(Later Sacrificed for the making of a dam)

Photo Credit:Janice McElhoe

Read an article about Instanter 39 years after it's drowning

Drowned Town Instanter is Revealed
The News, 11/30/1991

Rain and snow have bypassed the East Branch Valley this year, dropping a man-made lake 55 feet and exposing the skeletal remains of two towns sacrificed for flood control.

Now former residents are coming back to reminisce.

Instanter and Straight were razed and submerged 39 years ago when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built East Branch Clarion Lake.

Now the water’s retreat has revealed Instanter, 5 1/2 miles upstream from the lake’s earthen dam, marked by mud-caked remnants of old concrete foundations, some rusting nails, scattered bricks and crumbling bits of rotten lumber. There’s no longer enough remainder of a road left to easily get to Straight.

“It made me sick when I’d seen it.” Said Nita Eaton, who spent the first 18 of her 83 years in Instanter, but could find no sign of her old home, school, or church.

In spite of her reaction, the old town site, an Atlantis of the Alleghenies, has become a new tourist attraction.
“This is a rare opportunity for old residents to come back and show their children and grandchildren where they grew up and where they used to play,” said John Kolodziejski, park ranger at East Branch.

Weekends bring out people by the carload and cars line the boat ramp. There’s still about 100 feet of water in the lower end of the six-mile-long reservoir, but the boat ramp’s concrete slab ends 50 feet form the nearest water and once-floating wooden piers sit on the mud.

Outsiders can only imagine how Instanter’s old foundations once supported a tannery, boarding house, homes, and a bridge.

“There was the hotel, a pool room, and where they used to cut hair,” said George Powley, who visited Intanter in early November. “There was a company store, a boarding house and a big barn where they kept their horses.”
“You always want to know what’s under the lake, but unless you’re a scuba diver, you never know,” Mr. Kolodziejski said. “Now everybody knows.”

Instanter was established in 1889 when a pair of settlers built a tannery at the confluence of the East Branch and Seven Mile Creek. Its slow death began four days before Christmas 1926 when the tannery shut down.

“The tannery was going out so everybody was going out,” Mrs. Eaton said.

Straight, a smaller community, supported two chemical works that shut down about the same time as the tannery.
After a flood on the Clarion River damaged Johnsonburg and Ridgway in July 1942, the Corps began considering a flood-control dam somewhere upstream from East Branch. The dam just above Glen Hazel was completed in 1952.

Mr. Powley, 74, has visited the site before, but to fish.

“I went back quite a few times. I put a boat on there the first year they filled it with water,” said Mr. Powley, 74. “I never thought I’d see it again.”

The lake abuts the west side of the eastern Continental Divide, which in northern Pennsylvania is a range of hills that separates basins draining into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

In winter, storms off Lake Erie usually run into these hills and dump copious amounts of snow. In the summer, storms laden with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico usually drop rain on the 72-square-mile watershed above the dam.

That hasn’t happened this year.

But through high water and low water, the number of visitors drawn to the lake each year by water or curiosity has remained a constant 300,000, Mr. Kolodziejski said.

“Our bread and butter is the normal year, when families can come out and boat and ski,” Mr. Kolodziejski said.


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