The Town

Foundations

The town of Stoddartsville was originally founded by a wealthy merchant from Philadelphia named John Stoddart in 1815. Stoddart was born in England in 1777 and as a young man, he moved to Philadelphia where he owned a thriving dry goods store. As his wealth and status in Philadelphia grew, he began to speculate in real estate throughout the region, which was highly profitable at that point in our young nation’s history.

The United States, fresh from its second victory over the British during the war of 1812, embarked on a great campaign to improve its infrastructure. Many improvements were aimed at commerce and the movement of goods, including the construction of canals. It was during this time that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted a charter to two businessmen, named Josiah White and Erskin Hazard, to build a canal system on the Lehigh River. The goal was to improve shipments between New York City and Philadelphia. However, it was no small task to complete such an extensive project. In fact, the Lehigh Canal would require a series of 27 locks and dams (including an innovative new type of downstream lock designed by White which he called a “bear trap” lock) to transform the rocky and shallow river into a navigable waterway.

To procure the funding needed, White and Hazard convinced John Stoddart to invest in their business, The Lehigh Navigation Company (later the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company). Stoddart had previously purchased much of the land surrounding the upper Lehigh River in 1803 and after investing in the Lehigh Navigation Company, he began work to build the town of Stoddartsville at the Great Falls. Stoddartsville was to be the upstream terminus of the canal, or at least that was what Stoddart was led to believe. (Interestingly, at the time of the Lehigh Canal’s construction it was possible to reach either New York City, via the Lehigh and Morris Canals, or Philadelphia, via the Lehigh Canal and Delaware River, completely by water.)

Rise and Fall

Stoddart harnessed the 20 foot drop of the Great Falls to power his grist, shingle, and saw mills situated on the north bank of the Lehigh River. Stoddart’s grist mill was an Oliver Evans type automated grist mill, the same type of mill used by George Washington on Dogue Creek at Mount Vernon. This impressive structure was built of three foot thick stone walls and stood four and a half stories tall with a footprint of 50ft by 70ft. It cost Stoddart $20,000 to build the mill (yes, $20,000) and in its day, it was reported to be the largest grist mill in the State of Pennsylvania. The grist mill ground local wheat and corn into flour and cornmeal while the saw mill cut lumber to build 20 ft by 40 ft barges (called arks at the time) to transport the grain to market in Philadelphia.

The town was also located on the Easton and Wilkes-Barre Turnpike (now State Route 115) which was a primary stagecoach route through northeastern Pennsylvania at the time. At its height, Stoddartsville included approximately forty homes, three saw mills, one grist mill, a blacksmith and all the support structures required of a town of its period.

Unfortunately, two-way locks were never developed past Josiah White’s town of Whitehaven and Stoddartsville remained cut-off from receiving goods back upstream. By the late 1820s Stoddart was forced to sell his real estate holdings, including Stoddartsville, to stay afloat financially. Stoddart spent his remaining days as a clerk and died in 1857. Stoddartsville, ravaged by severe floods and forest fires, saw most of its residents leave and its once impressive structures fall into disrepair. There was a minor resurgence of activity in the town in the early 1900s with the introduction of the automobile and weekend trips to the scenic Pocono Mountains.

Rebirth

Today the town is going through a minor restoration after the Kerrick brothers purchased the majority of the town from the estate of CDR John L. Butler, Jr., USN in 2011. One of the barns, built in 1875, is currently being rebuilt on its original foundation and further restorations are planned. Several archeological digs have also revealed much of a town that has been long forgotten in the storied pages of Pennsylvania’s pioneering past.


For guided tours of the historic district, please email or call us.

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