Cogan House History

The “Birch Still Festival”

The art of “birch stilling” was once well known to residents of Cogan House Township. However, by the late 1980s only a few older residents recalled the “stills” that once dotted the landscape and provided extra income to farmers and lumbermen. During the mid-1980s Carl Taylor, a native of the area, decided to preserve information still available on birch stilling in Cogan House Township. Evan “Jack” Quimby had spent many hours around a birch still in his youth and was happy to share what he knew about the process. In 1987, Jack began constructing a scaled down, but fully operational, birch still in his son Clyde’s pasture field, across from the White Pine Church. Dr. Taylor proposed the idea of converting the Church’s annual fall dinner into a “birch festival.” Members of the church and the “Ladies Aid” thought it was a great idea.

The main attraction of the Birch Still Festival was Jack’s demonstration of the workings of the still. The event featured old time dulcimer music, basket weaving, chair caning, delicious food and birch beer. The event was a rousing success. Carl’s and Jack’s idea had captured the interest of the community as well as newspapers from State College, Williamsport and West Chester. Jack’s birch still was subsequently donated to the Lycoming County Historical Museum in Williamsport.

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