ECKLEY — Visitors to Eckley Miners Village during the site’s annual Patch Town Days celebration this weekend are often surprised to learn that a handful of residents still choose to make their homes here.
For Tara Kling, 42, living in Eckley is part of her family’s legacy. Kling moved to the former mining village in 2000.
“My grandmother (Pauline Ellis) had lived here. When she died, they told me that if anyone in the family wanted the house, they could move in because of the historical link. Since I was the only grandkid that didn’t own their own house, I was able to move in,” she said.
In recent years, Kling has traced her family’s roots to Eckley back to 1860. “I don’t even know how many grandfathers back that is. I think it was my fourth great-grandfather,” she said.
Despite the history her family shares with the town, the thought of living in Eckley wasn’t always in the forefront of her mind, the former Buck Mountain, Carbon County, resident said.
“Now that I’m here, I can’t see me ever actually leaving.”
Life in Eckley recalls a simpler time. Kling has a good sense of humor about her uneven floors, low ceilings and “really, really tiny” bathroom. The draft in the winter can make staying warm difficult. Kling said she will often pile snow against the sides of the home to block out cold winds.
And things are quieter now than she recalls from when her grandmother lived there.
“Right now, it’s very quiet,” she said. “I think there might be around 15 or 18 of us (living in Eckley). At one time, the street in front of our house was the only way to get from Weatherly to Freeland. They built a bypass around the town, so we don’t even have through traffic.”
Outside of its historic value, Eckley is essentially like any other neighborhood.
“All of the neighbors all kind of watch out for each other,” she said. “For the most part, if you go for a walk in the evening and somebody’s out, you’ll stop and talk. We kind of keep to ourselves.”
Residents, she said, are planning ways to band together and help Eckley native George Gera. A June 4 fire destroyed the home the 85-year-old was born in.
“He lived here his entire life,” Kling said. “I knew him from the time that I was a kid. When we moved in, we would talk to him because he sits on his porch a lot.”
Patch Town Days, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday, is a chance to show non-residents what life is and was like in town.
“They’ll ask us if we have electricity or indoor plumbing,” Kling said of those who pass through. “A lot of people come here because they just want to know.” Visitors usually have “no idea” that the village has residential rental properties, she added.
Kling doesn’t have cable television and said, “I think that freaks most of the people out. In most cases, I don’t even miss it that much.”
The town can be hard to find using global positioning systems, too. Eckley’s mailing address is in Weatherly, Carbon County, and many don’t know to search for the mining village under “attractions.” Living off the grid, so to speak, can be nice, “until the UPS guy is trying to find you,” Kling said with a laugh.
She’s changed very little about the house her grandmother occupied until her death at age 81.
“The one thing that was here when I moved in I had to get rid of. It was her coal stove that she cooked on,” she said. “I didn’t feel that I was a good enough cook to use it.”
Kling recalled her grandfather’s garden in the sizable back yard on her property and admits she didn’t have the green thumbs needed to plant one of her own.
Those living in Eckley often would trade goods with one another, Kling said.
“Basically, they relied on neighbors,” she said. “We still have a lot of apple trees, pear trees, chestnut trees and blackberries and raspberries. I’m always out walking, picking something.”
Kling lives in the mining village with her boyfriend, Ed Shephard, and daughter Zoe Kling, 20. Zoe works in the Eckley gift shop and is always learning new things about the town.
“I only have one daughter. I’m not sure what her take on any of it would be, if she would actually like to live here or not,” she said. “I’ve never met anybody without history that really would love to live here. They always say we’d have to be crazy to stay here as long as we do.
“If you’re a history buff and you kind of know what you’re getting into,” she added, “this might be for you.”