Roots and Rails. A presentation by Bradley MacMaster, a recent graduate of Bloomsburg University, on the history of the D&H Canal Company (which later became the D&H Railway Company) from the early 1800's to the present day. The emphasis will be on the early years as these are the most significant to our area.
The D&H Canal Company started in Honesdale, Pennsylvania which is considered the birthplace of the modern railroad in the United States. The D&H Canal Company built a canal from Honesdale, Pennsylvania to Rondout, New York to haul anthracite coal from the mines in Carbondale, Pennsylvania to New York City, New York. The Canal Company purchased four steam locomotives from England in 1829 which included the “Stourbridge Lion” the only locomotive to make it to Honesdale. Even though it only ran once (due to the fact it was too heavy for the wooden rails of the time), the “Stourbridge Lion” became the very first steam locomotive to run in America.
As of April 8th, 2015, the remnants of the now D&H Railway Company has filed for a discontinuance of trackage rights exemption with the Surface Transportation Board. If granted this would discontinue any trackage rights it still retains on nearly 670 miles of tracks in the Northeast (Norfolk Southern, CP Rail, Amtrack, and a number of smaller railroads actually own the lines). The D&H Railway would be defunct after 150 years of independent operation (ending in 1991) and 174 years of total operation time.
If you stand at the crossroads of Pennsylvania Route 191 and Pine Mill Road in Equinunk and then turn to face an old white house with a green roof, you will be looking at the headquarters of the Equinunk Historical Society. This same house was once the farmhouse of H.N. Farley’s Equinunk Manor Dairy Farm and later the Earl and Ethel Lord boarding house. When the Lords purchased the house in 1915, they knew it to be over 100 years old but no documents existed to absolutely prove it. A very early parchment map owned by Ann Preston Vail shows two structures, one of which may well be this house. This map, known to be authentic, was handed down in the papers of Samuel Preston (land agent, manager for Henry Drinker of Philadelphia, and great-great-great-grandfather of Ms. Vail). Henry Drinker was a large land holder in northeastern Pennsylvania. The land, amounting to 2222 acres, was originally surveyed as of December 8th, 1773, for the Proprietors (or William Penn family) as Equinunk Manor. Preston acquired the land from Penn’s heirs in 1812. It then passed to his sons, Paul and Warner, in 1831. They then sold it in 1833 (recorded in 1834) to Alexander Calder and Israel Chapman. This was the last sale of the entire tract. These two divided it the same year, Calder retaining land on both sides of the creek in Equinunk, and Chapman taking the land up-creek.
H.N. Farley bought the Calder lands and buildings from the estate of Joseph Calder in 1879. The next sale was to the Lords in 1915. They sold it to Martin Perrone in 1949, when it was converted into a barbershop and beauty parlor. Scott and Donna Eldred bought the house in 1969 and this was followed by the Christine and Ross Hessberger purchase in 1971. The Equinunk Historical Society bought the house in 1983.
The Hill Sawmill was built by William Holbert and J.D. Branning just after the Civil War, one of many they owned in the area. Joel Hill purchased the Mill from the Holbert heirs in 1898, along with 1500 acres of timberlands and the 205 acre body of water known as Duck Harbor. The Mill remained in operation until 1974.
The sawmill was entirely powered by water. In the winter, loggers gathered timber and piled it on the hill across the road from the pond. In the spring, employees would pull the stop blocks out and the logs would roll down the hill into the pond. They were cleaned off and dragged into the mill with grabs attached to a huge rope.
Employees would raise the wooden gate in the sawmill dam and let water into the 28 inch pipe, or penstock, leading into the turbine. The turbine rotates the power take off shaft, which runs the entire mill. Originally, a water wheel was used, but it was washed away in the Pumpkin Flood of 1903. Through a series of belts and pulleys, the 54 inch saw blade is turned at 850 RPM’s.
The Mill is open five times a year and there is much more to learn and see. Next year, check this site for our programs and times of operation.