Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hunting in Carbon County - Scarcity to Resurgence

Post #1 of 5:

Hunting is Carbon’s second skin.  Though we’re not unique in this regard, life here is inextricably tied to it.

For hunting reaches beyond basic sustenance, it pulls us onto the proving ground, and connects us to this land.

The comradery and the day in the woods is enough for some.  But for many, a day without something to drag out and brag about is devastating.

John Deppe shot his first deer in December 1873.  Young John was the son of Henry Deppe, a well-known Pine Swamp saw-miller.  His Hickory Run area deer dressed out at 115 pounds.  And John was just one month shy of his seventh birthday.

Escaped from Mr. Ash's Game preserve on the Mahoning Mountain: Lewis Steigerwalt, reclined front left was the owner of the hotel, post office, and farm implement business at the crossroads of Andreas, Schuylkill County, just over the Carbon County line from East Penn.  This 1923 picture of 16 buck hunters proudly displaying this fine 8 or 9-point buck is a testament to the scarcity of deer in our area at this time.  The back of the photo says "first deer shot in Andreas," certainly deer were so scarce that shooting one was a cause to take multiple poses with it.  More about this story and the men in the picture can be found in the end notes of this post.
Were these men cursed?  Many died through unfortunate circumstances, see End Notes for details.

                    Hunting in Carbon County Posts: 
                    Post #2: Dying Breeds
                    Post #3: Laws, Tall Tales, & Accidents (Not yet Published)
                    Post #4: Hotel Jonas and other watering holes

                    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  

And this is Lehigh.  Once again…
And still the timid deer come down
To drink, at eve and morning;
And still the laurel blooms as bright
As in my life's glad dawning....

~Augusta Moore, from Poems of Places Anthology 31, 1876-79
(The complete poem is reprinted in the End Notes section #3.)

This is a young Snyder boy of Kresgeville
with his first buck in the early 1950s.

Today, Pennsylvanians expect to harvest a minimum 300,000+ deer per year.  Many youth have good reason to have high hopes of filling their scopes with that magical chestnut-brown hair.

But John Deppe’s first deer in 1873 was rather significant.  The harvests in those days were exceedingly slimmer than those in our modern age. 

This is the first of three installments that will examine the record of big game hunting in our area over the last 140 years.

The Rabenold-Finsel gang of Spring Hill Mountain
 29 November 2004.
   Even a button-buck is cause for celebration, especially
when it's the only deer shot that year in camp.
A son's first deer is a special type of pride for fathers.  That buck
season was one of the many exceptionally warm ones in recent years.

In the Beginning

You have to begin at the start of it all, when man first evolved into tribes to see the evolution of this special rite of passage.

From Colonial times up into our nationhood, many area farmers were known as “long hunters.”  The most famous one in this area was perhaps Philip Ginter who discovered coal in Summit Hill in 1791 while out hunting deer.

Hunters like Ginter were farmers first.  And once all of their crops were turned in for the fall, they turned their attention to hunting. 

Not just for a few days mind you.  A “long” time entailed, two and three weeks.  They’d start in late November or early December and would promise to be home for Christmas.  Thus our modern day season was set.
Long Days in Camp - Even into the "modern" era of hunting
did men hunt "long."  This hunter, a patron of John Snyder's
"Jonas Hotel" speaks of his glum life back at work after
17 days hunting in Jonas, just over the Carbon County line.  Many of the
patrons of these old hotels were doctors and professionals from the city.
Many more letters and pictures from these men will be posted
in the next installment of "Hunting in Carbon County." (A link
will appear here once it is finished and posted.)

Ginter, like many small farmers of the Mahoning Valley, and valleys just like it, looked for the “buck season” to help expand their land holdings.

Their goal wasn’t only to salt away venison for the winter, but also to gather as many deer skins as possible.  Each skin garnered a price of $1.  Hence the term “buck skin” came to be applied and the male deer forever known as a “buck.”

In those days 100-acres of farm land could be had for $100.  Some hunters were known to expand their farms at 100-acre clips every few years mainly from money for buck skins.

One of the most famous of all area hunters, an almost mythical man, was Jeremiah “Old Jerry” Greening of “Rattlesnake,” a hamlet of Blooming Grove, Pike County. 

His farm was just northeast over Monroe County from Carbon and he was known to have killed “upward of 500 deer” at a time when deer were much more scarce than they are today.

Jerry farmed and had many sons who also hunted.  Many of his exploits were told and retold all over the country in syndicated newspaper stories in the 1870s and into the 1890s.  More will be told of this man in the “Tall Tales” section of Post #3 in this series.
With an old set of elk horns, this
hunter keeping his venison high
and dry.  A Kresgeville area deer.

Uncle Jerry Greening and his son Case from Pike County
captrued three deer alive -a buck, a doe, and her fawn.
The Blooming Grove Park Association was negotiating a
purchase price for their breeding "inclosure." - Dec 1873

Game Preserves:

It could be said that modern deer conservation started in Carbon with Josiah White.  He was no doubt the first to start a game preserve here in Carbon though he wasn’t the last.

White took up residence here in the winter of 1817/18 to build the “Stone Turnpike,” the origin of the Switchback Railroad.  He was the progenitor of the “the Old Company,” the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company.

By 1828, he built the first of the grand homes in what is today Jim Thorpe.  He called it “Parkhurst” where Kemmerer Park is today. 

Even before he retrieved his family from his home outside Philadelphia, White brought his eighty-year old mother here.  And before he called for his children and wife, he built Carbon’s first game preserve for deer, elk, and peacocks to entertain his soon to arrive children.

He was not the last to do so.  Asa Packer had one too.  And so did T. A. Snyder, the builder of Flagstaff Park, the inter-urban trolley line, and the incomparable Colonial Court Mansion in Lehighton. 
Descendants of Henry Melber still do two things as all
the successive Mauch Chunk Melbers did: Work as undertakers
and hunt, and not necessarily in that order.  Those who know Tom
and his son Nate Melber will attest there are no truer sportsmen
than they are.  For more on this story and how the Melbers
were fully exonerated, see the End Notes of this post.

One upstanding hunting family in Carbon was once wrongly accused of hunting a deer from Snyder’s preserve.

The first evening of Doe Camp at Little Acres
Farm, Kresgeville, 15 December 1959.

The men and boys of Little Acres Farm - Doe Season December 1959 - Dreaming of sugar plums and venison.
There were many efforts by the state in these days that we take for granted today, such as the game lands. 

In July of 1914 Dr. Joseph Kalbfus and Dr. Penrose of the State Game Commission visited Penn Forest township to select and declare a site for a game preserve, to be stocked with deer from Michigan. 
Dr. Kalbfus not only visited Penn Forest to set up
a deer preserve area, but also implemented the re-stocking
of deer from Trexler's Preserve to counties
in need of deer: Lehigh, Potter, Elk, Berks,
Wyoming, and others in Jan 1917.

The men concluded that “few places in the state afford such an excellent place for raising deer than in Penn Forest Township.”

People went to great effort to stock deer in this area.  In the fall of 1890, Henry O. Hughes of Carbon Hill, Alabama, helped to restock deer here by shipping two first-year fawns to his father-in-law William Evans in Slatington.

The article said the deer still had their spots, which the newspaper account compared to the spots of a leopard.  This evidence suggests that the average citizen did not have first-hand knowledge of what a young deer looked like, evidence of their rarity at that time.

In 1891, the “famous Alligator Club of Emmaus” sold their three “handsome” deer to Jacob Reichard of Haymaker’s Island on the Lehigh, near Allentown.  

“Two of the deer were bred in captivity, and all of them are very fine, and as thoroughly domesticated as house cats.  That they will prove a great attraction to visitors to the island cannot be doubted.”

These two articles provide a curious glimpse of life around white-tail deer here and provides ample evidence that deer were considered a rare animal indeed.

Colonel Harry Trexler
This hearty buck was shot between Trachsville
and Little Gap, where Russell Bollinger was known
to hunt.  Shown here is Russell's first wife
Marian (George) who died of cancer
in 1938 at the age of 28.  

No one embodies the era more than Colonel Harry Trexler.  A self-made millionaire of the Lehigh Valley, Trexler made a fortune in the Portland cement business.  But he was also a logger, purchasing thousands of acres of timbering land.

The present day boundaries of Hickory Run State Park were purchased by Trexler.  He remodeled the former Samuel Gould homestead and entertained guests with apple-jack punch and fishing jaunts to nearby Sandy Spring.

The Gould property is adjacent to the Hickory Run cemetery where members of the Gould family are buried along with other logging and sawmill families of the area.  Among them, those who drown in the flash flood caused by the breach of a 70-acre sawmill dam in October of 1849.

Trexler planned on donating the land for public recreation.  He said, “We live only a short distance from the anthracite coal region where there is scarcely a blade of grass growing…”  The area lacked deer habitat and Trexler was fixed on improving it.

He wanted men and their families to have a place for outdoor recreation, “rather than have them loafing around pool rooms and saloons fomenting anarchism, I would like to see Hickory Run developed into a state park.”

Several state agencies (the Game Commission, Fish Commission and the Department of Forest to name a few) commenced campaigns to receive the park from Trexler’s will and trust.

Trexler passed away in a car accident in 1935, and oddly, had taken the lands out of his will due to the bureaucratic wrangling.  Eventually, trustees of his estate oversaw the land transfer into the park and hunting lands we have today.

One recipient of Trexler’s will was Joseph Heimbach.  The Heimbach farm is the last large farmstead, on both sides of Route 534, after Hawk Falls and before the camping area.

Heimbach or his surviving wife, would receive an annual salary from the estate to the amount of $500 per year.  Heimbach may have been some sort of caretaker or overseer of Trexler’s land or perhaps payment for the right of way through his farm.
The smallest 6-pointer ever?  Another deer shot by Russell Bollinger
of Trachsville sometime in the 1930s.  His father was Jonas Bollinger who
was a nephew of John and Charles Snyder of Jonas Hotel.  The hotel
was started by Jonas Snyder around 1850.  He had two boys (John and Charles)
who ran the hotel from 1900 until 1950.  Russell's grandmother Emaline
Bollinger was one of four of Jonas Snyder's daughters.  More on the Jonas
Hotel will be written in Post #2 and Post #4.

A 1954 photo of Col. Trexler's Game Preserve - Lehigh County

The Bizarre and the Curious

Colonel Trexler also endowed a large game preserve just south of Carbon in Lehigh County.   In March 1911, a trainload of wild game (forty does, ten bucks, and three buffaloes) were unloaded at Colonel Trexler’s game preserve. 

The three rail cars delivered the animals from a preserve in New Hampshire as well as ones captured from the “Blue Mountain Forest.”
January 1917 - How rare was wild game at
this time?  This Allentown Democrat article
discusses released 8 deer, rabbits, and one
wild turkey from the Philadelphia Zoo.  One.

The train arrived in Coplay at 8:00 PM March 2nd.  Two and sometimes three crated deer fit into one wagon.  However, each buffalo, weighing about 1,500 pounds, would each take up their own wagon en route to the preserve.

A total of forty wagons were used to haul them the three miles from the station, the “menagerie of wagons resembling a circus procession never seen in this county.”

Lehighton also had a game preserve, created by William Ash in 1910.  Many are familiar with the section of land west of Baer Memorial Park known as “Ashtown.”  Ash’s home still stands there, a grand example of the Sears & Roebuck catalog homes of that time.

Ash’s preserve was located on the Mahoning Mountain near what is today known as “Graverville.”
Wild Turkey:
A rare 1950s sight on the Barlieb Farm
in Kunkletown. 

The first deer shot in the Andreas area in a generation was actually a buck that escaped from Ash’s preserve.  (Note the picture above.)

 “Scarce and Scattered” - 1880-1930

In this time period, lumber was king in Pennsylvania and Trexler was only one of many Pennsylvanians who started their fortunes in lumber. 

Williamsport was at one time the lumber capital of the world.  In 1899 Pennsylvania reached its peak of annual lumber production with 2.3 billion board feet of lumber harvested. 

It made many in the state into “millionaires,” the moniker for Williamsport High School today.  Today, Pennsylvania boasts of 59% or 16.7 million acres of forested land.

By 1900 there were only nine to 9-13 million acres of forest in the state.  Compare this number to the estimated 28 million acres back to William Penn’s time in the 1680s. 
The squeeze on big game was on.

The Great Pine Swamp of northern Carbon County was filled with lumber operations.  The plentiful old growth hemlock trees were cleared, feeding the stave mills for barrel making and the slab bark sent to the many leather tanneries, Lehigh Tannery being one of the largest in the world.

Indeed the area economy revolved around timber and hunting.  Carbon’s place at the hub of the world-wide distribution of anthracite coal placed its own pressures on the woodlands. 

Canal boat captains would work the waterways all summer long.  And once December brought the first freeze-over to the slack water, the men would commence hauling logs out of the Pine Swamp to be used in boat repair and boat building at the Weissport boat yard.

There is some conflicting evidence over just how rare deer had become in the state.  There is no question that the number of deer and big game was extremely small compared to today, through loss of habitat alone.

Six deer in Weissport - Most likely shot in Potter County, Reuben Small's favored spot in the 1930s.  Reuben, from Massachusetts, met and married Lehighton's Esther Koch at business school, forming Lehighton's
"Small and Koch Dairy" in the 1920s.  

(Click here from more on this dairy and other early Lehighton businesses.
The Small and Koch segment is near the end of this hyperlink.)

This Weissport scene is sometime in the early 1940s, as the McCall Bridge in the background was completed around 1938.
Scarce and Scattered

Scarce they were indeed, making folks curious about wild game in those days.
Hotels owners used wild game as prizes and to grab attention at this time with “old-fashioned hustling matches” that attracted crowds and brought in money.

Fred Horlacher (before he brewed his famous Allentown beer) was a tavern owner in “Bowmansville” (Bowmanstown).  On February 1879 he held a match and social hop.  There were a variety of prizes, but the one sure to draw a crowd was the top prize: a “tame bear.”

Similarly, Moses Rabenold’s Hotel (near Emmaus) held a “splendid year old buck deer, just now getting his first set of antlers” as a prize at his hotel.  Surely, wild animals were of such scarcity and yet held in high esteem by the public to make such offerings an attraction to the average citizen. 

Perhaps the fact that a four-point buck found in Albrightsville in 1892 best attests to just how rare deer were at this time.  An article in the local paper stated how Mr. Dench discovered this buck skull and rack and how it was the talk of the area. 

Again, this was only a four-point deer.  He didn’t shoot it.  He found it.  Would this make news today?

Evidence that deer were curious to people and therefore somewhat rare, can be found in Lehighton’s druggist T. D. Thomas.
Four Buck at Lehighton Park - Reuben Small of "Small and Koch Dairy stands at the right.  Known to hunt
in Potter County, more pictures from Small's Potter hunting camps will be posted in Post #2 of this Carbon Hunting Series.

Thomas mounted a deer head in his shop’s First Street window that he purchased from a Towamensing hunter named Edward Graver (February 1893).

However some Carbon residents were successful hunters despite historically low numbers of deer, as evidenced in two stories from Lehighton’s Carbon Advocate in December 1877:

“Two Lehighton residents furnished the publisher of the Carbon Advocate with fine venison roasts.”  Simon Walck and Alex Solt each furnished Editor Morthimer with deer meat.

The second story told of William Boyer of Big Creek “capturing” “a very large deer one day last week.”  It went on to say, “He started out again early the next morning confident in capturing another, but always returning home with an empty sack.”

(“Capture” was a word used in those times for slaying a deer.  However, there were also men in those days who trapped deer to be sold to various preserves and sportsmen’s groups who were eager to purchase white-tails.)

So how thin was the herd?  John M. Philips, a noted conservationist and highly esteemed Pennsylvania hunter, shot a deer in December of 1883.  About which he reportedly wrote to a friend:
“I have killed the last deer in Pennsylvania.” 

Philips would not have been the only person to make such claims.  It appears many, seemed to relish the notoriety or distinction of being the last person to have shot a particular animal.
This is the cabin of Dan Treaster in Centre County, PA.  Treaster spoke of
being held at bay for days in this cabin by packs of wolves.

Other famous "last kills" in the state: Revolutionary war hero Col. John Kelly allegedly killed the last Pennsylvania buffalo in 1801.  Jim Jacobson last elk, George Hastings last authentic panther, Dan Treaster last wolf, George Schmenk last brown bear.

The "famous" Emmaus Alligator Club expands their fold to five in May 1890-
Allentown Democrat.

A contradiction to the deer’s scarcity can be found in this Carbon Advocate article from two years prior:

A man named Uncle Joe Jones, at 65-years of age, claimed to have shot 33 deer and five bear in the 1881 season hunting in McKean and Potter Counties.  Game laws be damned!

His lifetime tallies: 3,527 deer, 321 bear, and 50 panthers.  He allegedly didn’t keep record for catamounts (lynx), wolves, or foxes.  These numbers are exceedingly high, even by “tall tale” standards. 

Every picture has a story.  Every bloody 4-wheeler picture
with a buck at night is an even better story.
This story has been re-told several times since.
Ryan's White Haven deer - 2011.
Apparently hunting and fishing have always lent themselves to such exaggeration.  More on men like “Uncle Joe Jones” and “Uncle Jerry Greening” will be examined in Post #3.

High Demand  and Limited Supply: Pressure to Boiling Points

Pressure and boiling points were met between “necessity” and the law.  One old Pennsylvania law forbade hunting on Sundays, “unless in cases of necessity.”

The mountain folk of northern Carbon County, the Great Pine Swamp, relied plenty upon the herd to provide meals for their families.  The fact that the Game Commission was working so diligently to guard the deer herd was on a collision course with the needs of the many.
Article about crop damage in Monroe County - Allentown Democrat July 1904

The first game warden shot in Pennsylvania was in 1903.  In 1904 three more wardens were shot but 1905 had none. 

Then 1907 made up for it, with seven officers shot in performance of their duties (only three were fatal). 

This entanglement between law and outlaws surfaced in the Pine Swamp on Thanksgiving Day 1932.  The confrontation between Harry Wilksinson, a one-armed game warden and his brother versus the family of Aquilla “Quilly” Henning in Albrightsville led to murder.

The Hennings were bent on revenge after Wilkinson had arrested one of them over a game regulation and lured the Wilkinson’s into the woods by killing one of Wilkinson’s hunting dogs.  For more on the Wilkinson-Henning affair, click here.

At the same time tensions were boiling over, the state began its aggressive deer stocking program.  The first shipment of fifty deer arrived from Michigan in 1906.  A total of 1,192 were stocked in the state during the twenty years of the program.

But it was the lack of browse that was the main problem.

This fact was ignored, and the commission went on a new direction: holding doe as sacred.  1907 was the first year for a total ban on antlerless deer hunting.

Like so many of Pennsylvania’s hunting traditions, this “buck only” sentiment still lingers heavily in the minds of many traditionalists today.

The 1907 “buck only” season may have been a low point, with only 200 buck taken state-wide.  (Along with 35 illegally shot does.)

April 1917 article describes the forest growth
as "slim and un-nutritive" causing "boldness"
in the deer now grazing on Stroudsburg-area
wheat and grains.  The article implies that this was
a new phenomenon.

And yet, in 1923, farmers were pleading for relief from deer crop damage.  The Game Commission began providing deer-proof fencing and giving them authority to kill deer for crop damage. 

There are places where my family hunts in White Haven where this wire fence, affixed directly to beech and cherry trees, is embedded into trees today.

So the herd was scarce in some places and problematic in others, and this renewed the debate over hunting does.  A $10 per doe license was proposed in the spring meeting of 1923 but was hotly protested. 

Another solution at that time was to trap the doe in the plentiful areas of the state and ship them to parts where they were scarce.  So a $25 per deer trapping program was initiated by the Game Commission in Perry County in October 1923.
From Allentown Democrat - March 1923

Land owners would be paid the sum for each trapped and crated deer, shipped by rail freight (pre-paid freight also paid by the state) throughout the state.  The law also provided return pre-paid freight shipping of those crates back to their owners for future use.

The 1923 season was a bust due to a lack of tracking snow and that food was “scarce and scattered.”  In reporting on the season on January 16, 1925, the Harrisburg Telegraph reported just two buck shot in the Harrisburg area.

But 1924 was a “banner year” with 7,778 shot (1,300 more than the previous year), a paltry sum compared to 1950s.  However, in comparison to today’s 300,000+ seasonal deer harvest, one can realize the impact this loss of habitat had on deer at this time.
Deer weren't the only animal jauntily displayed as our heroes return home from the mountains.  Shown here is Jonas Snyder's Hotel and Post Office around 1915.  Jonas was the original post master and like most post offices at that time, the area was named for the post master, thus we have the hamlet of "Jonas" today.  Eventually the hotel went to his son John and through various hands over the years, including to the family of Tom Held in the 1960s.  Though open as a restaurant until recent times, it has since closed and now serves as a shelter for homeless veterans.  More will be written about this and other Pocono Mountain hotels in Post #2.

The State Game Commission won the right to have the sole right to fix season bag limits and seasons for game in 1925, relieving the state legislation from enacting laws in this regard.  The additional power given to the Commission allowed for decisions to be made based on science rather than on politics.

The forests were judged to have only a 250,000 deer capacity. The woods had been kept at “brush stage” for longer than usual due to fires, such as those set by huckleberry pickers.

Pennsylvania’s decimated forests were incapable of supporting the current herd, estimated at the time at 800,000.  Game Commission Director Joseph Kalbfus tried to convince the public of this. 

It was a hard sell.  The public’s mind could not understand this.  For them, deer were still a rare sight.  How could the state be “over populated” when places like Andreas hadn’t shot a buck in over a generation? 
Hunters' intuition at odds with Game Commission
science - a never ending saga - March 1923.

Director Kalbfus, instrumental in setting up preserves, had been trying to crusade for antlerless hunting in the state since 1917.  He saw how the land simply could not sustain the current numbers and that regular yearly doe and buck seasons were a necessity.  Regional doe regulations had yielded little in thinning out the overpopulation.

But his proposed regulations were at odds with hunter conventional wisdom.  They saw the killing of doe, at a time when they were carrying their young, was the root cause.  To their hunting intuition, science had it all wrong.

The first state-wide antlerless season was proposed in 1928 and was greeted with strong protests, letters to editors, and petition signing.  The legislators promised to stop it and de-authorize the Commission’s newly granted powers.

But Kalbfus said there would be “hell to pay” if it wasn’t controlled by open hunting on both genders. 

That winter, Clearfield County reported 1,000 dead fawn.  The deer were starving.  The 1928 antlerless season netted 25,097 state-wide.  Kalbfus was right, the population needed an doe season and the herd started to become manageable.

Deer food was still scarce.  By 1931, the forest was nearing “pole stage.”  The mature trees were now too large to provide food as well as providing too much shade.  The shade of course inhibiting the growth of the browse the herd depended on.

The 1950s saw a convergence of a healthy balance of habitat and game population along with permanent changes to antlerless hunting regulations.  Finally, by the late 1950s, the annual doe season took hold. 
Keen Ahner was ever proud of his Jeeps, perhaps their
most loyal customer anywhere.  Here he is with the family
on the old concrete roadway through Big Creek
 in 1971 as work on the Beltzville Dam was finalized.

Yet many hunters who bridged those years continued to believe in the “sacred doe” philosophy.  A concept that still holds sway today.  
Keen Ahner and young Larry Solt on the front porch of the old
Ahner homestead in Franklin Township with carp they caught
in the Delaware around 1950.

Brothers Keen and Grover Ahner of Franklin Township, both gone and sorely missed, were men who started their hunting life in the early 1940s.  Both men still preached the importance of only shooting buck. 

Though both men certainly shot their share of doe to fill their own freezers, I can still hear the “buck only” logic that pervaded the thoughts of most hunters from that era.  They’d say “if you shoot one, you shoot three.”

For those growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, deer were still a rare sight.

Chester Mertz, recently deceased of the Mahoning Valley was the last person alive who had a living memory of the high, wooden planked fence in the woods near Henry Graver’s property.  (Click here for more on that.)

“We’d climb around Henry Graver’s property and William Ash’s deer preserve, an all wooden fence…it 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.”

“I remember the day I saw my first deer.  It was a big deal…I was about seven or eight (1927)…and my father Amby and me were driving over the Mahoning Mountain…a farmer was standing in the road and made us stop…he said, “Hirsch, hirsch” pointing to one standing along the edge of the wood line.
Son Jon's 2016 West Virginia buck.

The Resurgence:

The state-wide deer herd was certainly getting back on track by the 1931 season.  It was the first season open for both buck and doe (spike buck were still the chosen protected segment of the population) with 24,796 buck taken, along with 70,255 doe for a total of 95,051.  

By 1938, they closed buck hunting in the state and 171,662 antlerless deer were harvested. 

Thanks to the timbering industry, our state forests were no longer a pole-stage forest, with so much cleared land and with the lack of “over-shadowing trees,” the timbering produced a young and brushy forest of young oak, cherry, maple, birch, and beechnut, perfect habitat for the deer herd.  

All these new seedling growing at once, not to mention all the browse from huckleberry, elderberry, and dogberry shrubs and it is little wonder why the 1920s was the beginning of a population boom that has sustained hunters up until recently. 

Understanding this new science, the Game Commission decided to devote $1 from each doe license to the “cutting and otherwise removing over-shadowing tree growth,” this promotion of "underbrush sprouts and saplings for deer food," became the essential food source, the payoff and reward to the Pennsylvania hunter of today.

~Much of the data cited here comes from PA Game Commission Website and articles written by PGC Wildlife Biologist J. T. Fleegle



1. Andreas First Buck Shot Picture - 1923

The above picture of Andreas from the 1940s is courtesy of the Bill Schwab collection.  The deer and men picture with the scale in it would have been just out of frame left of this picture.  The hotel on the right is the backdrop of the other two pictures, note the columns.  The Steigerwalt farm implements yard would be out of frame right, to the rear of the hotel.  The Steigerwalt homestead is catty-corner from the present day and as seen here Andreas Post Office.  Descendants of Steigerwalt still own the home today.  Andreas started out as "Sittlers" when Civil War Sargent Tilghman Sittler was named postmaster in June 1883.  But the Republican was ousted by his Democratic rival Wellington Weaver in 1885.  Both men also competed against each other for customers, as they each owned a grocery store across the street from each other. Weaver renamed the post office "Andreas" after his wife Fianna's maiden name.  But Sittler was won back in 1890 until 1892.  Then switched back to Andreas from 1893 to 1897.  It remained Sittlers until 1916 and then changed permanently back to Andreas there after.
The Andreas Hotel, the backdrop of two of the pictures.  Steigerwalt implements is in the
background and the Steigerwalt home is out of frame right.
The photographer of this picture would be standing near the L. W. Steigerwalt scale that is in the one picture.
Those scales were quite near the roadway (Route 895) and were said to have been there up until the last 30 years.
This is a picture of the Andreas Hotel on the north west side of the intersection at Andreas.  Steigerwalt's implement yard was to the rear of this building.  The picture here above and one directly below were made into 8x10 pictures and it has been said that many if not all of the men pictured here received a copy of each from Bretney Studios in Lehighton.  Surely these triumphant victory shots were taken to celebrate the first deer shot in Andreas in a lifetime.  However, it was widely believed at the time the this buck was an escapee from Ash's Game Preserve from the other side of Mahoning Mountain.

Lewis Steigerwalt Jr. sold farm implements
in Andreas and ran the hotel and post office
there as well.
The List - This list was scribbled down sometime ago
by the Steigerwalt family in Andreas.  This list is
a big help in identifying the men pictured below.
The several men in the picture have been positively
identified by living descendants today.
The above list was written on the back of this 1923 picture is believed to be as correct as possible at this time.  See Eckhart's History of Carbon County, v5, pg 162.
   ON THE GROUND: Lewis Steigerwalt Jr lies at deer's head.  Over his right shoulder, Oliver Wertman (kneeling), LeRoy Everett (behind Lewis' head), and Charles Nothstein (behind the antlers).
Middle is James DeLong (head at the beginning of "Andreas), Russ Sinyard (to DeLong's left).  
Lying down at tail is Oliver Wertman and kneeling behind him is Stanley Arner.
STANDING: L-R: Osville Ruch, Moses Steigerwalt, and Charles Gerber.  Tailor Frank Rebrecht (all tailors wore ties when hunting), Lewis Steigerwalt Sr., Cal Ginder (tallest), and Pierce Kerscher.  (One source said that Oliver Wertman was Henry DeLong.  Perhaps DeLong is another person in this photo.)

Were these men cursed for shooting this deer?

(Ages given are age at time of the picture unless otherwise noted:)

Sadly, a few of the men pictured here had only lived a short time.  Lewis Steigerwalt Sr. died just three years after this eventful day at the age of 73.  His son, Lewis Jr., died of a stroke fifteen years later at the age of 56.

Osville Ruch was a widower who worked in the coal yards, Moses Steigerwalt was a clerk for Lewis, he died in 1936 at the age of 70.  Charles Gerber was a 28-year-old farm hand and implement salesman for Lewis.

Calvin Ginder was killed on his way to work at the Palmerton Zinc in December 1963 when his sedan station wagon collided with a tractor-trailer in 1963.  He was 29 when the picture was taken.  The tailor of Andreas, Frank Rubrecht was 56 in the picture, he died in 1934.

Stanley Arner was 29 in the picture and was a farmer from East Penn.  He died in 1961 at the age of 68.  Charles Nothstein was 32 and Lewis Jr's borther-in-law.  Also an East Penn farmer, he died one year after the picture was taken after developing a tetanus infection from a foot injury on the farm.

Russ Sinyard was 23 in the picture.  He hauled timber in the 1930s and delivered stone and coal in the 1940s.  In 1944 he slipped from his truck and fractured his skull on the concrete roadway, he was just 43.  Pierce Kerscher killed himself with a 12-gauge shotgun, likely the one pictured here, in 1942 at the age of 48.

This is a picture of the Lewis Steigerwalt farm implement yard behind the north west corner at Andreas, to the rear of where the deer pictures were taken above.
2. Melbers are Exonerated 1907
The "Outlaw Melbers" - (L to R) - Shown here are Henry Melber (born 1857) was the original undertaker of the Melber clan.  Seated next to him is son Edward (born 1888), with Harry (knealing, born 1879) along with his son Nathan (born 1907).  There is no finer tradition to pass down along family lines than hunting.  Tom and his wife Mary, along with their son Nate continue their family's legacy.  Note all the pups eating from the dish.  The article describing their questioned day of hunting that December 1907 referred to the Melbers using dogs.  Of course the Melbers were found innocent of all charges (see article below) and the Game Warden from Slatington had to bare the burden of all court costs.  For more on hunting in the Pine Swamps click here.

3. Last Kills
Aaron Hall (1828-1892 -
Killer of the last authentic
Pennsylvania panther

Daniel Ott ( 1820-1916) -
Killer of the last Pennsylvania Elk.

4. Augusta Moore's complete "Lehigh" Poem from 1876-79

AND this is Lehigh. Once again
My wearied feet are taking
The well-known path along thy brink,
And memory is waking,—
Sad harp of mine, awake, awake,
And sing the pensive story,
That sighs and murmurs through my head
Beneath this forest hoary.

Oh! thou bright river, dost thou know
The pilgrim late returning
To view once more the autumn fires
Along thy valley burning?
To view her father’s heritage,
That father lowly sleeping,
Far from the green and lonely grave
In the old hemlock’s keeping.

Thy mountain still is standing firm,
Its shadows o’er thee bending,
Its lofty pines, its laurel blooms,
Their sweet enchantment lending.
Along thy banks the wandering vine,
Its purple fruit untasted,
Still casts upon thy careless tide
Its clustered treasures, wasted.

And still the timid deer come down
To drink, at eve and morning;
And still the laurel blooms as bright
As in my life’s glad dawning.
Thy gray rocks seem no older grown,
Thy beauties fresh and tender
As when we came, a frolic band,
Our childhood’s praise to render.

For Lehigh was our joy and pride,
Our glad, beloved river;
And all around was charmed ground,
Our home! delightful ever.
Our nightingale the whippoorwill,
The water-elves our cronies,
Their camp-fire smoke of mist we knew;
Our game the trout and conies.

Lehigh, I dream that in thy voice
I catch a tone of gladness,
That yearning love is in thy touch,
That thou wouldst soothe my sadness.
Only in dreams for thirty years
Have I beheld thee flowing,—
Whither away so fast, dear stream?
Why dost thou moan in going?

I see the unforgotten grave!
Moan on, O faithful river!
Where all the lights of home went out,
To shine no more forever.
But stay, and tell me where are they
That, in the years long vanished,
Beside thy waters played with me,—
Hast thou their memory banished?


The following series of Buck were shot this week before Thanksgiving in West Virginia by Nate Rabenold, and Nate and Tom Melber (They each bagged one, a 4, 6, and 8-point bucks).

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