By Rick Bodenschatz
Widespread demand for electrical service occurred when Thomas Edison perfected the electric light bulb in 1878-1879. His first success with the carbon filament light bulb burned for 13.5 hours, on October 22, 1879. Edison filed for a U.S. Patent on his light bulb on November 4, 1879, and several months later, his bamboo filament version could function for up to 1,200 hours.
Edison’s first installation of electric lights was on the steamer Columbia in 1880, and by 1885, 300,000 light bulbs were being produced every year, a figure that grew to 795 million by 1945.
British scientist Michael Faraday discovered generation in the 1820s and early 1830s, producing electricity by the movement of a loop of copper wire or a disc of copper between the poles of a magnet.
Central station electrical generation first occurred in 1881, and subsequent generation was produced with water and coal energy, producing alternating current that could travel long distances, assisted by transformers.
Local demand evolves
In 1882, Thomas Thompson Miller of Easton purchased his first 550 acres in the vicinity of Tomkinsville, naming his land “Naomi Pines.”
In 1888 he sold some if not all holdings to his son, Frank Comfort Miller. This included the original farmhouse that Frank then enlarged and continued to significantly improve, naming it the Naomi Pines House. It functioned as a boarding house and later, with upgrades, more as a resort hotel. His son Rufus E. Miller later managed this. Frank Comfort Miller’s other two children, Thomas T. Miller and Emma Irene Naomi Miller, were also active in Pocono Pines.
As the Miller family continued to build their lives in Naomi Pines, in the early 1900s the area blossomed. To better establish a geographical identify with the Pocono Mountains, the village name of Naomi Pines was changed to Pocono Pines. The Pocono Pines Assembly was built, and quickly became a religious retreat for thousands over the summer months, being the vision and passion of Thomas Miller’s son, Rufus W. Miller (brother of Frank Comfort Miller).
To accommodate these visitors, a great number of large structures was built, such as the Pocono Pines Inn and the Pocono Pines Assembly Lodge. After the building of Lake Naomi, the Pocono Spring Water Ice Co. began large operations for the harvesting of ice to supply the cities with refrigeration. The Naomi Pines House hotel was expanded to accommodate the growing number of summer vacationers to the Poconos.
The Wilkes-Barre & Eastern Railroad through Pocono Pines, and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad through Pocono Summit on the way coal fields, brought passengers as well as the opportunity for expansion of commerce. All of this expanded the opportunity for other supporting businesses as well as the building of a general, self-sustaining local economy and growth of a permanent populace. This created the demand for electricity.
Pocono Pines demand for electricity
Of the known history for the period, it is obvious that the three original demands for electrical service for Pocono Pines was the Naomi Pines House, the ice harvesting of the Pocono Spring Water Ice Co., and the large facilities and number of visitors to the Pocono Pines Assembly. Since these three entities were significantly owned, controlled or influenced by members of the Miller family, it was logical that the Millers step into the provision and opportunity to provide electricity for the new electric light and related uses.
Demand at the Naomi Pines House for electric lights as a modern convenience is possibly the initial demand for electricity generation for Pocono Pines. Located at the northwest corner of today’s Route 940 and Miller Drive (now the location of Van Gilder’s Jubilee Restaurant), visits to this resort facility were increasing briskly. As tourism in the all of the Poconos was increasing dramatically, competition drove amenities, and those who summered in Pocono Pines from the large cities demanded the conveniences from back home, such as electric lights and associated conveniences.
We know that electricity was generated by the Naomi Pines Water & Light Company, initially located in a good size stone building approximately 100 yards behind the Naomi Pines House on the eastern side of today’s Miller Drive. (The building still exists there, in good shape.)
Verification of official existence is found in the Third Industrial Directory of Pennsylvania of 1919, page 821, where is shows the employee of one male. This building had a dual purpose, since it also housed the pumping system for water supply to the resort — so not only was electricity generated for the new lights, but also as power to pump water.
Joe Miller, a direct descendant of the family, recently reported that a large water holding tank was installed in this building, and in fact was delivered by the WB&E Railroad on nearby track, then pushed to the site and the stone structure built around it.
Before this, water was supplied through a unique system, as described Irene Miller Gross in “Naomi, A Jewel of the Poconos from 1882,” on page 16:
“In the early days all of the running water in the Naomi Pines House was pumped by a ram located some distance below the spring, and was operated by gravity and air pressure, forcing the water up to a hand operated pump on the kitchen porch.”
A large generator producing the electricity. Mr. Miller estimates that the flywheel was approximately eight feet in diameter, and to start the engine required two men to stand on the generator to push-assist the flywheel. There are still remnants of electrical conduit and wire insulators mounted in the ceiling of this structure, showing the last evidences of this power plant’s activity.
In “Changing Times of the Poconos” by Emma LaBarre Miller Waygood, discussing the years 1895 to 1902, she writes:
“In the early days, Mr. Miller (ref. Frank Comfort Miller) had his own power plant and dynamo to create electricity for the Naomi Pines House, long before Penna. Power and Light came through. He also had electric light poles constructed along the old #940 road, which was a tremendous benefit to the community and to the Pocono Pines Assembly.”
She further writes in reference to the Pines Assembly property: “At this time in 1915 electric light was contributed by F.C. Miller and a road to the beach at Lake Naomi was completed.”
In the 1909 book, "Mountain and Lake Resorts on the Lackawanna Railroad," published by the Passenger Department of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the Naomi Pines House is adequately described. Among its listed amenities it was “Open all year; steam heat; electric lights; bathes en suite; long-distance telephone,” etc.
As both the number of vacationers and permanent residents increased, the demand for products and services increased in parallel. At the same time, demand from the Pines Assembly site, ice harvest operations and perhaps the railroad operations in the area (stations and maintenance buildings) most likely intrigued the opportunity of the entrepreneur spirit of the Millers. Research continues to ascertain the extent and reach of the supply source of electrical generation described thus far, through and until 1920.
At right: Old electric pole along WB&E railroad bed, across from PNC Bank on Route 423
The next big step: Hydroelectric generation
Growth of the Pocono Pines and bordering Pocono Lake communities created the opportunity to light up people‘s lives and provide power for engines and other devices. Since the building of Lake Naomi created a huge water source for ice harvesting, drinking water and recreational activities, it only made sense that the Millers unleash their largest resource to produce hydroelectric power. Hence, the birth of the Naomi Pines Electric Company in 1921 expanded their capabilities. The principals were Rufus E. Miller and Thomas T. Miller, sons of Frank Comfort Miller, and Claude C. Shull, Esq., of Stroudsburg.
It was formally incorporated by the state of Pennsylvania in January 1, 1922. On June 14, 1922 at 2 p.m., the principals met for the purpose of stock assignment, election of the board of directors and officers, and formulation of by-laws.
By a ballot of two shares for Rufus E. Miller and three shares for Thomas T. Miller, the Miller brothers and Shull were elected directors. This board of directors then elected the following officers: Rufus E. Miller, president, Thomas T. Miller, treasurer and Claude C. Shull as secretary.
Subsequently, the board approved the capitalization of $5,000 with certificates of stock being issued, and the shares being valued at $100 each. In notification to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 22, 1922, the shares were assigned as follows: Thomas T. Miller, 17 shares, Rufus E. Miller, 17 shares, and Claude C Shull, 16 shares.
Archives originating from Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. (now PPL), residing with the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Del., state:
“Naomi Pines Electric Co. operated a hydroelectric plant on an artificial lake in a resort area of the Pocono Mountains. In 1922 the company extended its area of operation and began to supply electricity to the villages of Pocono Pines, Pocono and Pocono Lake. In 1930, Lehigh Power Securities Corp. acquired the stock of the company and merged it into Pennsylvania Power and Light Co.”
On June 14, 1922, the Pennsylvania Public Service Commission approved the charter of Naomi Pines Electric Company for operation and the sale of electricity to the public. Gov. William C. Sproul then issued a declaration stating “I hereby approve the same and direct that the letters (of) patent issue according to law.”
Physical plant facilities
The building housing the hydroelectric generating equipment was housed below the Lake Naomi Dam, on the Upper Tunkhannock Creek. It is believe that it rested on the western side of Route 423, just below the stone bridge. Joe Miller, descendant, and local resident Jerry Hanna, Esq., recall the “powerhouse” being located just below the stone bridge on Route 423. It is thought to have been demolished during the building of the Lake Naomi community.
As reported in “Hydro Electric Power in Monroe and Northampton Counties” by Harley Collins, 2004, a 36-inch pipe was installed through the dam to provide water. An 86 -horsepower, 15-inch Morgan Smith hydraulic turbine was installed, rated as a 2300-volt three-phase, 60 hertz AC generator. The station had a capacity of 60 kW.
View of the known site of the Naomi Pines powerhouse and hydroelectric station.
Electric transmission line poles still standing today document evidence of this line route. These poles were actually made of existing tree growth, by topping the trees and stripping of the bark. Although the scope of the service of the company is unknown, we suspect several lines existed in Pocono Pines and adjoining Pocono Lake area neighborhoods. Harley Collins, in his 1929 audit conducted by the Lehigh Power Securities Company, reported that 105 poles existed within the system.
Old Naomi Pines Electric Co. pole (at right), along the Lake Naomi earthen dam, facing south.
The operating years, 1922-1927
During the initial four-year period, small gains in electricity consumption occurred as evidenced by corresponding gains in gross earnings for the electric company. But in 1926 and 1927 there were substantial gains, indicating that customers were possibly catching up by wiring their properties, and the Naomi Pines Electric Company was expanding lines to accommodate them.
Another distinct possibility was the acquisition of the Pines Assembly by the Lutherans to open Lutherland, which would have created significant consumption. It is possible that properties owned by the Millers were not invoiced for consumption.
Rates, most likely on a monthly basis, as reported by Harley Collins from the Hagley Museum were as follows:
|First 200 kWh:||18 cents per kWh|
|Second 200 kWh:||17 cents per kWh|
|Third 200 kWh:||16 cents per kWh|
|Excess over 600 kWh:||15 cents per kWh|
|Cottages (5 to 8 rooms)||$36|
|Bungalows (2 to 4 rooms)||$18|
|Public garages, stables, amusement buildings, dining halls, etc.||$4.80 per each 15 sq. ft|
During this period, there was an annual meeting held each year, and for all six years, the board reported that there was no outstanding debt for each year.
Following are the gross profit reports from each year as reported at each annual meeting:
|Annual meeting date||Fiscal year||Gross earnings|
|January 2, 1923||1922||$1,040.00|
|January 6, 1924||1923||$1,205.71|
|January 6, 1925||1924||$1,162.18|
|January 4, 1926||1925||$1,568.77|
|January 2, 1927||1926||$2,943.79|
Board of directors change
The minutes of the January 6, 1925 Annual Meeting reported the resignation of Claude C. Shull, and the appointment of Harry S. Haupt as secretary. Nothing is yet known about Harry Haupt. The reason for Claude Shull’s resignation is unknown, but it is known that he was a very active attorney in Stroudsburg and Monroe County, representing high-profile cases such as a famous murder trial, and was involved in litigation for public utilities. Perhaps his election as county district attorney required him to resign private practice duties. He was a graduate of Lafayette University.
The curtain call
For reasons yet unknown, the board decided to sell the company to the Lehigh Power Securities Corporation, a New York City company. This occurred on September 13, 1928. The corporate entity of Naomi Pines Electric Company was purchased in total, including all assets and liabilities.
On December 28, 1928, the location of the principal office of the company was officially changed from Pocono Pines, Monroe County, to Allentown, Lehigh County. In the audit notes of the Naomi Pines Electric Company of February 13, 1930, for the period ending August 31, 1929, it states:
“To acquire the operating properties held by Mr. F.C. Miller, the Lehigh Power Securities Corporation advanced this Company the sum of $10,584.00. Interest was not being accrued on this loan.”
This appears to be a transitional step towards the final financial considerations for the sale.
Lehigh Power then effectively sold (transferred) the corporation to The Pennsylvania Power and Light Company on November 3, 1930. It is safe to assume that all operations were melded into PP&L., as the February 13, 1930 audit report stated “The Company had no employees, all services being performed by employees of the Pennsylvania Power & Light Company…”
After the acquisition by PP&L, that company added a second hydroelectric generating station downstream in Pocono Lake. We do not yet know when the power plant(s) ceased operation in Pocono Pines.
Further stated in the audit report are the following details,
which covered the financial period October 1, 1928 to August 31, 1929:
|Accounts receivable||*$482.79 as of August 31, 1929|
|Reserves for bad debts||**$12.78|
** $137.96 was delinquent but considered collectable.
** ⅓ of 1 percent of gross revenues
True pioneers of modern development
The Millers were true technological pioneers of development for the villages of today’s Pocono Pines and Pocono Lake. Their initiative most certainly sustained the momentum of growth in the years 1915 to 1930.
The acquisition of the Pines Assembly and subsequent development of Lutherland beginning in 1926 was the largest influence to this area in the pre-World War II era. Without electricity, that most likely would never have occurred. Electricity generation changed the world, as it did in our small part of it, here on the Pocono Plateau.