Planning is underway in Covington Twp. for a summer of 2018 celebration to mark the township’s bicentennial. The township was formed in 1818 from the vast landholdings of Henry Drinker. The land that became the township was once a part of Luzerne County, and later became a part of Lackawanna County.
Over the years, changes to the geographical boundaries of area municipalities resulted in Covington Twp. decreasing in size as it was carved into smaller pieces. Originally encompassing the present-day townships of Covington, Clifton, Springbrook, Madison, Lehigh, and Buck, Covington Township is now a nearly 25-square-mile chunk of land with the village of Daleville serving as its center of commerce.
A Bicentennial Committee has been formed and includes members Ted Baird, Colin Saylock, Marlene Beavers, Bill Beavers, Diane Buscarini, Tom Hughes, Doris Sebring, and Barbara Havenstrite. The committee has chosen to limit the scope of its historical research and quest for vintage photographs and ephemera to those pertaining to the events and locations within the present boundaries of the township.
Township resident and Bicentennial Committee member Ted Baird has ancestral roots in the township stretching back almost to its founding. According to Mr. Baird, the first resident of the township was his ancestor, Edward Wardell, Sr., who settled there with his wife and two sons in 1819. The Wardells arrived with the Dale family, with whom they built a shared log cabin to dwell in.
Wardell purchased 250 acres of land from Henry Drinker for just $5 an acre and established a farm, growing and harvesting the first wheat crop in the township. In 1823, Wardell built the first frame house in the township. Wardell’s son, Edward Jr., served as the township’s first tax collector in 1827.
Mr. Baird has been fascinated with township history for many years, citing the “Drinker’s Beech” articles from the 1970’s Villager newspapers as a major source of his desire to learn about local history. He has learned much about the industry that was at one time prevalent in the township, including logging, farming, and the railroad.
The township also used to feature a commercial airport, sawmills, several turning mills, a clothespin factory, and gristmills. Mr. Baird and some local residents had the opportunity to use a metal detector at the site of the township’s first gristmill, where they found an ox shoe and the reeds from six harmonicas. He would like to locate the site of the township’s first sawmill to see if additional artifacts can be unearthed.
Other interesting aspects of the township’s history often include the railroad and the Drinker Turnpike, which served as conduits for vacationers and travelers, including famous folks like Teddy Roosevelt. Mr. Baird recounted how the President was once driving through the township when his car broke down, so he dined at a local eatery while repairs were undertaken. Another famous “visitor” was the Liberty Bell, which passed through by train as it returned to Philadelphia from the San Francisco World’s Fair in 1915.
Mr. Baird’s curiosity and drive to learn about the township have led him to acquire a wealth of interesting facts and stories, and as part of the Bicentennial Committee, he hopes to find photographs and printed materials that will enable him to share this information with others through a booklet and other means.
The bicentennial celebration will take place at the Moffatt Estate pavilion sometime during the summer of 2018, with a firm date for the event yet to be established. Food and carriage rides are likely components of the celebration, said Mr. Baird, who has been collecting historical photos of people, places, and events in the township with the hope of creating a slide show and commemorative booklet for the bicentennial. He also hopes to incorporate the ability for residents to share their memories or favorite tales about Covington Twp.’s past.
To create the visuals for the bicentennial, the committee is seeking materials from the community. “It would be wonderful if people could loan or gift items starting from the founding of the township in 1818 up to approximately 1968, that is, from the first 150 years of the township’s history. I’d really like more information about the Daleville Airport, or photos of the old mills or the clothespin factory,” explained Mr. Baird. Items can be digitally scanned and returned unharmed to the owners.
For more information and to browse through a wealth of photos and newspaper clippings from the township’s past, visit Covington Township Bicentennial on Facebook. To volunteer your time or share historical photos, contact the committee through Facebook or contact one of the committee members directly.