Matt Carl of the Bradford County Historical Society (top) shares the history of the old jail house in Towanda with participants of the Sept. 13 River Towns Bus Tour, and Laceyville’s Oldest House volunteer Carol Furman (above, left) greets guests as they enter the “keeping room” of the historic canal stop.
Indian lore, floods and fires, boom and bust, and historical figures of days gone by were the subject matter of the River Towns Bus Tour sponsored by the Wyoming County Cultural Center and the Endless Mountains Heritage Region on Wednesday. Tour guide Rick Hiduk balanced legends with facts as 36 people from Bradford, Wyoming, Lackawanna and Luzerne counties took in breathtaking vistas, classic architecture, and a variety of modern and historic icons on a looping route from Tunkhannock to Sayre and back.
“It is as much about what all of these towns have in common,” Hiduk remarked during a briefing at the Dietrich Theater prior to the tour, “as it is about the things that make these places unique.”
Debbie Stevens (below), vice president of the Oldest House-Laceyville Area Historical Society, met the group on the bus to give them a historical overview of the Oldest House before dividing up the riders so they could enter the house from different directions. After their tour, participants noted that they were most intrigued by the idea that the river was the purpose for the house and that the “basement” as perceived from the street is actually the first floor and entrance.
A detour through Wyalusing gave tour-goers a glimpse at the borough’s famous gingerbread facades along Main and Second streets, before the bus chugged up the hill to Wyalusing Rocks and the Marie Antoinette Overlook. Group members had numerous questions about the French Azilum Historical site and were encouraged to visit before the season ends.
Hiduk noted that energy has been a driving force in the local economy since Claverack was created as one of the state’s first rural cooperatives and continues to be as companies like the TranZ Transfer Facility, Eureka-Resources Waste Water Treatment, and the Panda Liberty Power Plant are established to support or benefit from natural gas drilling.
Jenny Marino and Mary Neiley of the Central Bradford Chamber of Commerce met the group at the Riverstone Inn (above) to welcome them and share some history of the Chamber and the Towanda and Wysox area as tour-goers enjoyed lunch.
The next stop was the Bradford County Historical Society Museum, where managing curator Matt Carl delighted the crowd with an overview of the old jail in Towanda before directing them to points in the museum that might be of interest to them. The current World War I exhibit was well-received, and most tour-goers agreed that they could easily have spent another hour there.
The James Street Bridge was the second of six river crossings in the course of the tour, and participants were impressed by the inclusive playground that is part of Larnard-Hornbrook County Park, as well as the story of Col. John Franklin who was alternately a traitor and patriot during his long and colorful life.
A photo opp at the Tioga Point overlook (above) excited a number of riders who had read about the famous confluence of the Susquehanna and Chemung rivers without ever seeing it, and Johnny D’s Ice Cream Parlor (below) proved a popular stop when the bus crossed the river at Sayre. Tour participants had plenty of questions about Queen Esther and Gen. Sullivan’s campaign as the bus paused in front of the Tioga Point Museum.
On the return trip, movie passes and snack vouchers for the Dietrich Theater were given away as prizes to those who remembered facts about the stories that were shared on the way up the river. The bridges at Laceyville and Mehoopany were also among the river crossings as the group learned about Scottsville, the many mills of Mehoopany and the construction of the Procter and Gamble plant.
Wyoming County Cultural Center director Erica Rogler expressed her gratitude for the financial support from EMHR and DCNR that made the tour possible and to Hiduk for his research and enthusiasm as a guide.
“I learned a great deal and enjoyed the day immensely. And, based on the comments from the other tour participants, I know they did too,” Rogler related. “There is so much heritage and culture to experience right here in the Endless Mountains.”