Brief history of Coolbaugh and Pocono townships

Part 4 of a series of articles commemorating the 175th anniversary of Monroe County

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

Coolbaugh Township

Coolbaugh Township was formed on November 11, 1794, the same year during which Middle Smithfield Township was established (see history of Middle Smithfield Township). Coolbaugh Township was named for Associate Judge John Coolbaugh who owned large tracts of land in Middle Smithfield Township. While he never lived on the land that would become Coolbaugh Township, Coolbaugh helped survey the boundaries for the new township, and he felt that the area should bear his name. Coolbaugh Township encompasses 87.9 square miles, making it the largest township by area in Monroe County.

Located in the northwestern portion of the county, Coolbaugh Township was considered a wilderness frontier, because the land was covered by thick forests and murky swamps and because the township was least protected from and nearest to potential Indian attacks. In fact, the survivors of the 1778 Wyoming Massacre escaped to European settlements through present-day Coolbaugh Township. While fleeing, many perished in the harsh environment and aptly named section of Coolbaugh Township known as “Shades of Death.”

The first permanent settlers in Coolbaugh Township were Daniel Callahan, Jeremiah Galvin, John Gearhart, William Madden, John Pope, Oliver Smith, Jasper Vliet, Samuel Warren, Joseph Wilton and John P. Woodling. Many descendants of these founding families are still living in Coolbaugh Township today.

Tobyhanna on Lackawanna Trail
Because of the vast tracts of timber, early settlers flocked to Coolbaugh Township to establish saw mills. Saw mills of every size and capability were established. The Tobyhanna and Lehigh Lumber Company boasted 107 employees. These saw mills not only turned logs to lumber, but also manufactured clothes pins and shoe pegs. In addition to the forests’ supplying lumber for building homes and businesses and providing warmth for residents, the wood was used for everything, including supplying railroad companies with ties and New England shipyards with masts for ships.

The earliest road in Coolbaugh Township was the North-South Road which was cut through the wilderness in 1792. The North-South Road began in present-day Saylorsburg (Hamilton Township) and traveled in a northern direction into Coolbaugh Township and onto Belmont, Wayne County. Today, Pa. Route 196 closely follows the old North-South (or Drinker) Road. The North-South Road was financed by Henry Drinker Sr.

Drinker’s grandson, Henry Drinker Jr., created the Drinker Turnpike in 1819; this route spurred off of the North-South Road and traveled northward toward the Lackawanna Valley. The road eventually grew into Pa. Route 611 and Interstate 380.

As the timber industry began to wane and roads were improved, tourism became an important industry for Coolbaugh Township. Summer boarding houses and larger hotels dotted the landscape after many of the lumber mills closed. Visitors were attracted to the clean mountain air, the high elevation (2,000 feet above sea level), and the generally undisturbed beauty of the area. The largest boarding house could accommodate 100 guests and was owned by E.E. Hooker and Son.

The township’s first post office was located in Naglesville and was named for George Nagel who established a saw mill and hotel in 1829. The earliest churches documented in Coolbaugh Township were the Methodist Episcopal Church founded in 1864 and the Catholic Church founded in 1866.

The 1880 Census counted 1,223 individuals living in Coolbaugh Township. Today, 20,564 people live within the township’s boundary, giving Coolbaugh Township the highest concentration of people of any municipality in Monroe County.

Early villages of Coolbaugh Township:
  • Drover’s Home
  • Mount Pocono (once called “Forks,” was part of Coolbaugh Township before becoming and independent borough in 1927)
  • Naglesville
  • Pocono Summit
  • Saxville
  • Tobyhanna Mills (now known as Tobyhanna)
  • Warnertown

Pocono Township

Pocono Township was originally part of Northampton County and was created by a petition of the courts of Northampton County in November of 1816. The word “Pocono” is a native American term meaning “the stream that runs through two mountains” and was first spelled “Pocohanne.”

The area now known as Pocono Township was founded decades before its official incorporation into a township. The earliest settlers arrived in present-day Pocono Township by 1750. One of the pioneer families was the Learn family. John Learn, originally from Philadelphia, and his family purchased a large tract of land in present-day Tannersville. (Note there are several variations of the Learn name including Learned, Lerner, and Larned).

In 1778, Indians attacked settlers and tensions grew between white settlers and the native peoples. Under orders of George Washington, General John Sullivan marched through the area in 1779. Sullivan’s mission was to remove any native peoples from the area and march through to the New York boarder to ensure that the land was safe for European colonists. A year after Sullivan’s march, Indians attacked the Learn family, killing George Learn, his wife, and their child. Only one family member, John, survived the attack.

Similar to the development of Coolbaugh Township, the first road through Pocono Township was the North-South Road. With the development of roads and, eventually, rail lines many visitors travelled to the Pocono Mountains for vacation. Others, who were suffering from various illnesses, made the journey to seek a location to convalesce and benefit from the clean mountain air and peaceful surroundings.

Dr. Richard Slee was one such individual who traveled to Pocono Township in early 1890 to recuperate from cholera. Slee, a resident of New York, decided to move to Pocono Township, and in 1897, he established a laboratory, Pocono Biological Laboratories where he manufactured the small pox vaccine. The laboratory was successful and expanded to develop different vaccines using additional laboratory space. Slee’s laboratory manufactured many vaccines, including those for tetanus, diphtheria, and typhoid. Today, Sanofi Pastuer is located on the property where Slee began his laboratory. The facility continues to make vaccines and is one of the largest employers in the county.

The first school in Pocono Township was a log structure located in Tannersville. During the early days of the township, individuals traveled from all corners of the township to be schooled there. By 1836, Pocono Township was divided into districts with simple structure school buildings. Although believed to be the oldest congregation in Pocono Township, the St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church wasn’t erected until 1834.

Historical references list the oldest burial ground in the township as Cold Spring Burial Ground; however, this graveyard has not been able to be located. It is believed that several members of the Learn family were buried there. According to early records, the cemetery was located on a tract of land owned by the Stauffer family. The most recent documentation of the Cold Spring burial ground was in 1949 when the burial ground was described as being located at “Route 611 spur West Sullivan Road.” Researchers have attempted to locate this burial ground, but believe the Cold Springs Burial Ground was located somewhere along the road that leads to present-day Camelback Mountain. It is unclear if the construction of Interstate 80 destroyed the burial ground, or if it is located further north.
Cattell Cabin Big Pocono
Pocono Township boasts one of the most scenic 360-degree views of the Poconos. Big Pocono State Park was created in 1954 by land donated by English-born Henry S. Cattell.

Cattell, who enjoyed the views and watching the sunrise and sunset from the top of the mountain, built a small stone home at the top of Big Pocono in 1908. This structure was eventually donated to the Department of Forestry in 1954. Today, the non-profit group, Friends of Big Pocono, are working to restore the historic stone building.

According to the 1830 census, 564 people lived in Pocono Township. By 2010, that number rose to 11,065.

Early villages of Pocono Township:
  • Bartonsville
  • Meisertown
  • Scotrun
  • Swiftwater
  • Tannersville