Searching for Marsh Creek

The map says Marsh Creek starts about here.Marsh Creek was around long before David Pfoutz showed up. That was 1791, when the 22-year-old arrived in the area of Marsh and Little Marsh creeks.

He built a fulling mill – fulling being the last step in preparing wool fabric for making clothing – near the confluence of Little Marsh and Marsh creeks. It was one of three mills between the head of Little Marsh Creek and its intersection with Marsh Creek.

By 1795. he married and began raising a family and, in 1805, his home became the first meeting house of a small congregation of German Baptists. The congregation lives on at the Pfoutz Meeting House, on Black Horse Tavern Road. David Pfoutz died in 1849 and is buried in the Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Cemetery at the end of Byers Lane.

For the First Americans, streams provided fish, and attracted mammals that provided sustenance. Later, when Europeans came to this part of what became South Central Pennsylvania, the running water – often with the help of a dam to increase the flow and potential energy – provided power to run mills that sawed trees into lumber, and prepared wool to become the fabric of shirts and pants to protect against cold winters.

Most people are aware of the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place in July 1863. Marsh Creek witnessed Confederate forces arriving and, three days later, leaving with their wounded and what remained of their arms and equipment.

In the late 1800s, a writer named Aaron Sheely referred glowingly to Pleasant Valley, a strip of downslope that included the source of Marsh Creek and several falls as it works its way down the steepest portion of its 23-mile path a mountain “holler” to the Maryland state line and the Monocacy River.

Sheeley saw this place on the eastern side of the South Mountains as a magnet for monied tourists, a place that would compete with the resort facilities at Penn-Mar, being developed near Blue Ridge Summit. Sheely wrote of pools stocked with brook trout, fountains shooting water jets into the air, and pavilions and bridges where tourists might stop to admire the view.

It is easy to see what Sheely saw as one drives up Old Route 30, past the Cashtown Inn – which served as a Confederate headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg, and a toll collection station where westbound motorists paid to pass, and bought water for their Model Ts to make the steap climb to Tick Tock.

“We entertain the hope that the day is not far distant when the advantages offered by Pleasant Valley will be properly appreciated, and when it will be made one of the most charming Summer Resorts to be found in the South Mountain.,” he wrote in 1879 for the Gettysburg Compiler.

A friend and I last week went looking for the source of Marsh Creek that has meant so much for hundreds, if not thousands of years of human residents. With the aid of GPS and a foldable map, we found, in the appointed place …

A river of rocks.

The spring we expected was dry.

Nearly two and-a-half miles down the hill, water flowed under a brick-formed tunnel beneath the old road. It came from somewhere along the downhill path, apparently dragged out of the ground. Add to that, more than 70 acres of hillside on both sides of the creekbed, like the “V” in a piece of folded paper, directing rain into the notch between the ridges.

I know where the Marsh Creek is, but I would very much like to find where it hides before starting its escape from Pennsylvania.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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