The Township was created in 1878 when the separation of Lackawanna County from Luzerne County divided Buck Township. The eastern portion of Buck Township in the newly formed Lackawanna County was named Lehigh Township in 1880 after the Lehigh River. The Township was officially renamed Thornhurst Township in 1996 to end years of confusion with neighboring Lehigh Township in Wayne County. Lumbering was the major industry and tree bark supplied tanneries in Gouldsboro. Isaac Lewis was the pioneer settler in 1842. Today, Thornhurst Township is comprised of the villages and neighborhoods of Thornhurst, Bear Lake, Pine Grove Acres, and Thornhurst Country Club Estates.
Key Historical Topics about Thornhurst
History of the Tannery & Jay Gould's Influence on the Region
The first business venture of Jay Gould, the noted speculator and railroad manipulator, was in the village of Thornhurst, then called Gouldsborough. From 1856 to 1861, he erected and owned a large tannery along the Lehigh River with Zaddock Pratt. The tannery profits became the basis of Gould’s fortune. The communities of Thornhurst and present-day Gouldsboro became the business center of the region due to proximity to the Lackawanna Railroad and the ability to receive supplies of hides and ship out leather. Thornhurst was a prominent lumbering area, but the bark was being wasted; Gould paid farmers and loggers money for hemlock bark to use in tanning animal hides. The Lehigh River provided the power and water to soak the hides, which eventually became shoe leather. Gould later became focused on railroading as an investment opportunity.
The Fire of Mud Run
In May of 1875, a massive forest fire engulphed a 17-mile area in only a few hours, destroying all that the lumbermen had not already taken. The fire began near White Haven and cut a swath a mile or more wide for a length of 30 miles, extending to Thornhurst, generally referred to as the Great Pine Swamp at the time, and stopping only near present-day Gouldsboro before spreading destruction and despair. Bridges and many buildings were burned, one woman perished, and many of the inhabitants fled 10 or 12 miles away for safety only to be left homeless and destitute. This event caused the end of the lumbering industry in the region for many years.
Camp Thornhurst for Boys
In 1924, Camp Thornhurst for Boys was privately owned and included tennis courts, a baseball field, and a swimming beach on the Lehigh River. A stagecoach made daily trips from nearby Stoddartsville, PA, and campers also visited from as far away as Philadelphia and Danville, PA. The Manor, the chief structure of the camp, was called the Gilpatree and the Coaldale Club in later years, and served as a hotel. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1980. Today, the grounds are the future site of the Thornhurst Riverfront Park.
El Pocono Ranch Resort
The “Dude Ranch” was formerly known as the Stegmaier Estate and Karls Rhue. The recreation destination featured a ski slope, ice cutting on the pond, horseback riding, and eventually a golf course. Today, the grounds are the site of Thornhurst Country Club Estates with a public 9-hole golf course.
For More Information about the History of Thornhurst
Contact Jim Howley at 570.842.9412. Jim published a 282-page book, The History of Thornhurst and the Upper Lehigh River, which contains 16 maps, 116 pictures, and an extensive compilation of the history of the area. The book is available for purchase by making arrangements directly with Mr. Howley.
Interested in sharing or viewing old photos and artifacts relating to Thornhurst? Contact Pat Wincek at 570.842.3353 or email her. Pat serves as the facilitator of the Thornhurst Historical Committee and members would like to preserve these items.