A full-page feature on Noxen appeared on March 25, 2001 in the Citizens' Voice Newspaper in Wilkes-Barre and the Sunday Times in Scranton.
 
   

Noxen:  A village with a view
By Debby Higgins
TIMES-SHAMROCK NEWSPAPERS

The main street is narrow and not so busy, but the view is spectacular.  The town is surrounded by tree-covered mountains with a picturesque stream running alongside.

The village of Noxen in Wyoming County once boasted three stores, several blacksmiths, two hotels, a high school, lumbering and tanning industries and a railroad, all carved out of a wilderness during the 1700s and 1800s.

Today, Noxen is a shadow of its former self.  Gone are the Albert Lewis ice business, the Lehigh Valley Railroad line, the Trexler & Turrel Lumber Co., and the Star Hotel.

Many of the descendants of the people who once worked at those places still call Noxen home.  Family names like Crispbell, Kitchen, Casterline, Newell and Engelman identify each family’s deeply rooted connection to the town.

In "Step by Step: Noxen’s History," author Janet R. Schooley describes a community with an unusual name and an unusual history.

"Noxen was once referred to as Lewis Village," Ms. Schooley writes.  Around the time of the Spanish American War, 12 families lived there," she said.

The Noxen native and author traced the unusual name to a legend about a little girl who exclaimed, on seeing at team of oxen amble down a dusty main street one summer day, "Look mommy, there goes a 'team of n'oxen," and the name stuck.  Ms. Schooley did not swear to the legend’s accuracy, but it sure makes for a good story.

TIMBERING ONCE IMPORTANT

Like many mountain settlements in rural America of centuries past, Noxen took advantage of its plentiful supply of trees.

Albert Lewis, the region's "ice king," built an industry on the pure waters of nearby Mountain Lake.  Mr. Lewis hired men who wanted to stay out of the coal mines to harvest lake ice during the cold months.  It was transported to storage buildings, covered with sawdust and stacked for delivery.

Later, Trexler & Turrel Lumber Co. was opened on South Mountain by John and Elrena Strohl.  The mountains yielded beech, birch, spruce, hemlock, and chestnut trees that supplied timber and board for the mining industry and the building trades.  Lumberjacks, that mighty breed of mountain men, joined the ice harvesters who often came with their families to settle in the area.

Still more people came to find work in the tannery that eventually would provide employment for many men until the 1960s.  The men who were unattached needed a place to stay, so the Noxen House Hotel was built.  The Wayside Inn became the Star Hotel and the town boasted two places to stay.

Asa Packer, founder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, authorized the extension of the line to Noxen to offer service to the ice and lumber trades.  His friend, Albert Lewis, carved an empire from ice and trees.  At one time, Ms. Schooley writes, 85 railroad sidings were operational in the Noxen/Stull area.  Business was very good.

In 1891, Mosser's Leather Co. opened to tan hides.  The tannin used in the process was readily available from the hemlock trees so plentiful in the area.  The tannery served as the nucleus of the community as it changed ownership through the years.

"On Dec. 31, 1961, the town died when the tannery closed and the train stopped," Ms. Schooley writes.

Not much remains as a reminder of the last century's prosperity.  But a group of concerned activists, spearheaded by a Noxen native, have eagerly embraced a plan to restore the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station, one of the last vestiges of prosperous days gone by.

Dr. Doug Ayers and fellow members of the North Branch Land Trust, an historic preservation/restoration activist group, have undertaken the task of restoring the station.

Linda Thoma, NBLT executive director said the station is one of only three of this design still standing.  Constructed in 1893, it is designed in the style popular to upstate New York, Ms. Thoma explained.

"It was beautiful building with a hip roof, dormers and jewel-colored glass windows.  Visionaries like Doug hopefully will be successful in acquiring the funding to bring this building back to its original beauty," she offered.

GRANT OBTAINED

Thus far, a grant for $18,000 has been obtained from the endless Mountains Heritage Region to stabilize the structure and to plan for its future use.  More money is needed and work on obtaining grants continues.  When all the money has been raised, Ms. Thoma said it is hoped the station can be restored and will assume a new job as a center for recreation.  "One day in the future, we hope Noxen will be a stop on the Rail Trail throughout our area," she expressed.

Along with that initiative the Bowman's Creek Watershed Association is planning to create a River Conservation Plan for the creek that flows through Noxen.

Meanwhile, Gennifer Pauley, a 20-year-old college student, wants to do something to help make her community a user-friendly town.  Her mom Cathie Pauley, said her family has roots in Noxen and she and her daughter want to keep the tradition of community involvement alive.

"Gennifer is working hard to raise enough money to build a playground near the old tannery ballfield.  She wants to do something for the kids in the community.  So far, she has raised $7,000 from a grant and donations, Mrs. Pauley reported.

Mrs. Pauley is working to sell replacement memorial windows for the old Noxen school that now houses the community library.

"We're so proud of our library.  We have 10,000 books, but we need to keep the building in good repair.  Right now, we're selling replacement windows with a memorial plaque.  We'd like everyone to get involved," she said.

For more information about the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station restoration, contact the Back Mountain Regional Land trust at 696-5545.

For more information about the Bowmans' Creek Watershed Association, call 639-1723.

Or call 298-2052 to learn more about the library and community projects.

Caption under post office picture:
The tiny community of Noxen still boasts its own post office.  At one time, this Wyoming County community was home to more than 2,000 residents.
Photo by Mark Moran

Caption under picture of resident:
Noxen native Kevin May has seen his community come full circle.  It has gone from a busy hub for lumbering to a mostly residential community.
Photo by Mark Moran

Caption under church picture:
This old photograph of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church depicts a house of worship built by loving hands in a rural community in the early 1900s.  Today, St. Luke’s still offers services to the faithful in Noxen and surrounding communities.
Photo courtesy of Mel’s Diner in Noxen

Note: Other articles regarding restoration of several key structures in Noxen were printed in the Citizens' Voice on December 22nd, 2003 and February 1st, 2004. Click on either date to read those stories.

 

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