Camp Michaux Web Site

The Fuller Brick and Slate Company. - March 14th, 1891

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The Fuller Brick and Slate Company. - March 14th, 1891.

The South Mountain Mining and Iron Company conveyed to the Fuller Brick and Slate Company four tracts of land in Adams and Cumberland counties consisting of 439 acres for the purpose of operating as a brick-making plant, as a fine body of shale and clay had been found on the land, and a stock company was organized with a capital of $600,000. A fine quality of buff-colored brick was made, but for some reason the market did not seem to be open for their product, and the brick company was forced to suspend operations, and by a deed dated August 11, 1913, reconveyed back to the South Mountain Mining and Iron Company the four tracts of land. The large building used for the brick making was lowered four feet, and is now used for the storage of machinery and stables for the teams of the Forestry Department. The stone grist mill has been refitted into a delightful building now used for entertainment and eating rooms, and during the summer months is well patronized. The park with its many original pine trees, is used during the summer season by the girl scouts organizations, as well as other pleasure seekers. One of the curiosities in the older days was a pine tree fountain. Pipes were laid from a spring of fine mountain water across the creek, and were run under one of the big pine trees, and brought out about three feet above the ground. No one could see the pipes, and of course the query was where did the water come from flowing so freely out of that pine tree?

By deed dated November 22, 1912, and other deeds later, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased from the South Mountain Mining and Iron Company over fourteen thousand acres in Cumberland County and nearly three thousand acres in Adams County for forestry purposes at four dollars per acre. The Department rebuilt the roadway running from Pine Grove to Caledonia, and it is now one of the attractive automobile drives that could be taken for mountain scenery, and a great number of pleasure cabins are built on the land, especially along Mountain Creek.

A terrific forest fire occurred April 20, 1915, on these lands, and destroyed many acres of fine young timber, and burned the Forge Farm house, barn and all out buildings, burned the Forge Mansion then occupied by Joseph Fuller, and several summer cabins, and also burned the immense ice house that stood at the edge of Laurel Lake filled with hundreds of tons of pure ice that had been harvested from Laurel Lake for use in Carlisle and Harrisburg by the United Ice and Coal Company of Harrisburg. It was a wonderfully destructive sight to watch the glistening ice while the wooden house around it burned fiercely.

It is almost impossible to record a history or even a sketch of history of such works as the old charcoal furnaces, without giving the names of those faithful helpers, who in all troubles stood shoulder to shoulder with the owners, feeling that the end of their work must soon come. While I was manager of the works, the following were my dependable helpers ready for call at any time:

John Christman, master mechanic, could do more and better work with a chisel and file than many can now with lathe and planer.

Daniel Leeper, wood boss, knew every foot of the property, and all the deceptive tricks of wood choppers, putting stumps and crooked sticks in their cord ranks.

William Foreman, Superintendent of No. 1 ore bank, a splendid man who had to deal with all sorts and conditions of men and knew how to do it.

Ezra Root, general repairman at banks, expert wire rope splicer, blacksmith and wood worker, very ingenious, loyal and intelligent.

Joseph D. Barber, millwright. Splendid mechanic. Built the large overhead water wheels at forge and the ore hole. Was a man of intelligence. He was an ardent member of the "Greenback" political party. Died January 1st, 1892.

Jerry Barber, his son, for years in charge of the stables and later the personal coachman for Mr. Fuller, and with his wife, Kate Bailey Barber, conducted the boarding house. It was always said that when Jerry looked at a horse, he knew every fault and favor in every bone in the body. It was thought that nothing but death could pry Jerry away from Pine Grove Furnace, but he did move with his family a few years ago to Mount Holly Springs, and died there January 29, 1927. Jerry was born October 21, 1849.

Charles Sheaffer, the miller at the stone grist mill, was a good miller and quite a wag. His tales would make a good volume rich in humor if they had been kept.

Samuel Dysart, boss carpenter and coal and iron policeman, Sam had wonderful skill with his tools.

William Mounts had charge of mine banks No. 2 and 3 in the vicinity of Laurel, and was always known as "Old Man Mounts" by everybody, loved by everybody, and had the character to go with it.

To make a success in the charcoal iron manufacture, no set of men are more important than the Charcoal burners, and we were fortunate in having a set of very dependable men. Mr. Thomas Hyle still living at Pine Grove in his 85th year, was one of them. There were four men in each coal job, and they were expected to turn out into charcoal from 200 to 400 cords of wood each coaling season. These colliers were William Showers, William and George Stainer Emery Cline, Daniel, Calvin, John and William Cline Eli, Andrew and Fred Heller, John, Hiram and John Warner, Jr. Thomas and Henry McElwee, William, John, Jesse and William Waine, Jr. George Murtiff and George Boane.

On the furnace work the following were employed:

Keepers: Daniel Stout and Davie Weiley. Keepers' helpers: George Shockley and John Martin Filler: John Bohn.

At the forge the following were employed: Joseph Fuller, Superintendent. Clerk, Mr. McClure, who later became a noted divine in the Episcopal Church. The company store was managed by J. D. North, assisted by W. A. Davis and Albert Warner. The upper or Bunker Hill farm was tenanted by Frank Arnold, the Forge Farm by Edward Grimes and the Furnace Farm by Mr. Lynch. The teacher in the little school house was Miss Ella Cormoran. Mrs. Lynch took splendid care of us in the old mansion house until we moved into the new mansion house (now used for a hotel) where Mrs. Mary Mullen and her daughter were persuaded to come from the Mount Holly Inn to take charge of the new place.


Text from a document obtained at the Pine Grove Furnace Park office.

Nestled in the ridges of the South Mountain two miles west of Pine Grove Furnace lies Camp Michaux. This church camp, was shared by the United Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ, has an unusual historical background, which dates from the early iron mining industry and continues through World War II.

The present site of Camp Michaux was once known as the Bunker Hill Farm and included about 250 acres of land. No one is certain how far back this early farm dates because the deed is believed to have been destroyed by confederates on their march north.

According to one theory, however, the farm existed in Revolutionary days. It is know that after the Battle of Trenton, Hessians were taken as prisoners to the Carlisle Army Post. From there, they were issued to various farmers in the area as workers. These Hessians may have erected the enormous stone barn at the Bunker Hill Farm because its construction resembles the old Hessian guardhouse at the Army Post. One side of the stone barn still stands on the Camp Michaux grounds.

About a mile northwest of camp, on the Appalachian Trail is the old tenant house of the farm. Located close to a mountain spring and a creek, the house is now used as a shelter for hikers along the trail. Behind the house among the trees lie three unmarked graves believed to be those of young children who died of small pox.

In addition to the farm proper, the farm included a large peach orchard on Big Flat and a sawmill close by. The first steam traction engine in the South Mountain was owned by the Baker family for use in this sawmill.

Sometime through the years the farm was bought by the owners of the Pine Grove Estate and became part of their vast system of farms. The iron works community at Pine Grove was similar to a feudal system in that workers were dependent on their master for food and shelter and that "farms were worked for the support of man and beast."

The farm system was so extensive that in 1878 the South Mountain Iron Company hired an expert planter and fruit culturist, J.D. North from North Carolina, to have charge of the farms and their management. A tenant farmer operated each individual farm. Under this plan, John A. Gardners was the last farmer of the Bunker Hill farm. For this reason, natives often refer to the site as the Gardner Farm.

In 1912 the South Mountain Mining and Iron Company sold out to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for $29,827. The sixty square miles of the Pine Grove Estate became a state forest reserve. The state, however, continued to cultivate the Gardner farm until 1919 when 1,000 bushels of wheat were harvested.

The once prosperous farmlands were then abandoned and left to overgrow with weeds. In 1932, the Civilian Conservation Corps, under Roosevelt's New Deal, spotted the site for one of their camps. This camp, S-51. became the first CCC camp in Pennsylvania. 

In May of 1933, the first group of boys came from Philadelphia by train to the Pine Grove station. At the beginning they lived in the railroad coaches and each day walked the two-mile distance to and from the farm. When the crew had sufficiently cleared the fields they set up their camp of tents.

These tents were only temporary housing until barracks could be built. Living in tents was unpleasant as well as dangerous. Once when lightning struck the camp, two boys were killed. The corps finally moved into barracks at Christmas that first year.

About 200 boys occupied the CCC camp at one time. Boys from eighteen to twenty-five years were eligible to enlist for a six-month period and could re-enlist up to two years.

The first work crew set out on June 1, 1933, to improve the road to the Baker sawmill. Other work assignments that first year were primarily devoted to the construction of a camp. Fields no longer needed were planted in tree plantations, and permanent buildings were built. Later years, however, were spent improving old roads, making new roads, and making general improvements in the forest reserve.

After nine years of operation, the CCC camp closed in February 1942; then the Intelligence Department of the Army took over the site and supervised the Camp Pine Grove Prisoner of War Camp. (The official name according to Metcaff) Not only was the camp close to the Carlisle Army Post, but also it was only a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C.  Most important, though, the camp was well isolated and could be kept a secret.

At first, the camp was intended only for German naval officers, but then it was enlarged to take in some Rommel's African Corps and later, Japanese officers. A staff of 150 American personnel were stationed there. The camp held the inventor of the German buzz bomb (Metcalf disputes this information) in addition to 1,500 other prisoners.

Because the camp was kept a secret, very little information is available about the actual operation of it; however, evidence of its existence remains in the present church camp for all to see. A gallery of pictures painted by the prisoners was displayed in the recreation hall. ( I hope some record of them survives.) Several pictures showed the barbed wire fence that surrounded the camp, and the high watchtower located in the center of camp. The concrete base of this tower still remains. German words and names are embedded in concrete steps and bridges that the war prisoners constructed throughout the camp.

With the end of the war, the camp again was abandoned in approximately 1945. Then when a small group of ministers and laymen from the Presbyterian and Reformed churches were looking for a summer camp where they could train their young people, they discovered the ex-prison camp.

In 1948, Camp Michaux Incorporated got a ten-year lease from the state at $600 per year provided they maintain all buildings and grounds. A provisional agreement from the state allowed them to use the grounds during the summer of 1947 when work camps cleaned the area and repaired the buildings.

Like the state forest that surrounds the site, the camp is named after Andre Michaux who made great contributions to botany by his explorations and collections. This Frenchman, who lived from 1746 to 1802, was sent by Louis XIV to North America to gather plants for the Royal Gardens. He was also commissioned to study various trees and give advice on woods suitable for naval construction. During his eleven years in America, Michaux did extensive travel. He spent two years in the southern Appalachian Mountains collecting and naming many plants. Today's campers have a special interest in this man who loved the same woods they do.

The camp has reverted to Michaux State Forest and in approximately 1972 the buildings and appurtenances were removed. The buildings are now gone, save for the still standing end of the old barn. However, the pristine setting has not been altered significantly.

Take some time to visit the former site and absorb through the mind's eye, days long past, and listen to the serenity of the mountains.

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