The Road to Resorts: Transportation and Tourism in Monroe County

County Feature is a series of articles on each county in Pennsylvania and its history.

Monroe County flourishes today as a lush, verdant resort and popular recreational area on the periphery of metropolitan centers. Tourism is sup­plemented by light industry which has left the largely rural setting relatively intact. Essentially, the county offers open countryside through which travelers make good time on interstate highways on their way to or from major cities and in which they can spend leisure time away from the pres­sures of their normal environs. Its role as one of the East Coast’s major resort areas is the result of a natural evolution spawned in the nineteenth century.

Early Indian inhabitants referred to the geographical region of the upper Delaware River as the Minisink. Utilizing archaeo­logical evidence, the Smithsonian Institution has successfully dated the first Indian settlement of this area at 8640 B.C. Prior to the influx of the first waves of Europeans, the Dela­wares – who called themselves the Lenni-Lenape or the “Original People” – were the dominant Indians in the area which would eventually become eastern Pennsylvania. More than twenty other tribes or nations recognized the longevity of the Lenni-Lenape in the Minisink by referring to them as the “Grandfather.” The Minsi, a sub-group of the Wolf Clan, claimed the Poconos and the adjacent area along the Delaware River as its hunting ground. In exercising that claim, they served as a buffer be­tween the Iroquois to the north and Delaware clans on their southern flanks.

The first Europeans to pose a serious challenge to the Lenni­Lenape along the upper Delaware River were the Dutch. Branch­ing out from a settlement at Esopus (Kingston, New York), the Dutch, by 1664, were mining copper at Pahaquarry, located just north of Tocks Island on the New Jersey side of the river. From that site they transported ore 100 miles on the Old Mine Road, still in existence today, to Esopus, and then finally exported it to Holland. Some historians consider the Old Mine Road the first commercial highway in America. By 1700 more than 1,500 Dutch came into the Delaware Valley by this road.

Probably the earliest, and certainly the most significant, settler from Esopus to establish permanent residence on the Penn­sylvania side of the river was Nicholas Depui, who acquired 3,000 acres in the area of today’s Shawnee, Pennsylvania. Ap­parently on good terms with the Indians, he was able to con­struct a comfortable home, erect a grist mill and develop an apple orchard. Depui used the Old Mine Road to transport wheat to Esopus where he exchanged it for staples such as salt. His home became a “public house” for the convenience of travelers passing through the area. Among the more famous visitors was Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a bishop in the Moravian church, who stopped there on a trip from Bethle­hem to Esopus in mid-August 1742. Conrad Weiser, trusted ad­visor and interpreter to both the proprietor of Pennsylvania and the Iroquois Confederacy, also enjoyed the hospitality of the Depui home in 1750.

Quaker leaders in Philadelphia were unaware of the activities of the Dutch during the early colonial period. The area even­tually destined to become Monroe County, along with the larger Minisink, served as a buffer between two opposing wedges of European colonialism in North America. By 1729, however, travelers who had preceded Zinzendorf and Weiser brought to Philadelphia news of settlements north of the mountains. Responding to inquiries concerning his occupation of land claimed by the Penn family, Depui repurchased his estate from William Allen, who had acquired it directly from the Penns.

Knowledge of the area and use of it for routes connecting growing settlements increased with the development of addi­tional roads. For the most part, the roads evolved from meander­ing Indian trails which connected villages with the river and hunting areas. Minisink Island apparently was a central junction, with trails leading west toward the Wyoming Valley; south along the west bank of the Delaware to Shawnee; and east to the Atlantic Ocean at Sandy Hook. By 1752, the residents of Bucks County and the recently established Northampton County, which originally included today’s Monroe County, petitioned the Governor’s Council in Philadelphia to construct a new road linking Easton and the Minisink. Their petition brought ac­tion, and in 1774 a road from Jacob Stroud’s miU connected the future site of Stroudsburg with the “Great Road” leading to Easton. The inadequacy of an east-west route was apparent when Gen. John Sullivan made his way through the Poconos from Easton to punish the Indians who had participated in the Wyo­ming Massacre. His men had to construct their own road as they crossed the swamp on top of the Pocono plateau. Although a network of roads existed by 1800, they often were inade­quate for any type of heavy traffic and the river remained the preferred route to transport large amounts of goods to Phila­delphia.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, a concerted effort to improve the road system was undertaken. Between 1805 and 1810, the first road through Delaware Water Gap was funded by Northampton County, and in 1808 the Wilkes-Barre­-Easton Turnpike Company was established to build an all­-weather road across the Poconos between the two cities. Another road connected Milford and Easton. Ferries across the Dela­ware connected main roads with New Jersey. Public houses were constructed along the major routes to offer shelter and sus­tenance to the travelers; all were forerunners of the Pocono re­sorts of the twentieth century.

Many individuals contributed to the social, political and economic growth of the region. Jacob Stroud and Daniel Brod­head are of particular interest, since not only they but other members of their families played important roles. Stroud exem­plifies the classic American success story: beginning as an apprentice to Depui; serving with Gen. James Wolfe at Quebec in the French and Indian War; commanding Fort Penn at the future site of Stroudsburg during the Revolution; becoming the leading businessman in the area; constructing a number of substantial homes for his family which still exist today as prime examples of late eighteenth century architecture; and establishing the town of Stroudsburg mainly on land which he acquired from Derrick Van Vliet, an early Dutch settler. Jacob’s son, Daniel, enjoyed a distinguished career as a lawyer and resided in the “Mansion House,” probably the most significant historic building in the county. It still serves as a meeting place for many organizations and houses the Monroe County His­torical Society. In addition, Stroud is credited for laying out the central section of Stroudsburg, which includes a broad Main Street able to handle the heavy traffic at the gateway to the Poconos.

The Brodhead family also made significant contributions to the county. Daniel Brodhead is recognized as the founder of Dans­bury (now East Stroudsburg), having settled in that vicinity on a 650-acre manor. Three sons, Daniel, Garret and Luke, vol­unteered for service during the Revolutionary War, with each being wounded. The younger Daniel particularly distinguished himself, attaining the rank of brigadier general by the end of the conflict and serving as surveyor general for Pennsylvania following the war.

As the population grew, pressure increased for the creation of a separate county. The Pennsylvania General Assembly re­sponded, and on April 1, 1836, Gov. Joseph Ritner signed legislation establishing Monroe County out of what had been a portion of Northampton County. The new political entity was named in honor of the recently deceased former president. Three sites, Dutotsburg, Kellersville and Stroudsburg, were con­sidered possible county seats, but the final choice between Kel­lersville and Stroudsburg was decided by a county-wide vote. Leaders of both towns, well aware of the advantages in­herent in a county seat, offered to supply land and buildings free of charge. Allegations of fraud were widespread after Stroudsburg was selected by a close vote of 1, 132 to 1,062. Alfred Mathews, in his History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties… , asserted that the claims of improprieties were correct, including one that boys as young as fourteen voted. He indi­cated it was ” … probable that many names were entered upon the lists which were either fictitious or copies from tomb­stones mossy with age.” Further substantiation is provided by the fact that only 1,792 voters took part in the presidential election of 1840, compared to the 2, 194 who exercised their privilege in the vote of 1836. Nevertheless, Stroudsburg was named the county seat, thus establishing it as the political, social and economic center of the area. But, even with these de­velopments, the county remained much as it had always been, a region on the edge of major population centers through which most people traveled or where they remained only for a brief visit.

Although national issues developed to the crisis level during the 1850s, they had little direct impact on Monroe County. However, when the questions of slavery in the territories, states’ rights and the exercise of political power reached a head in 1860, it was inevitable that the county would be affected. Lincoln’s election, followed by the formation of the Confederacy and the assault of South Carolina forces on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in April 1861, led to the start of the Civil War. Monroe County was unprepared for the struggle which ensued.

Politically, the county had been strongly Democratic since its creation; not until 1860 was a local Republican party organ­ized. Public opinion was influenced by two intensely partisan newspapers: the Monroe Democrat, whose title indicated its persuasion, and the Jeffersonian. Established in 1836, the weekly Monroe Democrat was by far the more popular of the two jour­nals. In 1857 it was acquired by John De Young, a native of Holland and a former mill owner. Originally a Whig journal, the Jeffersonian Republican, established in 1840, was purchased in 1841 by a printer named Theodore Schoch who later shortened its name to the Jeffersonian. Always the underdog in subscrib­ers and influence, the Jeffersonian was as biased and heated in its political views as its rival.

The fall of Fort Sumter prompted Abraham Lincoln to issue a call for 75,000 volunteers on April 15, 1861. One week later, a mass meeting at the courthouse in Stroudsburg resulted in the enlistment of seventy-nine men, although only two actu­ally served. At various times throughout the war, county men joined the Union army and participated in the Peninsula Cam­paign and such battles as Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettys­burg. Although support for the war was not strong in the county, virtually every able-bodied black male gave military ser­vice. Not all men were willing to volunteer for military duty, however, particularly when the early view of war as one of ad­venture, glory and excitement was dispelled by the horrors and bloody realities of the battlefield. Reluctance was intensified by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, seeming to change the aim of the war from preserving the Union to liberating the slaves.

Congress passed several draft acts to stimulate enlistments. The draft would be used only to make up the difference between the allotted state quota assigned by the War Department and the number who enlisted voluntarily. However, the several drafts in Monroe County were not particularly successful; in the drawing held in September 1863, only three men – all black­ – actually served among the 437 whose names were drawn. The rest either paid the $300 commutation fee or evaded the re­cruiting officers, a feat not too difficult in a remote, wooded county such as Monroe. An exception was J. Summerfield Staples who not only volunteered in 1862 but was later drafted as the official substitute for Abraham Lincoln and served a second time.

Meanwhile, the newly developed railroads were about to initi­ate fundamental changes in county life. As long as transpor­tation was limited to water and cumbersome overland routes, Monroe County was likely to remain a remote, rural outpost. But the coming of the railroad was to bring important changes here as elsewhere and ultimately provide the region with its most significant economic activities – tourism and recreation.

The first railroad to penetrate the county was to become its most important. Originally chartered in 1832, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western began construction of a line eastward from Scranton in 1853. Its route ran through Tobyhanna, over the Pocono summit, past Stroudsburg, through the Delaware Water Gap and across the river near Portland to New Jersey, where it connected with lines to New York and Phila­delphia. Eventually, the DL&W built its own line to Hoboken, and its rails carried numerous trains bearing anthracite to market.

In the process of building its line, the railroad gave birth to a new town, East Stroudsburg. The railroad was originally intended to run on the west side of Brodhead’s Creek and through Stroudsburg, then an established community, but local land owners demanded such high prices that John I. Blair, the railroad’s land agent, refused to pay them. Instead, and to the consternation of the Stroudsburg property owners, the tracks were laid on the east side of the creek. Following con­struction of a station named East Stroudsburg in 1856, a com­munity developed around it, which became a borough in 1870.

Railroads of lesser impact also served Monroe County. Among them was the New York, Susquehanna and Western, which reached Stroudsburg in 1882 with the hope of carrying coal from Scranton to its northern New Jersey terminal. Dissatisfied by the arrangement with its connection, the DL&W, the Susque­hanna organized a new company, the Wilkes-Barre and East­ern, to build a line from Stroudsburg to Wilkes-Barre along a route south of the DL&W, through Bartonsville, Tannersville and Pocono Lake. Opened in 1893, the road offered minimal pas­senger service but prospered with heavy coal traffic. The decline of anthracite beginning in the 1920s brought hard times. The Wilkes-Barre and Eastern was abandoned in 1939, and, two years later, the Susquehanna withdrew from Stroudsburg, cutting its line back to New Jersey. Apart from a few branches on the fringes of the county, the only remaining line was the Delaware Valley Railroad, running from East Stroudsburg to Bushkill, about eleven miles to the northeast. Opened in 1910, it soon fell victim to the automobile and ceased most opera­tions by 1933. Abandonment came in 1939.

The railroads stimulated industry and trade, opening the county to easy access from surrounding cities. Farmers could more easily ship their produce, grain and dairy products; lumber and wood products, such as ties and mine props, were hauled out, as were stone, slate and sand. For a time, ice, which was cut in the winter and stored in huge ice houses near the lakes, was a popular commodity. Using saws, sledges, horses and tons of sawdust, large blocks of ice were cut in Jan­uary and February and pulled to immense ice houses, some­times three stories high and a hundred yards long. Sawdust was used as insulation, keeping the ice until the hot summer months when the sweltering populations of New York and Phila­delphia sought relief. The ice was loaded into refrigerator cars and taken by special train to urban markets. Eventually, mechanical refrigeration put an end to this arduous but profitable enterprise.

Manufacturing also benefited from rail service, although it was and still is of the light variety. Small wood-products facto­ries, producing barrels, clothespins, wheels and window- sash, sprang up. Heavy boilers were constructed in East Strouds­burg and, for a time, glass was produced. Small textile plants were built. Banks, retail establishments, telephones, electric power lines, paved roads and other accoutrements of modern life also appeared in the twentieth century. A local trolley car line, linking Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg, opened in 1870, using mules and later, electricity. Service was extended to Delaware Water Gap in 1907 and to Portland by 1912. At Port­land passengers could easily transfer to connecting-cars of the Lehigh Valley Transit Company and travel to Bethlehem, Allentown or even Philadelphia.

A lasting result of the railroad age was the development of the tourist industry in Monroe County. Although the county had the usual taverns, inns and hotels, it was not until the rail­roads made access quick, convenient and especially comfort­able that resorts proliferated, extol1ing the mountain air, the attrac­tive scenery and the rural surroundings.

The Lackawanna Railroad, in particular, heavily promoted the Pocono resorts. With its main line extending from Hoboken to Buffalo, the DL&W published brochures, travel guides
and booklets praising the attractions of the Poconos and encour­aging visitors to travel on comfortable Lackawanna trains. Unlike its competitors, the DL&W locomotives burned relatively clean anthracite. Capitalizing on the lack of dirty soot and cinders, the railroad created the promotional figure of Phoebe Snow, a white-gowned model, who boarded and left Lacka­wanna trains in equally immaculate attire.

Massive construction projects early in the twentieth century reduced traveling time, earning the DL&W an enviable repu­tation as one of the best-engineered railroads in the nation. Premier trains such as the Lackawanna Limited, the New York Day Express, the Merchants Express and the New York Mail offered convenient schedules and connections to the Pocono resorts.

The Delaware Water Gap was the first section to develop as a prime resort area. Early roads ran through the Gap, prompt-ing the construction of several modest hotels. In 1829, Antoine Dutot began what would later evolve into the famous Kitta­tinny House. Located on a high bluff overlooking the Delaware and commanding a spectacular view, it would later be rebuilt and expanded; by 1884, it could accommodate 275 guests and boasted every luxurious convenience of the Victorian age.

The completion of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Rail­road through the Gap in 1856, and the later construction of the Susquehanna through the area, greatly stimulated the resort trade. After the Civil War, more hotels were erected, and the Water Gap became one of the larger inland resort towns in the nation. The publicity generated by the railroads and the hotel owners, plus the ease of access, caused a minor construction boom along the Delaware. The Gap earned a reputation for its beau­tiful vistas, luxurious accommodations, fishing and boating, and cool summer temperatures. Beside the Kittatinny House, accommodations were offered by such notable hostelries as the Water Gap House, the Glenwood, the Bellevue and the Castle Inn. But by World War I, the Water Gap was in decline. Fires destroyed such landmarks as the Water Gap House and the Kittatinny; automobiles opened new areas far removed from the rail lines; and the concept of a long summer vacation by mother and the children – while father remained in the city except for weekend visits – was replaced by family vacations, short trips and frequent movements from place to place.

The Delaware Water Gap has also been an attractive subject for the artist’s brush for years. The pleasant vistas, the rugged gorge of the Delaware, and the popularity of the resort in­spired painters during the nineteenth century. Among the more well-known works are George Inness’s Delaware Water Gap (1859) and Louis Eilshemus’s Delaware Water Gap Village (1886). Prolific twentieth century artist Cullen Yates, who specialized in natural scenes throughout the county, ranks as one of America’s more popular modern painters. In 1975, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington held a special show recognizing the significance of the Delaware Water Gap as an artist’s sub­ject. Forty-nine artists, spanning the period from 1830 to 1975, were highlighted.

The decline of the Water Gap as a vacation center was more than offset by the growth of the industry in other locations such as Shawnee, Swiftwater, Mount Pocono, Canadensis, Buck Hill and Bushkill. Modern, self-contained resorts offered golf, hiking, swimming, tennis, fishing, horseback riding, entertain­ment and other attractions. By the 1930s, skiing and cold weather activities became popular, and the region developed into a year-round resort area.

Modern highways, automobiles, buses and trucks now carry most people and goods to the county. Faced with declining traffic, the private railroads ultimately collapsed, replaced by the federally supported Consolidated Rail Corporation in 1976. Conrail reduced the route into Stroudsburg to a minor branch and ceased service to both Scranton and Hoboken. Presently, the county and private sources are attempting to raise the neces­sary funds to purchase the old DL&W line. If this succeeds, it can only benefit the region by reducing dependence on over­crowded highways and stimulating employment in industries and resorts.

Today, Monroe County has partly shed its rich rural heritage. Year-round resorts lure thousands of people to the region. New residential areas, offering vacation and permanent homes, continually develop. Extensive state parks and game lands have been supplemented by the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, authorized by Congress in 1965. Thirteen years later, Congress designated a seventy-five mile stretch of the Upper Delaware, earlier called the Minisink, as a national scenic and recreational river in order to protect its relatively un­touched natural state.

As in any growing area, problems, naturally, have developed. Many residents express concern about the effects of rapid growth and the changes it brings, particularly on the environ­ment. The highway system has become a mixed blessing, for along with ease of access have come pollution, noise, injuries and death. A seemingly endless chain of heavy truck traffic passes through the county on the way to and from eastern mar­kets and ports.

Through all of its history, Monroe County has been directly affected by transportation routes and methods. From the time of Indian paths and early roads, through the railroad age, to the present day of interstate highways, the county has become a place through which travelers pass or a destination for tourists in search of relaxation and enjoyment.

 

For Further Reading

Appel, John. General Daniel Brodhead: Patriot in War, Civil Servant in Peace. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Monroe County Historical Soci­ety, 1970.

____, Coordinator. History of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, 1725-1976. East Stroudsburg, Pa.: Pocono Hospital Auxiliary, 1976.

Bancroft, Peggy. Ringing Axes and Rocking Chairs: The Story of Barrett Township. Barrett, Pa.: Barrett Friendly Library, 1974.

Bertland, Dennis and others. The Minisink: A Chronicle of One of America’s First and Last Frontiers. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Four­-County Task Force on the Tocks Island Dam Project, 1975.

Brown, Robert. Daniel Stroud. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Monroe County Historical Society, 1963.

The Founding of Monroe County; Addresses Delivered Before the Monroe County Historical Society Meeting to Commemorate the Centennial of the County. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Monroe County Historical Society, 1936.

Keller, Robert. The History of Monroe County, Pennsylvania. Stroudsburg, Pa.: The Monroe Publishing Co., 1927.

Knapp, Vertie. “The Expanding Use of Ice in Nineteenth Century, Penn­sylvania: A Consumer Interest.” Master’s thesis, East Stroudsburg State College, 1977.

Koehler, LeRoy. The History of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, During the Civil War. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Monroe County Historical Society and the Monroe County Commissioners, 1950.

Matthews, Alfred. History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: R. T. Peck and Co., 1886.

Sumberg, Alfred. A History of Monroe County. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Monroe County Historical Society, n.d.

Taber, Thomas. The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad in the Nineteenth Century, 1828-1899. Privately Printed, 1977.

 

Frederick L. Beaver is coordinator of the art department of the Strouds­burg Area School District. As an artist, he has specialized in his­torical subjects; one of his most recent works is a painting of Pres. James Monroe which now hangs in the Monroe County Courthouse. The author, who earned his M.A. in history from East Stroudsburg State College, currently serves as president of the Monroe County Historical Society.

 

James N.J. Henwood received his Ph.D. in history from the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania and is a professor of history at East Strouds­burg University. His book, entitled A Short Haul to the Bay: A History of the Narragansett Pier Railroad, is a result of his interest in the history of transportation. Dr. Henwood is a member of the board of directors of the Monroe County Historical Society.

 

John G. Muncie, a doctoral graduate of Kent State University, is also on the history faculty of East Stroudsburg University. He is currently co-authoring, with colleague James Henwood, a book which will deal with the history of the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad (known affectionately as the “Laurel Line”). Dr. Muncie is a past president of the Monroe County Historical Society and is a present member of its board of directors.