Monday, March 27, 2017

Hunting in Carbon County - Dying Breeds

Post #2 of 5-

A set jaw, a dog, and a belt full of ammo -
Long Run's Harvey Ahner lost his father
the same year this picture was taken in 1908.
Dying Breeds:

John Bitterling’s mountain ash tree was in full blown the first spring after the city of Allentown planted it.

Two months later Bitterling encountered his untimely death at his favorite home hotel, Dotter’s Inn, just east of White Haven.

And two months after Bitterling died, his tree died too…


From his late winter trout scouting hikes through Leslie Run, Hickory Run and Mud Run that lasted days at a time, to catching live bears to sell, to his marksmen’s precision, stories of John Bitterling approached tall tale status.

His 1917 death may have signaled the end of his kind.

Huckleberry pickers are another extinct breed.

Hunting in Carbon County Posts:
                     Post #1: Scarcity to Resurgence

                    Post #3: Laws, Tall Tales, & Accidents (Not yet Published)
                    Post #4: Hotel Jonas and other watering holes (Not yet Published)

                    The Fire and the Fury - Albrightsville and the Great Fire of Hickory Run
                   The Fire and the Fury 2 - Albrightsville - the Wilkinson-Henning Affair
                  Life on the Mountain: The Distilleries of the Pine Swamp

Each year, about early July, Great Uncle Henry (1902-1985) would appear in Lehighton, to stay at his sister, my grandmother. 
Charles Snyder, son of Jonas Snyder of "Snyders Hotel" in Jonas Pa, just
over the Carbon County line from Meckesville in Monroe County.  Built
around 1850, Jonas was postmaster there at his hotel in the late 1800s.
The village, originally known as "Sterners", was renamed after Jonas
sometime around his death in 1905.  Charles and his older brother
John ran the hotel from around 1900 to 1950 when Paul and Lucille Held
purchased the property.  John died in 1948, Charles in 1958. 

Even though he drove his car from Allentown to Lehighton, he would always hitchhike and walk back to the little hamlet where he was born, to pick huckleberries.  

When I was small, men and women still picked berries.  They’d scour Hacklebernie, the Broad Mountain, Tank Hollow, the Pine Swamp, and the “Halfway Fields” of Spring Mountain.

Keen Ahner (1932-2009) of Franklin Township was the last berry picker of that generation I knew.  He’d wait until late summer to pick his favorite for pies: dogberries.

Every few years, when the pickers found the berries too small in size or number, they instinctually set their favorite picking spots ablaze in order to take away the shade and encourage growth of the underbrush.

It wasn’t just a hobby or a way to escape the summer heat of the city.  Men like Bitterling, Uncle Henry and Uncle Keen were not only attached to the land, they belonged to it.

From the late 1700s up until now, man’s connection and disconnection from the land has impacted many species who shared the woods around us.
November 1953 - A young Tommy Held by the stop sign with Maurice
"Mox" Getz's bear in front of the Hotel Jonas.  Mox is in dark clothes
over the bear's right shoulder, his brother Lawrence Getz is near the tree.
Young Donald Zacharias is at left.  At the bear's left is Clinton Bruch
and at right paw is Charles Smith.  Tom Held's parents bought the hotel
in 1950.

Bears, Wildcats, & Catamounts:

Through a series of articles written by Altoona-area writer Henry W. Shoemaker around 1915 known as "Stories of Pennsylvania Animals" we in the 21st Century can take a peek back at the stat of the forest from one hundred years ago. 

Of bear, Shoemaker stated there once was a “hog” bear with a short nose and long ears and a long “glossy coat.”  Compare this to the “dog” bear, a long nose, short ears, a “meagre coat and tasteless flesh.” 

In the late 1800s, there was for a time a “freak” bear that had a white face.  Shoemaker also said there were once brown bears here that were related to the Grizzlies.  Certainly the occasional “cinnamon” bear today could be descended from those.

(See the paragraph on “last kills” in Post #1 of Hunting in Carbon County.  Also, see end notes for more on Shoemaker’s animal stories.)

Big cats were still being reported as “numerous” in the state in an April 1895 Harrisburg Telegraph news story.  The article provided a county by county rundown, citing each county’s own special “peculiarity” with the wild cat.

In Lackawanna they kill the pheasants, in Monroe, they kill sheep and young lambs. 

In Carbon, the “wild cat can be found at any time in the Pine Swamp after he has enjoyed his meal of poultry and game.”

After the last panther had gone extinct from the state in the late 1800s, Pennsylvania was known to be home to two varieties of what we call “bobcats” today. 

The “wildcat” (Lynx Rufus) is the cat that survives in numbers today, but in the early 1900s, there was also the “catamount” (Lynx Canadensis).

The story ended with the tale of a Dr. Warren from the southwestern corner of the state claiming a “catamount attacked me one night as I walked home from courting a girl.”  Dr. Warren went on to claim that the cat “treed me on a fence and I had to stay there until daybreak.”

The author, poking some fun, wondered what it would be like if all the young, love-struck men of Harrisburg suddenly found themselves “treed on posts and awnings until dawn, soiling their Sunday clothes.”

The whitetail was extremely rare at that time, and the number of cats were partly to blame.  The bigger culprit was the loss of habitat (see Post #1).

It’s hard to imagine the deer-rich, agrarian Mahoning Valley being devoid of white-tail.  People of the low, farmland regions of Carbon had to seek out the big woods of the Pine Swamp for their hunting adventures.
Before the days of Cabelas and other sport retailers, hotels like Jonas' Sndyers provided everything the modern sportsman of 1904 needed, including DuPont Smokeless gunpowder.  The hamlet of Jonas was originally known as Sterners.

You can take the man out of the woods….

At 84, Mahoning Valley’s Solomon Kemmerer was still a hearty soul in 1890.  The Allentown Democrat said this about the old hunter and the state of the herd:

“He is one of the pioneers who pitched his tent in the wilderness when deer, bear, and other wild game were as plentiful as domestic animals now are, and he has been a hunter and a gunner all his life and is still a good one.”

The paper went on to disclose the details of Solomon’s upcoming hunt to the Pine Swamp and how he had three stops in mind: Charles Wernet’s “Wernet Hotel,” then Freeman Getz’s place in Albrightsville, ending in western Monroe, at Jonas Snyder’s Hotel. 
Rough and Tumble Days - Jonas Snyder with dog on his lap and the rest of his family as they looked around the 1890.  Looks like son Charlie's head is near the star in the flag.  This is the original hotel first built in the 1850s.  The structure that stands today would be to the left of this frame.  Jonas was postmaster and the eventual namesake of the hamlet first known as Sterners.

The fact that an 84-year old was still hunting in those days is a testament to much.  The fact that a hunter in 1890 had to travel so far in the hopes of bagging one is a testament to just how thin the herd was.

Travel in those days was hazardous.  The fact that Solomon Kemmerer, at his advanced age, braved the traveling up and over the mountains between the Mahoning Valley and the north woods, is worth noting.

In March of 1915, Mrs. Charles Huseman of Albrightsville was traveling by team to catch a train in Mauch Chunk when the harness broke and her team of two horses ran off. 

Helplessly coasting down a steep grade, the tongue caught the ground, and the sudden stop sent both her and her young passenger Lillian Danner hurtling through the air. 

The young Danner girl struggled with her injuries to find help at a nearby home.  But it didn’t matter.  Huseman’s life was gone from a break in her neck.

This type of travel did not stop those wishing to return to nature or to find relief from the hot summers of city life.  Hotel life in northern Carbon County added money to the mountain economy.

Dogs, Birds and Rabbits - Small game hunting at Jonas Snyder's 1920s

Mountain Economy: Outfitters and Hotels

Those of the Pine Swamp were resourceful.  Making a living there was tough (see article) and many made ends meet as they could: from timbering to sawmill and stave mills, to railroading, to trading in moonshine and apple jack, to selling Canadian Christmas trees and distilling wintergreen. 

Some mountain men were hired guns and trappers who could secure a bear or a catamount or deer for a price.  On a stroll through Albrightsville a hundred years ago, one could find any number of bears and deer, hanging from front porch rafters. 
At $25 per bear, those folk could salt money away to get through the harsh mountain winter.

While many like Charles Wernet, Jonas Snyder, and Freeman “Harry” Berger ran hotels that catered to sportsman of the day, many also found a source of “pin-money” by taking in hunters to their homes. 

This tradition still continued up until recently.

Hotels catered to bringing their clients in from the train stations as far away as White Haven or even Mauch Chunk.  In the early days, this of course would be by horse team (see Jonas Snyder letterhead).  And as evidenced by the 1920 American Hotel letterhead, they picked up guests via automobile. 
A letter from Harry Berger to John Snyder
asking him to loan him five bags of the Snyder brothers
"good pig feed."  Of course Harry will gladly pay them
tomorrow for pig feed today.  Note the letterhead changing
with the times: Prior letterheads said a "team" could be
furnished, but by 1920 auto service was offered to
travelers coming by rail to Mauch Chunk and White Haven.

Northern Carbon Hunting Hotels- Getz, Wernet, Berger, and Snyder

The Getz Farm:

The Freeman Getz’s farm, catty corner from Berger’s Hotel in Albrightsville, took in up to eighteen hunters each season.  In the 1950s, the rate was $7 per day, room and board included. 

Hunters received a hot breakfast and dinner after dark as well as a cold lunch and coffee to carry into the woods for the day. 

Freeman’s son Claude carried on this tradition into the 1960s.  Claude’s son Charlie remembers sleeping on the floor each deer season.

The mountain families relied on this money.  Charlie said his parents only brought in about $2,000 in yearly income at that time.  The deer season money provided about one-fourth of their yearly income.

The Wernet House - A favorite with fishermen and huckleberry pickers:
Francis "Franz" Wernet's August 1911 obituary from the

Franz Wernet (1829-1911) received the title “Huckleberry King” because of his 4,000 acres of prime timber and huckleberry lands.  His holdings bridge the land between Albrightsville and Meckesville today.

Wernet’s youngest two boys, Frank (1860-1921) and Charles (1862-1907) had substantial hotels of their own.  Frank ran the grand Effort Hotel and Charles had the Jamestown Hotel in Lehighton, a favored spot for the men of the Packerton Yard.
Charles had two sons, Fred (1898-1963) and Charles Jr (1901-1970).  

They robbed the well-known White Haven peddlers on the road between White Haven and Meckesville in 1919.  They tried to blame their deed on the Van Horn boys of Mecksville.  Fred and Charles were found guilty. 

(More on this can be found in “Fire and Fury” Part 2 by clicking here.)

Franz died in 1911.  With the Wernet sons otherwise engaged, they found a young Allentown man to take over the Wernet House.
The Wernet House in 1912, run then by
Fred Treichler, asking for a loan of beer
and soft drinks.  Treichler was low on funds
due to his payment of a $121.75 lien.  Notice it
says they can furnish a "team" (horse and wagon)
to pick up patrons at White Haven or Mauch
Chunk Stations.

Fred Treichler (1885-1942) was a stable hand at an inn or hotel and came to Albrightsville for only a short time.  By 1918, he was living in Allentown working at Bethlehem Steel. 

His lease or a loan from the Wernet boys to run the hotel must have kept him in a constant money-pinch.

In 1912, Treichler wrote John Snyder of the Jonas Hotel asking for a loan of some soft drinks and beer, stating his funds were low from recently paying his $121.74 lien. 

However, he did enclose $5 for a gallon of whiskey and a gallon of gin the Snyder’s also sent him previous.

When Treichler left the Wernet House, he didn’t leave empty handed.  He married the farmer’s daughter Mollie, of Charles and Malinda Dotter. 

Charles Jr. took over the Wernet House until he died in June 1944.  His sons, Xavier and Fred, ran it until October 1948 when a fire reduced the hotel to its foundations.

(Interestingly, the Wernet Hotel in Effort had a similar but less damaging fire in May 1951.)

Like many hotels of that time and place, it had a tap room, dining hall, and dance floor. 

Berger’s American Hotel:

On the other corner from the Getz farm still stands Freeman “Harry” Berger’s “American Hotel.”  Like many of these hotel owners at that time, Harry Berger (1885-1946) was also a farmer.  The fall hunting and spring trout seasons were keen contributors to their yearly income. 

The hotel passed to Harry’s oldest son Thomas (1909-1959) until the 1950s.  Then Thomas’s youngest brother Howard “Chubby” (1928-2004) ran it up to the 1970s.  Chubby’s son Mark (1974-2016) still lived at the hotel as his home.  His wife Jill and children continue on there.

The hotel may have been started by the “J. Christman” who owned the property in 1876.  At that time, maps show two wintergreen distilleries and several sawmills nearby.  (See article on Wintergreen distilling.)

By 1898, the “American” was run by a Henry L. Huseman (1866-1945). 

(It is unclear if this Henry was related to the Huseman’s mentioned earlier.  Neither is he none to be related to those Huseman’s buried in the Old Albrightsville Cemetery.  There is a Henry “C.” Huseman (1882-1914) buried there.  Henry “L.” was buried in Berks County.) 

Henry L. Huseman emigrated from Germany as a child, first settling in Berks County.  By January 1898 he was appointed post master and ran the property until around 1910 when he moved back to Berks.
Back when hunters paraded their trophies
home - Jonas Snyder's 1920s

Jonas Snyder- Jonas Hotel:

Another √©migr√© from Berks County was Jonas Snyder (1830-1905).  He left West Penn Township, not too far from Lynn, around 1850.

He started a hotel and wielded significant power in the area, becoming a Monroe County Commissioner (said to have given the impetus for the building of the 1890 courthouse by hosting the other two commissioners at his hotel for a weekend.)
Jonas Snyder built a solid and steady empire.

After running the hotel for about 50 years, he slowly turned the enterprise over to his oldest and youngest sons: John (1867-1948) and Charles (1878-1958). 

John Snyder on porch of the hotel.
Besides the two boys, Jonas and Susanna Adams (1842-1919) also had five girls: Emeline Bollinger (1863-1906) (she married George Bollinger, parents to Jonas Bollinger, the great grandparents of my Haas cousins), Ellen (1865-1869), Amanda (1870-1940), and Mary (1883-1958).  

The Snyder brothers ran several enterprises from the hotel: Timbering and wood products from the water-powered sawmill, grist-mill for horse and other livestock feeds, to hunting guides and to farm implement sales, to beer, liquor and soft drink brokers, to having one of the finest vineyards and wineries around. 

(The grape vines grew over the numerous lengths of stone rows of their sixty-plus acre farm.)

Older brother John mostly handled the business end of things while the younger Charles did more of the physical work of the business, running the mills and serving as guide to the hunters and fishers.
John Hooke's 1920 letter seeking a respite
for his wife and daughter away from the
city heat of Philadelphia.  Given Hooke's title
and the fact his secretary typed his letter,
John Snyder's week rate quoted at the bottom was
most likely skewed to the high side of their rates.

The going weekly rate wasn’t consistent, the chief factor determined by the size of your bank account.  John quoted a young executive from Philadelphia $11.00 for the week.  To remember this, he referenced the quoted price on the bottom of the letter he saved.

John Hooke, new to the Philadelphia area from Ohio was on business in Wilkes-Barre in the spring of 1920.  He was looking for a place for his wife and daughter to “escape the city heat.” 

Local bands would play concerts in Snyder’s Grove, just behind the hotel, along the cool waters of Sand Creek. 

Other fairly local people reserved the grounds for picnics, like the one set up in by Mauch Chunk’s William E. Bevan for the Carbon Court House gang. 

Local photographer Philip Kishpaugh set up a dinner at the hotel in exchange for his Pineforest Concert Band playing a concert at the grove.
The letter from Pineforest Concert Band
treasurer Philip Kishpaugh setting up
a concert date and dinner at Jonas.

Philip Kishpaugh (1874-1948) with his
camera equipment.

Both picnics were in the spring of 1920.

Jonas could be a stubborn sort.  Even though he lived to see his sons expand their trade and by building a larger hotel next to his original, he quietly refused to set foot into the new confines.  He died in 1905.
Not opposed to the outdoors and a beer - This 1920s
Jonas Hotel customer looks at ease in an era when
women like Amelia Earhart were carving new
boundaries for women and women's rights.
For a good, thought provoking look at the struggle
women had to over come to wear pants is worth a 
look click here.

More Mountain Money:

Carbon County’s current status as a leading national tree farm grower has its roots with the men of northern part of the county. 

Men like Harry and his son Thomas Berger, along with Roger Meckes and others, traveled to Canada and Maine each year in October to oversee the cutting of wild pines.  The trees were then freighted back home to Carbon via railroad. 

(Canadian law prohibited non-citizens from cutting Canadian trees.  Men like Meckes and Berger were relegated to simply “overseeing” the enterprise by hiring Canadians.)

One article implied that these hucksters could make over $1,000 on four freight cars of trees.

Another story sometimes told talks of Meckes, flush with his winter earnings and looking for a place to flaunt it, stopped in at the Jonas Hotel, now under the ownership of brothers John and Charlie Snyder. 

Meckes laid out seven, one-thousand dollar bills, proclaiming them to be the “Seven Books of Moses.”  (Thousand dollar bills were only printed in 1928 and 1934.  They had Grover Cleveland on them.)

Charlie Snyder turned from what was laid out before him, mechanically rolled the  dial of John’s floor safe by his desk, and retrieved what looked like two giant balls of twine. 

A closer inspection revealed that these small cantaloupe-sized orbs were actually balls of money.  Of which, Charlie Snyder, in a thick Dutch accent, presented as the “Old Testament” and the “New.” 

Many transactions passed through the physical bounds of the Hotel Jonas.  John Snyder’s clout and business savvy were often called upon, either to mediate a property transfer or because folks knew he could help them in a financial pinch. 

Many letters and notes saved from his record attest to the loans and deals he held and made.  This is thanks to the foresight of Tom and Ellen Held.  Tom’s parents owned the hotel from 1950 to 1970.

Even by 1904, Jonas’s son John was known to take on real estate holdings for people in need.  In October of that year, Pierce Meckes solicits John Snyder, to buy his farm and every “sing” (I always knew the Dutch to say the word ‘sing’ for ‘thing’ but never saw it actually written before.)

Meckes asked for $450 for the whole works.  He most likely had given up of farming, as he had already moved off to the city, Bethlehem, working at a lumber works there.

“Going Dry” Prohibition & Revenuer Troubles
John Snyder sits at his desk while Charles sees to the bar in this 1905 shot.  Notice the Moxie signs.  Moxie was outselling Coca-Cola at this time.  Also note what the patron of the hotel wrote home on this postcard: "This is where you get good applejack."  Tom Held still owns the clock today.

The Snyder brothers were known to have one of the best wine cellars in Monroe and Carbon Counties, as evidenced by this letter on the eve of prohibition taking effect. 

Snyder’s cousin, Atty. Edward Sitler of Mauch Chunk, requested a few bottles or a quarter barrel of some of their premise made wines, such as wild cherry, blackberry or grape.

Another customer at Jonas hotel wrote them to ask if Charlie wouldn’t mind doing some “jacking” for him.  From an earlier visit and conversation with Charlie, the patron was hoping they would let a barrel of cider out to ferment in the winter elements and then “draw off” that which didn’t freeze. 

By repetition of this process the resulting liquid was a high-proof alcohol.  This freeze distillation is how early colonials produced their “apple jack.”

With the repeal of Prohibition at the end of 1933, federal and state regulators buzzed local taverns like angry hornets.

The Bergers ran into some trouble with the revenue men when it was discovered that his wife Darlene had signed for the hotel liquor license renewal. 

Harry was up in the north woods securing Christmas trees when the application to renew arrived.  Agents served them notice in February 1935.

Later, federal agents arrived and seized several barrels of apple jack.

Then in July 1935, state agents once again raided Harry Berger’s “considerable supply” of applejack and placed him into custody.

Unusual Requests:

Many of the patrons of Snyder’s Hotel made various requests.
This 1900 fur price list was found
among the papers of John Snyder.
It was important for John to know
the value of furs and skins as he was
often times asked to provide them
for his customers.
One man from Red Hill wrote a letter thanking John for mailing him the fox.  See the 1900 fur prices (this list, found among Snyder’s things, was important for him to know, helping them to set prices for the animals they “caught” for their customers.)  A fox fur was paid $1.25 in those days.

The customer sent John $6.  Obviously, John was a good businessman.  But it appears from his general free nature of these transactions, he sent the fox but it never seems like he demands a price. 

The man volunteered the amount of $6 to him and asked if that was sufficient for the animal plus shipping.  The man ends the letter stating how much he’d like a “catamount” (bob cat) “if John ever catches one.”

Amby Mertz shot a gray fox on his Mahoning Valley farm in 1924.  His taxidermy bill was $10.
Ambrose Mertz's 1910 full mounted grey fox taxidermy
bill from Tamaqua's C. W. Hoffman.

Dr. E. Stanton Muir, whom his veterinary doctoral students at the University of Penn affectionately referred to as “Eddy” was another loyal customer of the Snyders, though he also fished and hunted at a few other Pocono mountain hotels and fisheries. 

Those students were entertained by his stories of his hunts in the “wild woods,” but seemed to call into question who actually shot his bear.
The bottom of Dr. E. Stanton Muir's 1910 letter to John
Snyder asking for "a pair of birds" for up to $1.50,
"and no one will have to know about it."

Certainly his line “and no one will have to know about it” deeply implies that Dr. Muir might claim as his own, the things shot by others. 

Muir used that line when he wrote John Snyder asking for “2 birds” to be sent to him, saying he was willing to pay “up to $1.50” for the pair.  Certainly if Snyder didn’t find that price appealing, he wouldn’t reply. 

75 gallons of barrel whiskey receipt of Jonas Snyder
 “This is the place to get good applejack”

Near Tall Tales - Tough Going in the Snow:
These are the third generation Snyder men of Jonas Snyder Hotel in the 1930s.

Many city-folk came to northern Carbon to hunt and lived to tell of it.  Allentown citizens, James Ettinger and Ralph Butz had a tough time bringing in their 135-pound buck shot in Albrightsville in early December 1912. 

After stalking for 2 and a half days, they shot a tracked a deer in six to eight inches of snow, ten miles from their camp in Albrightsville.

They carried the deer out to a road on their backs for a mile through snow drifts into the night.  Luckily a team of horses came by and picked the men up, but the team got stuck in the snow, requiring the men to dig for two hours to get going again.

They also shot five pheasants, a “big” jack rabbit, and four cottontails.  They planned on mounting the deer as a remembrance of their harrowing time.

Getting Back to the Garden

Men like Carlos Baer, son of Eugene Baer the silk mill owner of Lehighton, (he was uncle and namesake of Carlos Teets, current Lehighton resident) found both solace and camaraderie with his college friends in 1934.

The cover of the booklet sent to Baer read:
“Believe it or not- This is an Invitation for your 1934 vacation.”  

Then more pages of various inspirational poems and prose about the benefits of getting away.  

The last page said: “14 days in God’s Country: no women, no razor, no cares- Will you be with us?…Sign on the dotted line!!”

The space was signed by Curtis Clark, Red Sondheim, John Lauler, and Alvin Goethe.  Each person had the job of mailing it to the next person on the list (no chain letter threats needed to be made, it was all implied).

John Bitterling and Other Near Tall Tales:

Post #3 will present among other things some of the “tall tales” of area hunting.  However, there are some accounts of mountain life in Carbon County that edge up to qualifying as a tall tale.

Certainly shooting a large buck in the north woods of Carbon is a possibility.  But even the largest deer taken around the valley farmlands rarely exceed 200 pounds.

Berks County brothers, dentist Clarence DeLong and his sixteen-year-old brother David took to the swamps of Albrightsville and each came home with a deer. 

Dr. Clarence bagged a 150-pound Y-buck while David landed a deer topping 250-pounds (December of 1915.)  The elder DeLong said he saw five others.

John Bitterling:

As mentioned at the start, John Bitterling was one who relied on the hotel of the Hickory Run area.  He was one Allentown “city-slicker” who felt more at home in Carbon’s north woods. 

In early April of 1910, amid the early spring thaw and runoff, John Bitterling took his dog for a three day trek through the dense thickets of Hickory Run, Mud Run, and Leslie Run on a 40-mile circuitous walk from White Haven to Meckesville (the headwaters of Mud Run). 

One doesn’t set out on this type of journey just to scout trout, they do it because the land calls them.

          “It would seem from this fact, that man is naturally a wild animal, and that when taken from the woods, he is never happy in his natural state, ‘till he returns to them again.”

                   ~Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and one                        who trained Merriwether Lewis on medicine and science at the American                      Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, the first think tank for science in the                    United States.  Rush formed the society with Ben Franklin and others.

In August of 1897 (at the age of 40) Bitterling found a 200-pound black bear in a trap along the Mud Run.  Taking the bear alive in shackles and chains, he walked the bear back to Albrightsville to be sold. 

(Game was often sold to hotels and inns all “hustle matches,” shooting contests of that time held –See Post #1).

In the fall of 1901, Bitterling along with Wilson and Morris Desch, brought home 18 pheasants, 2 quail, and 4 rabbits in late October 1901.
Wilson and Morris had two other brothers and all four were avid marksmen and members of the Allentown Rod and Gun Club.  They were born on a Lehigh County farm of their minister father Henry. 

One October morning in 1909, Morris Desch challenged his friends to a squirrel shoot.  They met that morning at the Lynnport Hotel and made a gentleman’s wager as to who could fill their gunnysack with the daily limit of six. 

Desch was back by 1:00, while the last man returned at 4:00.  Landlord Brobst made the men a fine squirrel stew, the losers bought the drinks I’m sure.

At the same time, Desch’s friend John Bitterling was hunting in the Poconos with other Allentown friends, the newspaper account told.

Bitterling’s adventures seem to border on the verge of tall tales, though nothing in his stories indicate any alternative truth telling. 

Bitterling was actually born in Jim Thorpe.  His family apparently happy and intact prior to his father’s service as 1st Lieutenant for Company F of the First Pennsylvania Rifles, the famous “Bucktail Regiment” (the men wore bucktails on their hats). 


The Bucktails were a well-known and respected sharpshooting regiment.    
Certainly a fact not lost here is that John Bitterling competed far and wide in trapshooting competitions across the state, as far away as Altoona.

See the end notes for more of the John Bitterling and 1st Lieutenant J. Charles Bitterling’s story.
Close-up of the fly-fisher from the letterhead of Brook
Trout Company hatchery of Penn Forest from 1917.
This is the picture I have of John Bitterling in
his days of stalking Mud and Leslie Runs.

Maybe you could say John Bitterling never had a master, a confirmed bachelor (and so were the Desch men). 

And maybe his true grit, his hearty and hale lifestyle, was borne from a “bitter” angst, of his loss, of growing up in the shadow of the hero’s battlefield death of his father when he was just a few years old.

But it was Bitterling’s mother who braved a journey into the war zone to retrieve her husband’s remains from the battlefield just eight days later.

Maybe the determination of such a mother is what instilled this truth into Bitterling’s soul. 

The Bitterlings, the Wernets, the Snyders, the Bergers, the Getzs, the Dotters…the Uncle Keens and Henrys…they are all gone to us.  And like the last cries of the wolves, wolverines, and panthers that once bounced off the hills of Carbon County, their voices can still resonate within us, by taking the time to hear their stories.

History freely offers us these dream-like characters.  There is an unquestionable loss that burns in the living since the time of the Garden, from the days when the wilderness was our primal home.

And nothing can fulfill that need except the next journey to the wild.

Postscript: This post is dedicated to Tom and Ellen Held, for their patience and gracious help in writing this piece.  Most of the images appear courtesy of their collection.  All rights reserved, Tom and Ellen Held.

1.     John Bitterling

John Bitterling died at 2:00 AM in Kidder Township on June 6, 1917.  He was sixty.
He was staying at his favorite inn, the home hotel of Ella Dotter.  Her husband Melchoir died the previous fall of Brights disease.  (His father Heinrich originally came from Dotter’s Eck, near Hotel Jonas.)

Of dying breeds, Dotter was a cattle herder (probably running cattle from the rails to White Haven butchers), winter green distiller, and a small time inn operator.  

Bitterling’s obituary said he was up for fishing (an avid fly fisher) and to provide an estimate to run some pipes in the clubhouse of Colonel Trexler’s Hickory Run game preserve, then the size of about 2,000 acres.  This land of course became Hickory Run State Park.  (See Post #1 for more on that.)

It seems like Bitterling circle of friends were a coterie of bachelors.  With him at Dotter’s Inn, was James Nonnemacher, a self-described “capitalist” and Allentown coal dealer.  (He lived with his unmarried sister and brother, outliving them both as well as outliving two house keepers.)

Also with them was Allentown’s Harry Scheldon, a wooden stave barrel maker living at Barndt’s hotel.

About six months before his death, Bitterling presented a mountain ash tree to the city of Allentown.  Said to have bloomed “profusely” that spring, the tree seemed to be as hale and hearty as John himself.

But two months after his death, the tree too was dead and removed, as noted in the Allentown newspaper.

John Bittlering grew up without a father.  J. Charles was second in command, First Lieutenant of the First Pennsylvania Rifles, also known as the Pennsylvania Bucktails.

The Bucktails were drawn out of a defensive posture around Washington DC in September 1862 as the Confederates were striking north into Maryland in what would become the bloodiest two-day battle of the war, Antietam. 

But as the men, under general command of Lancaster’s John Reynolds, hero and martyr of Gettysburg, Company F was part of 300 men asked to advance as skirmishers to force the Confederates left.  The Bucktails came under enfilading artillery and sharpshooter fire at South Mountain.

According to the regiment history, Bitterling cheered on the men of his command with his last breath.  He was buried on the battle field as the army quickly advanced toward Antietam Maryland.

Given this an almost rare foray into the north, meant that thankfully Bitterling was buried on friendly ground.  This allowed his young wife Celinda and her father the ability to track down his body and return it to Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe) to be buried with military honors. 

Celinda’s father was Daniel Keiper originally from Bowmanstown and a verteran of the War of 1812.  At the time of J. Charles’ death in September 1862, Daniel was 68 years old. 

Celinda’s mother was Salome Bowman or Bauman, the original family of “Bowman’s Station,” Carbon County.

Celinda and her young family moved to Allentown to be with her family.  Harriet would grow to become an Allentown Public School teacher and John became a plumber of his own shop.  He also had two other sisters Ella and Eva.

Celinda died in January 1917 and John unexpectedly followed her in July. 

J. Charles Bittlering was 34 and had four children who lived to adulthood.  Charles Henry was born in 1856 and died a year later as well as Gustavus Adolphus born in 1857 died in 1858.  John had three sisters. 
Portrait of 1st Lieutenant
J. Charles Bitterling of the
Pennsylvania Bucktails
before he was killed at
South Mountain, Sept 1862.

As the son of a veteran killed in action, Bitterling entered a trade school for fatherless sons of veterans in Texas.  He then set up his successful plumbing business with a partner.

He was director of the Pennsylvania State Sportsmans’ Association, member of the Elks, treasurer for the Master Plumber’s Association, Chamber of Commerce, director of the Hunter’s Range Association, Schwanewert Recreation Association, North End Gun Club, Little Lehigh Strollers, and the local Red Cross.

The Master Plumber Association held a surprise meal in Bitterling’s honor in January 1907, presenting him with a gold watch fob and gold seal.  They said though he was surprised, he was able to make comments suitable for the occasion.

His remains were received the next day at his home he shared with his sister, school teacher Miss Hattie Bitterling.  He also had two other sisters, Mrs Ella Jones, and Mrs. Eva Wenner, her husband John was the vice-president of the Allentown National Bank.

2.     Shoemaker’s “Stories of Pennsylvania Animals” circa 1915
Today’s deer harvests are much higher thanks to all of the conservation and applied science to Pennsylvania’s wilderness.

The habitat has stabilized from the impact of the wild ravages man inflicted here.  It could be said that Carbon gave its first born son to America’s growth, its world dominance today is rooted in the fuel our area gave, the subsidence of anthracite coal mining and the deforestation of our old growth forest.  So during Shoemaker’s time, our woods were still reeling from the impact.

Concerning fur bearing animals: the fisher, otter, beaver, and wolverine, Shoemaker said all four were once here in plentiful numbers.  And despite a healthy resurgence of river otters today, the wolverine are all long gone. 

Of fox, Shoemaker claimed the grey fox as the native one to the state.  The now more common red fox was imported in the late 1700s from Europe by hunters who claimed it gave better chase to the hounds.

Of big game, buffalo and elk were once native here.  Now elk are back on the rise. 
Of “stags,” it was said that the central part of the state once had a larger variety deer than exists today.  The northern Pennsylvania Mountains had a breed larger than the current herd. 

Our current herd descends from those stocked here from Michigan by Dr. Kalbfus from around 1900-1920 and from a smaller Southern Virginia deer. 

3.     Meckesville:
Meckesville still exists in the minds of many today, though a large tract of it has become Mt. Pocahontas development.  In fact, the current club house was the former home of Roger Meckes (1880-1958). (His father was Samuel Meckes (1834-1908), the youngest brother to Adam Meckes (1815-1897), brother to near oldest brother of fourteen Philip Meckes (1819-1900.)

It is little wonder the area was named this in light of so many.  One of Roger’s first cousins was Adam’s son Pierce (1860-1916).  By 1904, Pierce had given up on the farm life with his young family, having seen too little reward for the effort he applied.
Roger was a well-known potato farmer as well as Christmas tree dealer (see “Fire and the Fury” Post #1 for more on him).  Roger Meckes was land rich, but money poor toward the end of his life.

And that is how Robert Getz, “the Potato King” came to own his land.  The many farms of that area, Getz, Meckes, and Kibler, mainly grew potatoes there up until recent years.

4.     The Strauchs of Allentown
Their parents, Heinrich Strauch and Anna Foesche, came to America separately, both settling in Tamaqua’s “Dutch Hill” in the 1870s.  Heinrich was a butcher, later settling in Hacklebernie.

They lived in Lehighton for a time, but then moved to Allentown.

Only three of the eleven Strauch siblings ever owned a car.  The Strauchs simply walked.  Besides Henry, Edwin and Carl also owned cars, but that didn’t stop Carl, a Lehigh Professor of Literature, from taking “grand walks” of 12 or 15 miles or more.

Uncle Carl, a professor of the Romantics and especially Thoreau and his "social disobedience," had one daughter named Helen who grew to look out for her fellow man by adopting many children with special needs through a Roman Catholic agency. 

Carl's wife Helen was the daughter of D.G. Dery of Catasauqua, who controlled more silk mills than anyone else in the world. 

She appears to have been swept up by the winds of disenchantment, enfranchising herself with a Native American and Catholic Priest involved in a smaller group of the Plowshares Movement called the Silo Pruning Hooks. They took a jackhammer to a missile silo.  She served the longest prison sentence for peace activism of anyone in U.S. history.
All the other Strauch siblings worked in silk mills, except Anna Margaret, who was a telephone operator supervisor.  Anna Margaret, Leonard, and Lizzy never married. Kate’s husband was blacklisted for starting a union and “ran-off” to Canada.   

Uncle Henry’s huckleberry jaunts would begin at Hacklebernie and then cross the Switchback Railroad to end on the other side of the mountain in Nesquehoning.  It was always easier for him to hitchhike than to retrace back to his car.

Armed with two, one-quart lard pales tied around his neck with butcher twine, Henry was gone from morning to supper, always coming home to his sister with two full pales.  She’d make pie, always with lard in her homemade crusts.