Since Tyrone’s humble beginnings back in 1857, “Stony Point” has been a landmark in the community’s eastside. Also known as “The Bluffs,” the rock cliff is located on 15th Street behind the home of the American Legion, but today a person may not even know it exists.
Stony Point has slowly disappeared over the years with unattended tree and brush growth that has now obliterated the old and to some people, historic view.
Tyrone business man and long-time eastside resident, Larrie Derman, would like to see Stony Point’s majestic view and unusual appearance recaptured so that generations to come will always have its vision in their sight.
“I’ve been talking about it for quite a few years to people,” said Derman. “I just got to thinking, why not try something tangible? I lived out there since I was five, so it’s kind of personal for me.”
Derman hopes that people in the Tyrone community will become interested in seeing Stony Point back the way it used to be. Whether it is a volunteer effort or if there is a monetary need, he thinks the proposal is feasible and worthwhile.
The main issue for Derman would be to get the interest and permission of the current owners of the Stony Point property to allow volunteers and loggers to clear the cliff of the trees growing out of the rocks and at the base.
“We wouldn’t be interfering with their privacy at all, but I don’t want to cause any problems,” said Derman. “I just thought that maybe there’s enough interest out there to possibly bring Stony Point back.”
Tyrone Borough Code Enforcement Officer James Metzgar said that a project such as clearing Stony Point wouldn’t require a permit to do so, unless the ground would be disturbed. He agreed that permission of the property owners could be the only obstacle to overcome.
The history behind Stony Point is as inspiring as the need to bring it back to life. Originally, a large part of the land that the rock cliff watches over was owned by Samuel Beyer. The land separated two towns – Tyrone and East Tyrone – but in 1893, East Tyrone was made part of the Tyrone Borough.
In the 1920’s, the present American Legion home was the residence of the Tyrone Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad Superintendent J.K. Johnston. At that time, there was a log house atop Stony Point and a wooden stair case that led up to it. There was also a cave entrance at the bottom of the cliff that was filled in after the 1936 flood brought the calm stream of Dry Run, now Sink Run, to a roaring overflow.
The cave is now six feet below the ground and high walls were built along the stream after the flood, according to the Tyrone Historical Society.
Today, the American Legion owns a portion of Stony Point, and Cummins McNitt, owner of Stony Point Bed & Breakfast on North Avenue, the former Newlin family residence, owns six and one-half acres of the land that once kept apart two sides of the Tyrone community.
According to Derman and longtime Tyrone resident Burley Zerbe, the eastside of Tyrone and the borough weren’t always friendly with each other. In the early stages of the twentieth century in Tyrone, there was a prominent eastside gang who didn’t always welcome visiting borough residents.
“There was a ‘Stony Point Gang’ out there,” said Derman. “If the guys from downtown would go out there, they’d get roughed up – that’s the way it was, it was an area related thing.”
Zerbe, who celebrated his 85th birthday yesterday, said he can recall in the late 1920’s when the gang would go up to Stony Point in the summertime and build fires all over the top of the hills. He also recalls taking walks in the 1980’s up to Stony Point and finding old timbers that used to support the log cabin that sat on top of the cliff.
Both men spoke of the cave that still exists under Stony Point. Zerbe said he was told that the cave runs all the way through the hill and comes out on 10th Street. Some say that there is a rather large water source that runs underneath the plot of land. Lincoln School and a home near the corner of 10th Street and Lincoln Avenue suffered deep collapses similar to sink holes through the years.
“Nobody to my knowledge ever explored the cave,” added Zerbe.
Derman noted that there is a similar rock cliff located by the American Eagle Paper Mill, which is a mystery of sorts on how the two cliffs became separated.
“I could never figure out how one ended here and one ended over there with nothing in between,” said Derman. “Perhaps the old Bald Eagle Creek washed it away over the years, but regardless, it’s some thing.”
Stony Point is and has always been a landmark in the community. Over the last 10 to 20 years it has slowly dwindled from sight. Bringing it back to form would also bring a piece of Tyrone’s history back to the people who reside not just on the eastside, but in all of Tyrone.
Anyone interested in assisting Derman’s efforts is more than welcomed to call him at 684-3671.