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Pike County was formed on March 26, 1814.  The new county was named for a hero of the time, Zebulon Montgomery Pike, western explorer, discoverer of Pike’s Peak, and a general who had been killed the previous year in the War of 1812.  The most famous names in Pike County history is James Wilson, Zane Grey, John Roebling and Gifford Pinchot.  Read about them and lots more about Pike County history right here!

 

Grey Towers Promised Land State Park & The Civilian Conservation Corps
Lake Wallenpaupack
Roebling Bridge Milford
Civil War Train Wreck Tocks Island Dam Project
  Zane Grey The Legend of Mast Hope
The Lincoln Flag James Wilson
Tom Quick John F. Kennedy

 

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GREY TOWERS – NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK

The Constantine Pinchot family emigrated from France in 1816 and moved to Pike County to build a Greek Revival home in 1821.  Constantine’s son, Cyril lived in the home for more than 60 years.  The home is now known as the Community House and is part of the Pike County Library system.

Cyril Pinchot’s son, James, a wall paper manufacturer, built Grey Towers in 1886, when his own son Gifford was 21 years old.  While the home was under construction Gifford’s father encouraged him to consider a career in forestry.  At that time, there were no trained American foresters.  Gifford acted on this father’s suggestion, studying general science at Yale University.  By the turn of the century he had implemented forest management principles at Grey Towers, the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and the Adirondack Forest Preserve.  Gifford Pinchot became recognized for his outstanding work in the field of conservation, and was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to be the first head of the U.S. Forest Service in 1905.  In 1927, he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania.

Grey Towers is a French Chateau in Milford that was Gifford Pinchot’s home until his death in 1946.  The home was constructed of local fieldstone and bluestone with timbers of hemlock.  It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, who also designed the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a number of the Vanderbilt homes in Newport, Rhode Island and the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.  The mansion became a National Historic Landmark and was turned over to the Secretary of Agriculture in 1963 as a trust, and is currently operated and maintained by the United States Forest Service.

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LAKE WALLENPAUPACK

The land on which Lake Wallenpaupack is built dates back to William Penn.  The William Penn Estate transferred the 12,150 acre parcel in 1793 to James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

At that time the Wallenpaupack River was a beautiful stream with many deep water lagoons combined with whitewater rapids.  The Lenape Indians called the river Wallenpaupack “the stream of swift and slow moving waters”. 

With PP&L’s decision to construct a dam, the initial step was to purchase over 12,000 acres of property and engineer a 5,700 lake bed.  Land was purchased from over 100 land owners at an average price of $20.00 per acre.  Farms, barns, houses and other buildings were razed.  A cemetery was relocated and trees were cut from the lake bed.  Construction began in 1924 with 2,700 men and women working two years to compete the project.  It included at 1,280 foot long concrete dam 70 feet high.  The total cost was just over one million dollars. 

There was a wooden pipeline constructed from the dam that used 5 million board feet of Douglas fir that carried the water 3 ½  miles downstream to a generating station.  The Wallenpaupack 44,000-kw power plant was constructed simultaneously with the dam and was put into operation in 1926.

Today, Lake Wallenpaupack is the gem of the Poconos with thousands of lakefront homes and lakefront communities.  The lake has 52 miles of shoreline, has 2 ½ billion gallons of water and is 13 ½ miles long. 

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ROEBLING BRIDGE

In the early 1800’s the Pike County region was very active in the transportation of coal and lumber.  Hundreds of trees cut along the river were joined together into 200 foot long rafts and floated downstream to markets in Easton and Philadelphia.  At the same time the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company had opened a 108 mile canal to carry coal from Honesdale to the Hudson River.  The canal intersected the Delaware at the Lackawaxen River.  Therein was the problem.  While the canal boats were crossing the Delaware River they often collided with the raftsmen, causing long delays as well as a great loss of income by all parties.

The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company decided to hire one of the best engineers in America, John Augustus Roebling to construct an aquaduct over the Delaware River.   He was a graduate of the Royal Polytechnic Institute in Berlin, Germany and written a thesis on suspension bridges.  Roebling believed that strands of wire cable were the key to a successful suspension bridge.  His theory was that more wire would require fewer piers and offer a bridge with a greater span.  Fewer piers would provide the raftsmen with much greater flexibility for the huge rafts going down stream.

When the aqueduct-bridge was completed in 1848 it contained over a million feet of wires, measured nineteen feet from side to side and was 535 feet long.  The adqeduct-bridge was designed to act as a canal bridge to carry water over the Delaware River and was filled with six feet of water weighing about 1,800 tons.  Now the rafts could go down the river peacefully and the canal boats could cross the river without incident.  There was peace along the river for the next 50 years.

In 1899 with railroads in full swing, the canal became obsolete and closed.   The aqueduct, however, was privately purchased and turned in a private road, first for horses and wagons, then for automobiles.  

Today the bridge is the oldest wire suspension bridge in the United States.  In 1979 it became part of the National Park Service.  After completion of the Delaware Aqueduct in 1848 John Roebling went on to build the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City in the 1880s - which recently celebrated its 120th anniversary.

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CIVIL WAR TRAIN WRECK

On July 15, 1864, halfway between Shohola and Lackawaxen, an Erie Railroad train with almost fifty carloads of coal collided with a train that was carrying Confederate Prisoners of War to a prison camp at Elmira, New York.  The prison train had 833 prisoners, 125 Union Guards and 3 commissioned officers that had  left the Port Jervis Train Station approximately 1:30 pm.  The coal train was on its way to New York City from Honesdale and Hawley.  The trains met one and a half miles west of the Shohola Train Station at a point known as King and Fullers Cut,” on a sharp curve with poor visibility.  It was a section of track that was very difficult to construct because of massive ledge rock where visibility was only about fifty feet around a blind curve.

At 2:45 in the afternoon the trains collided with a tremendous crash killing 48 prisoners and 17 guards.  It was reported that the Union locomotive was literally standing upended on top of the crushed coal train locomotive where a dead Union guard was still clutching his rifle.  The first car of the prison train, a box car, had contained 38 prisoners.  It was crushed into a space of six feet with only one prisoner left alive.

Some prisoners escaped, many others were cared for at Rohman’s Hotel.  Many of the dead were buried near the tracks in a trench 75 feet long and six and a half feet wide and six feet deep.  The bodies remained buried next to the rail bed for 47 years.  In 1911 the Federal Government arranged for the bodies to be taken to Woodlawn National Cemetery at Elmira, New York.  There is a Shohola Monument at Woodlawn National Cemetery commemorating the final resting place of the Confederate and Union soldiers that had died in one of the most tragic railroad accidents in American history.

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ZANE GREY

"The Delaware winds through a picturesque mountain," wrote Zane Grey, "where the forests abound with game and the streams with fish."

Regarded as the “Father of the Western Novel,” Zane Grey sold over 30 million books throughout the world.  He was born in Ohio in 1872 and as a young man he enjoyed fishing, hunting and baseball.  He earned a baseball scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and graduated in 1896. 

While he lived and worked as a dentist in New York City at the turn of the century, he regularly visited the Pocono’s to hunt and fish.  In 1905 he purchased a country estate along the Upper Delaware River which he called Cottage Point.  On one of his visits he met his future wife, Lina Elise Roth, while canoeing near his home in Lackawaxen.  With her encouragement, he overcame early professional rejection and earned an international reputation as a successful writer and author.

Grey’s first novel, Betty Zane, was published in 1903.  His first western novel was The Heritage of the Desert (1910) and his most famous, Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) both were published while living in Lackawaxen.  He wrote close to 90 books, some of which have been translated into 21 languages.  From his novels, 104 movies were made, and a television series “The Zane Grey Theater” featured 145 of his stories. 

The former office and study now house Grey’s memorabilia, exhibits, photographs and books.  Original artwork and manuscripts are among the collection.

The National Park Service operates the home as a museum and attracts more than ten thousand visitors each year.  The museum is open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

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THE LINCOLN FLAG

The story of the “Lincoln Flag” is one of high drama and unparalleled sadness.  The thirty-six star American flag which was used to cradle President Abraham Lincoln’s head as he lay mortally wounded in Fords Theatre is now a part of the Pike County Historical Society.  The blood stained flag descended into a family of prominent actors, the Gourlay family, who were appearing in the play “Our American Cousin,” in Ford’s Theatre on the night the President was assassinated.  The “Lincoln Flag” was donated to the Pike County Historical Society in 1954 by V. Paul Struthers, the son of Jeannie Gourlay Struthers, an eyewitness to the tragic event.

It was early in Act III of the performance when the hand of fate would devastate the entire nation. It was shortly after 10:00 pm when John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger of a small derringer and assassinated the President. 

Thomas Gourlay, stage manager at Fords Theatre and member of the cast of “Our American Cousin,” obtained the flag April 14, 1865, the night of Lincoln’s assassination.  Jeannie Gourlay Struthers, also a cast member of the play inherited the flag from her father in 1885.  In 1888 she moved to Milford, Pennsylvania.  V. Paul Struthers inherited the flag from his mother and then in 1954 donated it to the Pike County Historical Society.

The “Lincoln Flag” may be the most revered single flag in our country, similar in importance to  Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner in the Smithsonian , or the flag raised atop Iwo Jima in World War II.

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PROMISED LAND STATE PARK &
CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS

Promised Land was named by a religious group known as the “Shakers” who settled in the region in 1878.  The “Shakers” came to the region with high expectations for riches from the wilderness, but ended up with rocky, wet soil that could barely be farmed.  They soon departed but not before they had, with tongue and cheek, “christened” the area “The Promised Land.”

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased what is now Promised Land State Park in 1902 and became Pennsylvania’s 4th state park.  The first park facilities were open to the public in 1905.  In 1913 the park had 1,200 visitors.  By the mid 1920’s a number of roads were built as well as a number of bathing beaches.  The park is 2,971 acres and is surrounded by 8,039 acres of state forest.  There are two main lakes, Promised Land Lake is 4232 acres and the Lower Lake is 173 acres

In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the Civilian Conservation Corps to relieve the rampant unemployment of the Great Depression.  The young men of the C.C.C. were hired and put to work as foresters for public conservation projects.  Unemployed, unmarried men age 18 to 25 were hired for a six month enrollment which could be extended for up to two years.  The C.C.C. planted trees, built dams, trails, recreational facilities and roads. 

The C.C.C. arrived at Promised Land State Park in 1933 with upwards of 150 men.  The men were hungry and poor but worked hard and played a vital road in the future life of the park.  The present dam at the park was built with concrete in 1932, and the stonework was put in later by the C.C.C.  They built the Pickerel Point campgrounds and beach area, the Egypt Meadows dam and the surrounding roads.  The hard working organization worked at the park until July, 1941.  The Civilian Conservation Corps is given credit for building and developing many of the recreational facilities at Promised Land.

On May 31, 1998 an F-2 Tornado with winds packing up to 150 miles per hour went right through the state park.  It cut a northeasterly path through the park and crossed Lower Lake Road and North Shore Road near Sucker Brook.  The American Red Cross opened a shelter overnight at Promised Land Volunteer Fire Company on Route 390 just south of the park.  Thankfully no one was hurt, but over 500 people were temporarily displaced.

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MILFORD

The first recorded settler of Milford was Thomas Quick, Sr. in 1733.  He was an affluent Dutch settler who built a small farm with a barn and log cabin.  A year later his son was born, and a legend was born as well.  Tom Jr. would grow up to be the famous – or infamous- Indian slayer.

During the Revolutionary War Milford was known as Wells’ Ferry.  There were three Wells brothers that moved from Connecticut - Jesse, James and Isreal.  They ran a ferry across the Delaware, thus the name.  Later, the brothers built a gristmill on the Sawkill and the settlers below the mill crossed the river by fording the creek, thus the name Mill-ford.  There are many that dispute this origin.  Some claim it was named by the founder of the modern village, John Biddis, after his father’s home in Milford Haven, Wales.

John Biddis is credited with “planting” the town of Milford from 1793 to 1796.  He encouraged people to settle in the region because of the natural beauty, fertile farm land and excellent water supply.

The Pinchot family is another family that had a great impact on the town.  The first Pinchot was Constantine, who moved from ParisConstantine died shortly after moving to the region, but his son Cyville built Stone House Farm and became a successful farmer.  He was also very active in public affairs.  His son, James W. erected “Grey Towers” in the 1880’s.  James son, Gifford became the 2 time Governor of Pennsylvania and was appointed by Teddy Roosevelt to head the nations first U.S. Forest Service.

The Pike County Jail was constructed in 1814, when Pike County was formed out of Wayne County, and Milford was named county seat. Next door to the jail is the Pike County Courthouse, built in 1875.

The First National Bank of Pike County was established in Milford in 1900.

In 1904 Forest Hall was built on the corner of Broad and Harford by the Pinchot family.  The building was the home of the Yale Forestry School, where students came in the summer months to study about forestry and conservation.

There are a number of historic hotels and inns in Milford.  The Dimmick Inn was built in 1828, a stage coach stop visited by many passing visitors, including Horace Greeley. 

Today Milford is a vibrant village with many historic buildings and homes.

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TOCKS ISLAND DAM PROJECT

The Tocks Island Dam was a huge multi-purpose reservoir project proposed for the Delaware River six miles upstream from the Delaware Water Gap.  The project involved the purchase of 70,000 acres of land, construction of a 40 mile long lake with depths up to 150 feet with a storage capacity of 250 billion gallons of water.  It would have been the largest dam project east of the Mississippi River.

The thought of building a dam along the Delaware River began in 1934, when the Army Corps recommended a large dam be built by Tocks Island.  In 1942 the corps conducted tests to see if the ground was stable enough to support a dam.  The borings were taken down to 140 feet below the riverbed, but no bedrock was found to secure a firm foundation for the dam. The costs would be astronomical.

The dam was to have served four purposes: flood control, water supply, hydroelectric power and recreation.  The most exciting spin-off was that the project would have created a national recreation area serving both New York and Philadelphia metro areas including New Jersey

In 1961 the formation of the Delaware River Basin Commission was established, comprised of representatives of the Governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware.  A year later Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1962 calling for the Tocks Island Dam Project to be built.  In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson authorized construction of the dam.  Construction was to begin in 1967 and by 1972 the reservoir was to begin filling and be fully operational by 1975.

Opposition to the project began almost immediately among landowners on both sides of the Delaware whose properties were targeted for condemnation.  The Delaware Valley Conservation Association was established in 1965 with more than a 1,000 members to fight the project.

The Army corps were accused of having properties appraised at much lower values than they were actually worth.  The Corps were demanding many sellers evacuate their properties immediately, even though the flooding would not take place for years.  Families that had farms for generations along the Delaware were treated like second rate citizens as the federal government rode roughshod over their lives.  At least two landowners committed suicide.

A number of other problems developed for the project.  Costs for the dam began to mushroom in the late 1960’s and the Johnson Administration was mired in the escalating cost of the Vietnam War.  In addition, “squatters, family communes and flower children” began living along the Delaware in abandoned houses - others set up tents and teepees. 

Many Pocono residents resented the “hippies” cultivating marijuana and living in the homes that they had to vacate.  Nude bathing and drug dealing was commonplace.  

Finally, in 1973 a judge ruled the squatters were illegally occupying the valley and ordered to vacate within 30 days. 

On July 31, 1975 the Delaware River Commission voted 3 – 1 against the immediate construction of the Tocks Island Dam.  Pennsylvania was the only state to approve the dam, while the federal government abstained.  The Commission stopped the dam, but the true end of the project came in 1978 when Congress designated  the section of the river that is within the recreation area as a “Wild and Scenic River,” in effect barring the construction of any dams at the Tocks Island site or anywhere along this section of the river.  In 1992, the Tocks Island Dam Project was officially de-authorized by Congress.

Today, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a 70,000 acre national jewel with more than 10,000,000 visitors each year.

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THE LEGEND OF MAST HOPE

The legend of Mast Hope has been a part of Pike County folklore for over a century.  The story is about the search for an eight–eight foot tall tree to serve as the mast for the U.S.S. Constitution.  In 1786, the legend goes, men from the Philadelphia Navy Yard were seeking a tall pine.  The Upper Delaware had been providing huge timbers to Philadelphia for years.  They found the largest timber in northeastern Pennsylvania at Lackawaxen that met almost all of the specifications needed.  It was their “last hope.”

The tree was carefully cut and floated down the Delaware River to Philadelphia, then shipped to Boston for use as the main mast for the U.S.S. Constitution known as “Old Ironsides” for its heroism in the War of 1812.  “Last hope” for the mast became Mast Hope, and so, according to legend, the village was named.

The U.S.S. Constitution was launched on October 21, 1797 and has had a distinguished naval career for over 200 years.  In the War of 1812 Old Ironsides sunk three British Ships.

Old legends die hard and the legend of Mast Hope will die hard too.  It is true that the U.S.S. Constitution was built in Boston with timbers from Maine.  However, there was commerce and shipping between Philadelphia and Boston on a regular basis and it would not have been out of the ordinary to ship the mast to Boston to be used in the oldest naval ship in America.

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JAMES WILSON

James Wilson was the owner of the Wallenpaupack Manor, a 12,150 acre parcel of land between Wayne and Pike counties.  He was one of our founding fathers and one of the largest landowners in the Pocono region.  Here is his story:

James Wilson (1742-1798) was a great American Statesman.  Born and educated in Scotland, he moved to New York City in 1765 at age 23.  He studied law and, in 1767, was admitted to the bar.  In 1774 he distributed what was to become an extremely important manuscript.  Wilson wrote that the British Parliament had absolutely no power over the colonies.  Furthermore, he stated that each colony was a separate and independent self-governing unit.

Later, in 1774, Wilson was a delegate to the First Continental Congress and the next year was elected to the Second Continental Congress.  On July 4, 1776, James Wilson was one of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, which ranks as one of the greatest documents in human history.  Other signers included Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, John Adams and Ben Franklin.

Wilson was a strong believer in the election of U.S. Senators by a direct vote of the people, rather than by the legislatures.  He believed in natural rights, a doctrine maintaining that sovereignty rests in the individual rather than in government.  As a member of the Continental Congress he attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and was instrumental in writing the Constitution of the United States.  On September 17, 1787 James Wilson was one of the 39 men who signed the Constitution, along with other distinguished statesmen such as George Washington, Ben Franklin, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.  Wilson was one of only six men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

In 1789 James Wilson was appointed by President George Washington to serve as associate justice on the first Supreme Court of the United States and served in that capacity until his death in 1798.

In 1793 James Wilson obtained title to the 12,150 acre tract of land known as the Wallenpaupack Manor from the William Penn estate.

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TOM QUICK – THE INDIAN SLAYER

            Tom Quick was born in Milford, Pennsylvania in 1734.  His father, Thomas Quick, Sr., emigrated from Ulster County in 1733 and was a descendent of well to do ancestors who came from Holland in the late 17th century.  Thomas Sr. built a log cabin and settled on valuable lands around Milford.  Hunting and fishing were his principal pursuits, together with clearing his lands.  Eventually he built a saw mill and a grist mill along a tributary of the Delaware River.

Tom Jr. was his first born and grew up to be tall and broad shouldered with high cheek bones.  His youth was spent with the Indians of the Delaware Valley.  He became familiar with their language, engaged in many of their sports, hunted and fished with them and became an expert marksman with a rifle.  While his brothers and sisters were attending school, Tom was off hunting and trapping with the Indians.

The friendliness with the Indians did not last.  While the Indians were reaping the rewards and hospitality shown by the Quick family, there were other influences at work which led the Indians to break off relations with them.  This change in feeling did not go unnoticed by the Quick family and while they remained friendly, they did not mingle with the Indians as they had before.  Unsuspecting of any treachery, the Quicks went about their business as usual.

On a trip along the Delaware River one winter day in 1756 Tom Jr., his brother and father were unarmed and got ambushed by the Indians.  Thomas Sr. was shot by an Indian named Muswink and lay severely wounded.  Tom and his brother tried to carry their father across the river.  Thomas Sr. told his sons, as he lay dying, to leave him and try to escape to save the family.  They ran across the Delaware, and finding they were not pursued, turned cautiously back to see what became of their father.  The Indians were war-whooping and rejoicing as they scalped and then beheaded their father.  It was at this moment in time that Tom resolved that he would avenge the death of his father.  After the Indians left they gathered up the remains of his body and gave him a Christian burial.  The day his father was buried Tom took his knife in his right hand and his rifle in his left, looked up to heaven and exclaimed:

By the point of the knife in my right hand and the deadly bullet in my left:

By Heaven and all that there is in it and by earth and all that there is on it:

By the love I bore my father; here on this grave I swear eternal vengeance against the whole Indian race……A voice from my father’s grave cries, Revenge!  Eternal Revenge!

He took on the name “The Avenger of the Delaware” and lived up to his new found title.  He became a wanderer throughout the valley of the Upper Delaware, remaining hermit-like in remote caves and cabins.  One of his favorite hangouts was a cave at Hawk’s Nest, just north of Port Jervis.  From this vantage point he could see the entire valley, scope out Indians that may walk along the riverbed, and hone his shooting skills. 

Tom had a gun that was 7 feet, 4 inches long and it carried a ball one inch in diameter.  He called it “Long Tom.”  It was said that one time he shot 3 Indians with one bullet. 

Of all the Indians Tom had killed the one that he relished most was when he met up with Muswink, the killer of his father, at Deckers Tavern on the Neversink RiverMuswink was drunk and telling Tom that “the war was over.”  Tom told him the war was not over for him he drug Muswink out the door and put a bullet through his head.

It is said that Tom died of smallpox in 1796.  The Indians, learning of his death, dug up his body and cut it into little pieces and then distributed the remains to various tribes, then gloated over them.  The contagious smallpox broke out among them and slew more Indians in his death than in his life.

Some say he killed a hundred Indians.  Others say it was only a dozen, but one thing is sure – Tom was looked upon by the settlers as a protector of their homes and the guardian of their wives and children.  The settlers were proud to think that one of their own had the courage to face the whole Indian Nation and send many of them to the Great Hunting Ground.  Many historians have eulogized his merits, and then on August 28, 1889, his descendants unveiled a monument to his memory in the presence of over 1,000 dignitaries and townspeople in Milford.

On the monument there is an emblem of a wreath, and says that Tom Quick was the first white child born within the limits of the Borough of Milford.  It also says “Tom Quick, the Indian Slayer” and “The Avenger of the Delaware.”  On the side of the monument is a tomahawk, canoe paddle, scalping knife, wampum, and an inscription which states that, maddened by the death of his father, he never abated his hostility to the Indians till his death 40 years afterwards.

The monument has stood in Milford for more than 100 years.  Then, just before Christmas of 1997, someone used a sledgehammer to smash and damage the monument.  Borough officials in Milford took the monument down and took it to a secret location.  In 1999, two years after the monument was smashed, 200 people with American Indian roots and their supporters descended on Milford for a rally in front of the county courthouse.

One of the Indian supporters said “We are here to ask you to stop thinking of Tom Quick as a folk hero and see him for what he really was:  a murderous, hate-filled, racist killer.”  The protest squelched any immediate plans Milford Borough Council may have had for restoring the monument.

Anti-monument letters from all over the country poured in and were collected by Borough Council.  In 2001 the debate in Milford went national.  Noel Paul Stookey, Paul of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary recorded the song “Tom Quick.”  The song begins:

In the town of Milford, Pennsylvania there stands a sorry sign……..helps passing strangers understand Pike County’s frame of mind

Chuck “Gentle Moon” Demund, sub-chief of the Lenape Nation said “This is a monument to a mass murderer and a drunken fool who bragged about killing people.”

Milford Borough leaders teamed up with the Pike County Historical Society to restore the monument and to add an interpretive panel.  They say that the 9 foot tall obelisk is part of the region’s history and should be put back on display.

The stories about Tom Quick and his monument’s plaque are generally recognized by scholars and historians as historically incorrect.  However, no one really knows what is fact and what is fiction.  Someone has said “If you don’t believe what’s on a public monument, what do you believe?”

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JOHN F. KENNEDY

The Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies was dedicated at Grey Towers on September 24, 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.  A crowd of over 12,000 people attended the ceremony where the President said of Mr. Pinchot “His career marked the beginning of a professional approach to the management of our nation’s resources.”  The President went on to say that “Pinchot’s contribution will be lost if we honor him only in memory.  It is far more fitting and proper that we dedicate this Institute as a living memorial.  By its very nature, it looks to the future instead of the past.  It is committed to meeting the changing needs of a changing era.”  The President also said “The principles of Gifford Pinchot have won universal acceptance.”  Gifford Pinchot’s legacy and work in conservation continues today at Grey Towers.

The mansion and grounds are open to the public and offer special events, conferences and environmental education programs.

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JOHN F. KENNEDY’S TRIP TO MILFORD

One of the most historic days in Pike County History came when on September 25, 1963 President John F. Kennedy came to Grey Towers in Milford to dedicate The Pinchot Institute Conservation Studies.

The President’s helicopter landed exactly on time at 1 p.m.  It was the start of a hectic 70 minute visit.  He brought along a large contingent of secret service agents and |White House press corps.  There were 50 photographers that scrambled to photograph every move the President made.  The weather was perfect in every way.

The President was dressed in a blue suit and a pin stripe white shirt and matching tie.  He was well tanned with a smile on his face as he waved to the crowd.  Many in the crowd of 12,000 had been waiting to see the President since the early morning hours.  It was a carnival type of atmosphere where many in the crowd brought their lunches and were just excited to be a part of Pike County history.

President Kennedy’s first order of business was to greet area officials and conservationists from all over the country.  He met them on the terrace at Grey Towers and when he shook the last hand he went inside for a guided tour of the Pinchot home. 

After touring the castle the President made his way to the platform where he would speak.  The invited guests included Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, Dr. Gifford Pinchot, son of the man being honored, two U.S. Cabinet members – Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior, and Orville Freeman, Secretary of Agriculture.

As the President made his way along the platform the band began playing the traditional “Hail to the Chief.”  The President stopped to greet and shake the hand of Governor Scranton, knowing the two may be opposing each other in the next presidential election.

The President sat next to Secretary Freeman as a number of speakers spoke about Gifford Pinchot, appointed by Theodore Roosevelt as the first head of the U.S. Forest Service and two time Governor of Pennsylvania.  Governor Scranton spoke of Gifford Pinchot’s commitment to conservation, Dr. Pinchot expressed his appreciation of the Pinchot family for the honors being bestowed upon his father and stated that both his mother and father would be thankful to know their home would be used for conservation studies and a Conservation Foundation.

The President was introduced by Secretary of Agriculture Freeman and spoke for about 10 minutes.  He was very gracious in speaking of the Pinchot legacy and about the importance of effectively managing our nation’s natural resources.  He also spoke of the importance of the Tocks Island Dam Project just south of Milford, which never came to fruition.  When he finished speaking he pulled a rope and unveiled a plaque for the dedication.

What was most important for the thousands of visitors was to get a glimpse of the President of the United States on a little stage in a field in Pike County, Pennsylvania.

An interesting side note was that the people of Pike County wanted to thank the President for his visit to Grey Towers.  The Pike County Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Wallenpaupack Association decided to send the President a lead crystal hand-blown goblet made at the Dorflinger Glass Works. 

Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a letter of thanks to the people of Pike County on White House stationary and signed it on November 19, 1963.  This was just 3 days before President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  It was one of the last letters she  signed on White House stationary and the gift was probably the last gift the President and First Lady received.

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