This portion of
The History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania
by J. H. Battle, 1887
is made possible through the efforts of
TRANSCRIBER: Rosana Whitenight
The position of Montour is best indicated by reference to the county line, the Susquehanna river and Fishing creek. It adjoins the county of the same name, while the Montour ridge separates it from the township of Hemlock on the north. From the county line it extends east to the Fishing and Hemlock creeks, and from the Montour ridge south to the river. East of Fishing creek, the north bank of the Susquehanna for some distance is a level area of exceptional fertility; but west of the mouth of that stream an elevation abruptly terminating at the water's edge appears in striking contrast. Between these river hills and the Montour ridge at the opposite side of the township is the Dutch valley, so named because of the nationality of the first occupants of its soil.
When it is stated that these first settlers were of German origin, it need hardly be added that they emigrated from Berks and Northampton counties. The first to make their appearance were the Ruperts. They followed the same route as those who preceded them to the region of Roaring creek and Catawissa. Leaving the city of Reading in the spring of 1788, they crossed the mountains of what is now Schuylkill county over a rough wagon track or bridle path, since known as the Reading road. From Catawissa the journey, though comparatively short, was extremely dangerous. The contents of the wagons were placed in canoes and thus taken to the opposite side. The wagons were transported in the same way, two canoes being required for this purpose. The two wheels on each side were placed in one of them, while the rowers took their places between the wheels and under the wagon. A landing was effected as desired just below the mouth of Fishing creek. A rude log cabin, apparently used by a "squatter" for a short time and then abandoned, was occupied until a more substantial habitation could be erected. This "house," which stood near the present site of the Paxton mansion, was considered a marvel of frontier architecture in size and finsish. It comprised three rooms instead of the single apartment usually constituting a dwelling. Built in 1788 it was occupied by the Ruperts for thirty years, and a portion has since been incorporated in one of the farm-buildings of the Paxton estate. Thus, in 1788 did Leonard Rupert become the first permanent occupant of any part of Montour township. The tract of land he owned comprised the site of the village which bears his name. Originally surveyed in pursuance of warrant No. 1,000, issued April 3, 1769, to John Spohn, it was patented February 4, 1784, a half interest having been previously secured by Michael Bright, the
Although separated from its nearest town by the broad channel of the Susquehanna, the region at the mouth of Fishing creek was not necessarily entirely secluded. On the other hand its people had rare facilities for learning what was transpiring at other places in the outside world. In 1786, and during the subsequent twenty-five years, Sunbury and Wilkesbarre were the seats of justice in the valley of the "North Branch," and the only towns of any importance in that section of the state. The constant stream of travel between these two points found a road near the river, its shortest and easiest route. From Danville to the mouth of Fishing creek, however, the course of this highway avoided the almost impassable river hills, and traversed the Dutch by a ferry. Although not a regular public-house, Leonard Rupert's establishment was practically rendered such by the hospitality of its proprietor. The distinguished personages of the day, judges and lawyers, with others of every character and occupation here found a ready welcome.
A ferry was established at the exact points of the river now crossed by the railroad bridge. Its first proprietor was William Hughes, and afterward a Mr. Clark. As they objected to paying Mr. Rupert for the use of his lands at the terminus on his side of the river, he established a ferry of his own, whcih eventually absorbed its rival. In 1829 the "North-Branch" canal was opened and the packet became a formidable rival to its predecessor, the stage-coach. The work of excavating a channel at the base of the river hills, and the building of an aqueduct across Fishing creek, were among the most difficult works of their respective characters accomplished throughout it entire extent. In the summer of 1853 the rail-road bridge across the Susquehanna was begun. September 5, 1854, the first train passed over it, and Rupert station, on the Catawissa, Williamsport and Elmira rail-road, was established. Wesley Fleming was appointed first freight agent at this point, and still remains in his original capacity after thirty-two years of continuous service. As the only rail-road point in Columbia county, north of the river, Rupert became a place of some importance, although it compromised, when the rail-road was opened, but two houses, the Paxton mansion and the lock-keeper's house. Four years later, January 1, 1858, the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg rail-raod was opened to Rupert, which was for some months its southern terminus. But before discussing the subsequent growth of the town, it is necessary to state an important circumstance in the history of the township in general.
One of the results of the opening of the "North-Branch canal was an increase in population more rapid in proportion to the relatively shorter time required to perform the journey from the lower counties. And a result of this was the formation of the township of Montour. The agitation of the public school question, however, was the immediate cause of the change in political organization of the county. Originally embraced in the extensive township of Turbot, the "region on the North Branch Susquehanna at the mouth of Fishing creek" was subsequently included in Mahoning and Hemlock, and in 1837 erected into the township of Montour. It appears that some of the
most prominent citizens of the township thus formed had tried in vain to secure efficient schools under the act of 1834; failing to do so, they sought a separate organizaton, with results, educationally, highly satisfactory. Having made this necessary digression, the account of the growth of the village of Rupert from the time it became important as a rail-road point may be resumed.
Three years after the completion of the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg rail-road, W. M. Monroe established a powder-keg manufactory at its junction with the Catawissa road. From a comparatively small beginning, this enterprise has grown to considerable local importance. With improved machinery and a full force of workmen, it has a capacity of one-thousand kegs per day. They find a ready sale at the Dupont powder-works at Wapwallopen, in Luzerne county, and Wilmington, Deleware.
It was several years after this, however, that what promised to be the most important industry of the place was begun, by the establishment of extensive paint works. The Susquehanna Slate Company had begun the manufacture of paint at their slate works some distance from Rupert on the Fishing creek. In order to extend this branch of their business and avail themselves of the rare facilities of Rupert for the shipment of their product, the plant was removed thither in 1871, and the manufacture of paints begun, under the firm name of Reay and Drehr. The works had been in operation but ten days when a destructive fire reduce them to ashes. While the ruins were yet smoking, new buildings were begun and pushed to completion with energy. Owing to the financial depression of 1885 and the following year, the manufactory was temporarily suspended.
Beside the two industries mentioned, Rupert comprises about twenty-five dwellings, a store and hotel, the "Rupert Marble Works," and the coal-office of Paxton & Harman. It combines a beautiful and healthful location with exceptional convenience of access to all parts of the country. Its educational and religious interest are represented by a commodious school-building and a house of worship - the only one in the township.
The original predecessor of the Rupert school-house was a rudely framed building occupied by contractors while constructing that aqueduct across Fishing creek. Harriet Rupert opened a school here in 1831, but removed it to a more comfortable and suitable building on her father's land. The present school appliances and methods in Montour township compare favorably with others in rural districts anywhere. Until 1884 the school-building was the place of religious services as well. In June, 1870, Reverend Creever of Bloomsburg delievered the first Methodist sermon in Rupert in the dwelling house of James Farnsworth. From 1869 to 1872 Reverends Barsaus, Irvin, Shuneberger and Hertz conducted Evangelical services in the school-house. In September, 1884, the corner-stone of a Methodist Episcopal church was laid with appropriate ceremonies by Reverend G. W. Stevens, then pastor at Buckhorn. It was completed the following winter. Its general appearance is tasteful, substantial and attractive.