The Falls of the Sawkill, 1830 - 1875

"In point of beauty and picturesque effect, this is one of the finest waterfalls in our country, however it may be surpassed by many in the volume of water ... It is situated about a mile from the town of Milford, in Pike county, Pennsylvania, on the Sawkill, a stream, the sources of which are two small lakes, laying west of the town, at an elevation of several hundred feet above it.  A foot path leading in a southwesterly direction from the village, conducts the visitor to the spot...."

The Ladies' Companion, Volumes 3-4, 1835, p 97.

Asher Brown Durand's engraving, captioned The Falls of the Sawkill, after a watercolor by William James Bennett, and printed by Illman & Pilbrow in 1830, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "William James Bennett's watercolor with full title, The Falls of the Sawkill, near Milford, Pennsylvania, can be found in the annual exhibition record of the National Academy of Design, where Bennett exhibited in 1831." states Kevin Avery, Associate Curator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Avery further adds the original Bennett watercolor is missing.

An image of the first publication of the steel engraving by Asher Brown Durand, The Falls of the Sawkill, is also found on page 31  (slightly foxed) of The American Landscape, by William C. Bryant, 1830, on the British Library's Flickr stream.

The Falls of the Sawkill, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown artist's woodcut of the Sawkill Falls published in 1843, in Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, Sherman Day, p 598. Illegible artist signature in lower right corner.

Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, Sherman Day, 1843.

A founding member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club, George Bensell, painted the falls in 1864.  His work, Sawkill Falls, is in the collection of the Pike County Historical Society. Bensell's widow, Josephine Crissman Bensell, born in Milford, would return there after his death.  Twenty years later Josephine married John C. Westbrook. 

The Sawkill Falls, by George Frederick Bensell (1837 - 1879)

Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 1856 - 1923, catalogs numerous drawings of the Adams, Sawkill, Raymondskill & Vandermark creeks circa 1865.  The Raymondskill, by Edmund Stedman, with illustrations of the falls by Granville Perkins, appeared in The Aldine, 1872.

While a host of artists visited Milford to capture the Sawkill Falls, Winslow Homer, in 1869 headed downstream to paint the view from the mouth of the Sawkill at the Delaware River - Montague Township, Sussex County NJ is on the right, Milford  Borough and Township, Pike County PA on the left.  The painting appeared in the The American Art Society of Philadelphia exhibition of 1907.  Reproduced in black and white in Fine Arts Journal, Vol. 19, No.1, 1908, p 8, the painting was titled "Outlet, Sawkill River - Milford, PA" though river is redundant for kille is the middle Dutch word for a water channel, locally know as a creek.

The location of Winslow Homer's 1869 painting of the Sawkill is at present unknown.  Homer exhibited the painting in 1870 at the National Academy of Design in New York. The work also appeared in a 1935 exhibition "American Art 1770 - 1929" at the Findlay Galleries, Chicago IL. The Peter Finlay Gallery in New York includes a color photo in their collection of "Memories."

"Outlet, Sawkill River" photo (c) Peter Finley Gallery

The dramatic scene of an angler at the foot of the falls first appeared in The Aldine magazine. The artist, Henry Singlewood Bisbing (1844-1933) born in Philadelphia and schooled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, would eventually settle abroad.  As a member of the Paris Society of American Artists, he would be awarded France's Legion of Honor.

Sawkill Falls Near Milford Pa. by H. Singlewood Bisbing, The Aldine, 1875.
Jesse Graves' 19th century photograph of the Sawkill Falls in the collection of the Boston Public Library, is among the best such works of the period. A resident of Stroudsburg, Graves' Delaware Water Gap Guidebook, 1875, drew many visitors to the area.  52 of his stereoscopic views are found in the New York Public Library's Digital Collections

Sawkill Falls, Jesse A. Graves, courtesy Boston Public Library

The Sawkill Falls "one of the finest waterfalls in our country" is no longer open to the general public. The US Forest Service at Grey Towers National Historic Site hosts occasional field trips into the Sawkill Gorge - reservations required.