Summary story from Meissner 2002 Reunion
"The Pool Tribe of Bradford County, Pennsylvania" was evidently prepared as a talk (about 1987) by George Lasco, who grew up among the Pool tribe in South Towanda. It seems to be one of the few sympathetic treatments of this group of persons of mixed white and Indian (and some Negro) blood who lived as outcasts for many years on the fringes of white civilization. Some of Lascoís descriptions of the discrimination that these people endured are reminiscent of more common stories of black persecution.
It must be noted, however, that several of Lascoís historical descriptions conflict to some extent with other available documents. In other cases, it may be assumed that sources exist even though Lasco does not provide documentation.
Sir William Johnson and Molly Brant are well documented. One good and recent source is: "Molly Brant, A Legacy of Her Own," by Lois M. Huey and Bonnie Pulis - Old Fort Niagara Association, 1997 (ISBN 0-941967-18-2).
Molly Brant was married to William, but not properly according to British law. She was influential in keeping the Mohawk tribe of Iroquois Indians on the British side during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Sir William Johnson and Molly Brant were also Loyalists (British sympathizers) during the American revolution - Sir William died in 1774 but Molly continued to influence the Mohawk tribe to remain loyal to the British cause. Soon after the Americans occupied the Mohawk Valley in 1777, Molly and her children moved to Canada and lost most of the legacy promised by Sir Williamís will, although British authorities in Canada compensated her in part.
Sir William was very highly esteemed by the Mohawks, and he was respected but not revered by the rest of the Iroquois "six nations." He "adopted their mode of dress" (as Lasco says) only on suitable occasions.
The exalted position of Mollyís brother, Chief Joseph Brant, is somewhat exaggerated by Lasco. The Iroquois, including the Mohawks, were a matriarchal society and the Chiefs did not have anything approaching supreme power over their tribes.
Sir John Johnson was Sir Williamís son by his first wife, Catherine Weissenberg, who he met in America. John was born in America and educated in Philadelphia. He traveled to England and was knighted in 1765, but I have not found any confirmation of Lasco's story that he was attending Oxford University at the time of his fatherís death in 1774, or that he ever spent any significant amount of time in England. He succeeded his father as Indian Commissioner for the Iroquois, and he helped Loyalists from the United States resettle in Canada. Lascoís statement, "His first act was to clean out the Indians and half breeds and to drive them from the Mohawk Valley," is misleading. Other sources confirm that Sir John knew the Indians almost as well as his father and was sympathetic to them. It was the Americans who invalidated the Indiansí land claims in the Mohawk Valley and forced them to leave, because of their loyalty to the British cause.
I have not found any documentation for the "20 wives and 100 children" of Sir William. However, other sources indicate that he did consort with other Indian women while married to Molly.
More about "Queen Ester" who may or may not be the same person as Ester Montour, appears at http://www.rootsweb.com/~srgp/booksb/esther4.htm . That web site describes her as a Seneca Indian and does not mention any relationship with Sir William.
Sir William Johnson and Molly Brant had a daughter named Elizabeth Johnson in 1763. She married Dr Robert Kerr at Niagara in 1783; they had five children, and she died in 1794 at age 32. One of their sons, William Johnson Kerr, married his first cousin, Elizabeth Brant, daughter of Mollyís brother Chief Joseph Brant. (See the book by Huey and Pulis.)
Although Anthony Vanderpoolís wife had a similar name, she was a different person altogether (NOT a daughter of Sir William, as stated by George Lasco).
See also Anthony Vanderpool.
Transcribed April 2001 by Loren P Meissner:
The Pool Tribe of Bradford County
by George Lasco
400 Main, Athens PA
Copyright 1987, George Lasco. Reprinted by permission.
Our American culture is laced with jesting and contemptible folklore based on rivalry and bigotry. Internally, America, The Melting Pot, has developed a tradition of provincialism and aggression towards its "non stereo type" next door neighbors. An extensive list of derogatory names, terms, and phrases, have developed for people in near by communities - ones living on "the other side of the tracks - creek or street," groups with different colored skin, features, dialects, and religion. Social economic status and intelligence levels exclude no one from falling victim to this seemingly human trait. Very little attention has been spent with the honest unraveling of this embarrassing aspect of our self declared sophisticated society. By some, unraveling may be considered as rebellious, revolutionary, ignorant, communistic, and even dangerous. No place is this more prevalent than in relatively small rural communities. This trait is also evident in the cities because obviously most cities are populated, at least originally, by small town individuals. But cities seem to be able to contain these thoughts for the most part, so that a reasonable state of harmony can exist in a crowded people environment. In the shelter of a home or ethnic community an urban dweller can, and usually does, revert back to small town characteristics with respect to personal prejudice. Small towns are blatant due to their size, geographic and political isolation, and needless use for tack [tact?] with strangers.
Small towns with sharp contrasts in social economics, nationalities, and/or philosophies are riddled with questionable folklore. The exploitation of local color and history has been pursued by American authors throughout history because prejudice humor is, unfortunately, a guaranteed seller. To this day such publications as The National Inquire and soap operas are obviously very popular. Magazines and journals even state a lot of what we like to hear rather than fact.
In the early 1700s there were islands of different speaking communities spread throughout this area. Because of social and sexual isolation, charges of immorality, inbreeding, and heredity degeneracy became tradition. Between communities there was very little cross over marriages. In an attempt to preserve their isolated and personally desirable culture these types of degrading stories were fabricated. As time progressed much of this fabricating of stories ended, but the folklore continued. In these earlier days pseudonyms for unknown family names had widespread use by sociologists who published outrageous studies. Pseudo-genealogical research was used to demonstrate genetically dominant inheritance of criminality and imbecility. Folklore was extended and entered as fact into the scientific method. The so-called Pools, a scattered rural community of Bradford County, with a suburban concentration at South Towanda are a prime example.
The Pools are descendants of Sir William Johnson. He was born in County Down, Ireland 1738, a natural son of nobility to one of the Stuart Pretenders to the throne of England and Anthony Vanderpool (originally Vander Poel) a Hollander by birth and considered a Holland-Dutch aristocrat. Sir William Johnson married Mollie Brant, sister to the celebrated Iroquois Indian Chief, and Anthony Vanderpool married Elizabeth Johnson, the daughter of Sir William and Mollie. [See note at Preface - LPM.]
This socially unaccepted family marked by "said" sexual reproduction of near relatives is characterized and ostracized by the possession of ten family names by 1800: Akley, Akla, Benjamin, Chilson, Connelius, Heman, Johnson, Wheeler, Vincent, and Vanderpoel. These families were the first wave of frontier settlement, beginning in 1785, and the first landholders on the northern frontier of Pennsylvania. In this Susquehanna Valley many other family names originated from an even older community called "The "Yensons" which occupied portions of the lower Mohawk Valley in upper New York state.
Legal maneuvering following the American Revolution stripped the Yensons and the Pools of their land titles and franchise. Both groups were considered official outcasts. The Yensons no longer exist as a community, resulting from out-migration and the merging with the New York Holland Dutch Minority which also had been stripped of its land in the Federal Period.
The Pool community is now also slowly dissipating itself through out-migration. Individuals remaining in Bradford County are up against a wall of prejudice. They face economic, social, and judicial discrimination. Underlying all this is the unstudied problem of Bradford County land titles which to non-Pools is a latent fear. The major forces which have prevented total out-migration of the Pools are family ties, love of homeland, and emotional commitment to the old time values of rural life.
The Pool community has been unable to compete successfully with its neighbors because of the power of traditional folklore. Pools do little to change their image, for they are wary of townspeople and prefer to avoid them. Pool youngsters believe that if they venture from Pool Town the townspeople may kidnap or kill them. Adult Pools prefer to avoid the inevitable debates and heated arguments which result from encounters with townspeople. Towns people are frightened of the Pools. They frequently warn newcomers to the area to stay away from Pool Town and above all not to go there alone.
The Pools themselves are familiar with the establishmentís views and perpetrate their own folklore about the townspeople, causing each Pool and non-Pool to act out their expected predetermined role. Thus the esoteric and exoteric folklore definitely contribute to the destruction of the economic and cultural base of the group. I feel we are fortunate to have one of the few truly American sub-cultures still alive today, surviving, despite the ridicule, in our local towns.
A local archaeologist, who I contacted in search of information for this presentation, initially would not even speak to me on the subject for he stated he feared I was preparing still another inaccurate and sadistic account on the Pool Tribe. After gaining his confidence he agreed to giving me only the accounts he possessed that portrayed positive aspects of the Pools. One told briefly of the Poolsí relationship to the Yensons and the other a unique look at Pool participation in wars.
Pools have proliferated few war stories, whether from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, II, Korea, or Viet Nam. Returning veterans act as though their war time service was something demanded by authority and better forgotten. They would rather spin tall tales of traditional form about hunting, fishing, women, brawls, and barn dances. Even the first patriarch of the Wheeler family, a pensioned veteran of the American Revolution, left no knowledge to his descendants that he had been an armed soldier against the British. The values of Pool folklore ignore valor. Pool men who have been trapped in a non-Pool world of grand politics prefer to forget it. They return to rural values, and tell us almost nothing about Pool military service. No Pool who served in the Civil War became a member of a local G.A.R. Post, or contributed to the general American folklore about the glories of "The War of the Great Rebellion." Therefore, esoteric folklore about the Civil War is scant.
The exoteric folklore of the country side tells us that Pools had a grand reputation for non-patriotism in the age of Lincoln. This folklore says that pools were always willing to substitute for other men who had been drafted under the Conscription Act of March 3, 1863. According to exoteric tradition, Pools would accept a $300 bounty and appear for induction, only to desert a few days later and be ready to go through the same process again. Pools are equated with Civil War deserters, as well as with substitutes. Another out-group tradition talks about the many Pools who were drafted but did not wish to be involved. An employer of Pool agriculture labor would pay other Pools for Pool draftees to take their place, and forever thereafter the employer would keep the draftee as slave labor because he could not pay off his debt.
Let us look at the actual statistics for Pool service in the Civil War. Of the 133 individuals, 94 served until discharged. Of these 94, more than 13 received surgical discharges. Seven more are noted as having been wounded, and six more were discharged because of wounds. The figures are less than minimal because of the inadequacy of the records. There were no dishonorable discharges. Twenty five of the 133 died while in the army. Thirteen were killed or mortally wounded. Four died in a southern prison (Anderson). Eight died under unrecorded circumstances. Eleven men were lost by desertion, and two were listed missing and were never found. Out of the 133, 13 were noted as having been drafted, and 3 as having been substitutes. Five are known to have re-enlisted when their term was up. Three re-enlisted in the U.S. Army at the close of the war, and one was pensioned out. Only eight percent of the Pools who were enlisted men were lost to desertion. The small number of draftees - 13% and the very small number of substitutes - 3%, are of particular interest in light of local folklore. The desertion rate of 8-1/4% is less than we would have expected from the performance of other troops (10-20%) and definitely contradicts the exoteric folk tradition.
It can be concluded that: folklore and legend are powerful and lethal weapons in the struggle for an economic survival base. In the cutthroat competition between groups, they are tools of the apparatus. In study of the submerged group called Pools, we can see the harsh reality of folklore and legend as establishment-managed mechanisms for the destruction of people and of their values.
For many local residents of Bradford County this is a very emotional topic to this day. I heard a lot of interesting responses while seeking information on the Pools, which in itself is very informative as to the present feeling about the Pools. The editorial staff of a local newspaper could only blush, make bigoted comments, and laugh a lot. Cooperation was hard to find. An interesting response I received from the Towanda Library when asking about information on South Towanda Pools made reference to their lack of knowledge of any swimming pools in that area of town. I believe the librarian gave me that response out of disbelief and embarrassment from being asked about the Pools openly in the library while several people were present.
Oddly the shelves in the Towanda Library on local history number about sixteen, but not one word is sitting out about the Pools. After going through every book and coming up empty I approached the same librarian and asked if they had any additional information on local history. Again she asked me what the subject was that I was seeking. Beginning to see the picture I stated "The History of Sir William Johnson." Puzzled she responded that she had never heard of this man but I was welcome to look in this filing cabinet behind the desk from which she was standing. Sure enough, about half way back in the file was a section titled simply "Pools." When I pulled it out she said, "I thought you were looking for something on Sir William Johnson. You have our file on the Pools. I told her there was some information about Sir William related to the Pools that I thought I might find. I made copies of what I thought I did not already have, and left.
I noticed when talking to store owners in Towanda who work on and with Pools every day, that they did not wish to elaborate on the subject, even though I personally knew the people I was talking to and about. A native, long term businessman and professional in Towanda refused to say anything. I honestly believe all these people refuse to acknowledge having knowledge on Pools for fear of being genetically linked or favoring a Pool trade.
Briefly let me describe the history of our area not relating it to the Pools so that we may get a feeling for times during which the Pool Tribe formed and became established. Pioneers began settling along the Susquehanna in the early 1700s but due to an Indian uprising in the 1760s, settlements were uncertain at best. When the war for independence began in 1776 Indians joined the British, pushing pioneers eastward to the Stroudsburg area. This was called The Great Runaway of 1778 caused mainly by the Iroquois. In a strategic response George Washington sent General John Sullivan and an army of four to six thousand to Tioga Point which is now called Athens [about 20 miles north of Towanda]. Sullivanís brutal and brilliant campaign of 1778 crippled the Iroquois at Newtown Hill. In 1783 the treated to Canada and the 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix forced out the Iroquois.
Eager pioneers poured in pushing westward into Bradford County. Most of these pioneers were English, Scotch-Irish and Irish. Life was hard here, clearing trees, putting up with mountain lions, wolves, bears, floods, and rocky soil. It was the fish and game that really kept these people alive. They barreled fish and pelts down frozen winter creeks to trade for flour and gunpowder. By the 1830s enough land had been cleared for farming and grazing that this area was almost self sufficient.
With the growth of the clipper industry and increased population the call for timber brought more interest to the area, hemlock being found to be an excellent new wood. At the same time coal mining developed in this area, arnot in Tioga County and laquin in Bradford county. The years from 1870 to 1910 were the golden years for this area. There were more people said to be living in Bradford County at that period than there are today. Those who remained were poor but self sufficient, which later helped the region weather "The Great Depression."
During the formative years of Bradford County and the surrounding areas, the original Pool, who oddly was not actually a Vanderpool but Sir William Johnson, whom I spoke of previously, played a significant role. Now, knowing a bit of non-Pool or non-Johnson history we can piece together some more of the reasons this area and the Pools developed as they did.
Sir William, in his early twenties, fell in love and married a young, well respected North of Ireland girl, living in the neighborhood. Had his parents not interfered, William would not have turned his back upon his surroundings and set out to carve his own way. His uncle, Sir Peter Warren had by marriage come into an estate of many thousand acres in America and kindly offered his nephew management of the estate 25 miles west of Schenectady, New York. Shortly thereafter his wife died after having a child, later to be known as Sir John Johnson. [See Preface.]
William took up his Uncle Peterís offer and came to America in 1735. Surrounded by Indians, he immediately saw that if he were to have any success he must cultivate friendly relations with the Red Men. He began trade with them and, unlike that pursued by so many white men of that period, his course was one of strict honesty and fairness in all his dealings with the aborigines.
He was a handsome man of good build and made a study of the language, customs and methods of thought of the Indians, even to the extent of adopting their mode of dress. For these reasons he gained their confidence and enjoyed an influence over the powerful six nations such as no other white man ever possessed. In 1746 he was made commissary of New York for Indian Affairs and three years later he was placed in command of all the New York Colonial Forces for the defense of the frontier against the French.
He made a great record as a soldier, winning a decisive battle against the French at Lake George, (which he named for the British King) and for his distinguished work was created a "Baronet of Great Britain" in 1773. In 1760 Sir William led his Indians in the Canada Expedition and was present at the capitulation of Montreal and the surrender of Canada, which ended forever the power of the French in America.
The king then granted him 100,000 acres on the north side of the Mohawk. On this tract he laid out the village of Johnstown and built near the village a splendid residence known as Johnson Hall. He gave great attention to agriculture and was the first to introduce sheep and blooded horses into the valley of the Mohawks. His private life is another matter altogether, especially if judged by the present day standards of morality. After the death of his first wife, a handsome Indian girl became the head of his new household in Johnson Hall. As I stated before, he married Molly Brant, sister of the famous Mohawk Chieftain Joseph Brant. She exercised a great influence over him. Her brother, the chief, remained Williams closest friend until he died. Molly, often referred to as "Lady Johnson," became the mother of eight children and the Baronet in Williamís will. Not content with Molly alone, Sir William surrounded himself with a great number of Indian women, some say as many as twenty. These maidens were the best looking and most intelligent of their race. All 100 children were proud of their relation to this great white man. Sir William made no secret of his mode of life. He entertained lavishly. When he died in 1774 there was great mourning among the Indians and they attended his funeral in thousands.
At the time of his fatherís death, Sir John Johnson, Williamís son by his first wife, was attending Oxford. John was left the estate of Sir William. Shortly after being created a Knight, he came to America. Sir John Johnson led the "Tories" out of the Mohawk Valley during the Revolutionary War. His first act was to clean out the Indians and half breeds and to drive them from the Mohawk Valley. An Indian lady partner of Sir William, Ester Montour, fled to Tioga Point. With her came numerous family members and a number of other Indian women with their half-breed children. This group was eventually thrown out of the Tioga Point stockade and founded a town on the west bank of the Susquehanna a couple of miles below Tioga Point. In this community Ester Montour became known as "Queen Ester." Queen Ester was described as a woman of beauty, tall, stately, imperious of demeanor, and terrible in anger.
When the expedition from the Mohawk valley was originally planned by Sir John Johnson he raised a regiment of Tories numbering 400 called the Royal Greens. The Indians were commanded by John [Joseph? - LPM] Brant, brother to Sir Williamís Indian wife. The half-breeds seemed to have no real leader, but were divided into small companies, each led by its own chief. When the expedition reached Tioga Point, Queen Esterís town was led by Esterís oldest son, a son of Sir Williams, also named after his father. The band of half-breeds were cut to ribbons and William Johnson fell with a bullet through the brain. Learning this, Ester raged like the fury she was, and in the concluding part of the fight she herself led her half-breeds, with tomahawk waving. It is said that seventeen white men fell by her hand after the battle. Captives were led to her one by one where she brained them at a spot that came to be known as the Bloody Rock.
Shortly an expedition from Fort Augusta, where Sunbury now stands, followed its way to Queen Esterís town. With 200 trained Indian fighters the expedition swooped down upon Queen Ester, scattered the half-breeds, burned their town, and drove away their cattle. The leader from Fort Augusta was said to have made a gesture of snapping his finger at the Royal Greens entrenched behind the stockade of Diahoga. Queen Ester and her half-breeds were not welcome with the six Indian nations. They scattered and most of them settled on a hill 20 miles south overlooking the river. This area is now known as South Towanda.
During the period that Sir William Johnson was exerting his influence in the Mohawk Valley, emigrants from Holland had settled along the Hudson Valley above and below Albany in the vicinity of Kinderhook. Among these Dutchmen there were a no more influential group than the Vanderpools. They had in their veins the blood of Holland aristocracy and were owners of vast estates in the American Colony. They gave to the colony some of its leading men. A Vanderpool was prominent on the bench and President Van Buren was proud of the Vanderpool strain in his blood. Among the most gifted was said to be Anthony Vanderpool. Anthony met Elizabeth Johnson, one of the daughters of Sir William Johnson [see Preface - LPM], and was captivated by her beauty and grace. Anthony, despite the pleadings and threats of his aristocratic family, married the beautiful and dusky Indian maiden. Disgusted at their treatment, Anthony took his Oneida wife and made his way into northern Pennsylvania, settling in Bradford County in the town of Asylum, a French settlement.
Anthony and his wife were accompanied in their migration by a considerable number of people. After two years several of Elizabethís Johnson half brothers and half sisters followed. Later even more were said to have made the migration to the outskirts of Towanda. The half sisters were married to white men, Isaac Wheeler, Ambrose Wheeler, and a man named Heeman. They were mainly farmers and relied on the areaís good supply of fish and game for their meat. Anthony and his wife became known as "King and Queen Pool." Morality being what it was in those days under frontier conditions, there were cases of intermarriage, but not to the extent that has been painted by folklore.
Eventually, the Dutch Holland Indian and finally French descent of the Vanderpools merged with the Irish Indian and finally Negro decent of the Johnsons to form what has become known as the Pool Tribe.
Using the Athens phone book and the Towanda phone book I decided to count the number of Johnson and Vanderpool names that appear. The Valley has 22 Vanderpools and 56 Johnsons, the Towanda directory has 61 Vanderpools and 99 Johnsons (1986). This of course does not include the other Pool related names nor the households without phones, which I would guess at being considerably higher than average. Plus it must be remembered that even today three generations of relatives often reside at the same address in Pool households. I would personally guess The Bradford County Pool related population to be close to 1,000.
Much of my research uncovered derogatory articles written down through the years starting in 1883 with a copy of an article from an old newspaper called "The Saturday Globe" and a personal letter written in 1883 with "confidential" written at the top of the first page. I found numerous articles and reports that were plagiarized from an original ten or so writings. Each plagiarized piece was intermixed with personal comments, folklore, and legend, of a prejudice nature.
Here are a few excerpts starting with the 1883 Saturday Globe article titled "The Pool Tribe of Today Largely Made up of Degenerates with Criminal Tendencies":
"Perhaps one third of the Pool Tribe have earned the right to be recognized as citizens. The Indian characteristics of shiftlessness, laziness and dishonesty are more marked even than facial likeness. The majority are stunted and physically under-developed. Mentally the degeneracy is very decided. Scores of the adults can neither read nor write. Morally, they are at low ebb, the marriage tie among them being scarcely regarded when it comes to mating. The number of illegitimate births is abnormally great. While they have been credited with few capital crimes they have furnished a large number of crimes of lesser degree. They are not industrious. The typical Pool will leave a $1.50 per day job at any time to go fishing or tramp to town on circus or any other gala days. The result is that their families are destitute and are frequent inmates of the poor house or other wards of the county. They marry young and often with little regard to relationship. For example: Mrs. Sophia Merritt, who was referred to in an article in the Globe last week in connection with the murder of her 23 year old sonís 38 year old wife, was a Vanderpool, married a Johnson and lived without marriage with a man named Childon, and ultimately married the son of her deceased daughter."
Following the Globe article was this derogatory Pool anecdote.
Mr. Hollen was sitting in his office one day when in walked a "Pool" who had been out of prison but a few days, after serving a third or fourth term.
"Guy" he said. "Gimme a dollar." This mild request was refused with the idea that the money would only go for whisky.
"Guy" he said, "Gimme a dollar and Iíll tell you sometiní." Again the request was refused on the ground that a "Pool" would hardly have anything to tell which would be worth a dollar.
"Guy, Iíll tell you something anyway, if its worth a dollar, will you gimme a dollar?" This was a proposition which could scarcely be rejected and he was directed to tell the story.
"Three or four nights ago Dash Bank and me stole 18 hides from Mr. Bís tannery, floated them down the river and sold íem to Mr. R."
The idea of a man confessing a crime to which a term in the penitentiary might be attached - all for a dollar - so amused Inspector Hollen that he produced the dollar and congratulated the man on being a champion liar.
Thinking it over the next day, Mr. Hollen strolled over to Mr. Bís tannery asking him if he had any hides stolen, and was astonished to receive an affirmative answer. Then the detective went to the town down-river and learned from Mr. R. that he had purchased the hides. Of course, the case was clear. The confessing Pool and his partner in theft were arrested, tried, and went up for three years.
Time passed and one day Mr. Hollon stood inspecting the new court house in Towanda. A man approached and said, "Hello Guy, nice building haiínt it? Built while I were gone."
"Yes," said Hollon, "Itís a nice building and I hope you will not have as much trouble in it as you had in the old one."
"Oh, thatís all right; I got along," said the Pool.
"By the way," replied Hollon, "I wish you would tell me why you told about stealing those hides. Surely you didnít want a dollar bad enough to face three years in prison."
The Pool replied, "Oh, D- Dollar. It was this way. We stole the hides all right and floated íem down the river. Then my buddy did the selling, because he thought he could do betterín me. He came back and told me he got $20.00 for íem and he gave me $10.00. Afterwards, I found out he had sold íem for $30.00. He done me out of $5.00 and no man can do me out of $5.00 without goin to the pen."
Romances of Pennsylvania History - published in "The North American" January 31, 1915 out of Philadelphia, had a lengthy written work of again a degrading nature titled "The Pool Tribe, Outcast Descendant of Nobility." In this piece another slanted re-telling of the origins of the Pool Tribe is told. Intermixed with the story are comments such as Bradford Countyís greatest problem, stories of murder, fighting, drinking, stupidity, degrading physical features, love of snakes and huckleberries, moral nightmares, stories of other Pools famous for their brutality and boldness, mixing them in a derogatory way with black slaves, and an almost endless list of tales that can bore you with their slander. This piece was copied and recirculated in Towanda about 12 years ago in 1975. All the non-Pools got a big laugh out of it and it once again added to the never decreasing exoteric folklore that continues to cause many of the problems that still remain in Towanda.
In 1983 James Yourk Glimm, a professor at Mansfield University, wrote a very popular book titled "Flat Landers and Ridge Runners." It is filled with folk-tales from the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania. There are two related to the Pools. A short one titled simply "A Vanderpool" which is a short humorous tale that only a person who lives near the Pools could find any humor in, and a longer more personal anecdote titled "Bucket a Blood." This story was told to the author by a Towandian who is my age, a non-Pool, and an old friend of mine. Again Iíll skip the parts where he tells his version of the origin of the Pools. I should note here that not one of the accounts I uncovered tells the story quite the same way, even the factual writer. My version is a combination of all, throwing out the ridicules, and part of my own memories - as stories were told to me.
"Bucket A Blood"
Any night of the week you can find half the clan in there: settling family arguments, kids doing homework, guys trading dogs, young lovers holding hands, people receiving stolen goods, illegal game being bought and sold, or a guy trading his wife for a pick-up truck. Itís the "Bucket A Blood: in South Towanda, a bar where the Vanderpools all hang out. Itís a funny place to visit. Why, one time I was in there drinking, and a guy drove his snowmobile right into the back door, popped it open and skidded right up to the bar. He got off and asked for a beer. Nobody batted an eye. They use chicken wire screen in front of the band to keep the flying glasses and bottles from hitting the musicians. I saw a real cockfight in there once, and trained bears, and a guy drinking beer with a dart sticking out of his back. One time a guy escaped from Elmira Jail and some Vanderpools picked him up on the road and took him to the "Blood" and bought him rounds. Hell, when the cops found him, heíd forgot completely about getting away, he was having such a good time. Iíve seen people get married, get divorced, and get laid out for the grave in the Bucket A Blood. Thereís nothing you canít do there, except maybe think youíre better than folks.
I moved to Towanda when I was six years old and I spent up to high school graduation living just a stoneís throw from what is considered South Towandaís Pool Town. I went to grade school in South Towanda with all the Pool children and was accepted as part of their lives even though my father was a prominent local dentist and not from the area. Needless to say I had to literally fight my way into their acceptance, which as a grade school child I felt I needed to do. Since these were my formative years for speaking correctly, my manner of speech, as some of you may still hear, fell easily into the mode of diction and grammar of the Pools. In high school I had a difficult time breaking the speech pattern, but with help and practice I got rid of most of the dialect.
While growing up I spent much time in Pool households of my friends. There was one old Pool who sticks out in my mind. He was a great grandfather of one of my closest friends and lived only a few doors away. This man must have been born around 1870 making him a teenager around the time of the oldest published work on the Pools I found. In the community he had one of, if not the highest, degree of respect from his fellow Pools. Unfortunately, I can not remember his name, but he lived with one of his childrenís families.
This grandfather spoke a dialect so heavy that even I could not understand a single word when I first met him. But as time went on we were able to converse with ease. Even though what he spoke was English it had a foreign rhythmic chop with ascending and descending low tones coming from what sounded to be his nasal pharynx region. Similar to what we might think of as a ritualistic Indian chant, but at a much higher rate of speed. On the whole, Pool speech is much more rapid than regular English. Though it may have qualities that may sound as a language from an inferior intellect, I have found it to obtain an almost three dimensional quality. Each word, to a trained ear, has action in its subtle tones and surging phrasing. The syllables are minimized, for example the word Towanda would sound like Ta-waa; needless small words are eliminated as in the question "What do you want? Would be "Wha whaa."
Parts of Pool Town just like any other full size town has its small percentage of poor housing, most of which is closest to the main road. Thusly, most people tend to believe that the houses are the same back in Pool town. Actually the houses are very modest but neat. Painting is kept up and yards are not full of junk. Pool Town borders on Old Route 220, the railroad tracks and low marsh land parallel to 220, a profitable junk yard on the Towanda side and Ames Department Store on the Monroeton side. The houses are situated on the hillside where the contour of the land will allow building. In the center is the "Bucket A Blood," its real name being the "Wayside Inn"; and a small all purpose store for food, bait, ammunition, gasoline, with a front porch that becomes a meeting place for kids and old folks at different times of the day. The bar has live music and serves some food. These two places have seen a lot of activity over the years and Iíve witnessed some if it.
Pre-school children dress in just shorts most of the summer and are encouraged to investigate the outdoors. Groups of five to ten kids with adults are constantly walking across the airport flats to play in the woods, fish, and swim in a hold beneath a bridge going over "Towanda Creek." They are happy children and never lacking for something to do. As they enter grade school they become more defensive because of being forced to intermingle with non-Pools. They are aggressive. Boys and girls alike are proud of their running, jumping, and strength. After school the Pool boys and myself would hurry home to check each of our own trapping routes, take care of the game by skinning and tacking down the hide, and gather later on to tell our experiences which usually included a tale about being chased by a mountain lion or a rattle snake.
Once we entered junior high in the Boro of Towanda many friendships began to dissolve. The Poolsí self esteem dropped significantly and only a few kept an active social life. The ones that went into sports were outstanding. Their academic potential was controlled and very, very few were placed in higher grade sections despite their ability. Many took up hobbies playing musical instruments, art, and mechanics. There is a lot of unbelievable talent locked in Pool Townís hill side. By high school the social class extremes totally stripped most Pools of any hope of being somebody. They have their dreams, desires, and talents, the same as anybody, but the exoteric and esoteric folklore is too large of a force for them to over come. By graduation they believed themselves to be stupid. Girls generally get pregnant and marry boys who want to leave town and start over or take some hard working minimal paying job. The lucky ones work as laborers for the highway department, Masonite, DuPont, or GTE. As adults they tend to drink a lot but are able to be as intelligent and kind as anybody could expect to be under the circumstances. Actually Iím sure they handle their plight much better than most of us would be able to. Two of the smartest Pools in my high school committed suicide shortly after high school. I have always felt they were too intelligent and too understandingly kind as individuals to face the life they felt predestined to live. There are a few doctors, lawyers, other professionals, and business people who somehow rose above it all. None of whom, of course, stayed in Towanda.
Another problem for both the Pools and the non-Pools of this area is that because of the nature of the negative folklore, many non-Pool out-right worthless people blend into the edges of Pool Town. Unfortunately the Pools get blamed for these degenerates.
In closing Iíd like to say that I find the individuals belonging to this small culture worth much more than this area gives them credit for. We can learn a lot about ourselves in pursuing the understanding of this unique group. They are a part of a rare breed that can truly consider themselves "Original Americans."