Foster Township

Is named for Asa L. Foster, one of a company consisting of himself, Richard Sharp, George Belford, Francis Weiss, William Reed and John Leisenring, who came here in 1854 on an exploring expedition for coal on the lands of the estate of Tench Coxe, with a view of opening mines. Their examination was entirely satisfactory and they opened the place that is now Eckley - at first called Fillmore, where they erected, at a cost of 7,000 a sawmill and mining works, and opened a mine and the next year shipped 2,000 tons of coal to market. When they came this was an unbroken mountainous wilderness.

The township contains fifty square miles of territory, and was erected into a township in 1855, of territory, taken from the original Denison township. It has so little arable land that outside of its timber and coal, it would never have been able to support even a sparse population. But of these two articles it was immeasurably rich; the timber is now mostly cut away but new coal developments will go on for many years. Standing on any of the prominent points you can see the great towering black breakers or the white steam rising therefrom on nearly every hillside. Sandy Run creek flows east to the Lehigh river through the township and its narrow valley has about all the good farming land it possesses.

John Lines was the pioneer settler, at what is now White Haven, in 1824. He cleared a "patch" near Terrapin pond. All the evidence shows that this was the oldest settled point off the river in the township. Terrapin pond is in Pond creek, the other stream besides Sandy run that rises near Upper Lehigh village, and is joined by Sandy run in the southeast part of the township. The nearest neighbors Lines had for a long time were at Lawreytown, now Rockport, seven miles down the River Lehigh. About 1840 Tomas Morrison came and located on Pond creek about three miles southeast of White Haven. Since White Haven is a separated borough this would make Morrison the first settler of the township in its present form. Morrison was a man of great enterprise and considerable means. He built two saw mills and a gristmill and to operate these mills and cut and haul the logs and then the lumber required quite a force of men and the place was soon a noted spot in the wilderness and roads were made over the hills to the river. So important was the Morrison settlement that it was granted a postoffice and Mr. Morrison kept it. Mrs. William Johnson (a Birkbeck), who lived with the Morrisons when she was young, thinks they settled at their place in 1838. She says Thomas Morrison was an Irish gentleman, a widower with two children - Sarah and James. A Mrs. Lytle was his housekeeper. She had two daughters - Mary and Catharine. Mr. Morrison married one of the girls and his son married the other. Mr. Morrison's valuable mills were burned and this crippled him financially, but after some time he rebuilt further up the pond. A schoolhouse was built and there were probably a hundred souls in the Morrison settlement.

The next pioneer in Foster was Joseph Birkbeck, who came in 1844 and settled at what was for a long time called South Heberton, in the valley between Freeland and Upper Lehigh. He purchased a large tract of land of Edward Lynch, a part of which is now in the borough of Freeland. He built first a log house, and then a frame which stands a short distance north of the Freeland north borough line. The next settler was Nathan Howes (Howey), who purchased the west part of the Birkbeck tract and built his house to the west a short distance from Birkbeck's. Mr. Birkbeck, after the opening of the collieries at Upper Lehigh, laid off a village and called it South Heberton.

Mr. Birkbeck's was the first clearing in this then forest; in it were raised the first crops, and here the first orchard was set out.

The first child born at South Heberton was Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Birkbeck, born in 1845. The first death at this place was that of William, son of Joseph and Elizabeth Birkbeck, which occurred February 11, 1846, aged four years.

In 1845 and 1846 Mr. Joseph Birkbeck cut the road through the woods from South Heberton through Eckley to Buck mountain. Eckley was then known as Shingletown, as no business was done there except by two or three parties whose occupation was making shingles, carting them to either White Haven or Hazleton and trading them for the necessaries of life, such as whiskey, pork and tobacco.

The first store at South Heberton was kept by a man named Feist, a little west of Birkbeck's. Soon afterward a Mr. Minig kept a little store near Feist's.

The first tavern was kept by a N. Howes, where Joseph Jamison now lives a little west of Birkbeck's. Previous, however, to the opening of Howes' tavern, Mr. Birkbeck accommodated parties who were prospecting in this region for anthracite deposits, with the best house afforded.

The first schoolhouse at this place was built in 1878, and is a frame building.

When Mr. and Mrs. Birkbeck moved into this then wilderness they were far from any settlement. At Morrison, near White Haven, was the nearest store, and Straw's, over in Butler, was the nearest gristmill.

South Heberton has long since lost its identity and is now simply a cluster of houses midway between Freeland and Upper Lehigh along the wagon road.

Birkbeck's sawmill is at the turn of the road just east of Upper Lehigh, and what was mainly South Heberton is now known as Upper Lehigh, an important mining town owned by the Upper Lehigh company. It was platted in 1865 and has nice regular streets and blocks, and is well built and noted among mining towns for its orderly neatness and superior miners' dwellings, of which there are over 200, all double tenements. The mansions of the proprietors and superintendents, chief clerk, foreman and others are elegant and modern in all improvements. The Nescopeck branch of the New Jersey Central approaches the place from the east. In 1867 a postoffice was established and mails came from Eckley. The company has first-class machine shown here, and expert machinists are employed in large numbers. The company store was opened in 1866. The Upper Lehigh hotel (built by the company) was opened for guests January 28, 1869, by Conrad Seiple. The village is supplied with pure spring water from the reservoir on the north hills. The mines at this important village were opened in 1866.

Jeddo - named for Jed Ireland. A part of the borough extends into Foster, and in this portion is the railroad depot. A short distance below this is Foundryville, where Merrick had his foundry; it is now a station and mining town.

The old, important mining town of Eckley, the place where first was developed the coal of this township in 1854, and is a part of the Coxe Bros. & Co. property, is east and a little south of Jeddo, a little more than a mile, on the north side of East Pismire hill; a branch of road runs to it from the Lehigh and is on Coxe's belt line road.

Highland, another mining town of the Markle mines, is northeast of Jeddo, about two miles, and is connected with the main line of the Lehigh Valley road by the Highland Branch road. On the wagon road east of Highland is a steam sawmill.

In the extreme southeast corner of the township is the J.H. Neiss powder mill and a short distance east of it is the Pardee sawmill. The east line of the township is the Lehigh river until you approach the north line and reach White Haven.

The old Woodside slope was once an active colliery but is not worked at this time. It is a short distance west of Freeland borough and toward Drifton.

Drifton is the headquarters of Coxe Bros. & Co.; about a mile southeast of Freeland and at the junction of the two lines of that road. It is the end of the double track of the Lehigh as you go east. Operations of this firm commenced here in 1864. It is the headquarters of the Susquehanna & Lehigh railroad - the private property of Coxe Bros. & Co. For a better idea of the place see chapter "Coal" in the paragraph "Hon. Eckley B. Coxe."

Sandy Run is another mining village on the Lehigh Valley road southeast of Freeland.

This page was donated by Jeanne
Information is from Bradsby's "History of Luzerne County"

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