The triangular area bounded by the Montour Ridge and the West and North branches of the Susquehanna River, which is now Northumberland and Point Township, was part of Turbot Township when this section of Pennsylvania was first divided on April 9, 1772. In February 1775, Mahoning Township was formed from this area and in February 1786, Point Township was formed from Mahoning Township.
Contrary to modern presentations, the Pioneers did not spend their entire time fighting the Indians. They built homes, prepared the soil and harvested their crops, as well as hunting the woods for wild turkey, deer, elk, bear, and buffalo.
In November 1768, this territory of Pennsylvania was purchased from the Indians. It extended from southern Northumberland County to the New York border and from Lycoming Creek to the eastern line of Luzerne County. Large trees grew in the forest that covered the fertile Susquehanna Valley. This thick forest was composed of hardwoods, hemlock, and pine. Here and there a meadow and former Indian Village could be found near the Susquehanna River. Many Indian arrowheads are now found in the river fields by avid arrowhead hunters, especially near the "Red Man's" farm along Route 11.
The settlers who came to this new territory included those of Scotch-Irish descent from Lancaster County and the Dutch from Berks County. The price of land was five pounds for one hundred acres and no settler could purchase more than three hundred acres.
There were no roads into this area, only a few Indian trails. A road from Reading to Fort Augusta was opened in 1770, but no one maintained this road through the wilderness.
The pioneer placed his wife, small children, and few possessions on his horses, and driving few animals, he set out for the new wilderness at the forks of the Susquehanna River.
At the site of his future home, the pioneer erected a temporary shelter of poles and brush. He then started to fell the large trees with his sharp, broad-bladed backwoods axe. The land had to be cleared before he could plant his crops. In the meantime, the family picked wild fruit berries, and nuts in the fall, hunted the abundant wildlife, and fished the many streams to have food on the table.
After the planting was done, the pioneer had to construct a log cabin. He called his neighbors together on the appointed day to help him put the logs in place. The size of the cabin depended on the material possessions of the settler. If poor, the cabin was one room of unhewn logs. If the pioneer was of some means, the logs were neatly hewed, and the cabin consisted of a large living room, a dining room with a large stone fireplace, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a loft above for the boys' bedroom.
The furnishings of the log cabin were handmade and meager. The clothing was all made in the home. Each settler had his field of flax and a few sheep so flax and wool could be spun into thread. The thread was then woven into cloth and finally made into clothing. Some of the outer clothing was made of leather and skins of the animals.
The houses were constructed of logs until 1798 when there were two brick houses, four stone houses, and three frame houses in Point Township. One of these stone houses is owned now by Leon Epler Farms, Inc. This house was built by William Cooke, a justice who signed the 1794 records of the Point Township Overseers of the Poor.
As the area became more populated, the settlers could share their talents with their neighbors and each man could work in his trade for the good of the community. In Point Township a shoemaker, carpenter, mason, bricklayer, tanner, tailor, storekeeper, chair-maker, clock-maker, lawyer, gunsmith, physician, saddler, cover-lid weaver, cord winder, distiller, cooper, baker, carter, schoolmistress, skin-dresser, printer, ferryman, gardener, cold-nailer, coach-maker, miller, painter, coopersmith, shingledresser, and nailer were occupations listed in 1796.
In order to learn a trade or profession a child was apprenticed to a tradesman for a number of years, usually until the age of eighteen.
Each township took care of their own ill, poor, widows and orphans. Records show that there were two "Overseers of the Poor" for each year starting in 1791. Four "Settlers of Accounts" audited the overseers’ records each year. The "Overseers of the Poor" record gives "Orders of Maintenance Issued for Mary Berry dated the 27th Day of December 1792 Signed by William Cook and Robert Martin Esq." She was discharged by Cowden and Dering on the 16th Day of September "being well enough to Support herself."
Destitute children were often indentured, bound to a citizen until they were twenty-one years of age to learn a trade. The record shows that on November 6, 1800, "Polly McCharg by and with the advise and consent of her mother and the Poor overseers of Point Township in the County of Northumberland doth voluntarily and of her own free will and accord put herself apprentice to Wm. Gibbons and to his heirs, to learn the art trade of a spinister and after the manner of an apprentice to serve her said master from _ _ _ _ this date _ _ _ _ and to the full end one term of sixteen years and twenty-four days . During all which term the said apprentice her said Master faithfully shall serve his secrets keep, his lawful commands obey and the Lord master shall use the utmost of his endeavors to teach or cause to be taught or instructed the apprentice the trade and mysteries of a spinster and procure and provide for her sufficient meat, drink and wearing apparel, lodging fitting for an apprentice. During the said term, the master shall give said apprentice one year of schooling when she arrives to the age of nine years and at the expiration of the time, the said master shall give the apprentice one spinning wheel, one cloak, two new suits of clothes and one new hat or bonnet." Signed; William Gibbons and Mich Tucker and Ben Hubley, Jr. Overseers.
Were you to journey along our roads in the spring, in bygone days, you would have seen the farmer preparing his soil and planting the seeds with horse-drawn equipment. In June he made hay, pitching it on the wagon one forkful at a time. In July he harvested the wheat, making neat rows of shocks in the field. A shock consisted of eight or ten sheaves placed on top, to keep out the rain, until the grain was dry enough to store in the barn and await the threshing crew.
The threshing outfit consisted of a steam engine – a huge affair with black smoke pouring from the smoke stack and steam hissing from the pistons. The threshing machine and water tank rumbled along at three or four miles per hour.
Jacob Kline, Phillip Heckert, Frank Neidig and Charles VanKirk had the first threshing machines that went from farm to farm threshing the wheat, oats and buckwheat.
Threshing day was a big day on the farm. The owner was the engineer and fireman and one man fed the machine and one man took the grain away. The farmer’s wife prepared an enormous meal for the threshers.
In September you would have seen fields of corn, the stalks cut and placed in shocks looking like Indian teepees. After the potatoes were dug and wheat was planted, the farmer and his family could be seen husking the corn in the field.
In days past, the largest farms were owned by James Packer (near Wickes Lumber and Modular Housing Systems), Charles Steele (Grange Hall to Mohawk Door Company), and Harry Barnhart the Legion Property to the Grange Hall. The large Barnhart barn that collapsed in 1971 was moved from there from the Kapp farm when the railroad yards were built in 1910.
Many small family farms had six to ten cows, a hundred chickens, a few sheep and ten to twenty pigs that provided a comfortable living for the family. The farmer and his wife tended market in Sunbury, or on Front Street in Northumberland or peddled their produce door to door in town. Farmers who did this in the first forty years of this century were: Charles Lesher, William H. Geise, John and Cyrus Young, Gene Grady, J.W. Furman, William H. Mertz, Sr. and Peter Clemens.
Other farmers who had milk routes or barns in were: H.F. Geise, Asher Hoffman, Joseph Diehl, H.B. Hopewell, Morris Grady, John Hilbish, Sis Elliot, John Mertz and Harry Barnhart.
Many families in town walked up over Strawbridge Road to get their milk from W.H. Geise, Newton Sulouff and George Epler, Jr. farms during the 1930’s and 1940’s.
From the 1930’s to the middle of this century, everything was changing fast. More roads were being paved, more electric lines were being built, and at the end of this period local telephone lines were all taken over by the Bell System.
Before 1960, many farms had all kinds of animals grazing on the sloping pastures. Now the farmers have specialized in one or two areas, either dairy, poultry, hogs and/or beef accompanying crops to feed the animals. The largest farm, Leon B. Epler Farms, Inc., is farming 1000 acres – 500 acres of corn, 100 acres of potatoes and other crops. One hundred fifty dairy cows, 200 other cattle and 20,000 laying chickens complete the operation, employing fifteen full time farmers. The other Point Township farms include four dairy farms, three poultry farms, two general farms, one beef and poultry farm, one hog farm and one pony farm. Many farms raise vegetables for wholesale, retail, and Furman’s Canning Company.
So now in the year 1972 let us take another drive through Point Township on mostly paved roads and review some of the changes. We don’t see any cows grazing in the fields and no chickens on the highways. Instead of a farmer following his team and plow, he is now up front on a tractor seat which is pulling many plows. Where we saw several men and sometimes a woman making hay, we now see a tractor pulling a baler which is tossing bales into a trailing wagon. Instead of a binder and shocks of grain, we see a combine; instead of corn shocks, we see a corn picker-sheller, and electric milking equipment used rather than hand milking of cows. All of these are great labor and time savers so more acreage can be farmed and more animals cared for.
Many of the former farms are now housing developments or industrial areas. The first plan for home building on farms was in 1946 when Leon B. Epler developed Villa Vista. William H. Geise also sold lots along Strawbridge Road on the farm that became Fred Troxell’s Hill Top View development in 1958.
In 1957, Broscious Lumber Company began Sunny Hill and Oak Park developments. Homes have now been erected along most of the township roads.
Point Township has changed from strictly rural to suburban in the last fifteen years. It has the largest rate of growth of any governing body in this country, chiefly due to being centrally located to industry and because of many choice scenic building lots.
As we think of road conditions in the nineteenth century, we are reminded of the roads muddy in springtime, dusty summer, rough in the fall and we may meet a big wagon with a large box, drawn by two horses, used to haul grain to the market or grist mill and provisions back home. The wagon was removed to bring crops from the field. The rear wheels were moved back along the coupling pole, lengthening the chassis to accommodate a large rack to hold bulky crops, such as hay or sheaves of grain or fodder.
Next we meet a top buggy – a one horse taxi cab, with a collapsible top, or a topless buggy, sometimes called a runabout. The next means of conveyance might be a road wagon with a longer wheelbase and two seats, the rear one removable, or a springwagon with three seats, two of which were removable and equipped with a top and roll down curtains in case of a storm – a sort of station wagon. The aristocrat of conveyance vehicles was the carriage, a two seated affair with top and fringed tassels.
About the turn of the century, the horseless carriage made its appearance and many a man jumped from his rig and held his horse by the bridle as the automobile went whizzing by, leaving him in a cloud of dust and sometimes voicing his opinion of the new invention.
The Danville Highway was paved in 1920 and county roads were paved in the late 1930’s.
From 1905 to 1908 three telephone companies were formed in Point Township by local farmers. They were on a lease contract with Bell System for exchange service. The West Branch Telephone Company was formed by James Heckert, John Hilbish, William H. Mertz, Sr., Henry Hackenburg, and William H. Mertz, Jr. in the area along Milton Highway.
The Tuckahoe Telephone Company was in the area of Furman’s Cannery and Comfort Road and was formed by Charles Lesher, Asher Hoffman, Oscar Leighow and James Taggart.
William Knouse, Henry F. Geise, Joseph Diehl and William H. Geise formed the Spruce Hollow Telephone Company in the Danville Highway area.
The companies had to construct their own lines from the borough line, install their own phones and poles, and make all necessary repairs.
City water was provided in Kapp Heights and a short section of the Danville Highway in 1894; it was extended to Oak Park section in 1957.
Electricity was provided in the late 1920’s and gradually extended so that by 1948 the entire township enjoyed this luxury.
The one-room schools are gone with children going to consolidated schools in Northumberland and Sunbury, being transported in large yellow school buses.
Wagons of all types have given way to trucks, some of which could transport as much at one time, as all types of wagons combined. Buggies and carriages have been replaced by cars – from the small low sports car to the big motor cars and station wagons. Elaborate glass-sided horse drawn hearses have disappeared to be replaced by sleek, quiet, heavy-looking, motorized vehicles. The gramophones and victrolas have been replaced by radios and televisions. Home gardens and home canned products have been replaced by commercially canned and frozen products. Ice boxes have disappeared in favor of electric freezers and refrigerators. Country living boasts all the conveniences of the towns.
The early industries were for the benefit of the farmers. A large stone mill on Lodge’s Run (now called Johnson’s Run), two miles north of Northumberland, was erected in 1815 by George Grant. A dam was constructed in the creek about one-half north of the mill to supply the water for power. The water was backed up to a height so the water would run down a small ditch – like a canal. The water ran back of the mill and through an opening in the wall, over a large water wheel and back into the creek.
Inside the mill were large stones from 18 inches to 24 inches in width and about 60 inches in diameter. Grain was put between these stones and ground into floor. The building was two stories high. The first floor was the power room and the second floor was the work room.
Jesse C. Horton, who purchased Oak Hall (now American Legion Post #44) from Reuben Haines’ descendants in 1847, was running the mill in 1841. A later miller was Simon Showalter, and Mr. Bittinger was the last miller.
Use of the mill was discontinued in 1911 when water and age caused deterioration of the wall where the wheel was located. The mill was torn down in the 1930’s and stones were used to construct the Garman home at 447 Orange Street, Northumberland. The land was sold to the Water Company. The foundation can still be seen and one of the mill stones is at Post #44.
In 1817, William A. Lloyd established a flour mill on Johnson’s Run within a short distance of the Stone Mill. Mr. Lloyd also operated a carding machine, used in the processing of wool, one of the first in the county and an important feature of his establishment. The milling business was discontinued in 1887. One of the mill’s stones is now at Post #44.
There were a number of distilleries in operation at one time, considering the limited agricultural territory of the township. Farmers sold their grain to local distilleries because of transportation problems for the grain. Proprietors of the distilleries were Robert Morris, Joseph R. Priestley, Jacob Dentler, William A. Lloyd, James Lemon, and George Grant.
About 1850, Chulasky Furnance, a bank furnace for the production of iron ore, was established about eight miles from Northumberland and three miles from Danville. The property included about 700 acres in Point Township and Montour County. Iron ore was mined from Montour Ridge by company employees who lived in 23 tenements located in the area now called Chulasky. A meeting house, school, general country store, and horse stable completed the community. The operations were discontinued in the 1880’s because of poor quality iron ore.
One of the earlier industries in Point Township was Paul S. Crebs Moving and Storage. Mr. Crebs began business in Selinsgrove in 1920 with one truck; he moved to Kapp Heights in 1930 and began interstate long distance hauling in 1933. The trucking business now has 32 tractors and 45 trailers delivering in 33 states. In 1945 Mr. Crebs began raising Shetland ponies and expanded the pony enterprise to the former Ray Hoffman farm along Montour Ridge in 1954. Two other trucking firms in the township are Highway Express Lines and Robert E. Cook’s trucking on Route 11.
In the 1930’s, the Atlantic Refining Company, now ARCO, established a pipeline distribution plant along Route 11. Lewis K. Rich built storage tanks for Cities Service fuels nearby in the late 1940’s.
Stuck Brothers had its beginning in 1946 when Arthur and George were in the construction and lumber yard business. They built a retail appliance and furniture store in 1956 and added brother Kenneth to the partnership in 1958. Another appliance store, Peter’s Appliances, was built by Marlin Peters on a lot next to the Priestley School in 1960.
Point Township has had great industrial growth in the last twelve years. Large industries employing hundreds of men have been established in quick succession. Wickes Lumber Company, Mohawk Door Company, Danville Sales and Service, Sunbury Wholesale Sea Food, and Central Builders Supply Company quarry are all located along Route 11.
The newest industry built in 1972 is the Bituminous Emulsion Company, which is located in the Penn Central Railroad Yard.
A Legend of how “Tuckahoe” Received its Name
By: The Late Mrs. Florence Butler Hetrick, great-great granddaughter of Peter Freese
At the close of the Revolutionary War, Peter Freese (whose name later was changed to Freeze) moved from his plantation in New Jersey named “Tuckahoe,” to a plantation three miles west of Northumberland Town. He called his new plantation “Tuckahoe” in memory of his former home.
The naming of the New Jersey Plantation came from a story which was handed down from one generation to the other. The story goes that Peter Freese was in his field cultivating with a hoe when he was called to his cabin and left his hoe in the field. An Indian boy came by, picked up the hoe, and walked off with it. Freese told the story and decided to call the farm “Took-a-Hoe” which finally became “Tuckahoe.”
His Northumberland plantation consisted of the Molly (Bullion) Spring area (presently Mertz Brothers’ Farm) on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, and cast through the countryside to the North Branch of the Susquehanna including the now called “Lithia Springs” area. The name of the valley has never been changed and is still called “Tuckahoe.”
Until the Pennsylvania railroad yards were built, the log cabin still stood beside Molly Bullion Spring.
Snuggled in a valley a mile and a half northeast of the borough of Northumberland, there are seventeen acres of very beautiful rolling pine woods. Here are found springs of Lithia, sulfur, magnesia and iron waters. In 1909 “The Tuckahoe Mineral Springs Company” was formed for the purpose of bottling and selling these mineral waters. For many years huge barrels were used to send the spring water to many sections of the country.
In 1920, the Lee H. Mertz family purchased Lithia Springs, and two years later Mr. Mertz had a swimming pool built on the grounds. This was one of the earliest pools in the state and the “Springs” soon became one of the most popular gathering spots in the area.
The Mertz family also featured Wednesday and Sunday dinners in the restaurant for many years and there was often as many as 800 people served. A variety of amusement rides and live entertainment were a feature in the early days, and the shady picnic area was the happy scene of many a school, Church, grange and family outing.
In 1938, Mr. Mertz converted the old restaurant and began operation of the bottled soft drink works using the delicious Lithia water.
At the present time the “Springs” has thirty-five cottages, all individually owned, and some of these are leased for the summer vacation months. Many have been converted into permanent homes.
Since the death of Mr. Mertz in 1965, use of the picnic area and pool has been discontinued, but the Lithia water, which was once sold, is still flowing and available for the asking.