Pike County History

The County of Pike was separated from Wayne County on March 26, 1814. Wayne had been separated from Northhampton on March 21, 1798, and Northhampton had been formed from part of Bucks County on March 11, 1752. Bucks was one of the original counties created by William Penn in 1682. When formed in 1814, Pike County included the Townships of Middle Smithfield, Delaware, Upper Smithfield, Lackawaxen and Palmyra. By the Act of April 1, 1836, a portion of Pike County was cut off to form part of Monroe County; otherwise, it’s boundaries remain as they were established by the Act of 1814. It was named for Zebulon Montgomery Pike, discoverer of Pike’s Peak and a General killed in the war of 1812. The County Seat is Milford. The original Courthouse was constructed in 1815. The present Courthouse was completed in 1874. The Administration Building was completed in 1985. The latest County facility is the Pike County Jail which was completed in 1995.

The central township of Pike County and the only township not bordered by another County, was established by an Act of Legislation on December 17, 1850.

Blooming Grove Township – History does not tell us the origin of the name, but two possibilities are considered. One is that the settlers found a grove of apple trees when coming here, and the other is the existence of an abundance of blooming pink Mountain Laurel. A map of Pennsylvania drawn by W. Scull in 1770 does indicate “Blooming Grove”, the ‘Sheholy” Creek and the “Sheholy House”. A writing about Sylvanus Seely, by Theodore Thayer, mentions that Jonas Seely obtained a warrant in 1765 which included the Blooming Grove tract.
When Blooming Grove Township was established, the principal occupation of the inhabitants was logging and saw mills. This remained true well into the 20th Century. One of the first known land developments was the property of the Lord family purchased when coming here in 1809. It seems a development was advertised in the Philadelphia newspaper and they came to see what it was, purchased the property and settled Lords Valley.
Blooming Grove Township has several thousand acres of State Forest and State Game Lands within its boundaries which will probably never be developed.

Delaware Township – Delaware Township is the oldest of Pike County’s townships. It was in existence before 1766 as part of Northhampton County. It was named because it bordered the Delaware River and originally extended west to the Luzerne County line.
Chief Thundercloud, the famous Native American, believed to be the model for the nickel as well as the last five dollar gold piece minted in the United States, came from Dingmans Ferry in Pike County. He was a scout with the United States Army, worked in show business with P.T. Barnum as well as the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, and posed for leading American artists such as Fredrick Remington and John Singer. After viewing the Native American artifacts at The Columns, as well as the exhibit dedicated to Father Craft, who lived for many years in Pike County and was a missionary and educator working with the Indians in the Dakotas, you might want to visit the gravesite of Chief Thundercloud in the Dingmans Ferry Cemetery.
The George W. Childs Recreation Site is a former Pennsylvania state park that is the site of a number of cascade waterfalls along Dingmans Creek; it has been part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area since 1983. It is located in Dingmans Ferry in Delaware Township, Pike County, Pennsylvania and is named for the late newspaper publisher George William Childs, whose widow deeded the land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1912. The site contains three main waterfalls: Factory Falls, Fulmer Falls and Deer Leap Falls and is a few miles upstream from Dingmans Falls and Silverthread Falls. The pools below the waterfalls were once a popular spot for swimming during its ownership by the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks. However, that activity had been banned upon transfer of ownership to the National Park Service.

Greene Township – Created April 24, 1839, from Palmyra Township. The township is named for the popular Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene, who fought at Boston, Long Island, Trenton and Brandywine.

Lackawaxen Township – Text contributed by John McKay with the cooperation of Township Historians Helene Langhorst and Clarence James. Lackawaxen is the largest and northernmost township in Pike County. It was designated Lackawaxen Township in 1798. Named for the river that flows 12 miles through the Township, Lackawaxen is the Indian word for “Swift Waters”. The Delaware River marks the eastern boundary of the township and joins the Lackawaxen River at the village of Lackawaxen.
Less than three centuries ago, the Leni-Lenape and Iroquois lived among the beetling rock outcrops and flat lands bordering the banks of these two rivers. Although the Indians never had any sizeable villages established in the region, it would appear that the rugged terrain provided a favorable hunting location for these earliest inhabitants. Numerous rock shelters and camp sites have been verified by the presence of various Indian relics, including; tools, pot shards and extensive bone fragments.
The first recorded presence of permanent settlers in the township were the homesteads of Jonathan Conkling and John Barnes. In 1770, they located near the confluence of the two rivers in what is today, the village of Lackawaxen. The presence of marauding Indians incited by the English during the Revolution made habitation by white settlers extremely perilous. An indication of the hazards of life in the Lackawaxen frontier is the Battle of Minisink in 1779. Directly across the Delaware from the village of Lackawaxen, approximately 45 settlers lost their lives to the superior forces of the English Colonel Joseph Brant (1742-1807) and his band of Indians and Tories.
During the early part of the 18th century, logging was the principal commercial activity in the township. Logs were fastened together and floated down the two rivers, eventually reaching their destination of Easton or Trenton. Because of the narrow channel of the Lackawaxen, smaller rafts, called “colts” were necessary to navigate the “swift waters”. It is estimated that during this period, 50 million board feet of lumber were taken down the Lackawaxen River annually.
In 1827, the Delaware and Hudson Canal began operation between Honesdale, Pennsylvania (on the Lackawaxen River) and Kingston, New York (on the Hudson River). The canal company was the largest, private, commercial undertaking of the time. Originally, there were 28 locks in Lackawaxen Township which raised the elevation of the canal waters 278 feet.
Along route 590 west of Lackawaxen, and along State road 51018 west of Rowlands, many of the old locks are still visible and several lock houses are now used as private residences. These two roads follow the same route that the mules pulling canal barges used and together they are locally known as the “towpath”. The canal linked New York City with the rich coal deposits of the Carbondale, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas, and provided the fuel to feed the foundries and hearths of that burgeoning city.
Moreover, the canal sparked enterprise within the township. The Honorable George H. Rowland built a store in 1852 (at the present day site of the Rowland’s Corner Store), cleared a farm and engaged in the lumbering business. In 1861, Rowland was elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature and served two terms. He won a seat in the State Senate in 1872, serving for 3 years and filled a vacancy in 1885.
Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968 and a National Civil Engineering Landmark, was constructed in 1848 as part of the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Designed by the future architect of the Brooklyn Bridge — John A. Roebling (June 12, 1806 – July 22, 1869).

Lehman Township – Lehman Township has been an established community since 1829. It is a residential community with beautiful scenery, surrounded by the Delaware National Park Service. The Township lies between Porter, Middle Smithfield and Delaware Townships. It is the home of the famous Bushkill Falls.
Listed on the tax rolls for Upper Smithfield Township in 1815 was Joseph Leighman, paying 55 cents on 442 acres. In 1824 his name was spelled Leaman and by 1832 it was Lehman. The Township is approximately 48.9 square miles or approximately 31,296 acres.
The Dutch Reformed Church of Bushkill was built in 1874 replacing an earlier structure. The church grew from missionary work done in 1737 in which year Rev. George Mancius ofKingstonorganized Dutch Reformed Churches in the Minisink area. The first church building, which was begun in 1832 on a lot donated by Henry Peters, cost about two thousand dollars. The present structure, built in 1874, cost $5,300. The church is now occupied by Bushkill Outreach and the congregation built a new church on Rte. 209.
The Community House once served as the Old Pine Ridge Church located on Bushkill Falls Road. It was moved to theVillage of Bushkillwhere it functioned as a library and a schoolhouse. Later, the Riedmiller Brothers constructed a stone foundation under the building, at which time it became the Bushkill Firehouse. The property is currently owned by the Federal Park System.
The first school, according to Simeone Schoonover, was on top of Hog Back Hill. It was made of logs and one side had tumbled down. Sheep often came in and had to be chased out by the children. In 1886 the listed schools in Lehman Township were Hemlock Grove, Brodhead, Schuyler’s Meadow Brook, Pine Ridge Barn Timber and Bushkill. The last one room school in the township, the Pigeon Roost School, still stands at the intersection of the Briscoe Mountain Road and Factory Road.
Toward the end of the 18th Century growth began in the area. John Heller opened a log tavern with a brown jug for a sign and Henry Peters, a merchant, was appointed the first postmaster in 1812.

Matamoras Borough – Incorporated as a borough on January 18, 1905, was originally part of Westfall Township. Named during the Mexican War after the American Army captured the Mexican town of Matamoras. That town had originally been named for Rev. Mariano Matamoras, a hero of the Mexican Revolution.

Milford Borough – Incorporated as a borough on December 25, 1874, and was originally part of Milford Township. Milford’s history dates back to 1733 when Tom Quick was the first settler. There are numerous historic buildings throughout the village, noteworthy among them are Forest Hall, Hotel Fauchere, the Court House, Grey Towers, The Columns, the Upper Mill and the Community House, the Callahan House, the Dimmick Inn and the Tom Quick Inn.

Milford Township – Created April 17, 1832, from Upper Smithfield Township. John Biddis laid out the village in 1796. Some say it was named for Milford Haven in Wales where William Biddis (father of John) was born. Other say the Wells’ Mill and the spot where the Delaware was forded resulted in the name Mill-Ford.

Palmyra Township – Originally much larger, was formed in 1798 as a part of Wayne County. Like Bethany, Caanan, Promise Land and Lebanon, it was named because of its Biblical connection. The ancient town of Palmyra (or Tadmor) today is in Syria.

Porter Township – was established on December 16, 1851, comprising lands that had previously been contained in Delaware and Lehman Townships. The name is said to have been chosen in honor of James Madison Porter who is believed to have built the first permanent residence in the area sometime around 1849. The only community of any sort listed in the township on an 1872 map of Pike County is the small hamlet of Portersville which existed around the present Honesdale feting the visit of Washington Irving., Porter is given credit for dubbing the steep cliffs on the town’s east side, Irving’s Cliff, which until that time had simply been referred to as the “Ledge”. David Rittenhouse Porter server as governor of Pennsylvania from 1839 to 1845 and there are some who believed the township might have been named for him.
The sparse population of the township can be explained to some extent, by the meager, inhospitable soil. Any areas that were cultivated usually supported a single homestead. Most of those who decided to make Porter their home were involved in some fashion with harvesting the timber that prevailed in the rocky terrain.
By the late 1800’s, reports indicate that most of the township had been cleared of timber leaving a desolate land of low brush and scrub oak. At the southern end of the township, all of the hemlock had been depleted almost half a century earlier in order to supply bark for a large tannery operation at Resica Falls, Monroe County. There are still residents of the township who remember hearing of the uncontrollable fires that raged through the denuded countryside. It is claimed that one such fire burned out of control from Promised Land in Greene Township, east through Porter, Lehman and Delaware Townships to the Delaware River.
In the center of Porter Township a wooden sign on Route 402 marks Ludleyville as the site of the first planting of trees on state forest land in October 1899. By virtue of several acts of the 1897 Pennsylvania Legislature the Division of Forestry of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture was authorized to acquire lands for state forest “reservations”. The planting that occurred in 1899 included ½ acre of Carolina Poplar followed by an additional 1000 Catalpa plantings in the spring of 1900. It is interesting to note that at the time of soil was made. The results of the test showed the ground to be of poor quality (a layer of thin loam under laid with clay), thereby substantiating the barrenness of the Porter terrain.
By 1913, the entire experiment was reported a failure due to “winter kill” (another testimony to the severe conditions in Porter and in Pike County in general). However, District Forester E. C. Pyle was able to see some value in the experiment and in 1949 he wrote: “Its failure (the planting experiment) is more impressive than had it been successful. It proves that nature will ultimately reforest if fires are curtailed over long periods.
After the acquisition mandates of 1897, the Forest Service began in earnest to place land in forest reserves throughout the state. By 1902 approximately 50,000 acres had been acquired in Pike and Monroe Counties, and this property made up what was then called the Minisink Forest. Under the administration of Gifford Pinchot, who was Commissioner of Forestry in 1921, all of the state’s forest reserve holdings in Pike and Monroe Counties were consolidated into Delaware State Forest which today comprises over 72,000 acres. By far, the majority (64,190 acres) of this popular recreational resource falls in Pike County with over 22,000 acres belonging to Porter Township. 58% of the township therefore, is within the state forest.
The first step taken to make Pike’s forest land available to the public came in 1913 when the Department of Forestry authorized the leasing of “small areas of land for the purpose of permanent camping and outing ground.” Since that time, over 1000 cabins have been built on land leased from the Forestry Department. Nowhere is the hunting cabin a more prevalent sight than in Porter, where they actually outnumber permanent, year-round residences. A typical example exists at Pine Flats where a 60 cabin colony and clubhouse stand near the Big Bushkill Creek. A similar cabin colony stands near Little Mud Pond across the lake from a natural cranberry bog.
During the 1930’s many improvements were made on state forest land by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Throughout the Delaware Forest the “C.C.C. boys” made a detailed survey and inventory of the timber land which provided information for a comprehensive management plan of the forest. Timber stand improvements were undertaken by removing inferior growth, thereby allowing more valuable species to develop. In order to minimize the risk of fire, a system of fire towers, telephone lines, fire lanes and truck trails was developed. In Porter, the corp was responsible for contracting a public recreation area and fishing access at Peck’s Pond, at the north end of the township. Here, a covered pump, a pavilion, rest rooms picnic tables and fireplaces were constructed and still exist today. Five mile Meadow Road, Flat Ridge Road and the Burnt Mill Road, are all trails that the civilian crew blazed some thirty years ago which are still enjoyed by hikers and snowmobilers.
Beyond the benefits to the public, the corp members, many of whom were jobless veterans, seem to have profited from their services in Porter Township and elsewhere in the Delaware Forest. In his review of the C.C.C project in Pike and Monroe Counties, the crew superintendent of the Edgemere encampment in Porter Township had the following comments: “. . . the work has had a large measure in bringing them back to a normal station in the world . . . Consequently they are benefited both physically and spiritually through the various camp activities.”
Lumbering operations in Porter Township also provided activity for German prisoners-of-war during World War II when the American government was seeking isolated, secure locations in which prisoners could be put to work.

Shohola Township – The Village of Shohola was settled in 1772. The 45 square mile township, extending from the Delaware River to Route 6 was formed on September 26, 1852. While there were only a few farms in the area at first, growth began with the coming of the Erie Railroad in 1848. Seven years later, a bridge was built, replacing the ferry which connected Shohola with Barryville and the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Boarding houses, which where once a rather large industry in Shohola, where replaced by vacation houses and these are being replaced by permanent residences.
Approximately one-third of Shohola is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with the Township containing a portion of the Delaware State Forest and sections of three state game lands.

Westfall Township – Created January 31, 1839, from Milford Township. Simon Westfall (or Westfael) first settled there before 1743. His son Simon built the stone house in Matamoras. Two descendants, Cornelius and Jacob served as Justices of the Peace.