Sunday, April 25, 2021

Chain Bridge, Lehigh Gap -(1826-1926)

 First built in 1826, the bridge remains we currently see are now nearly 200 years old.

The Chain Bridge as seen after the May 1926 fire.  Some at the time suspected arson, or sparks from a steam engine, or faulty wiring.  No cause was ever found.  The cement roadway was being built at the time, and neither fire department from Slatington nor Palmerton could reach it.  A bridge was proposed to replace it to connect to this new roadway at a cost of one-half a million dollars.  The new roadway became useless without the bridge.  It was rebuilt for about 4 years and then the concrete and steel bridge was built.  H. T. Craig was the last president of the toll bridge company.  At the time, the bridge was said to be only one of two of its kind in the entire world (the other in Switzerland).  Craig lived in the toll house on the eastern bank until the 1950s and was bank president.  The bridge was operated as a business and for the longest time it didn't even collect enough to pay the toll taker.  Then with the advent of the car, the bridge saw increased revenue.  The weight could support about 6 tons, but the "rating" of the bridge was determined by "head of cattle."  That number I cannot find.

Fire destroyed it in 1926.  The iron used for it was said to be a marvel in its time.  Each link weighed about 130 pounds, and showed no signs of rust.  Where the links touched, the metal was highly polished from the wear.

There were a series of iron ore furnaces in the area, including one at Harrity (in the flat plane on the northern side of Big Creek, between where the old Reber House stood, and present day "Platz's Restaurant."  Some said the Reber home was built as a home for the original managers of the furnace and the subsequent hotel that is now Platz's was built to accommodate the trade brought about originally due to the industry.  Another iron works was in the Lehigh Gap area.  These of course were forerunners to the Carbon Iron Works, which was a precursor to the Bethlehem Steel plant further down river.)  Of course the iron industry followed the river from the coal mines down through the slate belt to the limestone and cement belts.  These areas were also connected by the "Inter-Urban Trolley" that once flourished just before the advent of the car.

Folks quoted who remembered driving over the chain bridge said it was a test of faith.  If you've ever walked across a suspension bridge you will recognize the sensation.  (My wife and I were fortunate to walk a foot bridge over the Giant's Causeway in Ireland.  I watched many people lose their nerve in walking over it, with how it dipped and swayed in the wind.  The chain-bridge was said to do all these things, taking you within 20 feet of the Lehigh's waters, it was rather fluid in its movements under the rolling weight of carts, wagons, and cars.)

To see and touch this history today, venture along the river seen here and also the corner of the park in Palmerton at Delaware Avenue, at the southeastern corner, there's a monument constructed to its place in history that includes actual links from the bridge.

I do have more research to post about this story but time restraints and other projects prohibit me from writing more at this time.  I hope to give this further study soon.  But as for now, enjoy these pictures and etc. 

Opposite view as above.  Nearly 200 years later, we can still see the tollhouse from the boat launch from the western shore beneath the new bridge that replaced the chain bridge.  Note the foundations to the two mid-river piers are still intact as "islands" on the river.  (Current view, April 2021).

December 1933 article.

December 1933 article.

December 1933 article.

From Ralph Kreamer Feb 1953 article.

From Ralph Kreamer Feb 1953 article.

From Ralph Kreamer Feb 1953 article - Hector Tyndale Craig (17 Oct 1873 - 9 November 1955) - 
Craig had once sued (April 1898) the borough for injuries he received in October 1896 that caused him injuries that prevented him from "working as he once could."  At the time, there was a steam-pipe from Henry Fulmer's slate quarry ran under the road outside Slatington near Lehigh Gap and was "fastened to a prop of an overhead bridge."  It discharges steam at just four feet away at a narrow part of the road.  It spooked his team of horses, both he and his lady friend Miss Shoening were setting out for the Nazareth Fair and were thrown from the carriage.  She was not as injured at H.T.  Twenty-one witnesses were called.

This monument to the chain bridge is still intact in Palmerton, at the southeastern corner of the park on Delaware Avenue.  You can still see the rough textures of the metal where it was hand-forged and shaped nearly 200 years ago.  And this should stand as a testament to our area's contribution to the iron-steel industry world-wide.  Kreamer Feb 1953.

The John Ziegenfuss boat yard.  (These articles have been sitting in a file to be posted here for a number of years.  And due to me being away from this project as long as I have, I regret to know why I have this picture here but including it anyway.)

Amazing to me: The great work Ralph Kreamer did for local history started back into the 1950s and went all the way up to this one in 1992.  I was not a good acquaintance of him in life, but however he did leave a number of files to a friend with instructions "to put them into the hands of someone who will carry it on."  And I'm proud to say I was given several of those files.  Thanks Ralph!  Ralph had an active life and shared his numerous talents in a large variety of ways.  A good life. He passed at 92 back in October 2020.

May 1926 article.

September 1937: One of Lehighton's oldest residents at the time, she was enjoying good health at 
92 years of age.  She was born 22 September 1845 in Franklin township to James and Sarah Conner who operated a farm near what is known as "Maria Furnace."  Notice how in 1937, the mention of Maria Furnace was in quotations.  This is a small indictor of the relative obscurity of what was known of this landmark industry.  When Sheriff Reber lived at the home (now torn down), there were large fields behind the home (up to where the new St. Luke's hospital is being constructed) and down to the flat meadow where the Big Creek travels through.  There was even a tunnel that ran under the road and into the basement of the home - See YouTube video.) (Also the ancient Reber garden vines and forsythia that had taken over the entire yard).

I do hope to expand on this story in the future, but until then, I hope this information is helpful to you.


As a quick comparison, and as a point of personal privilege, I present here some pictures from our Ireland trip in October 2019:

Originally built by fishermen back in the day, to get from the mainland out to the broken-off piece of land.  It's about 65 feet long and about 100 feet above a really rough sea.  The wind whips through nearly constantly.  It is a test of faith to walk it.

A toll-worker ensures the bridge does not excede the weight requirement and that no one fools around.


The Led Zep album "House of the Holy" album cover was shot here.  Giant's Causeway, Ireland.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Sensational Happiness - Top Down, Bottom Up

I hope these pictures will make do for now until I can write up an article that explains them and the unique title for this post.  This is a companion post for the Lehighton Magazine Podcast from 10 August 2020 - History Night with Ron Rabenold.

Please check back here for more story as well as additional pictures soon (The only hold up is working through a process of some other writing I'm doing right now.  I hope the delay will be worth it.  "Creation is soul-searching, nothing is ever finished" (C. Ruggles) - This is my philosophical mantra for many areas in my life and I hope you can appreciate that I feel it's ok to simply start things sometimes and allow yourself the patience to dream the end.  

This post is some sort of creation.  

It could be so more, couldn't it?  

And so are the many other creative outlets of our lives.  I am comfortable with works in progress.  I know I have the tenacity to finish them.  All good things in all good time.

We must dedicate ourselves to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Weissport bridge late 1930s.

"Wm. Hicks" was best known for his "Last Supper" paintings he did all winter long to help make ends meet while he boarded at Harry Berger's Hotel.  It's been said that half the homes of Albrightsville had one hanging in their kitchens, however I've yet to see one myself.
Hicks also enjoyed carving and small handcrafts.  He was known for his odd common-man philosophy and adages.  Once the Getz family took him in for a few weeks one winter, and old Arsula Christman Getz, Charlie Getz's grandmother noticed Hicks walk up the stairs backward.  When he came back down, the normal way, she asked him why he walked up backward.  Hicks said, "Well that way I wont have to turn around when I get up there, of course."

One-eyed William "Hicks" Bergenstock -
Originally from Allentown, most never knew his last name. 
A loving, musical family of older sisters and their mother who performed together for birthday celebrations and the like, but also a temperamental alcoholic, father who ended his life in suicide.  Hicks lived a life of solitude, hand to mouth doing paint and wallpaper work around Albrightsville most of his adult life.

Foot Bridge over the Delaware near Tinsman Lumber and Lumberton - Once was spanned by a wooden covered bridge, destroyed in 1903 flood.

A colorful history - Even during Prohibition when up to 70 workers still did shift work there.  In 1926 Federal Dry Agent Roy Edens single-handedly conducted a night-time raid of the brewery in Easton, was allegedly offered a $3,000 bribe he refused, later became of the Federal overseer of the plant, then arrested himself for producing and selling beer from the plant.  Lost his federal job because he could not read or write to pass the newly imposed civil service test, so he went back home to Butler, PA, and was arrested again as a "rum-runner."  Then the story gets sad.

Ascension of Christ by "Wm. Hicks" - St. Paul's Church - Albrightsville.  Hicks like to toy with the congregation by painting subtle little hidden pictures in this painting as it developed from week to week.

This is an unknown man from Jonas Hotel.  This picture gives the physical inspiration for Joseph Gambler's character in my book.  Gambler actually lived in the Albrightsville area.  He was a survivor the Great Fire of 1875 (May).  The fire swept Hickory Run to Hell Hollow, Wild Creek Area.

The Harry Berger Hotel of Albrightsville, as interpreted by "Wm. Hicks" - This mural appeared behind the tap room bar.

Poet Blake Lively of New Orleans makes a cameo appearance in 
"Kinglets in the Winterberry" - Mardis Gras 2020.

 Ervin and Mamie (Strohl) Ahner - at the Weigh Lock around 1917 - 
with (l-r) Esther, Dorothy,  Mamie.  Esther lived to be 106, passing away in 2016.  The last living person who lived on the canal.  A video was produced about her life on the canal, among other things.  A featured part of the segment featured her dancing at age 104.

Mamie Strohl Ahner with gun right.  During WWI, soldiers were
stationed at the weight lock to protect our industrial might during the war.

1936 Weissport Flood

Rickert Beer Recipe - Sent from a friend, perhaps Fred Horlacher.

The Dilldown Dam - Photo by John B. Stoj of Albrightsville - The Hickory Run area had many man-made dams to power the sawmills and to store logs.  The terrible and tragic flood of October 1849 that took so many lives, including the Gould family who owned the timbering company.  Their house was knocked off its foundations and tumbled under water for 500 feet.  Enough air remained inside for some of the occupants to survive.  The blacksmith West lost his wife, two girls, and two boys.  Some of his children survived.

Schnupty of Allentown - Probably not the 1890s "Jack the Hugger" of Allentown.
Guard Lock of Lehigh Canal - Lehigh Valley RR station to right - Jersey Central (center - beyond the 
foot bridge) - Dam and Harbor supported the loading of canal boats from chutes off that once came off the mountainside above left (until 1872) - Boats could also be loaded to float upstream to Lock #1 of the Upper Grand Canal that traced the Lehigh on up to White Haven.  That canal system was ruined in the June 1862 flood of the Lehigh River.  Several hundred lives were believed to be lost.  The village of Burlington (East Packerton along the river) was wiped out.  Making way for the LVRR to take control of the land and build their Packerton Yard there.

Lehighton's Brights Department Store display window 1955.  Brights's original store started and continued to run in Lansford.

Lehighton Fireworks as seen over the Lehigh's waters from the outskirts of Rickertsville 2019.

Packerton Post Office - Along the RR tracks - Post June 1862 Flood.  This was the former village of Burlington.  The new area now aptly named for the progenitor of the LVRR, Asa Packer. 

Snowy winter view of Lehighton as seen from Fifth and Coal Streets looking SE from second floor of Haas Store - 1940s.

Charles Snyder on the day they sold his family hotel to the Held family.

A younger, Charles Snyder at Hotel Jonas.

Morris Desch, a friend of John Bitterling of Allentown, did extensive hunting in Hickory Run area.

Mauch Chunk Brook Trout Company - Penn Forest 1917.

Unknown women imbibers at Hotel Jonas - "Woman with the Clay Pipe."

A Couple Drink Sips -
Up until 1986, if you got a glass of water at Hotel Jonas,
this is where you water came from.

Charles and John Snyder, sons of Jonas Snyder - The inspiration behind the characters of Charles & Jonas Reise - Brains and Brawn.  

Jonas Snyder & family- Front Center with animal on lap - c. 1890s.

Arthur and Charlie Meckes with Eddie Holtzman Hotel Jonas 1950s.

A dentist, Randy Starr, wrote the song "Green Door" for Elvis in the 1960s with a Held family relative.

Charles Snyder with pitch pines and forest fire gear - Younger, top, older, bottom.

Abraham Ahner of Long Run 1930s.

Abraham Ahner and sons - Not only does this picture suggest they ran moonshine, but...

Long Run Ahner girl with chickens.
William "Hicks" Bergenstock's simple grave at St. Paul's in Albrightsville - He bartered the plot for
the painting of Christ's Ascension.

"An Innocent Soul Sent to Eternity"
"Quilly" Henning's grave at the Old Albrightsville Cemetery at Henning and Old Stage Coach Roads - The Wenz Monument Company of Allentown took sympathy for the Henning saga from the sensational trial that ensued from the killing of Quilly (seen here, full body left, looking right) as the central character is the villain, the one-armed school teacher and part-time game warden Wilkinson, along with a cast of characters lurking in the woods, some of the human faces look like dogs.  The fight occurred over the shooting of a Henning dog.

Wilkinson was a principal in lower Carbon
County Schools.  He lost his arm in his
youth.  He is buried at Big Creek.