“Blooming Grove Park—The American Fontainebleau” (Image from Harper’s Weekly, December 17, 1870 — not long ago, I acquired the issue in which it appeared from ‘Timothy Hughes’ Rare & Early Newspapers’ of Williamsport, PA)
When Daniel Brodhead and his family settled in Pennsylvania’s Minisink Valley in the late 1730s, that area was a vast expanse of wilderness, a true frontier. Hunting and fishing was done for survival. As time went on and villages and towns emerged, stores cropped up where one could buy fresh game and produce, but by and large the common man, and definitely the poor man, fed his family by his own hand—through the use of plow, knife, trap, or gun. But by the 19th century, and especially in the second half of that century, the upper classes, wanting to “re-create pioneer values and to approach nature through wildlife,”1 developed a burgeoning interest in field sports. In answer to this demand, entrepreneurs and others caught up in this trend cobbled together fairly massive parcels of land to establish private hunting and fishing clubs which they hoped would rival the great game parks of Europe that served as private parks for the nobility2, and “by 1878, about 25,000 Americans belonged to 600 of these clubs. Among the leaders was the Blooming Grove Park Association.”3 “Blooming Grove Park,” established in Pike County, Pennsylvania (the county to the north of Monroe County, home of settler Daniel Brodhead’s town of “Dansbury”–a.k.a. East Stroudsburg), in 1870 by the Blooming Grove Park Association, was (and still is) an exclusive hunting and fishing club that has expanded far beyond its initial borders.
Map showing the location of Blooming Grove Township within Pike County, Pennsylvania (Credit: Wikimedia Commons – contributed by Rcsprinter123 on Dec 6, 2014)
Initially some 14,000 acres in size, encompassing vast tracts of land, lakes, and trout streams, the members-only Park attracted well-heeled outdoors-people throughout the year—men and women, as the above etching shows. Many were wealthy New Yorkers, searching for supreme experiences in the great outdoors. To cater to their need to keep their fingers on the pulse of the nation’s stock market, the club eventually stretched wire all over the park4 so that interested members could check on their business interests at any time during their nature jaunts. Not surprisingly, the Park was initially very poorly received by locals who had happily hunted these territories for generations before abruptly being shut out by those of wealth and power5.
A Day’s Sport At Blooming Grove Park by Junius Brutus Stearns (1810 – 1885)
When established, the Association was granted the right of ‘self-determination’ by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, whereby it was able to establish and enforce its own game laws as well as propagate fish and game for an improved ‘visitor experience’. The Association later became officially known as the Blooming Grove Hunting and Fishing Club, and it remains to this day a very private and exclusive organization. Over time, the public in general came to appreciate the conservation work done on the Club’s lands much of which had been decimated before 1870 by excessive logging. And today, with development accelerating beyond the Club’s borders, the Club’s lands remain safe and protected with little prospect of that changing. According to the “Blooming Grove Township Comprehensive Plan” produced by Community Planning & Management, LLC, in May 2008, which includes a map of the Club’s lands: “Blooming Grove Township holds less potential for development than many of the other municipalities in Pike County and the Pocono Mountains.” So that’s definitely good news from a conservation standpoint.
Trout Fishing by Junius Brutus Stearns (1810 – 1885)
Chapter 13 of The History of Wayne, Pike, and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania (Mathews, Alfred, Philadelphia, R. T. Peck & Co., 1886), gives some background on Blooming Grove Park, including the following: “The Blooming Grove Park Association was projected by Wm. H. Bell, of Branchville, Sussex County, NJ, and Fayette S. Giles [a gentleman jeweler6] in 1870. [Charles Hallock, future founder of Field and Stream worked with Giles as a promoter7.] John C. Westbrook and Lafayette Westbrook deeded 13,000 acres of land to the association, and they have since purchased 1,000 acres in addition. F.S. Giles was the first president of the association. The stockholders have changed, and most of the stock is now held by New York parties. The lands lie in Blooming Grove, Greene and Porter townships, and include Lakes Beaver, Giles, Scott, Bruce, Westbrook, Laura, Ernest and Belle, according to the names which the association have given them. One square mile of the land is inclosed by a wire fence, as a breeding park, in which they have about 200 deer. The club-house is erected on ground overlooking Giles Lake, or Blooming Grove Pond, as it was formerly called, at a cost of about ten thousand dollars.”
Salmon and Sea Trout Flies from Fly Fishing (1899), Sir Edward Grey, 1920 edition (Wikimedia – Public domain in US)
Several months ago, a bit after I finally ‘discovered’ some traces of Abram Coolbaugh Brodhead, my second great grandfather’s brother, and while digging through some search results on the Fulton History website, I came upon an article in the Port Jervis, NY, Evening Gazette, entitled “Home of the Bear and the Deer. What a ‘Gazette’ Man Saw in the Hunting Section of Pike County, PA.” The article is dated November 30, 1891, and it was a fun find because it mentions a hunting party that included both my second great grandfather—Andrew Jackson Brodhead—AND his little brother Abram. Andrew would have been 69 at the time, and Abram 67. And it was even more fun because it described them as “famous sportsmen”: At Blooming Grove, “Moses Westbrook’s”, we found a notable party of hunters, some of whom have followed the hounds in the wilds of Pike for 40 consecutive years. Among them were the famous sportsmen, “Abe” C. Brodhead of Lehighton, Pa., Andrew J. Brodhead and George T. Gray, of Flemington, N.J., W. F. Brodhead of Packerton, Pa., and U. S. Grant Tobias of Mauch Chunk, Pa. They were hourly expecting John C. Westbrook, of Milford, and Captain ” Lafe” Westbrook, of Stroudsburg, the great deer slayers of Pike for the past 40 years, it being a fact that they have to their credit the slaying of over 600 deer during that time. It would be unfair not to mention their brother “Mose” in this connection who, although having no record to exhibit, has without doubt killed nearly as many as his brothers.
Sadly, this may have been one of the last times Abram enjoyed a hunting expedition; a little less than a year later, he fell ill and passed away at his daughter Jennie (Brodhead) Linderman‘s home in Bethlehem, PA. Andrew, meanwhile, was blessed to live another 21 years, dodging the “heart attack alley” that seems to zigzag up the Brodhead family tree, so he probably enjoyed many more such outings before being forced by infirmity to give up such pleasures. Serendipitously to finding the article, I found the above 1870 image in Harper’s Weekly and went so far as to purchase the issue so I could include the image here. Don’t worry, I did not have to rob a bank. ;-)
Please verify my data before you use it. Mistakes happen along the way! ;-)
Other members of the hunting party included “George T. Gray, of Flemington, N.J., W. F. Brodhead of Packerton, Pa., and U. S. Grant Tobias of Mauch Chunk, Pa.” Who were these men? Well, I figured out that W. F. Brodhead referred to Colonel William Franklin Brodhead (1842-1932), a cousin of the Brodhead brothers via the Dingman side of the family. William’s mother Jane Dingman was the younger sister of Andrew and Abram’s mother Cornelia Dingman. Jane and Cornelia both married into the Brodhead family. (See the greatly condensed family tree inset for a visual.) U.S. Grant Tobias (1868-1940), a clergyman, was William’s son-in-law of just six months. Grant married William’s daughter Edith on May 5, 1891 at the family’s Packerton, PA, home8. In November 1891, William would have been 49, and Grant9—23. I think George T. Gray must have been a friend of Andrew Jackson Brodhead’s as both men were visiting from Flemington, NJ. I found George and his wife Rachel Ann Cherry in a Runkle family genealogy book10(see clipping inset and end note below). If I have the correct George (and I think I do), he was 66 at the time of this hunting trip.
At first I thought perhaps they were all members of the Blooming Grove Park Association, but when I discovered it was the exclusive preserve of the wealthy, I decided that was unlikely since as far as I know, my second great grandfather, dad to 10 children, was not a wealthy man. Brother Abram, long-time widower and father of one, had been the superintendent of the Lehigh Stove Foundry, and during the Cleveland administration, had held a lucrative position in the Philadelphia mint. Perhaps, he had the means.
Then I looked into what was meant by “Moses Westbrook’s,” and came upon a mention of this location in The Country, Vol. 1-2 (published in 1877; page 369): “Fishing on the Shohola, the large stream which runs through the territory of the Blooming Grove Park Association, is accessible via Lackawaxen, on the Erie Railway. The headquarters are at Moses Westbrook’s hotel at Blooming Grove, an excellent, cheap, comfortable hostelry…” By 1891, the hotel may have had a makeover, but obviously it was still standing, and providing lodging to this hunting party. Whether they were heading to the Association’s lands or other lands within Pike County, once they met up with John C. Westbrook and Captain ”Lafe” Westbrook, I don’t know. But, given the fact that the former had deeded 13,000 acres for the establishment of Blooming Grove Park, it seems likely that he would have been a member there.
John C. Westbrook (Image from The History of Wayne, Pike, and Monroe Counties by Alfred Matthews, p. 895)
Speaking of the Westbrooks, there were a number of them who married into the Brodhead family, and vice versa, through the years. For example, Andrew and Abram’s aunt Sarah Brodhead (1792-1879) was married to Colonel John Westbrook (1789-1852), and the brothers’ mom Cornelia Dingman Brodhead was the daughter of Daniel Westbrook Dingman (1774-1862) and Mary Westbrook (1774-1851). I have not sufficiently researched the Westbrook tree to know where “John C. Westbrook” fits (or “Lafe” or “Mose”, for that matter). If anyone out there knows, please feel free to give a shout. [Update: There is a bio of John C. Westbrook in The History of Wayne, Pike, and Monroe Counties, (RT Peck & Sons, 1886, pp. 894-896); Lafayette (‘Lafe’) was a son of John C. Westbrook]
Well, I will close now and leave you with the Evening Gazette article in the event you want to read it in its entirety. For those “scanners” among you, I have highlighted the names of our Brodheads and their friends. When the reporter left Blooming Grove, [the group was] following five deer. No matter what the day’s results were or where exactly their adventures took place, I hope they all enjoyed their time together in the great outdoors.
PORT JERVIS EVENING GAZETTE, 30 November 1891
HOME OF THE BEAR AND DEER. WHAT A”GAZETTE” MAN SAW IN THE HUNTING SECTION OF PIKE COUNTY, PA
Many Noted Hunters at Present in That Country Searching for the Big Game. Plenty of Deer but Not Many Captured, as Yet—A Brief Mention of Several of the Many Excellent Hunters Homes.
The hunting season of Pike County, Pa., is now at its best, and in all parts of that vast area of wilderness, barrens and swamps lying between the famous valley road and the Paupack country, the birds the deer and the bears are on the alert to escape the death dealing shots of the wily hunters and the keen scent of their swift footed and well trained dogs. When the law is “on” protecting the game, this vast country is nearly as silent as the grave, and the intense quiet is only broken by the occasional sound of the woodman’s axe.
On a recent drive through this section, the writer found many famous hunters at the various “Hunters Homes.” At Sheriff Hoffman’s hospitable home on Sawkill Lake, five miles out from Milford, on the Milford and Owego turnpike, the Hawes Brothers, of Central Valley, NY, men noted in the Adirondacks and in the Maine forests for their skill as hunters, were in full possession and with the Sheriff and his sons were making it lively for the deer and were capturing many birds. We are informed that they took home with them two four-pronged bucks. Mrs. Hoffman, by the way, we found very ill but the honors of the home were excellently carried out by her daughter. The jolly Sheriff laments the fact that he has not this year his usual number of dogs, by death and other causes his kennel is now reduced to sixteen.
At Shohola Falls a party of gentlemen from Nyack, NY, who had been guests of Garry Hart, the owner of the famous Shohola Falls and the adjacent country, had just left and had taken away with them six deer. These gentlemen were assisted in their hunting by the noted Greening Brothers who know every runway and hiding place for deer in that whole country. In this connection we wish to take the liberty of mentioning that Mr. and Mrs. Hart caught the largest trout that were taken in Pike county this season. They caught in the Rattlesnake creek and in the Shohola, in the “Meadows,” seven trout none of which weighed less than 2 ½ pounds and one weighed a trifle over 6 pounds. Mrs. Hart enjoys the reputation of being one of the most expert anglers of that section.
Illustration for index page of The Country, Vol 1 & 2, published 1877; find it on Google Books (free) — the index is extensive and there is good reading to be had here. The 19th-century American passion for the great outdoors is on display!
At Blooming Grove, “Moses Westbrook’s”, we found a notable party of hunters, some of whom have followed the hounds in the wilds of Pike for 40 consecutive years. Among them were the famous sportsmen, “Abe” C. Brodhead of Lehighton, Pa., Andrew J. Brodhead and George T. Gray, of Flemington, N.J., W. F. Brodhead of Packerton, Pa., and U. S. Grant Tobias of Mauch Chunk, Pa. They were hourly expecting John C. Westbrook, of Milford, and Captain “Lafe” Westbrook, of Stroudsburg, the great deer slayers of Pike for the past 40 years, it being a fact that they have to their credit the slaying of over 600 deer during that time. It would be unfair not to mention their brother “Mose” in this connection who, although having no record to exhibit, has without doubt killed nearly as many as his brothers.
When the writer left Blooming Grove the party first mentioned were following five deer and we have no doubt that they captured the greater part of them.
Over on the Paupack there were a number of hunters at “Jack” Kimbles and at Marcus Killam’s and all were having fairly good luck. Marcus Killam, now considerably advanced in years, is another of the famous deer hunters of Pike, having killed over 400 deer in the past 60 years. At Dimon’s, also on the Paupack, a number of hunters were gathered. These gentlemen were under the guidance of the noted local guide and deer hunter Henry Quick, and had already started up several deer but, unfortunately, had not been able to get a shot at them. Among the hunters in the Paupack country was a young divine, Rev. F. T. Angevene, of Sharon, Conn. The young clergyman is an ardent sportsman and an excellent shot; although he did miss two deer when out with “Eph” Kimble, of Kimbles, and we do not doubt that he took away with him more game than any other man of the party. The cause of his missing the deer was a peculiar condition of the atmosphere just at sunset and he was not able to correctly estimate distances.
“Sim” Lord, at Lord’s Valley, has also captured several deer but as he was out following a deer the day that we were in his section we did not see him and consequently are not able to mention the hunters that have been making their headquarters at his very hospitable home. We, however, did see his brother Jury Commissioner, Levi Lord, and he stated that game was comparatively plenty at Lord’s Valley and vicinity and the hunters were having excellent sport. [this part was cut off] …but, for some reason explainable only by those who stood on the runways, none of them were stopped. This home is on the head waters of the Rattlesnake creek in the heart of a famous bear, deer, bird and trout section. The great black bear brought to Port Jervis last February, the skin of which was purchased by Counsellor John W. Lyon, of this village, was shot by Dr. Kelly within three quarters of a mile of his residence. Mrs. Kelly, by the way, is an expert shot and on the day of our visit killed a pheasant, or rather ruffed grouse, that will entitle her to take the first premium this year. The bird weighed a trifle over three pounds and was the largest of his species that we had ever seen.
Space will not allow us at this time to mention the bear hunting in Greene township and at the “Knob” and we will rely on our correspondents to give the interesting bear stories to our readers later on.
We would say to our readers who have a love for the sports of the field that there is no better hunting section than Little Pike to gratify their desires in that direction and, more, that the “Hunters Homes” are comfortable and excellent beyond description. You cannot make a mistake, they all, without exception, are ideal ”Hunters’ Paradises.”
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – Page 51 of Better in the Poconos: The Story of Pennsylvania’s Vacationland by Lawrence Squeri (Penn State Press, 2010)
8 – Carbon Advocate wedding announcement, Volume 19, No. 26, Saturday, May 9, 1891
9 – Carbon Advocate, Volume 20, Number 22, Saturday, April 9, 1892: In A Few Words. We congratulate our popular young friend Grant Tobias, of the County Seat, over the arrival of a bright little son in his family. We hope the little fellow may have a long life and abundant prosperity, while at the same time we feel like closing digits with granddad Brodhead, at Packerton.
10 – Page 103 of The Runkle Family: Being an Account of the Runkels in Europe, and Their Descendants in America by Ben van Doren Fisher (T. A. Wright, 1899)
The cost of a 2-week trip from NYC to Pike Co. in 1877? No more than $30. (The Country, Vol. 1-2; pub. 1877; page 369)