dilluns, de juny 20, 2005

The History of Bartonsville (Part 1) (English)

Inspite of its mediocre present, and surely no more inspiring future, once upon a time, Bartonsville was a real place, a place that meant something to more folks than just one lone little hayseed who eventually left Bartonsville for much different pastures wening his little picaresque way to "bigger and better things."

The official History of Monroe County, Pennsylvania mentions on page 31 that Joseph Barton "gave his name to Bartonsville when he opened a hotel and post office there." The date give in the History is 1833, but I used to work at the Monroe County Historical Association, and I had access to other documentation apparently not in the hands of the committee who wrote the History. Pouring through reams of onion paper and barely deciperable xeroxes, I came across the Barton family history, not by itself, but spliced in with another family into which some of them had married. I knew from that research that in fact Joseph Barton, his full name was Colonel Joseph Benjamin Barton, came to the Poconos from New Jersey, and he was quite an entrepreneur. Besides his hotel and post office in the would-be Bartonsville, he also owned and ice-cream parlour in East Stroudsburg.

Of course today, the thought of an ice-cream parlour is fairly tame, give the century of electrical refrigeration we have just lived through. In the first half of the 19th century however, owning an ice-cream parlour would have been tantamount to owning a luxury Scotch bar today, with 20 and 30 year old single malts lining the walls. Ice-cream was a luxury in those days, and quite a refined treat. The Colonel, as I like to call him, was therefor a man of some means and breeding.

It is unclear from the scant record remains whether he opened his epicurian enterprise in East Stroudsburg before coming west and north to open his hotel and post office, or after. In any case, the record is very clear: he came to found his tiny village in 1831, not 1833. He chose a good spot for his endeavor. He built his original hotel not far from the Pocono Creek just where it was crossed by the earliest manifestation of Route 611, the Belmont-Easton Turnpike, one of the old early American "'pikes" that ran from the colonial city of Easton, Pennsylvania to Scranton, then called Belmont. His hotel quickly became a needful stage coach stop on the path north, a journey which in the day from Easton to Belmont probably took the better part of a week with a heavily laden coach. Likewise his post-office became important to local hunters, trappers and the then rare hearty farmer who was making his life in what was then, realistically the wild west of post-colonial America.

Poised as it was, Bartonsville did not stay in the periphery for long, in the coming 60 years, many changes would come to the tiny hamlet the Colonel founded along the Pocono Creek, and the frontier of America would make its bed with Manifest Destiny in a succession of additions which would take less than a century to complete. Apparently the Colonel wasn't content staying put for long either; by the 1850's he had sold his interest in his property in Bartonsville and left his eponymous hamlet to found another small village further to the north, a town now called Waymart near Scranton. Perhaps one day he decided to head north and see where the Belmont 'Pike ended and liked what he saw, or maybe he didn't like the mass civilization that was careening down on the rustic village he had founded. Certainly even in the scant decades after he came to his stagecoach stop on the 'Pike the very nature of the land around him had begun to change. More and more farmers arrived and cleared more land, changing Bartonsville from a dark stagecoach stop to a bucolic American village with corn fields and cows.

To the north in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, the first American railroad was well underway with the now world-famous Stourbridge Lion shuttling freight and coal around. In just another forty years Bartonsville would have it's own rail line with the opening of a branch of the New York Susquehanna and Western. Sometime in the 1840's a massive grist mill was built across the way from the Colonel's hotel, its races and dams constructed in a lattice work of water and stone than criss-crossed the valley, some of the races extending for miles beyond the village.

The most ironic part of the Colonel's influence on Bartonsville is that he never staid in the place that he was obviously known for. Indeed, the only Barton to be buried in the Custard's Bartonsville Cemetery is one Lydia Barton, apparently a spinster daughter who never wanted to leave her family's namesake.

(to be continued with "The History of Bartonsville, Part 2)"