Bits of Historic Interest of Mt. Pleasant
Mt. Pleasant, the beautiful land of green, rolling hills, magnificent timber, and an inexhaustible supply of water. A roving peddler once commented that these were pleasant hills hence the name Mt. Pleasant. Our township was formed in 1818 from the townships of Bloom, Greenwood, and Fishing Creek. Most of this land was originally purchased from the Lancaster Land Company and Montgomery’s Choice.
Two of the earliest permanent settlers were Peter Eveland who settled at Welliversville and Jacob Force who settled at Kitchens Church. Other names of early settlers may still be found in the township today, namely Kester, Fairman, Welliver, Miller, Melick, Kitchen, Vanderslice, Ikeler, White, Appleman, Martzel, Howell, Crawford, Bittenbender, Mordan and Crouse. It is interesting to note that the Kesters arrived in this country aboard the ship Welcome on its second voyage. William Penn journeyed to the new world aboard this same ship on its first voyage arriving August, 1642 after a six-week trip. Coming chiefly from Germany, England and Scotland these early settlers arrived in Philadelphia, Tom’s River, New Jersey and other eastern seaports. These families suffered many hardships on their sea voyage; some dying aboard ship, others arriving more dead than alive suffering from disease and malnutrition. We can hardly appreciate their pleasure upon arriving in these beautiful rolling hills. This truly was the land of opportunity.
Let us reflect for a moment on the life of our early settlers. Most of the land was purchased sight unseen on the recommendation of an acquaintance. Only the bare necessities were brought with them since the facilities for travel were very meager. Carts and wagons made tedious progress as far as Sunbury, but beyond that travel by wheeled vehicle was very difficult. Pack saddles were generally used and often placed on oxen and cattle as well as horses.
Once the location was made, a crude shelter was provided. With the family and perhaps the help of a friendly neighbor the home was erected one day and moved into the next. These log cabins were very crude. Wooden pegs driven into the long wall supplied the scarcely needed wardrobe. A one legged bed was built. By building these in a corner and utilizing the outside walls to anchor the rails only one leg was required. These rails were then covered with bark or laced with rawhide and a tick placed over this. These ticks filled with dry leaves furnished the bed until the first crop of corn supplied husks to take their place. Rough benches made with the aid of an ax alone, or at best, with the single addition of a draw share, furnished seating and a higher one for a table. This completed the furnishing of the newly-built home. The only other fixture was the stone fireplace which provided warmth as well as a place to cook.
The first season found every able hand clearing the land and getting ready for planting. During this time supplies were purchased from neighbors as they had no market for their surplus.
The support of a frontier family was not a serious question. Each settler brought a few head of cattle, hogs, sheep and of course their work teams of horses. The women brought a few chickens, ducks and geese. With the ample supply of food to be found in the fields and forest these animals needed little additional food. A patch of flax, supplemented by wool, supplied the makings for the family’s clothing. When linen and wool were combined it provided a fabric known as linsey-woolsey. Buckskin was used largely in the making of men’s clothing. Even the footwear was homemade of home-tanned leather. A few seeds were carried along to establish a vegetable garden and possibly a few flowers around the cabin door. These vegetables along with fish from the nearby stream and fresh killed game provided food for the family.
Perhaps the earliest socializing was church services. The earliest meetings were held in homes and later in the school houses until churches were built. The only means of entertainment were things in which work and play was combined such as husking bees, log rolling, barn raisings, spelling bees, quilting bees and butchering.
With the arrival of additional settlers from about 1795 into the early 1800’s the little villages of Millertown, Welliversville, and Mordansville were soon settled but never developed into sufficient size to be classed as towns. Also among these villages were Kitchens, Ikelers, and Wellivertown. Millertown was named for Frederick Miller who in 1831 was named post master. Frederick Miller was a forefather of Lola Miller Oman one of our oldest residents. May we note that the Cummings map of 1860 in this book shows Millertown by the name of Mordansville and Mordansville is known as Mordans Mills however, we can find no reason for this curious fact. The name was changed to Canby in 1873 the year the gallant general of that name was killed. Both names have remained, with the church using the name Canby and the village known as Millertown. Welliversville was named for Adam Welliver. A brother of Adam’s went on to become a veterinarian in Bloomsburg. Either Adam or Abram Welliver operated a store and post office near the home owned by Clara Hippenstiel our oldest township resident. In 1857 Thomas Welliver was commissioned post master of Welliversville. John Mordan, who came from the same township in Sussex County, New Jersey, as Peter Eveland and Jacob Force, joined them in this area and later moved to Little Fishing Creek where he built the first saw mill. This village was first known as Mordans Mills later changed to Mordansville. In the early days there were 10 houses, a saw mill, 2 stores, 2 blacksmith shops, a church, woolen mill and 3 large barns. The village today still bears the name Mordansville.
In 1798 a road was surveyed over the Mt. Pleasant hills to Greenwood valley. Until 1856 this was the only road leading from north to south in this region.
Our early settlers brought with them many talents and trades. Among them were farmers, lumbermen, stone masons, cobblers, dressmakers, milliners, carpenters, millers, blacksmiths, sawyers, teachers, hostelers, carpet makers, store keepers, coal miners, ministers and a doctor.
Lumbering was carried out by the Lancaster Land Company as well as individuals. Besides the lumber which was used in building houses and barns in this area much lumber was shipped, and railroad ties were cut for the Wilkes-Barre and Western railway system. Several houses and barns in this area as well as the Millville-Jerseytown area were built by John K. and Harmon Mordan who would walk from the White’s Church area to Jerseytown, work for 50¢ per day and walk home at the end of the week.
David Beagle was an excellent stone mason. Some of his work stands today. An example is Ikelers Church where he was head stone mason and plasterer. Another fine stone mason was Andy Melick whose beautiful work still stands in the home of Mrs. Earl Albertson located on the Millertown road near route 42, this was built in 1811. The oldest stone house was on the Dale Evert farm built by Philip Kistler. Fragments of the wall remain.
Mt. Pleasant can boast of many fine teachers but in all fairness we will not list them since we would inevitably miss too many. However, we will note something which is nearly as rare today as it was then. Three families were able to send five sons and daughters through Bloomsburg Normal School. (Bloomsburg State College) These were Dreibelbis: Carl, Ida, Esther, Ruth and Lizzie; Vance: George, Boyd, Bessie, Gertrude and Effie; and the Kitchen family: Minnie, Florence, Anna, Lena and Clark. This was quite an accomplishment in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Several of these students returned to Mt. Pleasant to teach.
There were three post offices in Mt. Pleasant, possibly more. However, one cannot imagine that they did a booming business as the cost of mailing a single sheet was six cents and two sheet messages cost twelve cents. During this same time a laborer earned twenty-five to fifty cents per day. One post office was located at Welliversville. Thomas Welliver was appointed post master in 1857. Another post office was situated at Mordansville. Joseph Sands served as the first master from 1856 until he was elected county commissioner in 1876. His son James P. Sands was then commissioned post master. This post office was situated near the John Johnson home until 1886 when a new building was built. This new building was the Johnson home. Another post office was established at Millertown in 1831 but is no longer standing. It was situated on the lawn of the Mt. Pleasant school next to the home of Glen Bowman. This first post master was Frederick Miller. Later this was also a store and hotel. Residents of the township also voted in this building for a period of time. It is also believed there was also a post office in a home near Vallerchamp School.
James P. Sands, son of Joseph, as a boy attended Mt. Pleasant schools and Greenwood Seminary at Millville. He assisted his father in the woolen mill and store at Mordansville. In 1875, his father gave him an interest in the store and the firm was known as J. E. Sands and Son until 1879 when James bought his father’s interest. A new general store was built in 1886 in connection with a hotel which will be described in the article about the stagecoach line. This store carried a complete line of merchandise with stock valued at $4,000, quite a sizable amount for that time. James P. Sands was also auditor for the Columbia County Agricultural, Horticultural and Mechanical Association, known today as the Bloomsburg Fair.
The stagecoach line came into being during the early 1800’s. The stagecoach itself was well constructed, usually carrying twelve passengers and pulled by four horses. Stage drivers were brave, fearless men who had to always stay sober while driving. The stage was a stylish, enjoyable means of travel during good weather but became difficult in mud or snow. Often the wheels of the coaches because mired in mud to the hubs thus necessitating the passengers to get out to lighten the load and to help the horses. Often a fence rail or sapling had to be employed as a lever to free the wheels of mud.
The stage line which ran through this area was known as the Danville-Muncy Stagecoach line. Part of this route ran from Nescopeck Falls to Muncy over Mt. Pleasant Hills the means by which many of our early settlers arrived. Parts of this line may still be traced past the Clifton Smith land to the Otis Smith home, near the Paul Rote lot, west of the Allan Kyttle lot to a lane half way between the Rhodomoyer and Loreman homes which leads to the Millville-Bloomsburg road near the home of Don Cox. The road also led past the Rhodomoyer farm, the Grace Kindt farm on to the Millertown road and possibly traveled through the large woods on the Arden Robbins farm and came out on the Lightstreet road near the Oscar Oman and Guy Davis farms. This route was also used for covered wagons traveling west as this writer had relatives who went west over this very route.
The taverns or hotels where the stage stopped was a great social center where news from other states and even foreign coutries was exchanged. In fact, it became customary when signing the hotel register to add any news which they thought might be of common interest. The tavern keeper and his family cared for the driver and passengers, stabled the horses and entertained with a fiddler and dances. One such place locally was the hotel at Mordansville in the home now owned by John Johnson. This was owned by the Sands family. Charles L. Sands dealt in horses for a number of years. Then he returned home to Mordansville while he built the Wilson bridge across Little Fishing Creek. He bought a farm in Mt. Pleasant Township and farmed a few years before moving to Millville and going into the livery business. He established the first stagecoach line between Millville and Bloomsburg. In 1880 he sold his business to Humphrey Parker when he felt the stagecoach business was failing; however, it thrived for some years afterwards. He helped his father in the woolen mill business (to be discussed later) and in 1881 purchased the business. He increased the mill capacity from six thousand to thirty-five thousand pounds. In 1884 he was elected justice of the peace of Mt. Pleasant Township and from the spring of 1881 to 1886 he served as vice-president of the Columbia County Agricultural, Horticultural and Mechanical Association.
Several mills were located in Mt. Pleasant. A grist mill, about which there is little known, was located on an island in Little Fishing creek near the V.F.W. on route 42. John Mordan, which was previously mentioned, was credited with building the first saw mill at Mordansville. This mill was known as an Up and Down Mill run by water power. Many is the day that Mordan would saw a thousand feet of clear white pine, raft it down Little Fishing Creek to Bloomsburg, sell it and buy with all his proceeds, groceries that would just fill a large bandana handkerchief, and bring them home. At his death, John Mordan’s saw mill was taken over by his son Dan Mordan who later took in his partner John Kline. They branched out by adding a cider press and chopping mill and did a thriving business. These mills were near the Harold Binder home. The Dreibelbis mill was located in Mt. Pleasant Township just south of the Donald Cox home. It was built by Abraham Dreibelbis in 1811-1814. The house furnished a home for twenty-one children. He had married a Mrs. Betz, a widow with seven children. They later had fourteen children and all lived at the mill house. This mill was later owned by Frick, Paxton and McKelvy. When Fred and George Beagle came to America from Neustadt, Bavaria, George had learned the miller trade. When they came to this area from Danville in 1840 he built a grist mill below Mordansville. This mill and the Eyersgrove mill led to the abandoning of the Dreibelbis mill. Probably other saw mills were located in this area as a large lumbering camp was established near a lake on the Paul Rote farm, but the lake has been dry for over a hundred years and little is known about this lumber camp.
In 1886 and 1887 the S.B. & B. railroad was built from Watsontown to Millville. Soft coal was purchased at Brisbon, Pa. and shipped by rail to Watsontown, then to Eyersgrove. It was then hauled by horses and wagon to Mordansville. The freight on a car load of coal from Watsontown to Eyersgrove was more than the car load of coal cost at Brisbon.
In 1856 J. E. Sands and Thomas Mather built the woolen mill at Mordansville. In 1860 Joseph became the sole owner. This mill manufactured woolen blankets, women’s skirtings, numerous patterns of flannel including on known as “lumbermen’s” flannel. This was used by lumbermen and blacksmiths. He also manufactured yarns in colors and in different plys, two, three and four ply. The four ply was used for filling in rag carpet which was quite an industry at this time. The looms used to manufacture carpet were run by hand. The only cloth manufactured was a satinet used for men’s wear, made with a cotton warp and woolen yarn filler. Previous to Charles L. Sands’ taking over the woolen mill in 1881 the mill was run by water power. The scouring and washing of the wool was done in a copper vat heated with cord wood. There was quite a time during the summer months when it was impossible to operate the mill due to the scarcity of water. Then a boiler and an engine was installed for a number of years, and this boiler was fired with cord wood.
When Charles L. Sands took over the firm he remodeled, built a new dye house, installed large cedar vats for dyeing, also large tubs for washing and scouring wools. These were heated by steam. This mill was known as a “One Act Mill”. The mill, most of the time, was operated night and day in order to keep up with the orders. The whole product was sold largely through the coal regions to C. Pandee and Co., users.
The product in yarns was all packed in five pound bundles. The flannels were in rolls up to thirty-five yards. For shipping it was packed in heavy paper and sewed in burlap, then hauled by wagon to Bloomsburg and shipped on the different railroads.
The capacity of the mill was built-up to 35,000 pounds per year. All wool produced in Columbia, Montour, and parts of Luzerne and Sullivan counties, and a hundred thousand pounds or more, found it’s way to C. L. Sands & C. Woolen Mill. The wool was graded by a wool sorter and thrown into three piles. Fine for yarn, fine and medium went into yarn for flannel and blankets, and wool from the neck of the fleece and all loose wool was sacked in three hundred pound sacks and was sold to Worsted Mill Companies for combining with other materials to be used in the manufacturing of coarses material. This part of the fleece was mostly bought by large Commission Houses.
There were many sheep in the different counties, flocks ranging from a dozen to over three hundred. The largest in Columbia County being owned by C. Kreamer at Jerseytown.
In 1898 C. L. Sands and W. R. Hagenbuch bought the interest of M. J. Elder. A short time later the mill closed down as silk and lighter weight material were taking the place of heavy woolen wear.
The Pennsylvania railroad that had bought out the S. B. & B. had made a survey from Eyersgrove Junction to Berwick to build that branch of road at Mordansville. The survey took the tail race that supplied the woolen mill with water. The trains ran within two feet of the mill. That was the end of the operation of the mill.
In 1905 a heavy freight set fire to the mill and burned it to the ground entailing a heavy loss to C. L. Sands with no insurance but a small settlement by the railroad company. The fire was probably in the fall as Emma Crawford (our source of material for this article) recalls that she and her family were gathering chestnuts when the fire broke out.
Besides the store owned by the Sands family there was also another store at Mordansville, this was owned by Henry H. Kindt. This was the forerunner of the Mordansville Inn previously operated by the Earl Parks family, and currently called Bassetts Restaurant and run by the Williams family. The Inn was closed after being severely damaged in the flood of 2011. In 1814 Jon McCaslin, a native of Missouri, moved to Mt. Pleasant and purchased the Frank Kindt farm and home. He opened a store where H. H. Kindt had formerly conducted a store. He operated this store for a couple of years until he met his death in a sand slide at Vanderslice Sand Pit. Frank Thomas, a negro, bought this property, remodeled it and added a dance hall to it and opened a store in the same room always used for this purpose. He also put in a gas and oil station, served lunches and Sunday dinners. He rented the place to one Karshner, who licensed it and conducted the place but a short time and lost his business. “Pappy” Kingston took over the business, brought it out of the “red” and made it a paying business, once again. “Pappy” operated the business for many years.
Many of our older residents recall having brooms made by George A. Mason. Nearly every home grew their own broom corn. This was cut after it was dried and along with a handle was taken to Mr. Mason to be made into brooms. William (Bill) Mason, son of Geo and Louise Eves Mason lives along the Millertown road in one of the family homes.
Quite a bit of industry was located in the Deer Lick Run Hollow near the Vallerchamp School but our information is so vague that we will just mention it briefly. There is the remains of the breastwork of a dam so this indicates water power. We have heard of a gin mill, saw mill and woolen mill. This woolen mill is also mentioned in the locality of the Harold Creveling farm. There is also mention of an ice house in the Deer Lick Run area.
There were at least three cider mills in the Mt. Pleasant communities. One was located at Mordansville in conjunction with the lumber and grist mill and our maps indicate two in the Kitchens area. The lumber from one of these mills was later used to build a wood shed at the Donald Black farm and was just recently torn down. One of the fields on the Black farm is still known as the cidermill field.
R. C. Kindt Sr. opened a stone quarry near his home at Mordansville in 1910. Elaine Kindt owned this home which is now vacant. Stone was loaded by hand derrick on freight cars and shipped to various places and were used for sidewalks to individual homes and for cemetary purposes in the county.
The Vanderslice Sand Pit is located in the south western part of the township. For many years sand was taken from this pit and used in road construction as well as individual uses.
The S. B. & B. railroad built in 1900-1903 from Eyersgrove to Berwick was constructed mostly by hand labor, which consisted of Italian and Hungarian and some local labor. These men camped at the Mike Hock (Hawk) barn two miles north west of Mordansville and also a few miles south along Little Fishing Creek near the present George Crawford home. The freight train consisted of two or three engines and a pusher as the heavy freight from the American Car and Foundry company at Berwick was shipped by way of Watsontown to all parts of the United States. There was only a station for a passenger train at Mordansville, this being the iron bridge over Bear Run. It was needless for the people of the surrounding area to carry a time piece as the approaching of the passenger train at 8 a.m., 12 noon, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. was accurate to the minute.
There was also a train station located just across Fishing Creek at Lightstreet. Many area residents used this train when traveling to Benton or Bloomsburg. This station house was moved up the creek a short distance and converted into a home. The home burned in 2004.
Jacob (Jake) Fisher, a saddler, had a harness and leather shop in his home at Welliversville. This was the first house on the right west of the intersection. Here he made and repaired harness and saddles.
At one time there was a peppermill, where pepper was ground, located in the township. This was about a mile from Mordansville on the Hy Bogart Farm.
About 1900 the Bloomsburg Poor District was established. A farm was purchased in Mt. Pleasant for this purpose and served Bloomsburg, Millville and Greenwood. Mt. Pleasant Township took care of its own until the last 30-35 years. We had men who were appointed Poor Overseers. Some of these were: I. M. Dennen, John K. Mordan, Evan Manuel (Doc) Crawford and Elmer Edwards. It was these men’s job to find a place for the poor to board or to see that a family was provided with staple foods and wood or coal for heat. The poor farm was known as the County Home and was the site of the Columbia County Landfill.
Horace (Tink) Hock purchased and operated the first school bus in the township when the Creek School closed in 1938. Those students were bussed to Millertown. This same year the high school closed and those students were bussed to Bloomsburg High School. However, bussing of the whole township was not started until the 1943 term when the consolidated school was opened. This was the only bus operating and it was necessary to make two trips, one in the northern end of the township and one in the southern end. Then the high school students were taken to Bloomsburg. Later, Samuel Robbins purchased a bus and hauled the students of the northern end. Tink was also janitor for the school for many years.
Two hotels flourished for a time in the township. The C. L. Sands hotel at Mordansville in 1902 was licensed by J. E. Sands. He conducted a hotel there for six yers and then sold it to Mr. Barton Hagenbauch, who operated it for one year and then sold it to Harry W. Johnson who after two years quit.
The Miller Hotel at Millertown, also the sight of the post office and store, was a famous stop-off for those teamsters traveling between the north end of the county (Jamison City area) enroute to Bloomsburg and points south. At that time they traveled from Benton to Rohrsburg through Greenwood and on to Bloomsburg by way of Millertown. Many are the stories that are told of the traders, lumbermen, and adventure seekers who passed in countless numbers up and down this short cut unpaved road. One such humorous story is told of a vagrant lumberman who lived by his huge hands and great appetite for liquor. Upon entering the Miller Hotel he would immediately order whiskey to quench his dry and dusty throat. As was the custom of the time the bartender would pass a glass and bottle across the bar, the drinker would then pour and pay for as many as he drank. This particular chap had hands and fingers so long that he could completely encircle the top part of the glass thereby pouring for himself the glass full as well as his cupped fingers, much to the consternation of the bartender. Frederick Miller operated the hotel. Another hotel keeper was Thomas James.