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Damascus Township

Damascus Town Hall is located at 60 Conklin Hill Road, Damascus PA 18415; phone: 570-224-4410.

Beginnings [1]

It is believed that Joseph Skinner came from Connecticut to Damascus in 1755. Soon after, in 1757, the Delaware Company commenced the first settlement in Damascus Township in a place called Cushetunk. This settlement quickly grew and in 1760 it contained thirty dwelling houses, three large log houses, one grist mill, one saw mill and one blockhouse.

Damascus Township came into being as one of the first townships in 1798. It then included all of Lebanon, Oregon, and part of both Dyberry and Berlin Townships. Damascus Township was the first township in the County to be settled.

In 1764, Daniel Skinner (Joseph's son) decided to probe the idea of shipping logs, from the newly settled area, to Philadelphia for the purpose of ship building. His first "log raft" arrived in Philadelphia in 1764, and the area's first industry was born. Daniel Skinner, having constructed and navigated the first raft, was styled "Lord High Admiral" of all raftsmen on the Delaware.

Simeon Calkin was one of the first settlers in Damascus Township. He saw the need for industrial endeavors, and with the help of Timothy Skinner, built a sawmill and grist mill near the mouth of Calkin's Creek.

These early industrial endeavors were really what allowed the first settlers to get a foothold in this new territory. Some of the other important early settlers were Nathan Mitchell, Moses Thomas, Sr., Robert Land, Jesse Drake, Nicholas Conklin, Simeon Bush, Alexander Rutledge, Thomas Shields, and John Boyd. Other important families were the Tylers, Keeslers, Brighams, Sutliffs, Kellams, and Youngs. Many of the residents who reside in the Township still bear these names and many of our towns and landmarks still retain these historic past fathers' names.

Damascus' population steadily increased until the late 1800's, while farming was the main occupation. Several primary industries also flourished. Due to the great stands of Hemlock, several tanneries were opened. The Rocky Glen Tannery was owned and operated by Captain Eli Beach and his family in Milanville. As already discussed, lumbering and rafting were also very profitable. These activities are not feasible today either because resources are exhausted or the means of production have been outdated. Such was the case with stone quarrying, after modern cement was invented. Today, remnants of stone quarries can still be seen in parts of the Township, but the West Damascus quarry is still in operation.

The 1900's saw a steady decrease in the Township's population. Many of the mills and factories became outdated and uneconomical to run. Dairy farming still continued strong in Damascus Township until it peaked in the 1940's. Originally the creameries operated in many locations throughout the Township, until they too were outdated. Now all the local milk is shipped outside the Township.

Looking back, Damascus Township residents can be proud of their Township's heritage and even prouder of the fact that their heritage can still be witnessed today. The villages of Damascus and Milanville have buildings and landmarks that are very symbolic of the early life of the Delaware River settlers.

The fact is, although the land became settled by colonial frontiersmen who brought with them subsequent farming ventures and various mill operations, the industrial revolution of the late 19th and 20th century never dominated the area. As a result, the industrial decline increased the Township's rural attributes and much of the land has reverted to its previous state.

  1. Damascus Township Board of Supervisors, Damascus Township Comprehensive Plan, Woodland Design Associates, Beach Lake PA, 1995; www.damascustwp.org, accessed October 2008.
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