James O’Connor was born in 1857 near Lake Ariel where his father, an Irish immigrant, ran a stationary steam engine on the Pennsylvania Coal Company Gravity Railroad. The rail line brought coal to Hawley, to be loaded on waiting canal boats. For a period of time, James lived with his grandfather Edward Donnegan, who also worked on the Gravity and lived at Shanty Hill. Many years later, while living in Scranton and working as a journalist, James wrote an account of his precious memories of Hawley, as a child. Part 1 told of his travels on the Gravity Railroad into Hawley as a boy with his mother. Here he describes life in Hawley. The original was published in the 1927 History of Hawleyby Michael J. McAndrew.
Life in Hawley
“I saw the first locomotive that entered Hawley. It came up over the Erie’s new branch from Lackawaxen in the summer of 1863. I was among the children who had just been let out of school. We assembled on the creek bank along River Street and looking across the stream, featured our eyes on the engine, which stood near the Pennsylvania Coal Company’s pockets. The machine was a wood burner with an expansive bell stack and was surrounded by a crowd of villagers. “Among my recollections of Hawley are the long trains of Gravity cars, the inclined planes, the extensive coal works, the Pennsylvania Coal Company’s machine shop, foundry and offices, numerous gravity trestles called highworks and the roomy Delaware & Hudson Canal basin lined with boats into which coal was dumped from early morning until nightfall. Then there was the weighlock and other canal locks, the swinging bridge over the Lackawaxen near the shops, the Paupack Falls and the Eddy. The skillful rafting in the narrow and frequently curving river was full of interest. “The largest building in Hawley at that time was the Ewen house. This hotel overlooked the canal basin and was named after John Ewen, who served a long time as President of the Pennsylvania Coal Company. It was particularly a show place at night when brightly lighted. “Number thirteen stationary engine as run by William Chambers. Cornelius Roche, who lived close to the engine house, was the fireman. He was the father of former Assemblyman John E. Roche, now of Scranton. The later was employed in various capacities on the Gravity. “My grandfather, Edward Donnegan, who lived on Railroad Street, was one of the men who were employed in constructing the Erie Railroad branch from Lackawaxen to Hawley... “Soon after my father’s death in January, 1863, I lived for six months with my grandfather at Hawley. Our neighbors on Railroad Street were Thomas Feury, Patrick Foy, James Carbine, Thomas Monahan, Michael Donnegan, Thomas McAndrew, Matthew Loughney, David O’Hara, William Brennan and Michael Golden. From my grandfather’s house I could look across the Middle Creek to Hugh Sheridan’s farm, which was the only clearing on the wets side of the creek and which contained Sheridan’s spring. “When I went to Hawley for the six months’ stay I attended a private school kept by James P. Kane in the basement of St. Philomena’s Church. From there I went to the Palmyra Township public school, which was then called the Red schoolhouse. It was taught by John Monaghan...
Page 2 of 3 - Good fishing & sledding
“I heard a great deal at Hawley about the good pickerel in the Paupack River at Shouse’s Mill Dam and saw one of the largest catches, especially those made in the winter through holes cut in the ice. I was greatly interested in this sport and would like to have seen more of it, but was prevented from doing so by the cold weather and the two-mile uphill tramp it required. “The Hawley youngsters were, in the winter, often on the long, steep incline extending past St. Philomena’s Cemetery [today: Queen of Peace] and into the village. Down this icy course they used to ride on sleds. The flights were full of excitement, frequently resulting in bodily injury. “Among the stores were Hoban & Honnegan’s, Thomas Ruddy’s, Thomas Mangan’s, and Barrett’s. There was also the Hawley Free Press, a weekly newspaper, and Connell’s stone building, which was used as a hotel. The youngsters looked upon the printing office as a depository of intellect and liked to peek in. “In the summer the children played ball, marbles, and hide and seek on Railroad Street, picked berries on both sides of the light track and roamed on the Delaware & Hudson’s [canal] towpath. The wagon road from Hawley to number fourteen was a favorite romping place. “When freshets occurred in the Middle Creek the Hawley bulkhead was greatly overflowed and much driftwood from the upper part of the stream collected in the dam. This bulkhead was built to supply a canal which carried water through the village and past the Green Hill to the engine house at the foot of number thirteen plane and to the water wheel at the foot of the coal pile. The wheel having run the plane on which coal from the storage dumps along the Lackawaxen was hoisted. The man and boys caught the driftwood. They were very daring and I have often wondered considering the risks which they took, leaping from log to log, why some of them did not drown.
St. Patrick’s Day parade
“I was in a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Hawley. The participants first attended mass at St. Philomena’s. The singing by the choir was beautiful. I can still remember the soprano, who outdid herself that day. She was Miss Connell. the procession, after traversing West Hawley went over the canal bridge near the Eddy, visited the East Side and came back to the center of the village, where it disbanded... “Beyond other motives for my trips to Hawley is that fact that my parents rest in St. Philomena’s Cemetery on the flowery hillside. As long as my strength remains I shall continue to visit regularly that graveyard in fond remembrance if my father and mother.”
Page 3 of 3 - More about James O’Connor
James was born in 1857. His parents John and Margaret (Donnegan) O’Connor were both from Ireland. Margaret, who was born in 1833 in County Sligo to Edward and Ann Donnegan, immigrated from the Irish Free State to America in 1851, joining her father who preceded her and had established a home in Hawley. She and John were married March 3, 1856. John owned a farm at Plane 18 as well as worked at the Pa. Coal Company Gravity Railroad stationary engine house. John O’Connor was born about 1827 in County Armagh. When he died in 1863 he left his wife to care for their three children. Mrs. O’Connor remained at Plane 18 Salem Township until April 1868 when she sold the farm and moved to Scranton where she had once lived. They lived at Eynon Street until 1889 when they moved to 442 New Street. She was a very active member of St. Peter's Cathedral organizations. Margaret O’Connor died on February 22, 1915; she was 82. Her body was taken by train to Hawley, and laid to rest in the Catholic cemetery. James O’Connor worked as telegraph editor for the Scranton Times. He also was city editor at the Truth, a former Scranton newspaper, and did reporting for various papers. A celebrated writer, the news writer’s union presented him with a handsome fountain pen at a banquet at the Casey Inn, January 17, 1914. The 1910 Census lists him as widowed, residing with his mother and sister. In 1930 he and Sarah still shared the same address. His brother Edward was a boilermaker in New York. Their sister Sarah O’Connor was a teacher at the Willard School in Scranton. A picture of James O’Connor, as welll as when he passed away was not found in the research.