“Deeds of the Valley” presented to Montgomery Historical Society
MONTGOMERY – Anyone who is interested in the history of Alvira and the White Deer Valley of Pennsylvania has probably heard the story of the elderly lady who refused to leave her home as it was about it be razed to the ground. She sat on the front porch in her rocking chair until some demolition men had to go up on the porch and pick her up still in her rocking chair – and carry her off the porch.
That story isn’t merely local legend, it’s true. Her property was taken through eminent domain to build the Ordnance. The lady’s name was Mary Blanche Rothermell Jarrett and her remarkable determination has been inherited by her great-grandson, Paul Metzger.
On Thursday, February 21st, Metzger presented some of the information from his newest book, “Deeds of the Valley” to the Montgomery Area Historical Society during their monthly third Thursday program.
By 1943 the village of Alvira may have been wiped off the face of the earth, but Metzger has been devoted to making sure that it will never be forgotten. Not only was it home to his great-grandmother, but he had many relatives with deep roots in Alvira. He shared stories and photos of his ancestors and sadly pointed out that after his family members lost their land in 1942, many of them were never photographed smiling again. As it turned out, the government took the land to build a massive TNT manufacturing plant and storage facility for WWII.
Metzger had heard stories about Alvira as a boy, but he began to develop a deep interest in it when he volunteered to transcribe Judge Piatt’s handwritten journals for the Muncy Historical Society. As he went through the nineteenth century passages, he found names of relatives and got a sense of life in the White Deer Valley.
His interest grew, and he eventually used some of his research to co-author a book entitled “Alvira and the Ordnance” with Steven Huddy in 2009. Metzger also used his research to create an elaborately detailed map that identifies all of the properties in and around Alvira before it was taken over. Metzger says he developed “Alvira Fever” and wanted to learn as much about the village as possible. His research turned towards the history of the White Deer Valley. He wanted to find out about the various properties there, and his work has culminated into a massive reference book “Deeds of the Valley.” The book is 8.5 by 11 inches, 755 pages, and weighs 5 pounds. However, his twenty years of research was so extensive that he said the book could have been over two-thousand pages if he included all the documents he found.
Metzger discussed the land from its earliest days as it was transferred from the Indians to the colonists. He also pointed out some variations with earlier maps due to the shifting of magnetic north every year, as well as the inconsistencies in older surveying equipment.
“Deeds of the Valley” is divided into chapters, and each chapter represents one tract of land. Information is included about homesteads, roads, and nearby tracts plus many deeds ranging from the 1700s to 1942 when the land was taken. But some deeds simply didn’t exist. The book also features some genealogy, blue prints, and never before published photos. Metzger’s research features an extensive index, so if anyone is related to one of the Alvira families, they can look up their family members by name.
Metzger hopes that the book will serve as a reference to the White Deer Valley long after he’s gone, and he hopes that Alvira will never be forgotten. He will be presenting a program about the Valley again in May at the Stone Church, the only building to survive the takeover, at an event that is currently being organized by the Montgomery Area Historical Society (date and time to be announced).
“Deeds of the Valley” is currently available for purchase at the Montgomery Area Historical Society, the Muncy Historical Society, the Lycoming County Historical Society, and the Union County Historical Society. All proceeds are being donated to the local historical societies that sell the book. The hardcover edition has currently sold out, but soft cover editions are available for purchase.