History

Henry Drinker

At the age of ten, Henry Drinker was apprenticed to a shopkeeper, George James, whose son, Abel James, later became his partner in the leading merchant firm of James & Drinker.  Their operation became extensive as they were ranked among the principal importers of their time. Henry married Ann Swett of New Castle, Delaware in 1757. After Ann’s death, during childbirth, a year later he married in 1761 Elizabeth “Betsy” Sandwith, who in 1758 had begun her famous diary, which is now an important source for the social history of eighteenth-century Philadelphia (Elaine Forman Crane, ed., The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker, 3 vols. (Boston, 1991).  Drinker was a member of the American Society (later the American Philosophical Society) and served on the committee of Husbandry and American Improvements. His  interests also included the Silk Society, the Pennsylvania Hospital, the Library Company of Philadelphia and, in the 1790s, the establishment of the Friends Boarding School at Westtown. In addition, Drinker was a treasurer of the Society for the Employment of the Poor, overseer of the Friends Public School and a member of the Fishing Company of Fort St. David. At the time of their marriage, the Drinkers lived on Water Street.

In 1771, they moved into a double-house with a large garden on the corner of Front Street and Drinker’s Alley. As later described by Mrs. Drinker, the garden flourished with red and white blossoms and the house was both spacious and elegant. The Drinkers also owned a country estate, “Frankford,” situated along the main road between Philadelphia and New York.  Drinker remained true to his religious beliefs during the War and along with nineteen other prominent Quakers was exiled to Virginia in 1777  for refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to the state. The exiles included Henry Clifton, and due in part to the efforts of Mrs. Drinker and others, they returned to Philadelphia the following year. His neutrality further caused problems and after Drinker refused to pay the Continental tax, some of his property, including unspecified furniture, was seized by the rebel authorities. After the War, his mercantile business suffered, so Drinker increased his wealth through investments in the iron industry and the acquisition of large tracts of land in Pennsylvania’s Wayne and Susquehanna Counties.  He was industrious throughout his life and in 1798 at the age of 64, his wife remarked, “H.D. as usual writing in ye office. He is one of the greatest slaves in Philadelphia.” (Bell, Jr., vol. II, pp. 298-304; Henry Sandwith Drinker, History of the Drinker Family (Merion, Pennsylvania, 1961), pp. 19-35).

Throughout unrecorded history, indigenous people occupied the 24.7 square mile expanse of the Pocono Plateau which is today known as Covington Township. The township of Covington was formed in January 1818 from the township of Wilkes-Barre, and embraced at that time the whole of Henry Drinker’s possessions in the south part of old Luzerne county. Covington was once part of the vast stretch of beech trees, extending eastward from the Scranton/Dunmore area, known as Drinker’s Beeches. It was named Covington at the suggestion of H. W. Drinker, (son of Henry Drinker) in honor of Brigadier General Leonard Covington of Maryland, a distinguished cavalry officer who fought and died in the War of 1812 at the battle of Williamsburg, in upper Canada. If you take Dunmore’s East Drinker Street all the way to the end, you’d end up right at the edge of the old Drinker’s Beeches! In 1787, Philadelphia Quaker, Henry Drinker purchased 25,000 acres, including Covington Township , from the State, which has since been know as “Drinker’s Beech,” from the timber that covered it. In the summer of 1814 this land was resurveyed by Jackson Torrey of Bethany, Wayne County, into lots averaging one hundred acres each. Lots were sold at $5 per acre on five years credit, the first two years without interest; payment to be made in lumber, shingles, labor, produce, or anything the farmer had to spare. The first settlement was made in 1815, by H. W. Drinker, who built his home there. In 1821, the Dale and Wardell families became the next settlers of Covington Township.

Henry W. Drinker hired John Delong of Stroudsburg to construct a plank road for wagons built through the township between the years 1819-1826, which was incorporated into the Philadelphia and Great Bend Turnpike. The celebrated “Drinker Turnpike” was built through this township in 1828, its course being due north and south. The charter for this road was obtained in 1819. Its terminal points were Philadelphia and Great Bend. The road was built for the purpose of enticing would-be settlers to purchase the parcels of land and create communities, thus increasing the value of his land.  This historical road is still the main north-south transportation line through the township, although is today known formally as Pennsylvania Route 435, or to a lesser degree by one of its former names stuck as the “Drinker Turnpike” or “Lackawanna Trail”.  Parallel to this road lie railroad tracks built in 1856 by the Southern Division of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad that were once responsible for the eastward transportation of the anthracite coal which permitted the region to flourish.   These very tracks are still used today for commercial freight traffic, and once again will likely be used to carry passengers between Scranton and New York City in the near future. The road was built and the settlers came. We cannot extol Colonel Drinker too highly for his labors in our area. He brought in settlers, lumbermen and businessmen. He helped improve the land and make the settlers self sustaining. He donated lands for civic purposes and cemeteries. he built sawmills, stores and schoolhouses, he loaned money to the settlers. He served as the first postmaster in Clifton. According to one historian, “He promoted and fostered the townships of Madison and Covington (which at that time included Clifton) and was the author and forwarder of all the most important public improvements in that region”.

In 1827, Edward Wardell, Jr., was township tax collector. The territory embraced in the township at that time covered the present townships of Covington, Lehigh, Clifton, Spring Brook, Madison, and Buck township in Luzerne county. The population was 1,182 in 1870; 881 in 1880; 884 in 1890; 794 in 1900; 641 in 1910.

Dr. Charles Frischkorn Home

William Cottrell was the township’s first mail carrier. He traveled the turnpike from Stroudsburg to Great Bend. Daleville was the earliest post office. Mr. Wardell is said to have been the first justice of the peace, serving 25 years. Richard Drinker, a son of the original purchaser of the Beeches and who lived near Clifton, was likewise a justice in 1840. John Dale and Miss Ellen Yates of Philadelphia, who were wedded in 1823, were the first couple married in the township.”

In or around the year 1844, Dr. Charles Frischkorn settled in Covington Township on what is now the Moffat Estate.  He built his new residence which is today referred to as the caretaker’s house. It is unknown whether Dr. Frischkorn purchased his land directly from Henry W. Drinker or from an earlier settler who chose not to build in this location.  Dr. Frischkorn was born May 12, 1811 in Hesse-Castle, Germany and came to Covington Township at about thirty-three years of age.   According to the 1850 Census, he was shown to have been living alone at the residence, but by 1860 he was married to a wife Margaret born October 14, 1830. They had a son by the name Herman.  Dr. Frischkorn who died on June 12, 1887.  His wife outlived him until June 24, 1890. The couple is buried 2 miles to the south in the Daleville Cemetery.

Michael J. Martin & Ellen Griffin Martin

Herman lived in the residence with his wife, Willianette Brown Frischkorn, and their four children whose names were Mary, Carl, Harold and Newman, until an unknown date somewhere between 1900 and 1910.  The family then moved to Norfolk, Va., and it unclear as to the status of the house for the next several years. The Frischkorn family sold the property in 1926 to Attorney Michael J. Martin, who was employed by the Moffat Coal Company.   Mr. Martin and his wife Ellen, had the mansion built in 1928 and in 1945 purchased a 2.66 acre strip of land along the southern boundary of the property from John Hollister to act as a buffer in the event of new development adjacent to his land.  Today this land addition is recognizable upon sight.  Henry Appenzeller, a German immigrant and World War I veteran of German army, served as a caretaker for Mr. Martin.  Mrs. Appenzeller worked as a domestic caretaker within the mansion.

In 1952, the estate was sold to Mr. Robert Moffat, Sr.  The family owned several homes in the area, but this estate quickly became their primary residence.  Mr. Robert Moffat Sr. Was the principal owner of the Moffat Coal Company (the area’s largest anthracite coal company).   An exceptional businessman, he developed several successful businesses, including a well-known local dairy business called Gracey Farms.  He was infatuated with Guernsey cattle and although Gracey Farms was started as a hobby, it soon became a thriving lucrative business with milk and ice cream parlors located throughout the Scranton area.In 1942 at the peak of production, the Moffat Coal Company had 4,200 employees (all men) and produced one hundred and fifty (150) million tons of coal.  (It is interesting to note that at this time the Moffat Coal Company was one of the largest employers in the state.)  The average pay schedule for miners in 1942 was exceptionally high at twenty-five dollars ($25.00) per week.  Consequently, the phrase “pay day at the Moffat” meant a great deal to local storeowners and merchants.

His caretakers, Walter and Johanna Rybcinski, originally lived in the caretaker’s house with their children.  During Mr. Moffat’s residency at the estate, Langan Creek was dammed to create a pond in the location of the current pond at the west of the property.  Mr. Moffat died in 2002 and donated his land to be used by Covington Township under the direction of the binding Conservation Easement.In 2003, Covington Township relocated many of its municipal offices to the Moffat Estate from the newly-renovated municipal building located along Route 435, approximately two miles to the south in Daleville.  That building is now occupied by the Police Department, and is also used as a community building.   In the mansion, the generously-sized former living room of the mansion now serves as the Meeting Room.  The former library has been occupied as the Secretary/Tax Office.  The grand stair hall is now the receptionist area and the servant’s dining room is now the office of William J. Wright; Zoning Officer. In 2005, Lackawanna College agreed to house its newly-formed Environmental Institute within the former caretaker’s house.  The college plans to restore and refurbish the building to more closely resemble the house that Dr. Frischkorn built in 1844 and use the building as a teaching tool.   Since Mr. Moffat donated the mansion and its grounds to Covington Township, the Board of Supervisors has been diligently maintaining and improving the property. The pond/stream area has been adorned with a covered bridge and small screened pavilion and a much larger pavilion with kitchen facilities has been constructed just behind the estate for the use of residents and the surrounding communities. In 2010 a children’s recreation area was included just beyond the pavilion.

Lackawanna College Environmental Institute

In 1829 village schools were erected in both Daleville and Turnersville. The records show that a class of Methodists was taught at Daleville in 1826 by William Noble, a local preacher from Sterling, Wayne County. The Methodist Episcopal Society was organized in 1877, and in 1878 was joined with Moscow in pastoral relations. A new church was erected that same year. D F Wardell was the first pastor. Rev George W. Peck, presiding elder, officiated at the dedication of the church. A Protestant Methodist congregation flourished in the village for a time, but later merged with the regular Methodist Church. At Turnersville a class of Methodists was formed in 1830 by Rev George Evans of the Oneida conference. A church was built there while the village still was a wood working center.

For more interesting reading about the history of the surrounding area log onto www.historiansofsterlingtownship.org from which exerpts have been taken. Also www.nepanewsletter.com/towns.html and http://www.ezrasgriffin8.org/The%20Covington%20Fencibles.htm