Lake Bellasylva
Wyoming County
August 1895
Photo Contributed by Scott W. Tilden
Source: Antique Glass Magic Lantern Slides
Auctioned on eBay in October 2014

Tales of Bellasylva: The Later Years
by George Kronmiller

Editor's Note: The late George J. Kronmiller (April 9, 1915-July 20, 2005)
passed way in Dushore, PA two years after this history was written.

Editor's Note: In September 2003, Tina Pastusic sent me an e-mail with the following historical report:

The Sullivan Review
July 12, 1888

THE FIRST ONE- Jas. Cunningham on Monday received a windmill and has placed it in position to pump the well on Williams Hill. As far as we know this is the first windmill erected in Sullivan County.

We both wondered where Williams Hill might be, so I went on the Internet. That is how I found 88-year old George Kronmiller and his site, presented here. It turns out that George lives right next to Williams Hill on Dutch Mountain in Bellasylva, PA. Go ahead and read the colorful local history written here by George "some time within five years of 1985, one way or the other", as he tells me. You will also find additonal notes from George inserted with information about historical points and his ancestry. We are grateful to George for his contribution and for his passionate love of the land, people and history of Sullivan County.

* Update: You will also find several photos on this page of the Bellasylva Lake area, which were apparently taken in August 1895. They were auctioned on eBay in October 2014. The lake is actually located just over the Wyoming County line about 1 and 1/2 miles from the town of Bellasylva. It is also known as Schmitthenner Lake after William A. Schmitthenner, one of the earliest owners of the lake and the land near it. According to Henrietta Kester's History of Bellasylva, PA, the lake was originally known as Ficht's Pond, for Johann Hartmann Ficht. Ficht was father-in-law to Schmitthenner; he first bought the property in about 1847. Then he sold the land to his son-in-law in the mid-1800s..

Bob Sweeney
Sullivan County Historian
September 25, 2003

"Pushing Off" at Lake Bellasylva
Wyoming County
August 1895
Photo Contributed by Scott W. Tilden
Source: Antique Glass Magic Lantern Slides
Auctioned on eBay in October 2014

I took this picture in the dining room of my grandfather's house (now Kuhl's old house) on the top of Dutch Mountain. The year I think was 1932 and early July because Clemmer was there and was probably having a cider after bringing in a load of hay. I remember setting up my grandfather with the accordion as a prop. Reading from left to right -- Artie Kofink youngest sibling of Henrietta Kofink and slightly younger than me. Wound up as a sawyer near Red Rock, Lived and bartended the Sitting Bull; died a few years ago and is buried in Bellasylva Cemetery. Next is my hard working grandmother, Louise, who, like other women up here at the time, had to cook over a wood burning range, wash by hand with a scrub board, make beds and empty potties, churn butter, make cookies for her grandson, prepare healthy meals with no refrigerator, and pick wild strawberries, raspberries, huckleberries, blackberries and June cherries for dessert, pies, jelly and preserves. She also set a crock of home brew beer every other week and helped my grandfather bottle it. What a woman! She weighed 85 pounds wringing wet. Next is John Clemmer, who I considered a great guy, His weakness was my grandfather's hard cider, to top off a hard day making hay. Many afternoons his team of kicking horses took him home. His wife was very hard working and slight like my grandmother. She would get mad at my grandfather for the condition of her husband, since she often had to round up 12 cows and milk them. Their place is now the Kilgus's. I remember as a kid, the place was alive with tame rabbits running around (pretty good evidence of the lack of predators at the time). Like Artie, they are both buried in Bellasyla Cemetery. The gent on the right is my grandfather,George Jacob Kronmiller, to me a legend in his own time. - GJK

Another Historical Source: Henrietta Kofink married Clyde Kester and wrote her own History of Bellasylva.

Family Historical Note: Here is a little family history as I know it to boot. In the early 1870's, my immigrant (Germany) great-grandfather and great-grandmother, along with their four children including my grandfasther, George Jacob Kronmiller, arrived in Sullivan County via covered wagon. I understand that they were five days by covered wagon out of Philadelphia. Great-grandfather's name was Christian Kronmiller. I believe there was some sort of connection between them and the Seltzer family of Dushore. They built a house on Dutch Mountain Road about a 1/2 mile west of Leo Dieffenbach's house,(formerly Bowmans according to my Grandfather). Leo told me years ago that his mother used to visit them. My grandmother's name was Louisa and my father's name was Raymond. My Grandfather went to Philadelphia when he was 18, coming back in 1922 as a retiree!. If you want to here more about my family history, go to The Story of George Jacob Kronmiller.

I just ran across this old photo taken about 1930 at the little falls on the Mehoopany. We were cooling off with a swim after hiking to both falls. In the front row, left to right, is me, Carl Kuhl, my grandfather's man Friday of the moment. Adelaide Schmitthenner Mantell. Charles Mantell with their dog, "Errata", and Adolf Otten. In the back row are my father, Raymond Kronmiller, and Helen Otten Weeks. I think Frances Otten took the picture. Charles Mantell is the Charles Mantell, editor of the Chemical Engineer's Handbook, writer of many textbooks, professor of Chemical Enginneering at Newark College of Engineering, world authority on tin and carbon, and the only one I ever knew personally that was written up in Who's Who. The only thing I fault him for is convincing me to become an engineer. He was also a Canadian who was a fighter pilot in the RAF in WW1.

During the summer of 1962, after returning from a session in Japan, I had some time off and got the idea that it would be fun to take my sons, teenagers at the time, up to Bellasylva on Dutch Mountain, where I spent my boyhood summers. My wife Evelyn was working, having two girls in college.

We arrived on the scene in our 1957 Citroen, after having the ceiling fabric descend on us while doing 60 mph on the turnpike. We drove up Mud Road and was shocked to see the multitude of hunting cabins now decorating it. There appeared to be someone living at the Otten "homeplace" as it was called in the past. This was before the garage/apartment addition, the hospital room addition, the enclosed porches, front and back, the dog kennel, erection of a replacement barn and the sheep barn in the rear.

We drove past the Otten's on down to the Schrage's (now Connant's) where we turned around. We were confronted by two women charging down the road. They were out to chase intruders! It turned out that they were Dorothy Otten and her sister, neither of whom had I ever met.

I introduced ourselves and were then welcomed with open arms. Adolf's father, Adolph, 93 at the time, was there and he remembered the times we spent together when I was a boy. Adolf was due back from attending to business in NYC. We were invited to stay over so we could meet him. He was at the point of retiring and moving to the mountain permanently. He did so after the death of his father, not too long afterward.

Clyde Kester was doing some work for Adolf and he was also glad to see us and invited us over to meet Henrietta (Kofink) his wife. They, along with Henrietta's mother, lived in what was the Kofink house summers, until after deer season. They boarded hunters for part of their income. Winters were spent in Forkston in the house Clyde inherited from his father.

Adolf paid Clyde 50 cents an hour and complained because Clyde wasn't interested in working very often. Clyde was also caretaker for the Kuhls and Henrietta cleaned for them. A couple of years later, Carl apparently thought he could get someone more energetic than Clyde and laid him off. This was a mistake, since he wasn't able to find a cheap replacement and Henrietta wouldn't clean for them any more. It was the end of a friendship of many years standing. The Kuhls also lost the surveillance of their property during hunting and berry picking times that they enjoyed from the Kesters.

Ozzie Keller had acquired the Trube property , built a stone cabin, calling it AltaVista.
He then bought at tax sale, a property along both sides of Mud Road east of the game lands parking lot for over a half mile. He then proceeded to subdivide it into one acre lots and is responsible for the rash of cabins along the road and much of the hunting pressure and poor deer harvests of late years. After his death, his wife Millie did the same with much of the frontage belonging to AltaVista, resulting in further dilution of the pristine wilderness of the area.

During the years of my absence, the road from Lopez to the Wyoming County line was paved. In doing so, the State radically changed the alignment of the roads. Originally the dirt road crossed a stone bridge over the Loyalsock in line with Mud Road. The Forkston road turned left where the present sharp bend in Mud Road is. As a result, when passing by the old Hunsinger house now, you are on Mud Road. Before, when you passed the Hunsinger house, you were on Forkston Road. All this caused a bit of confusion in anyone returning after a number of years, in addition to that of finding most of the people of earlier times in the cemetery.

Electric power had arrived on the mountain as well as a single telephone line running to the Ottens. As a result indoor plumbing was possible in the more affluent places that had adequate water supply, as typified by the Ottens, Kuhls and John Schmitthenner. Many of the old hayfields on farms such as Ottens, Kuhls (ex-Kronmiller), Williams Hill (now Rose Hill), Taylors, Finckes, Kiester Place(Ottens), Hunsingers, McCarrols et al , had all changed into overaged huckleberry bushes, most of whom were unproductive. Many areas were past the bush stage indeed into young forest trees. The many other berry bushes that were plentiful, such as red and black raspberries, blackberries, and wild roses were essentially gone, presumably victims in the increase in the deer population.

With the coming of wood fiber, consuming industrial operations in Towanda and then Meehoopany caused a resumption of some supply pulp logs and also harvest the very valuable black cherry popular with furniture manufacturers. More and more large tract owners are succumbing to the offers of bucks for their logs.

Among the earliest pioneers on the mountain was the Hunsingers, brother Almon, sisters Nora and Louise, and their sister Belinda Taylor. Aside from boarding hunters and a meager income from butter from their open range cattle herd, and possibly some Social Security, as they aged, they needed money to get by. They sold extensive property along both sides od Forkston Road from their corner to Kofinks and on up the hill toward McCarrol's Corners. Unfortunately they were in relatively small parcels as time went by , and then further subdivision resulting in a multipliciy of camps.

In 1937, Burton M. Taylor sold six tracts of Belinda Hunsinger Taylor's land. Tract one went to Harry Moore, which is now owned by Frank and Eileen Monachino. Tract two was sold to Geoge Bell, who also owned extensive acreage in Sullivan County. This parcel #2 of 14.13 acres was sold to Joseph J. McLaughlin in 1956, and is now in the name of Loretta M. McLaughlin, his daughter. In 1993, the 11 acre Parcel 3 of the Belinda Taylor land, which had been owned by Harold Maye, and tract four, which was four acres, and owned by Franz, Baines, Maye and someone else, was sold and subdivided among the existing neighbors in an attempt to stop development of the area. Father Robert A. McLaughlin bought a 91 foot long tract of Parcel 3, known in the Courthouse as the Dollar subdivision, in order to square off the "L" shaped McLaughlin land, adding 2.64 acres to the McLaughlin place -- now just under 17 acres. A five acre tract next to McLaughlin went to George "Bennie" Carey, who had been a member of Kile's camp, which was the sixth parcel of Belinda Hunsinger Taylor's land. The remaining 7.36 acres of Parcels 3 and 4 went to James and Rose Mary Dollard, who already owned the Rice/Gregory cabin, which was part of Parcel 5 of Belinda Taylor's land, sold in 1937 to Hoffa, later to Manginello, then to Harding Rod and Gun Club,and for sale again at the time of this writing. Parcel 6, across the road and adjacent to the Barber Tract that is now State Game Land 57, is currently owned by Ethel Kile, et al.

This process is still going on, the most recent instance being the Lobeck tract, southeast and northeast of the corner of Forkston Road and Schoolhouse Road. It was originally, 110 acres if I am correct. It is now split up into 8 or 9 parcels almost all sporting a cabin and probably 2 to 4 hunters, all hopefully cutting into the meager supply of available deer. This is compounded by the ocassional heavy caliber shot heard in many different directions from dusk to 10-11pm on weeknights in the summer.

Another case of the activity that has and is ruining the area as a semblance of a "sportmans paradise" was acquisition of about 24 acres by an in-law relative of the widow of one of the active area hunters. The in-law's wife had two brothers as relatives. All three put together the pittance that the widow realized from the sale. Each took 2 acres and put trailers thereupon. Then they proceeded to get their money back plus a profit by selling off an acre at two of the remaining corners. The fourth corner was spared because it is wet, on the road to the widow's place, and would have probably incited her ire.

Other probable and possible subdivisions in the future have not been made as yet because of faulty, hard to negotiate titles and deeds; new regulations with regard to subdivisions, and most importantly sewage disposal also has been somewhat of a deterrent to Pocono-like development, since the whole area just will not perc. So permits are hard and expensive to come by. The inability of the ground to perc is indicated by the success of many ponds that have been installed and the abundance of wetlands on the mountain.

For two years after renewing my acquaintance with the Ottens, Kesters and other mountain people, and with Adolf's permission, we setup a canvas camp in the northwest corner of the large field behind the Otten's house. It was a lot of fun. I remember on one 4th of July the aluminum tent poles had a layer of frost in the tent.

When Bernard O'Leary died, his wife, a lawyer in Washington, inherited his farm. Then she died and a niece living in Chicago inherited it. She wanted to unload it so she had a lawyer contact Adolf Otten and Henrietta Kester about finding a buyer. They decided who the buyer should be--us! And we agreed. The lawyer came by to inspect the place and stopped at the Kesters. Henrietta emerged from cleaning their basement and told him how to find the place and to be very careful and keep an eye out for the rattlesnakes. He was much impressed and the inspection and appraisal was what he could see from his car.

The price was very reasonable, and in early 1963 the place was ours. What we got was an overgrown field, an Agway barn full of old hay and junk, a two room tarpaper shack, and a big hole in the ground that was dug for a future O'Leary home. It was later used as a repository for the shack and an old Peerless automobile chassis.

We spent the first winter camped in the basement of the barn. It is a dairy stable complete with stanchions and calf pens. We heated it rather successfully with a Sears chunk stove which we hauled in by Flexible Flyer. J ack Schoenwetter came by hunting crows and helped hauling the bogged down sled down the road. That is how we met Jack, who has, along with the rest of Rose Hill, been good friends ever since.

After the main floor of the barn was emptied of years old haybales and stored junk, we moved upstairs, complete with black plastic sheet partitions and ceiling to contain the heat generated by an antique kitchen range that could burn either wood or coal.
That was the start of a slow evolution that converted most of the barn into a home, complete with 2 bathrooms, drilled well and a cutting edge heating system -- a ground water source heat pump.

Along about 2 or 3 years into the project, our adjoining neighbor at the time, Dick Wescott, acquired a bulldozer and brought it up on the mountain, needing a worthwhile project. He and Adolf Otten decided that I should have a pond on the northeast end of the barn. It wasn't too hard to twist my arm because what use was a huckleberry bog! It was also supposed to be inexpensive with most of the funds coming from the Soil Conservation Service. Well, they did lay it out and design it for me, but--- no funds were available until the following year. We went ahead anyway. We bulldozed for two years, cut down a 1/4 acre of big woods (accomplished by a large group effort including the Alpines), and wound up with a beautiful pond, 1 1/4 acres and 16 feet deep.

I received an original stocking of 50 large mouth bass fingerlings, 500 blue gill hatchlings.
Jeff and Johnny Kuhl contributed a pail with thousands of just hatched bullheads. Additional small fingerling blue gills were seined out of Kilgus'pond (they wanted to get rid of them). The fish did well with the bass fishing good until Hurricane Agnes in '72. After that there wasn't a bass left. Dick Obert came to the rescue with pails of under-sized bass that he would catch in other ponds

I thought it would be fun to have other varieties of fish, so I bought from a hatchery, 50 Northern Pike, 20 Walleye Pike, 100 Channel catfish. None survived. In recent years, Dick Obert put in a couple dozen crappies, some of which have been caught and thrown back. Recently Brian Honish caught a couple of yellow perch. It is not too much of a mystery how they got there. In the early days of the pond, there were copious quantities of tadpoles and frogs. Now they are greatly reduced because of the activiy of the fish. In late years, the Great Northern Herons have discovered the pond and are not helping the growth of the fish population. Finally on the subject, in 1995, while standing on our deck, a big osprey hit the water with a big commotion and took off with a nice big bullhead. The lot of a fish farmer is hard.

Years ago I thought we had too many small catfish, so I started buying commercial fish food to make them grow. It sure did. The catfish,-some dating backover 25 years-perform on command,as well as the bluegills. The prize fish story is a follows. We have a black lab, Schatzie, who when she was about 1 year old, liked the fish food which floated. She waded into the water and started gobbling up the pellets. Several very irate catfish attacked her on her nose. The completely shocked Schatzie jumped out of the water and never tried it again.

As mentioned earlier, in the 60's Adolf had the only telephone on the mountain. It wound up being the 911 service of the time for emergencies and other problems and concerns of the other summer residents. To alleviate this situation to some degree, I bought six old hand cranked ring telephones in wooden boxes and one mile of army combat telephone cable. I formed the Dutch Mountain Telephone Co. of which I was president, chief engineer, lineman and you have it. It connected us, the Wescotts, Helen Weeks and Adolf.

The wire was laid on the ground through areas where there wasn't any traffic -so I thought.
I miscalulated on the damage that Honda trailbikes with knobby tires could do to the cable. They caught the wire, wrapped it up in the chain and destroyed sections of it. Other breaks would occur with the problem of finding them. As my interest in becoming a utility magnet waned, fortunately, Commonwealth Telephone started to string wire and took over.

New Friends:- Starting back in the 60's we started meeting local and summer people that I didn't know as a boy. Dick and Irene Obert were among the earliest people that we have had a real attachment for. Unfortunately, Irene passed away about 1990 when we were in Mexico. Dick was devasted, and he has been a regular,though occasional dinner guest ever since. He is an avid fisherman and hunter. He likes to fish for bass and bluegills in the local farm ponds and usually when he comes for dinner he brings the main course, fish or venison. He also runs a large garden and is an especially good guy to know in the summer.

Another acquaintance that has become a good friend over the years is Father Bob McLaughlin, chaplain of Temple University. He too spent his boyhood summers on the mountain but did not start until my days were over, so I didn't know him then. He has a new house downhill on the road west of Kesters. .He is an avid computer addict but he is on Mac and I am on IBM. But we have continual contact via Compuserve and Epix, who don't care what you are on. He always manages to be up here during blizzards and his specialty is being snowed in and having bears and turkeys watching him through his kitchen window. He also is an avid hunter and has shot a bear and numerous deer although his track record isn't so good during the last few years.

Another good friend since almost day one with the barn is Jack Schoenwetter. We have maintained contact over the years and he has been a good physical helper when we needed him. His cousin Joe Voitek we also characterize as a good friend. Both are members of Rose Hill Club and Joe is sectretary to the landowners association.

Blizzards Floods and Such:-- Agnes- Evelyn and her mother were up here in 1972 and went through all the rain and worried as the water in our one pond rose and roared out the emergency spillway, along with all of our bass population. At the time I was still working. We had a party line at the time and the other party on the line, Plessingers, kept the line tied up so that I couldn't reach Evelyn and they wouldn't let her have it. After that I insisted that Commonwealth give us a private line. I was a long time getting over that one. Not being able get any contact, I took off for the mountain. The authorities were shutting off the Pierce St. bridge in Wilkes-Barre, but they let me through. I think I was the last car over the bridge before it washed away. They wouldn't let me go over a bridge in Luzerne, so I had to take a lengthy unmarked detour around it coming out in Dallas.

Blizzard of '93-- This was a doozy, It occurred on Friday night and Brian and Laura arrived for the weekend. I suggested that he leave his car by the mailbox but he said that he would do it in the morning. That was a mstake. Anyway it snowed and snowed. Brian got out a snowmobile and bogged it down in the light fluffy snow about 2 1/2 feet deep.

Along about Tuesday and still snowed in, they became somewhat worried and thought maybe they could hand dig their way out. They dug and dug and actually had the driveway open up to the pine tree. They also were showing signs of real concern, because who would believe they were snowed in for 6 days? They had proof though in that there was a video tape from their camcorder. I finally made contact with a backhoe man from Dushore that was willing to plow us out. It took him about 7 hours of solid digging. The kids departed 4 1/2 minutes after the road was open.

Blizzard A, Blizzard B, Deluge, Washouts, January, 1996:- 1/2-3, had 8" snow, below zero temps. 1/7, Blizzard A started, 1/8 20-24"snow. Governor declared road emergency, 1/9-10 2" snow, 1/12 Blizzard B started, 1/13 20+'snow, Gerald Byers sticks the Dodge snow plow on our road, 1/14 Frank Monachino tries to pull plow truck out and sticks himself, Ted Sickler, a logger operating on the Raub place, has lots of big heavy equipment like a payloader, logging machine with a dozer blade and a dozer, sees our predicament and pulls out the 2 stuck vehicles and makes short work of all the drifts blocking the road. He didn't want any more than a thank you- I bought him a bottle of scotch. Late afternoon on 1/14, I thought we had a real disaster because the water pump went off and also the heat pump. I couldn't figure out what happened then. It was panic time when I figured that the pump went out due to there was 10 ft of snow piled over the well casing. We still had power to the cook top and several of the lighting circuits so I restored a low level of heat with portable heaters. I thought I had to get to the basement to check the panel and pump breakers, but there was 30" deep snow that had to be dug for about 50'. During the night I got the idea that it might be just possible that the switch mounted below the meter outside might have opened causing the problem. When Gerry arrived at 7:30 the next a.m.,we went out to look at the switch and it was covered with snow. He dug a short path to it and sure enough the weight of the snow was enough to push the handle down, opening it.

CRISIS OVER. Jan 17,18,19, Thaw, Jan 18/19 2' warm rain and fog overnight and 95 % of snow not piled up melted. Jan 20 Wilkes-Barre area ordered to evacuate because of flooding danger. As usual under these circumstance,s the culvert carrying the Loyalsock above Leo's (Mud Road) is overpowered and the road is washed out, marooning us.

Historical Note: Another interesting tidbit is a map in my collection published by the State, dated 1872, that shows the railroads of the time.. It also shows towns that existed at that time whether or not they were served by a raiload. The interesting thing is that the towns of Bellasylva and Colley are shown but places like Lopez, Noxen, Jamison City, and Central did not exist. Bernice and Dushore existed on the railroad from Towanda and terminating in Bernice.

George Kronmiller, author of this article, and Honorary Mayor of Bellasylva

A "Mountain Home" and a Picnic at the "Lookout"
Note: The Second Picture Shows Three Subjects Identified as "Mr. Hallowell", "Miss M ------?" and "Chappy Old Girl" (Chaperone?)
Lake Bellasylva Area
August 1895
Photos Contributed by Scott W. Tilden
Source: Antique Glass Magic Lantern Slides
Auctioned on eBay in October 2014

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