History of Raymond B. Winter State Park
Halfway to Winter
During 1967, Raymond B. Winter wrote an account of his time in the Buffalo Valley. The following is an excerpt from his booklet Halfway to Winter. The entire brochure is available at the park office.
A Forester’s Dream...
In the mystic beauty of the Bald Eagle State Forest District is the Raymond B. Winter State Forest Park -- the day dream of a young forester who was fortunate enough to see his dream come true.
I shall n’er forget my gracious welcome to the beautiful Buffalo Valley. My first view of the Valley came from the hill south of Mifflinburg. The late summer scene was glorious -- the cultivated fields, the well-kept buildings, the beautiful trees, and the sparkling over flowing reservoir all spoke of abundance and peace. . .rode north to the Forest House, going to work September 1, 1910.
The Brush Valley or 14 Mile Narrows Road was laid out before the turn of the 18th century. It traversed over Sand Mountain through Pine Swamp to the Centre County line. It was later improved by building up Rapid Run to meet the original road. Its principal use was transporting farm produce, mostly in the winter time, with teams and sleds from Centre County to the Susquehanna River.
The original name was Halfway House. It came from the fact that at one time a tavern with barn was located there. Teamsters could stop and feed their teams -- even stay all night, about half way through the mountains.
The Pennsylvania Railroad, that was built up Penns Creek through Coburn, was opened for operation in 1873. This method of transportation made the former methods more or less obsolete. No doubt during this time some logging of the Virgin forests was going on here in the Park area.
Later logging was started in earnest. Lumber shacks, a saw mill, and a timber dam were built. Some of the finest white pine ever cut in Pennsylvania came from this area. I am told that trees six feet across the stump and about two hundred feet tall would cut 5,000 board feet of lumber -- each enough to build a good size home. One can still find old stumps to prove it.
Later the big lumbermen came in. They built large logging camps and also narrow gauge railroads connecting the land with large mills and railroads in the valleys. By the turn of the 19th century, in about one hundred years, the timber which nature had built over the centuries was gone. What was left, in many places, was burned over through careless logging and sparks from their dinky engines.
The park area was purchased from J.K. Reish in 1905. Previous to that the State took over the surrounding land to give it ownership and to rehabilitate it. Through lack of understanding and organization during the drought of 1909 thousands of acres were burned completing the destruction. In many places nothing was left but bare rocks and mineral soil. ...
The Fourteen-Mile or Brush Valley Road was the only driveable road left, and it was little used and neglected. At Halfway there were several small clearings. The largest one was at the site of the present Park Shop, another on the ten-acre plot reserved by Rash Kleckner when the land was purchased by the state. This land and a small area east of it were saved from the 1909 fire and now contain some beautiful second growth timber for our enjoyment. On this clearing then known as the Kleckner place a logging shack and a horse shed were left. This was owned by the Martin G. Reed hunting and fishing party. Kleckner then lived below the crossroad south of the Forest House.
During the spring of 1912 Steve Roadarmel and Leslie Stover were appointed Rangers, giving me permanent help. We started clearing and burning the dead brush and debris which were left from the 1909 fire. Then planting was started in the cleared areas. This was kept up the following springs and in a few years the Park area was cleaned and planted.
While working on Bake Oven Trail and other advantageous points Ranger Stover and I recognized the natural beauty of the place and day dreamed of a beautiful park in the area someday. Putting our thoughts into action we built some crude fireplaces, picnic tables, and other improvements. Later we succeeded in getting some funds and about 400 acres were set aside for a park. The beavers moved toward the east end of the area and built dams. They were a real attraction and helped fishing. This brought in wild ducks for the hunters.
One fine day in early 1933 lightning struck. The Bald Eagle State Forest District was to get four CCC Camps of 200 boys each. One was listed for the Halfway Park Area. We pooled our meager tools and equipment, leased, borrowed, even begged more. While other Camps over the State were sulking in their tents waiting for plans and equipments, we were off to a flying start.
The first big job was the dam. Forester Sayers, Engineer Wagner, Camp Superintendent, Foremen, and boys labored hard and willingly with the excellent cooperation from our Army Commander, Lieutenant Sheppard, who later was promoted to general and headed the U. S. Marines. In a little over a year, they had cleaned a seven acre area of brush debris including stumps. They removed the old dam and constructed the first cement and stone dam ever built by CCC in the United States, making a beautiful seven acre lake. The Fish Department stocked it with rainbow trout to improve fishing. A bathing beach was soon built and a diving tower in deep water was put in for swimmer’s enjoyment.
July 1, 1955, my 45 years of doing the best I could, with the handicaps we had, came to an abrupt end.
That same year (1955) Senator Samuel B. Wolf introduced Senate Resolution Serial No. 151 into the State Senate. Supported by Mr. Harry Haddon and his Sunbury Daily Item -- as also many other influential friends -- this Resolution passed, paying me a wonderful tribute as here recorded.