A Historical Driving Tour for the southern half of Towamensing Township

In Lenape language, Towamensing means “the wilderness” or “a country not inhabited.” On early maps the area was also called “St. Anthony’s Wilderness”--a name given by the Moravian missionary Count Zinzendorf.

The Township was part of Northampton County until Carbon County was created in 1843. It was traversed by a number of stagecoach routes and was home to the villages of Trachsville and Stemlersville, both of which are on this tour.

For a complete list of all the identified historical sites in Towamensing Township contact the Township Historical Commission. The meetings of the Commission are open to the public, and are held on the second Wednesday of the month at the Municipal Building on Stable Road.

This is a driving tour only. Please do not bother the owners of these sites. The well at the first stop and the cemetery are open to the public, but the other locations are privately held. Milage is cumulative. Remember that odometers may vary.

The tour starts in Trachsville where Spruce Hollow Road, Church Drive, and Firehouse Road all meet (just east of the Towamensing Fire House on State Route 209). Park by the well.

0.0 miles: You are at the center of Trachsville, also called Carbon on old maps. The well (1) on the northeast corner of the intersection was hand dug and discovered and preserved by members of the Towamensing Volunteer Fire Company. It stands on the site of an old hotel. Across the road from the well is the former Buck’s Store at 225 Firehouse Road (2), a general store that sold groceries and hardware. The building is still owned by descendants of the Buck family. Drive south on Church Drive.

0.4: Alton Smith farmhouse and bank barn at 450 Church Drive (3). The “bank barn” is the typical barn style used by the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers in this area. The barns generally
had a ramp--the bank--built up on one side of the barn, allowing wagons to drive directly on to the second floor. The center door opened to a thresh floor, with a hay mow (rhymes with cow) on one side and a straw mow on the other. Animals were kept on the bottom floor, which made it easy for the farmer to throw hay and straw down from the mow. Continue.

0.5: Jerusalem U.C.C. church (4). The present church was built in 1891, although an earlier church stood at the same location. For many years the church was a union church, shared by the U.C.C. and Lutheran congregations on alternate Sundays, but recently the Lutherans built their own church across the street. The cemetery (5) contains a number of headstones in German, and the early church services were in German as well. (The word for German is Deutsch, and this was corrupted into Dutch, hence the Pennsylvania “Dutch.”) It is a general rule of cemeteries that the oldest graves tend to be nearest the church, and that is the case with this cemetery. A number of graves of Civil War veterans can also be found on this cemetery

1.0: The Kuehner farm at 995 Church Drive (6). Here you can see the side of a bank barn opposite the bank. Most bank barns have an “overhang” (called a forebay) where the livestock can stand when it is raining. The fact that three sides of the bottom floor are generally built into the ground helps to keep the animals warm in winter and cool in the summer.

1.1: The Greenzweig one-room school house (7). At one time Towamensing had nine one-room school houses, and one of them, the Kibler School (in the northern half) is open to the public on Sunday afternoons during the summer. Schools had to be spaced so that the students could walk to them. You will pass two more of these schools on the tour, although both have been converted into houses. Continue. At 1.4 miles (at the T), turn right on Stagecoach Road East.

1.6: The Anthony farm at 465 E. Stagecoach Road (8). The barn here is unique to Towamensing--the bank enters the barn on the third floor. As you look toward the house, the structure on the right side is a cool cellar. Before refrigeration, farmers were able to keep root crops, squash, and apples in the cool cellar through the winter. The Anthony farm is one of five township farms in the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation program. Continue.

2.1: When you arrive at the T, look at the large home across the road (2300 Spruce Hollow (Road). This was the Jonesville Hotel (9), a stage coach stop. You can also see another cool cellar here, built into the hill on the north side of Stagecoach Road. In the winter, when the leaves have fallen, you can see one of the original coach road bridges to the south and west of the house. Turn left on Spruce Hollow Road and take the next right on Stagecoach Road West.

2.3 The Sam George Barn (10), which stood on the left side of the road, was demolished in the
Summer of 2009. The Township loses a barn about every two years. Bank barns are expensive to maintain and were built specifically for agricultural uses. The farm for which this barn was built is no longer a farm. Continue

2.6: Eckhart’s Valley One-room School at 3820 Stagecoach Road (11) has been converted into a house. Turn left on Walnut Drive.

2.6: After turning left on to Walnut Drive, look to your right for the Fred Eckhart barn and home at 3720 Stagecoach (12). The Eckhart family at one time had one of the few dairy farms in Towamensing. At the Y at 3.0 stay on the paved road. Walnut Drive becomes Hickory Drive at this point.

3.6: At the Clair and Pauline Buck farm, 575 Hickory, (13) the barn overhang, or forebay, has been walled in with blocks.

3.9: The Adam George barn at 900 Hickory (14) is one of the few in Towamensing with hex signs. The signs are not really part of any Pennsylvania Dutch superstitions; they are “chust for nice.” This barn had been rebuilt and has a gambrel roof. Mr. George, a longtime elementary school teacher and farmer, was at a picnic at the Trachsville Church when people saw the smoke in the distance. By the time help arrived, the original barn was beyond saving. Continue across Summer Mountain Road at the next intersection at 4.1 miles.

4.6: The current owner has done a nice job restoring the Bollinger barn at 1515 Hickory (15)
the bank is now concrete. Continue.

4.9: The one-time home of Clifford and Emma Greenzweig (16), near the intersection of Hill and Hickory Road, may be the oldest in the area, reportedly built in 1790. Unfortunately, it is probably beyond repair at this point. Technically it should not be on this tour--while the barn is in Towamensing, the house is in Lower Towamensing Township. Continue. At 5.0 at the Y, take Hill Road to the right.

5.3: On the right in the valley is the Greene home and barn at 505 Hill Road (17). In the first half of this century Charles and Esther Greene sired 15 children in this home. It was a typical Pennsylvania Dutch farm, with wheat, oats, potatoes, and corn, chickens for eggs, pigs for meat, cows for milk. The farm has since been subdivided. At the intersection of Hill Road and
Wintergreen Road, go straight, ending at a T with Forest Inn Road. Turn right and immediately left on Gun Club Road.

6.1: In the 1800’s a mine (18) was dug into the hillside in a futile search for gold. The mine has
long since been filled. Continue past the Palmerton Rod and Gun Club. At 7.0 turn left on Hazelwood. At 7.1 park in front of the Inn of William Stoddard.

7.1: You are now in the village of Stemlersville. The Inn of William Stoddard (19), a one-time stagecoach stop, now is a commercial establishment serving meals. The building on the corner across the street from the Inn at 345 W. Stagecoach was a general store (20). The smaller building next to the store served as a post office. Continue on Stagecoach, but make an immediate left on Hazelwood.

7.1: On the right side of the road where Hazelwood and Stagecoach join stood a brick kiln (21). Clay for the bricks was taken from the fields to the north of 209.

7.1: Just after the turn to Hazelwood, look to the right. That building you see about to fall down served as a blacksmith shop (22). Continue on Hazelwood to Interchange Road, also known as Route 209. Turn right.

8.4: On the left is yet another stagecoach stop, once called Forest Inn, 6340 Interchange Road
(23), more recently Jack River Smokehouse. On the right was the Forest Inn Amusement Park
(24), which closed in the 1950s. The Township once had two such parks--the other one was called Valley View and stood at the corner of Route 209 and Preachers Camp Road. Continue east to 8.6 and veer right on Strohls Valley Road.

8.6: The Rodney George farm at 250 Strohls Valley Road (25) is a working farm. Towamensing had a predominately agricultural economy into the 1960s, but today only township farmers make their living solely in agriculture. This is the second farm on the tour that is part of the Pennsylvania Farmland Preservation program.

8.9: Copeland house at 455 Strohls Valley Road (26). The owner of this old farmhouse is remodeling in a historically sensitive way. Although the house will be modernized and made energy efficient, the overall historical character of the structure will be retained.

9.2: Herb Beers farm at 835 Strohls Valley Road (27) is the third farm on the tour that has been preserved.

9.5: Old Homestead Tree Farm (28). The Earl Beers family markets pumpkins and Christmas trees directly to the consumer. Veer right at the Y and continue on Strohls Valley Road.

9.9: Strohl’s Valley School at 1535 Strohls Valley Road (29) is another one-room school converted into a house. Continue to Spruce Hollow Road at 10.9. Turn left. You will return to the 5-point intersection and the end of the tour at 12.2.

Between Strohl’s Valley School and the end of the tour you should be able to spot a total of six bank barns. If you are interested in learning about these or other historical sites in the township (or if you have information to provide), contact the Towamensing Township Historical Commission.

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