State Parks in Autumn

This post is a beginning of a series on some central Pennsylvania state parks that I visited in October. The first up is Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, Perry County, PA. The visitor to Little Buffalo can partake of campgrounds, a swimming pool, a lake, hunting, fishing, picnicking and hiking. The park is 923 acres and was opened in 1972. It also features some historical sites which we’ll take a look at below.

Little Buffalo State Park is named for Little Buffalo Creek which runs through the park. The creek and the nearby Buffalo Ridge are named for the bison that are believed to have once roamed the ridge and valley region of Pennsylvania. Humans have lived in what is now Pennsylvania since at least 10,000 BC. The first settlers were Paleo-Indian nomadic hunters known from their stone tools. The hunter-gatherers of the Archaic period, which lasted locally from 7000 to 1000 BC, used a greater variety of more sophisticated stone artifacts. The Woodland period marked the gradual transition to semi-permanent villages and horticulture, between 1000 BC and 1500 AD. Archeological evidence found in the state from this time includes a range of pottery types and styles, burial mounds, pipes, bows and arrow, and ornaments. Perry County was part of the Albany Purchase of 1754 when the colonists purchased a large tract of land from the Iroquois League of Six Nations.

The lake reflecting the fall colors.
A quiet moment under a blaze of orange.
Canoe season is almost over.

European settlers arrived in the area in force after the Revolutionary War. John Koch, one of the first to farm the area in the 1790s, opened the Blue Ball Tavern in 1811. The tavern offered food, drink, and a sleeping loft. The Blue Ball Tavern served as a rest stop for messengers who travelled between Carlisle and Sunbury during the War of 1812. It is rumored that the tavern was where the plans for the creation of Perry County were made in 1821. The tavern was closed in 1841. A farmhouse was built in 1865 on the foundation of the tavern. Some recycled boards and hardware from the tavern were used in the construction of the farmhouse which currently houses the Blue Ball Tavern Museum and a library that are operated by the Perry County Historical Society.

The Blue Ball Tavern Museum.

William Shoaff bought 63 acres of land in the area and a gristmill from the Juniata Iron Works in 1849 after it had been shut down. The local farmers brought their crops to Shoaff’s Mill until the 1940s. The mill has since been restored and is back in operation. Visitors to the park can observe the milling of cornmeal, cracked corn and the grinding of apples for apple cider.

The mill. Sadly, the wheel was not running when I visited.

For me, not surprisingly, a covered bridge was one of the highlights. This is Clay’s Covered Bridge. It is a short walk from a parking area on your way to the mill.

Honoring Those Who Served

Indiantown Gap National Cemetery is located in Annville, Pennsylvania. Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The cemetery was created in 1976 when a section of Fort Indiantown Gap was selected as the national cemetery for the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia. I also presume it is open to Pennsylvania veterans. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania donated Land for the 677-acre site to the Veterans Administration.

The elaborate Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial is the largest monument in the Veterans Administration’s National cemeteries. The combination open-air space and building stands 107 feet high and 360 feet long. Its design evokes “the ruins of a war-torn building centered in a land of solemnity.” Designed by Cee Jay Associates of West Chester, Pa., the granite, stone, and concrete composition was dedicated Oct. 7, 2001. The memorial is dedicated to all who serve the nation and veterans of all wars—past and future.

Let’s take a look around the cemetery and remember those who served our country.

Old Glory in Autumn leaves.
The cemetery has a peaceful and beautiful setting.

A walk around the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial is next.

The Pennsylvania coat of arms.
A bikers’ group was visiting the Memorial.
The flags of all states are flown.

One of the Best Views of the Susquehanna River

Susquehannock State Park lies on the east bank of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County. The overlook at the park provides one of the best views of the river in southern Pennsylvania.

I visited the park near sunset, after stopping for dinner in Quarryville.

The wide open southern view from the park.
Somehow, I found the northern view more interesting.
A glimpse of sunset. The western facing overlook is a great sunset spot.
The James B. Long home from 1850

The Long home, pictured above, has an interesting history, which you can read about here.

From Whitemarsh to Green Lane

Here’s a look at some of my Spring travels through Montgomery County.

An old barn near Evansburg State Park from the front …
,,, and the back.
One of the buildings of Casselberry Farm
This farm is near Dixon Meadow Preserve, where I once saw a very lost Rock Wren.
Red barn near Green Lane Park.

Pennsylvania’s Fruit Basket

Western Adams County, along the slopes of South Mountain, hosts a large number of orchards. I was on my way to Gettysburg from Pine Grove Furnace and happened on this area by chance. It was a nice surprise.

A look down a row of new trees.
A mature orchard,
I loved this farm peeking out from behind the pond.

I had to visit the Historic Round Barn and Farm Market in Biglerville, PA. The family-owned market has fresh fruits and vegetables, jams, jellies, honey, canned fruits and vegetables, snacks, candy, and gift items. It is well worth a visit if you are near Gettysburg.

A very interesting building and well-maintained.
A signature painted horse out front.
Some adorable residents.

Gettysburg on Memorial Day

Memorial Day brought me to Gettysburg National Military Park on my way home from the Cumberland Valley. I had been here a few times when I was young, but it’s been a while since I was there. In additional to being educational and preserving this country’s history, the park is a lovely place for a walk or bike ride. As I am not an expert on military history, I will share some of the views and monuments that I particularly liked, with particular emphasis on farms.

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A cannon on Confederate Avenue.
The State of Louisiana Monument – one of the most imposing.
Part of the Snyder Farm.
Irish Brigade Monument, 63rd, 69th and 88th New York Infantry 14th New York Independent Battery.
A view of the Slyder farm.
The Codori farm.
The Abraham Trostle Farm.
More of the Trostle farm.
A distant view.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Memorial.
The Jacob Hummelbaugh farm.
… with some adjacent cannon …

A Salute to Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to the Cumberland Valley and Michaux State Forest. The Carlisle area is home the U.S. Army War College and the Army Heritage and Educational Center. I was not able to visit the exhibits at the Heritage Center due to it being closed because of “the situation,” but was able to visit some of the outside exhibits. More about the Heritage Center can be found here.

I liked this mural on the side of the building.
An old artillery piece on display.
A great statue memorializing out veterans.
One of the tanks near the main entrance.

The Heritage Center also hosts the Army Heritage Trail, which serves as an outdoor museum. It covers about one mile and highlights nearly every era of Army history with different exhibits and large artifacts. The Trail also serves as a stage for living history presentations by historians serving as interpreters.

Fourteen individual exhibits include full scale reconstructions of a French and Indian War way station, Redoubt Number 10 from the Revolutionary War siege of Yorktown, a section of the Antietam battlefield, a Civil War winter encampment with cabins, a WWI trench system, a WWII company area, a replicated Normandy Bocage scene from World War II, a Current Operations HESCO Bastion barrier checkpoint, and an interpretation of the Vietnam helicopter air assault at Ia Drang that includes a period Fire Support Base. Additionally, there are numerous smaller exhibits featuring armor, aircraft, and artillery from several different eras of U.S. Army history.

A view of the Heritage Trail.

The Historic Pawling Farm

The Pawling Farm is part of Valley Forge National Historical Park and sits on the Perkiomen Peninsula, which is created by a bend in the Schuylkill River near its confluence with the Perkiomen Creek. This area played a critical role in the winter encampment of George Washington’s troops in 1777-78. It was a strategically important avenue of approach from the north to the encampment on the south side of the river and also served as the site of a commissary function that saved the troops from starvation. The National Park Service brochure on the area can be found here.

Currently the property’s main buildings include an old barn, a small home (which currently appears to be in use), a privy building, and the remains of the old mansion. The mansion was lost to fire in 1967 and is now a ruin. There are hiking trails which connect to the rest of the Valley Forge system and a mix of habitats including meadow, forest, wetlands, and vernal ponds.

The old barn is an impressive structure.
A view of the house and barn. You can see here that the barn is a bank barn like the one in Sugartown in my previous post.
The house that remains on the property, apparently the only building still in use.
The area immediately around the buildings is meadow which is cut for hay.
More hay bales, just because I like hay bales.
According to my research, this building was used as a privy.
The privy with the remains of another building behind it.

Here are some overview shots and other views of the farm.

A Stoneleigh Christmas

The Stoneleigh Natural Garden in Montgomery County is a recent addition to the the Natural Lands Trust. The mansion house on the property hosted a Christmas open house on a recent weekend. Although the property is open all but Mondays, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, the house is open only for special events. This property has been used as a residence since 1877, with the current house dating to the turn of the twentieth century. The history of the property can be found here.

After entering the house you soon come to the grand staircase

This is quite an impressive staircase.
This room also holds a large fireplace.
There are some beautiful stained glass windows to the side of the fireplace (with some additional commentary from yours truly).
There was a lovely Christmas tree just off the dining room
There is beautiful woodwork throughout the house.
This plant needs no introduction.
A look out one of the upstairs windows.
The view down an upstairs hall.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and will focus on the exterior and grounds in upcoming posts.

Autumn Visit to Historic Sugartown

I recently took advantage of the guided tours offered to visit historic Sugartown, a preserved 19th century community located in Chester County. Sugartown is an historic crossroads community dating to 1800. It features several interesting structures such as a general store, barn, book bindery, carriage museum and period homes. The website for Historic Sugartown can be found here.

Tours run from May to November on Saturday and Sunday, and there is a fee. You are welcome to browse the grounds for free. The fee is well worth it to see the interior of the general store, the carriage museum and many vintage tools inside the barn.

I’ve included some interior photographs here that are not great but give one a sense of what these historic properties look like. The interior lighting was very dark, and I was shooting handheld without much time to adjust exposure.

The tour begins with arrival to the rear of the Sharpless Worrall house, a mid 19th century home.

Lovely walk to the rear porch of the Sharpless Worrall House and General Store.
Roses blooming in November.
The rear porch decorated for Autumn.
An old well found on the property during renovation. It is 40 feet deep.

Currently attached to the Sharpless Worrall House is the General Store. The store building was first constructed in c. 1805 by Joseph Waterman when he built his home and Saddle Shop next door.  This building also served as a post office for area in the early 1800s.

A view inside the General Store.
I loved this Autumn American Flag display in the window.

We then proceeded outside to check out the Carriage Museum. This building was once in ruins, but was it was built on by the Malvern Fire Company to create a satellite station before becoming a museum. Collection highlights include a c. 1800 Conestoga wagon used to haul freight from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and a hearse used by undertaker George L. Moore of Guthriesville in the 1870s.

Some pieces from the collection.
Yes, sleighs are real and don’t just exist in Christmas carols.
The Hearse. I’ve never seen one of these before.

Tucked into the back of the Carriage Museum is a really cool dollhouse.

Across the street are several more buildings. First up is a Book Bindery, where you can sign up to take classes in the craft. The building was built in 2001 to house a world-class collection of bookbinding tools and equipment once owned by the late master bookbinder Fred Shihadeh. Today, local bookbinder, Ramon Townsend, of ColonialBindery.com, teaches a variety of workshops in the Book Bindery. 

A class in session.
Entering the Book Bindery.

The William Garrett House was constructed on 1805 and relocated to its current position in 2001 to save it from demolition. It is an excellent example of a modified “Quaker Plan” or three-room plan so often used in homes among the Quaker community. 

View of a large, old beech tree through this window.

Nearby is the Bank Barn. Typical for Chester County, this 19th century Pennsylvania barn was constructed so that hay wagons could enter the upper level from a bank. Today, the barn preserves a rich agricultural heritage through an agricultural tool exhibit on its upper floor.

The site also features the Hannah Cheever House, dating from 1835. This property was bought and restored by Historic Sugartown to save it and the surrounding property from development.

The rear of the Cheever House from the porch of the William Garrett House.
The Cheever House and the Book Bindery.

Historic Sugartown is well worth the visit and is especially lovely in the Spring and Fall.