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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: Irish immigrant's son starts Hawley Water Co.

  • The Barretts were among Hawley's Marble Hill Irish who proved themselves hard workers, aiding in the active coal transfer from the gravity railroad to the canal boats or trains in their adopted town. Martin Barrett, who was born in Hawley, partnered with his brother-in-law to form Hawley's first municipal water company.
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  • The Barretts were among Hawley's Marble Hill Irish who proved themselves hard workers, aiding in the active coal transfer from the gravity railroad to the canal boats or trains in their adopted town. Martin Barrett, who was born in Hawley, partnered with his brother-in-law to form Hawley's first municipal water company.
    No images of their likeness have surfaced; we have some information on their lives, thanks to interest in their time to record for posterity something of who they were. Old maps of 19th Century Hawley pinpoint their domicile, right in the heart of the fiercely protective bonds of their countrymen, their own claim of ground overlooking Hawley proper, an outpost of beloved County Mayo so very far beyond the sea.
    Alexander Barrett was born October 31, 1826 in County Mayo, Ireland, where his father, Richard Barrett, was a farmer. Richard and his wife- whose name was McDonald- moved to England in 1847. Richard was a veteran of the Rebellion of 1798.
    ••• Arrived from Ireland
    Alexander was one of eight children. His brother Thomas also emigrated to Hawley, where he died at the age of 47. Alexander Barrett assisted his father on the farm until he was 21, when he emigrated to the United States (in about 1847). At first Alexander was settled in Lackawaxen in Pike County where he learned the blacksmith's trade. After two years he went west to Ohio, and took a steamboat to St. Louis, Missouri. Due to a cholera epidemic in that frontier town, Alexander returned to Pennsylvania, settling in Hawley in 1849.
    He made his home among fellow Irish families in the Shanty Hill (later known as Marble Hill) settlement, a neighborhood established by the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) for the purpose of lodging a wave of Irish immigrant laborers needed to work on the gravity rail operations as well as the Delaware & Hudson Canal in Hawley.
    The Barrett home is found on the 1860 and 1872 Hawley maps on the north side of what is now Grandview Avenue (then known as 28th Street), half way between North Street (22nd) and Vine Street (23rd).
    From Marble Hill, families had easy access across the old bridge that spanned the Middle Creek to Wangum Street and reach the Catholic Church. Their work was ever present and visible, and very much heard, as the gravity rails going past their homes brought lines of coal-laden cars to the foot of Marble Hill where there was a large coal breaker. Here is where the New Covenant Fellowship church has stood since 1989, opposite the Hawley Fire Hall.
    One might imagine the squeal of the wheels on rails, crushing noise of dumping coal and banging cars, the clouds of coal dust and ever-present danger to the curious children. Pity the lady of the house trying to dry the family clothes on the line. This went on six days a week; the Sabbath must have been much appreciated.
    Page 2 of 4 - Alexander Barrett arrived just as the PCC was getting ready to begin operations. He started working for the PCC and remained in their employ 37 years, when he retired.
    He died May 19, 1898, a member of the Catholic Church and a Democrat. He served nine years as school director, and was treasurer of the board for part of the time.
    The year after coming to Hawley, on October 31, 1850, Alexander Barrett was married to Miss Hannah O. Quinn. Rev. Father Maloney performed the ceremony at Hawley. St. Philomena's Catholic Church was not established until 1852 and Rev. William O'Hara was the first pastor. Where this ceremony took place we are not told.
    Hannah was also born in County Mayo, Ireland, where her parents were farming people. This devout Catholic family also emigrated. Hannah's sister Sarah married Anthony Welch, and lived in Hawley. Brother Martin became a car repairer in Scranton. Their sister Mary, wed to Michael Narry, also lived in Scranton. Mr. Quinn also had three children by his first wife, who came to America. Owen lived in Scranton; Michael in Hawley and Catherine, wed to Edward Cafferty, lived in Hawley.
    Alexander and Hannah Barrett had four children, Mary A.; Bridget; Louis and Martin R. Mary was wed to James Reilly, a railroad conductor in Dunmore; they had seven children. Bridget married Edward McAndrew, a machinist in Scranton, and had five children. Louis died when he was four and a half years of age.
    ••• Martin Barrett
    Martin R. Barrett was described in Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Penn, published in 1900. He was "one of the self-made prosperous men of Hawley, Wayne County..." A merchant of several years, he was born in Hawley on July 11, 1861.
    Martin lived with his parents at Shanty Hill, Hawley until he was the age of 19. He then went to Scranton, where he served one year as sexton of the Cathedral. For three years he worked for the PCC at Hawley, transferring coal from the pockets, and worked there until the pockets were dispensed with. Returning to Scranton, he spent a year in repairing railroad cars in the shops.
    We can picture how Martin and others would have traveled to Scranton and back in those days. Very likely it would have been on the PCC gravity railroad, getting a ride in one of the passenger coaches- such as the one preserved outside the Hawley Public Library today. After 1885 the transport of choice was the Erie steam train which replaced the gravity railroad.
    Martin returned to Hawley and worked in different occupations for a couple years; in 1889 he was back in Scranton, embarking in the mercantile trade. He sold out after a year and came back to Hawley. Here he continued his mercantile and was so engaged in 1900 when his biography was penned.
    Page 3 of 4 - "Mr. Barrett has now a thriving trade, which he has won by fair dealing and strict attention to business, and he has made a creditable success in his line as a result of continuous hard work and thrifty management," his biographer stated.
    He also served as the local tax collector, in 1888. Martin was a Democrat.
    The 1907-07 Hawley street directory lists Martin R. Barrett as a grocer on Keystone Street (15th) at the southeast corner with Maple Avenue (19th). He and his wife lived at the same address. The same directory lists Nora Barrett- widow of Alexander- living in Marble Hill. (It is not clear is if Nora and Hannah were the same person.)
    Joseph Skier, who had a dry goods store on Main Avenue and Keystone, purchased Barrett's store and dwelling in May of 1911. A newspaper account said Barrett was to be staying in the employ of the purchaser.
    As of August 1911, however, The Citizen reported that Martin Barrett and his family were moving back to Scranton. He had secured a position in a large warehouse there. His family was moving into rooms of Mrs. Barrett's mother's home in Marble Hill until the fall.
    The 1912-13 directory, however, listed he and his wife living in Marble Hill. Martin was employed as a laborer.
    ••• His family
    On April 25, 1894, Martin Barrett was wed to Elizabeth C. Sheridan. Father John H. Judge performed the ceremony.
    Father Judge, of St. Philomena's in Hawley, was the priest who named Marble Hill. As we told earlier, there was a parish picnic, where he suggested that the women from Shanty Hill hold a marble cake baking contest. After selecting the winner of the most choice slice of delectable marble cake, the good priest christened the neighborhood "Marble Hill." Father Judge served the Hawley church from 1891 to 1899.
    Elizabeth, a native of Hawley, was born to Michael and Ann (Lennon) Sheridan. Her father had a teaming business in town, and owned several wagons. He also had a farm just outside of town and purchased a canal boat.
    Elizabeth was one of nine children. Her siblings were Catherine, Michael, Mary A., Jennie, William, Edward, John and Anna.
    Thomas E. Sheridan (Tom), who lives in the Hawley area and retired as president of the Hawley Bank, is a great-great grandson of Elizabeth's father Michael. Tom said it was this ancestor that emigrated from Ireland. The Sheridans settled on the East Side in Hawley and were attracted to the Delaware & Hudson Canal. Michael Sheridan's store and home was on Hudson Street.
    *** Formed a water company
    Martin went in business with his brother-in-law Michael to start a water company. The date is uncertain, but was before 1894. Martin owned a spring at the far end of River Street, off Wangum Avenue and near the old bridge to Marble Hill and Maley's swimming hole. "Barrett's Spring" was tapped to deliver water to their customers, using wooden pipe made from white pine logs.
    Page 4 of 4 - They later needed more water, and took it from the elder Michael Sheridan's farm which was situated up on higher grade past the end of Keystone Street.
    This appears to be the forerunner of the water company that continued to serve Hawley. Tom said that when sewer lines were first being laid in the early 1980's, some of the wooden water pipes were found.
    Laying of water pipes would soon prove crucial to the town. Several huge fires led to the forming of Hawley Fire Department in 1898; a system of hydrants were then installed.
    The Sanborn fire insurance map for Hawley dated July 1897 listed local water facilities as "not good." Water lines were not shown on this map. The 1903 map, however, indicates that Hawley was served by a gravity system from a 3 million gallon reservoir and an 8" main line to the borough and 5 to 4" feeder lines to the hydrants.
    The line on the 1903 map came down River Street and served Main Avenue, Church Street and Keystone to Penn. The line also went down Hudson Street.
    Michael Sheridan, the elder, died Sept. 19, 1894, in a wagon accident as he was crossing the Paupack Creek at Cromwelltown. The bridge collapsed as the wagon, heavily loaded with stones, was passing over. Tom said that the water company had to be sold to pay for the repairs of the bridge.
    Michael the younger also had a son named Michael, who was Tom's grandfather. Michael's son Joseph was Tom's father.
    Martin and Elizabeth Barrett had seven children, Joseph, John and Louis, all who died in infancy; Alexander, Mary, Elizabeth and Helen.
    The Barretts continued with the Catholic Church. Martin was a member of the Ancient Order of the Hiberians.
    The 1920 Census lists Martin and his family living in Scranton, where Martin was working as a janitor for a church and school. They were there in 1930 as well; Martin was working for the railroad.
    A granddaughter of Martin and Elizabeth Barrett, Mary Flanagan Davis, posted on Ancestry.com that her grandmother died in 1949 and her grandfather in 1950. Her mother was Helen Barrett. They were all laid to rest at St. Philomena's (Queen of Peace) cemetery in Hawley.

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