The Town

The town of Stoddartsville was originally built by a wealthy merchant from Philadelphia named John Stoddart in 1815. Stoddart was born in England in 1777 and moved to the United States as a young man. He owned a thriving dry goods store in Philadelphia and also speculated in real estate.

In the early 1800s the United States, fresh from its second victory over the British, began a great campaign to improve its infrastructure. This, among other things, included the construction of canals. Two businessmen, named Josiah White and Erskin Hazard, received a charter from the state of Pennsylvania to build a canal system on the Lehigh River. The Lehigh Canal required a series of 27 locks and dams to transform the rocky and shallow river into a navigable waterway. To accomplish his vision, White developed an innovative new type of downstream lock which he called a “bear trap” lock during its development to throw off speculating onlookers. White and Hazard also convinced John Stoddart to invest in their business, The Lehigh Navigation Company (later the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company). Having previously purchased much of the land surrounding the upper Lehigh River in 1803, Stoddart accepted and began work building the town of Stoddartsville at the Great Falls as the upstream terminus of the canal. 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.

Stoddart harnessed the 20 foot drop of the waterfalls by building a dam which raised the level of the river enough to flow through a race which fed water to water wheels located within his grist, shingle, and saw mills. Stoddart’s grist mill was an Oliver Evans type automated grist mill, the same employed by General George Washington on Dogue Creek at Mount Vernon.  This impressive building was built of three foot thick stone walls and stood four and a half stories tall with a footprint of 50ft by 70ft. At its time 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 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. In the early 1900s the town saw a resurgence in activity with the introduction of the automobile and weekend trips to the scenic Pocono Mountains.

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 being planned. Ongoing archeological digs are also revealing 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.