Northeastern Section - 43rd Annual Meeting (27-29 March 2008)
Paper No. 7-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM

STONY MOUNTAIN, MOUNT HERNDON, AND THE PEAKED HILL: CONRAD RICHTER ON THE LITERARY LANDSCAPE OF THE SUSQUEHANNA VALLEY IN CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA

INNERS, Jon D., 1915 Columbia Avenue, Camp Hill, PA 17011, jdinners@hotmail.com

The novelist Conrad Richter (1890-1968) was born in Pine Grove, PA, and died in Pottsville, PA. He spent significant parts of his life in Ohio and New Mexico, as well as in his native Pennsylvania. His natural observations in all three states had a profound influence on his writings. Of his 15 novels, three are of particular interest in creating a "literary landscape" of central Pennsylvania: A Light in the Forest (1953), A Simple Honorable Man (1962), and A Country of Strangers (1966).

In A Light in the Forest, a frontier novel of the 1760's, Richter provides an accurate description of the physiography of the Susquehanna River valley north of present-day Harrisburg—complete with water gaps, mountain ridges, and summit rock crags. His protagonist, True Son, climbs “Kittatinny” and “Second” Mountains, then passes by “Stony,” or “Short,” Mountain, which “doesn't run out to the river.” On top of Stony Mountain is a “pile of rocks like a church and on top of that a pulpit.” Easily recognizable are Blue, Second, and Third Mountains, the latter a synclinal ridge of Pennsylvanian Pottsville conglomerate (forming the southern fin of the Southern Anthracite “fishtail”) that is capped for much of its length by high “stony” crags.

A Simple Honorable Man is a fictionalized biography of Richter's father, Book II of which is based on the family's sojourn in Selinsgrove (“Port Oxford”) where his father studied for the Lutheran ministry at Susquehanna University (“West Shore College”) from 1899 to 1904. Conrad's fictional counterpart, John Donner, revels in “halcyon days” on the Susquehanna River where “Mount Herndon” looms off “to the south so milky and far away that the reach of water between seemed like a great inland sea.” Richter here perfectly captures the sublime river view of Mount Mahanoy, the synclinal termination of a pair of Mississippian Pocono sandstone-capped ridges, four miles downstream of Selinsgrove.

In A Country of Strangers, a sequel to A Light in the Forest, Richter returns to the Selinsgrove area, where Captain Peter Stanton's log inn is on the west bank of the Susquehanna River, only a few miles south of the junction of the North and West Branches. A nearby “hill peaked like a sugar loaf” harks back to the novelist's youthful memory of Bake Oven Hill, an isolated knob of Middle Devonian Montebello sandstone at the mouth of Middle Creek.

Northeastern Section - 43rd Annual Meeting (27-29 March 2008)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 7--Booth# 24
Geoscience Education (Posters)
Hyatt Regency Buffalo: Grand Ballroom C
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Thursday, 27 March 2008

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 40, No. 2, p. 9

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