ago, are now seldom seen. Once both eagles and vultures nested in large numbers in Winslow township near its western boundary where McCalmont and Knox townships corner.
Many stragglers come here. Among them are the Virginia or Kentucky redbird, white swan, mocking bird, seagull, tern, western gray goose, evening grosbeak, Florida gallinule, southern heron and several varieties of ducks. The "duck storm" was on the night of April 5-6, 1889, when web-footed birds on their way north were driven to the ground in this vicinity by the high winds and heavy, cotton-like snow. They numbered thousands and filled the creeks of this locality and the mill pond at Prescottville until there appeared to be no room for any more. Among them were dozens of varieties of ducks never seen here before, besides dippers, wild geese, herons, swans, loons, seagulls and the like of many varieties.
The regular migrants which pass over Winslow township in the spring when going north and In the fall when going south, are the horned grebe, yellow-bellied sap-sucker, red-headed merganser, hooded merganser, loon, wood duck, ruffle-headed duck, red-headed duck, horned grebe, Canadian wild goose, brant, and gray goose.
The winter residents, which spend the summer in Canada where they nest, are the pine grosbeak, pine siskin, cherry or cedar bird, rose-breasted grosbeak, snowy owl, horned lark, white-winged cross-bill, butcher bird (or great northern shrike) and junco (or snowbird).
The permanent residents of Winslow township are the northern raven, American crow, white-breasted nuthatch, blue Jay, quail (or Bob-white), pileated woodpecker, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, song sparrow, American goldfinch (or yellowbird), white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, brown creeper, screech owl, great horned owl, bald eagle, Cooper's hawk (or chicken hawk), red-tailed hawk, sparrow hawk, red-shouldered hawk, American rough-legged hawk, and ruffed grouse (or pheasant).
The summer residents which nest in Winslow township and go South to spend their winters are the orchard oriole. Baltimore oriole (or hanging bird), chipping sparrow, purple martin, cliff swallow, barn swallow, chimney swift (or chimney swallow), rough-winged swallow, bank swallow, black and white warbler, yellow warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, American long-eared owl, short-eared owl. yellow-billed cuckoo, black-billed cuckoo, red-headed woodpecker, flicker, catbird, yellow-bellied fly catcher, kingbird, created fly catcher, phoebe bird, wood pewee, least fly catcher, marsh hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, pigeon hawk, fish hawk, night hawk, American goshawk, least bittern, great blue heron, green heron, black-crowned night heron, Virginia rail, Carolina rail, American coot, American woodcock, Wilson's snipe, least sandpiper, killdeer plover, belted kingfisher, turtle dove, Turkey buzzard, whip-poor-will, American bittern, ruby-throated humming bird, purple grackle, Bobolink (or red or ricebird), cowbird, red-winged blackbird, meadow lark, American grosbeak, redpoll, towhee bunting, cardinal (or redbird), indigo bunting, scarlet tanager, red-eyed vireo, warbling vireo, white-eyed vireo, American red-start, brown thrush, wood thrush, bluebird, house wren, woods wren, American robin, golden-crowned Ringlet and ruby-crowned Ringlet.
The domestic fowls best adapted to Winslow township are chickens, pea fowls, guinea fowls, pigeons, ducks, geese and turkeys.
Turtles native to this locality are the mud turtle, musk turtle, snapping turtle, land turtle (or box turtle), soft-shelled turtle, green-headed turtle, and speckled turtle.
The salamander, nearly exterminated by impure water which began entering the creeks from the mines and Industries about 1880, was about 10 Inches long. It was called the fresh water alligator and, also, mud puppy. There are the blue-tailed skink, common lizard and ground lizard which are all much the same. The small smooth, newt, or eft, frequently called lizard, Is a native. At a certain age it is known as the green and at another as the red newt.
The common toad is a native.
Our frogs are the bullfrog, leopard frog, woods frog, pickerel frog, green frog, and large and small tree frogs. The last are also called tree toads. They are really in a distinctive class.
The native snakes are the grass snake, red-bellied snake, ring snake, striped garter snake, spotted garter snake (or striped water snake), black snake, blue racer, blowing viper, hissing adder (or hog-nosed snake), copperhead and rattlesnake. I have never met anyone who has ever seen a copperhead in Winslow township, but this is its habitat and it is said that it was found here by the early settlers who exterminated it. The rattlesnake is rare.
The crawfish, sometimes improperly called crab, is seen in the streams and marshy spots. There are two varieties, the large and the small, but they have no common distinctive names.
The leech is a native. There may be two or more varieties but with no distinctive names.
Mussels, or fresh water clams, abounded in the local streams until 1881 when they were nearly exterminated by the impure water from the tannery and mines. There may have been several species of them also, but without distinctive names.
In Winslow township there are at least 10,000 and possibly 50,000 varieties of Insects, including about 12 varieties of ants, 25 varieties of scale insects, 26 varieties of butterflies, 30 varieties of spiders, 50 varieties of grasshoppers, 200 varieties of moths, hundreds of varieties of flies and hundreds of varieties of beetles.
Wild bees at one time were numerous and stored honey in hollow trees. Until 1860 bee hunting was extensively carried on in Winslow township, and people had more honey in those days than they could eat. The wild honey bee is not a native. Its ancestors escaped from farmers, and the ancestors of those bees, in turn, were brought from Germany.
The native fish were the black bass, black catfish (or bullhead), yellow catfish (or stonefish), channel catch, speckled trout, yellow sucker, black sucker, pike, sunfish, silverside, stargazer, miller's thumb and about 20 varieties of minnows, including dace, chub, fallfish and redhorse. Lamprey eels were here until driven out in about 1881. Rainbow trout and carp have been planted in the local streams. The impure water has destroyed much of the animal life in the creeks of this vicinity excepting in a few small ones.
Attempts which have been made to stock the streams with fish and the woods with game have met with fair success.
The disappearance of the forests and the clearing of the land has driven much game away. Underbrush briars and second growth timber, however, are proving a great protection. More stringent State game laws which are being enforced by the game wardens are doing much to protect game. The State has attempted to exterminate the more undesirable animals by giving bounties for their destruction.
In 1860 Winslow township was nearly all densely wooded and, until that time, wild beasts were very plentiful. When traveling but a few miles along the road one could) see many animals. The creeks were alive with ducks, geese and other aquatic birds, and a small herd of deer was not an uncommon eight. If there was nothing in the house to eat the man of the family frequently put his rifle on his shoulder, went out and within half an hour returned with a deer. Wild pigeons were probably the most plentiful of all game. In the spring when flying north, and in the fall when flying south, there were millions to be seen. From half to probably all day at a time the sky was filled from horizon to horizon with these birds flying in such great multitudes as to often shut out the bright light of the sun. Pigeons could not exist now in such numbers for there are not the vast forests with beech and other nuts in abundance for these birds to eat. Winslow township was a great feeding place for them on the way to and from their roosts. Acres of ground in this locality have been covered by pigeons making an entire field appear blue when they rested and fed. Few have existed here since 1879 and they became extinct everywhere in a very few years thereafter.
Large flocks of wild geese and ducks passed over here annually in the spring and fall migrations. Fish were exceedingly plentiful In the Sandy Lick Creek and in Soldier Run in 1850 with no game laws to restrain the fishermen.
After nightfall in the wilderness a profound, oppressive silence was broken at long intervals by the cry of wild animals. Now and then the shrill shriek of the panther suddenly aroused a sleeper in a log cabin with a feeling of terror as he lay on his bed of deer skin. But nothing was more weird than on a bright silvery moonlight
night in winter to look out of one's log cabin window and see and hear the wolves among the black, leafless trees as they called one another from one bleak, snow-sparkled hillside to the other In mournful, long drawn out tones. It was necessary to fasten the cabin doors and windows to prevent the beasts from entering. Their dismal howls were heard on the hills from darkness until dawn and frequently they became so annoying that it was necessary to fire a gun from the window to frighten them away so that the family could sleep. The wolf was the most troublesome of all animals. He made the keeping of sheep almost an impossibility.
Wolves when alone were cowardly, but when in packs and hungry were very dangerous, though there is no account of anyone having lost his life by them in Winslow township, Few packs were seen here.
The home of the snarling, vicious timber wolf was in the open forest. At night the cold, damp snow in winter, or the dead leaves and green moss and ferns in summer, was his only bed. The wide spreading branches and the starry firmament, or the angry storm clouds, was the only roof above him. However at breeding time the wolves found homes in the rocky fastness of the wild, inaccessible places, hidden by briars and clinging vines and there, amid the solitude of the dark, deep forest reared their young. Wolf dens exist in this region today. They are deep crevices in the face of the rock which tower from 10 to 30 or more feet in height. In the spring, pioneers found rocks filled with wolves as they had doubtless been for centuries, but with the advent of man the animal began to disappear and have not inhabited theme places since 1860. Afterwards the rocks became the homes of porcupines, foxes and other small animals, but civilization has finally driven them all out.
These dens have lost much of their romance since they were stripped of their covering and the surrounding lands laid bare by the woodsman. A fox den exists near the top of the hill between Soldier and Sykesville facing Sugar Camp Creek to the east. A wolf den can be found about three miles north of Sandy Valley.
Some Interesting stories of animals occurring in this vicinity have been handed down.
Much in this history I owe to John S. Smith born in Clinton county, New York, who came here in 1835, and his wife Susann, whose maiden name was also Smith, born in Trade City, Pennsylvania. Below I repeat a story told to Mr. Smith by John Potter, a participant.
Soon after the Potter family had moved into the log house on the turnpike in 1822, John Potter and his sister, who were members of that family, started on the trail to Punxsutawney, which was but is a settlement at the time. After having gone about a mile and a halt they arrived at Trout Run, just below the mouth of Windfall Run, where they treed a panther. Potter returned home for a rifle and during his absence his sister and their dog stood guard. Before he got back the panther attempted to come down and the dog drove it up again, but with difficulty. Finally Potter arrived with the gun and shot the animal:
I am indebted for many facts in this history to George Washington Fuller. He gave me the following: In the summer of 1826 when his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Fuller, had gotten nicely settled in their log cabin on the pike just above where Rathmel Junction now is their dog caught his foot in a bear trap, belonging to a neighbor, which had been set on the hill south of what is now Prescottville. Mr. and Mrs. Fuller heard the poor animal howl and went to release him. They had no sooner done it than the howling of wolves was heard about them. The cries became more frequent and grew nearer until Mr. and Mrs. Fuller realized that they were surrounded by the wild, redoubtable beasts and were in a perilous predicament. Mr. Fuller had no gun with him, a tomahawk being his only weapon. He decided that in the event of an attack he would have his wife stand with her back against a tree while he would stand in front of her and fight the animals with his tomahawk. The outcome would likely have meant death to both, but fortunately they got home without trouble. The howling of the dog, presumably, had drawn all of the wolves, within hearing distance, toward him. As they were very plentiful the dog would soon have been torn to pieces by the hungry pack. Had Mr. and Mrs. Fuller gone out a little later they would have arrived just in time to come to contact with the beasts and be killed.
One hot day in the summer of 1847 David Reynolds, then a small boy, was hunting on the flat land just above where Mabel Street in Reynoldsville now is, when he saw a herd of 20 or more deer lying to the deep shaded woods near Pitch Pine Run. He shot his flintlock rifle loaded with slugs. Nothing was hurt, but in an instant the deer were on their feet and noon disappeared in the dense timber, scampering over the hill to the east.
Following is a list of the native trees which grow in Winslow township: Sweet gum, cucumber, white basswood, Hercules-club wafer, striped, white, sugar and red maple, staghorn sumac, dwarf sumac, poison elder, locust, black, white, red and rock oak, wild plum, hog plum, red, black and chokecherry, American crabapple, cockspur thorn, scarlet haw, service tree, dogwood, sour gum, white ash, sassafras, red elm, white elm, sycamore, butternut, walnut, bitternut, pignut, shagbark, white hickory, chestnut, ironwood, beechnut, yellow birch, black birch, black willow, a species of aspen, Juniper tree, liriodendron (incorrectly called poplar), pitch pine (or yellow pine), tulip, white pine and hemlock.'
Among the most common native shrubs of this locality are the blackberry, thimbleberry, huckleberry, honeysuckle, elderberry, willow and black alder.
The most common native vines in the township include the grapevine, ground pine, partridgeberry, strawberry and Virginia creeper.
Among the commonest native plants are the liverleaf (two varieties), anemone, buttercup (many varieties), bishop's cap, wake-robin (two varieties), fringed gentian, closed gentian, aster (many varieties), dandelion, ragweed (several varieties), five-finger, daisy, whortleberry, golden-rod, wild rose, and many varieties of grasses, moss and ferns.
Paradise settlement was given that name on account of the wild flowers growing there.
The agricultural products which do best in Winslow township are hay, oats, rye, wheat, potatoes, buckwheat, corn, barley, hops, flax, apples, cherries, plums, pears, peaches, and practically all of the berries and garden vegetables which grow in northeastern United States. Grapes do well but not exceptionally so. Tobacco was never very successfully raised in the township. The season is too short for watermelons and muskmelons to thrive.
Meteorology and Climatology. Weather conditions are different here now than in 1860 and before. The disappearance of the forests is the cause. When the wilderness existed there were no long cold winters as now. The trees acted as a protection against the wind, and with no wind there was less cold. Now the winds have less to break their force and, as a result, the cold In winter is much more severe and the snow drifts much higher than when there was a dense forest. The trees at that time protected the earth from the heat of the sun. Now in the hot days of summer the sun's rays beat down with but little shade. There were not the sudden, violent changes then which occur now. Yet, while there was but little of the intense cold then that exists at the present time, the forests were never warm for a day during the winter months on account of the sun being unable to penetrate through the trees. Consequently after the snow had fallen in late autumn it remained on the ground until the next season and good sleighing, or hauling, as it was generally called, existed nearly every day from early in November until the following spring. Now when spring comes the snow is nearly all melted in a few days and the streams become very high but soon subside. When this was a wilderness the snow did not thaw as rapidly as now and the creeks did not rise as soon. But as there was always more snow on the ground then during the winter and early spring and as it thawed more slowly, the creeks remained high for weeks at a time. The atmosphere was very humid on account of the woodland retaining the dampness. The streams never became low even in summer.
After clearings had been made and farming begun, the rays from the sun struck down upon the unprotected fields causing intense beat. The immense trees which grew thick all around the clearing made the circulation of air impossible. As a result of the closeness of the atmosphere together with the heat men were able to work for but a short time, and then were forced to go into the shade. This same condition existed in the slashings where workmen were engaged in felling and rolling the finest pine timber into great heaps to be burned for the purpose of clearing the land.
The first flood on record which went down the Sandy Lick Creek was the big one in 1806 which rose in the Red Bank Creek 21 feet. The next was November 10, 1810. No one lived then in what afterwards became Winslow township, but the observation was made further down the stream. There were big floods in the Sandy Lick Creek and in the runs in what is now Winslow township in January, 1828, February 10, 1832, February, 1840, and September 30, 1844. Also a flood In 1852 and one in September, 1861. Another, March 1, 1865, and an August Hood about 1868. One June 11, 1884, and one May 31.June 1, 1889, known as the "Johnstown flood" on account of its being at the time of the big Johnstown disaster. Also floods June 30, 1902, February 16, 1908, and October 18-19, 1919. Much high water on the Reynoldsville flats for many years was due to the Hopkins mill dam below the borough which was built just prior to the Civil War. Since It was taken out in 1904 the water has not risen nearly so high as formerly.
The highest floods on record in the Sandy Lick Creek were those of February 10, 1832, the summer of 1861 and the "Johnstown flood" May 31-June 1, 1889. There was not much difference in any of these, but the last was the greatest of them all. The one in 1889 was augmented by the breaking of the dam at Sabula, six miles above DuBois. It was at its height, and the highest water ever known in the creek, between midnight and one o'clock, a. m., June 1st, when the bridge where Main Street crosses the creek was washed out by loge floating against it. The water at that hour was six inches deep on the Reynoldsville and Falls Creek Railroad track where It crosses Main Street.
One morning in March, 1841, four feet of snow lay on the ground. There was little the evening before. On the morning of September 29, 1844, nearly 14 inches of snow fell. It broke down the buckwheat and the boughs of trees then covered with leaves. A rain followed and the next day came the flood already mentioned. One morning in January, 1855, four feet of snow was on the ground, but it had not fallen in a single night as in 1841.
The early pioneers had no thermometers to record the temperature. It was 31 degrees below zero in this locality in January, 1856, 30 degrees below January 21st, 1861, 32 degrees below January 1, 1864, 31 degrees below February 2, 1881, 32 degrees below in February 1893, 3-5 degrees below in February 1899, and 32 degrees below January 13, 1912.
It was 104 degrees in the shade August 29, 1881, 100 degrees on the 30th and 31st following, over 100 degrees in July, 1892, and 104 degrees August 8, 1918.
The coldest winter ever experienced in this region undoubtedly was that of 1855 and 1856. There was sleighing in May, 1856, and snow was on the ground late in June following. It was a very warm winter in 1856 and 1857 and people did their plowing in February and early March. Suddenly snow came and all during April lumbermen who, up to that time, had hauled no logs did so then for the season.
The winter of 1875 and 1876 was very open. On January let there was beautiful weather, the thermometer standing at 70 degrees all day long. The only sleighing was for a few days in April.
The first "big frost" as it is known, came June 5, 1859, when the vegetation was seriously damaged. June 11th there was another "big frost" and what the first had not killed the second did. The crops were ruined. A close observer found that in 28 years between 1883 and 1911 there were 19 years in which the killing frost of the season in Reynoldsville occurred on or between September 19th and 23rd. During the remaining nine years it took place later. In the fall of 1921 the first killing frost occurred October 13th. Much damage was done by a killing frost May 80, 1884.
May 30, 1860, a whirlwind started near the Allegheny River and swept up the Red Bank and Sandy Lick Creeks and finally spent its force when it struck Boon's Mountains in Clearfield county. A swath varying from one half a mile to a mile and a half wide was covered. It passed through Winslow township at about noon, and over where much of the western part of Reynoldsville now is, though some of the storm went on the east side of the creek. The roar caused by the high winds and falling trees was terrific. Fortunately, this section being little inhabited, no person lost his life. Many cows were killed in the forest. Every tree and building in the path of the tornado was blown down. Trees were torn out by the roots. Shingles and boards which were carried by the winds high in the air for 25 or 30 miles from down the creek fell to the ground when they came to Reynoldsville. For a short time it was almost as dark as night. The pike and near the western part of Reynoldsville for about a mile, where it crossed the path of the gale, was filled with trees which had been blown over it. People who saw the storm approach ran for shelter. When they came from their hiding they beheld a strange sight for it seemed as if they were in another country. Hills, farm houses, barns, cleared lands, a creek and many other things came suddenly to view. The forest which had been standing a few moments before had been wrecked for miles and the scene beyond was then suddenly exposed. A storm in which hailstones weighing 10 ounces each, fell immediately. Up until that time forest fires had been unknown in this wilderness on account of the dampness of the woods, but beginning with the following season the dried timber and brush ignited and forest fires became an annual occurrence. Rabbits and even deer dashed panic-stricken before the blaze. Wildcats and other animals are said to have been seen running for safety. Probably the worst season for forest fires in this region was in 1908. The air was filled with smoke from such fires for weeks that fall. At times in Reynoldsville and in Winslow township one could not see clearly for 100 feet. Smoke was stifling.
One of the severest windstorms to visit this locality, of which there is any authentic record, was April 74 1908, which, according to the nearest wind-measuring instrument, blew 68 miles an hour.
Phenomena. Between three and seven o'clock in the morning, December 16, 1811, two earthquake shocks shook the log cabins in Jefferson county. A shock was observed in Winslow township March 9, 1832. A slight tremor was felt in Reynoldsville to the summer of 1868 and another in the summer of 1896.
The "Darkest Day" in Jefferson county was October 23, 1819.
November 3, 1833, possibly the greatest meteoric shower looked upon by man was visible in this wilderness from about three o'clock in the morning until sunrise. It was one of the most weird and spectacular eights ever seen in the skies, and was witnessed at about five o'clock, a short time before daylight, by John Fuller and family in what is now Winslow township.
A magnificent display of northern lights was seen all through this region one night in August, 1856, which has not been equaled since this section was first inhabited by white men. Those who witnessed it never forgot the sight. Many superstitious people believed that the world was coming to an end. Blue and white lights shot up from the northern horizon to the zenith. The display was awe inspiring.
Winslow township was to almost total darkness for a few moments on account of an eclipse of the sun August 7, 1868.
The roar of cannon at Gettysburg July 3, 1863, was heard in Winslow township all day long. The distance in a straight line from Gettysburg to Winslow township is about 125 miles northwest. The hills in this locality are higher than at Gettysburg and the wind was blowing from that direction, which made the booming far more easy to hear. The noise was heard at frequent intervals and sounded like BOOM-BOOMBOOMBOOM-BOOM-BOM! Then quiet; again BOOM-BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM-BOOM-BOOM!
In the summer of 1907 the blasting of rock for the construction of the Shawmut Railroad about nine miles north of Reynoldsville was distinctly heard in the borough and windows were shaken by the trembling earth.
March 2, 1913, 1,100 pounds of dynamite exploded in a brickyard in Reynoldsville. The trembling of the earth was distinctly felt at least 10 or 15 miles away and in DuBois, eight miles distant in a straight line, glass was broken in windows.
The fire whistle at DuBois has frequently been heard in Reynoldsville.
When driving a heading in the Soldier Run mine a pine log, not petrified but sound, was found fifty feet under the surface. There was a creek above and probably the tree had fallen when a ravine was there and in the long years which followed the fifty feet of earth had washed over it.
October 9, 1871, smoke was seen in Reynoldsville coming from the west in large clouds. The sky was filled with it and the sun shown red. It was believed to have come from Chicago, it being the day the fire was at its height. The distance to a straight line is 485 miles and it is slightly north of due west, about the direction from which the wind blows most heavily and persistently.
Some of the smoke in the air in Reynoldsville in the fall of 1908 is said to have been blown here from forest fires in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Smoke believed to have come from Pittsburgh, 73 miles southwest, has occasionally blown over Reynoldsville when the wind was coming from that direction.
About 1908 a fire broke out In the abandoned Washington mine a quarter of a mile northwest of Pancoast. In the same fall fire began in the abandoned Pleasant Valley mine within a quarter of a mile east of the Reynoldsville cemetery. About that time fire started in the abandoned Virginia mine a mile north of Rathmel. All caught at the outcrop from forest fires. They were burning when this history was published and may continue to bum many years after. When the burning coal is not too far from the surface the ground to so warm above that snow will melt as soon as it falls.
The atmosphere of this region is moderately humid which makes both heat and cold more perceptible even though the thermometer may register the same, than in places where it is dry. The reason for this moisture is the close proximity of Winslow township to Lake Erie 90 miles to the northwest.
The prevailing winds which cross Winslow township are from the West and they are the heaviest. The main cause for this condition to that this territory lies within the zone of the prevailing westerly winds, while the Allegheny Mountains act as a barrier to the easterly winds.
SOURCE: Pages 9-25, History of Reynoldsville and
Vicinity Including Winslow Township by Ward C. Elliott. Punxsutawney, Spirit
Publishing Company, 1922