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…bringing our past into the future

History of Lycoming County, Lloyd, Chapter 14


Apr 13, 2011




Montgomery – There is no more beautiful scenery to be found in Lycoming County than that of the Muncy Hills and in the vicinity of Montgomery, lying at the base of Penny Hill, from the top of which a picture of unsurpassed beauty unfolds itself.

Montgomery stands in the center of a section celebrated for its historic interest. Cornelius Low was probably the first settler in 1778 and was soon followed by John Lawson and Nicholas Shaffer.

The town grew slowly and for many years it was only a counterpart of many other such towns throughout Pennsylvania. It was made a post office March 26, 1836, with Samuel Rank as first postmaster and was incorporated as a borough March 27, 1887.

Before the advent of the railroad the town was known only for its famous eel dinners given frequently by the Menges families who lived on the other side of the river between it and the canal. They maintained nets at a point where the river entered the canal at the Muncy dam and often caught as many as 1,500 in a night. These they kept in live boxes ready to be taken out and cooked at a moment’s notice as only the Menges housewives could cook them. Parties came from all over the state to get these eel dinners and the fame of the Mengeses extended far and wide. It is a safe assertion that no one could cook an eel as well as the Menges women.

And thus it was with Montgomery until the Catawissa Railroad, afterwards purchased by the Reading, was built through from West Milton to Williamsport, thus giving the town what few other places, if any, possess, two large railroad companies whose tracks run so nearly side by side that a person can step from one to the other. Other towns have two railroads and some of them more, but it is doubtful whether any other town in the state has two with their tracks so close together.

This adventitious circumstance attracted the attention of a New Hampshire Yankee, Levi Houston, who located there in 1873. Houston was a skilled mechanic, having followed the trade since boyhood, and he quickly recognized the advantages of Montgomery as a manufacturing center. He started a foundry and machine shop and from that date Montgomery’s commercial prosperity was assured. The machine shops developed into a plant for making wood working machinery which went to all parts of the world. It was afterwards absorbed by the American Woodworking Machine Company with branches in several parts of the United States and has been recently acquired by The Yates-American Machine Company.

Other manufactories followed in the wake of the Houston interests until now there is a string of them extending along the entire length of the town. Montgomery has developed into a live, up-to-date manufacturing center, with a prosperous business whose heads are all charged with dynamic energy. There is little unemployment in Montgomery, as all the plants run practically on full time with plenty of orders to keep them going. There is the Montgomery Table Works, employing about 250 men; The Isaac C. Decker Company, Inc., employing 150; the Penn Furniture Company, with 125; the Montgomery Lounge Company, with about 75; Yates-American Machine Company, 50; the J. C. Decker Company, Inc., about 75; Lycoming Upholstering Company, 75; Wood Products Company, 30; Eastern Millwork Company, 35; H. E. Fysher Furniture Company, 35; the J. D. Baer Company, 30, and the E. F. Paff Company, 20.

Montgomery’s two banks are in a flourishing financial condition with a constantly increasing volume of business and the merchants have a good trade in the town, and with the surrounding farmer community.

The splendid concrete bridge across the river at Montgomery has greatly helped the town, as it has diverted a large volume of trade which formerly went to places farther down the river.

Montgomery has one weekly newspaper, good schools and churches and possesses all the advantages of a live manufacturing center. Its citizenry is almost wholly American, of the best type and most of them are home owners. A delightful social atmosphere pervades the borough and the community spirit is alive. Taxes are reasonable and real estate values not beyond the reach of the man of moderate means. In 1920 the borough had a population of 1,798.

Hughesville – David Aspen was the first white man to settle in what is now known as the borough of Hughesville. He was killed by the Indians in August, 1778. Others soon followed Aspen and in 1816 Jeptha Hughes, who had settled there some years earlier, laid out the town. It first was given the name of “Hughesburg,” but this was subsequently changed to Hughesville. The town grew slowly for a long time, like so many other towns in this section of the state, which slumbered peacefully until awakened by the onrushing momentum of the giant lumber industry. It became a post office November 19, 1827, and Theodore Wells was made the first postmaster. It was incorporated as a borough April 2, 1852. It has been greatly enlarged since it was first laid out by Jeptha Hughes.

When the Williamsport and North Branch Railroad was completed in 1872, Hughesville became its northern terminus and it connected at Halls with the Reading. The railroad was subsequently continued over to Satterfield on the Lehigh Valley, and, although passenger service on it has been abandoned, it still maintains an adequate freight service, thus giving to

Hughesville an outlet for the products of its factories. There is also a convenient bus line running through Hughesville from Muncy to Picture Rocks, connecting with all trains on the Reading Railroad.

Hughesville is delightfully situated at the base of the far famed Muncy Hills, which extend up Muncy Creek to Sullivan County. Its people enjoy the best of health and serious sickness is unknown. The town has a good water supply of the purest quality, which also contributes to the healthfulness of the place.

Except in the immediate business section it is a town of wide spaces, the houses being set far apart and surrounded with beautiful grounds and lawns. The principal street is very wide and well paved. It presents an attractive appearance.

The principal industries of the town are devoted to the manufacture of furniture, as are so many in the other small towns of the county. The J. K. Rishel Company employs about 150 men and the Hughesville Furniture Company and the Lycoming Furniture Company employ nearly as many.

Hughesville has two national banks, both of which are in sound financial condition. There is one excellent weekly newspaper. Hughesville is a community of home-owners and citizens of American birth. There are no foreigners, no undesirables and no poor. Taxes are reasonable and real estate values not excessive. There is a volunteer fire department, but its services are rarely needed as the town has been unusually free from serious fires. The community spirit runs high as shown by the citizens voluntarily bonding themselves for $100,000 to build a new high school.

In addition to the three furniture factories Hughesville has a large silk mill, the Shindel Company, employing about 200 women and girls, who are given steady employment at good wages.

The crowning glory of Hughesville however, is the Lycoming County Fair Association, which is one of the most successful affairs of its kind in the the state. W. E. Clark is its president and Edward E. Frontz its secretary. Its slogan is, “Better Than Ever.” This is no misnomer. The fair, each year, it better than the year before and new attractions are constantly being added and new buildings erected. There is no better fair in the state than that of the Lycoming Fair Association and, although it could easily be made a paying proposition, the stockholders prefer to turn the profits back each year into the treasury to be used for improvements and betterments.

This spirit of unselfishness shows the character of the men who are back of the enterprise. During the week of its activities in the fall the Hughesville fair is the mecca for thousands of farmers and others who are interested in the exhibits and who are fond of good horse racing.

Hughesville is well supplied with churches and schools, and the places of worship are well attended. In 1920 the population of the town was 1,527.

Duboistown – Armstrong township on the south side of the river opposite the city of Williamsport has the unique distinction of being one of two townships in Lycoming out of which two boroughs have been created, and another interesting fact is that the older of the two is the smaller and has grown the slower. Duboistown stands on historic ground and every foot of the surrounding territory is filled with interest. The borough is located on a high plateau which was originally covered with a dense growth of walnut timber. In the early days it was known as the “walnut bottom” because of this fact. A great deal of this walnut timber was cut down and used in the building of houses and even barns and other outbuildings. It would be worth millions of dollars today if it were still standing.

At the mouth of Mosquito Creek, down which followed the famous Indian trail afterwards known as the “Culbertson Path,” the land on which the present borough of Duboistown is located was at one time covered with Indian relics, such as stone implements, arrow heads, cooking utensils, etc. These were all gathered up many years ago and found their way into some of the most valued archaeological collections in this country and Europe.

The most striking of the early settlers in what is now Duboistown was Andrew Culbertson, who came to the mouth of Mosquito Creek somewhere about the year 1773. He built a saw mill near the mouth of the stream and also a carding mill a little farther up. The tract on which he settled was originally surveyed in the name of Samuel Boone, a brother of Captain Hawkins Boone, who was killed in the attempted rescue of the prisoners at Fort Freeland and was a cousin of the famous Daniel Boone, of Kentucky.

The importance of the site at Duboistown for lumber operations early attracted the interest of those engaged in the business, not only because of the timber that could be brought down Mosquito Creek, but also because of the fact that it was conveniently situated near the lower end of the Susquehanna boom. The first modern saw mill to be erected on the south side of the river was built at Duboistown by Major James H. Perkins, in 1854. It stood just a little west of the mouth of Mosquito Creek.

Two years later, one of the wizards in the lumber industry of those days, John DuBois, recognizing the advantages of the location, built a steam saw mill on the other side of the creek and laid out a town to which was given the name Duboistown. At that time the cheapest way to get lumber to market was by way of the canal, and, as the canal was on the Williamsport side of the river, DuBois built a wire suspension ferry across the stream. The lumber was pushed over through a pair of compression rolls and was then “jacked” over into the canal when it reached the other side by means of machinery specially constructed for that purpose.

The mill and ferry were washed away in the great flood of 1865. In 1867 John DuBois, not at all discouraged by his previous experience, built another mill on the site of the old Perkins mill. This was of stone and was known as the “modern mill,” which it probably was at that time. It had a capacity of 100,000 feet a day. This mill was burned in 1884 and then John DuBois transferred his operations to Clearfield County and ultimately became a multi-millionaire. He never married.

On October 14, 1878 Duboistown was incorporated as a borough; after strong opposition on the part of some of the citizens of Armstrong township who were not in favor of giving up such a large slice of territory. C. C. Brown was chosen as its first burgess, but as be moved away immediately after his election, the court, upon petition, appointed George Fulkrod, March 21, 1879, and he was, therefore, first chief executive of the borough.

From that time down to the present Duboistown has been a very prosperous town, although with the passing of the lumber industry it has lost much of its former importance.

It is today a delightful suburb of the city of Williamsport, lying at the base of Bald Eagle Mountain, and is principally a residential section for many who are employed in Williamsport and elsewhere. Its population is 756.

Picture Rocks – About two and a half miles above the borough of Hughesville there is a ledge of rocks that rises sheer from the bank of Big Muncy Creek to a height of 200 feet. When the first settlers came Into this region they found on these rocks a number of Indian pictures long since obliterated, the meaning of which was never determined, as none of the early inhabitants was sufficiently versed in Indian lore to interpret them. These pictures supplied the name for a very beautiful town which is now known as Picture Rocks.

In the fall of 1848 two men came to Picture Rocks, A, FL Sprout and Amos Burrows, and their descendants are still living there. Other friends and relatives soon followed, and the town grew. A. FL Sprout and Amos Burrows were the founders of the town and they founded it well. It became a prosperous place, and that prosperity still continues.

The town is located on the Williamsport and North Branch Railroad, which maintains a freight service which gives an outlet for the products of the borough in two directions. There is also an excellent bus service between the town and Hughesville and Muncy, the trips being made at convenient intervals.

There is, perhaps, no more beautiful town in the state than Picture Rocks. Its wide and attractively shaded streets with their spacious lawns and well-kept front yards show the existence of a community spirit that is worthy of more than passing notice. This spirit runs high and is well illustrated in the character of the public park which is owned by the town and is let to whoever desires it for picnics and other purposes at no cost whatever. It is beautifully situated and is one of the most attractive places of its kind to be found anywhere.

Nothing better shows the character of the people of Picture Rocks than that its first church was built in just eight days by the combined labor of the members of the congregation and the edifice continued in use for a period of twenty-five years.

Although a place of less than 1,000 people, Picture Rocks has some important industries. The leading one is the Burrows Brothers, manufacturers of furniture, with a large output, principally of dining room sets. The company employs about 150 men at good wages and almost continuous work. The Lycoming Ladder Company employs from fifteen to twenty men and does a good business. This company manufacturers stepladders, snow shovels, ironing boards, clothes racks and frames for auto tops. Another important industry is the Handle and Excelsior Company, employing about twenty men. It manufactures tool handles, hand rakes and excelsior.

The town has a good fire company but, as unusual precautions are taken to prevent serious conflagrations, its services are seldom required.

Picture Rocks is justly proud of its school building, which is one of the most modern and best equipped in the state, It occupies a beautiful location and adds much to the attractiveness of the town.

Taxes are reasonable and the cost of government low. The population is of the highest class, and most of the people are home owners. There are no foreigners.

The town is situated on the improved highway running from Muncy and Eagles Mere, and many tourists pass through it in the summer, and the praise for the beauty of Picture Rocks and Muncy Valley is universal.

Picture Rocks has one bank with resources of over $260,000 and individual deposits subject to check of $75000. It is in excellent financial condition and business is constantly growing.

The main street is part of the state highway, and the other streets are well paved and the town is well lighted.

The health of the borough is excellent, there being little sickness of a serious nature, and the water supply for purity and volume is unsurpassed. Real estate values are well maintained and the assessments are not high.

Picture Rocks has good churches and the services are well attended. It is a God-fearing community and crimes of any kind are practically unknown. Its schools are also of the best.

Picture Rocks is far off the beaten track, yet near enough to permit its people to get out at will and it is a most desirable place in which to live if one wishes quiet. Taken all in all it is a beautiful town, and there are few that are more attractive and few that possess the beauty of its surroundings. In 1920 Picture Rocks had a population of 526.

Salladasburg – The town of Salladasburg, tucked away in the mountains of the Larry’s Creek section of Lycoming County, six miles from a railroad and off the line of tourist travel, has a very interesting history, somewhat unlike that of any other borough in the county.

It was founded in 1837 by Captain Jacob P. Sallada, who was so closely identified with the history of Limestone Township. He laid out the place in lots, built a church for the use of the Lutherans and Presbyterians only, and started things going. After that he left the town to shift for itself. A grist mill, one of those prime necessities of the early pioneer, was built in the same year by Colonel Sallada, son of the founder. Then along in the year 1848 came one Robert McCullough, a Scotchman, who bought the tannery previously established by Robert Lawshe. The buildings were burned twice and the business had varying fortunes and passed through several hands until the year 1874, when McCullough built a larger plant than the one that had existed before, and continued the manufacture of leather until the hemlock bark was exhausted. At the height of the enterprise as high as 400 hides were turned out daily and, as it was six miles to a shipping point, a plank road eight feet wide was built down to Larry’s Creek station on the New York Central Railroad.

Salladasburg was incorporated as a borough January 12, 1884. It lies on Larrys’ Creek, six miles from its mouth, and is a prosperous place by reason of the rich lands on the creek bottoms both above and below it. The tannery was the making of the town, but it has continued to prosper, ever since that business ceased to be. It is located in a picturesque region and is an attractive place for tourists who like to get off the beaten paths. It is approached by a good macadamized road from both directions and is well worth a visit by those who are fond of the wildness of nature. In 1920 Salladasburg had a population of 208.

Ralston – Although not rising to the dignity of a borough, the little village of Ralston is entitled to more than passing mention. It has a very romantic history and was at one time the seat of a series of ambitious schemes. It was founded by Mathew C. Ralston, of Philadelphia, after whom it took its name, who dreamed of making it a great iron producing center. Iron had been discovered in the mountains below the village as early as 1820 and to develop these deposits was the purpose of Mathew Ralston and his associates. A large blast furnace was built at Astonville on the Frozen Run about a mile below what is now Ralston about the year 1831, and the construction of a road from Williamsport to Ralston to reach this furnace was begun simultaneously with its erection.

In those days the building of a railroad up the valley of Lycoming Creek was no small undertaking. Heavy grading was necessary and, owing to the tortuous course of the stream, numerous bridges had to be built to avoid heavy rock cutting and frequent sharp curves. The engineer corps was in charge of the late Robert Faries. The region was wild, mountainous and unsettled. The exigencies of the work necessitated the equipment of the working force in Williamsport as no supplies could be obtained along the line. A pack mule was loaded with provisions and supplies and the engineering corps proceeded to their work on foot. They camped on the trail wherever night found them and when their supplies were exhausted one of the party was compelled to return all the way to Williamsport for a fresh supply of the “sinews of war.” There were no steam shovels or grading machinery in those days and very crude methods were in use. It is related that upon one occasion, after construction work had begun, Mr. Faries visited one of the contractors near Ralston and actually found a workman removing dirt from a side hill with an ordinary garden hoe. As a further instance of the difficulties to be overcome it may be stated that it was necessary to build twenty-one bridges between Williamsport and Ralston, a distance of twenty-five miles.

After a great many vicissitudes and the surmounting of many difficulties the road, then known as the Williamsport Railroad, was opened through to Ralston on January 12, 1839. A locomotive, called the “Robert Ralston,” was brought from Philadelphia on a canal boat and immediately placed in service. About eighteen months later a second one, called the “Williamsport,” was purchased. The road was operated for a few years and was then completed through to Elmira and became the Williamsport and Elmira, now the Pennsylvania.

When Ralston was laid out great expectations for its future were entertained by its founder. The original plot shows that its streets were named Main, McIntyre, Green, Thompson and Rock Run with the requisite number of alleys. A large hotel, partly built of stone, with massive columns in front, was erected and it presented an imposing appearance. It was called the Ralston House. But the dreams of Mathew Ralston were never realized. The iron furnaces proved a complete failure. His fortune dwindled to nothing, and after a few years of futile struggle, he gave up the fight and died a poor man. The furnace soon fell into decay and became only a refuge for bats and owls. A portion of it is still standing, a melancholy re minder of buried hopes and disappointed ambitions. In his endeavor to win success from iron smelting, Ralston completely overlooked the other great opportunities that lay all about him; the virgin forests of timber; the valuable coal and the equally valuable clay deposits. Years afterwards these proved of great value and are still operated with profit. When the large tannery at Ralston was in full operation some years ago, as many as 250 men were employed at one time, 1,600 cords of bark were handled per year and 1,000 sides of leather were turned out daily. But this industry is now a thing of the past.

In one way Mathew Ralston’s dream was realized. For many years Ralston was a famous summer resort. The mountain streams in the neighborhood were filled with brook trout and deer, bear and smaller game abounded in the mountains. There were two good hotels, the Ralston House on the south side of Lycoming Greek and the Conley House on the north side. Guests from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington came there to spend the summers and enjoy the fishing and hunting.

But the resort glories of Ralston have also passed away. The hills and mountains have been stripped bare. The magnificent forests no longer exist. The whirr of machinery and the scream of the steam whistle are heard in the shady dells and beside the rambling brooks. The streams no longer abound with trout. The deer and bear have been chased to more secluded haunts. Commercialism has given place to natural beauty. Ralston is now a thriving village given over wholly to business enterprises.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 174-186, History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania, Col. Thomas W. Lloyd, Volume 1, Topeka – Indianapolis; Historical Publishing Company; 1929

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