Brandonville

Brandonville is situated midway between Sheppton and Shenandoah. The land was surveyed in 1794 for Thomas Bittler, a first settler. The Bittlers, German nationality, came from Berks County. Soon after the Bittlers, the Brandons, also descendants of Germans, arrived.

Nelson Brandon was born March 3, 1831. He married Rebecca Hartley in 1854. She died in 1866 and then he married Sarah J. Rupert. Mr. Brandon was an extensive landowner in East Union Township, most of which he acquired by purchase from the Bittlers and other pioneer settlers and land owners.

In 1864, he laid out the land for the town. Louis Yetter, an engineer from Catawissa, made the survey. The town was called Brandonville in honor of the founder and owner of the land. The first settlers found the land covered with enormous trees and thick underbrush. the Brandons cleared a tract of land and built a log cabin at the northern end of town. After many remodelings, it is at the present time occupied. This old log house is over a hundred years old and is the oldest landmark in the town.

Water was not available close to the house. It had to be piped from the creeks of the mountains which ran through the upper end of the land. The pipes were made of wood, the hole of which was bored by hand. Some of the pipes can still be found. Today water is piped from deep wells with pumps. Some families still carry their water from a fresh drinking water stream called the Second Creek.

The first settlers were attracted by the large forests. Thus lumbering became the first industry. Early lumber operations were directed by Nelson Brandon, Charles Tete, Senator W.L. Torbert, William Reagan, William Fegley and Samuel Boone.

Many sawmills were built along the Old Catawissa Creek, all operated by water power. The first sawmill was built in 1861 and was located in the district now called the old fertilizer. This sawmill was owned by John Bittler. Old tradition states that, this being the period of the Civil War, the owner was forced to go to war, and his wife operated the mill. The first steam saw mill was built in 1865 and was located at Rattling Run. Also in the year 1865, a saw mill was built at the present pumping station. This saw mill was operated by Torbert and Tete, brothers-in-law.

Because of the great lumber operations, the forests disappeared and the industry decreased rapidly. Farming then became the main industry. Land was cleared and small farms established then later larger areas were cultivated. The Brandon farm, practically the first one operated, is still in existence. The town was mainly composed of farmhouses. Today very few exist within the town. The houses today are country homes with the men of the homes occupied in other lines of activities than farming.

The first store was built by Brandon and sold to Squire Cauley. It was situated at the Ringtown and Brandonville crossroad. This store was later owned by Featherloff. Before this store, the settlers had to go to Tamaqua, the nearest store in the district. In 1860, a store was built at Krebs, near the old White Church. This store was operated by the Culps.

In 1880, there were three hotels, one public hall, two stores, one blacksmith shop, and twenty-five dwellings in Brandonville. The first general store was owned by Calvin Hauck. Paulus Zimmerman carries on the business at present. It is situated in the lower end of Brandonville. The first gasoline station, owned by A.J. Mockaitus, is situated in the upper end of Brandonville. The first Green Hill grocery store, owned by Jane Mensinger, is situated in the center of town.

The first hotel was built by Brandon and sold to John Hem. It was located directly across from the Brandonville Railroad Station. This was later owned by Mr. Reichard. The Catawissa Railroad was built through Brandonville in the 1850s. The station was first called Mahanoy because the people from the Mahanoy City settlement had to come to Brandonville to take the train because there was no railroad through the Mahanoy Valley.

There are many creeks in the woods and meadows of East Union Township. These creeks had been fresh water trout streams. Trout a foot long were considered small during the early days of settlement. The Catawissa Creek was one of the finest trout streams. In the winter some of the old folks would cut the ice and catch enough fish for breakfast. Sulphur water from the coal mines has contaminated the water and killed all the trout.

Wild animals were plentiful during the early settlements. Many deer and bears were shot by hunters. Andrew Lorah claims to have shot the last two wild cats in the district.

Bee hiving was an amusement of the early settlers. The bees were first tracked to their homes in a hollow tree and then the tree was cut down. They were then hived and taken to their new homes. Some would stay and others would leave and find another hollow tree.

In 1900, a bicycle factory was established at Brandonville by Harvey Faust. He made his own machinery making all the parts from raw materials. It has since been torn down and a home built on the site.

An airplane landing field and beacon light were built on O’Hara’s farm in 1925 but were abandoned in 1930 because of the modern devices of the airplanes today. It is not necessary to make many stops.

The race track owned by M.J. O’Hara was built in 1865. It has been the center of amusement for both horse and auto races.

The pumping station at the reservoir is a large plant built in 1898. It is situated a mile and a quarter east of Brandonville. This reservoir supplies the water for Shenandoah.

There are caves in the northern section of Brandonville which are believed to have been constructed by a small tribe of Indians who wandered up the Catawissa Creek from the tribe that had camped in the Nuremberg Valley. These caves have rooms, cut from huge rocks, large enough to live in. The entrance is now closed.

The first school of East Union Township was in Brandonville. It was an old log cabin, built before 1850, situated at the fork of the road directly below the present grammar school. The seats were benches around an old fashioned stove placed in the center of the room. This was not a free school as public schools were not yet established. The German language was taught and the teacher was hired by the parents. The pupils were punished with cat-o-nine-tails and hickory sticks.

The grammar school was erected in 1885. This contained eight grades until the erection of the primary school in 1913, then only four grades remained. In 1933, the eighth grade was taken to Sheppton High School.

Horn’s school was built in 1875. W.F. Horn, a Civil War veteran, residing at Ringtown, owned the farm at the schoolhouse; hence the name. This school contains the first seven grades. Hauser’s school, built in 1895, is now vacant.

The population of Brandonville in 1855 was very small. There were six log cabins and twenty-five people. But as the years went by, this population increased to five hundred people and approximately eighty dwellings.

The first roads were lumber roads which permeated the entire district. They were taken over by the townships which became the caretaker. In spite of frequent repairs, the dirt roads often were almost impassable. The cement highway from Shenandoah to Hazleton was started January of 1932 and completed in July 1933.

Electricity came into use for the first time in Brandonville in 1925.

The first services for St. John’s Lutheran Church of Brandonville were held in the old log school house, mentioned earlier, by Rev. Samuel S. Kling in 1875. Sunday School was held in the old log school house at as early a date as the church services. In 1886, the present Sunday School building was erected in the center of Brandonville. This is now the Union Sunday School, open to all Protestant denominations. The Evangelicals held their services in this building until 1913 when they erected their own building.

The cemetery, directly back of the Union Sunday School, was started the same year as the erection of the building, 1886. There are four Civil War veterans buried in this cemetery: Lewis Dreisbach, born 1839, died 1923; Conrad Lutz, born 1842, died 1918; Samuel Cowley , whose inscription is Co. H, 6th Regt., P.V. Inf. (He is the only person buried North and South as was his wish, in case the South should rise again); and Daniel Vanhorn, who has no tombstone.

St. Paul’s Evangelical Church, located in the upper end of Brandonville, was built in 1913. The Sunday School was organized the same year as the church.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Brandonville is a mission of St. Mary’s Catholic of Ringtown. The Catholic people of Brandonville at first went to nearly towns to attend church. This was very inconvenient so Mass was held in the grammar school, June 17, 1923