Monday, March 31, 2008



1948 - 2002

remembered by Philip C. Swarr, Homer, NY


My Grandfather Christian Cassel had a friend named Brubaker who had a cabin in Leetonia. He arranged for my family (Lancaster County) and my Uncle Earl Cassel's family (Dauphin County) to go there for a weekend. The Brubaker camp is the present Ebersole Twin Pines. This was about 1947.

While exploring Leetonia, we noticed that there was a "For Sale" sign on a nearby cabin with a Philadelphia address. This is the current Cassel - "Maple Grove" cabin (AKA "Square Camp"). We called these places "cabins" but they are houses remaining from the logging era at the turn of the century. My Father, Martin N. Swarr and my Uncle Earl Cassel agreed that Dad should contact the owner about the possibility of buying the property which also includes a beautiful stand of Sugar Maple trees.

Dad learned that the owner had been riding his horse in a Philadelphia park. The horse carried him under a tree limb which tore off his nose which he had replaced with a plastic one. The cold of Leetonia bothered his nose, and so he decided to sell the property with all its furnishings.

The agreed upon price was, I believe, $3,500. My father paid $1,500, my uncle $1,500 and my grandfather $500. My father painted the hanging "Maple Grove" sign on the front porch. My father took up trout fishing but did not hunt. Needless to say, the cabin became the site of our family vacations. In 1948, I was nine years old and my sister was seven. My Uncle Earl had three sons and a daughter all of whom were older than my sister and me. Cleon, father of the current owners, their youngest was one year older than me. The boys all hunted and fished.

I was married in 1964, moved to Central New York State on the East side of the Finger Lakes area. Our trips to Leetonia took three hours via Corning. Tioga and Ansonia. Our daughter was born 1968. When we would go to the cabin, we never knew who else might show up from Cassels. On one occasion we took friends with our young babies along for a weekend retreat when the late night calm was interrupted by the unexpected arrival of some cousins with all the gear for which we now had to make room. That was about 1969.

By 1970, the Cassel family had much outgrown my family so I suggested to Dad that we ask Cassels if they would accept a deal in which the lot would be divided diagonally roughly in half. They would retain the half with the cabin and we would build a cabin on the other half. The deal was legally consummated and I began to research building prospects.

By chance I received an ad in our mailbox describing prefabricated redwood garages and cabins. The elderly salesman visited our house at our invitation and told us we could specify the configuration we wanted and the walls would be prefabricated at a factory near Albany NY and the roof would then be stick-built on site. They would want to visit the site to be sure their flatbed truck could make it up and around the drive way to dump the building bundles on the site.

In February 1970, I drove two company representatives in my Dodge Dart sedan to Leetonia. While there, snowflakes began to fall as they carefully measured the driveway around the corner Maple tree at the top and determined that their truck could make the turn. That set in motion some intense planning on my part. We could not have accomplished the project without the help of permanent Leetonia resident Paul (Wally) Walleisa (sp?).

Wally arranged for a lumbering company operating nearby to provide an operator and equipment to level the site in preparation for laying a slab. He also arranged for cement delivery from Wellsboro. In the meantime, in my home shop, I fabricated the basic plastic plumbing which would be buried under the 36 x 24 foot slab. All this was to come together in April.

The building crew of three provided by the manufacturer set up a tent on the property where the foreman, his family and the other two young men stayed. They day of the pour arrived. The cement truck driver seemed extremely worried about the 3-ton limits on the Leetonia bridges and Wally was worried we would be shorted in concrete. We were relieved to find that the water pressure from the spring at the Turtle Shell camp was just enough to come out the hose from the Maple Grove into the top of the cement truck parked on the drive above the site.

It took all day into the dark of evening for four loads of concrete to be delivered to the site. It began to sprinkle rain as the last load was poured illuminated by car headlights and as I held the plastic plumbing in position.

During the several hours it took for the cement truck to make round trips from Wellsboro, Wally was determined to compensate for any possible shorting of concrete by driving us around in his beloved Jeep pickup to pick up large slabs of rock to put down before each pour.

Sometime in June the flatbed truck with our building panels and materials arrived in Homer from Albany, NY for us to lead the way to Leetonia. Upon arrival there, the driver looked very skeptical of the possibility of making his delivery up the narrow dirt driveway and around the ninety-degree turn at the top. He determined to turn around at the other end of Leetonia and build up speed. He roared up the drive, squeaked around the Maple-guarded corner at the top and finally eased his strapped bundles off his raised dump bed onto the grassy area above Maple Grove.

So by the Summer of 1970 we had the shell of our building erected. We hired the same crew to haul finishing materials from home and to help me install all the studding inside. We had a well drilled. I proceeded upon many trips from home with materials to finish the interior. I fabricated the shower base, insulated the walls and ceiling, did the plumbing, put up the paneling and the ceiling tiles. We were wise enough to hire an electrician to do all the wiring according to my plan.

Long before the advent of SUVs, we ordered a 1971 International Travelall four-wheel drive for our anticipated recreation. The 345 cubic inch engine gave us about ten miles to the gallon. I bought a 4 x 6 utility trailer which I used to haul the carpet from Syracuse NY. We laid it out on the ground to cut it into dimensions for installation in each room. I brought a Franklin stove from Montgomery Ward in Cortland NY. A few years later I bought a used Johnson snowmobile the track of which is on the floor of the shed. I fabricated the shed at home in our garage and hauled it with the foundation railroad ties to Leetonia. What a project!

By 1972 our son Peter was born. Wally helped us find rocks for me to use in building the stove hearth. I really enjoyed that project. Meanwhile our children enjoyed coming to Leetonia. Wally was a frequent visitor. But as the years passed, our visits were less frequent but my parents continued to enjoy their visits. Dad was always present for the opening of trout season. We once had our family Thanksgiving dinner there but we were surprised how much the quiet of Leetonia changed with the arrival of hunters in anticipation of opening deer season.

One July 4th vacation, we saw an elderly couple coming up the drive as we sat on the screened in porch. We were surprised to learn that he, "Bill" Bailey had been born in the house with the elk horns over the entrance. But even more surprising, they lived within a few miles of our New York home and he had taught for many years in our school system. He provided us with many stories and eventually with a copy of his typed Leetonia story and photos. I believe I left a copy with the Cassels. I had loaned my original photos to my cousin Dick so don't have them only photo copies.

Upon my father's death in 2002, the use of the place would fall solely to us since my mother did not plan to drive there by herself from near Lancaster, PA. Since our children were long gone and lived in Vermont and in Nashville, we did not travel to the camp much since it seemed that every trip required us to spend much time cleaning and on maintenance as my father grew older. So we decided to sell and, fortunately, my cousin, Cleon's sons bought the property from us. What a wonderful time in their lives and in the lives off their children to have a place like that in Leetonia!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Elk in the Area!

You have to like wildlife cams. I didn't believe this when I first received it from Rich Pantalone, because the date on the picture says 2000. But it turns out the camera date wasn't set correctly and I was able to verify this is a recent sighting, two weeks ago, with tangible evidence.

Turns out Ron Andrus not only got this picture but more during one day. The elk,WHILE RON WATCHED, shook his head and graciously dropped an antler for Ron. After the Elk moved away Ron looked in the area some more and found the other shed. A complete set! I guess Ron is carrying them everywhere with him showing them off, I would too! Eventually I will catch up with him and get some first hand pictures.
This Elk's picture was taken in the Pigeon Hill/Leetonia Rd area. So keep your eyes open for an antlerless elk roaming the hills. Hopefully, it will be the first of many. Mountain girl, Paula, logging out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

From PA to CA

When I left for California, I took a picture of the road at the top of Cedar Mountain so I could show everyone out there what the weather was like here. I don't think I need to tell you which of these pictures was taken at the top of Cedar MT.

While in California I took as many flower pictures as I could and realized why we get so tired of winter here by March. The color of life is missing from us for too many months.

The flower pictures were taken near San Diego and it seems the fire last fall combined with a good rainy season for them contributed to a blanket of color. The Anza-Borrego Dessert yelded the last two pictures showing catus in bloom with the mountain behind it. A mountain girl must take a mountain picture.
I will say I had one surprise on the way back to San Diego with my son as we pass over the mountain it snowed.

I guess it was mother nature's way of making me feel at home in
the warm California weather, but I didn't compare to what I left behind and by the time we crossed the mountain it was back to warm.
Soon we will have flowers and seeing the first ones is always special as the forests makes the turn around the gray, cold, weather to become green and colorful again. Last year it was April 20th when I recorded the first flower, called colt's foot. That is about a month away. I wonder if the people living in the warm flowers appreciate them as much as we do after the grays of winter? Mountain girl, Paula, logging out.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Flatlanders vs Ridgerunners

Louise Zywilitis sent me this picture of various shoes at her camp and wondered if I could tell which ones were from flatlanders. If you guessed the tennis shoes were from a local woman who has lived here her entire life then you would be right. Seems flatlanders need more special equipment to deal with their extreme vacations. Ha! It is good that they seem to have a sense of humor about themselves as well. Thanks to flatlander, Louise for the insightful picture.

I'm back! I have to admit I am somewhat spoiled by the nice weather and the beautiful flowers in bloom. I realized how much ones attitude is affected by color. I took about 90 pictures of flowers, animals, and nature. I will post a few later to perk you all up. In another month we should start seeing our first little yellow flowers along the road. It snowed here yesterday although, not enough to stick enough to remind me winter is still here.
March is my least favorite month of the year, because it can be hard to get down the roads that were unplowed during the winter. When everything is frozen you can drive over them or snowmobile on them, but when it is half and half you can often do neither. This is the time of year to get stuck not realizing how deep the soft snow is or slide on the ice as I did. Speaking of that my truck is fixed! So I don't have to be reminded of kissing the mountain with my bumper everyday. Still, I think it fortunate to have been able to go into the mountain and not over the mountain. The road from Leetonia to Cedar Run is passable but very icy and dangerous in spots. Have chains with you if you decide to drive it this weekend. Mountain girl, Paula, Logging out!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Exercising in LA

Well the mountain girl made it to LA and I don't miss the cold. Here I am with my brother Dave and my daughter doing a morning workout. I miss the trees and the quiet and will be quite happy to come home especially if winter is over. I am betting against that. Mountain girl, Paula, logging out. Oh thanks lee for posting from Pa and keeping the fire going so the pipes don't burst. Hi to the dogs as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Latest Road Report, March 12,2008

Hi everyone. This is Lee the other mountain girl that is usually silent. Paula didn't think I would post but I decided to surprise her.

Today I traveled down the road to Cedar Run in my Subaru without chains. I made it out and back without incident. Part of the road is covered with 6 inches of snow and ice which is slippery with the sun shining on it. About a third of the road is down to the dirt. (Not good for snowmobiling) The hill going down to the bridge at Minehole is icy and tricky. The temperatures are supposed to go above freezing for the next ten days. Tomorrow brings rain and Friday will be rain and freezing rain. So if you are planning to come up for the weekend use caution. Hopefully the ice will melt soon. Paula is hoping winter will be gone by the time she returns on the 19th but we know how March is unpredictable. The snow in our front yard is less than what is seen in this picture. One more thing about the roads. They are really muddy from our house on up the mountain. Sometimes I think it's worse than the snow.

The boys and I are holding down the fort as Brad would say. I will post again if anything develops before Paula comes home. Signing out for now from the Bear of Eaglebear.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Warm weather returns

Today it got up to 53! Yeah! This started the roads melting and the mud forming. The sky was that beautiful blue we get up here that makes you feel great to be outside. We heard a couple of flocks of geese fly over and the birds were chirping a happy song.
It was a good day to get out and start carving one of the big logs in front of my cabin. I will let you know if it turns into something other than a big pile of sawdust.
I am heading off to LA Wednesday for the Milliondollar Body Fitness Sumitt. My brother and son live in California so I will be staying for 2 weeks to visit. I doubt Lee will post anything to the blog so there will be a little break. That will be my vacation before the beginning of building season up here. Lee will be staying here with the dogs keeping the cabin warm as I don't expect the cold weather to be done yet. Mountain girl, Paula, logging out.