Gretna’s now-gone Lake Duffy was named after a Lackawanna County WWI hero

4 min read 482 views and 52 shares Posted November 10, 2018

You wouldn’t know it today, but close to Mt. Gretna’s popular Lake Conewago once sat another, smaller lake that was a critical component of the National Guard encampment located there.

The lake was re-named for Lt. Colonel Frank J. Duffy of Scranton, PA, where a statue known as the Scranton Doughboy or “Fighting Colonel Monument” stands to this day. The original zinc version of the statue is housed at the Steamtown National Historic Site, with a bronze replica in Duffy Park.

Lt. Colonel Duffy served in World War One as one of the very first National Guard engineers in the 103rd Engineers. He was killed by a mortar shell August 17, 1918 and was buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Fere-en-Tardenois, France.

Duffy had been president of the Engineers club in Scranton before entering the war, and he was instrumental in the organization of the regiment, and ended up in command of a battalion that mustered at Mt. Gretna before moving to Camp Hancock, Georgia.

The Scranton Republican, September 9, 1918.

Lake Duffy sits inside State Game Lands 145, and the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail runs alongside the lake’s eastern shore.

State Game Lands 145 is 2,816 total deeded acres, 87% which is forested. Deer, turkey, grouse, rabbits, squirrels, fox, raccoons, ducks, and pheasants can all be found here. The land was acquired from the Pennsylvania Department of Military Affairs in 1938 and 1941 with 1,921 and 736 acre acquisition, respectively.

Two roads in the game land reference its past. Boy Scout Road south of the Rail Trail references the Boy Scout Camp once located near Lake Duffy.

Gen. Nicholas Biddle Road references Brig. Gen. Nicholas Biddle who completed more than 34 consecutive years as a member of the Game Commission (Biddle served as president from 1935 to 1940 and 1955-1957).

Biddle was recognized in 1963 with a bronze tablet in State Game Lands 145 in part for being instrumental in the acquisition of the land from the Department of Military Affairs.

The lake was often used for to practice bridge and pontoon construction, with “numerous bridges” viewable at once.

Ice harvested from the lake would be stored away for the summer encampment. Saw dust would be used to keep the ice insulated. Due to its use as an ice manufacturing spot, many referred to the site as the “Colebrook Ice Dam.” The lake was also a popular fishing and swimming destination, at times offering an appealing free alternative to the nearby Lake Conewago.

New Castle News, February 20, 1929

Today not much remains of the lake, although the spot remains marked on maps.

At least one local couple got engaged on the foliage-rich shoreline of Lake Duffy.

While the fishing isn’t so good these days, local bird watchers are still very fond of the site, where a rare-for-PA sandhill crane has been sighted, as well as kingfishers, swans, and other types of crane.

We couldn’t track down any dates of when Lake Duffy was drained or went dry. If you have a tip, let us know in the comments or by dropping us an email!

(Added after publication) Thanks to reader Clint LeRoy who shared a 2003 natural heritage survey that provides more detail on the ecology of the site.

The uplands on one side of the lake consist of White Oak (Quercus alba), Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Early low blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Northern Arrow-wood (Viburnum recognitum), Hazelnut (Corylus sp.), Maple-leaved Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) and Red Maple (Acer rubrum). This side of the lake also contained abundant exotic species such as Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), Morrow’s Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), and Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

The other side of the lake edge contained a diverse wetland. This area gradually shifted from a graminoid marshy opening to a shrub swamp to a forested wetland. A more extensive shrub swamp with Alder (Alnus sp.) as the dominant species was found on the north side of the lake. Associated species with this wetland include Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum), Wild Grape (Vitis sp.), Arrow-leaved Tearthumb (Polygonum sagittatum), Cattails (Typha latifolia), Sedges (Carex spp.), Swamp Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), Jewelweed (Impatiens sp.), Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris), Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata), Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), and Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). The shrub swamp area gradually shifted into a small Red Maple Swamp.

Note: Some information was added after publication, namely the portions about wild life and the roads in State Game Lands 145. Thanks to Pat Rhen for his help researching this post.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the interesting article. Great encampment photo. As I view it, the BW photo has a SE orientation, Duffy Lake lower right with ‘ice house’ on the shore, the RR parallel to it, and the rifle range at the top of the photo. The latrines, center right, south of the tents, till 5 years ago one lone wooden latrine was standing and could be seen when walking upstream and parallel to Conewago Creek.

    see this aerial photo with the lake centered, north orientation.
    http://data.cei.psu.edu/pennpilot/era1940/lancaster_1940/lancaster_1940_photos_jpg_200/lancaster_051040_ahg10403.jpg

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