The Kunkles in Kunkletown, PA

The Kunkles in Kunkletown, PA

by Bob Rowland
as of Aug 21, 2004
Research continuing

The first written reference to the town of Kunkletown is found in I. Daniel Rupp’s book, “History of Northampton, Lehigh, Monroe, Carbon, and Schuylkill Counties, published in 1845. He at that time identified it as Kunklesville in the section devoted to Monroe County. The “ville” was probably a mistake on the part of Rupp, the author; as in the very next year, December 1846, It is described as “Kunkletown”, in the Stroudsburg newspaper. The “ville” name has not been seen since then.

His description follows: “Kunklesville, bearing the name of its proprietor, was started about 15 years ago, consisting of seven or eight dwellings, one tavern, one store, a school house, a German Reformed Church and a grist mill.” Rupp did his travelling and writing in 1843 and entered the book for Copy Right, in 1844. His 15 year estimate would have Kunkletown started in the late 1820s. Other histories indicate that Kunkletown was named after Joseph Kunkle, one of the early businessmen and proprietor of the first hotel which was opened in 1849.

Abraham Smith is credited with having first settled at the future Kunkletown and built a gristmill, but I am unable to document this. He did purchase land on the Aquashicola Creek about a mile south of the town at the site of the former Meniolagomeka, a Moravian Indian Mission Station from 1749 to 1754 He also obtained warrants for several other tracts in the same vicinity.

The first significant development leading to the future Kunkletown was the construction by the German congregation of a log “house” church, high on the hillside above the town site on Oct. 27, 1779. The members had been holding religious services in private homes starting about 1770. This log church then known as the Ross Township Church, served the local population for 66 years until 1845, when it was decided to replace it with a two-story stone Church. The old log Church was retained for several years for various uses. Unfortunately it was used for the storage of the Church records, and when a fire engulfed the structure, all the early church records and family records were lost.

One of the oldest surviving records confirming the name Kunkletown, was the invitation to everyone to attend the dedication, as published in the Stroudsburg newspaper.

“Freitags, Samstags, und Sonntags, den 25sten, 26sten und 27sten December, soll die neuerbaute gemeinschaft-liche luterisch and reformirte Kirche in Kunkletown, Ross Township, Monroe County, auf eine feirliche Weise eingeweit werdon…. “ Dated 10 December, 1846, in the “Der Demokrotische Herold”, Stroudsburg, Monroe County, Pa.
Translated: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the 25, 26 and 27 of December the newly built union Lutheran Reformed Church, Kunkletown, Ross Township will at a solemn service, be dedicated….

The two story stone church served the area until it was replaces with the current frame structure in 1900. St. Matthew’s Church, now UCC, and now in its third edifice, continues to this day to serve the descendants of the early Pennsylvania Dutch settlers.

I have made an extensive search of the recorded deed records in Northampton and Monroe Counties but have not found any document pertaining to the initial ownership of the property. Nor is there any land warrants or warrant surveys that can be found.

Kunkletown continues to be an unincorporated village, located in what is now called Eldred Township, after the splitting of Ross Township in 1851. Thus there is no corporate boundary or governing bodies to leave records of the history of Kunkletown. The church fire had a devastating affect on historians and genealogist working in the local area.

The first Kunkle to arrive was Adam Kunkle Sr. (John George, John George, Johannes, Sebastian, Hans). Adam was born 12 December 1812, in Towamensing Township, several miles northwest of Kunkletown. His great grandfather, Johannes born in Floersbach Germany, had immigrated to this country in 1748, the first of four children of Sebastian Kunkle to journey to Pennsylvania. When Northampton County was first formed in March of 1752, Johannes Kunkle was one of the first settlers to acquire land “over the Blue Mountain” in the area to become known as Monroe County. The authors wife (Jean Kunkle) is an eighth generation Kunkle and all of her ancestors have lived within a ten mile radius of Kunkletown. Jean’s mother, Hilda Smith lived in Kunkletown and raised her four siblings after the early death of Hilda’s mother, Cornelia Bonser Smith.

On August 1, 1838, Adam and his brother John purchased the mill property in Ross Township from Henry Youngkin by an unrecorded deed. The names and dates were found in a later deed, which referred to this transaction but there is no Deed Book record.

A little over a year later, on May 6 1839, Adam Gunkle (spelling based upon the German pronunciation) and brother John Gunkle conveyed to their older brother Joseph Kunkle, a "Certain Grist Mill" and three tracts of land in Ross Township Note that the deed writer used different spellings for the brothers surnames. This time there is a well documented and recorded deed. Adam is identified as a miller of Ross Township and his wife is identified as Mary Burger. John is a mason of Chestnut Hill Township and his wife is Sally Kresge, and brother Joseph is also of Chestnut Hill Township. The recorded 1839 deed also contains information regarding the dam and raceway to the mill.

These deeds confirm what was written in the book "History of Lehigh County" in a paragraph about Adam on page 757, as follows, "He operated a grist mill at Kunkletown for several years, and then worked as a shingle maker and lumberman and as such cleared large timber tracts. His later life was devoted to agriculture pursuits."

The plan was for the two brothers to improve or rebuild the Youngkin Mill with John who was a mason being responsible for the work, while Adam moved into the residence at the grist mill, and was responsible for the mill operation. Adam by now had two children; Joseph born on 1 January 1836, and George born on 10 January 1838. By April of 1839 Adam purchased a farm in nearby Lower Towamensing Township and switched from being a miller to lumbering and farming. John continued to live in Chesnuthill Township and eventually ran the grist and saw mill in Kresgeville.

Adam (22 December 1811--25 November 1888), John (15 February 1815--7 December 1896) and Joseph (20 August 1808--31 July 1867) were three of the fourteen children of John George Kunkle Jr. and his wife Anna Catherine Dotterer. The family resided in Chestnut Hill Township to the north of Kunkletown.

The 1835 tax list for Ross Township does not include any Kunkles of any spelling. Kunkletown residents are not so identified but the tax list does contain Henry Yonkin with no occupation and Charles Yunkin (Henry’s son) as mill occupation. It can be assumed that he operated his father’s mill in Kunkletown.

During this late 1830s period there are at lease three deeds that use the phonetic spelling of the name, "Gunkle" While the Gunkle version can be found occasionally in a church record, it quickly disappeared from use.

Joseph Kunkle had married Marie Hawk about 1835 and by the time they purchased the mill and properties, they had had two of their eventual six children. Joseph spent the rest of his life in Kunkletown having developed a large farm while continuing with his ownership of the mill. The 1860 census notes that he was a non-family man with miller occupation, living in his dwelling as a boarder. Joseph died in 1867 and was buried in St. Matthews Cemetery in Kunkletown. Joseph reportedly also owned and operated the hotel in the village.

The first recorded owner of the mill was Nicholas Correll, who acquired the property by patent from the Commonwealth in 1790, which was confirmed by a conveyance from him in a 1791 deed that mentions the mill pond and tailrace. In 1787, three years prior to Correll’s acquisition of the mill property, he was listed in the Chestnut Hill Tax List as a mill operator. This is a strong indication that the mill was already in existence in 1787 as there were no other mills in that area where he could have worked. The mill was probably built in the late 1760s by Abraham Smith, (See Abraham Smith paper) when the settler’s interest in this area mushroomed, after the end of the Indian hostilities. The mill continued in operation until the late 1890s, but the decline of business forced its closing. Some historians have reported that the mill has disappeared but there is still an old mill building on the original site, with stone foundations and a tailrace opening.

While the village of Kunkletown remains unincorporated to this day, the name was locked in by the establishment of the Kunkletown Post Office, on 20 Dec 1845, with the appointment of Stephen Hess as the first postmaster. This appointment is confirmed by the US Postal Service historical records.

While Adam and John Kunkle were the first Kunkles to become involved in the village, it would appear logical that Joseph Kunkle’s continuing longtime involvement with the mill and the hotel was the major factor in the establishment of the name, Kunkletown.

This document may be quoted for local and family research but not for commercial use.
Credit must be given with name and date.
Bob Rowland
3 Cornell Drive
Camp Hill PA 17011
717 761-1159
Published in the SPINDLE,
The KUNKLE Family Genealogy
Newsletter, April 2004.
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