Where and What is Plummer’s Hollow?

Red maples in blossom on Laurel Ridge, from the entrance to Plummers Hollow

Red maples in blossom on Laurel Ridge, from the entrance to Plummer's Hollow

Where is Plummer’s Hollow? In fact, what is a hollow in Pennsylvania terms?

First, location. Plummer’s Hollow, which is depicted on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic map of the Tyrone Quadrangle, is located in northern Blair County, Pennsylvania. (Note that the USGS routinely simplifies place names by eliminating possessive forms: thus Plummer’s Hollow — its true name — becomes Plummer Hollow.) It is in the southern portion of Snyder Township immediately to the east of the borough of Tyrone. The hollow is formed by a division of Brush Mountain at its northeastern end where the mountain is divided from the southeastern end of Bald Eagle Mountain by the water gap of the Little Juniata River.

A relatively soft rock strata, the so-called Juniata Formation, lies between two harder rock formations, the Tuscarora Formation on the northwest and the Bald Eagle Formation on the southeast. The harder rocks form the crest of Bald Eagle and Brush Mountains, while the softer Juniata Formation breaks down into hollows and dips along the tops of the ridges where settlers discovered it was possible to grow orchard crops. Where these formations are cut by river gaps, transverse hollows tend to develop in the Juniata Formation leading up away from the river gaps; at the Little Juniata River gap, an especially fine example occurs on the south side of the gap, dividing the end of Brush Mountain into two distinct ridges and providing easy access up a small stream (Plummer’s Hollow) to the top of the mountain.

Fog hides the entrance to Plummers Hollow; only the Sapsucker Ridge side is visible in this shot, taken on Pennsylvania Avenue in Tyrone

Fog hides the entrance to Plummer's Hollow; only the Sapsucker Ridge side is visible in this shot, taken on Pennsylvania Avenue in Tyrone

Hollows are common local geographical features in south central Pennsylvania. They may range from very small areas of a few hundred acres to much larger hollows amounting to over a thousand acres. Many are referred to locally but their names don’t even appear on the topographic maps. The actual definition of a hollow appears to be, in the parlance of northern Blair county, a place within the drainage of a small stream. Some groupings of rural homes are referred to as hollows even though they are not really in a distinct watershed, such as the cluster of houses in Sinking Valley which is referred to as Gurekovitch Hollow — a group of homes built by and for the descendants of the original Gurekovitch family. Larger hollows, such as Reese Hollow in Centre County, may have many residents who are unrelated to Reeses. Hollows are not large enough to form political units such as townships, and at least in Blair and Centre Counties many of the hollows are too small even for named villages.

The hollow, in Blair County, is a reference point of local rural residence and identity. “Oh, you’re from up Plummer’s Hollow–how’s the turkey huntin’ this fall,” is the kind of conversation that transpires among males in the area. We define Plummer’s Hollow as the entire drainage basin of the Plummer’s Hollow Run, an area of approximately 500 acres, although in actual family usage we tend to say “down in the hollow” to mean “below the houses,” where the field ends and the solid woods begin. It is bounded by Sapsucker Ridge, our name for the northwestern ridge of Brush Mountain, Laurel Ridge, the southeastern ridge, and, of course, the Little Juniata River. It rises from 900 feet above sea level to 1660 feet at the top of the watershed.

Looking east, through the Little Juniata Gap, from the end of Sapsucker Ridge

Looking east, through the Little Juniata Gap, from the end of Sapsucker Ridge

Facing northeast as it does, and serving as an echo chamber for the frequent trains wailing through the gap on the east-west trunk line of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, Plummer’s Hollow seems to satisfy most of the requirements of the classic “cold and lonesome holler” of Appalachia. Its name reflects our shared tradition with this most misunderstood and put-down region of the United States. Many other local slang expressions and customs remind us that, while we may inhabit the central Appalachians in a geological sense, in terms of human geography Plummer’s Hollow lies right about at the northern terminus of Appalachia. We are pleased and humbled to think that some of the families hunting and roaming our woods may have local roots that go back over 200 years. It is our sincere wish that all Americans may, in time, develop similar ties of affection and deep familiarity with the wild lands they call home.

Looking down Plummers Hollow from the very top of the watershed

Looking down Plummer's Hollow from the very top of the watershed

–Bruce Bonta, with a few additions by Dave