Founded in 1817: Brief history of Stroud and Ross townships
June 06 , 2011
By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association
Stroud Township was formed on January 22, 1817 and was named for Jacob Stroud, the founder of the Borough of Stroudsburg. It is believed that the first European settlers of the area were the Sly brothers. Along with his two brothers, Peter Sly had traveled south from Esopus, N.Y., in 1750. Peter settled in present-day Stroud Township while his brothers established their homesteads in modern-day Smithfield Township.
Monroe County’s first tavern was established in Stroud Township. Opening its doors in 1762, the tavern located two miles west of Stroudsburg at the foot of "Mount Paul" near present-day Dreher Avenue. John McMichael ran the tavern, but, interestingly, the establishment’s license was carried by his wife, Hannah.
Education was important for the citizens of Stroud Township. The first schoolhouse in the municipality was a log structure that was located on "Keever’s Hill" on the road from Stroudsburg to Wind Gap. Erected by John Stroud, Daniel Stroud, and Mr. Hollingshead, the school has as its first teacher one Mr. Curtis. By 1880, 12 schoolhouses had been built throughout the township, and teachers were paid on average $1,320 per year.
Early European colonists of Stroud Township were predominantly of the Methodist faith. Three of the four earliest houses of worship in the township were established to accommodate the large and increasing number of Methodist immigrants. The Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal Church held services as early at 1830 in “Fowler’s Schoolhouse.” The Popular Valley Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1859, although the congregation had formed as early as 1850. The Spragueville Methodist Episcopal Church (also known as Analomink) was built in 1858 and was part of the Tannersville Circuit; the land for the Spragueville Church had been donated by William White.
The oldest cemetery in the township is located on a hilltop in Cherry Valley and is known as the “Keller Family Burial Ground.” Dating to the 1780s, this burial ground was located on the Keller farm. According to a 1936 record, only 20 graves were located, and only three were marked with headstones whose inscriptions were legible. By 1990, all evidence of the burial ground had disappeared.
Both farming and industry were prevalent in Stroud Township. In the southern portion of the area, the soil is relatively rich in limestone and is reasonably well-suited for farming, especially in Cherry Valley. Further north in the township, the soil is not as rich and is rocky, leading to this area’s focus on tanning, blacksmithing, and grist and saw milling.
By the late 19th century, rail lines had been introduced throughout much of Monroe County, and the area soon saw a number of boarding houses and resorts. The Analomink Hotel featured not only comfortable accommodations; it boasted access to the excellent waters of the Brodhead Creek, which offered prime trout fishing for guests. The Highland Dell, the Highland Cottages, and the Bleaks House were all located on Godfrey’s Ridge, and all of these establishments welcomed visitors for six months out of the year.
According to the 1840 census, 1,206 people called Stroud Township home. By 2010, that number had increased to 19,213.
Ross Township was established in 1817 from lands taken from portions of Hamilton and Chestnuthill townships. The township is named for Judge John Ross who was a justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Ross Common Manor (formerly called Eckerts) was built in 1787 by Jessie Ross, the father of Judge Ross. This historic stone structure served as the Ross family home until John Ross died in 1834. He is buried, along with other members of the Ross family, in a small cemetery near the home.
Located in the West End region of Monroe County, Ross Township shares a border with Northampton County adjacent to where the village of Wind Gap is located. This natural gap in the Blue Mountains created a relatively easy and desirable route for individuals to follow through the mountain, and the area began to house local businesses. It is said that on a clear day, one can see Philadelphia from above the Gap.
Saylorsburg is the principle settlement in Ross Township; the village is shared by Ross and Hamilton townships. The oldest improved road through the area was the Ross Valley Road which led from Saylorsburg westward to Kunkletown. The major thoroughfare of Ross Township was the Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Turnpike. The first stop of the stagecoach heading north out of Easton was at Ross Common Manor. Today, Old Route 115 follows the historic turnpike.
Many of the earliest European settlers of Ross Township were German-speaking individuals who had traveled northward from Northampton County. The first colonist is believed to be a man named Sheridine who came to Ross Township with his family prior to 1770. Some of the other founding families include Altemose, Andrew, Barleib, Burger, Christman, Flite, Frantz, Lessig, Meckes, Mixsell, and Smith.
Mr. Keener was the teacher of the first school in the township. This German-speaking school was established before 1806 and was a subscription school that was only open for three months out of the year. Subscription, or tuition-based, schools were common in the early 19th century in smaller communities. The oldest and only church in Ross Township is Mount Eaton Church. Mount Eaton Church served the Reformed and Lutheran congregations when it was built in 1884. The property was purchased from Mary Hauser; the Mount Eaton Church is still in active use today.
In the township’s earliest days, agriculture was the main occupation for the area’s residents. Over the years, there were several attempts to search for and mine anthracite coal. Coal deposits are located in Ross Township; however, these deposits are not large enough for coal mining to become a successful industry in Ross Township. The clean water and streams in Ross Township led to marketing opportunities. Ross Common Springs was touted for its curative properties, and, in 1888, the water was bottled and sold throughout the east.
The 1910 census reports 634 people living in Ross Township. One hundred years later, 5,940 individuals were living within Ross Township’s borders.