Greene Township, Pike County, was formed in 1839 from neighboring Palmyra Township when residents of Palmyra’s southern portion petitioned the Court, claiming that they “labored under great inconvenience upon account of the extreme length of said township.” At the time Palmyra extended from its border with Monroe County north to Masthope Creek, a distance of some 30 miles, as the crow flies. The strong-spirited citizens living along Wallenpaupack Creek’s south and east branches were determined to form their own community. Greene Township was erected on April 24, 1839, and named for Nathanael Greene, a hero of the Revolutionary War and a worthy namesake for the newly-formed township.
A faire greene country town should be laid out so that every House be placed, if the person pleases, in the middle of its platt so that there may be land on each side for Gardens and Orchards and Fields, that it may allwayes be wholesome. —William Penn, 1681
In 1839, the population of Greene Township was 179 persons, more than half of whom were children under the age of 16. Many of those early names are still familiar today—Bennett, Carlton, Dickerson, Dunning, Gilpin, Kipp, Megargel, Rohrbacker, Simons. These were the courageous people who left their homeland to sail to America and trek into the wilderness with dreams of a new beginning in a new land.
The early 1800s was the era of the water-powered mill. In 1820 there were 90 mills, most of them sawmills, operating in Pike and Wayne Counties. None were in the dense swath of forest and swampland bordering Wallenpaupack Creek, but that was about to change. Investors bought up large tracts of land, with an eye on the tumbling mountain streams needed to power the early mills. Between 1830 and 1900, approximately 50 sawmills operated in Greene. Virgin forests, which had been growing for centuries, were cut down to produce the lumber needed to construct many of the buildings in the tri-state region. When one old hemlock tree was cut down, its rings were counted and it was found to be 1000 years old.
By 1880, the six largest mill owners were producing a total of well over two million board feet of lumber each year. Many of these enterprises also had turning mills, called stick factories, and the number of turnings they produced was nothing short of astronomical. In 1880 Nathan Houck & Sons manufactured and shipped two million ribbon spools, one million flagsticks, and more than one million wooden toys and “spinning tops.”
Tanneries were another indispensible industry to the early settlers of the region. The tanning industry reached its peak during the Civil War when leather was needed for shoes and boots, saddles and harnesses and equipment for the soldiers, and the sprawling Morss Tannery at Ledgedale was a huge consumer of bark and lumber brought in from Greene Township in the mid- to late 1800s. It ranked second in earned income among Wayne County’s 19 tanneries.
Along with the mills and tanneries came homes for the workers, general stores, post offices, blacksmith shops, churches and one-room schools for their children. Villages sprang up and became small centers of commerce—Kipptown, Crosses, Laureldale, Greentown, Promised Land, Ledgedale, Jonestown, Sugar Hill, Roemerville, Panther, Hamesville, Wynooska, Skunk’s Misery, Houcktown, and Coreyville. Although some of these place names have been lost over time, many still exist today. As many as ten one-room schools bearing these names once dotted the rural landscape of Greene Township. In the 1880s the village of Greentown boasted five general stores, and the township’s first post office and telephone line were located in Gilpin Bros. General Merchandise located at the village crossroads.
As the forests were depleted, farms were established on the cleared land. The landscape became a checkerboard of family-owned dairy farms, and agriculture replaced lumber manufacturing as the township’s leading industry. According to the 1930 census, 120 families reported farming as their primary occupation. Their hilltop farms were perched along the western edge of the township overlooking the Wallenpaupack Valley.
Beginning around 1890, many farm families realized that money could be made from opening their homes to summer vacationers. The Poconos had been discovered as a popular vacation spot for middle class families coming from Philadelphia and New York City. Boosted by rail travel and the new emphasis on leisure time, “Pocono Vacationland” extended northward from Monroe County into to the Wallenpaupack Valley.
Between 1890 and 1930, dozens of mid-century farmhouses were updated and enlarged with additional bedrooms, indoor bathrooms, front porches, and bay windows overlooking broad vistas. Guests used the front entrance while family members went in and out the kitchen door at the back. The typical farmhouse-to-boardinghouse could accommodate up to 20 guests, and at the height of the season, family members would oftentimes give up their own bedrooms to accommodate extra guests and sleep in temporary quarters in the attic or in a renovated outbuilding or cottage on the grounds.
With names like Summit Farm, Hillcrest, Sunset View, and Mountain Rest, the boardinghouses advertised quiet, home-like comfort, a healthful climate, and fresh fruits and vegetables, country milk, butter and cream direct from the farm. Each summer, vacationers took up residence in the boardinghouses to enjoy the lakes, streams, and cool highlands of Greene Township. Outdoor recreational activities included tennis, croquet, and quoits played on spacious lawns, hayrides, and “shady walks to charming spots.” Seeking respite from city and work, many guests stayed for several weeks and returned year after year.
Although the Great Depression brought an end to the boardinghouse era—only a handful survived to continue operating into the 1950s—the war years of the 1940s brought relative prosperity to the rural farmer. The demand for dairy products during World War II meant higher profits for rural farmers. However, in the 1950s the number of small farms began to decline. In 1984, the Uhl family farm in Panther was the only one in Pike County to be recognized as a “Century Farm” for having remained in the same family for more than 100 years.
Despite the many changes over the last 50 or more years, Greene Township has retained its rural character. Harking back to the days when this land was the prime hunting ground of the Lenape Nation:
- Nearly 20% of the land in the township has been set aside as State Forest and Game Land. This includes Promised Land State Park, which has two sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both date from the 1930s when a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp operated in the park.
- Another 20% of land is owned by private hunting and fishing clubs.
- More than half of the township is designated Clean & Green under Act 319.
- Two-thirds of the township is designated Important Bird and Mammal Habitat by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society.
- The township has more than 30 miles of unpaved roads, more than any other municipality in the county.
Today, Greene Township prides itself on the natural beauty of its unbroken wilderness and the resilient and independent spirit of its people—traditions that have manifested themselves throughout its history. The first settlers of this untamed country built a strong and lasting community. In 2014, Greene Township celebrated its 175th Anniversary.