Historical Association of Tobyhanna Township

HATT | PO Box 2084 | Pocono Pines, PA 18350-2084

Stauffer's Lumber Mill in Pocono Lake, Tobyhanna Township

Notes compiled
By Rick Bodenschatz
Trees, trees, trees . . . The great forest within the Great Swamp of Tobyhanna Township.

In 1848, Charles Hauser built his sawmill in what became known as Hauser’s Mills, where he later became the village postmaster. (Later Pocono Lake Village). Of course, we all associate lumber mills with making plank boards to build houses and buildings. But much more was harvested and manufactured.

John Smiley built a factory to manufacture clothespins, shoe pegs and other wood products, such as perhaps barrel staves (red and white oak), shingles and mine props, as example. A good workman could make upward of 1,000 staves [the narrow, shaped pieces of wood that form the sides of a barrel] a day.

Thomas Miller owned a sawmill and clothespin factory for two years before selling to a Mr. Wallace, in the post-Civil War era.

Forest products provided winter months employment for men and boys from the farm. Other forest products include wood from cherry, birch, red maple and walnut used for furniture making. Potash was made from burning wood, used in making soap, scouring wool, bleaching and dying cloth and glass. Charcoal was manufactured, and maple syrup was harvested.

Of course, one of the forest’s major products was for the hide tanning industry. Hides were soaked in lye made from wood ashes to loosen the skin and hair for removal. Tannin was extracted from oak and hemlock bark, and hides were soaked in a solution made from it. Although there were no tanneries known of in Tobyhanna Township, the townships surrounding us had tanning operations. [Such as Pocono Township, where the village of Tannersville remains named after the tanning industry that once prospered there.]

Tall pines were used for the masts and spars of sailing ships, as well as plank lumber for their overall building properties.

In 1863, Isaac Stauffer moved to Tobyhanna Township and started in the lumber business, eventually purchasing the operations of Charles Hauser. He purchased his first 500 acres of timber in 1874. Over the years he accumulatied much more, with the purchase of 4,000 acres in 1894, much in the eastern part of Tobyhanna Township. Stauffer became known as the “King of the Poconos.”

Stauffer even built a railroad to transport the large trees and their logs,to his sawmill operations. The rail system ran with three trunk lines in the Pocono Lake area.

Many other sawmill operations sprang up in the area, including one owned by E.P. Thompkins of Tompkinsville, today’s Pocono Pines.

Large lumber company names such as Shortz, Lewis & Co. and Dodge, Meigs & Co. also provided many workers with employment on the Tobyhanna Creek. Albert Lewis from the Stoddartsville area and north, was known as “The Lumber King.” and William E. Dodge was a congressman and one of the first stockholders of the Lackawanna Railroad.

Lewis’s operation was centered north on Route 115 (then the Easton Wilkes-Barre Turnpike) with extensive holdings and operations down into Tobyhanna Township.

One of Dodge’s first and largest projects was providing wood for the locomotives to burn. Although the trains hauled coal, until the 1870s the locomotives were designed to run on wood. Dodge sold thousands of tons of cordwood to drive the trains.

By the end of the Civil War, large amounts of logs were flowing down the Tobyhanna Creek from the forests of Coolbaugh Township and the area around the village of Tobyhanna. Later, their splash dams aided in that timber reaching Tobyhanna Township.

Dodge accumulated 50,000 acres, starting in earnest around 1865 to harvest the timber, finally completing the 50,000 acres around 1900.

In 1867 a large splash dam was built on the Tobyhanna Creek named Slippery Rock Dam, in what later became known as Pocono Lake.

This was constructed by the Tobyhanna Driving Company, under the supervision of Jerome Scott.

It began operation in September 1867 with a one 10-inch gate. This produced a water back-up to where the ice houses were later located, which would have made up approximately one-half to two-thirds of the present-day lake.

In 1870, Samuel Hayes was contracted to raise the breast of the dam by 2 feet, and adding 3 more 10inch gates. This enlargement provided capabilities to float millions of feet of timber to the Lehigh River, then White Haven to Easton to the Delaware River, to Philadelphia and its large sawmills.

And some time just before 1870 the small streams and natural springs forming the Upper Tunkhannock were dammed. Forming Tunkhannock Lake, it was later re-named Stillwater Lake. This was built for the sole purpose to serve as a splash dam, providing the waterway to the Tobyhanna Creek and the new splash dam, Pocono Lake.

In 1871, Tunkhannock Lake was enlarged to its present size of 315 acres. Logging from Coolbaugh and Tobyhanna townships sent thousands of logs down the upper Tunkhannock to Tobyhanna Creek and the headwaters of Pocono Lake just north of the future ice houses and south of today’s Route 940.

In 1874, a forest fire fed by wasted timber started in the Stoddartsville area, spreading death and destruction over 17 miles. A heavy rain stopped the further spread of destruction just before reaching the Pocono Lake Preserve area.

“Driving” of the logs on the Tobyhanna Creek was manned by many pioneer names as well as newer residents, some being trained Canadian river men.

Some names that may be familiar were: Henry Snyder, Mandus Keiper, Samuel Bailey, Bob Deiter, Frank Slather, Tom Payne, Daniel Mineham, H.M. Nagle, Flory Aman, John M. Douty, Sylvester Cadot, Julian LaRue, Valentine Vasser, Cliff Vasser, Malcolm McLeod, Thomas Welsh, Jim Welsh, Thomas Redmond, Adam Mansfield, Peter Fox, Hiram Winters, William Winters and John Wrick.

High wages of $4 to $5 were common for skilled drivers, $2 to $2.50 for bark peelers, and $1 to $1.50 for unskilled labor.

Water was released from the dams at 3 a.m., and by 7 a.m., the creek was high and swift enough to start the “drive.”

Hot lunches were provided every three hours, including coffee and tea, by Bob Deiter serving as “lunch carrier.”

Although local whiskey sold for 25 cents a quart, it was not allowed during working hours.

Trees between 100 and 200 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet in diameter, were common. The largest tree could yield up to 3,000 board feet of rough lumber.

During winter the logs were hauled down the logging roads to the Tobyhanna and stacked at great heights, awaiting the spring “splash.” With their “peavies” [a lumberjack’s pole hook and spike], experienced Canadians LaRue, Douty and Cabot were spaced downstream to keep the float of logs clear and moving.

There were about a dozen contractors on the mountain, each having their own camps of from 12 to 20 men.

As the stacks of logs along the Tobyhanna Creek had to be pushed into the stream, many piles would become stuck with mud or the previous winter’s ice. It was on one of these stuck piles that Mandus Keiper lost a leg.

In 1894 some hunters seeking shelter in the dam breast, burned it considerably with their campfire. In 1899-1900 the Tobyhanna Water Storage and Supply Company erected a much larger dam breast. This enlarged the dam with the intent of maximizing ice harvesting. Ice was now the king, as the timber was gone.