Girard Manor And Torbert’s Glen: Long Gone And Almost Forgotten, Another Walk Into The Past.
I visited the Phinneyville Valley in East Union Township, a beautiful farming area in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Known for it’s unspoiled beauty few folks know about the extensive history of the area.
“Torbert’s Glen, a wild, romantic and attractive pleasure resort, is visited during the summer and autumn by large numbers of people from various localities…” History of Schuylkill County Pa. 1881 page 213,
These words were written in 1881. when the valley was bustling with tourists and it’s many farms and mills were providing the nearby coal mining town with the food and raw materials to support the folks working in the mining industry. So much history and you can learn more by clicking on the bold red words to reach a link to the 1881 article. The school house referred to in the article still exists.
I entered the valley down the steep and winding back road from the village of Sheppton. Across from some active farms and mills is the site of the old St. John’s church.
The church is gone but the lovely cemetery, with it’s spectacular views of the surrounding mountains still remain.
And some very old graves, the inscriptions on the headstones of many being erased by time and the weather. I did find many dating from the early and mid 1800’s including this man who fought in the Revolutionary War. So much to wonder about reflecting on his grave. Where was he born, what was the mountains like when he arrived? I love visiting graveyards. Here is a link to some more photographs of this beautiful cemetery. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/girard-manor-st-johns-church-cemetery-november-1-2015
I drove through the scenic valley and it’s fields of now, brown, corn.
And drove over the Catawissa Creek which, at that time, had some of the best shad fishing in the country. It has long been contaminated from runoff from the coals mines in the mountains to the east and no fish live in it’s waters now. There is an attempt to clean up the stream but I don’t believe it will ever be as it was. Here is a link to some more photographs of this scenic valley https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/girard-manor-scenery-november-1-2015
I drove past one old home, I think this is all that is left of the old resort. I drove onto Pennsylvania State Game lands and into a deep glen, in which a small stream, Messers Run flows.
And near the stream is this huge and impressive smokestack and the ruins of many other old buildings.
Since I first visited this place I wondered about the construction of this massive brick smokestack. When was it built? How long did it take? What did the neighboring folks think? Why was it built? Who worked here? Most of these questions remain a mystery. I have heard it was a power relay station or a pumping station but I feel it is older and had more manufacturing uses, maybe associated with the resort at Torbert’s Glen. If anyone knows the history please feel free to share it. Here is a link to some more photographs of the smokestack and the surrounding buildings. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/girard-manor-smokestack-november-1-2015
I again explored the old ruins, including the small pond aside the smokestack and then decided to hike the 3 1/2 miles out to the Lofty Reservoir. The road passes through the state game lands and is follows the meandering Messers Run Creek. It is a nice hike especially this time of year.
I passed a number of small streams, many of which, still have populations of native brook trout living in their cold and pure waters. It is like walking back in time.
I enjoyed the walk seeing a few deer, squirrels and chipmunks as well as, I think, fresh bear tracks. i was hoping to find out but no such luck. I got to the Lofty Reservoir and found it was very low from the shortage of rain we had this past summer. It was still a pretty sight and I stopped and rested a bit before the long hike back. Here are some more photographs of my hike and the reservoir.https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/gerard-manor-lofty-reservoir-hike-november-1-2015
As I neared the smokestack on the way back, I was surprised and delighted to see a bald eagle fly right over my head and over a small hill. I waited a while and approached the hill knowing there is a swamp on the other side. I thought I may sneak up on the eagle feeding but I think I made too much noise. I got atop the hill only to see two bald eagles quickly ascending into the skies. I got some photos but not very good ones. It still was a great experience to see two of our national symbols flying into the November sky. It always is. It was a nice ending to another great hike here in beautiful northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs of the bald eagles. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/birds-of-pennsylvania/nggallery/birds-of-pennsylvania/bald-eagles-girard-manor-november-1-2015
The memories of men are too frail a thread to hang history from. ~John Still,
Hi Frank, enjoyed this article. I have some interest in the Messers Run area (FYI formerly known as State Game Lands 308; a few years ago the Game Commission surrendered the property back to the local Township water authority so they can complete a major renovation on Lofty Dam. So the property is currently off-limits to hunters, although as of 2017, hiking was still allowed). Anyway, my interest in the property is botanical: an unusual wildflower was found there in 1937. The collector described the location as “alongside Messers Run, [a certain number of miles] East of Girard Manor”. My question is— where exactly is/was Girard Manor? I gather it was a small settlement or compound of some sort, but it doesn’t show up on contemporary maps. Girard Manor Road is close to Messers Run, but I suspect the person who found this plant was not referring to the road. Any ideas? I would also be interested to learn what that big smokestack was for. Did you ever find out? Thanks in advance—
Good morning Kerry. Thanks I wish I had more time to devote to my blog. I was looking for the original location too. A friend posted on my Facebook page that there are ruins located on the east side Girad Manor road, between the Catawissa Creek bridge and pole road. I never went out to find them. I know that the building on Pole road was an old school and the house entering the game lands was near the manor. That is the best I can do but will reach out to see if I can find anything else. Just out of curiosity, can you identify the plant. I have an interest in everything living or growing in the outdoors. Hoped this helped and best of luck in finding it.