John Reaville’s neighborhood
If you go out through Beech Creek, and turn sort of northwest along the creek, and then drive out into state forest land, and then park and hike for a while, do you know what you’ll see? Mostly trees, because you’ll get lost. It’s practically guaranteed. It’s happened to me several times.
But if you have any idea of where you’re going, you might stumble upon some old ruins. There are old foundations and wells. And if you’re lucky, you might actually find a huge furnace in the woods, almost pyramid-like, sitting there and waiting for people to discover it. If there’s any place in Clinton County where you can feel like Indiana Jones, this is the place.
These ruins are what’s left of the Tangascootac mining towns. Revelton, Eagleton, Peacock, Rock Cabin They’re all sitting out there, waiting for people to come and explore them.
And, once upon a time, they were all under the supervision of John Reaville.
Reaville was born in England in 1805. As a young man, he came to America to seek his fortune. He fell in with a coal company in Schuylkill County, and they hired him to solve a problem. They were concerned that someone might poach their claim – I don’t pretend to understand the legal technicalities of this, and I’ve asked my lawyer friends for advice once too often lately and they deserve a break. But in this case, the company might lose the mine if the property wasn’t occupied.
Reaville solved this problem for them by living in it. The mine. He occupied the mine by making it his home for eight months. He had people bring him food and supplies.
Once the legal issues were worked out, he emerged from the mine to the delight of the company, which rewarded him with his own set of communities here in Clinton County.
These were coal mining towns, and he was placed in charge of them. Revelton was named after him. Eagleton was considered the biggest community. Peacock was named because the coal there had a sort of colorful sheen. And Rock Cabin Well, that one’s almost obvious.
And the mining commenced. These were fairly busy coal towns in the mid-1800s. Reaville watched over it all. Reaville was known for being the toughest guy around, in spite of the fact that he was about five feet tall. There were stories of him being able to pound a post into the ground using just his fist, and jump any fence without a running start. He used to hunt animals, have them stuffed and put on his porch, and then prank his friends by inviting them to dinner without telling them there was a bear on the porch, which must have been a nice surprise for them.
Reaville also handled the first coal mine strike in Pennsylvania, which was in Eagleton. With the miners striking and refusing to negotiate, Reaville was concerned about things turning violent. He sent a messenger into Lock Haven to come back with the sheriff, who settled things in a couple of days.
There are even stories of buried treasure out there. When Reaville died in 1876, he was buried in Highland Cemetery. But there were rumors that he’d left behind bags of money buried in the basement of his mansion. It’s unclear whether they’ve ever been found or not. Yes, I’ve looked for the buried treasure. No, I haven’t found it yet. You couldn’t tell that based on the way I dress?
My lawyer friends, who are speaking to me again, advise me to tell you not to go running out and looking for the treasure. It’s state land, which gets into some legal ownership issues. But if you choose to ignore this advice and go anyway, well, good luck finding which of those old foundations used to be John Reaville’s place. See if there’s one with signs of a bear on the porch.
Lou Bernard is a Lock Haven resident with a keen interest in the history of this area. He is adult services coordinator at Ross Library and may be reached at email@example.com or 570-748-3321.