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Dusting off the story of Carbon County

  • Cover of 154-page book, The Story of Carbon County, published in 1971 was the result of a year and a half of research by the Mentally and Academically Talented of Carbon County.
    Cover of 154-page book, The Story of Carbon County, published in 1971 was the result of a year and a half of research by the Mentally and Academically Talented of Carbon County.
Published February 06. 2010 09:00AM

While scavenging through her family archives, Ruth Bush of Lehighton chanced upon a worn spiral-bound, orange-covered book entitled the Story of Carbon County.

As she curiously peered through its introductory pages, she learned of how it came to be, and was all the more fascinated.

The 154-page book began, "In this 'Space Age' as we look to the moon and beyond, we sometime tend to overlook the importance of that which is closest to us.

"Many residents of Carbon County are completely unaware of the county's colorful history, present growth, and plans for a prosperous future.

"To help pupils in the Carbon County Schools more fully appreciate their heritage and become more aware of the plans for their future, Mrs. Natalie B. Murray, director of the Special Education Curriculum Development Center, Title III Federal Project, suggested that 16 groups of mentally and academically-talented students help to compile information about Carbon County."

This student teams began their projects in November 1969. The resulting book was completed a year-and-a-half later, in March, 1971 by Russell R. Hahn and Franklin A. Mummy, "teachers: Classes for the Mentally and Academically Talented."

The fully-illustrated, black-and-white tome is composed of eight chapters: The Indians, Treaties with the Indians, Moravian Indian School, Frontier Indians, Industrial growth, People and places, and the Mollie Maguires. It culminating with a final section on Plans for the Future.

The writing, which is to the point and often revealing, spends it first four chapters on the Native Americans, who in 1970, were referred to as "Indians."

It begins with the journey of the Mengwe, later called the Iroquois, and the Lenni-Lenape, as they crossed the Namaesi Sipu, Mississippi River through the land to the Alligewi Indians, namesakes of the Allegheny Mountains.

It talks about Indian life and throws in the legend of Glen Onoko.

Next, it covers Penn's land purchases from the Lenape, and the 1737 Walking Purchase that took away their remaining land. A series of maps indicate how each treaty expanded the land of the Pennsylvania colonists into Towamensing, the wilderness.

Then, the story introduces the Moravians, who built the village of Gnadenhutten, part of present-day Lehighton. The Moravians began to convert the Indians. Indians, who had been chased off their land by the Walking Purchase, took revenge on the Moravians and their Indian converts, leading to a state of warfare and the mustering of troops under Benjamin Franklin to build Fort Allen, present-day Weissport.

The book notes some stories that have become lost, such as the "Wolf Pack" story. "Shortly after 1800, William Arner and his family moved to Mahoning Valley, the story notes. When he found his flock of sheep nearly destroyed by wolves, he set a trap and laid in wait in a tree.

When the wolves came, he fired at the leader, and then when he went to reload, he dropped his rifle. He spent the night with a dozen growling wolves gnawing at the trunk until they left at daybreak.

The book mentions people and Places - the lesser-known Peter Nothstein is singled out.

"Peter Nothstein was one of the few soldiers from this area who fought in the Revolutionary War," it said. Born in 1760 in Mahoning Valley, he served under Major General John Sullivan in the Battle of Long Island. He survived the British takeover by hiding underwater and breathing through a reed.

The book concludes with "Plans for the Future." Interestingly, many of the insights at the time remain true today. For instance, this is a list suggested by the County Planning Commission. One can clearly see the influence of then County Planning Commission Executive Director, Agnes McCartney.

1. Expand the county's resort and vacation industry.

2. Encourage industrial growth primarily by attracting new businesses to the region.

3. Try to improve overall living conditions.

4. Improve the county's public facilities, such as the county home.

5. Preserve the county's most interesting open spaces for present and future generations.

The book concludes, "Each of you can take an active interest in the activities and programs that are currently underway or under construction. It's your future! Help to protect it!"

Reading the book today, two generations later, shows that it is as true today as it was then.

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