Russell-Akeley Life

Photos submitted to Times Observer The Fox home at 635 South Main St. in Russell looking in a southeast direction about 1910. Note the Warren and Jamestown trolley on the right edge of the photo on the passing siding on the west side of South Main St. Photo courtesy of Warren County Historical Society.

Early in the Twentieth Century, prior to the time automobiles became commonplace in the late 1920s and early 1930s, street railways (trolleys) and interurban lines were an important mode of transportation both within and between communities.

So it was in Warren County.

The Warren Street Railway operated within the bounds of the town. The Warren and Sheffield Street Railway operated between these two towns. There also was a trolley line between Sugar Grove and Youngsville. The longest of the trolley lines in Warren County was the Warren and Jamestown Street Railway, which began operation in 1905 at Liberty St and Pennsylvania Ave and ran north through North Warren, Russell, Akeley, up a long earthwork (still in the woods in Akeley), across a bridge over the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley and Pittsburg Railroad (DAV&P), then through the Akeley swamp to the New York towns of Fentonville, Frewsburg (where they passed under the DAV&P) and then into Jamestown along Foote Ave.

The Warren and Jamestown line began operation with a fleet of large dark green wood interurban cars. Irish Smith painted a portrait of one of these cars at the corner of Third and Market St. in 2008.

There was a fire in the Warren and Jamestown’s car barn in Warren about 1908 that destroyed several of these wood cars. Fortunately, they were replaced with several steel cars painted yellow.

The Fox home as it appears today looking in a southeast direction. Photo by Steve Horsley.

These are the cars that some of my neighbors in Russell remember.

The Warren and Jamestown line continued to operate through the 1920s with declining ridership until 1929 when the tracks were removed.

It was commonplace for street railways to be owned and operated by electric companies, which also operated amusement parks located outside of town to increase ridership. Around larger cities, these parks had merry-go-rounds, stages for performing arts and dance pavilions.

The Warren and Jamestown did not have an amusement park, but they did have a large picnic area called “Ferncliff” located along the east side of Old Route 62 between the present day west side streets of Sunset Lane and Woodland Drive, including the present-day Ferncliff Drive area on the east side of the road.

There was a passing siding on the west side of Old Route 62 between Sunset Lane and Woodland Drive to facilitate loading and unloading of passengers and allow other cars on the line to pass by.

Photo 1 shows the home of Hubert Fox at 635 South Main St about 1910, while Photo 2 shows the same house today. A field extended north (left) behind the Fox house for several hundred feet to just short of the property at 525 South Main St. Beyond the Fox house, on the right in Photo 1, a field can be seen which led to a slope down to the Conewango Creek where visitors could swim. My neighbor, who was raised in the Fox house and remembers Ferncliff, tells me that there were a number of picnic tables and a pond had been dug for fishing. Another neighbor, who lives up present-day Ferncliff Drive, has found lots of clam shells in the soil while digging in his yard.

Thus, Ferncliff was a relatively large park and hosted folks from both the Warren and the Jamestown end of the line. Historical records show that the Akeley- Briggs family reunions honoring Frances Akeley, who was killed in the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, were held at Ferncliff from 1913 to 1924 and in 1934 and 1935. After the 1929 demise of the Warren and Jamestown Street Railway, Ferncliff continued to be used for picnicking until the early 1940s and the start of World War II. Today, much of the area has grown up with trees and since the 1970s has become populated with new homes. Inspection of the trees along the east side of Old Route 62 shows a number of large evenly spaced Shagbark Hickory trees which also appear in Photo 1.

While looking about for information on Ferncliff, I came upon the poem below by John B. Cable. John was born May 11, 1855, at Cable Hollow to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Adelia (Wetmore) Cable. John passed away two days short of his 82nd birthday on May 9, 1937. During his life, John Cable became interested in poetry and penned many poems that were published in the Warren Evening Mirror, including the poem below. Thanks to Todd Ristau for providing the text of the poem.

“Warren and Jamestown Street Railway

Come let us take a little trip to James-

town for the day

And try it on upholstered seats “on

princely home Railway”

Because between the little bergs our

neighbors and our own

There runs the rolling stock on time

which brings us safely home

We start up Liberty, one square, and

then one square out Third,

And then up Market, out of town go

skimming like a bird

When near the junction, D.A.V. you

take a little “switch”

And cross the famous Jackson Run,

and scarcely feel a “hitch”.

North Warren greets your anxious eyes,

you stop a moment here

And see the hospital, so great with lit-

tle hope of cheer;

You glide along to Crocker’s curve, the

narrows pass likewise

And soon slow down at Siggins place,

where Langdale trucking tries.

From there the stately brick is seen,

Farm Colony it’s called;

This place where morbid patients work

“the yard need not be walled”

Then on you go to Irvine’s place, a

homestead odd in ways,

Which speaks of many years ago, of

Guy C’s lumber days.

The old stone mill is standing yet,

built in 1838

Yet shows no break or weakening

points, I’m frankly glad to state;

Here Father brought his grist to grind,

while I was a boy.

And when he said: “come, Johnny, go;

he surely gave me joy.

And now we hasten on again, Pa-Pa

and Guy have gone.

And I have since to manhood grown;

“it doesn’t seem so long”;

But, like the speeding, fleeting car, life

hastens through the day

And ere we hardly know the name,

its car has passed away.

The Little switch near Russell pass,

and then the little town

You reach by quite a sharp descent, just

after going down,

And then in Russell you arrive, this

Pine-Grove was of old,

Where Hodges, Sloan and Martin lived

and made a bag of gold.

But they have gone to their reward, and

still we hasten through

The little town on the grade, where

fields are wet with dew;

Some lovely cottages behold, on Cone-

wango’s banks

Which make a picture fair, indeed, for

which accept our thanks.

And soon we pass the Iron Bridge,

at Akeley near the stop

And while we cross the waters blue,

observe a pickerel “flop”.

And if you can, please take my hat and

I will look again.

For I have sought the fish’s “nook”

for fifty years in vain.

At David Hale’s and Nesmith’s place

a waiting room is seen;

The banner one along the line and fin-

ished up in green;

I think Hale’s is the finest place along

the street car line

And when I am not found at home, am

here most all the time.

Then up across the trestle high which

spans the railroad track,

Then down again we speed along,

with easy kind of nack;

Because the grade is “jolly” quite, then up

by Marsh’s swamp,

Where cattle go to fight the flies, and

swing their heads and stomp.

Then Fentonville, that by-gone town,

where Fenton used to live,

Where Reuben E, piled up his gold,

without a fine mesh sieve;

But he likewise has passed away, and

still the farm remains

On which he used to sow the seed and

fill his barns with grains,

‘Twas Reuben E., the Governor, won

laurels for his name;

He served two terms, with record good,

worthy of undying fame.

Then Frewsburg, farther up the line,

where Frews of long ago

Became the envy of the town all per-

sons seemed to know

This hardy stock, those early days

before I saw the light;

And still I since have heard the name,

until I see it bright.

Around the curve we hasten on, and

down a grade you go

Beneath the Dolly Varden Road–

“what nick-name stunts we throw”.

On up across the sleeping creek; Still-

water is the name,

And here they tell you tales of fish, as

I did, quite the same.

The land above in early spring, does

often overflow,

Therefore the farmer bites his lip

because he cannot sow

His seed in time for good results if he

can sow at all

If I were he, no doubt I’d take, some

Missionary call,

And now along the steeper grade, the

hill this side of town

Which you must first run up, you know,

before you can run down,

Into a city full of stir, where all the

folks seem busy.

Now at the Humphrey House we stop,

the journey here is ended,

And ‘twixt the two old neighbor towns

the scenes are sweetly blended.

And if you do not know the road, and

wish a trip for pleasure,

You’ll get a bargain for the price and

rounded up, good measure.”

— John B. Cable,

Warren Evening Mirror,

January 7, 1913

ROAR Meeting

The Revitalization of Akeley and Russell (ROAR) committee met at the Pine Grove Township office September 10 at 6:30 p.m. for its regular monthly meeting. The committee approved a monetary donation to the Russell United Methodist Church for the positive role that the Church played in the May Pine Grove Days event. The committee is seeking donations from Russell/Akeley community service organizations to support the committee’s community improvement program.

Work is continuing on ROAR bylaws and Articles of Incorporation that will permit the organization to qualify for 501c3 status and make possible application for monetary support to community grant programs. Several grant programs offer community organizations matching funds for activities that benefit the community. The committee also discussed financially supporting siding of a downtown structure. The landowner has approved. In another project, Dan Weatherby has approved the offer of ROAR to trim the vegetation along the “school path” on the west side of South Main St. in Russell. Snell Landscaping has agreed to brush hog and trim the property. Concern also was expressed for safety at the intersection of Route 62 and Akeley Rd. in Akeley, where the height of vegetation on the sides of the intersection blocks the vision of drivers entering the intersection, creating a safety hazard. PennDOT has been contacted to trim the vegetation.

Additional projects for the downtown area in Russell were discussed. Among them was an improvement of sidewalks in the downtown area. Such a project fits into the strategic plan and vision of ROAR. Phase 1 of a project that could be undertaken would be replacing the sidewalk on Liberty St. from Conewango St. to Main St. in front of the old ice house building to the corner of Liberty and Main St., then proceeding up Liberty St. to the intersection with Pine St. and on into the cemetery property. Phase 2 would encompass Main St. from Liberty to East St. Additional discussion of the project will occur at the October meeting.

Looking ahead this year, it was suggested that ROAR partner with the Russell Lions and Lioness to make the Community Tree of Lights a larger event. The event date will be November 24, 2018. The next ROAR meeting will be held Monday, October 1, 2018, at 6:30 pm.

Supervisors’ Report

The township supervisors have adopted a mission statement which is as follows: “We commit to serve our community and citizens of Pine Grove Township in order to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens. In furtherance of these goals, we will pursue responsible development and planning, promote professional leadership and conduct, practice fiscally prudent and responsible practices and work to build community spirit and pride.”

As the active road maintenance season comes to a close, the township plans on completing a couple of major projects. The first one is the reconstruction of State Street in Russell. Township workers are installing new drainage on the street prior to milling and resurfacing. A tentative bid award has been made for the resurfacing, and it is anticipated that the entire project will be completed before mid-October. The second major project is repairing to the north pier of the Big Four Road Bridge. A contract for the repairs has been awarded, and work should begin this week to reinforce the underpinnings of the bridge. The work should not take too long or disrupt traffic too badly.

The supervisors have voted to vacate about 700 feet of roadway at the end of the Howard Road. This section of road hasn’t been used for decades and is not maintained by the township. The township also is working on obtaining grants for next year’s road projects, which include reconstruction of Woodland Drive and the completion of the lower end of East Street.

The township’s annual financial audit for the fiscal year ending 12/31/18 is complete. The results indicate that the township financial records and accounting practices fairly represent the financial position of the township. Most important is the fact that the current assets of the township significantly exceed its liabilities. The tentative audit findings are available for review at the township office.

One of our road maintenance crew members is retiring in September. After over 18 years of service, Rodney Lindell is retiring. He has been a dependable, experienced and dedicated employee who will be missed. Recruitment has begun for replacing Mr. Lindell. A recruitment announcement for the position will appear soon in this paper.

Work continues on identifying the sources of groundwater infiltration into the township’s sanitary sewer system. So far, several problem areas have been identified and corrective actions are being taken to address these areas. Groundwater infiltration into the system significantly and needlessly raises the costs of processing wastewater at the North Warren treatment plant.

The supervisors are concerned about several pieces of property that have either been declared nuisances or have moved to blighted property status. The property owners have received letters requesting that the properties be brought up to reasonable standards of care and maintenance. If no action is seen, the supervisors will be forced to take legal action against the owners.

Township residents are reminded that the supervisors meet the second Wednesday of each month at the township office on East Street in Russell. Also, minutes of the supervisor meetings are placed on the township website following their formal approval. The website address is

Municipal Authority Report

The Pine Grove Township Municipal Authority manages the village of Russell water system. The authority has undertaken a project to complete upgrades to the water system, which will make it far more reliable and easier to maintain. Water quality also should be improved in some areas by the elimination of “dead ends.” A tentative bid award has been made for the work with the hope that the work can be completed this fall.

Russell Volunteer Fire Department Report

The fire department responded to a total of 27 calls for the month of August. There were 16 Emergency Medical Service calls and 11 General Alarms. The response efficiency for the month stood at 93.75% with the average this year at 83%. This performance exceeds the statewide threshold for response rate.

Recently, the annual firemen’s appreciation dinner was held. Several volunteers were recognized for their contributions to keeping our community safe. The following individuals were the recipients of awards for their exceptional dedication and work: Jacob Nugent – EMT of the Year; Brandon Littlefield – Firefighter of the Year; Norris Daughterty – Department Member of the Year and Bill Martin was honored for an amazing 74 years of service to the department. Several other department members also were recognized for their contributions to the RVFD.