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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: Recalling Nell Bros. Meat Market

  • No small town of yesteryear seems complete without a "butcher, baker and candlestick maker." While candle manufacturers in old time Hawley, Pennsylvania have not yet come to light, here we highlight a long time meat merchant family, which started with German immigrant Frederick Nell.
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  • No small town of yesteryear seems complete without a "butcher, baker and candlestick maker." While candle manufacturers in old time Hawley, Pennsylvania have not yet come to light, here we highlight a long time meat merchant family, which started with German immigrant Frederick Nell.
    The Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania, published in 1900, said of Nell two years after his death, "A brilliant example of a self-made american citizen, and a grand exemplification of the progress that an ambitious foreigner can make in this country of unbounded opportunities..."
    Census information shows that his German name was Paul Freidrich Nill. Born in Tebeen, Germany April 9, 1835, he was the son of a shoemaker, Michael Bernhart Nill (1802-1867) and Eva Maria Kurz (1800-1836). Frederick and his brother Otto lost their mother when Frederick was an infant. Both sons emigrated to the United States, Otto heading for the frontier town of San Francisco, California.
    In his native land, Frederick learned the butcher's trade. Believing that a fortune was to be made in America, he crossed the sea at the age of 15, taking 65 days at sail. Landing in New York, young Nell was employed four years for a meat contractor there. Due to his health his doctor recommended going back to sea; he made two trips to Liverpool.
    Finally coming back and locating at Rondout, NY on the Hudson River, where the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal ended, connecting with his eventual destination of Hawley nearly 100 miles distant and Honesdale at 108 miles.
    ••• Settled in Hawley
    After working for a butcher at Rondout for a year, in 1853 he arrived in Honesdale, Pa. and for six months took up the trade with a Mr. Goodwin. For a few years he located on the canal, and at last settled in Hawley in 1856.
    For two years he worked for a butcher by the name of Mr. Kaestine (Henry Koesting?), before opening his own meat shop in Hawley. Another reference says he worked for a well known local butcher, Mr. Sayder. Fred Scheeter also had a meat market in 1860 a the corner where the Falls Port is today at Main and Church.
    In 1862 he went into partnership with John H. Ames. Afterward he was in business with a Mr. Freedy for a year and a half, and since then worked for himself.
    For several years Nell bought, sold and shipped cattle and at one time was the most extensive cattle dealer in Wayne County. He had gained great popularity among the farmers of Wayne and Pike counties, reportedly due to his fair dealing in his extensive purchase of cattle.
    An 1872 business listing for "Fred Nell" in Hawley said he was a dealer in "fresh and salt meats."
    The 1872 map of Hawley locates Nell's meat market on 18th Street, which became Main Avenue, in the same location as the present brick storefront at 322 Main Avenue, the home of the China House restaurant. It appears the Nell family lived there as well at this point. Nell's meat market was in its own wooden building, which burned along with several others on that block in a conflagration on June 21, 1898. By that date it was known as Nell Bros.
    Page 2 of 4 - Their son Charles continued the meat market in the newly built brick row of buildings, at 322 Main.
    Nell as well as other early meat vendors would have had to rely on ice for refrigeration. Ice, carved from local lakes in the winter, was stored in insulated warehouses through the year. One local ice dealer in Hawley, in 1912, was Ernest Kahleis on Woodland Avenue.
    An 1885 Hawley map shows that Nell had a large ice house attached in back of the meat market.
    Attached the rear of the ice house was a shed, where presumably the butchering took place. The map shows a wide alley from Church Street where animals may have been brought in. Meat was then put on ice and sold out in front.
    He was sandwiched between a general store on the north and Cottage Hotel on the south. It appears that there were billiards played on the second floor over the meat shop. The family must have lived at another address.
    The 1892 map shows that there was a hall located above the meat market.
    ••• Nell's family
    In November 1860 he wed Miss Emilie Schmidt in Hawley. They had seven children: Amelia T., born 1862 and died in infancy; Joseph F. (1864), who married Lillie Frank; Frank Henry (1866-1933), who married Helena Rose; Charles Peter (1869-1939), who wed Elizabeth Baisden; Frederick J. (1872), who became a butcher in Hoboken, NJ; William Lawrence (1876-1935), who lived at home as of 1900; and Rheinhart (1878), who in 1900 was studying dentistry in Philadelphia.
    By the late 19th Century, Nell was practically retired, and his sons Joseph, Frank and Frank appear to have been in running the meat business. Charles was also interested in the business.
    Nell's wife Emilie was the daughter of German immigrants and was born in 1842 at Lackawaxen.
    Nell was a Democrat, and served two terms as treasurer of Hawley and Palmyra Township, before the borough was created in 1884. Afterward, he served two terms as treasurer of the township alone. He was an honored member of Lodge No. 305, F. & A.M. of Hawley; a charter member of Lackawaxen Lodge, International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.), and of the Knights of Honor Lodge of Hawley. He was connected with the German Reformed (Lutheran) Church.
    The Lackawaxen Lodge was a German-speaking branch of the Odd Fellows, which organized on May 18, 1869. A large percentage of the members of the Wangum Lodge in Hawley were of German descent and wished to conduct their ritualistic work in their native language. Nell served as Treasurer. They held their meetings in the Teeter building. In 1901 the younger members wished to return to the Wangum Lodge, and the Lackawaxen Lodge was merged with the mother lodge.
    He was also a charter member of the Hawley Maennerchor, a German social club which formed in 1874.
    Page 3 of 4 - Frederick Nell died suddenly on January, 23, 1898 at the age of 63. He was laid to rest at Walnut Grove (Old Eddy) Cemetery. His wife died in 1914.
    ••• Charles Nell took it over
    These were the days when it was common to find cattle grazing in backyards right in Hawley, or see them being led right down the principal streets, as it was in other towns. Providing a family's milk, local beef was plentiful.
    The 1912 directory lists Charles P. Nell operating Nell Bros. meat market; his wife at this stage was Jennie (Weber). They lived at the same address. Charles' brother William was a meat cutter; William and his wife Sarah were living on Keystone Street. By this time the store was operating in the recently built brick row of commercial buildings that is there today.
    Need to order some meat? Charles had a phone as early as 1906; his number was 30-3.
    Other meat markets in Hawley in 1912 were operated by Henry F. Bea, Church Street near Academy; Fred Poeppel, Church Street near Penn and August Wetzel, Keystone Street near Main.
    The 1925 directory lists three meat markets in Hawley, that of Kerber & Locklin, 217 Main Avenue; Charles P. Nell, 322 Main Avenue and August W. Wetzell, 511 Keystone Street.
    In 1927, Hawley meat markets included Kerber & Lynn; Charles P. Nell and Rose & Eberhardt, which took over from Wetzell.
    Charles P. and Jennie Nell had three children, Russell, Margaret and Charles. Russell S. Nell, born about 1900, was married to Amelia and in 1927 lived at 415 Main. He was a Hawley postal carrier. Russell served in World War I.
    Margaret E. Nell was born about 1905; the 1927 directory lists residence at 322 Main, where Charles and Jennie lived. She was a stenographer for the new power company that built Lake Wallenpaupack, PP&L. Charles Nell was born about 1918 in Hawley.
    The elder Charles P. Nell died in 1939. The 1953 directory shows Jennie still living in Hawley, at 320 Main. She stayed with Charles R. Nell, who worked for PP&L, and married to Ann. Amelia was working as a clerk for PP&L and lived at 204 Pine Avenue.
    The 1920 Census shows that the Nells had a servant, William Collins, an Irish immigrant, age 56.
    ••• Fond memories
    Thomas Sheridan Sr. recalls that Ernie Eberhardt worked for Charles Nell and took over after Nell's death. Sheridan remembered about Eberhardt, "He made the best ring bologna." Eberhardt later sold the shop to Joseph C. Austin who was listed in 1953 as running the meat market. There was one other meat market listed in Hawley at that time, that of Charles E. Kerber at 217 Main.
    June (Ellingsen) Strait, at age 93, fondly recalls Charles Nell and his shop. What really stands out for her was the many plucked chickens hanging in a row for customers to see. When a customer picked one out, the butcher took the chicken to the back room for cleaning.
    Page 4 of 4 - The Ellingsens, however, didn't need to buy chickens. They raised their own (like many did) at home up on top of Spruce Street. They had their own poultry business; June would help deliver them. Mostly they got their orders for chickens for Sunday dinner. Her parents would butcher the chicken on Saturday morning, and June and her four siblings would help pluck and clean the bird. She said they had no refrigerator or even an ice box. "We didn't need one," she said. They kept their meats in their cool cellar, where they could last for several days. Usually the customer would pick the chicken up on Saturday, all cleaned and ready for the oven.
    June was 17 when they finally got a refrigerator (about 1937). Their home, however, was one of the first in their area with indoor plumbing, electricity and a phone.
    Regarding the meat market, June also savored the sausage and ring bologna made by Ernie Eberhardt. June's mother would shop at various markets in Hawley; each one had its specialty.
    Carl Rose, who is 88 and born in Hawley, says he remembers a butcher at Eberhardt's named Guynusky. He remembers Joe Austin well and his large family, who were neighbors to the Roses. Joe's brother Howard and Carl joined the Navy together during World War II. Joe went into professional baseball.
    Rose said he suspects that the opening the A&P store next door to the former Nell meat market, pushed out butchers in the area.
    Jim McCabe opened a fish market at 322 Main, once Austin's meat market closed. McCabe's was open at least through most of the 1960's. The 1961 directory listed no meat markets in Hawley, but there were 10 grocery stores.

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