Historical Markers
Celestia Historical Marker
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Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
Pa. 42 1-1/2 miles west of Laporte

Dedication Date:
October 22, 1999

Behind the Marker

Peter Armstrong, founder of the religious community of Celestia.
Peter Armstrong, founder of the religious community of Celestia.
The date of His arrival was set - Tuesday, October 22, 1844. On this day, Baptist minister William Miller told his Adventist followers, Jesus would return to earth and usher in the new millennium. Those who were sanctified would be carried up to heaven. Those who were not - the sinners of the world - would be burned alive in the immense fires God would send to destroy the earth. On the night of October 21st, Millerites dressed in white robes gathered on hillsides in western New York and climbed trees to meet their savior. Unfortunately, He didn't come.

One of those on a hill that night was a young Pennsylvanian named Peter E. Armstrong. Armstrong was disappointed that the Second Coming didn't happen according to Miller's prediction, but his faith remained unshaken.

In 1850, Armstrong and a small band of followers established a new home outside the town of Laporte in the Endless Mountains of Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. In honor of the great heavenly event that he predicted would occur on that very site, Armstrong called this place Celestia. Within three years Armstrong sold more than one hundred 20 by 100-foot lots to his followers, then purchased more land between Laporte and Eagles Mere.

By 1860, the Christian utopia of Celestia was spread over 600 acres. The small but thriving village included a machine shop, a meeting house, sawmill, and store, which members owned communally. To make their purpose plain to all, Armstrong deeded all of Celestia to "Almighty God and to his heirs in Jesus Messiah for their proper use and. . .forever." Then they waited for signs of Christ's return to earth.
Town plan
Plot map for the religious community of Celestia, Sullivan County, PA, ...

They didn't have to wait long. To the residents of Celestia and other millennialist Christians across the nation, the opening guns of the Civil War in 1860 were a sure sign of Christ's Second Coming. Reasoning that his followers lived apart from the world as peaceful marker "aliens and wilderness exiles," Armstrong forbade the young men of his holy community from registering for the draft. For four years, the War of the Rebellion raged on. The residents of Celestia continued their private mission of devotion, prayer, and watchful waiting, but still their Christ did not appear.

After the Civil War ended, the great national wave of religious revivalism that had inspired Armstrong and his followers had become a distant memory for most Americans. But in this isolated corner of the Endless Mountains, a handful of the faithful held on, determined that Christ would come to Celestia. Because he considered this land the property of "Almighty God," Armstrong had not paid property taxes for years.

In 1876, the county demanded payment of back taxes, and when Armstrong's followers were unable to come up with the funds, sold the land for back taxes. Armstrong's son purchased the property, but the spirit and faith of the community began to evaporate, and by 1887 Celestia ceased to exist. Abandoned and forgotten, it became a ghost town. Over the years, homes collapsed and fields returned to forest as nature quietly reclaimed the sacred mountain village.
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