History of the Land

Since Time Immemorial

Eons after mighty glaciers shaped the landscape and nature cycled through life, growth, death, and rebirth, humans came upon this land. The Leni Lenape tribes, whom we believe to be the first human inhabitants of this region, lived near and along the Delaware River. These native peoples hunted and gathered in the hills of what is now known as "Dyberry" and along its streams and in its forests.

 

In the 1680s an English Quaker, William Penn, was given a charter by the King of England to settle the expansive lands that came to be called Penn’s Woods or Pennsylvania.

 

Discovery and pioneering of the northeastern section of Pennsylvania was slow going for roughly the next 100 years. In was in 1797 that John Kizer, thought to be the first European settler on the lands now embraced by Dyberry Township, built a hut in the dense hemlock forests. The Township of Dyberry was erected in 1804 in Wayne County, a county which had recently been carved out of Northhamton County.

 

There has always been some dispute as to the origin of the name Dyberry. Tradition, as handed down through Mrs. Isaac Brush, has it that one of the early settlers named Dyberry built a cabin on the creek. His was the first death recorded in the new township, and it was named in his honor. Another version of the name’s origin is that in a place called “Dey’s clearing” there grew some rare and popular berries making the area a saught after place, and when the township was erected, the name Dyberry was given to it.

During the early decades of the 19th century, there were efforts at commercial activity in and around the area where the Western Branch and the Eastern Branch of the Dyberry Creek converge. For example, it is known that in 1821 Stephen Lay built a sawmill in the township where the Bates Grist Mill was still standing in at least 1938.

 

In the early 1800s our parcel of land was a part of a larger tract of 60 acres, more or less, in the warrantee name of Samuel Frost. In 1830 Jason Torrey built a sawmill at Dyberry Falls which later became known as Tanner Falls. Torrey owned a large tract of land in this area—presumably part of which was received from Frost—and in June 30, 1848, he conveyed 60+/- acres to John Bates.

 

In 1849 Bates built a sawmill on the "Dyberry Flats." In 1854 he sold his sawmill to William Kimball, and by 1878 Kimball was powering his mill with steam. Kimball eventually sold the mill to Elias B. Stanton of Honesdale, and for at least a time this mill was known as Kimble & Stanton Saw Mill.

 

One can imagine this place during these years. The trees were cut in the surrounding forests, milled on the Dyberry Flats or other nearby mills, and then moved down the creek to Honesdale and beyond. One can also imagine the hillsides stripped of trees due to the hunger for lumber.

 

During the height of commercial activity—centering around a tannery and multiple saw mills—in Tanner Falls (just up the road), it is known there was a large farm operation supporting the growing population of the hamlet. In 1872, for example, William Nelson Alberty was the superintendent of the large farm, the tannery, and the sawmills.

 

It is likely that this property—whoever owned it at the time (Bates, Kimball, Stanton, Adams, et. al)—was that farm, providing for much of the hamlet's food needs. The multiple stone walls on the land were likely constructed by the many laborers that worked all sorts of jobs to support Tanner Falls. Again, one can imagine the hills clear-cut for lumber to feed to the mills or the tannery (hemlock bark was key to the tanning process), thus exposing the stones which were then piled up into walls to divide property lines or to fence animals.

 

St. John’s Catholic Church had a mission at Tanner Falls between 1853 and 1887. Masses were held either at “The Boarding House” or the farm house of Patrick H. Doherty. Obviously, there was a sufficient population to justify the mission, and it is known that a large Irish Catholic population followed the tanning and lumber industries in the region. The Boarding House was still standing in 1906, but soon thereafter collapsed.

 

The height of commercial activity in Tanner Falls was during the years 1850 to 1900, with sufficient activity and population to justify a U.S. Post Office (opened 1858—closed 1912). It is estimated that during this time Tanner Falls and its enrivons had 100 families and a population of 500 or 600 people — certainly a thriving hamlet.

 

During the late 1800s and early 1900s much change came to Tanner Falls, initiated by the exhaustion of the hemlock trees and the unfortunate burning of the tannery. The Tanner Falls property and core business operation went into bankruptcy in the 1920s despite earlier attempts at new ventures. The property was sold at a bankruptcy sale in 1931 to a development company who eventually conveyed it to the State of Pennsylvania in 1939 for $8/acre.

 

During this period of transition, Friend and Carrie Walter moved to the area to be dairy and vegetable farmers. Their house (a modified American four-square, balloon framed and stuccoed) was built in 1925 and became home to them and their three children,:Mary, Lee, and Olive.

 

Floods from the Dyberry Creek had frequently ravaged Honesdale.  In the 1950s a flood control dam on the Dyberry, two miles north of Honesdale, was constructed by the Civil Corps of Engineers. A flood easement of the U.S. government required demolition of all structures along the valley floor. This included all homes and structures in nearby Tanner Falls and this brought this once thriving hamlet to an end.  Rather than destroying their lovely home, in 1957 the Walter family had it moved up the hill to where it now stands.

Olive inherited the property from her parents, and she lived out her 90+ years filled with many days teaching at the nearby one-room school house, gardening, and singing hymns on the piano. From what the neighbors report, this does not adequately describe the full and interesting ife of Olive Water.

 

Al David Benner bought the property from Olive in March 2001, and for nearly 20 years he lived here part time and stewarded it as a farm and forest, eventually naming it Old School Farm. David Campeau, a local carpenter and a man of many talents, played an instrumental role in farming and developing the property. In the years 2017-2019 Old School Farm became locally known for selling pizza made in a wood-fired oven and hosting community gatherings with music.

 

The Bucko family of Medford, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania bought the property, as well as the assets of Old School Farm, in May 2021, and look forward to stewarding the land with diligence, care, and attentiveness.