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Sugarloaf Township

Sugarloaf Township municipal offices are located at 90 Schoolhouse Road, Benton PA 17814; phone: 570-925-6031.

Beginnings [1]

Sugarloaf Township was formed in 1812 from the township of Fishingcreek. The court gave it the name of "Harrison," the change to Sugarloaf being made some time later. The date of this change is not known, but the reason is apparent from the former importance of the maple sugar industry here.

The settlement of this section of Columbia County was made by a family party, represented by John J. Godhard, an Englishman from Delaware. He had one son-in-law, William Hess, and four granddaughters, the wives of Philip Fritz, Christian Laubach, Ezekiel Cole and John Kile. Most of these were farmers and resided on the Delaware River near Mr. Godhard. He and his son-in-law and grandsons, together with William Coleman, Matthias Rhone and Benjamin Coleman, all neighbors, came to this section, explored the land thoroughly and decided to buy it. The price they paid made the average $2 an acre.

In the following year—1792—the actual immigration occurred. The large party came by way of the Susquehanna and Lehigh Road to Berwick, thence along the river to Bloomsburg, and up Fishing Creek to their destination. The tract purchased by William Hess extended from Cole's mills to North mountain. He built his cabin, which has since been destroyed, near a spring on the Laubach farm. The spring is still flowing. His sons, George, John, Andrew, Tobias, Conrad, Frederick, Henry and Jacob, took up their residences along the creek, where many of their descendants still reside. John Kile, Ezekiel Cole and William Hess settled near each other, while Christian Laubach went first to Montour County, in 1797 returning to remain in the section now covered by Sugarloaf.

Philip Fritz followed his relatives here in 1795, settling on the site now called "Fritz Hill," near Central, on land owned at present by Thomas Fritz, one of his descendants. Jonathan Robbins arrived in the same year and located in the southern part of the township. He had brought with him some apple seeds, which he planted, the result being that his children in later years gathered fitteen hundred bushels of apples from one thousand trees. Portions of the orchard are still to be seen in 1914.

Others who became residents of this part of the county in those years were Godfrey Dilts, William Bird, David Harrington, Jacob Harrington, James Seward, Jesse Hartman, James A. Pennington, Ezekiel and William Shultz. The population of Sugarloaf in 1800 consisted almost entirely of the Hess, Kile, Laubach, Robbins and Cole families, and these are still the larger part of the population in 1914.

The first mill in Sugarloaf Township was built by Ezekiel Cole in 1802, on the little creek of his name, near its junction with Fishing Creek. The generations of Coles who have owned and operated this mill are Ezekiel, Ezekiel, Jr., Alinas and Albert, the latter being the owner in 1914.

Many small sawmills were built in the pioneer times of Sugarloaf Township, in order to utilize the great supply of timber. Among them were the following mills, which attained more than local fame: Jacob W. Harrington built a sawmill on Cole's Creek, in the eastern part of the township, in 1841, which he sold to J. B. Davis in 1866. William Yorks built another mill about that time on a branch of Fishing Creek, in the extreme southern part of the township, and ran it till 1852, when his nephew, Joseph Vorks, purchased it and operated it till 1867. Larish & Roberts, E. Cole and two of the Fritzs also operated sawmills in the period of the industry's palmy days. One of the most noted of the early sawmills was at Paradise, a short distance above the Harrington mill. This was operated until 1875.

Harrington's foundry was established in 1866 by Newton R. Harrington, at Pioneer Station on Cole's Creek. A sawmill was added in 1882, and the product was plows, sleds, mill gearing, shingles and lumber.

Between 1900 and 1912 considerable excitement was caused in this section of the county by the rumor that there was copper to be found in Sugarloaf Township. This was partially caused by the copper craze almost universal over the United States. A company was formed in this county and considerable stock sold. With these proceeds a smelter was erected below Central and operations commenced. Like many another project of the period, the plan proved a failure, as there was copper to be found in small pockets here and there, but not in paying quantities. After a struggle to make good the property was sold by the sheriff, and later there remained only the dilapidated and rotting buildings and the fallen smokestack to mark this grave of high hopes and wasted dollars.

During all the period of its known history Sugarloaf Township has been a popular resort for the hunter and fisherman. In the early days hunting was the chief occupation of many of the settlers, and fishing followed in point of food value. At present the hunting is almost a thing of the past and fishing is rapidly passing away with the depletion of the streams of their finny population. Notwithstanding severe legal penalties dynamiting and seining are practiced by "fish hogs" and the trout and bass are becoming scarce with lamentable rapidity.

Nestled among the towering mountains a short distance above Jamison City, near a clear trout stream, stands an old-fashioned house, with large porches, that for many years was widely known as "Billy Cole's." It was a popular resort for the Bloomsburg people who were fond of fishing in the well stocked mountain streams, and for those who sought rest in the solitude of the forests and hills. It was the home of good cooking, few serving brook trout as well as Mrs. Cole. After her husband's death the place and the fishing privileges were leased to a club for a time, finally passing into the hands of Harry Miller, who carried it on with some of the reflected glory of the past.

Grassmere Park is a station on the B. & S. road and consisted of a store, a sawmill and the verdant resort from which it acquired its name. When the road first opened the park was laid out for the patronage of excursionists. It was fitted with a dancing pavilion, kitchen, booths, tables, swings, etc., and was supplied with water from an excellent spring. For a time it was patronized, but by 1913 it had relapsed into its wild condition of former times.

Central post office was established in 1836, under the name of Campbell, through the exertions of a doctor of that name. After his removal the office was discontinued until 1850, when Peter Hess was commissioned. Joshua Hess succeeded him in 1861, Henry Hess in 1876 and Elijah Hess in 1886.

Cole's Creek was first known as Sugarloaf, and the office of postmaster was held by members of the Cole family until the abandonment of the local delivery. Guava was established in 1883, with Andrew Laubach in charge. Offices in Sugarloaf Township were Cole's Creek, Jamison City and Elk Grove. Other points were served by the rural routes.

In the early days subscription schools were in vogue in Sugarloaf Township, the first of these being taught by Philip Fritz in a log building which then stood on the site of St. Gabriel's Church. The first public schoolhouse was built on West Creek. Upon the establishment of the public school system, in 1837, the following were elected directors: John Laubach, William Roberts, Matthias Appleman, Henry Fritz, Samuel Krickbaum and William E. Roberts. Two schools were opened, Hess's and Cole's Creek. In 1885 there were seven schools in the township.

The school directors for 1914 were: George Klinger, Irvin Diltz, William Perry, J. H. VanSickle, Wrilliam Brink.

Mr. Godhard, the pioneer patriarch of Sugarloaf Township, was a member of the Established Church of England, and his family were attendants in their Delaware home of the Episcopal Church. Thus it was natural that soon after their establishment in this new land they should have arranged to build themselves a religious home. The result was the beginning of the erection of the "Log Church," which for fifty years after this township's settlement was the only one in the northern end of Columbia County. Begun in 1810 and completed in 1812, this church was not dedicated until July 15, 1828, when the Right Rev. Henry M. Onderdonk, bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, performed the ceremony. The names of the members signed to the subscription book in 1812 were as follows: Caleb Hopkins, William Wood, Ezekiel Cole, Matthias Rhone, James Peterman, John Keeler, Philip Fritz, Jacob Gough, Conrad Hess, Henry Fritz, Uriah McHenry, John Kile, William Osborne, George Hess, William Hess, Sr., Daniel Stone, Jacob Hess, John McHenry, Tobias Hess, John Kopsnyder, Andrew Hess, Cornelius Coleman, Frederick Hess, John Roberts, John Hess, Daniel Robbins, Levi Priest, George Rhone, Jonathan Robbins, William Edgar, Benjamin Coleman, Abraham Kline, Sr., Jacob Rine, Conrad Laubach, Peter Yocum, Abraham Whiteman, William Hess, Jr., Samuel Musselman, Paul Hess, Jonathan Robbins, Henry Hess, William Waldron, Wrilliam Yorks, Christian Pouts, Edward Roberts, Casper Chrisman, Emanuel Whiteman, Daniel McHenry, Jesse Pennington, John Emery, William Wilson, Thomas Miller, Frederick Harp, Benjamin Stackhouse, Silas Jackson, John Whiteman, Jacob Whiteman.

The first church, built of pine logs, had galleries around three sides of the interior. After being occupied for years as a place of worship it was burned in 1876. The ownership was held by the Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians, jointly, until the fire, and this will explain the presence of the names of members of those different denominations on the subscription list. A frame church was built in the next year on the site of the old one. The belfry was located in a giant tree directly in front of the church. It was built and the bell hung therein in 1882, during the pastorate of Rev. John P. Rockwell, who lies beside his wife in the rear of the church, outside the main burying ground.

The memorial window in this church was a copy of one in Christ Church, Oxford, England, made from a design drawn from memory by Professor Weir, of West Point Military Academy. The communion plate of pewter, as well as the lectern and Bible, had been in use since 1812.

The first wardens of the Episcopal Church were Christian Laubach and James Peterman, and the vestry consisted of William Wilson, Jacob Rine, John Roberts and Matthew Rone. The successive rectors of this church have been: Revs. Caleb Hopkins, William Eldred, Benjamin Hutchins, James DePui, W. H. Bourne, George C. Drake, G. M. Harding, John P. Rockwell. Services were held at various times by the rectors of St. Paul's, Bloomsburg and Rev. C. C. Kelsey, Berwick.

It is interesting to note that the first accessions to the Disciples, or Church of Christ, in Columbia County were made in Sugarloaf Township in 1836, when Elders John Ellis, J.J. Harvey and John Sutton held a protracted meeting in the Hess schoolhouse. A church was established at Guava and for a time was prosperous, but is now out of existence.

The Methodist Episcopal faith was established on a secure footing in 1855 by Rev. Elijah Fulmer, who conducted then a revival at the schoolhouse near Central. Ten years later Rev. John A. DeMoyer of Berwick conducted a protracted meeting here and that year a chapel was built and named "Simpson," after the bishop of that period. Later another church was built near what is now Grassmere Park. Both of these churches are served by the pastor of the Jamison City Church, Rev. J. N. Diehl. The Jamison City church was built in 1889. There were 251 Methodist attendants in this township, and the churches were valued at $9,000.

A Presbyterian Church was organized in this township in 1848, but did not thrive and was later removed to Benton.

The population of Sugarloaf Township in 1820 was 505; in 1830, 678; in 1840, 943; in 1850, 1,316; in 1860, 752; in 1870, 761; in 1880, 869; in 1890, 1,337; in 1900, 1,376; in 1910, 1,404.

  1. Historical and Biographical Annals of Columbia and Montour Counties Pennsylvania, Vol. 1, J. H. Beers & Co., 1915.
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