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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • LOCAL HISTORY: Shoe merchants for three generations

  • German family by the name of Warg brought three generations of shoe and boot manufacturing and sales to Hawley. Reinhard R. Warg had his business at the corner of Main Avenue and Church Street, in what is now the parking lot for Fluff's Deli.
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  • A German family by the name of Warg brought three generations of shoe and boot manufacturing and sales to Hawley. Reinhard R. Warg had his business at the corner of Main Avenue and Church Street, in what is now the parking lot for Fluff's Deli.
    Starting in the 1850's, Warg's father made shoes in Hawley, and passed on his trade to his son, who in turn passed it to the third generation, Reinhard F. Warg, who was still in the shoe business here in the early 1900s. Reinhard F. died in 1915.
    Reinhard Robert Warg was born in Saxony, Germany June 6, 1836. He was brought to America in 1852 by his parents, Carl Friedrich Warg and Johanna Wilhelmina (Meinel) Warg, locating first at Wilsonville, Wayne County, Pennsylvania. (Note: Other references give his name as Charles F. Warg. According to his descendant Allan Rauner, Carl also went by the name of Charles).
    A year later, in 1853, they settled in the village of Hawley, which at this stage was undergoing a boom in construction and population. The Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) had started their gravity railroad in 1850, bringing coal to Hawley for shipment on the canal. The PCC was responsible for laying out much of the town south of the canal and river. The great influx of residents were in need of services- not the least was shoes and boots to fit on their feet.
    On November 18, 1861, Carl Warg purchased the southeast corner lot for $550 from Michael Morris at what is now Church and Main. Morris kept a store here. It is here that the shoe business became established and first and second generations in Hawley made their home.
    He had an apprentice by the name of John Hess, also an ancestor of Rauner.
    Carl died in 1866 at the age of 67; his wife died 10 years later, at the age of 66.
    In 1865, Carl Warg wrote his last will and testament, in which he left his tools and furniture connected with his shoe and boot trade to his son Reinhard. He also left $50 worth of leather. The will also provided for his wife other personal property, and made financial arrangements through Reinhard for the care of Reinhard's mother.
    Richard Teeter, who started the furniture business in Hawley in 1849, was one of the witnesses when the will was written.
    His parents were faithful members of the First German Congregational Church which is now known as St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church. . In addition to Reinhard R., they had two other sons Michael and Carl, and two daughters, Louisa and Augusta. The others settled in other parts of the United States.
    ••• Second generation
    The first two years after coming to Wayne County, Reinhard R. Warg worked in a sawmill and went to Allentown to work in a woolen mill. In 1859 he returned to Hawley and served an apprenticeship to the shoemaker's trade with his father, and upon his father's death took charge of the business. He later established a regular shoe store which he successfully ran until he too passed.
    Page 2 of 5 - Prior to an inferno that took out most of the "waterfront" commercial section on 1st Street (Hudson) overlooking the canal basin (what is now Bingham Park), Reinhard Warg had a shoe repair shop here. The 1872 Hawley map shows "P. Warg" (possibly meant to be "R. Warg") connected with a building on 16th Street (Church) close to the corner with 18th Street (Main). The Wargs' shoe business continued at this corner into the 1900's.
    ••• Photographer predated Hensel
    Reinhard and his wife were also connected with the First German Congregational Church. The church started meeting in a local schoolhouse in 1853 and then in the Presbyterian church on Prospect Street. A meeting of church leaders was held May 24, 1863 in Warg's photo gallery where they voted to build their own church on the present lot on 18th Street (Church Street).
    Reinhard R. Warg in his early years went to Honesdale where he learned the photography trade from Charles Foedish. An 1875 business directory lists for R. Warg, "boots, shoes and photographs." His 1866 tax assessment lists him as a photographer. He was established well before the better known Louis Hensel started his photography studio in Hawley in 1878.
    Pictures that Warg may have taken of Hawley and the surrounding area, as well as its local citizens, would be invaluable for local historians. Most of Hensel's early work was lost in a fire in 1897.
    Reinhard R. Warg was one of the founders and president of the Hawley Maennerchor, a long-time social organization that attracted residents of German decent. He also served as treasurer of the Odd Fellows Lodge.
    He was often called upon to fill positions in both public and private life, serving as guardian for three different families. He was remembered as charitable and benevolent, and active in church work. He was a Democrat, but never sought public office.
    Deeply interested in education, an article in 1900 credited Reinhard R. Warg as the founder of the graded school in Hawley, which was built in 1879 on what came to be called Academy Street. He also served as school director for six years, declining a second term.
    On August 23, 1863, Warg was married to Mary E. Koesting. She was born in Hesse, Germany on Feb. 6, 1844 and came to America in 1854. Her mother died only three weeks after their arrival. After living in Stroudsburg where her father, Henry, ran a mill, in 1860, he located to Hawley. Koesting operated a meat market here for three years and then went to Milford where he continued the same trade.
    Reinhard R. and Mary Warg were the parents of seven children, all but three died before they were adults. Their first born was Reinhard F., described later; Carl died at the age of 14; Amelia died at six years old; Frederick died at the age of three years; Frank, born in 1878; Augusta died at 16 years; Lena was living at home with her mother in 1900; and Charles F. died in 1890 at the age of eight years.
    Page 3 of 5 - Their daughter Augusta G. was an accomplished musician and played the organ at church beginning when she was 12 years of age. She died Oct. 7, 1892, at the age of 16.
    Frank J. F. Warg became a printer and in 1900 was working in New York City. He became publisher of the Hawley Times and was so listed in the 1912 directory. He was an Army veteran of the Spanish American War of 1898-1899.
    He died on June 18, 1919. In Frank's will, written in 1918, he remembered his faithful employees at the Hawley Times, as well as his family. He also willed his fishing tackle to George R. Jacobs.
    Reinhard R. and Mary had their home on Church Street, in the same building as the shoe store.
    ••• Fatal accident
    The elder Reinhard R. Warg was killed on a pleasure trip on Monday evening, February 26, 1883. Honesdale Citizen had two detailed articles on the accident. Warg was with a party of 32 "gentleman and ladies," most who were staying at the Wayne County Hotel in Hawley (what we know as the former Heritage House gift shop on Church Street).They left at about 8 p.m.
    They were riding in a large omnibus pulled by four horses, and were "merrily joking and singing" as they went. The party was headed to a dance just above Hawley at Hintze's Hotel- which we know today as the D&H Canal Park Lock 31 House, a mile from town. Hintze operated an inn and canal store.
    Traveling the plank road (Route 6 was paved with wood planks), they passed through the toll gate at the end of town. "Warg has been particularly jolly on the ride, singing in German as the party passed through the toll gate. 'I am passing through the gate, Adieu! Adieu!'"
    The reporter then adds that a half hour later, Warg "had indeed passed through the gates of the Eternal City."
    Although the driver, Daniel Wickham, was said to be driving with care, the road was icy which caused the omnibus to swerve. A wheel hit a rock and the whole carriage, horses and occupants turned over, and slid 15 feet down onto the ice in the canal bed.
    Warg was the only one killed; he died within a couple hours. Most everyone had injuries, of varying degree. Although dazed, passenger Isadore Levine hurried for help, removing his shoes due to the ice. Aid and lights were obtained from Hintze's. Dr. Dingman and Dr. Plum from Hawley came to assist the suffering, who did not reach their homes till after midnight.
    A subsequent edition said that the injured were all recovering. Warg, however, was mourned with a great assembly at his funeral at his home. A special train left Honesdale carrying Lodge members and friends to pay their respects to the family.
    Page 4 of 5 - Concerning the accident, the "prevailing sentiment" in Hawley, the newspaper reported, was that the turnpike company should have had guard rails in place. The plank road (Route 6) between Honesdale and Hawley was built by a turnpike company which had toll gates in place to pay for the road.
    The date of this fearful accident is etched in stone, marking Reinhard R. Warg's death on an imposing monument in the Old Eddy (Walnut Grove) Cemetery in Hawley.
    ••• Third & fourth generation
    The first born child, Reinhard F., who was born June 22, 1864, inherited and conducted the boot and shoe store in Hawley. In 1885, he married Rosa T. Merz (or Mertz). Their children were Reinhard Herman Warg, born May 6, 1886; a daughter, whose name has been variously spelled as Lizzetta, Liscette and Elizabeth, and another daughter, Carrie (Ketchel), born 1884, who the Wargs adopted in 1910. Rosa was born in 1865 in New Jersey.
    Reinhard F. continued the shoe business at the corner of Church and Main, where he also resided; later, the family moved to 319 Penn Avenue.
    Their daughter died June 5, 1905.
    Reinhard F.'s mother, Mary, still lived in the homestead on Church Street. Mary sold it in 1921. She died on July 6, 1922.
    Their son Reinhard Herman Warg worked as a clerk in the early 1900s in his father's shoe store. He did not carry on the family shoe business.
    As least as early as 1917, he was a laborer at the Hawley Glass Company and was listed as a silk worker in 1920. Reinhard H. Warg apparently stayed single. His 1942 draft card tells us he was of ruddy complexion, has brown hair and grey eyes, was 5' 7-1/2" and 162 pounds.
    The store's phone listing in 1908 was 9-2.
    Reinhard F. appears to have followed his father's shoe steps as well in caring for families. The Dec. 21, 1900 issue of the Pike County Press carried an item saying Warg was appointed to give a bond of $400 each to two children whose father had died.
    Warg was an active member of the Hawley Lodge, No. 305, F. & A.M. In December 1908 he was appointed as Representative to the Grand Lodge. His brother Frank was elected as Worshipful Master. Reinhard F. was a Democrat, and served as School Director, Treasurer and County Auditor. Warg became a director of the First National Bank of Hawley, which opened in 1903. He was also a fireman, a member of the Red Men, German Mannerchor and the Elite Club.
    He was very active at the Lutheran church, where he sang in the choir, taught Sunday School and Luther League.
    An item in the Aug. 10, 1910 Citizen newspaper reported, "The progressive shoe merchant Reinhard T. Warg was the first to try the experiment of laying the dust with oil in front of his residence on Penn Avenue" (Note: "T" must have been an error).
    Page 5 of 5 - The store was still in operation at least into 1912.
    He died at home on January 17, 1915 from tuberculosis.
    Rosa continued to live at 319 Penn Avenue, sharing the house with her son. Her occupation in 1940 was listed as proprietor of a tourist home, presumably at 319 Penn.
    The 1953 Hawley street directory says Reinhard H. was living at 315 Bishop Avenue; he would have been in his high 60's. His mother was living with him. When she died has not been found. Reinhard H. died in April 1970 at Milanville, Wayne County.
    Many if not all of the Wargs were laid to rest at Walnut Grove (Old Eddy) Cemetery, Hawley.
    We would love to know more about the Wargs' shoe business. An article in Illustrated Wayne, published in 1900, tells us Reinhard F. Warg had a reputation for fair dealing and was well stocked. He also "had attracted an excellent and increasing patronage."
    ••• Others in the shoe trade
    The village of Hawley has had numerous shoe stores through the decades, as revealed in various business directories. There could have been others, that did not pay to be listed.
    The 1875-76 Hawley business directory, besides Warg, lists Jacob Daniels, H. V. Edwards, John Weber and John Weinss as shoemakers. Charles Vernier sold boots and shoes as well as dry goods in the Teeter building.
    In 1912, in addition to Warg, Goldbach & Pennell operated a shoe store on Main Avenue near Keystone. Edward Goldback and John C. Pennell were the owners.
    In 1925, Abraham Keller sold shoes at 215 Main and William A. Quinney had a shoe store at 502 Church. In addition, there were three shoe repairers in town, Reinhold Matthey, 151 Crystal; Andrew V. Sheeley, 410 Penn and Adelbert Wallinger, 315 Main. In 1927, Louis Krawitz, who had a department store at 309 Main Avenue, sold shoes, in addition to Keller and Quinney. Victor Titone was also repairing shoes by this time.
    Guy A. Gillette fixed shoes at 307 Main in 1944; there was no shoe store listed in the directory.
    Taking a step to 1953, we find no separate shoe store listing and only one man repairing footwear in Hawley, Benny Domnick, 305 Main.
    Hawley Shoe Repair operated at 520 Church Street, in 1961.

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