Our Winter Oak - See how she rends, the stout oak that stood for ages past

Our Winter Oak - See how she rends, the stout oak that stood for ages past
Our Winter Oak - From a field of northern Carbon County - See how she rends, the stout oak of ages past

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Graver's Bathing Casino - Lehighton Gravers Post 3 of 4

Chester Mertz of Mertztown, Mahoning Valley still remembers Henry Graver’s deer pen.  “Deer were rare in those days, nearly all gone from around here.”

He remembers being a boy in the 1920s, driving up Gilbert’s Hill and being stopped by the hands of a Dutchman farmer who hissed a calm alert to a stop with, “Hirsch, Hirsch.”
An early picture of one of the "Graver's Bathing Casino" Swim and Dive Competition - Possibly August 11th, 1926 - Picture faces the Mahoning Mountain with Lehighton off frame left.  The remains of this pool basin can be seen today
in the garage area of "Snyder Tire."  (This photo, as well as most of the remaining photos in this post appear
courtesy of Graver family historian and great grandson of Henry Graver, Larry Graver.  This author is much
obliged for the patient help of Larry for this post.)

Here is a picture from the Lehighton Graver's in the 1920s.  Photo from Eckhart History of Carbon County.
Here is an overview of Graverville, complete with change house and pool at right.  The large center building
is the roller rink and the bungalows to the rear on the hillside along with the original brick home of
Henry Graver in the center collectively known for years as "Graverville."
It was the first time he had seen these animals, thinking until then, that they only existed in imagination and myth.  But there they were, graceful beasts, gliding through the field of rye, seeming to be on the fly.

“We’d climb around Henry Graver’s old and empty deer pen, a fence that seemed too high, much higher than any cow pen or horse corral we’d ever seen and we’d sit and wonder what those deer were like.”

The deer were long gone from the pen by the time Chester saw those first deer in the early 1930s.  And even though people flocked from Delano, Mahanoy City, Hazleton, and the Lehigh Valley to swim in the “Graver’s Bathing Casino,” Chester himself never did.

Chester had only two places to cool off.  They’d swim in the Mahoning near Rehrig’s bungalow, where the Rehrigs kept paddle boats to maneuver the slack water of a small dam there.

“We’d also swim the deep hole on the Mahoning near Rudelitch’s, where the truck (New England Motor Freight) terminal is today.”

It was the Great Depression after all, and dimes for admission were hard to come by.
The chutes at Graver's Casino in the 1930s with the Mahoning Mountain right and the Lehighton 'Heights' left.
One can see how safety regulations have changed since this photo was taken.

The Graver’s were one of those early, enterprising families.  They were artisans, building many things with their hands.  Lewis Graver built canal boats with his brother Andrew.  He also timbered, tanned hides, made bricks, and farmed (click here for Post #2)

Lewis Graver’s twin daughters established themselves in the millinery business in downtown Lehighton (click here for Post #1).  And son Henry continued the brickworks until around 1910. 

Henry Graver continued to farm with livestock as well as keeping his domestic deer stock.  He also expanded his interests into one of the first peach orchards in the state as well as ice harvesting, ice manufacturing and the cold storage businesses.  
Graver's ice houses packed with twelve inch ice -
from 'Lehighton Press' February 1923 just two years
before the opening of the bathing casino.
 

But it was his twelve or so winters in Florida that led the family into the amusement business.  It was the ‘Roaring Twenties” and Henry was about to take a $15,000 chance.

Henry and his two sons portrayed their new resort as a destination, with plentiful Mahoning Mountain air, a place for city families to come and stay in bungalows among the pines that once were home to the Leni-Lenape hunters. 

The Burd Brothers Well 'Diggers' of Union Hill discovered
the remains of three human skulls along the Mahoning Creek
just below the Graver property.  This helped fuel the Indian
massacre mystique that the Gravers hoped would help to
attract tourists to their resort.  This article appeared in
the 'Lehighton Press' in April of 1915.


The Gravers also promoted the mystique of the Moravian “Gnaden Hutten” settlement and the subsequent massacre that took place there 175 years ago with the hope of drawing tourists and their dollars (click herefor the Gnaden Hutten story).

The centerpiece of course was the large cement pool.  The Graver’s Bathing Casino’s water was at first pumped from the Mahoning Creek.  They used a “Gould’s Centrifugal Pump” that had a 600,000 gallon output over ten hours time.

Later on, the water was filtered by a gravel and sand filter house with chlorine.

Still and all, this was a marked improvement and was a luxury that few people in those days had ever experienced.  Most at that time, like Chester Mertz, only had the local river or ponds or canal for swimming.

It had a shallow end of just inches of water for toddlers on up to nine feet for diving boards and “chutes” for “deep sea” sports.  It also had cement fountains in the shape of flowers the children found entertaining to jump from in the middle of the main wading section.  Some of the fondest memories of those youth was entering the cascading water shouting for the sensation of the sounds caught up in a sound proof barrier of water.

The stairs as they look today.  The set going right led to the
wading end.  The set going right led to the swimming and
diving end.  The wall between them went the width of the
pool to separate the less experienced swimmers from the
deep end.  These stairs and wall can be seen in the
pictures below.

This current day picture shows roughly the same orientation and angle
as the photo above.  Note the stairs along the far wall remain today
behind Snyder Tire.  The double stairs were separated by the wall
seen above that divided the wading end at right here from the
deeper, swimming and diving end at left.  A partition wall
at one time kept the areas separate and safe.


This picture was taken from the roof of the roller rink and looking toward Lehighton.  The old brick building to the left rear on Bridge Street was once the Penn Lace Mill and most recently was Ott's Beverage.  The building has been idle for some years now.  Notice the children standing on the diving wall and the double stairs at each end of the wall
leading to either side of the wall.  These same stairs can be seen in the two modern pictures of Snyder Tire today.
This 1960s photo is practically the same view as the shot above.  Note the dividing wall and newer refreshment stand
which was under construction for the photo below.
Construction of new refreshment stands along East Penn Street at Graver's Lehighton.
It had change houses that were said to rival those at ocean seaside resorts.  Two buildings, one 150 feet long and the other 200 feet, were for changing and locker rooms, complete with “porcelain fixtures and mirrors for the ladies.”  There was no mention of these amenities for the men. 

The roomy 100 by 150 foot pool not only provided a spot to soak away a hot day, but it also became a place to flex one’s natator prowess. 

The Graver’s, as well as other pool facilities, sponsored annual swim meets. Newspaper accounts would boast of up to 3,000 spectators and participants, all at a dime a piece admission.  

Locker rentals were fifteen cents.  The business also relied on the leasing of swimsuits, known then as “togs,” as well as concession sales of ice cream and “doggies.”

There were two rows of bleachers under roof along the west side.  It had a ten foot, chestnut planked boardwalk around the eastern and western sides.  The grounds were large enough to park 2,000 cars.  

The announcement in the paper said the entire operation from the excavation to the swimsuit stock represented a $15,000 investment by the Graver family.

This was to be Henry’s ‘swan song.”  The ‘Graver Brothers’ were the ones set to carry the bath houses into the future.

Henry and Cate (Hoats) Graver had three children: Ralph (born 1892), Stanley (1894), and Bertha (1898).  Henry ventured to Florida with his wooden jalopy: a home-made, early motor-home (See Post #2 for pictures) and soon was making West Palm Beach his winter home. 
Here is Ralph Graver at the Lehighton
pool in the 1950s.  He became
the 'senior' member of the Graver
brothers when his father died in
1926.  Ralph died in 1965.

Eldest son Ralph and his young family also wintered there.  Ralph worked for ten winter seasons at Gus Jordahn’s Swimming Casino where he developed the angles of the business. 

It spawned not just the Lehighton pool that opened in 1925, but a second one, identically built in Lebanon, PA, two years later. 

Ralph would be the “senior” member in charge of base operations and real estate development here in Lehighton while his younger brother, “junior” partner Stanley, oversaw the Lebanon Bathing Casino.
The Lebanon "Graver's Bathing Casino" was a carbon copy of the Lehighton prototype, replete with dives, "chutes" and "flower" fountains.  This picture looks to have been taken from the roof of the change house seen below.
Note the diving stand at the far corner here above, and the same stand in the near corner below.

This picture of the Graver's Lebanon Casino is looking in the opposite direction than the picture above.
Ralph married Pearl Klinger in 1911.  She was the daughter of Francis Klinger, a Lehigh Valley Railroad engineer stationed at Delano.  Ralph and Pearl had three sons: Reuben (born 1912), Francis (1913), and Ralph Junior (1915) more commonly known as “Jack.” 
Ralph and Pearl Graver's children:
Reuben "Rubie" left, Francis,
and Ralph Jr or "Jack" in front.

The Gravers had a knack for promotion, which was necessary, as they did have local competition. 

Lakewood Park, Barnesville:

The Lakewood Park in Barnesville had a full dance hall, a lake, a carousel and as well as a 150-foot cement pool like the Graver’s had.  Their grand opening was in 1917. 


Entertainment there over the years ranged from the Dorsey Brothers and Doris Day.  They also had the longest running ethnic festival: Lithuania Day, which ran from 1914 to 1984.  The Bavarian Beer Festival was also there in its later years.
This picture captures of immensity of Graver's skating rink with the "beach" area of the ice dam in the foreground, the
eastern side change house of the pool is visible on the right.  Notice the cupolas for drawing out stale summer air
as well as the now closed shutters that could be opened on cool summer nights.  The alcove with the Franz Kline
 paintings built for bands was at the far end nearest to East Penn Street.

The Gravers had a large roller rink for nighttime entertainment which they also hoped would carry them through the winter time.  The rink was at the south end of the pool and was equipped with a row of pot-belly stoves every twenty-five feet along the outer wall which paralleled Route 443.
Franz Kline as he appeared
near the end of his short,
but prolific life.  His works
 appear in most of the
major New York art museums.
  Kline had major setbacks in 
his youth: He arrived in 
Lehighton due to the suicide
of his father that sent him to live
at a home for "fatherless boys."
Additionally, he suffered from
childhood illness that removed 
him from school for a couple of 
years. More about his interesting 
life will be available soon in
Finsel's book
'Franz Kline in Coal Country -
Early Works, Life & Letters.'

The rink also had an alcove at the near end for bands to play.   Ralph Graver’s oldest son Reuben was a classmate of Franz Kline.  Kline became an artist of important renown in the 1950s and 60s. 

Sometime in the late 1920s, according to noted local Kline authority Rebecca Rabenold-Finsel, while Kline and Reuben were still attending Lehighton High, Kline painted some whimsical band members onto the wooden wainscoting of the Graver skating rink. 
An early drawing from the artist Franz Kline.  Painted
directly onto the wooden wainscot in the band alcove,
these approximately two foot by two foot band member
paintings were authenticated by Kline biographer
Rebecca Rabenold-Finsel and appear here courtesy
of her
(Look for her forthcoming book co-written with her son Joel Finsel, entitled Franz Kline in Coal Country - Early Works, Life & Letters.)


This 2 inch by 2 inch skating pass has seven
different names and addresses of people
stamped on the back including: Pittsburgh,
Philadelphia; Rockford & Morris, Illinois;
as well as New York and Ohio.
One date on the back is given
as "November 16, 1945" as well as "Herman
Horack of Weissport" dated June 1945 and the
words "No Good" written with it.  This was
purchased by the Graver family from a man
in Seattle, Washington about ten years ago.

One of the earliest swim meets to occur there was held on August 11, 1926.  Carl Hochberg was the lone Lehightonian to place at the 1926 competition.  He was twenty then and took second in the 50-yard swim and third in the two hundred.

The main medal winner, the “merman” as the paper reported, won all three of the men’s events including the diving competition.  Richard Johnson was living here while working on the Stroudsburg-Lehighton highway project (Route 209).  His hometown was Harrisburg.  



(The entire article appears at the end of this post.  It is undated, but based on Hochberg's medals, it appears to be from August 12, 1925.)

Competitors in the boys division were Clarence Kramer, son of a Hazleton police officer was seventeen, nineteen-year-old Harry Whitenight of Tamaqua, and a pair of fourteen year olds from Hazleton, Otto Hill and Elmer Fox.  Fox’s father was a blacksmith while Hill’s father Gottleib died the year before.

Carl Hochberg of Lehighton placed in many swim
in dive events over the years.  Not only did he compete
at his home pool, but he also traveled to Graver
Brothers in Lebanon as well as their competition
pool of Lakewood in Barnesville.  More of his medals
can be found at the bottom of this post.  The
second place medal from August 12, 1925
at right is the one used to date the newspaper
clipping that appears at the end of this post.
There was no separate competition class for young girls, so seventeen year old Irene Skakandy of Nesquehoning swam against the women.  Ninteen year old Virginia Mooney, “Vergie” as her family called her, of Palmerton took the silver in diving.

Also competing was seventeen-year old Isabel Armbruster, from a large railroad family in Packerton, took third in diving.  After recently speaking to Carlos Teets, it was learned that he never knew his mother competed in the water events at Gravers.  

He did know she placed at a beauty contest there once.  She took second, she was told by the judges, because she was chewing gum.  Isabel married Harry “Hack” Teets.







Isabel Armbruster Teets of Packerton -
She took third place is diving in 1925
and took second place in a beauty
contest at Graver's, year unknown.
She is the mother of Carlos Teets
of Lehighton.




One curious contestant with a lot of pluck was Eva Nicholson Fisher Straub.  The daughter of a Franklin blacksmith, Eva married another township native Lovin Fisher when she was twenty-three in 1905 and she was widowed by 1920.  
Here is the vivacious Eva Fisher Straub with her first husband Lovin Fisher.
She later married Oscar Straub of Weissport and entered a Graver Swim and
Dive contest when she was forty-four.

Eva married Oscar J. Straub, who ran “Strauby’s Mill,” the grain elevator in Weissport most recently known as “Sebelin’s Lumber,” sometime after his first wife Catherine died in November of 1925.



Even though she hadn’t placed in any of the water events at Graver’s the forty-four year old made enough of a splash with her note-worthy blue swim suit and her “trite” sayings to deserve her own article in the weekly newspaper’s “Owl Column.” 

This undated article was found with
the same article above announcing
the results of the swim and dive
contests.  It must be sometime after November 1925 as
that is when Oscar's first wife Catherine died.  Eva and Oscar
married sometime after that.


Eva Straub was quoted as saying, “Most women should dive more, so they would be compelled to keep their mouth shut.”  As a footnote here, both she and husband number two were buried with their first spouses on Union Hill.

Civic groups also staged their own festivals on the grounds.  The American Legion held a carnival there the week before, on August 4th 1926 in which Hochberg took first place in the swim event and third in diving.

One young swimmer got her start at Graver’s when she was just three.  Betty Mullen was the youngest and only daughter of Packerton Yardmaster Charles and Evadna Mullen of Weissport.  Her brothers all were athletic and with fewer opportunities for women in those days, Betty found herself an outlet in the water.

And though she belonged to the silver medal USA women’s relay team of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and was a two-time world record holder in the butterfly, Betty first proved adept at diving. 
Weissport native and Olympic team
member, two time world-record holder in
the butterfly, Betty Mullen Brey, from
her "Graver's Bathing Casino" days.
 Betty remains active in the swimming
community and recently re-located to
Florida to be nearer to her son and daughter.

Her father’s role with the railroad led to many important connections.  He procured ice from the Graver family for the dining cars.  This relationship led to the agreement that Betty could have free use of the pool.








“There were Sunday afternoons when Charlie Franks would come home on leave from the Air Force, after the war...He'd practice his dives.  He could do all of them.  When he would leave, I’d imitate what I saw.  I was just fourteen or fifteen then.”
Charlie Franks of Lehighton was Betty's
diving muse after the war.  


Charlie with his
siblings at Graver's Ice Dam with the
Mahoning Mountain in the background.
His sisters Margaret (back) and Virgil, 
his brother Paul with gun and Charlie.

Eventually, her father used his railroad pass for his daughter to attend open swims for women in Allentown on Wednesday afternoons and also into New York City. 

These tandem dives of Betty Mullen and her friend Delores Claus (of Eight
Street Lehighton) at Graver's (Betty is on top in both pictures.)  In this lower
picture you can see the Henry Graver brickhome at 105 East Penn Street which
still stands there unchanged today.  The skating rink is at left.  Photo taken
by future husband of Betty, Paul Brey when they were both about fourteen
in 1946.

Eventually, for her last two years of high school, she took the Black Diamond Express into NYC at 3:15 each Friday when she had weekend meets.  She would stay over night and sometimes babysit for the former New York State diving champ, Hazel (Muller) Barr.  

And when she had practices in the city during the week, she'd return home on the 12:15, arriving at the Lehighton station at 3:15.  Her future husband Paul Brey would sometimes meet her in the middle of the night to drive her home if he could sneak out with his father's car.  Otherwise she'd take a cab.

The late night's meant skipping morning classes her junior and senior year, which didn't make principal and teachers too happy.

She went on to swim at Purdue as well as for the U.S. Army as a physical therapist at Walter Reed.
Betty Mullen sets one of her two world record times in the butterfly
seen here in this August of 1955 clipping from "The Bee" paper
from Danville, Virginia.  She would marry her high school sweetheart
Paul Brey a short time later.

“But I owe my beginnings in the water to Graver’s pool in Lehighton,” Brey said recently.  Her father built a starting stand at Graver’s and that allowed her to practice nearly every day all summer long. 

She also did tandem jumps with another L.H.S. ’49 classmate, Delores Claus Bauchspies, currently of Bloomsburg. 

Betty married classmate Paul Brey who was a standout football player at Lehighton.  Their children have honed their athletic pedigree cultivated in her hometown. 

Their daughter Brenda swam competitively at LSU.  Youngest son Shane was a standout basketball player at Walter Johnson High School and is assistant athletic director at UCF.  Oldest son Mike is the longest tenured men’s head basketball coach at Notre Dame University.  He was also an assistant coach to Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
This metal, two foot long sign, once hung over the doorway at the Casino.


The End of the Casino:
This picture from the Times News shows Francis
Graver (son of Ralph) with hose and his son Larry
at right with broom preparing the pool in 1959.
A favorite teacher and coach from Lehighton, Al Domineco,
stands at center who was a longtime Graver summer employee.
Notice the diving platform in the corner here and in the
other photos.  East Penn Street is parallel to the refreshment
stand seen here.  Route 443 is perpendicular to the left.

The pool ceased operations at about the same time the borough finished it work on the municipal pool at Baer Memorial.  The Graver family was said to have offered their facility to the town at that time, but the borough chose to build the new one instead.

The ice manufacturing was also soon to be a thing of the past at Gravers.  The remaining business pursuits were reduced to the renting of the bungalows on the mountain side collectively known as “Graverville.”

Sometime in the 1990s, these rentals were offered for sale to their owners, calling an end to over 150 years of Graver ownership.  Francis Graver’s son Larry started his “Blue Mountain Machine” business with partner Phil Myers on the site for a time before moving operations over to Route 248 in Parryville. 

Reuben Graver’s son Stanley started “Graver’s Texaco” near the turnpike entrance in the 1960s.  Three of his sons continue to run it as the successful “Graver Brother’s” garage today.

Footnotes: An Early End to three of the “Graver’s Swimmers” –

Carl Hochberg remained in the Lehighton area working as a knitter at one of the local hosiery mills.  He married Helen Ashner sometime after 1930.  They had one son: Carl Junior.  By 1960 however, he developed a tumor on his right leg.  He died in July 1960 at the age of fifty-five.  Son Carl also had a son Carl Hochberg who lives in Lehighton to this day.

Harry Whitenight would later marry Beatrice Reed.  Together they had a son Ferris who graduated from Tamaqua High School in 1946.  Beatrice would die of uterine cancer in January 1939.  Harry was a construction worker in the new Pennyslvania Turnpike tunnel on the Northeast Extension.  On August 9, 1956, while inside the tunnel, Harry was caught unaware by a cement truck that was backing up.  It struck him, crushing his skull.  He was fifty.




Virginia “Vergie” Mooney Proud, daughter of justice of the peace Jacob and Sarah Mooney of Palmerton went onto nursing school in Erie Pennsylvania where she met her husband, Ralph Archer Proud.  They had three children and were living in Painesville, Ohio.  On November 2, 1954 the car she was driving was struck by a train.  She was forty-seven.
Few could argue that perhaps Virginia "Vergie"
Mooney Proud could have won the Graver
Casino beauty pageants.  Seen here in her
senior photo at Palmerton High.  She was killed
at the age of forty-seven in Ohio.


Lebanon Daily News -
April 1934



Lebanon Daily News - December 18

This paper valuables bag measures 8x10 inches.
More of Hochberg's medals, this time
from the competitor's resort:
Lakewood in Barnesville.



These Hochberg medals ate all from Graver's:
On left from August 11, 1926 and
on right from an American Legion
Carnival held there a week earlier.





Lebanon Daily News-
August 4, 1927



Lebanon Daily News - July 1931


Lebanon Daily News - June 1931




This appears to be a flyer/handbill printed by the Graver Brothers to announce their
grand opening.  The text, it says, first appeared in the "Lehighton Press" on May 8, 1925.
The article above is from June 1926 from Lebanon Daily News.  The bathing picture above appears courtesy
of Bob Fatzinger, grandson of Walter Hammel.  This picture also appeared in Ripkey and Ebbert's "Lehighton" book
which is still on sale at Lehighton Hardware and other merchants in town. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lehighton Gravers: Lewis and son Henry: Farm to Canal to Bricks to Pools (Post 2 of 4)

At the time of his death, no one had lived in Lehighton longer than Lewis Graver.
He came here as a boy, with his brother Andrew and his father Heinrich, to timber the Moravian lands at the south end of town when he was twelve.  The two brothers would live out their lives here.
A long way from his Weissport farm and canal roots:  Henry Graver rests on an early jaunt to Palm Beach,
Florida in 1917.

Lewis Graver’s 1892 obituary referred to his parents, Henry and Elizabeth, as “farm people.”  They were also known as hide tanners.  The family’s first homestead “almost opposite” of the first boatyard to be established along the Lehigh Canal in Weissport.  It went on to say that this original boatyard got it start with Lewis and Andrew Graver.
~Graver Post 1: Alvenia and Adaline Graver Millinary
          ~Graver Post 3: Graver's Bathing Casino 

As with any research of this kind, there are a few anachronism in the records of Lewis’ life: His 1893 obituary versus information written by noted local historian Ralph Kreamer in 1993 as well as contradictory information from the 1905 "Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of the Lehigh Valley" by Jordan, Green and Ettinger.

Kreamer maintains that Lewis started the Lehighton brickworks in 1834 when he was just twenty.  However, according to his obituary, Lewis was still working on the canal until 1841.  The 1905 biography states he was born in 1811 while his tombstone maintains that it was 1813.

1834 was the year of a major flood that caused severe damage to the canal.  The canal was out of commission long enough to cause Lewis to seek other work.  From that point forward the obituary contends that Lewis devoted himself to farming.  The 1905 biography notes that Lewis sold off his interest in the boat yard to his brother Andrew at about the time he bought the approximately 200 acres that would become "Graverville."

Brick making seems to be one of a few of Lewis's pursuits at this time.  The facts do bear scrutiny that the Graver brick manufactory was the oldest in the county.  He was also known to have established a milk route to Mauch Chunk and other markets.  
This shot of the Graver Brick works, dated 1899, shows the Lehighton Cemetery as well as a product of their labors: the First Ward school building on the horizon right.  It was built with Graver bricks in 1896.  It was one of many in town built from Mahoning Creek clay.  The man with the 'x' is very likely Henry Graver.

One other brick yard operated for a time in the borough.  W. S. Koch started one also using Mahoning Creek clay at the present day site of Blue Ridge Pressure Castings.  It was later purchased by Ira Seidle and Dallas Bowman.  It ceased operations in 1920.

It was soon after the flood that Lewis Graver married his wife, the Leah Lauchnor.  They wed on January 3, 1842 when he was twenty-eight and she was twenty-one. 

They had a large family of five girls and six boys: Martin, Elizabeth Seiler, twins Adaline Wehr and Alvenia Lentz-Westlake-Weiss (see previous post), Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin, Henry, Lafayette, Edward, Emma Thomas, and Annie Graver.  (More on them appear under the footnotes below.)

It was Henry, the middle son, who took over the family enterprise of brick making and would convert this industry into the ice industry, which eventually led to their swimming, real estate, and skating enterprises. 

There are a number of sources that give the sum of the Graver lands was said to be 175-acres.  Of course, these sources could all be citing from the same source.  It encompassed all of what came to be known as the hamlet of “Graverville.”  One early account from the Lewis days referred to this estate as “The Pines.”
Here is Henry Graver (right) with his mother over his shoulder.  The others
are presumed to be siblings taken at "The Pines," the Lewis and Leah
Graver homestead, in South Lehighton.

Slate was said to be quarried there as well.  A June 1877 article said Graver’s men removed “seven to eight feet of top rock” to expose some “A-1, Vermont quality slate of uniform thickness.”  The remaining piece reads more like a paid ad by stating that customers should “invest in the company’s stock without delay.”
At far left is the current American Legion Post #314 and the original Lewis Graver homestead.  The double brick
home at right was built by Graver in 1889.

The earliest reference of the Graver Brick business devolving from Lewis to Henry can be found in a June 1882 article describing it as “H. A. Graver’s” brick yard.  Lewis would have been sixty-nine years old.  The 1905 biography tells of Lewis's retirement after eighteen years in the business in 1881.  The biography later contradicts itself stating that Henry took over the brickworks in 1884.

Certainly as Lewis gave more and more of the work to Henry, settling more into retired life, he most likely was there to provide a constant voice of both promise and woe to Henry as he advanced his business pursuits. 

In the beginning, Lewis and his family were hardworking farmers over the ancillary brick works.  But the ensuing years were good to the industrious Henry.  And yet still, as farm work revolves around the cycles of the seasons, so too did the operation of the brick works. 
From August 18, 1888 "Carbon Advocate,"
a Lehighton newspaper.

Judge D. W. Neeley visited here for the month of November in 1881.  Henry and his brother-in-law, Charles W. Lentz, received Neeley as their guest from Colorado.
 
At the time, C. W. Lentz was serving as Carbon’s coroner with several murder investigations under his belt.  In time he became a popular sheriff of the county, doing so directly after returning home from his expedition with Judge Neeley back to his hometown of Poncha Springs.

This trip points to two things: Henry’s early and apparent wanderlust as well as speaking of him as a businessman who had accumulated enough to avail himself such a trip.

Graver and Lentz traveled with Neeley and expected to stay until spring as long as “all went well.”  Lentz was newly married and left two young children back home with Henry’s sister Alvenia, a milliner in town.  (Click here for post of Alvenia and her twin sister Adaline.)   

Henry remained a bachelor until his thirtieth year, marrying Catherine “Cate” Hoats of Washington Township, Lehigh County on September 30, 1887.  He represented the first ward on the Lehighton Board of Education and was also known to be a member of the Knights of Malta.
Newly weds in front of their newly built home at 105 East Penn St.  The
Henry and Cate Graver home remains today, it's detailed woodwork intact.

Brick season started as the earth began with winter's thaw in March or April.  According to an article from October 4, 1890, early October was the month operations closed out for the year.

One of the first mentions of Lewis Graver bricks going into a Lehighton building was reported in the Carbon Advocate in August of 1879.  It stated that “J. A. Hom’s new hotel building is progressing finely…bricks being furnished by Lewis Graver of South Lehighton.”  (See footnotes below on more of the fire that consumed Hom’s first hotel.)
The Henry Graver home as it appears today at 105
East Penn Street, it's charming woodwork still in tact.

J. T. Nusbaum built his clothing store, known as “The Original Spot Cash Store” on First Street, with Graver brick in 1888.  Other notable buildings built with Graver bricks were: The old “Carbon House” which stood at the corner of First and North Streets, First Ward elementary school built in 1896, the Baer Silk Mill in 1898, as well as Third Ward built in 1902. 

Bricks were also used for many homes throughout Lehighton.  The “Carbon Advocate” reported that Lewis built a “two and a half brick home opposite the old homestead” in June 1889.  Henry Graver later built his own home of at 105 East Penn Street in the spring of 1891. 

The brickyard employed about seven men in the late 1890s and early 1900s.  Another article of 1889 mentions that Henry Graver had enough orders to keep the men “humping all summer long.” 

This clay was drawn from the banks of the Mahoning Creek at the same location where the “Graver’s Bathing Casino” would be built in 1925 (see future post).  This is the current location of  “Snyder Tire” today.

The Gravers were known for their horse corral.  Horses were kept there into at least the 1950s.  The Lehigh Coal and Hardware Company of town trusted the Graver’s to take care of its “valuable sick horse” at the “meadows of Graver’s brick yard” in August of 1891.

According to an article by local historian Ralph Kreamer, “two horses rotated a long plank in a wide circle” to power the mill.  This action crushed the clay into a malleable and pack-able material suited for filling the brick molds. 

The excess clay was scraped off, and being too pliable to be handled, the bricks were dumped onto the ground to dry over night.  The bricks made here were both the “pressed” and “common” types. 

Rain was known to come at this most critical juncture.  In June 1882 heavy storms ruined 10,000 Graver bricks.  In May 1885 storms wrecked 30,000 waiting to be fired in the kiln.
From the "Carbon Advocate" - June 3, 1882

After one day on the ground, these bricks were placed in an unheated drying shed for one week.  These drying sheds were still on the property into the 1960s, used by the Graver ice plant as garages and storage sheds.

The kilns were fired for seven days according to Kreamer.  Workers were careful to keep the temperature steady or else the brick might crack.  Bricks farthest from the fire often times lacked uniformity of size.  The ovens were at first fired with wood and later anthracite coal. 

The bricks took another seven days before they were cool enough to handle.  Thus multiple kilns were necessary.

Certainly the Gravers kept close ties to their farming roots.  Just two years before his death, the paper reported Lewis had grown a strawberry “that measured seven inches in circumference” (June 22, 1889).  Henry Graver had built a wooden truck body on top of an old jalopy truck chassis.  On the side he had painted “Gnaden Hutten Fruit Farm.” 

The Allentown Democrat reported in January 1914 that “Henry Graver is loading a car with apples and potatoes to be shipped to some part of New Jersey.”  It is unclear whether the car mentioned was Henry’s truck or whether it was a rail car.  Remnants of the orchard are still visible in the 1959 aerial photo accompanying this article.
Always innovating business ventures this April 1893 news clip shows
the beginning for what would become "Graverville."

On January 3rd, 1892, the Graver family honored their parents for their Golden Wedding Anniversary.  Gifts from their children included: a silver tea service from Miss Alvenia Graver, a silver fruit dish and cake stand from Mrs. Lewis (Adaline) Wehr, a china dinner set from Mrs. T. D. (Emma) Thomas, a plush rocker from Henry and a chest from Ed Graver.

The article stated, despite Lewis being seventy-nine and Leah being seventy-two, that both were “still enjoying excellent health.”  But just three weeks after such a hearty celebration, Lehighton lost its oldest of the pioneer residents. 

The Carbon Advocate of January 30th gave a detailed account of Lewis Graver’s life.  It also stated that his demise was the result of a “short illness with acute pneumonia.”  He had thirteen grandchildren and the paper suggested the following epitaph:  “…well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Leah survived her husband another sixteen years.  Her death came “suddenly and unexpectedly” though she was near ninety years of age.

Leah’s February 1908 obituary referred to Henry as “the retired brick manufacturer.”  Other sources say it closed in 1910.

Certainly some of these dates could be approximations.  However it was clear that by 1910, crushed shale bricks began to replace the irregular, more prone to cracking, clay bricks made by Graver.  And so the Graver yard is said to have drawn to a close. 
October 1938 aerial shot: Here we see the pool, skating rink and
large "tadpole" shaped ice dam built by Henry Graver in 1909.
The pool was built in 1925.  Note the symmetry of Henry's fruit
orchard at bottom center.

However, the industrious Henry Graver had other plans: to manufacture ice.
Here is a 1938 aerial shot of the Graver Bathing Casino.  Note the
roof line near center top of frame which is the large roller-skating
rink.  The pool's nine-foot deep end is at top near the
Mahoning Creek.  Note the change houses and refreshment
stands squaring off the pool.  The shot was taken in October as the
pool is partially drained.  The lower extreme of the ice dam is also
seen here.  The various other buildings are all Graver homes
and the beginning of what came to be known as "Graverville."
The site of the pool and change houses have been converted
into the Snyder Tire operation.

 On November 5, 1909, it was reported that Henry was building a “large icehouse on his property.”  Just two weeks later, it was reported that he was building a second one as well as an “ice dam, which covered two acres.”  Henry gave “proprietor” of an “ice house” as his occupation in the 1910 Census.

In 1911, it was reported that the Graver Ice Company filled the Stegmaier Beer Cold Storage on the Lehighton flats with ten inch ice.  A February 1912 report said Graver’s Ice House was filled with 45,000 tons of ice.
This 1959 aerial shot once again shows the pool partially drained and the
skating rink.  The newly built Route 443 bisects the ice dam.

At first the ice was simply harvested from the dams, an offshoot of the Mahoning Creek.  However the next generation of Graver’s would build a year round production facility (future post). 

A large, gas powered, circular saw was used to cut the ice into 30” x 48” pieces in the 1920s.  A channel was cut up the middle to float the ice toward the storage house.  The blocks were conveyed thirty-feet up to the top of the icehouse where successive layers were separated with sawdust to keep the blocks from melting and re-freezing together.

The ice was sold in increments of twenty-five pounds up to one hundred and sold in increments of five, ten, twenty and fifty cents respectively.  

One of the early deliverymen for Graver’s other than Stanley and Ralph Graver was Bill Rex of Lehighton who lived in one of Graver’s bungalows on the side of the mountain.
Graver Brothers Ice sign customers would hang in their
windows to indicate the amount of ice they needed as
the delivery man approached the house.  The cost for
the above increments went from five, to ten, to twenty,
to fifty cents for the above weights.

Though long out of use, the remnants of the far end of this ice dam can still be seen today.  Down the bank from “Pizza Hut” at the base of the Mahoning Mountain is a stagnant pool of water that was the far extreme of this dam. 

The near end started at the rear of today’s Snyder Tire and is now under a substantial pile of fill.  Route 443 was part of the eventual demise of this dam as it bisected these two areas in the late 1950s. 
Bill Rex delivered ice for the Gravers.  The large building to the left was the Graver Skating Rink.  The Henry Graver
home was to the right and to the rear of this photographer out of frame.  (Photo one of many courtesy of Larry Graver.)

The business was built up sufficiently enough that by 1920, Henry was retired.  Son Stanley was living with his parents and listed his job as “ice peddler.”  Henry listed “none” for his.  This business must have been profitable enough for Graver to begin to feed his passion for travel. 

In February 1917, a Palm Beach Florida paper related the following information:

“A vehicle which attracted much attention in Palm Beach and vicinity was a house-auto which had toured from Lehighton, Pa.  It is a chain driven type, capable of a speed of about fifteen miles an hour.  It is really a comfortable room, 6’x12’ in dimensions, in which are three beds for the occupants, a complete set of cooking paraphernalia, and ‘all the comforts of home.’” 
Henry Graver is center with his two friends in Palm Beach: On the chair is Daniel "Jacob" Kistler of Lehighton, the
liveryman and hotel proprietor and Frank Schwartz, originally of Lehighton and later a Mauch Chunk furniture dealer and undertaker who is on the ground right.

“The car is the property of H. A. Graver, known in Lehighton and vicinity as the man who proved that peaches could be raised on the mountainside of his locality.  With him as guests were Frank Schwartz and D. J. Kistler.”  (Kistler owned the livery in downtown Lehighton as well as the Exchange Hotel - click here for a post of those and other Lehighton businesses.)
It looks like Henry in the doorway of the modified version of his jalopy once again in Florida.  That's his wife Cate between the two life guards in the center of the picture.  This is where Henry would be inspired to build his pools.

It also mentioned that the “tourists” had complained that they had to pay an additional ten dollar license fee even though the one they had did not expire until the next Thursday.  However they did have a compliment for the Florida roads, stating that they “on the whole in excellent condition.”
This looks to be Bertha Graver, daughter of Henry and Cate with an unidentified male sight-seeing in the cotton
fields of the south during the height of the share-cropping days.
Another tourist shot of the Gravers and Frank Schwartz in an orange
grave somewhere in Florida.

The article concludes with other Lehightonians living at least part of the year in Florida: Pierce F. Rehirg (click here for the murder mystery surrounding his death), George A. Esch, Thomas Graham, George Hartung, Jacob Kistler, Frank Schwartz, Rev. H. L. Straup, George Johnson, and F. P. Semmel besides others permanently located.
This appears to be how the jalopy traveled to Florida.  However, the first trip in 1917 may have been over the entire 1,200 mile journey.  Close examination of this shot seems to show Henry and perhaps Cate and most likely their grandson
Reuben Graver.

Henry's "home-auto" on a barge crossing some Florida water.

The earliest photos show this “house-auto” next to what look to be a ramshackle home, an area of which had a framed up, walled in patio area with palms used as sheathing. 
Sometime between 1917 and Henry’s death in 1926, Henry and wife Cate would  spend most if not all their winters in Florida in perhaps a more permanent home.

Henry and Cate had three children: Ralph Henry Graver (born 1892), Stanley (born 1894) and a daughter Bertha (born 1898).  In at least one photo, it looks like Ralph in his life guard suit with his sister Bertha, Henry and his oldest son Reuben at about seven years of age in Palm Beach.

It appears that the wooden body of the jalopy mentioned in the 1917 article gets renovated at some point before 1926.  In later pictures, the wooden frame looks to have been altered and there is a lower entry step.  The tongue and groove slats on the outside look newer, of a darker stain, and the “Gnaden Hutten Fruit Farm” is gone. 
Here we see Ralph Graver with his sister Bertha along with Henry seated at a more permanent winter home in Florida.  The youngster could be Ralph's oldest son Reuben.

It is unknown for sure whether Henry drove the 1,200 miles to Florida at fifteen miles per hour on what had to be mostly dirt roads in a truck with hard tires and without shock absorbing mechanics.  

However there are two interesting pictures of his remodeled jalopy: One on a barge crossing a bay or a swamp and another on a flatbed of an “Auto Transfer” train, both of which are of the newer version.

Regardless of how he arrived there, the auto-house was featured in many pictures, pictures that give a glimpse of their lives in Palm Beach.  It looked like a life of ease, of surf and fishing, but with some adventure and a business discovery.

The Palm Beach Post article of 1917 also mentions that the Henry Graver “party visited Gus’ Baths, and motored south to Miami.”  This innocuous and incidental stop would prove pivotal to the future of Graver family business.
Here is a picture of the Gus Bath House from Palm
Beach.  The Gravers would pattern much of their
 pool enterprise uponGus's design, right down to the
wooden boardwalkand surrounding change houses.

Peter “Gus” Jordahn was born in Denmark in 1881, nine years older than Henry.  He and his wife honeymooned in Palm Beach where he eventually relocated.  He built his first bath house in 1914, and shortly thereafter built Gus’ Bath House at the east end of Worth Avenue.  It was the first bathing pools in Palm Beach to be open year round.  The pool had a wooden boardwalk around it.
"Gus" Jordahn of Palm Beach Florida.
 Picture appears courtesy of Palm Beach County Historical Society.

“Gus” was known to dive off the pier into the ocean and swim with the sea turtles.  He also had several saltwater pools where he would house sea turtles from time to time. 

There is one picture from the Graver family photo collection showing a manatee, referred to as a “sea cow,” being scrubbed down inside a drained pool from the “Kennedy Sea Aquarium.”
One of many pictures in this post from the personal collection of the
Graver family, appearing courtesy of Larry Graver.  A "seacow" or manatee
from the Kennedy Aquarium in West Palm Beach, Florida in the 1920s.

It is puzzling that Henry’s oldest son Ralph is absent from both the Lehighton and Palm Beach, Florida census records in 1920.  It is possible that he was living in Palm Beach as it is known that Ralph was employed as a life guard at Gus Jordahn’s Bathing Casino in Palm Beach, Florida.
Henry is in the surf left, his son Ralph is center standing while Cate
is seen middle right with her grandson Reuben in front of her.
The woman in the far right is a constant companion in most
pictures of Catherine.  She appears to be either a caretaker of sorts
as she is always nearby, often at Cate's feet or is perhaps a niece.
She is a family mystery.

Thus Henry had one more business venture lurking in his brain.  He was inspired by Jordahn’s Casino in function and design.  The business model also intrigued him. 
Henry, with his sons, set out to build not one but two of the largest pools in Pennsylvania at the site of the former brickworks. 




Here Henry and Kate pose to the rear of their 105 East Penn Street home with the brick yard drying sheds to their rear.
Route 443, otherwise known as the "Lehighton-Tamaqua Highway, would later be built behind them.  Again, the woman
at Cate's feet appears in many family photos whose identity is a bit of a mystery.  The woman over Henry's shoulder looks to be their daughter Bertha, born in 1898 and who died in 1933.
And here, a few years later, it appears to be the same woman with Cate on the ground.  Henry is at right.  The couple at center, could possibly be the parents of Cate Graver.  Her parents were
George and Mary Hoats of Slatedale.
The Lehighton replica of “Gus’ Baths” was built first, in 1925.  The Lebanon version, built to the same specs as the 100’ by 150’ Lehighton pool was started in 1926 and completed in 1927. 

Henry placed this new venture in the hands of his two sons.  Ralph would take charge of Lehighton while Stanley lived the summer months in Lebanon.  The pools were the largest in the state and were wildly hailed in the local papers both here and in Lebanon County.

This also led to the building of a larger skating rink larger than any currently around Carbon today.  And, subsequently, this directly led the “Graver Brothers” in the real estate industry that would carry them into the 1970s.

Henry would live to see the first but not the latter.  He passed away in his West Palm Beach winter home, his wife Cate and daughter Bertha at his side when his end came.  He was sixty-nine but led a full life.  

Cate passed at the age of sixty-three in 1931. 

Bertha, who never married, followed in 1933.  She was thirty-five. 

Please stay tuned for Post three on Ralph and Stanley Graver soon.  Happy Holidays everyone!









Footnotes  -
Lewis and Leah Graver’s Children:
Their oldest son Martin moved to Packerton and worked on the railroad, Elizabeth Seiler married and moved to the Lehigh Valley, Adaline and Alvenia took on a millinery shop with Alvenia eventually moving to Emporia, Vrigina and back to later run a boarding house on Bridge Street.  Son Lafayette farmed the Owl Creek area of Franklin Township, the current home of Graver’s Orchards, which is run by Lafayette’s great grandson Richard Graver.

T. Jefferson Graver was prone to epilepsy and lived with his mother until the day he died of an attack and drown in the family outhouse in August of 1902 at the age of forty-seven.  At the time of his death the only siblings alive were Henry and Edward, and Emma, Elizabeth and Alvenia. 


Henry and Catherine Graver’s Children:
On his 1917 draft card, Stanley stated his occupation as “farmer.” He first married Verna Nansteel in October of 1912.  They were divorced by 1918. In 1920, Stanley was living at home with his new wife, the former Sadie Dreher.  It appears that by 1930 they were separated, Sadie living alone in a boarding house and working as a cook in Manhattan while Stanley was living in Lebanon, owner of “Turkish Baths” and living with his widowed “maid,” Pauline Cole.

The fact that he was married three times in addition to a few anecdotes of Stanley attests to the nature of Stanley’s temperament.  He was fond of the horse kept on the Graver pasture and he was known to take one as far as Lake Harmony where he would allegedly entertain himself with spirits until his horse would either runoff or he would otherwise lose track of it to the point where family members would be called in the next day to help find it.  He was also known to be quick to fire workers at the ice plant without much cause, requiring his brother Ralph to re-hire the worker before he ever left the grounds.
Ralph Graver learning the ropes of the pool
business with Gus Jordahn in Palm Beach Florida.

A February 1930 advertisement for “Dr. White’s Lon-ge Hai-la Cough Medicine mentions Ralph working for Gus.  The ad builds Graver’s credibility by mentioning he and his brother manage the Lehighton and Lebanon Bathing Casinos, as well as “large ice houses, and refers to Ralph as “one of the best swimmers in the country and a former life guard at Palm Beach.”  

There was also a similar ad that appeared In November of 1926 for “Dr. White’s Lung Healer,” available from First National Laboratories of Lehighton.

The Jonas Hom Hotel Fired and the Mansion House Hotel:

Hom's wooden hotel was first converted from a barn by M. H. Barol in 1868 at the intersection of First and Ochre Streets.  Jonas Hom took over the wooden hotel after Barol and on May 23, 1879 it was ruined in a fire.  The “Lehigh and Schuylkill Railroad” depot ran behind it and it was alleged the fire started by a spark landing on the roof from a passing train.  Others said it started from within.  This hotel was later renamed “The Mansion House” and was run by Jonas Hom’s son C. A. Hom after Jonas’s death of consumption at the age of fifty-eight in 1882.  At some point in the 1880s, it was said to have been run by A. P. Claus (born 1842), a son-in-law to Jonas.  Claus was married to Sarina Hom (born 1849) who was the eldest of the Hom children.  Jonas's son Columbus H. Hom ran it until he too died of tuberculosis in 1893.  His brother Zacharias H. C. Hom ran it until retiring around 1906.  The Carbon Advocate apologized for not running the story in the next day’s edition due to the fact that the staff was assisting Hom remove valuables and helping to extinguish the blaze.
In 1906 it was run by Kistler and in 1912 it was purchased by the Central Jersey Railroad.  The Central planned to demolish it and build a station there.  However, those plans never materialized and it functioned as a hotel until February 13, 1928.  (Many thanks to Lamont "Mike" Ebbert for his research.)

Above: The proximity of the Mansion House Hotel in relation to the Central Jersey freight station at the Ochre Street where it intersects with First.  Below: First Street view looking toward the Packerton Yard.  The bricks came from the Graver brick yard.



The grave of Andrew Graver - Lewis
Graver's older brother and boat building partner-
as it rests at the Bunker Hill Cemetery in East Weissport.
~ 4 May/22 April 1809  to 10 March 1886 ~
Graver family records use the May date while
Andrew's obituary used the April date.