Get clues for ‘Valley Quest: Showcasing Culture’ scavenger hunt

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Lockboxes hidden in places of historical significance are waiting to be found this month by teams of scavenger hunters in Lackawanna County.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Historians in Lackawanna County are asking people in the community to hunt for the area’s hidden history.

Anyone with a keen eye may notice discrete additions to their communities in Lackawanna County: Lockboxes hidden in places of historical significance.

They’re waiting to be found this month by teams of scavenger hunters working with the Lackawanna Historical Society.

Searchers use weekly clues to find the lockboxes and then a combination to unlock the box for a prize symbolizing this part of the county’s history. 

Here are the latest clues:

Week 1

St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, Jermyn

The Orthodox Church has a strong presence in the Lackawanna Valley. Immigrants from eastern Europe, including Russia, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, and the region of the Carpathian Mountains, settled in the Lackawanna Valley after the 1880s, bringing their orthodox faith with them. Many of these early immigrants came to work in the anthracite coal mines in the late 1800s and early 1900s, adding to the rich tapestry of nations represented in Lackawanna County’s early days and continuing into the present.

Early settlers in Jermyn walked to St. John’s Russian Orthodox church in Mayfield before establishing their own parish. After founding a school in 1905, the first church was dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel in 1909. That church was destroyed by fire in 1915; the church the stands today was completed and consecrated in 1919. The church is a parish of the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania, Orthodox Church of America.

Please take a walk around the church, noting the beautiful, elaborate detail on the exterior with its domes and Orthodox cross, ornate doors and colorful painted tiles. This ornate structure is just one example of the artistic beauty seen in many Orthodox churches in our area.

Carbondale has deep roots as the oldest city in Lackawanna County, which is reflected in the city’s nickname as the “Pioneer City.” Carbondale’s early immigrants came to mine anthracite coal for the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company, America’s first million-dollar corporation. St. Rose of Lima parish, the oldest Catholic church in Lackawanna County, was established by Irish immigrants in 1832. The city also had a thriving Jewish community, which established the Agudath Shalom (Society of Peace) synagogue on Pike Street in 1907. When the synagogue closed in the 1970s, the cornerstone was placed in a nearby Jewish cemetery in Childs. The cornerstone is just one piece of the city’s history that has been preserved, however. Recently, a Delaware & Hudson caboose was returned to City Hall and placed on tracks along the building, with hopes to turn it into a museum. The car serves as a link between the city’s past and future.

Anthracite Park – Delaware and Hudson (D & H) 7th Avenue Crossing 

This little-known monument marks the site of America’s first underground Anthracite shaft mine. Across the street is Wurts Lane, named after brothers Maurice and William Wurts, Philadelphia businessmen, who discovered coal in Carbondale in 1814. The brothers formed the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal Company to transport coal from Carbondale to Honesdale and onward to New York City. The D&H was America’s first million-dollar corporation, helping fuel an industrial boom locally and across the Northeast.

For those who have little knowledge of coal geology, anthracite is the “cleanest” burning coal with the highest carbon content and heating value (BTU). Because it burns hotter than other types of coal, it has less volatile matter producing less smoke and soot. It also has less mercury and other pollutants than other types of coal. For all these reasons, one can see why the Wurts brothers and other entrepreneurs staked their claim in this marvelous discovery in the Lackawanna Valley.

Greenfield Township One Room Schoolhouse – Carpenter School #6 

This one room school house was in use until 1917, a remnant from a by-gone era. The building was originally located at Sickler’s Pond in Greenfield Township before it was moved to its current location. Adjacent to the school is a museum dedicated to this early history of the township filled with artifacts and memorabilia of the township’s early years. Officially founded in 1816, Greenfield Township grew at a consistent pace with the first tavern built in 1820, along with the first school. Take a step back in time and tour this interesting building, the only one of its kind in Lackawanna County. The schoolhouse and museum are open on the first and third Saturday and last Sunday of each month from 10:00 a.m. – noon.

Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly

Hickory Grove Cemetery was founded in 1807 and is one of the earliest cemeteries in Northeastern PA holding African American graves. Named for the large grove of hickory trees surrounding the area, it was established on a 326-acre farm by Elder Miller, a Baptist preacher. Waverly, then called Abington Center, was a station on the Underground Railroad, with many homes offering a safe haven for escaping slaves. Many chose to settle in the area, establishing farms and businesses; the African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1844. At least 75 former slaves settled in Waverly by the end of the 19th century. Many are buried in Hickory Grove cemetery, including eight African American soldiers who voluntarily served the Union during the Civil War. Look along Row 5 for Ann Matilda Smith, a former slave who died in 1886; her tombstone reads, “Forty years a slave and now safe in the arms of Jesus.”

The Waverly Community House sponsors the Destination Freedom program, including guided and self-guided tours of Underground Railroad sites. 

WEEK 2

Moffat Estate, Covington Township

Around 1844, Dr. Charles Frischkorn, a German immigrant, settled in what is now Covington Township on a parcel of land purchased from Henry Drinker, a Philadelphia Quaker who received a 25,000-acre land grant as a reward for his service in the Revolutionary War.  Dr. Frischkorn died in 1897, and his family sold the property in Atty. Michael J. Martin in 1926. Martin, an employee of the Moffat Coal Company, built a…

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