Local history, teachers and ancestors inspired Picture Rocks native to write a book
WILLIAMSPORT – A history program on Picture Rocks was held Sunday, Oct. 15 by Sherry Gardner Kuiper at the Lycoming County Taber Museum. She made it known to a well attended audience, many from Picture Rocks, that she was highly influenced by her history teachers while she attended grade school and high school in the notable picturesque town just northeast of Hughesville.
“I remember a history walk in third grade at Ferrell Elementary with Mrs. Mordan that I found fascinating,” she said. “My fifth grade social studies teacher, Mr. Davis, made it fun, and in high school Mr. Glenwright and Mr. Webster were those who appreciated history around us.”
Kuiper continued her interest in college and filmed a documentary. Shortly after graduating Edinboro University in 2004 she wrote a book through Arcadia Publishing on the history of Picture Rocks, “Images of America: Around Picture Rocks.”
Picture Rocks was discovered in 1848. The earliest settlers were Indians as depicted on the rocks that lie in the surrounding creek and who probably settled there in the late 1700s. A.R. Sprout and Amos Burrows were the founding fathers. They formed the land and rebuilt a sawmill after purchasing the entire town for under $3,000. Today Lewis Lumber stands in the place of that first mill. “Amos saw a vision,” Kuiper said. The woodworking mill was the first of its kind in the area, and the first house built across from the mill is still there. It became Burrows Brothers furniture company before becoming the Handle and Excelsior Company. Pappa’s Pizza is now there. Today Lewis Lumber is still working the lumber and wood industry. “Note the art mural on the building,” said Kuiper.
She added, “The rocks in the creek used to be paintings carved from the Indians, thus the name ‘Picture Rocks’. It had humble beginnings.”
Kuiper pointed out other namesakes in Picture Rocks such as the old hardware store which belonged to Ed Bailey, Sr. He was the first postmaster and ran the general store and the local hotel which is no longer there. In the 1930s the coal yard was run by Bailey’s son who even sold cars.
Another factory was located on Rt. 220 and manufactured ladders.
The cover of Kuiper’s book shows DB Little, a well known educator, professor and principal of the school. He later became Superintendent. Picture Rocks had one of the first established vocational schools in Pennsylvania. In 1925 the elementary school was built.
A famous artist also lived in Picture Rocks, John Wesley Little, who moved there from Sullivan County. He was well known for his works of nature. According to Kuiper, Little would walk 16 hours a day in the town looking for inspiration. “His headstone remains at the foot of his family home. However, he is not buried there.”
By 1840 most of the townsfolk who settled in Picture Rocks were Baptists and the residents were required to sign an agreement that said they would not open a saloon or “engage in the trafficking of liquor.” Center Street became the main intersection for travelers.
By 1945 the school had a graduating class of only one. Because of WWII, Joanne Gansel Campbell was “at the top of her class and the bottom of her class.”
In 1986 Kuiper recalls when Ferrell school made some renovations. “Students had to attend school at the fire hall,” she said.
In 1933 the Picture Rocks Fire Department was formed. “Back then water wagons were used and when Dr. Irvin Gilmore’s house caught on fire, it took way too long for the fire wagon to get there.” Nevertheless, Dr. Gilmore was instrumental in getting the first fire truck to Picture Rocks.
Kuiper ended the program with some fun facts of the town and encouraged the students attending to ask questions. “As it was the young kids during WWII who were part of the Civil Defense team, and they would inform the residents to take cover if the siren would go off.”
Amos Burrows kept diaries which are now part of the Muncy Historical Society. “The history is collective,” she said. During WWII twenty percent of the population served in the war. Handle and Excelsior Company made uniform parts at the time. Today there are close to 650 residents in the borough.
The local cemetery was formed in 1906 and 1907 when the footbridge was built. However, the founding fathers are not buried there as they passed away beforehand. They are interred at the Pleasant Hills Cemetery in Hughesville.
The Picture Rocks High School existed between 1925 and 1946. Over the years Kuiper said she really enjoyed stories shared by her ancestors, the Gansell’s. She is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and although she currently lives in Maryland, Picture Rocks will always be her home.