Danneltown, Pennsylvania

How did Danneltown, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Danneltown, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.

This bygone hamlet on Haycock Mountain lay on both sides of a road which skirts the northern edge of the mountain and extends from Gallows to Applebachsville. Close by is the entrance to Stony Garden. More than a century ago two brothers, Hiram and Jesse O’Dannel (perhaps O’Daniel), came from Ireland to Bucks County and founded Danneltown, where, by the right of squatters’ sovereignty, they obtained title to bits of land nobody owned, or, if owned, the owners seemed to care not very much about them. The O’Dannels built one-story log houses with one room, one door and one window. Other settlers drifted in and built more such huts, and soon a village of log cabins dotted the roadside clearings. The spot was isolated and the ground sterile and sprinkled with boulders of varying sizes; but the colony, despite a lack of visible means of support, thrived after a fashion. One of the log huts, which had been “improved” by dividing its single room into two, housed at one time a man, his wife and their twenty-four children. Danneltown was a self-existent community, with tragedy (perhaps sometimes a little roguery) alternating with festivity. Every Sunday evening there was a prayer meeting or a dance, as suited their fancy. One of the O’Dannels acted as both minister for the prayer meetings and fiddler for the dances. John Hoot, a locally famous herb doctor, was one of the town’s colorful characters. It was said of him that he could cure any human ill, from baby colic to mad dog bite.

For a long time little was known of this colony by the outside world, except (as occasionally happened) when an unlucky villager’s name appeared on the Quarter Session Court docket at Doylestown. After Civil War times the mountain became popular with picnickers, who “discovered” the quaintly squalid settlement, and thereafter there was no lack of visits from outlanders. However, the village young people gradually drifted away, some of them finding homes elsewhere, and finally the colony folded up. About 1880 most of those remaining packed their meager belongings on donkeys and in home-made carts drawn by dogs and goats. The motley procession passed over the Durham Road and down through Doylestown for some destination in the State of Delaware known only to themselves. Two or three years before this exodus one of the log houses was deserted by its occupants, who left behind them all their household goods. A chance passerby, who noted the incident, said “die neighbors had set the furniture and cooking utensils around the outside of the cabin, then stripped the cabin itself of its timbers to the foundation for firewood. A billygoat spends his time wandering around the yard and orchard, occasionally mounting a huge boulder to watch a traveler wend his way in and out among the rocks along the winding road, a pathetic picture of loneliness.”

The last mountain log cabin crumpled in ruins a few years ago, and today the only known existing memento of the vanished village of the O’Dannels is a pencil sketch of that last log house, deposited recently in the Library of The Bucks County Historical Society by one who witnessed the colony’s exodus sixty years ago. As to the last member of the old colony, Frank K. Swain, of “Fonthill,” who assisted Dr. Henry C. Mercer in his archaeological work, writes as follows under date of February 16, 1940: “Twenty years ago when we were working up old houses, we were in Danneltown a lot. I find we photographed Julia Grumlick’s log hut November 12, 1920, and it was some time after that, perhaps 1922 or 1924, that old Dannel, aged then about 80 years, was in the almshouse during the winter and came here a time or two on Sunday afternoons. I am not sure whether he lived entirely alone or with his granddaughter, otherwise he would be the last of his family there. He said that when he was a boy you could see sail boats on the river at Bristol on a clear day and with a good glass from the highest point of Haycock. That would mean about 1840, and I don’t pretend to know when sail boats were abandoned. He may have been repeating what he heard from his parents, and not really what he had seen, as he was getting pretty old and shaky.”

Source: MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top