dimarts, de juny 21, 2005

The History of Bartonsville (Part 2) (English)

With Joseph Barton's departure for parts north, leaving on Lydia rather mysteriously behind, another family came to take the Bartons' place as the pre-eminent family of the tiny valley. Arriving sometime in the 1870's the Custard family settled just south of the main village along the Pocono Creek. They established a farm and also built a sawmill. In the coming years, they donated land for a Lutheran church, a cemetery and a school house. All their land was a little south of the village, and this, ironically, the first school and first church of the village were built on its extreme perimeters.

One Custard in particular distinguished himself and became the first minister of Custards' Church. His name was Jeremiah Custard, and he is most distinguished not only because he was the village's first cleric, but also because he was an avid journaler. He kept years and years worth of journals which are now collected in a tome entitled Through a Glass Darkly. In it, he mostly gives a lot of hum-drum information, notes on the weather, the crops, etc. Frequently he also sermonizes, but once in a while he chronicles some strange event, like the death of the blacksmith resulting from a train explosion, or a mysterious supposed sucide in the village (more on these in "The Mysteries of Bartonsville"). For the greater extent of his youth and career, Jeremiah's journals paint a picture of life in tiny, bucolic Bartonsville.

During his life the village grew signifigantly. By the 1890's, the village still had the old hotel built by the Colonel, by then called the Forest Inn. Apparently the Forest Inn had cemented itself nicely into local legend because several travellers who remembered and recorded their stop at the end mentioned that on its sign-post was written "The Forest Inn, founded in 1797 by Joseph Barton." Of course the Colonel would only have been a very young man in 1797 and mostly likely still east of the Delaware River, but the antique date must have led a certain kind of patrimony to the old place. The Custard family themselves were joined by the widow of a certain famous cousin. The Custard family, further west, were known as the Custer family, and Custer's widow is reputed to have journeyed to Bartonsville to spend her golden years with family after the loss of her husband.

The height of Bartonsville's charm would be found in the 30 years between 1890 and 1920. To give a textual description of the map of the village, picture a main north-south road. This would be the Easton-Belmont Turnpike. Crossing it is an east-west road that leads from Stroudsburg across the mountain to Reeders. To the south of the east-west (Reeders) road is the Pocono Creek, crossed along the 'Pike by a beautiful stone bridge. The creek turns just past this bridge from the north east, so the Reeders road also crosses it, but via a covered bridge. More or less following the Reeders road is the New York-Susquehanna and Western railroad line. The small freight station is just south of the stone bridge.

On the northeast side of the main crossroads is the Forest Inn. On the same side of the 'Pike going north would be the latest addition during this time period, the "new" post office built by Bartonsville's third family, the Alegers. Behind that is a small string of homes, most of them attached to adjacent farmland the families worked. Continuing north along the Pike are a number of similar homesteads. About 3/4 a mile from the crossroads on the west side of the Pike is the village dance hall, and just up the road from it on the opposite side a tavern. The Belmont Pike continues and at about a mile along is Pocono Township School number 10, the village's second school. Further along is yet another tavern, and the handsome Pokona House, which by the 1880's had joined the Forest Inn as a place of lodging along the 'Pike.

Returning to the main intersection, across the street from the Forest Inn on the Reeders Road are the bark sheds for the tanneries, quite large warehouse like structures where the tanning bark was dried, treated and stored until needed across the way at the tannery. On the north side of the barksheads would appear to be where the village cobbler keeps shop along the 'Pike. Just in front of the Bark Sheds a small road branches off and follows the Creek along north to Lower Tannersville, along which one finds a number of small farms. On the other side of this small road is the gristmill and the Miller's house just adjacent to the covered Bridge along the Reeders Road (the southwest corner of the crossroads). In the southeast corner are the General Store, the "old" post office and the creamery. The black smith shop is also along this small corner. Like the road north, there are several small farmsteads.

As I mentioned before the tannery was between the Reeders Road and the stream, and here also one finds the Peg Factory, and by 1915, the Model-T ford dealership. The Custards' property is across the creek from the tannery, with their sawmill facing it, more or less cross the stream. The church, the cemetery and the school lay a bit futher south along the 'Pike. Heading east along the Reeders road toward Stroudsburg, one also sees sporadic farmsteads and eventually, about a mile and half east of the main crossroads, the village's second church, a Wesleyan chapel (more on why there were no churches in the middle of the village in "The Mysteries of Bartonsville").

In a very real sense, here is a description of the "village primeval", an accadian portrait of the American village, set along a stream, church bells ringing in the distance, nearly all the land along the valley cleared and cultivated. Besides the village dance hall, the local people entertained themselves with a local baseball team and a local brass band. Sadly it wouldn't last forever. The first Forest Inn burned to the ground sometime in the early 1900's, to be rebuilt and enlarged, only to burn down again sometime in the 1930's, never to rise again. By 1930 the Peg Mill and the Tannery were has-beens, and even the gristmill was a a moribund reminder of more primitive times. In the years following, it would serve as general store, vegetable stand, gas station, and junk store. Its final insult would come when the historical Millbrook Village in New Jersey lost their own mill to a fire, and the Bartonsville mill's last owner willed it to them. It was disassembled piece by piece to be reconstructed there.

The village itself remained unicoporated, straddling the boundaries of four townships, Stroud, Pocono, Hamilton and Jackson, and this municipal division never gave the village the official cohesion it needed to think of itself as a self-contained unit and developing beyond its 19th century charm. Its future was doomed to be a "dot on the map."

Photo by Mike Mikowsky as found on www.njskylands.com
Slowly the farms failed and the fields grew back in with the same mixed forest that had been there when the Colonel opened his hotel and post-office a century before. Only now there were paved roads. The old 'Pike was only sporadically followed by the new paved roads, and the village had no use for its dance hall, its creamery, its black smith shop, nor even the freight station in the fullness of time. Many of the remains of these old places were washed away in the Flood of '55 and so by the time I was born, Bartonsville was a sleepy backwater, mostly forgotten by everyone...