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A Brief History of Coolbaugh Township
In the late 1700s, the northeast corner of Pennsylvania along the Delaware River was called Northampton County. A petition was submitted to the General Assembly to form new counties from this tract of land.
Soon enough, Coolbaugh Township was established in the northwest corner of newly formed Monroe County. The township was named after one of the surveyors of the land for the project, John Coolbaugh. The township was heavily wooded and sparsely settled, and not much is known about it until well into the 1800s.
In 1779 the Sullivan Trail was cut through the area by soldiers to provide access to the Wyoming Valley from Easton. In 1792, a Philadelphia Quaker named Henry Drinker financed the North-South Turnpike, today known as Route 196 and also the Drinker Turnpike, today known as Route 611.
Settlers came from New York City, Philadelphia and the New England states. The opening of the Lehigh River, our western border, to navigation attracted many lumbermen to this region. The excellent growth of timber encouraged early settlers to use this natural resource and its byproducts, making the lumber industry of Coolbaugh a great asset.
Many streams were dammed up and a transport system for moving logs to the rivers and then on to Philadelphia and other cities was devised. Eventually, logs would be transported by rail. By the late 1840s the railroad began to stimulate the growth of business and settlements in Coolbaugh Township. Improved roads and the railroad opened the area to great population growth.
Ice harvesting became the next industry to flourish in Coolbaugh Township. At least five man-made lakes in the township produced ice for The Mountain Ice Company. Blocks of ice weighing 300 pounds each, were cut and stored in ice houses situated on the lake shores near the railroad tracks.
Ice was transferred to special railroad cars from the icehouses and shipped by rail. Pocono ice companies were the largest suppliers of ice to east coast cities, and harvesting ice was a major source of income for township residents.
However by 1936, most of the industry had been phased out by electric refrigeration.
Three distinct villages were prospering in the township at this time: Mount Pocono, Tobyhanna and Pocono Summit. Each had a post office, church, railroad station, and a school.
In 1912 the Department of the Army established an artillery range in the area that is now the Tobyhanna Army Depot (Tobyhanna Signal Depot), which was established in 1953.
The military has played an important role in the growth and development of Tobyhanna ever since. Gouldsboro State Park and Tobyhanna State Park were developed, and tourism flourished.
In 1927, Mount Pocono seceded from the township to become a borough. In 1945, the Pocono Mountain Airport Association was formed and an airport built in the southeast section of Coolbaugh Township.
The completion of Interstate 80 through the area had an enormous impact here and the population ballooned. In the late 1950s, private housing developments began to form throughout the township. These developments provide recreational amenities as well for their residents. Weekend vacation homes in the area have become year round homes.
Most of our population resides in more than 20 distinct developments in Coolbaugh. Industry has found its way here and jobs for the increased population are an ever-growing concern for our elected officials.
The 21st century shows much promise for Coolbaugh Township, and the Coolbaugh Township Historical Association does its best to preserve the history.