Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Kettle Creek Project

Kettle Creek State Park
From the overlook at the Alvin Bush Dam
Stepping out of the vehicle, I could not help but take in the beauty of the area. However, I was not on this hilltop overlooking the Kettle Creek Valley merely for the view. On this hilltop is the resting place of many early settlers and strangely the second resting place for many of them. Yes, you read that correctly. The New Maple Grove Cemetery is the second resting place for many of the early settlers of the Kettle Creek Valley.

Growing up, I was no stranger to the Kettle Creek Valley. I can remember my parents driving through the Kettle Creek Valley while on a weekend drive. The valley meant enough to me that, as a part of a photography project while I was in 4-H (in my younger years), I had taken pictures of the Alvin Bush Dam that were included in it.

The Alvin Bush Dam was built in the 1960s as a means of flood control in order to save the towns downstream from the flooding of the West Branch of the Susquehanna. The erection of the dam created the 167 acre Kettle Creek Reservoir.

What I did not realize growing up was how the construction of the Alvin Bush Dam and the flooding of the Kettle Creek Valley affected those living there. Before the dam could be built, the task of removing the bodies of those buried in the valley had to be completed. The descendants of those resting in the Kettle Creek Valley had two choices. The first choice was the government would move the bodies at no cost to the family to either the New Maple Grove Cemetery or to the North Bend Cemetery at North Bend, located down river from Renovo. The second choice was the government would move the bodies to a cemetery of the family's choice, but the family would have to pay for the transfer and reburial of their kin.

New Maple Grove Cemetery
Kettle Creek State Park
Not surprisingly, most chose to have their loved ones buried in one of the two government selected cemeteries, although a handful of people chose to have their loved ones buried elsewhere.

As I stood there admiring the view of the valley, I allowed my mind to drift back to the first time I visited this cemetery a couple years earlier.

It had been a "normal" day of exploration of North Central Pennsylvania. Zech and I had set out early that morning in search of historical markers and other wayside monuments and while I had a handful of places I wanted to see, our journey eventually found us in the Kettle Creek Valley. I made the detour to snap a couple of pictures of the "Leidy Natural Gas Boom" historical marker when Zech pointed out a sign labeled "Cemetery."

 Of course my curiosity got the best of me and we crossed over Kettle Creek, took a right and continued on the dirt road, hoping we picked the correct route. About half a mile later, we made a sharp right and up the hill we went - within seconds the cemetery was in sight. We were greeted that morning by a large flock of turkeys that were feeding among the stones. They quickly fled at our appearance.

A marker at the entrance to the cemetery announced that we were entering the New Maple Grove Cemetery, but at that time I really had no idea the importance of this piece of sacred ground. Zech and I made our way around the cemetery, studying the older stones, taking pictures and making notes.

I was caught up in my own thoughts when Zech called for me. "Any clue what these numbers are for?" he asked as he stood looking at a small granite square with a number chiseled into it. I had to admit that I did not have the slightest inkling to what the numbers meant, but looking around I could see a number of similar stones in the immediate area. 

Grave of one of the unknown bodies
Buried at New Maple Grove Cemetery
That evening a quick search for the cemetery provided me with a lot of information about the cemetery we had visited. The stones that only bore numbers on them marked the graves of the unknown dead who were moved to this location. While the unknown now residing in the New Maple Grove Cemetery are marked with granite stones, those unknown dead now resting in the North Bend Cemetery are marked with metal ones.

As I read the history of the cemetery and the Kettle Creek Valley, I could not help but feel sad over the fact that these loved ones had to be moved from their resting place and moved to other locations. In all, eleven cemeteries had to be moved to escape the flooding of the valley.

The largest of the cemeteries that had to be moved was the Maple Grove Cemetery (also referred to as Trout Run Cemetery in some reports). The new location was named the New Maple Grove Cemetery in honor of the original church and cemetery. The church, which was built around 1868 and is still used for special occasions, was also moved with the bodies to the current location. Of those buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery, 82 were moved to New Maple Grove while 117 were reburied North Bend.

The second largest cemetery moved in 1960 was the Calhoun Cemetery, which is also referred to the Minnie Calhoun Cemetery in some records. One hundred and forty-five graves were moved from their original resting place. This cemetery was originally on lands owned by the Calhoun family and was located near the Leidy Bridge over Kettle Creek. Workers moved 98 bodies to New Maple Grove and 46 to North Bend. One reburial is not listed in the totals, so I'm going to assume that the body was reburied elsewhere. Reading the history of this cemetery, I was saddened even more to learn that of the 145 people buried in the Calhoun Cemetery, 54 of them are listed as unidentified/unknown.

The number of bodies removed from the Botsford Cemetery is open to debate. A total of eight bodies are listed as being discovered there, but only five bodies were removed to the New Maple Grove Cemetery. All five bodies were listed as being unknown.

The Brooks Family Cemetery had four bodies removed to the North Bend Cemetery. All four bodies were listed as unknown. One body was marked as a veteran, but his identity was not known nor could I find which war he fought in at this time.

New Maple Grove Cemetery
The Campbell Cemetery had six unknown bodies removed to North Bend. Edith Beck, who was living in Indiana, Pennsylvania, at the time, stated she was sister to three of the deceased and niece to one, but I could not find any other information as to the possible identities.

The Edwin Calhoun Cemetery had one burial removed. Edwin's infant son, George, was reburied in the New Maple Grove Cemetery. This private cemetery is also referred to as the Wild Rose or Red Rose Cemetery in some references.

The Pfoutz-Stow-Summerson Cemetery, also known as the Ox-Bow Cemetery originally had twenty-four bodies that were to be removed. In the process of removing the bodies, an additional twelve bodies were discovered by the workers. All of the bodies were relocated to North Bend.

Six people were buried in the pioneer cemetery known as the Pfoutz-Wertz Cemetery and were removed to North Bend. This cemetery held the remains of Simeon Pfoutz, the first settler on Kettle Creek. According to Linn's History of Centre and Clinton Counties Simeon, who escaped death after a number of panther attacks, tested his luck one time too many. On August 26, 1856, Simeon had picked up a rattlesnake to show a young friend that it was not harmful - the snake bit him and he would die as a result of the strike.

The Sullivan Cemetery was originally laid out by early settlers Garrett and John Mulcahy. Garrett selected the location of the cemetery so the waters of Kettle Creek would not disturb his eternal slumber. He would rest peacefully until the Kettle Creek Project. While the seven bodies buried here could not be identified, they were all removed to the New Maple Grove Cemetery, where none of them will ever be disturbed by the waters of Kettle Creek again. I just want to note that if their graves are disturbed by the waters of Kettle Creek, we are all in serious trouble.

The Earl Summerson Cemetery had four burials relocated in the North Bend Cemetery.

The final cemetery to be removed was the Summerson-Moore Cemetery. For some reason, the records for the cemetery relocation refer to it as the Proctor Farm Cemetery (after the owner at the time) rather than the name locals had always known it. Five graves were moved to North Bend, while the majority of them (42 burials) were moved to New Maple Grove Cemetery.

Grave of Dorcie Calhoun
New Maple Grove Cemetery
Not all of the cemeteries in the valley had to be removed. Roughly a half-mile south of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker, on the hillside overlooking Kettle Creek, members of the McCoy family still rest. The handful of graves escaped being moved during the Kettle Creek Project.

Returning to the present, I returned searching for one grave. A member of the Calhoun family, one man who would change the landscape of the Kettle Creek Valley ten years before the Army Corps of Engineers would permanently alter the face of the valley.

Unfolding the paper with my handwritten directions on it, I found the man's resting place in a matter of minutes. I had arrived at the resting place of Dorcie Calhoun.

This will be continued in Dorcie Clahoun: A Man With A Vision..

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