Friday, July 24, 2009

Wayne County Emergency Bridge Replacement Project

This week's guest blogger Lyn Nardello, a rising senior at Franklin & Marshall College. Lyn is an American Studies major with an interest in preservation planning. This summer she's interning with the Pennsylvania's Historical and Museum Commission in the Bureau for Historic Preservation to develop and approach to effectively link community-based preservation planning with transportation planning.

When severe flooding in the summer of 2006 washed out four bridges in Luzerne and Wayne counties, these bridges were given emergency priority for replacement. The APE, or area of potential effect, of one of the bridges—a concrete bridge that crosses over the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River in Wayne County—included a total area of .93 acres. Buildings in the area include a circa 1850 house, which lies just outside of the APE, a circa 1850 bank barn, circa 1920 abandoned poultry shed, and a circa 1950 barn. Historic properties such as this are oftentimes rich in cultural resources, and despite the fact that a relatively small part of the site lies within the APE and was determined not eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, extensive background research and site surveys were conducted on the property in accordance with federal and state laws intended to safeguard important cultural resources.

Background research revealed the long and interesting history of the house and farm on the Eldred Site. A deed shows the area was originally surveyed by a man named Thomas Craig around 1811, but the farm was established in the mid-19th century by Judge Nathaniel Baily Eldred. A native of New York State, Eldred made quite a life for himself in Pennsylvania where he was elected to State Legislature and served for four years between 1822 and 1827. He was subsequently appointed to several important positions: Commissioner of the Milford & Owego Turnpike; president judge of the Eighteenth Judicial District and later of the Sixth Judicial District; and naval officer in the Philadelphia Customs House. He served a term as Canal Commissioner and was a member of the Board of Commissioners overseeing navigation of the Delaware River. He declined a nomination to the Supreme Court in 1851. Additionally, a township in Jefferson County was named in his honor.

Upon retiring and settling fulltime at his dwelling in Bethany Borough, Eldred and his wife conveyed the Eldred Farm to a man named Justus Sears who then sold it to German immigrant George Fogel by 1860. Fogel ran the 130-acre general farm on the site for a short time before assigning the property to Joseph Gerher. Over the next several years the property was assigned to William W. Sherwood and then to Henry Greiner, a Civil War veteran who had lived the life of a farmer before enlisting in Company H of the Fifty-Second Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in 1861. He participated in 1862 battles at Lee’s Mills in April; Seven Pines and Fair Oaks in May, Bottom Ridge and White Oaks Swamp in June, and Carter’s Hill in July. After the war Greiner owned and operated the Eldred Farm with his wife and two daughters for seventeen years before conveying it to James P. O’Neill and his wife Mary, but these new owners maintained their residence in Mount Pleasant Township and conveyed the Eldred property to a Pennsylvania-born farmer named Phillip H. Kennedy, Sr. shortly thereafter. Kennedy died in 1918, and in 1920 his wife conveyed the property to Henry Mead who ran it as a dairy farm until his death in 1961. The Eldred property is now in the hands of Henry’s son, Clyde E. Mead and family.

The area investigated near the 1850 house yielded few artifacts documenting activities at this mid-19th-century property. Items recovered from the Eldred Site included vessel glass, cut and wire nails, milk glass lid liners, a horseshoe nail, lamp chimney glass, whiteware ceramics, a zinc jar lid fragment, and window glass. One historic site was recorded in the Pennsylvania Archaeology Site Survey files, 36Wy150, Eldred Site.

Archaeologists concluded that there was no sign that significant cultural resources would be affected by the construction of the new bridge and no further investigations were conducted. While this particular site did not yield significant historic artifacts, it serves as important evidence of Pennsylvania’s commitment to identifying and preserving its cultural resources. For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

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