Big Creek Valley before Beltzville Lake - Part 1
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS (Left to right) Charles W. Behler Jr. and wife, Kathleen, with William Kemmerer at the Big Creek Church building which services St. Paul's Union Church and United Church of Christ. The original church building dates to 1841, and was turned around in 1883.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a three-part series on the village of Big Creek Valley, whose hundreds of villagers were displaced to create Beltzville Lake.)
Big Creek Valley, once home to hundreds of families, lies nearly forgotten, buried under up to 126 feet of Beltzville Lake.
Adding insult to injury, the lake which flooded Big Creek Valley isn't even named for the village that it virtually wiped off the map. Those who lived there before being evicted in 1966 to make way for the flood control project that would later become a state park, thought that at the very least, the lake and the park should have been named Big Creek in memory of what was destroyed. But somehow it was tagged with the Beltzville name a name of a homestead on the other side of the mountain.
The outfall from the Beltzville Dam is reached by taking Old Mill Road off of Pohopoco Drive. Because it ends at the dam, the road is marked "No Outlet". Before the dam was constructed, it was known as the Big Creek Highway. Before the dam was built, just about where the dam discharges into the Pohopoco Creek, Big Creek Highway forked straight ahead was Big Creek Valley; and to the right, across the iron trestle bridge, and up the winding road to the top of the mountain was Beltz's farm, generally known as Beltzville.
At the fork, a wooden sign directed travelers Big Creek Valley,(to the left, one arrow pointed), Beltzville (to the right, the other arrow pointed). A car had knocked hit the sign, and for six months it was either lying on the ground or loosely propped up. That's when two men from the US Army Corps of Engineers drove up the Big Creek Highway to Charles Behler's gas station.
Behler was 23 years old in 1966 when the men pulled into his Calso gas station, crossed the street, and knocked on the door of his house. "They came to the area to acquisition land," Behler said. "They were driving around talking to people when they stopped at our house. They wanted to know where Beltzville was. We told them that Beltzville was over the other side of the mountain, and this was Big Creek Valley. I guess they didn't believe us."
Perhaps it's time to deal with the confusion over the name of the area. Beltzville Lake is formed upstream of Beltzville Dam. Before the dam was constructed, the stream was known by several names: Big Creek - its American English name, and Pohopoco Creek - a Native American name meaning "a stream between two mountains."
Both upstream and downstream of Beltzville Lake, the stream is called the Pohopoco Creek. The homes and farms of Big Creek Valley are largely underwater, except at what was its western edge where a church, a cemetery and a grange survived.
(Continued next Saturday)