Sussex County, NJ


just prior to 1700    --  William Beamer settled in the future Branchville.  The place was originally named Brantown.

before the Am. Rev. -- William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, acquires the ore-bearing lands around Franklin

early 1800s  --  the town expaned with the building of mills and mercantile establishments.

1810 -- Franklin deposits found to be very valuable. Robert Ogden purchases land in the area from Lord Stirling.

1821 -- Samuel Bishop named it, perhaps for the branching out of roads and streams in the area. The name Branchville comes from a reference to the "main branch of Paulins Kill." At that time it was part of Frankford Township. Branchville covered 1,000 acres then compared to today's 320 acres.

late 1850s  --  the Sussex Railroad extended a railway line to Branchville.  Later Branchville was the northern end of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.  Borden's had a creamery in Branchville.

1871 -- population doubles to 600.

Here were the Sussex Hotel and Hotel Branchville. The latter was found along Broad Street near the corner of Wantage Avenue. The hotel was demolished and the present post office building replaced it. 

At one time the area was widely known as a summer resort. Here was a region of large lakes west of Branchville: Culvers Lake, Lake Owassa, Lake Kemah, and Kittatinny Lakes. The most famous of the lake resorts was Culvermere, one of the largest summer hotels in northern New Jersey. It was built in 1892.

Open from June 15 to September 15, at one time J. Ed. Pittinger was the proprietor of the Culvermere.  At that time it accommodated 125 guests at rates of  from $2 to $3 per day (or $10 to $20 per week).  The resort was located within 300 yards of Culver's Lake at an elevation of 900 feet that permitted a view of Culver's Gap in the Blue Mountains. The hotel was the largest in Sussex County offering spacious verandas, large airy rooms, and sun parlor.  It provided its guests such activities as walking, fishing, boating, billiards, and tennis.    (source:

1955  --  rains associated with a hurricane badly damaged Branchville.  The Branchville Dam, holding the water of the Electric Pond, was breached and Newton Avenue was partially washed away. 

1962  --  Borden's creamery ceased operation and was subsequently torn down after the main boiler exploded. 


Professor Oliver P. Medsger told of the first Branchville Nature Outing which he organized in May, 1925. He told of the interesting plants shown by Mrs. Stephen R. Smith who joined the Torrey Club in 1925 and arranged for the accommodations of the Club on these nature outings. Since the death of Mr. Smith in 1937, Mrs. Smith has continued the arrangements of the comfort of those attending the conference.

Medsger, (ed: a teacher of astronomy at Lincoln High School, Jersey City, New Jersey), was a winner of the John Burroughs award for his 1933 book Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, published by the Wayne company.

Medsger and Gleason were leaders at the first annual nature conference.


May 18-20, 1928
Led by Mr. and Mrs. William Gavin Taylor

The inn is situated in the largest group of indigenous white pine in New Jersey. Being rich in limestone, it has a large variety of spring flowers, including the yellow lady's slipper, Cypripedium parviflorum; the rock clematis, Clematis verticillaris; and the green orchis, Coeloglossum bracteatum. The limestone ferns are abundant, including walking leaf, maidenhair spleenwort, wall rue, purple cliff brake, and fragile bladder fern.

Pine Hill is located on an outcrop of limestone and many of the mosses of this region are quite naturally those that thrive on a limestone habitat. The most conspicuous masses of moss are the Anomodons, golden green or yellow green in color.


Fern Hunting at Branchville May 25-26, 1929 pp. 108-110
Ralph C. Benedict, leader

The Pines is a charming inn half hidden in a grove of white pines.



In the Springdale swamp an interesting zoning of plants was noted. Going down a hill covered with sugar maples and oaks the edge of the swamp was found to be lined with black ash, red maple, and various shrubs. Globe flower (Trollius laxus) was abundant, with bastard toad flax (Commandra umbellata) also in blossom and many plants of the grass of Parnassus (Parnassia caroliniana). Following the maples and ashes was a fringe of dwarf birch (Betula pumila) and willows, the hoary willow (Salix candida) and the beaked will (S rostrata) were common and with them an apparent hybrid. In some places tamaracks (Larix laracina) grew in this zone. The more open central part of the swamp was filled with shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) which makes a level-topped growth of considerable extent. Plants of buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) were in blossom among the cinquefoil stems and near the edge of the swamp the smaller yellow of lady's slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) was not uncommon. The larger species, or variety pubescens) was found in blossom on the slope above the swamp. As in other years, the large clump of yellow lady's slipper just back of the inn was in prime condition, this year with seventeen blossoms.


May 22-24, 1936

the limestone ridge on which the hotel stands with its ledges which shelter rock ferns;
the high sandstone escarpment to the eastward
intervening gorge with its perpetually cool boulder slopes

Moody's Rock (see below), a somewhat inaccessible retreat among the eroded limestones just northwest of Springdale. This overhanging ledge borders on a bog, somewhat similar to the extensive bog-center of Muckshaw Swamp, lying a short distance to the southwest. Here were pitcher plants, cranberries, Eriophorum viridi-carinatu, the curious native buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata var minor), dwarf birch (Betula pumila), bog willow (Salix pedicellaris var hypoglauca), and numerous plants of Carex seorsa, one of the most infrequent members of the Stellulatae group.

A small pond, lying between the bog and Springdale Road, filled with the golden spikes of Orontium, showed also small patches of the yellow Cow-lily (Mymphozanthus advena), and its shores were lined by clumps of Carex diandra, a northern species of wet calcareous habitat. Orontinum itself shows the most amazing diversity of habitat; being equally at home in the acidic pine barrens of New Jersey, the dense swamps of Georgia, in shallow streams of the Cumberland Mountains, and in the marly ponds of western New Jersey. Toward its existence the enormously deep roots are probably the most important contributor.

With the owner's permission, we later visited the extensive Muckshaw Swamp, with a few clumps of the showy ladies' slipper (Cypripedium reginae) still to be seen, and an abundance of yellow ladies' slippers, both large and an small-flowered. Flowers of the small variety, confined to wet swampy places, were occasionally found to have a delicious fragrance. At the margin of one of the numerous embayments we saw again , as we had found it in the previous year, the splendid stand of Goldie's Fern, and an the luxuriant plants representing a natural hybrid between this species and an the marginal shield fern.

1937 Twelth nature outing at Branchville

16th Nature Conference of the Club, 1940

George T. Hastings wrote that the area about The Pines is a fine example of what protection can do for our wild flowers. I first went to this spot in 1921, later I had the pleasure of assisting Dr. Gleason with the first Torrey Club trip on May 14-16, 1925. I have observed the gradual increase of a number of wild species of which the yellow lady's slipper is an example.

In 1944 the Branchville Nature Conference was held at the Haltere Hotel on Culvers Lake. Had to turn people away because of a lack of space.

Footnotes of a sort:

Moody's Rock

"My friends and myself decided to go "caving" around Muckshaw Pond and the surrounding area. Armed with maps and flashlights, we walked for hours along many rocky ridges and found various crevices and small holes but no large caves. Then we came across a huge rock which actually causes a great bend in the road around the outcropping on the side of the hill.

"We walked down it and I looked at the map and realized that this was "Moody's Rock" and the site of Moody's Cave. We climbed down and at the base of the rock is a hole about 3 feet wide by 3 feet tall which leads into a room the size of a Jeep Cherokee. It was overgrown and covered with spider webs with very large spiders (like four-inchers). "

03/15/02 "Taking it to the Hole - Moody’s Cave" by Casternia; in Wierd NJ Weekly Story Archives, March 2002,


"At 23.9 miles (on Route 206 heading south) is the junction with a dirt road. 463 Right on this road to the CAREY FARMHOUSE, 0.6 miles (R), where directions will be given to MOODY'S ROCK (accessible on foot), the hiding place of James (Bonnel) Moody, leader of a Tory band that plundered the countryside during the Revolution. From a "plain, contented farmer" Moody rose by a series of bold exploits to a lieutenancy in the British army. Many of his ventures failed because of betrayal by his aides, but he did succeed in releasing several captured Tories from Newton jail, terrifying the inhabitants by simulating an Indian raid, and intercepting important dispatches to Washington. His failures included attempts to kidnap Governor Livingston, rob the archives of Congress, and blow up the powder magazine at Succasunna. In 1783, while a guest of Sir Henry Clinton in London, Moody wrote the story of his adventures. The Tory chief's hiding place was beneath a huge ledge that hangs 25 feet out from the face of a low cliff to form an inverted L. The tip of the overhanging ledge is about 25 feet above the ground. Earlier visitors have painted their marks on the smooth rock or hacked their initials into it. Muckshaw Swamp, which offered additional protection to Moody, is now almost dry at this spot." Tradition says that Moody was captured in the American Ranks near Morristown and hung as a spy.

(NEW JERSEY: A Guide To Its Present And Past; Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of New Jersey American Guide Series.


Culvermere Hotel

I live in Frankford, in Sussex County. I live right down the street from an old abandoned hotel/resort that used to be called the Culvermere Hotel and then later changed to The Spa, until it closed down in the late 70's, early 80's. It opened up in the 40's. Right now it is half collapsed but still contains parts of the old hotel and a few cabins from when it was also a camp. A basketball court, in grown tennis courts, and the lobby are still in pretty good condition.
(Message: 12 Jul 2001, To: [email protected]; From: Jay Radicals.

The Culvermere was the largest of the hotels built around Culver Lake in Frankford Township.  It was built in the mid1890 by D. H. Fowler who had extensive real estate experience in Brooklyn. There was a 1901 addition to the hotle.  By 1921, the hotel had new owners and could handle more than 400 guests


The Mountainside Inn

Built in 1908 on the west side of Culver Lake by Alanson P. Snook.  It was dismantled in 1939


The Pines

THE PINES--A. N. Roe; accommodates 60; rates, July 1 to Labor Day, $8 to $11 per week; other months, $8; located in a grove of white pines; boats on three lakes close to the house; beautiful scenery; electric light; baths; home-grown table supplies; opens May 1.
(From the collection of Bill Doyle. Mountain and Lake RESORTS.


Odell, L. Brevoort, "Branchville, 1821-1971: A Digest of its History and Environs."

Wayne T. McCabe.  2003.  Images of America: Sussex County.  Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.