Historic sites of Ross Township awe tour attendees
The Ross Common Manor House on Route 115 in Saylorsburg, STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Carolyn Lange, right, chats with Kathryn Villoresi on a recent historical tour. Lange led the group inside the classic Pennsylvania bank barn on the Moreton Property. The bottom level housed some animals, while the top level was used for parties and entertaining.
A plaque placed by an Eagle Scout at the Gower cemetery honors the soldiers from early wars. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to see a photo gallery and video.
Ross Township Historical Society members from left, Kathryn Villoresi, Carolyn Lange, Ken Giardina and Jim Vogt read the tombstones, most of which are in German, at Gower Cemetery. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A recent tour by Ross Township Historical Society gave people a glimpse of the families who settled there.
A small piece of cemetery land is located along Golf Course Road in Hamilton Township. The last names on graves are common in both townships, such as Altemus (more commonly seen as Altemose), Gower, Lessig and Faulstick.
“It’s one of my favorite places in Hamilton Township,” said Ken Giardina, a member of the historical society.
As a veteran of the U.S. Navy and member of the American Legion Post 927 in Gilbert, Giardina has been doing flag replacement at this cemetery and others in Saylorsburg for more than 20 years.
“There are 57 known headstones here. There are two Revolutionary War veterans and four Civil War veterans buried here,” he said.
Schalotta Altemus was the first one buried here in 1806. Her husband, Nicholas, was a Revolutionary War veteran and died in 1836. Their tombstones are close to each other. His has one of the flags that Giardina placed in time for Veterans Day.
There may also be infants and young children buried under smaller headstones, where the German writing and weathering has made it hard to read names and dates.
A church once stood next to the cemetery, as did a golf course. The church deteriorated and was torn down. There are no signs of nine or 18 holes.
It is now a privately-owned cemetery, and is closed, meaning there will not be any new burials there.
An Eagle Scout placed benches and a plaque about “remembering their sacrifices” at one edge of the cemetery.
Near the Dollar General and St. Peter’s United Methodist Church are two cemeteries that contain names of families that were of importance to this area.
“If one takes the time to read some of the headstones, they will learn history with regard to tragedy, family and life,” said Giardina. There are two gravestones of infants with baby shoes on top of the stones side by side.
“When you read the stones, you discover that both infants died at different times but were of the same parents,” he said.
Altemose Cemetery is on the corner of Brick Church Road and Route 115. It is a closed cemetery and privately owned.
Saylorsburg Lake View Cemetery is across the street. It is an active cemetery.
“Lake View contains the graves of 41 veterans of wars from the Civil War on up and Altemose’s contains 14 veterans — all from the Civil War,” Giardina said.
By reading the markers of the veterans, visitors to the cemetery will realize how many people from this area played a part in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, he said.
Samuel Lessig House
According to historical records and photographs, Phillip Lessig built the stone house beside Aquashicola Creek in 1790. His son, John, built a gristmill and sawmill near the home in 1835. Samuel Lessig inherited the home in 1861 from his father, John.
In 1934, Annie Donner inherited the home. A year later Clair and Mildred Kellow purchased the stone house. They gutted it and restored it.
“I always wanted to live here,” said Penny Kellow. “I spent a lot of time as a child here because my grandparents lived here.”
She is a member of the historical society and loves to show old pictures of the home and share its stories.
Her father grew up here. At one point, Penny’s sister and her two kids lived in the house.
Kellow and her paralyzed mother, Mary Ann Kellow, moved in October 2017.
The home needed some renovations and there needed to be a handicap accessible addition built on to the existing structure.
“The house was livable but not looking loved. My sister moved out and it was vacant a number of years,” Kellow said.
She lived in New Jersey at the time and spent weekends at the Ross Township home, working on it and mowing the lawn.
“Mom could have never made it up the stairs,” said Kellow in reference to the still-existing stairway up to the bedrooms.
It is narrow and curvy, and not very safe for the elderly or children. Kellow has relatives visiting soon, and child-proofing such an old house is proving nearly impossible.
Mary Ann’s bedroom, a bathroom, and laundry room are on the first floor.
There is no bathroom upstairs, where Penny’s bed and a guest bed are separated by a wall. There are tiny closets with some original wooden beams visible inside next to Penny’s updates and new paint.
In the dining room is the original brick fireplace, where the Lessigs would have cooked their meals. Kellow has decorated the mantel with various antiques.
Her grandfather owned an antique store. She shares his love for antiques, which is evident throughout the home. Guests get to sleep in her grandmother’s antique spool bed.
A modern kitchen with updated appliances is on the other side of the original fireplace wall.
Outside, workers are restoring the stone wall and excavating the ground that suddenly drops off to the creek. There used to be a bridge and a road there. A new road was built a few feet over, and it is the present route.
A gate and a gravel driveway at 130 McKinley Ave., Saylorsburg, leads guests to 90 acres of land now owned by the federal government and two buildings cared for by a couple who live next to the property.
Carolyn Lange and her husband, Jim Vogt, are volunteers who help keep an eye on the place. Vogt mows the lawn and does other yard maintenance.
The property is owned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is part of the Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
“I love this place. The best thing would be to get a grant to restore it,” Lange said.
The house was built in the late 1770s. The Moreton family was the last to reside there.
The Moretons, and the Verbruggen family who owned it before them, trained Newfoundland dogs here to do water rescues. The pond on the property was man-made for these trainings.
“These dog trainings were quite the event here for many years,” Lange said.
The classic Pennsylvania bank barn was built circa 1783, and its original chestnut beams are still there. It was later remodeled extensively and decorated.
Its second floor was used for parties and entertaining. It has chandeliers, a wet bar, wooden floors, high ceilings and several rooms to hold guests.
The lower level of the barn is chilly and dark. It once housed animals, but now extra chairs and tools are stored in there.
Originally, the Moreton property was 315 acres. Due to land sales and subdivisions, the government only owns 90 acres, Lange said.
“This is a beautiful piece of property. There is a lot of history here,” Lange said.
Wondering where Judge Ross is buried? He is interred at a small family cemetery on the Ross Common property, 239 Route 115, Saylorsburg.
Of all the sites on the tour, this is the only one on the National Register of Historic Places. It became part of the register in 1978.
Travelers on Route 115 can see trees, fencing, buildings with candles in the windows and grassy landscape on both sides of the road.
In 1787, Jesse Ross of Bucks County used the property as a hunting lodge. His son, John Ross, built the manor house in 1810. It is a 2½-story, five-bay-wide stone dwelling with a gable roof.
John Ross was appointed assistant judge of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1825 and lived at the manor house until his death in 1834.
According to historical documents, he willed the estate to his children. They sold it in 1852 to James Ealy for $5,000. He needed it as a stagecoach stop for travelers heading to places such as Nazareth, Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia.
“It used to be an inn for travelers and had a tavern. It was a very popular spot,” Villoresi said.
It is now unlivable. The inside was gutted, and the weak walls had to be supported.
In addition to the house, the property has a stone ice house, a 3½-story frame gristmill, a former barn converted to a theater in the 1930s, and the cemetery with burials dating from 1814 to the 1850s.
In the middle of a soybean field, there is a stone wall around a large tree and the burial site.
After Ealy sold the property, it had several different owners.
The property deteriorated greatly after each ownership, and at one point was sold at a sheriff’s sale for $3,850, according to research documented by Blaine J. Smith and R.A. Danner.
Amelio Scott and his wife, Amelia, purchased Ross Common in the early 1960s.
After they passed away, their two sons and grandsons took ownership.
Brothers Tighe and Neil Scott, and Tighe’s three sons — Shane, Jarrett, and Brock — formed the Five Earth Group Family Limited Partnership.
Their business A. Scott Enterprise Inc. uses the former playhouse building as office space for the site development and excavating business.
“Our hopes for the manor house are to restore it as a wedding venue or possibly as a bed-and-breakfast. We want to maintain all the historic values that are there,” Shane Scott said.
They might also convert the former playhouse into a wedding venue and relocate their office space.
“We have no hard plans, but a lot of future outlooks,” he said.