Grove Farm History
Written by Holly Wolbert (2001), edited by Maricatherine Garr (2003), edited 2007
Between the ridges of Central Pennsylvania rests the impressive Juniata College Raystown Field Station. Surrounded by tree groves, flowing streams, and rolling hills this plot of land provides an escape from the struggles and distractions of society. Presently, the area is used for fishing, boating, hiking, environmental research, aesthetic pleasure, and personal rejuvenation. The current condition of the Station, exists only after a long history that survived a lucky twist of fate when it avoided a massive wave of water.
The Raystown Field Station changed hands several times before falling into the hands of Juniata College. The legacy of the families that previously owned the land and the luck that befell Juniata College is told below in this history, excerpted from Holly Wolbert's (Class of 2002) 2001 paper The Legacy of Juniata College’s Raystown Field Station.
The Clymer family are the first known inhabitants of the land that currently houses the Juniata Field Station. The aspiring couple came to Pennsylvania from Maryland hoping to make a living as coopers, or barrel makers. With them they brought 12 year old Samuel Kissinger to act as their bondservant. With Samuel’s help they fashioned wooden barrels that were in high demand in the nineteenth century. The surrounding forest provided a plethora of old growth white oak vegetation, which was a superior wood for barrel production (Grove Pers. Comm. 2001).
Having been taught the cooper trade, Samuel Kissinger was to be given $21, a suit of clothes, a trunk, and released from bondage upon his 21st birthday. However, with no place to go he purchased land below the Clymers’ farm, in close proximity to Juniata’s current boat launch. Mr. Kissinger remained there to tend his own land, as well as to continue helping the Clymers. When the Clymers passed away they had no relatives to leave their land to, so Samuel Kissinger inherited it. After all his buying and expanding, Mr. Kissinger had a total of 174 acres of land that he successfully farmed (Grove Pers. Comm. 2001).
Jackson Beaver purchased the land from Samuel Kissinger, but died soon after in the Civil War. Jackson’s father acquired the land and sold it to Jackson’s sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Frank Snare in the 1880’s (Grove Pers. Comm. 2001).
The Grove Era
The Snares ended the cooper trade at the Field Station, and began a stone mason venture. In 1919, their daughter and son-in-law, Flora and Clair Grove, came to help out on the farm and with them came their surviving children, including, Allen Dean Grove. Dean was born on November 21, 1918 and is still prosperous at the age of 82. Clair was the last Grove child, and was born on January 20, 1933. He is doing well at age 68 (Grove Pers. Comm. 2001).
Jim and Flora Grove did everything possible to provide for themselves and stay afloat during the hard times of the early 20th Century. There were various neighboring families to the Groves’ homestead, and many became life-long friends. The greatest asset to them was the abundance of water – seven pronounced springs were present on their land. Some of these dried up in the summer, although five of the springs were continuous (Grove Pers. Comm. 2001).
After serving the United States in World War II, Allen Dean Grove chose to relocate in Florida. However several years later he returned to Central Pennsylvania, where he met and married a beautiful woman named Betty in 1969. After their marriage, they returned to his father’s farm to assist his father and brother in sustaining the family business. Clair and Carol made their homestead in Samuel Kissinger’s home just down the hill from the original house.
The three of them had maintained over 550 acres of sloped farmland. The slopes surrounding the Groves’ homestead have been farmed heavily. After a few years of intense agriculture the farmland became less productive, forcing the Groves to utilize various methods of soil renewal. The Groves’ homestead had other uses for the land besides agriculture. Over 300 acres of timber were selectively cut as the Groves’ primary income, in addition to maintaining the health of the forest. The largest trees were manually picked and carefully removed to prevent further damage to the forest. Timber harvesting provided most of their income. Fruit tree cultivation was also prominent. Over 30 acres were dedicated to peach orchards, apple tree groves, and grape arbors. In the late 1940’s, Dean began harvesting maple sugar water from the maple trees that bordered the stream (Grove Pers. Comm. 2001).
The Army Corps. of Engineers and Juniata College
Dean and Clair Grove worked the hills until approximately 1972. Plans were then underway for the construction of Raystown Dam along the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River. This dam was to be constructed for flood protection, recreation, and hydroelectric power. The state government was not able to force families to sell their land, so it arranged for the federal government to step in. The government requisitioned the land extending above dam water levels to be able to monitor the surrounding lands and to provide access to the incoming lake without disturbing private property. The Groves were forced to sell their land to the federal government for the price of $300 an acre and were not compensated for the Sugaring Camp or for their home. Additionally, thousands of trees were cut and burned by the Army Corps of Engineers without regard to the potential profit available to local families. When the dam was filled it destroyed many homes including the town of Aitch, which was bulldozed and then submerged. Of the people displaced, many of them have never utilized the recreational opportunities of Raystown Lake because of persistent bitterness toward the entire project (Grove pers. comm. 2001).
One of the three homes on the 29,000 acre project that was not leveled was the homestead of Dean Grove. This was due to the efforts of Dr. Robert Fisher, a professor of biology at Juniata College. He formed an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to lease the land to Juniata College to use as a research facility. Juniata College proceeded to give Dean and Betty Grove $1,000 for their homestead which has since been the main site for the Raystown Field Station (Grove Pers. Comm. 2001).
Juniata College has leased the 365 acres of Raystown Field Station property since 1972 and has maintained close ties with the Army Corps of Engineers (Grove Pers. Comm. 2001). The usage of the station has increased each year. New facilities were built in 2004 and 2007 over the ridge from the original station, including a certified green classroom/multipurpose building, and two residential lodges, allowing full residential semesters to take place. With the building of the new facilities, the original farmhouse was named Grove Farm, and continues to be used heavily for outreach, retreats, Juniata classes (for example: ecology, hydrogeology), and the maple sugaring program. The Army Corp of Engineers continues to work closely with Juniata College to facilitate research projects on Corps property, and consults with Juniata faculty on issues such as habitat management for song birds and deer management