U.S. Route 6 runs from the tip of Cape Cod all the way to Owens Valley, California. Nestled in a peaceful valley along the 394-mile Pennsylvania stretch is a historic farm that was settled by James Jennings in 1832. For the next five generations, the Jennings family maintained the 240-acre property as an active dairy farm outside Meshoppen, a busy milling town located on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River.
In the mid-20th century, technology began to change the nation’s agriculture industry. New competition from large, industrial farms combined with skyrocketing expenses to update equipment forced many local farmers to make hard choices about the future of their operations. Around 1960, Harold Jennings and his wife Marge faced the same situation as other farmers across the country. The high cost of upgrading dairy sanitation equipment was greater than the farm’s operations could support. And while this marked the end of one chapter, it was just the beginning of an exciting, new chapter in the history of the Jennings farm.
Determined to keep the family farm operating as a viable business, Harold and Marge began exploring new uses for the land. It just so happened that around the same time, there was a nationwide movement to expand access to outdoor recreation by encouraging the growth of privately owned recreational facilities. It was then that Harold and Marge developed the idea of converting the farm into a family-focused campground. They applied for a special grant and developed a plan to make the natural beauty of the Meshoppen Creek the campground’s main attraction. After touring the property, federal officials agreed and the Jennings farm became one of the only known properties in Pennsylvania to receive the private recreation grant. In 1963, Slumber Valley opened as “the answer to recreation” in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Slumber Valley’s early years reflect the same experience of many small family businesses. The camp’s office originally operated on the Jennings’ front porch. But as word spread and more visitors found Slumber Valley, it quickly moved to a former chicken building and then to the former farm garage where it is housed today. Each year Slumber Valley continued to grow, adding features such as a playground, cabin, and one of the first handicapped-accessible fishing areas in the Commonwealth. In 1988, Harold retired from his other full-time job as Postmaster at the Meshoppen Post Office. After each holiday season, he and Marge would take extended trips to Florida, camping up and down the East Coast during their journeys. When they would arrive back in Meshoppen, Harold brought with him a list of features he encountered at other campgrounds that he had hoped to bring to Slumber Valley. Over the years Slumber Valley added an in-ground pool, sports fields, pavilions, a nature trail, miniature golf, and planned activities.
Just as farming had changed, camping today is very different than camping in 1963. The rise in popularity of recreational vehicles has attracted a new base of family campers. At Slumber Valley, modern RVs share the land with traditional tent campers, allowing all guests the opportunity to enjoy everything the campground has to offer.
Although day-to-day responsibilities have shifted to a new generation of Jennings children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, Harold and Marge still remain very active on the Slumber Valley Farm. Harold is frequently spotted on his John Deere Gator planting new trees and overseeing camp operations, while Marge enjoys seasonal walks with her companion Dusty, an energetic dachshund who also enjoys the sights and scents of the Slumber Valley farm.