Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Central Pennsylvania
"Alabama in-between," snickered James Carville, "Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Alabama in-between."

Bloomsburg / Danville

J. Edgar Thomson

The North Branch of the Susquehanna winds its way through the mountains of central Pennsylvania, particularly from Wilkes Barre to Danville. The zig-zag course of the river is confusing, with long stretches of westward flow reversing the long eastward flow between Binghamton and Sayre, between which are long stretches due south. At Danville, the river makes its final sharp turn and then begins a straight southern chute toward Harrisburg. The discovery of iron ore between Bloomsburg and Danville was just in time for the advancing railroads of J. Edgar Thomson, and the Iron King of the area was George Geisinger, whose widow Abigail founded the hospital of that name where the Geisinger Clinic now flourishes. As iron and steel moved west to the Pittsburgh region, the Geisinger Clinic now pretty much dominates the area, like a self-contained ocean liner at sea.

Around 1850, the county seat was moved to Bloomsburg, causing the irritated citizens of Danville to break tiny Montour County off from Columbia County, and making Danville at least the county seat of some county. Whatever else it does, this split-off stimulated a vigorous football rivalry between the two otherwise fairly friendly towns.

At the moment, the shale-gas bonanza is somewhat distant from this region. But it is fairly clear that legislative actions about extractive industries are just as closely watched as geological ones, for signs of a coming gold rush, or possibly tax rush.

At nearby Elysburg, the Knoebels Grove Amusement park provides an interesting footnote to a dramatic Pennsylvania development of 19th Century amusement parks. There are probably more surviving examples of this entertainment center in Pennsylvania than in the other 49 states, and Knoebels Grove founded in 1926 claims to be among the largest. Whether that so depends on the system of measurement employed, but Knoebels Grove is clearly unique in not charging an overall entrance fee. As well as being the home of the annual Fisher Family reunion, where in August State Policemen can be found directing traffic among the various family branches. For unexplained reasons, the members of this far-flung family bear a comparatively little physical resemblance to each other but claim to be descended from one Sebastian Fisher, who arrived around 1697 by way of New York. Sebastian had fourteen children, and most of them had similar numbers, so mathematics soon puts an end to most ancestral arguments around the picnic tables.

Originally published: Wednesday, October 27, 2010; most-recently modified: Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hi - Enjoying your columns. I noticed, however, that the red dot for Kingston, NY, in the above map is shown in the approx. location of Amherst, MA, in the Connecticut River Valley. Kingston is located on the Hudson River at the northeast terminus of the Delaware and Hudson Canal.
Posted by: Rob   |   Dec 3, 2010 10:40 AM