Life in Pleasant Valley - During the Month of October 1890-1910
October was the month to harvest fruit in Pleasant Valley in the decades 1890-1910. In 1887 the Pleasant Valley column in the Hopewell Herald noted that Charles Miller, at today’s Howell Farm, was getting 15 bushels per tree from the young, 12 year old, apple trees in his orchard. Again, in 1896 the paper reported that Charles Miller had a very large apple crop that he was gathering in October. On October 28 that year the paper reported in the Titusville news a curious incident that occurred on Charles Miller’s farm.
In addition to apples, pears were also harvested in October and in 1898 the Herald reported that S.P. Hunt of Pleasant Valley reported that he had harvested Bartlett pears weighing a full pound each.
By October the tomato season was winding down and the Titusville canning factory often turned to canning pumpkin for several weeks before shutting down for the season.
Other farm work that occupied October included cutting corn, husking corn, and getting winter wheat into the ground. Depending on the weather the ground could be prepared for the winter wheat sometime during the month. Both squirrels and farm children were gathering nuts for the winter. In 1901, on what is today the Maj Henry Phillips farm, Xenophon Cromwell had a new hog pen built by his father who visited him from Trenton Junction (part of today’s Ewing Township). Xenophon Cromwell rented the farm from Gervas Ely and the paper noted the hog pen was sorely needed. 1901 was a difficult time for Mr. Rogers of Pleasant Valley who lost three horses to various illnesses in a short period of time. This left him without any workhorses. On October 23 the Herald noted that, “Some of Mr. Rogers’ neighbors expect to turn out with their teams and plow and prepare the ground, and sow his winter grain for him on account of his having such bad luck.”
Weather was a concern in every month and October 1903 saw some really wild weather. Three days of heavy rain and wind in early October caused the Delaware River to rise to levels not seen before and a full four feet higher than the previous record. This obviously caused problems for the areas of Pleasant Valley closest to the river and canal, where several families had to be evacuated from their homes by boat, and Moore’s Creek was backed up about half a mile, or half way to the Pleasant Valley schoolhouse. The flooding affected roads and some farmers lost corn shocks that were carried away by the flood waters. Gershom Ege, whose farm was at the old Belmont Farm at the end of Valley Road, lost his entire crop of corn except for just a few shocks.
October was the month when the newspaper ran information on school attendance in September. In the early 1890s school enrollment was pretty low. In 1892 there were only 14 students enrolled in the one-room Pleasant Valley school for grades one through eight and the average daily attendance in September was just nine. Attendance was better after the township took over the schools and compulsory attendance laws were more consistently enforced, but even in the last years of the first decade of the twentieth century Pleasant Valley had the unenviable reputation for having one of the worst records for attendance and tardiness in the township.
The school house continued to be a center of community activity in the Valley and, in addition to the Sunday services conducted by ministers from Titusville and the Union Sunday School, various public programs were held there. In October 1892 several teachers from the Pennington School presented an entertainment at the school house that projected 75 views of Yellowstone Park along with their narration. Residents of the Valley paid 15 cents for admission for what was described as a “pleasing and instructive lecture.” In October 1899 one of the many entertainments put on by the children of the school was held. As usual it consisted of dialogues, recitations and music numbers. Again, Valley residents paid 15 cents admission and the proceeds went to benefit the school library.
While September had been the month to cut down all the weeds growing by the roads, October was often a month for road repairs and road building. In October 1894, A.B. Hart, the road supervisor of Pleasant Valley, collected a small group of men to work on a new road being opened to the public that cut across a corner of the Stephen B. Moore farm near Moore’s Station. In October 1889 work began on the new iron truss bridge over Moore’s Creek on Hunter Road just up the road from the recently completed new schoolhouse at the corner of Hunter Road and Pleasant Valley Road.
With fall in the air and the knowledge that winter was coming on, people in the Valley began to worry about their winter supply of coal. In 1902 there was a strike in the coal fields that supplied Pleasant Valley and people were especially worried because there was no sign the strike would be settled anytime soon. I was no wonder that people got very excited when Pleasant Valley farmer John Parkhill thought he had discovered a rich vein of coal on his farm. After a short “coal rush” in the Valley with other farmers looking for coal on their lands it was determined that the coal on Mr. Parkhill’s farm was not economical for mining. Coal did become available that winter, but its supply was always a concern.
Life in Pleasant Valley was always full of risks for accidents so October always saw its share of them. Young Thomas Parkhill, son of John Parkhill who discovered coal, narrowly escaped serious injury one October morning in 1905. Teacher Dora Stafford had been away and was returning to the Valley on the morning train stopping at Moore’s Station. Young Cynthia Johnson, one of her students, drove a horse drawn wagon to the station to meet her and take her to the schoolhouse. Several boys, including Thomas Parkhill, climbed onto the wagon also and somehow Thomas fell or was pushed off and one of his feet caught in the wagon spring. This happened just as the horse started to go and Thomas was dragged quite a distance before Cynthia could stop the wagon. Thomas was quite badly cut up and bruised but suffered no serious damage.
A noteworthy Pleasant Valley death in October 1903 was
Benjamin Wilson’s. Mr. Wilson lived on the two acre farm associated
with the old Pleasant Valley blacksmith shop at the foot of Valley Road
just before the intersection with Pleasant Valley Road. He and his wife
Elizabeth had lived there for about seven years in retirement and raised
ducks. The Wilson’s were African American farmers in a predominantly
white community. It is interesting that they were seldom mentioned in
the paper except in death, but that the paper noted Benjamin Wilson
was “highly respected by all who knew him. He was a quiet, honest,
industrious old man. He leaves a widow, who is also a quiet, honest,
hard working woman, worthy of the sympathy of all in her bereavement.”
Later in the month, Elizabeth held a sale of their possessions and she
moved on to an unknown location.