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Russell-Akeley Life

Photos submitted to Times Observer Ruins of a Lowerburg structure today. Photo by Steve Horsley.

It has been 47 years, almost to the day, since my wife and I and our three-year-old daughter moved to Russell.

We were fortunate to find the two-year-old home we now live in — because the folks who were living in it before us wanted to move back to eastern Pennsylvania to take a job in the town in which they had grown up. We were quite happy with the house, but after a few years we wanted to have a wood stove in the basement and a patio in the backyard. This resulted in the need for a lot of bricks to build the wall in the basement behind the wood stove in place of the sheetrock that presently was there, and to make the pavement for the patio.

I had noticed the ruins of some old brick buildings at the end of our street, in what once was known as Lowerburg. I thought these bricks would be suitable for my projects. The buildings included an old stone grist mill built by Guy Irvine in 1838.

The grist mill operation ceased in 1895 and the building became part of a chemical factory during World War I. The Lowerburg property was purchased by Aetna Explosive Company in 1913. By 1915, the name had been changed to the Warren Chemical Products Company. The company name changed again in 1918 to Mutual Sales, a business that refined and sold crude oil. While businesses in Lowerburg prospered for a while, they were a casualty of the stock market crash of 1929. Without care, the buildings gradually deteriorated and the property was reclaimed by the forest.

To continue with my story, I found the name of the owner of the property and telephoned him to see if I could buy some of the bricks in the old building ruins. He said yes, and we agreed on a price of five cents a brick. Then there was the job of getting the bricks from Lowerburg to our house. We had a station wagon at the time, so that helped. I can’t tell you how many trips we made from the woods at Lowerburg to our house, but it was a lot! Next, there was the problem of cleaning the bricks. Many of them still had cement adhering to the edges. Everyone in the family chipped in to clean the bricks. By then, we had a second daughter who was old enough to help. We also had a foreign exchange student living with us, who pitched in to help, as well.

I built the wall behind the wood stove first, carefully stringing each row. The patio was next. It took an awful lot of bricks. After I finished the patio project, I called the owner of the bricks to tell him how many bricks I had taken. During the conversation, I told him how much effort we had devoted to cleaning the adhering mortar off the bricks. He said, “How about three cents a brick.” We agreed. Both the wall behind the wood stove and the patio are still functioning.

Photos submitted to Times Observer Mutual Sales Co. Circa 1920. Lowerburg (Russell) PA. Photo: A History of Pine Grove Township, Warren County Pennsylvania.

Recently, I walked down to Lowerburg to see if the buildings were still there. A lot of small trees have grown up between the ruins of the old buildings and along the now abandoned railroad grade, which still is evident. Rectangular building walls and the circular foundations for tanks still are there. Many of the old birch and sycamore trees are over 40 inches in diameter. But, evidence of these early Russell industries still remains.

ROAR: Revitalization of Akeley and Russell

February 3, 2020

Chairpersons of several committees were selected. Art Sager will chair a committee to look into improvements that can be made to the Conewango Creek boat launches for canoes and kayaks in Larimer Park. Karen Martin will chair the Beautification Committee which is responsible for planting spring flowers at several locations in Russell. Katie Walker will chair the “Breakfast with the Easter Bunny” program that will take place April 4 at the Russell United Methodist Church on Main St. Walker also will chair the Flags and Banners Committee that places flags in downtown Russell. Dave Martin will look into the possibility of having a mid-week Farmers Market in Russell during the summer months.

Planning for the Pine Grove Days celebration May 23 (Memorial Day weekend) is continuing.

Supervisors Report

February 12, 2020

It has been rather fortunate that we have had a mild winter so far, since the township has experienced some major issues with one of its large trucks. First, a pump failed, which our employees were able to repair. However, while it was down, we had to rely on our small backup truck to plow several miles of roads. The big truck was put back into service only to have it experience engine trouble. The problem was diagnosed as a bad fuel injector, probably caused by an aged wiring harness. Again, our road crew will repair it, but once again we have had to rely on our backup, which does struggle with wet, heavy snow. The big truck should be back in service soon.

The mild winter, while reducing snow removal, has been very hard on the roads due to the frequent freeze-thaw cycles. This has caused the emergence of pot holes and soft spots on some of our roads. The problem is compounded when our large trucks make frequent runs over these roads. The trucks often are fully loaded with anti-skid, which aggravates the problems with soft spots even further. There also is concern about the heavy truck traffic on the Big Four Road and its impact on the road during an open winter, such as this one. With this winter situation, we are asking township residents who see particularly bad spots on our roads to report these to the township office. The number is 757-8112. Leave a message, if you call after office hours. We will do our best to take care of the problem.

The township supervisors are regularly evaluating roads and other issues that will require attention this spring/summer maintenance season. A critical road assessment also will occur in April. All of the information gathered is used to develop a work plan for the coming maintenance season. So far, the tentative plan calls for the following: complete reconstruction of Pine Street and the lower two blocks of East Street; repaving of portions of Woodland Drive and South Terrace; repairs to sections of the Big Four Road; completion of grading and sealing of Egypt Hollow Road; improvements to drainage on the west end of Mill Road; repairs to Norberg Road; and the reinforcement of the bank of Johnny Run at the mouth of the Conewango Creek. In addition, we will be replacing sections of guide rails and adding some new sections to some areas. The materials are on site for this work, but snow accumulation from plowing does not allow the equipment to get close enough to set the new posts. As soon as conditions permit, installation will take place.

The Pine Grove Lions Club shares maintenance of Larimer Park with the township. Recently, the Club pointed out the need to replace a concrete floor in one of the pavilions. The township will work with the Lions Club to affect the necessary repairs. Supervisors will also look at the park’s compliance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and take whatever steps are necessary to bring the park into compliance. The supervisors also have had some preliminary discussions about expanding recreational opportunities at the park. Township residents are welcome to offer their suggestions. This can be accomplished by emailing suggestions to pinegrovetwp@verizon.net.

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