News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: Michael Corcoran, merchant from Marble Hill (Part 2)

  • Part 1 in this story spoke of an Irish family by the name of Corcoran who had escaped a terrible famine in the late 1840's, sailing for America. Thomas and Mary Corcoran, with four surviving children (one died in Ireland and another- a baby- died of fever before they disembarked), settled in Hawley in 1852. They lived at Sha...
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  • Part 1 in this story spoke of an Irish family by the name of Corcoran who had escaped a terrible famine in the late 1840's, sailing for America. Thomas and Mary Corcoran, with four surviving children (one died in Ireland and another- a baby- died of fever before they disembarked), settled in Hawley in 1852. They lived at Shanty Hill, later known as Marble Hill, a Hawley neighborhood of immigrants from County Mayo, Ireland. Like others, Thomas was attracted here by the plentiful work provided by the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) Gravity Railroad and the Delaware & Hudson Canal, which the PCC was serving.
    Their son Michael Corcoran was born in Ireland on July 29, 1843 and turned nine the year the came to Hawley.
    School in those days was only available during the winter months when the canal and gravity railroad were closed. Providing instruction for the Marble Hill children was a schoolhouse along what is today Columbus Avenue, just west of the main settlement and still standing to this day. The school, in fact, opened the same year the Corcorans arrived.
    Like most if not all of their fellow Irish immigrants, the Corcorans were Roman Catholic. The year 1852 also brought a new church to Hawley, a wooden house of worship known as St. Philomena's. The new Catholic church was established by the Irish who settled here; today it is known as Queen of Peace and is on the same site.
    When Michael turned 12 years of age he went to work for four years picking slate from the coal at the canal dock in Hawley.
    Perhaps he worked alongside Edmund Burnham Hardenbergh, three years younger, who also picked slate in Hawley and went on to become a state senator and auditor.
    After this Michael was employed trimming boats for five years for the PCC, and then worked for awhile as a general laborer. For 19 years he was foreman of a crew of men on section 19 of the PCC gravity railroad.
    On October 11, 1870 at St. Philomena's Church, Michael Corcoran was wed to Bridget Boland. Father John P. O'Malley officiated. To the Corcorans were born seven children, John J., Mary, Thomas M., Bridget D., Michael, Peter M. and Daniel D..
    Their home was on what is now Columbus Avenue, adjacent to Michael's parents. The 1872 map lists it as 29th Street. Seven of their children were born in the house; in 1884 Michael bought a lot across the street and built a new house for the family. Their last child, Daniel, was born there on December 30, 1884.
    Starting in 1884, until November 6, 1896, Michael was trackman for the N.Y.L.E. & W. railroad. Since that time he was a successful merchant. Their daughter Bridget (Bea) Dorothy Corcoran graduated from Hawley High School in 1896 and in November of that year with her father opened a grocery store at 305 Keystone Street, near Chestnut Avenue.
    Page 2 of 3 - At the time of the account in 1900 Michael was practically retired, while his children conducted the store for him.
    The 1912 Hawley street directory lists the store under the ownership of Michael; he and wife Bridget were residing at 116 Columbus Ave., Marble Hill. Their store phone number was 1-3, according to the 1910 phone book.
    Their daughter Bea and son Peter M. were both listed as working as clerks, and resided on Main Avenue. Mary's residence was given as both Main and Marble Hill. Daniel had a barbershop at 207 Main Avenue near River Street; he lived at Marble Hill. He was known as "Boots" Corcoran. John J., married to Helen A., was a "car repairman" and resided on Wangum near Keystone. Thomas M., married to Esther E., was listed as an "operator" and resided on Keystone Street close to Wangum Avenue.
    Michael Corcoran's wife Bridget also was born at County Mayo, Ireland. Her parents, John and Bridget (Hughes) Boland, never left the Emerald Isle. Two of her sisters also came to Hawley; Mary was wed to Patrick Welsh and Winifred was married to John McGinty, a rail car inspector. Her maternal grandparents, Martin and Bridget (Gilday) Hughes, emigrated as well and came to Hawley in 1867.
    The 1900 account states that Michael Corcoran served as town clerk in Palmyra Township for the past nine years, and also served as auditor and school director. He supported the Democratic party and with his family were members of the Catholic church.
    He was appointed to oversee the poor in Palmyra Township by the Wayne County Court in January 1911.
    In September 1910 he was elected as one of the charter board directors of the Hawley Bank.
    Michael Corcoran died on Wednesday morning, December 18, 1912 at home, at the age of 72.
    The 1925 Hawley directory lists his wife Bridget as a widow, working as a grocer at the family store.
    The Corcorans were easily able to get back and forth from Columbus Avenue on Marble Hill to the store on Keystone Street or to church by taking the old bridge over Middle Creek that connected with the end of River and Wangum.
    During the flood of May 22-23, 1942, the Marble Hill Bridge washed out, just seconds after great-grandchildren of Michael and Bridget Corcoran- Daniel, James and Marie Corcoran and their mother Kathryn had crossed it.
    Bea Corcoran
    "Aunt Bea" is still remembered to this day. She was born January 25, 1878 and lived to be almost 105. She never married.
    Her mother also had a very long life, passing away on August 8, 1948 at the age of 103. Bea's sister Mary died at age 95.
    Bea ran the store until it was sold in 1947. The building was purchased by the Sonners. Frederick Sonner continued to operate a grocery market there (the Keystone Market) in the 1950's and 60's. In the 1970's it was used as the Hawley Senior Center. William and Katherine Wyckoff live there today.
    Page 3 of 3 - A resident of Marble Hill, Miss Bea Corcoran was a Democratic Committeewomen from the time that women received the right to vote. She held the office for over 50 years and was active in politics all her life.
    With Gov. David Lawrence, she cut the ribbon when the four lane bridge carrying Route 6 at the county line at Wilsonville was dedicated. "Aunt Bea," as she was known, died on November 4, 1982. She had been a resident of Wayne Memorial Hospital Extended Care Facility since 1974, but was sound in mind to nearly the end.
    June Strait, who is 93 and lives near Hawley, said Bea and her mother were very good friends. She recalled Bea as very active in local politics, on the phone encouraging Democrats to go the polls. Bea had lost her sight in her last years, June remembered, but recognized people's voices and greeted visitors at the hospital by name.
    Ann Morgan recalled visiting Bea Corcoran's store on Keystone Street as a kid. "I used to buy my candy there after school," she said. She said there were lots of old-fashioned wooden display cases.
    She remembers visiting Bea at her home and in the nursing facility. "She was the most precious, sweetest little old lady there ever was," Ann said.
    Great grandchildren of Michael and Bridget Corcoran still live in the area.
    Daniel A. Corcoran, a retired Hawley postman, still lives at Marble Hill in the Corcoran homestead, where his forefathers lived. Michael and Bridget Corcorans' son John was their grandfather. Bea Corcoran was their great aunt. Daniel's sister, Rose Winkler lives in Hawley and his sister Marie Gumble resides in Paupack.
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