Stepping out of the vehicle, I was instantly overwhelmed by the beauty of the area dressed in the vibrant colors of early autumn. However, I was not on this hilltop overlooking the Kettle Creek Valley merely for the view. On this hilltop is the resting place of many early settlers and strangely the hilltop serves as the second resting place for many of them. Yes, you read that correctly. The New Maple Grove Cemetery is the second resting place for many of the early settlers of the Kettle Creek Valley.
Growing up, I was no stranger to the Kettle Creek Valley. I can remember my parents driving through the Kettle Creek Valley many times on the weekend adventures they would take the family on. The valley meant enough to me that, as a part of a photography project while I was in 4-H, I had taken pictures of the Alvin Bush Dam that were included in it.
The original state park was created by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s and was located at the present day lower campground. The dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps still exists at this location on Kettle Creek. In the 1960s, the state park expanded due to the construction of the Alvin Bush Dam as a means of flood control to save the towns downstream from the flooding of the West Branch of the Susquehanna. The erection of the dam created the 167 acre Kettle Creek Reservoir.
What I did not realize growing up was how the construction of the Alvin Bush Dam and the flooding of the Kettle Creek Valley affected those living there. Before the dam could be built, the task of removing the bodies of those buried in the valley had to be completed. The descendants of those resting in the Kettle Creek Valley had two choices. The first choice was the government would move the bodies at no cost to the family to either the New Maple Grove Cemetery, located in the valley near Kettle Creek State Park, or to the North Bend Cemetery at North Bend, located down river from Renovo. The second choice was the government would move the bodies to a cemetery of the family’s choice, but the family would have to pay for the transfer and reburial of their kin.
Not surprisingly, most chose to have their loved ones buried in one of the two government selected cemeteries, with the majority of the reburials being in the New Maple Grove Cemetery. There were a handful of people who chose to have their loved ones buried elsewhere. Other local cemeteries that had bodies moved to include: Linnwood in McElhattan, St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran in Lamar, Hall-Wertz in South Renovo, Red Hill Cemetery in Tamarack, and Gospel Camp in Hammersley Fork. The farthest any body was moved to (at least as far as I can determine) was Valley View Cemetery in Ellington, New York.
As I stood there admiring the view of the valley, I allowed my mind to drift back to the first time I visited this cemetery a couple years earlier. It had been a “normal” day of exploration of North Central Pennsylvania. Zech and I had set out early that morning in search of historical markers and other wayside monuments and while I had a handful of places I wanted to see, our journey eventually found us in the Kettle Creek Valley. I made the detour to snap a couple of pictures of the “Leidy Natural Gas Boom” historical marker when Zech pointed out a sign labeled “Cemetery.”
My curiosity got the best of me. We crossed over Kettle Creek and turned right, hoping we picked the correct route because we failed to discover any other signs for the cemetery. About half a mile later, we made a sharp right and up the hill we went – within seconds the cemetery was in sight. We were greeted that morning by a large flock of turkeys that were feeding among the stones. They quickly fled at our appearance.
A marker at the entrance to the cemetery announced that we were entering the New Maple Grove Cemetery, but at that time I really had no idea the importance of this piece of sacred ground. Zech and I made our way around the cemetery, studying the older stones, taking pictures and making notes.
I was caught up in my own thoughts when Zech called for me. “Any clue what these numbers are for?” he asked as he stood looking at a small granite square with a number chiseled into it. I had to admit that I did not have the slightest inkling to what the numbers meant, but looking around I could see a number of similar stones in the immediate area.
That evening a quick search for the cemetery provided me with a lot of information about the cemetery we had visited. The stones that only bore numbers on them marked the graves of the unknown or unidentified dead who were moved to this location. While the unknown now residing in the New Maple Grove Cemetery are marked with granite stones, those unknown dead are marked with metal ones.
As I read the history of the cemetery and the Kettle Creek Valley, I could not help but feel sad over the fact that these loved ones had to be moved from their resting place and moved to other locations. In all, eleven cemeteries had to be moved to escape the flooding of the valley.
The largest of the cemeteries that had to be moved was the Maple Grove Cemetery (also referred to as Trout Run Cemetery in some reports). The new location was named the New Maple Grove Cemetery in honor of the original church and cemetery. The church, which was built around 1868, was also moved with the bodies to the current location. Though not used regularly, it still is used for special occasions. Of those buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery, 82 were moved to New Maple Grove while 117 were reburied North Bend.
The second largest cemetery moved was the Calhoun Cemetery, which is also referred to the Minnie Calhoun Cemetery in some records. One hundred and forty-five graves were moved from their original resting places located on lands owned by the Calhoun family near the place where the Leidy Bridge crosses over Kettle Creek. Workers moved 98 bodies to New Maple Grove and 46 to North Bend. Reading the history of this cemetery, I was saddened even more to learn that of the 145 people buried in the Calhoun Cemetery, 54 of them are listed as unidentified or unknown. Note: I came across a listing of veterans who were removed from a Wild Rose/Red Rose Cemetery. While there was a Red Rose Cemetery in Kettle Creek Valley, they were not from that cemetery (we’ll get to that cemetery in a couple of paragraphs). It appears the Minnie Calhoun Cemetery might have also been referred to by this name because the veterans removed from the Wild Rose/Red Rose Cemetery are listed in the records as originally being buried In the Calhoun Cemetery.
The number of bodies removed from the Botsford Cemetery is open to debate. A total of eight bodies are listed as being discovered there, but only five bodies were removed to the New Maple Grove Cemetery and all five bodies were listed as being unknown. Note: This removal is interesting because when extra bodies were discovered in the other cemeteries, it was listed they were removed too. I have no doubt that these other bodies were moved to New Maple Grove, but I was not able to find any mention of them actually being reburied.
The Brooks Family Cemetery had four bodies removed to the North Bend Cemetery. All four bodies were listed as unknown. One body was marked as a veteran, but his identity was not known nor could I find which war he fought in. Note: While searching through Civil War records, I stumbled upon the name of Jacob Brooks who was listed as a Civil War soldier buried in Clinton County. His resting place was recorded as being in the Brooks Family Cemetery. This is most likely the identity of the unknown soldier removed to North Bend Cemetery.
The Campbell Cemetery had six unknown bodies removed to North Bend Cemetery. Edith Beck, who was living in Indiana, Pennsylvania, at the time, stated she was sister to three of the deceased and niece to the other three, but I could not find any other information as to the possible identities.
The Edwin Calhoun Cemetery had one burial removed. Edwin’s infant son, George, was reburied in the New Maple Grove Cemetery. This private cemetery is also referred to as the Wild Rose or Red Rose Cemetery in some references.
The Pfoutz-Stow-Summerson Cemetery, also known as the Ox-Bow Cemetery originally had twenty-four bodies that were to be removed. In the process of removing the bodies, an additional twelve bodies were discovered by the workers. All of the bodies were relocated to North Bend.
Six people were buried in the pioneer cemetery known as the Pfoutz-Wertz Cemetery and were removed to North Bend. This cemetery held the remains of Simeon Pfoutz, the first settler on Kettle Creek. According to Linn’s History of Centre and Clinton Counties Simeon, who escaped death after a number of panther attacks, tested his luck one time too many. On August 26, 1856, Simeon had picked up a rattlesnake to show a young friend that it was not harmful and the snake bit him. Pfoutz would die as a result of the strike.
The Sullivan Cemetery was originally laid out by early settlers Garrett and John Mulcahy. Garrett selected the location of the cemetery so the waters of Kettle Creek would not disturb his eternal slumber. He would rest peacefully until the Kettle Creek Project. None of the seven bodies buried here could be identified and they were all removed to the New Maple Grove Cemetery, where none of them will ever be disturbed by the waters of Kettle Creek again.
The Earl Summerson Cemetery had four burials relocated in the North Bend Cemetery.
The final cemetery to be removed was the Summerson-Moore Cemetery. For some reason, the records for the cemetery relocation refer to it as the Proctor Farm Cemetery, after the owner at the time, rather than the name locals had always known it. Five graves were moved to North Bend, while the other 42 burials were moved to New Maple Grove Cemetery.
Not all of the cemeteries in the valley had to be removed. Roughly a half-mile south of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker, on the hillside overlooking Kettle Creek, members of the McCoy family still rest. The handful of graves escaped being moved during the Kettle Creek Project.
Returning to the present, I unfolded the paper with my handwritten directions on it. In a matter of minutes, I was standing at the grave of Dorcie Calhoun, the man whose vision would change the Kettle Creek Valley ten years before the Army Corps of Engineers would permanently alter the face of the valley.
To be continued in “Dorcie Calhoun: A Man With a Vision.”
6 thoughts on “The Kettle Creek Project”
I like the history you have written about The Kettle Creek Project was of great interest my ancestors were among the first settlers on Kettle Creek and were buried at Pfoutz-Stow Summerson Cemetery when the graves were moved to North Bend Cemetery. David and Ellen Simpson Summerson were my fifth great grand parents.
Their graves should have been moved to New Maple Grove Cemetery not North Bend
My grandfather, Clarence Richard Hall, was moved from near Dorcie Calhoun’s house at the crik down to the Hall-Wertz Cemetery in Halls Run. The Wertz boys dug a grave for him and I was there when they moved what little was left of him. We still go to his grave occasionally, and I have my mom (Pearl Hall Poorman) and dad and two sons buried near him. Thank you for this good article👍