The History of Plummer’s Hollow

by Bruce Bonta
(Originally published in TYRONE PASTTIMES, the newsletter of the Tyrone Area Historical Society)

1. Forests, Speculators, Forges: Early History to 1850

The history of Tyrone is closely integrated with the histories of surrounding farms and forests. One of the most notable natural features of northern Blair County is the water gap between Bald Eagle Mountain and Brush Mountain immediately east of downtown Tyrone–known as “sunny side” and “shady side” locally–where the Little Juniata River cuts to the southeast on its way toward Huntingdon. In the middle of the river gap, about one-half mile east of the center of town, a small stream comes down off Brush Mountain to the right through a long, narrow hollow that bisects the end of the mountain.

Natural Setting

The scene that greeted the first white settlers in the Tyrone area, and particularly the first who penetrated Plummer’s Hollow, was undoubtedly one of a rich, old-growth forest, especially near the stream. While there are no surviving descriptions of the pre-settlement forests in the immediate Tyrone area, an early description from northern Cambria County is probably close enough to portray the landscape of northern Blair County as well.

In 1832, a German prince named Maximilian of Wied traveled through central Pennsylvania on his route west. In his subsequent book on the trip he described the days he spent examining an old-growth forest area near Ebensburg. He depicted the forests there as filled with hemlocks “of colossal magnitude” in “deep ravines, where pines, beeches, chestnuts, birches, maples, and walnut trees of various kinds, form a gloomy forest, and fallen and decayed trunks check your advance at every step; cool, sylvan brooks rushed foaming through all the defiles, and we had continually to cross them on natural bridges, formed by the fallen trunks of trees. Such old trunks are covered with a whole world of mosses, lichens, fungiwood, sorrel, ferns, etc; nay even young shoots of maple, beeches, and tulip trees, had taken root on them.”

While a careful examination of the forests of Plummer’s Hollow today confirms that Maximilian’s description probably would have fit this area too, the ridge-tops of Brush Mountain in 1800 were probably quite different. Most likely they were covered primarily with oaks, hickories, pitch pines, American chestnuts, and mountain laurel. The first property surveys in the 1790s of the lands on and near Brush Mountain confirm these descriptions, with their frequent mentions of chestnut oaks as witness trees on the ridge tops, and with pines mentioned most often near the river.

First Owners of “Violet Hill”

With the end of the American Revolutionary War, Indian attacks in the Juniata Valley ceased and the northern section of what was then Huntingdon County was open for settlement by Europeans. On September 2, 1793, one John Smith applied at the Pennsylvania land office for a warrant on 400 acres on the “waters of the Little Juniatta” [sic] in what was then Tyrone Township of Huntingdon County for a purchase price of 50 shillings per hundred acres. On the same day, a man named Barney Carr made a similar application for 400 acres of land “adjoining land this day granted to John Smith and land of Jacob Roler.” A little later, on February 1, 1794, Frederick Lazarus was granted a warrant for 400 acres adjoining the Smith tract.

The surveys which were done for Smith, Carr, and Lazarus show how these properties adjoin. The Lazarus survey is particularly interesting: that tract included not only the northeastern end of Brush Mountain and the lowest part of Plummer’s Hollow, but it also included the Little Juniata River, the lowlands that would later became part of the downtown area of Tyrone Borough, and a fringe of land on the north side of the River. Plummer’s Hollow and downtown Tyrone (before the town existed, of course) were originally part of the same deed!

While the owners of the Lazarus and Smith tracts clearly wanted their properties to stretch across the mountain from Sinking Valley to Logan Valley, the owner of the Carr tract wanted only mountaintop land, as his lines followed the crests of the ridges. Why was he interested primarily in the upper reaches of the hollow and the rolling mountaintop land beyond rather than arable valley property? There is no way to tell.

On September 1, 1795, the owner of the Smith and the Carr tracts deeded his lands to one Robert Stuart, who was granted patents on his properties on August 17, 1796. According to the patent he was issued for the Carr tract, either he, or one of the preceding owners, had named the property “Violet Hill.” The name was probably based on the color of the mountain in the clear light of a mid-winter afternoon, and it is possible that one of the early owners actually visited the property and was struck by the beauty of the place. Despite these land grants and surveys, settlers probably lived only in the valleys during this period–there is no evidence that anyone had yet settled on Brush Mountain or in Plummer’s Hollow.

Charcoal Iron

The early history of Blair County was dominated by the charcoal iron industry. While dates vary in the different sources, the first forge in what is now Blair County was founded about 1805 at Tyrone Forge, a village which still exists just east of Brush Mountain at the head of Sinking Valley. The pig iron for this forge had to be brought from the Huntingdon Furnace five and one-half miles away. The company that owned the furnace and forge quickly began buying up additional lands in the area of their forges, including the Lazarus, Smith and Carr tracts on the end of Brush Mountain. In 1812 or 1813 the firm built another forge one-half mile up river at the end of the small stream that was later to become known as Plummer’s Hollow Run, and it called the new facility Upper Tyrone Forge.

During the next 45-year period, 1805 to 1850, it is likely that the only people who lived for brief periods of time in the hollow or on the mountaintop were the charcoal colliers. While it is impossible to know precisely how the owners of the property treated the hollow, we can make some reasonable assumptions based on the history of other Pennsylvania charcoal iron works where extensive documentation has survived. In the early nineteenth century the typical iron plantation was surrounded by vast areas of clearcut forest, where hastily dug roads channeled the soil and logging debris during storm runoffs into the streams and down the rivers. Violet Hill would have been transformed into slash hollow.

Based on the extant information about the iron production of the two Tyrone forges, and the typical consumption of charcoal by forges of the period, it is possible to calculate when the hollow was first clearcut, and even when it was probably clearcut a second time. From this data, I would estimate that the lower section of the hollow was first clearcut in about 1813, and the woodcutters would have cleared the rest of the hollow within two years. It is also reasonable to presume that the owners would have followed the 30 year clearcutting rotation of other 19th century Pennsylvania iron masters and they probably cleared the hollow again in the mid- to late-1840s. Ring counts of old tree stumps on the property show that a few trees on the mountain date from the first clearcut of 1815 and others from the 1840s.

The history of Plummer’s Hollow took several new twists in 1850: the iron company sold a 55-acre parcel near the top of the hollow to a very hard-working, widely-respected forgeman named William Plummer; then Mr. Plummer quit his job at the forge and took employment with the railroad that had just been built. The story of Mr. and Mrs. Plummer, the first permanent residents of the hollow, and their love for the land will form the second part of this series.

2. Settlers in the Woods, 1850 – 1879

When the Pennsylvania Railroad was built in 1850, the town of Tyrone quickly sprang up at the confluence of the Little Bald Eagle Creek and the Little Juniata River; it was called, at first, Tyrone City to distinguish it from the iron villages down stream. The first Tyrone-area railroad station on the new mainline was located at Upper Tyrone Forge, at the entrance to what was later called Plummer’s Hollow; it was only replaced by a station in Tyrone itself in 1853. It is not an exaggeration to say that the town of Tyrone grew out of the Upper Forge located one-half mile east.

In about 1850 or 1851 a travel writer came through the area and described the iron forge company as a model enterprise employing over 200 people; and the forge village appeared to him to be filled with “cheerful and contented people–neat, intelligent, industrious and orderly. When we see the manager in his store, busy as a bee in attending to the wants of his hard-working customers, and only leaving it to dispense the sweet little courtesies of hospitality in his dwelling; when we see all this, nothing could prevent us from believing that everything is just as it should be.” Despite this saccharin, uncritical assessment, a contemporary report by the company to the federal government shows that the employment was only 60 men and boys, a drop from a report 18 years earlier by the company. The dropping production and employment at the forge undoubtedly was one of the reasons that the iron company agreed to sell a small tract of land to one of their best employees.

William and Catharine Treaster Plummer

According to family tradition, William R. Plummer bought the original 55-acre farm at the top of the hollow because he wanted to be able to raise his children in the country where they could have fresh air, milk and eggs. Even a small village like Upper Tyrone Forge was too crowded for his tastes, despite the “cheerful, contented, industrious, orderly” people there. He was evidently still employed by the forge company in 1850 when he purchased for $1,200, “a small tract of unimproved land on Brush Mountain,” and he quickly proceeded “to erect a building and … clear the land.”

William R. Plummer was born in Cambria County in October 1814. He left home at the age of 15 to learn the blacksmith trade at Maria Forges, near Roaring Spring; he then worked at the Cove Forge near Williamsburg, at a forge near Spruce Creek, and finally he settled at the Tyrone Forges in 1832 at the age of 18. He worked as a forgeman at both the upper and the lower Tyrone Forges from then until the Pennsylvania Railroad was completed.

Early in 1851 he took a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad as the attendant at a water station that was built at the entrance to Plummer’s Hollow. The remains of the water tank–several very large stone blocks–are still visible in the undergrowth next to the stream near the entrance to the hollow. The tank itself was destroyed by the flood of 1936.

In 1865 or 1866 Mr. Plummer took a job as a night watchman with the railroad at the Tyrone depot. He was evidently becoming prosperous enough to buy and sell house lots in both Tyrone and Altoona starting in 1865. Mr. Plummer also served as Snyder Township Tax Assessor from 1853 through 1863. His occupation–or, more precisely, how he liked to have his occupation recorded–was noted each year in the township tax records as “forgeman” until 1861 when he himself changed it to “farmer.” Though he listed himself as “watchman” for a few years, he seemed to prefer being known as “farmer”.

Stories from the Old Farm

The Plummer family was large and lively, to judge by the stories that have survived. Mr. Plummer and his wife Catharine had 12 children: one daughter and eleven sons, though three of the sons died before their parents. According to family legend, in addition to being a large family Mr. Plummer and his sons were physically quite large men. Mrs. Plumb, granddaughter of William and Catharine, recounted many family stories to us before she moved away from the Tyrone area in 1972. William, or Billy as he was called, was a brawny man of about 240 pounds (not an unusual characteristic for forgemen) who could lick any three men in a fight, according to his granddaughter. She told us that Tyrone residents of the mid-nineteenth century would say of the Plummer family, “Never fight a Plummer–if you lick one there is always a bigger one to lick, and the devil himself can’t lick the old man (meaning William).”

Another family story about the Plummer children is that one winter the youngsters built a big bobsled and took it up the steep trail very near the present Guest House on the farm. They came rapidly down the hill through the woods in the deep snow, but they lost control, veered off through the woods, and hit a tree. George Plummer, father of Phyllis, recounted to his daughter how “Plummers were scattered all over the Allegheny Mountains.”

Farm Lands and Buildings

Details on the construction of buildings on the farm are fuzzier since almost none of the family papers or photos have survived. Mrs. Plumb indicated that the original log farm house that William had erected on the property burned while her father George was away at college–which was from 1865 to 1869. Some of the sons who were around built the original part of the present Guest House for their parents shortly afterwards. The main house was built by a contractor sometime after that, probably in 1871. Mrs. Plumb recounted that her grandfather had started planting apple trees when he bought the property–about 1300 on over 13 acres–and that he had enough income from the orchard by 1865 to help her own father, George Washington Plummer, attend Allegheny College. Mrs. Plumb wrote that the farm was never devoted to dairy cattle, though they did raise some cattle, corn, wheat, oats and hay.

Mrs. Plumb did not have much knowledge about the uses of the rest of the property other than the orchard, but evidence suggests that a portion of the woods immediately above the old farm dump was used only for firewood and has not been lumbered since the 1840s. The uneven-age forest in the area has trees that date back to the original clearcut of 1815, and many other trees that date from the second lumbering of the late 1840s. The rest of the property was probably used as pasture land for the cattle and horses that they kept, plus undoubtedly some gardens and crop lands.

The Legends Die

Catharine Plummer evidently died at some point during the summer of 1879 and her husband, William Plummer, was killed while working near the Tyrone station. He was inspecting a train on a siding on Tuesday morning, Nov. 25, 1879, while a freight train was roaring through on the far track. He evidently did not hear an approaching mail express train on the tract right next to him and as he turned he was struck in the head by the passing engine and killed instantly. The obituary in the local newspaper indicated the affection that his family and the people in the community felt for him: “The sad news was a terrible shock to his family and near relatives; and as the melancholy tidings passed from one to another, every citizen and neighbor felt that a great calamity had befallen the community in the sudden and violent death of an old, honored, and universally respected citizen.”

After several years the farm was deeded to one of the surviving heirs, the subject of the next part of this series.

3. More Plummers in the Hollow, 1879-1909

After William Plummer died in 1879, his descendants continued to own his farm at the top of Plummer’s Hollow, which ends just one-half mile east of Tyrone. His second son James took upon himself the job of settling the estate of his parents–there was evidently no will. James had been elected Recorder of Deeds for Blair County, so he evidently felt he was capable of performing this task.

During the 24 months that elapsed before the farm was finally sold by the heirs to one of the brothers, Jacob T. Plummer, evidently some strains developed among the siblings–not an unusual occurrence in large families. A letter survives written by Winfield Scott Plummer, one of the sons, that blames all of the troubles in the settlement of the estate on his older brother James. He complains that James took too long to settle the estate, that the reason for Jim’s behavior was that he wanted the farm for himself, and that he treated their parents quite badly while they were still alive.

Jacob Plummer Buys the Farm

Whatever the truth of Winfield’s claims may have been, the 55-acre farm was finally sold by the heirs to Jacob T. Plummer on December 13, 1881. The story passed down in the Jacob Plummer family was that he bought the property because he really wanted to farm it. Unlike James, an older brother who was raised in the forge village, Jacob was born on the farm on April 27, 1852, and he had lived most of his life there. Undoubtedly that contributed to his feelings for the farm. However, Jacob’s wife Mollie C. McCurdy Plummer didn’t like living on the farm so they moved into Tyrone where he operated a grocery store. Mrs. Plummer delivered twin children on January 25, 1889, and both died on the farm the following August 31, 1889 and September 3, 1889. Evidently she held very bitter feelings toward the mountain the rest of her life due to their deaths. Phyllis Plumb, the third-generation owner of the property, felt that her uncle Jacob was a “darling, kind and gentle” man. She was not as fond of his wife, however–Mollie didn’t share Phyllis’s love for Plummer’s Hollow.

George Washington Plummer

On April 9, 1892, Jacob T. Plummer and his wife sold the farm to his brother George Washington Plummer. George was born at the Tyrone Forge on December 23, 1844, and was raised on the farm where he moved with his family when he was about six years old. After graduating from Allegheny College in 1869, he began practicing law in Chicago two years later, only to be burned out by the Chicago fire and to have to start over. He married Emily E. McClintock on July 14, 1870, in Meadville, and they had two sons, Ralph and Earle. Emily died in 1890, however, so he married for the second time Mary Redfield, Nov. 22, 1892, seven months after he had purchased the farm.

After George bought the farm he was only able to visit it during vacation periods in the summers. His wife Mary Redfield Plummer and their daughter Phyllis, born in 1900, spent the summers on the farm along with Mary’s mother, a cousin of Phyllis; and George’s aunt, Hannah Traister, who had lived on the farm with George’s parents and helped her sister Catharine raise her family. Phyllis Plumb remembered her great aunt Hannah with considerable fondness.

Another Plummer Buys Property in the Hollow

After the iron company went bankrupt in 1876, the trustees for the assets of the company started selling off the remaining properties, a task that would take several years. After the tracts went through a number of owners, in 1889 Margaret L. Plummer of Houtsdale, daughter of Winfield Plummer and granddaughter of William, bought 80 acres of the Barney Carr tract. Her tract of land surrounded the original farm on three sides. The only information we have about Margaret Plummer is from her daughter, Margaret McHugh, who told us that her mother was an accomplished artist who loved the mountain as much as her uncles Jacob and George, owners of the old family farm that her property adjoined.

The ownership of the different shares of the Smith tract changed repeatedly over the following years, a story that is too complex for a brief history. The important point is that on June 15, 1894, the three owners of the tract sold part of the property, about 100 acres in the hollow, to Margaret Plummer, who was by then married to Thomas McHugh. Mr. McHugh was an employee of the California Quarries in Sinking Valley. She thus owned about 180 acres in the hollow. At some point during this period she built a house and other outbuildings on her property.

But Margaret evidently had financial problems. Her property was sold to the County Commissioners on June 11, 1900 for taxes, and she had to have a timbering job done on her property in order to pay the taxes in 1902 and redeem her land. The next year she went deep into debt to her uncle Jacob for her grocery bills, which amounted to $450.00. In order to pay the grocery bill, Margaret subdivided 67 acres of the 80-acre tract she had purchased in 1889, and kept 13 acres on which she had built her home and developed her gardens and orchards. These thirteen acres were adjacent to the larger 100 acre tract in the hollow which she had bought in 1894, so she was left with about 113 acres. The sale of the 67-acre parcel to her uncle Jacob on Nov. 11, 1903, evidently settled the debt, though the bitterness of the experience persisted to the old age of her daughter, Margaret E. McHugh, who told us repeatedly about the property lost due to a grocery bill. Margaret Plummer also passed along to her daughter her intense distrust for lumbermen–presumably the one she dealt with in 1900-1902 had done a bad job on her land.

On September 15, 1905, Jacob sold the 67-acre tract to his brother George, and four years later, in 1909, George bought an additional 20 acres from James A. Lowden and his wife Gloria Lowden. These additional properties provided more security to the Plummer farm by extending the boundaries to the tops of the two ridges that define the edges of the watershed at the upper end of the hollow. Except for a small but strategic purchase in 1955 at the entrance to the hollow, when Phyllis Plumb was able to buy the lowest section of the road from George C. Wilson, III, the boundaries of the Plummer farm and the Margaret Plummer/Margaret McHugh property would remain stable until the 1980s.

Thus by the end of the first decade of this century, the two properties at the top of the hollow contrasted considerably. The older farm served as the summer estate for an increasingly wealthy absentee attorney who had a very successful practice in Chicago; the other was the year-round residence of his niece and her family, who had serious financial problems. The continuation of this story until 1968 will be the subject of the fourth and last part of this series.

4. A Time of Love and Care for the Land, 1909-1971

For the first two-thirds of this century two branches of the Plummer family lived in Plummer’s Hollow, which begins just one-half mile east of Tyrone. On the original William Plummer farm at the top of the hollow, George Plummer, son of William, and George’s wife Mary, continued to manage their property as a summer residence. They maintained the orchard established by William in 1850, kept a few cattle and horses, and did occasional lumbering activities on portions of the land.

When the barn was torched by an arsonist in 1914, Mary Plummer designed a new one, plus a large shed just below the graceful barn forebay. They were built in 1915. Despite their advancing age, George continued to pursue his career as a Chicago lawyer until he finally retired in 1933 at the age of 88. Mary Plummer was an officer in the National Federation of Women’s Clubs. But age took its toll on the Plummers. First, George’s brother Jacob Plummer died on August 18, 1925, at his home in Tyrone. Though he had only owned the farm from 1881 to 1892, he had continued to spend most of his time on the mountain. According to his obituary, he had spent the last week of his life on the old family farm in Plummer’s Hollow. On July 25, 1935, with George 90 and Mary 76, they deeded the farm on to their daughter Phyllis for $1.00 “and natural love and affection, gift, from parent to child.”

Phyllis Plummer and Ken Plumb

Just one year after they deeded the farm on to their daughter, George died at the age of 91, in July 1936, and his wife Mary died two years later, in October 1938. With the second generation gone, it was up to the third generation to continue to manage the farm. Phyllis Plummer was born in 1900, and although she grew up in Chicago she loved her summers on the farm the most about her youth. She was married to Robert Kenneth Plumb, a native of Parkersburg, West Virginia, who advanced to an executive position at the U.S. Steel Corporation. Except for summer vacations on the farm, they lived the rest of the year in Cleveland or Pittsburgh.

In the 1940s, Ken and Phyllis reached the decision to begin fixing the farm up so that, by the late 1950s, Ken could retire and they could move here permanently. They had electricity brought up to the farm in the spring of 1950; they had a bulldozer clear the entire orchard area, which had grown back to woods; they installed 42 steel break-waters in the road (culvert pipes cut in half length-wise with heavy top grates); and they made major internal and external renovations in the house.

In 1955 Mrs. Plumb purchased the three-tenths of a mile of roadway at the very bottom of the hollow from George Wilson, III, apparently, so she told us, as protection for her right-of-way through the property of Margaret E. McHugh, her cousin Margaret Plummer McHugh’s daughter who lived in the other house near the top of the hollow. Margaret told us that Phyllis had denied her request to allow an electric line to cross the field to her house. In retaliation, Margaret apparently told her that if she didn’t permit it, she would have the new grates removed from the road. Margaret got her electric line, but there was little doubt from our conversations with both ladies in the 1970s that they had quite bitter relations. Obviously, we did not get in the middle of their family feud.

In any event, Ken Plumb did not live to retirement–he died on June 22, 1957 at the age of 62. Mrs. Plumb attempted to continue maintaining the farm. She worked as a housemother at the Grier School in Birmingham for a number of years and spent her summers on the farm, as she had been doing all of her life. Her tea parties on her veranda became a local social institution, as a number of ladies in the Tyrone area subsequently informed us. But the maintenance of the property became too much for her in the late 1960s, and on August 13, 1968 she sold the property out of the family to Norman Good, a Tyrone businessman. Mr. Good sold the property to his parents, Fred and Madeline Good on March 31, 1970, and they in turn sold the farm to us on August 9, 1971.

The McHugh Property

To turn to the McHugh property, Margaret Plummer McHugh willed her property in Plummer’s Hollow to her daughter Margaret E. McHugh when she died on June 24, 1937. Margaret E. McHugh, daughter of Thomas E. and Margaret Plummer McHugh, was born December 18, 1911. She was employed for at least part of her life as a legal secretary for an Altoona law firm, and lived most of her life at her family farm in Plummer’s Hollow.

A 1938 aerial photo of the mountain shows the McHugh farm as having an old, overgrown apple orchard on the highest ground above the house, with better maintained orchards lower down and several large garden areas near the house. From evidence in the present woods on the former orchard area, it is obvious that maintenance of the fruit trees was abandoned at the beginning of World War II and only some gardens were kept open after that.

Unfortunately Margaret, like her mother at the turn of the century, had financial problems. On June 16, 1950, Sheriff J. H. Summers of Blair County sold the farm to Ralph E. Monk of Huntingdon, West Virginia. The writ of fieri facias was issued on May 1 in the Court of Common Pleas upon a suit brought by the First Blair County National Bank of Tyrone. Margaret and her brother Fred McHugh continued to live on the property without paying taxes or rent to Mr. Monk.

The Wilson Properties

While most of this history has dealt with the residents of the hollow, it is appropriate to mention briefly another important landowner. During the late 19th and early 20th century period, the Smith tract and Lazarus tract lands in the hollow (see map with Part I of this series) went through a succession of owners and partial-owners. The story would be too tedious to recount. But by 1902 a new figure, George C. Wilson, started buying up these properties.

George Cunningham Wilson, a prominent industrialist of early 20th-century Tyrone, purchased the 177 acres remaining in the original Lazarus tract from the Blair County Banking Company in 1902 and built a factory across from the Tyrone Railroad Station on this property to manufacture his Cloverine Salve. This purchase of the Lazarus tract included the lowest section of the hollow. In 1911 and 1912 Wilson bought all of the various partial interests in the Smith tract farther up the hollow.

Since the Wilson family did not live in the hollow, it is necessary to mention only their pattern of land management in the hollow itself. George Wilson appears to have managed his forest through selecting individual stands for cutting, an enlightened management pattern for the time. While he obviously was not averse to having timber cut on his property, he preferred to have it done in relatively small plots (or stands)–a vast improvement over the history of savage clearcuts that had devastated Pennsylvania before the turn of the century.

5. Conclusion

This story cannot close without mentioning the old homes that survived at the entrance to the hollow until the 1970s. An 1894 deed for the Lazarus tract mentions the fact that five houses remained on the property. Those five houses still stood in 1923 but the number was down to four in 1933 and three in 1963. When we moved to the hollow in 1971, only one derelict house remained. Various people who lived in those house–renters from the Wilson Chemical company–have told us over the years of their love for the hollow, their pleasure in watching the frequent trains go by, and their nostalgia for the little tenant homes that they grew up in, the last vestiges of the Upper Tyrone Forge community.

In 1971 my wife, Marcia Bonta, and I bought the Plummer farm. We subsequently purchased most of the Wilson family lands (the Smith tract) in 1984, the Wilson Chemical company property (the Lazarus tract) in 1985, and the McHugh farm in 1992. For the first time since 1850 the entire hollow and some surrounding mountain land–648 acres–is again under one ownership.

Over the course of the 200 years described by this series, the land owners in Plummer’s Hollow have come full circle back to the attitudes of the earliest visitors to this area, who were awed by the natural beauty of our mountains and valleys. In the first half of the 19th century the land was devastated for its wood, a source of charcoal for the iron industry of Northern Blair County. The first personal owner, William Plummer, managed the property with more care as a working farm, and his descendants, George and Mary Plummer, then Phyllis and Ken Plumb, managed it even more lightly, primarily for its aesthetic values.

For the past quarter-century we have managed the property with an even stronger emphasis on natural values rather than human needs. The management decisions we have made, such as letting the hay field revert to a meadow and mowing our lawns infrequently, have been based on what seems best for the ecosystem and what will provide the most support for Marcia’s mission as a nature writer. We refer to the property as the “Plummer’s Hollow Private Nature Reserve;” hundreds of local people walk into the hollow each year, stop at the information kiosk to pick up the literature we provide, and proceed up the road a ways to enjoy glimpses of wildlife, peace and solitude, and the natural beauty.

While the story of the hollow covered in these four articles has, of necessity, been very brief, the surviving records and recollections do reveal the love for the land held by all of the residents of the property. When the songs of the church bells drift up from Tyrone, complementing the natural sounds of the forest, we can understand what motivated William Plummer to develop his farm up here. Like the residents before us, we live only a few miles from the conveniences and companionship of town but like the Plummers we enjoy the peace, solitude, and beauty of the natural environment. The history of the Plummer family and their development of two farms on the mountain enriches our own appreciation for Plummer’s Hollow–and the nearby town of Tyrone.


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  1. My Grandfather Benjamin Harrison Etters was born on Plummers farm on November 5,1887. Shortly after his birth both of his parents died in the dyptheria outbreak between 1888-1890.

  2. I have a poster that was my grandmothers title
    “Home Ties” by Wilson Chemical Co Tyrone PA

    Could you provide me with any information on this? I can not find this poster anywhere.

    I would like to know how old it is and if it is worth anything?

    I would appreciate any information you can give me.

    Thank you, Linda DeSanto

    home address: 13105 Burlwood Drive
    Rockville,MD 20853

  3. Hi Linda,

    I’d suggest you try contacting the Tyrone Area Historical Society. Our relationship to the Wilson Chemical Company here in Plummer’s Hollow is very tangential – we merely own land that was once theirs. We have none of their records.

  4. I used to hike up the mountain behind the chemical building and across the top of the ridge. Was one day when I sought refuge in the barn/shed at the top of the feild, just before the crest of the mountain, from your side. It was raining lightly, almost a mist, but it was very cold and windy. I remember thinking how wonderful it would have been to live up there as I looked down the hill toward the house.

  5. the beauty of the area is great. PA has that. i pray you and your wife continue a tradition of keeping this area pristine. i live in northwest corner and just love thje natural beauty. the allegheny national forest is nearby and i had worked a summer as a youth there. would not trade this area of beauty or the experience.

  6. Linda Goss Myers

    As a child my father Dick Goss worked occasionally for Ken and Phyllis Plumb. Dad was a farmer and I think he made hay for them and because we had no brothers my sisters and I went along to help. I think Dad and Ken may have become friends because he gave him several presents one being a cigarette box with the emblem of U.S Steel on the top of it. We went to a couple of summer gatherings of some type and I can remember playing with the children I believe one of the boys name was Kip? I can’t remember the other . I also remember that their mother’s name was Priscilla. I remember one day that they had a collie that was always getting into trouble. One day we were there and my sister and I were sitting under a grand piano and the dog came yowling up onto the porch and Mrs. Plumb being mostly not from the country did not recognize the odor of concentrated skunk and let him in the house where he rolled on the rug and made a general mess of it. I know my Dad helped move some household contents after Mr. died and Mrs. gave my mother a beautiful marble topped table that was my Mother’s pride and joy until it was destroyed when my sister’s home burned years later but most of all I remember the squirrels and birds and deer in the woods when we went there to play when we were waiting for Dad to get a load of hay ready and how quiet it was until you sat down and were very still and the squirrels came down closer and chattered at us to leave and you might even catch a fleetiing glance of a deer. They were magical days. And I have always remembered those lovely days. I am glad that it is possible to walk up the Hollow and I sure would like to know a little about it. Are there any special hours, etc. I sure would like to show a little bit of it to my son and grandson. Linda Myers

    • Hi Linda,

      Thanks you for that VERY interesting recollection from a perspective we know relatively little about — those who actually farmed up here. The hollow road is open as far as the forks to walkers at any time, but if you’d like to come on up and visit the old Plummer farm itself, email me to arrange a time when someone would be around: (Maybe wait until spring?)


  7. Hi Dave,

    I am a Tyrone resident and have lived here all my life.I loved reading the history about Plummers Hollow.My mother has recently given me a very interesting letter she has kept through the years.Her grandfather,John Henry Kline,helped keep the 55 acre farm for George W.Plummer.The letter dated 1903 was from George to John about the upkeep of the farm.Knowing my great-grandfather had worked there,I would love to see the old farm sometime.
    Jim T.

  8. Irene Plummer Hawn

    Hi ! my name is Irene Plummer, all of my grand parents Have passed away.As well as their children , James , William, Robert, Joseph, John,and daughter Louise. We as desendants with same last Plummer name. if there is any information about the younger decendants.We are very excited that somewhere along the lineage that we may somehow be related andThe familymay have some connection. Our grand father was Samual edgar Pummer, he was a fisherman around Eastern Shore Maryland My father John Charles Plummer was born in St michaels Maryland. The family then moved to Port Norris NJ, again to follow the fishing and clamming industery. As my uncles become old enough they were able to join the Various branches of the miltary To fight in world war II. (my father John. lied about his age to get into the Army.) My cousin and I would like to visit sometime

    • Hi Irene. I’m sorry, we’re not experts on Plummer genealogy by any means. I recommend consulting other sources, such as the Mormon Church’s archive, to find out whether there’s any connection between your ancestors and Plummer’s Hollow.

  9. george john bonsell

    Was a real interesting history but no mention of clarence and lavania bonsell who lived there for many years. The bonsell family cared for the property for years, no running water no inside tolite no chain saws no 4 wheel drive vechicles or rideing mowers.Our family played a big part in plumers hollow.I spent alot of my childhood there.

  10. Very interesting article. I enjoyed it. My maiden name is Jill Thompson. My Father Joe Thompson was Emily’s only son. Emily & Margaret & Fred were my great aunts & uncle except Emily McHugh was my grandmother. When I was very young we would go up to the farm always on a sunday. I loved it up there such a beautiful place. I loved Fred’s work shed, He always had to brag about a new tool that he got. I truly miss that house.. I would just love someday to see it again. I spent many many hours in it. I actually did not call Margaret by her name we always called her “nonnie”. I do miss them.

  11. John H. Sultage Jr.

    Very enjoyable. A great deal of time to compile facts.

  12. Elizabeth Robinson Miller

    I came across this article purely by accident, and I am so glad I did. I used to live in Plummers Hollow, in one of the houses at the bottom. This was a long time ago – I was about 4 or 5 years old, so it would have been in the middle 1950’s. My parents, George and Grace Robinson, rented a big house and they and my four brothers and two sisters and I lived there, not sure how long. I do remember that a family of Emerys and a family of Lairds were our neighbors. I haven’t lived in Tyrone for 20 years now, but I visit often. Every time I drive by the bridge that takes you back to the hollow, I get the urge to drive over and see if there is anything left that I might recognize from my childhood.

  13. John H. Sultage Jr.

    So much fantastic information of this area. So much to be learned and passed on. Thankyou.

  14. Katie Flanagan

    Thank you for this wonderful story. I am Phyllis Plumb’s great granddaughter. I knew her as a child and she and my grandmother and my father always had fond memories of the farm.
    My aunt just gave me a brilliant painting done by Mary Redfield, so I came upon this trying to learn more about her. I hope to visit one day.
    Gulf Shores, AL

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