Historical Association of Tobyhanna Township

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

**The Winter Family

One of the first permanent settlers of Tobyhanna Township
As recorded in "The History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania," by Alfred Matthews, 1886.

Contributed by Gene Kerrick
| January 2012

A major source of information about much of Monroe County’s history comes from a book written by Alfred Mathews, “The History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania," published in 1886. Among the few pioneers of Tobyhanna Township mentioned in that volume is the Winter family.

The family of Ira Winter played an important role in our early history, but later most of its family members moved west. Only a few of the family with the last name of Winter survived, but no one from that family now lives in the township. There are direct descendants, however.

The first Winter came to Massachusetts from England about 1634. Some of his descendants then moved to Connecticut. Ira Winter was the first of the family to move to Tobyhanna Township. He was born on June 24,1769 in Woodbury, Conn.. and married Phoebe Elizabeth Bowman (known as Eliza). They had eight children.

Ira Winter came from Connecticut possibly as early as 1796 as Hanover Township tax records listed him. A March 17,1800 deed shows Ira as a resident of Hanover Township, as well as his father Asa, who also had property.

Ira lived in other various locations, including Slocum Township, also in 1800, and Covington Township, all in the area of Luzerne County through the 1820 and 1830 census.

After 1830 the entire family is counted in Monroe County and apparently was involved in the logging industry, except for son George, who was known as a “temperance inn keeper.”

Ira Winter was listed on the tax rolls as a “carpenter,” although it is not clear if this refers to Ira or Ira, Jr. Ira lived the remainder of his life in the Tobyhanna Township area. By the 1840 census, Ira had died and Phoebe was listed in the 50 to 60 age column. In the 1850 census Phoebe was living with son John and his family, listed as age 71.

One of the rewarding aspects of doing research of local families is to see their marriages between families. The local population of Tobyhanna Township was quite small (by 1860 still only 518 residents). One can see the result by examining the children of the first Winter.

A granddaughter or Ira and Phoebe, Clarissa (daughter of John Winter), married Jacob Blakeslee, a prosperous farmer and citizen whose father had also moved from Connecticut. The town of Blakeslee is named for him as he was the first postmaster. Clarissa Winter’s married name is on a stained glass window in the Blakeslee United Methodist Church. There is also one for Jacob. Many of their descendants have remained in the township and have played and are playing prominent roles in the community.

The 1850 census shows all of Ira’s six sons and one daughter living within a small area of the township. This also can be seen by viewing an 1860 area map of what is now Route 115, but was then known as the Wilkes-Barre-Easton Turnpike.

Between the Lehigh River and the Tobyhanna Creek the properties of John, Ira, Burton, Jude A. and Washington Winter can be located on this map. A check of the 1870 census and map shows that almost all the family had left the area.

At age 26, son Ira Jr., married Elizabeth Hayes in September 1841. Elizabeth was a daughter of Ezra Hayes who moved to our township in 1800 from Ohio. Until relatively recently, descendants of this marriage also lived in Tobyhanna Township and were prominent in their service to the community. One example is the former postmaster of Blakeslee, Glenmore B. (Sprux) Hayes.

Another important wedding occurred between Thomas Winter and Lydia Hessler. We are now in the third generation of the Winter family. Thomas was the grandson of the original Ira, born circa 1840. Lydia Hessler was the granddaughter of Lewis Stull who came from Philadelphia to Buck Township in Luzerne County just across the Lehigh River from Tobyhanna Township. Her uncle bought the land in Stoddartsville bordering the river and for many years was postmaster. His daughter succeeded him in the job.

That land was subsequently owned by John Lord Butler Jr., who has built an historic center there and was instrumental in having Stoddartsville named on the National Register of Historic Places.

Adjoining the museum and along Route 115 is the historic Stoddartsville Cemetery, where several of the descendants of Ira Winter are buried, including John who died September 18,1861 at age 56.

Thomas Winter became the father of several children, three of whom are buried in the Blakeslee Cemetery. They were the last direct descendants who bore the Winter name living, at least part time, in the area. One of them, Willard, owned the land along Thomas Road where Blueberry Mountain Inn was located.

Research proves how important the Winter family was in the township. Thomas Winter was elected township government supervisor a couple of times. Numerous descendants held township offices.

Many of the Winter family were members of the Blakeslee United Methodist Church. Washington, Burton and Ira Winters and Jacob Blakeslee were among its first trustees when the church was erected in 1852. Lula Winter was one of five young women who raised $500 to build a new church building about 1897. It still exists as the core of the church today. Nellie Winter was a teacher in the local school .

The Winter family dispersed to various directions. Many went west to Wisconsin and Minnesota, while others moved to different locations within Pennsylvania and nearby New York. It should be noted that the name, as with so many others in days when spelling was less important, was practiced both with and without the letter “s” at the end. For the sake of being consistent this article has adopted the shorter spelling.

There is a sadness to note that some of the very early families in this township no longer are represented by their names, even though some descendants of other names carry on.

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