The Irish and Germans both added substantially to the population of Hawley in the heyday of the mid-19th Century, when the small hamlet saw a building boom with the bringing of the gravity railroad. Among the German immigrants who contributed significantly to the town's success was Martin Reafler.
Reafler was both a hotel owner and sought to start a local power company that brought the wonder of electricity to Hawley, well before PP&L was ever organized or a dam was put down to form Lake Wallenpaupack.
Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania, published in 1900, said that Reafler "has been an important factor in business circles, and his popularity is well deserved, as in him are embraced the characteristics of an unbending integrity, unabated energy and industry that never flags."
••• Canal work at age 9
Reafler was born June 4, 1842 in Wittenberg, Germany, emigrating at the age of 6 to America with his parents, Michael and Barbara (Bauman) Reafler. They first settled in Honesdale where his father worked two years as a mason. From there they went to Smith Hill, northeast of Honesdale where the elder Reafler worked in a tannery. In 1860 they settled at Cherry Ridge and farmed. It was there that Michael Reafler died at the age of 72 in 1887; his wife died at 76, five years hence.
Martin was the eldest of four children. The second died in infancy. next was his brother Henry, who became a blacksmith at Hawley. The youngest, George, remained on the old homestead. Martin's maternal grandfather, Martin Bauman, was one of the earliest settlers of Honesdale.
At the age of 9, Martin Reafler started working on the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal, driving a horse on the towpath for a summer. He later worked doing chores until he was 12, when he went to work as an apprentice to learn he wheelwright trade with William Wicher of Mount Pleasant, Wayne County.
In 1860 he came to Hawley and worked at his trade for George Schman for three and a half years. He then bought out his employer and operated his own business successfully for 18 years. As many as five men worked for him. At the end he sold out to his brother Henry and J. H. Twigler and for the next five years worked in the livery business in Hawley.
After disposing at that business at a heavy loss, he went to New York City and worked at selling butter and eggs, and then pursued the carpenter trade. He went to Coney Island and was engaged in the restaurant business with his sister-in-law for a year. At that time he returned to Hawley.
••• Hotel business
In 1885 he took charge of the Wayne County House, managing it for four years for Mrs. Herman Frank. The Wayne County House still stands. Built in 1860, it was last known as the Heritage House gift shop and is located at the corner of Church Street and Wayne Street.
Page 2 of 4 - He then leased the place and ran the hotel successfully until 1896 when he sold it to Miss. Altemus.
Two months later, Reafler purchased from Jacob F. Siedler what was formerly known as the "German Hotel" on Church Street, near Bishop Avenue. The hotel is shown on the 1860 and 1872 maps, under the management of Fred Seidler. The Seider family also immigrated from Germany.
Reafler changed the name to the "Reafler Hotel." As of 1900, the establishment boasted 24 rooms, and was considered elegantly equipped and up to date with the electric lights.
In 1894 he purchased water power for the purpose of starting an electric plant, but could not get enough stockholders to aid him. He then sold to a Scranton firm, who organized the Hawley Light & Power Company on the Paupack Falls. The power plant was in the building now known as Timely Treasures, on Route 6 a short distance from the Hawley Silk Mill.
An August 1911 article stated that Lawrence H. Watres of Scranton was staying at Reafler's Hotel. The reporter surmised that Watres was likely in town in connection with "Hawley's greatest enterprise, that is, the great dam..." Completion of the Wallenpaupack dam was still 15 years away.
The 1908-1909 edition of the Julius Can-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide lists theaters which traveling vaudeville groups could book, by town. Also included are local hotel rates. For Hawley, it lists the Reafler House, Farmers' Exchange, Cottage and Wayne Hotel, where rooms could be found for $1.
City boarders were numerous in Hawley in the summertime and kept the hotels busy.
Their phone number in 1906 was 16-4.
••• Eight girls and one boy
Martin Reafler was married at Honesdale, June 12, 1864 to Ida Schurer, a native of Saxony, Germany. She died in 1865 at the age of 19 and was laid to rest in the Eddy Cemetery in Hawley. They had one child, Martin, who died in infancy.
On January 21, 1866 at Hawley, Martin Reafler was wed to a sister of his first wife, Ida Augusta Shurer. They had nine children- eight who were girls: Ida B. (married Charles H. Ehlert); Lena (married Joseph Weehle); Anna A.; Amelia A.; Marta B.; Hilda C.; William J.; Augusta L. and Flora C. As of 1900 the rest of the children lived at home.
The Ehlerts at that time had one child, Augusta H. and were living in New York. Joseph Weehle worked at a glass company in Hawley.
Mrs. Reafler, born Jan. 29, 1843, emigrated in 1852 with her family and settled in Hawley.
Martin Reafler belonged to the Lackawaxen Lodge No. 667, I.O.O.F. of Hawley; Lackawaxen Encampment No. 30; the Heptasophs No. 210 of Honesdale; High Sun Tribe No. 326 I.O.R.M. and was one of three charter members of the German Mannerchor Society of Hawley.
Page 3 of 4 - He was a member of the German Lutheran Church. He also served as overseer of the poor for seven years, and as constable for four years.
Martin operated the Reafler House until February 1912 when he sold his interests to Ambrose Altemus. On June 9, 1912, Martin Reafler passed away at home, at the age of 70. The
His wife survived him, and eight children, Mrs. Henry Rose, Henry, George, Edward, Frank, Reinard, Freda and Ida, all living in Hawley. As was the custom at the time, his funeral was held at his home. The Lutheran minister, R.E. Lucas, officiated. Martin's wife, eight daughters and one son survived him.
His brother Henry died at age 69, on July 12, 1913 in Hawley. Henry Reafler and his wife Annie had 12 children. Henry was a hard working blacksmith and was active in civic affairs. He served on Borough Council 16 years, was a school director and poor-master, each three years. For 25 years he was the treasurer at the German Lutheran church in town. Red Men, the Odd Fellows and other fraternities counted him as a member.
••• New ownership
Altemus had the popular hotel only a short time. On July 12, 1912 he sold it to Joseph A. Baschon.
The Citizen newspaper, published in Honesdale, had numerous ads for the Hotel Reafler. Baschon, was known for his fish dinners. A 1911 announced "another big fish dinner" to be served by Baschon's wife Nellie. The fresh fish were mainly caught by Mr. Baschon in nearby lakes. The hotel served single meals to the public as well as meals for their boarders.
"Hotel Reafler is one of the oldest public houses in Hawley," the 1912 ad boasted. "It has always been home like in its character."
The hotel was very popular with young men who worked in Hawley but whose home was elsewhere. The rooms were steam heated.
We know the Baschons operated the hotel as late as 1913. There is no listing for Baschon or the Hotel Reafler in the 1925 directory. A picture from what may be the teens shows an ice cream shop in the building, and men walking away with ice cream cones. The building is next door to the Church Street Hardware store and contains apartments today.
An account was published of a pleasant affair at the Hotel Reafler in November 1913. In fine detail, a banquet was described, put on by Peter L. Rose, the last apprentice in Hawley of the local branch of the Glass Bottle Blowers' Association (GBBA). Baschon had also been a glass blower.
His daughter Helen Baschon decorated the dining room in red and green streamers and had ferns and carnations on the tables. She and Peter Beilman supplied music. The guests, which included the National Secretary of the GBBA William Launer, were fed a repast of clam chowder, roast pork, potato croquettes, French peas, royal salad, chocolate cake and strawberry ice cream.
Page 4 of 4 -