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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: Hotelier served as county sheriff

  • Charles G. Armbruster was proprietor of the Keystone Hotel, a prominent Hawley landmark now long gone, and served as sheriff of Wayne County.
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  • We have a brief biography for him in Illustrated Wayne, which was published in 1900. Several instances in the newspapers or in his biography he is referred to as having a "genial" personality.
    Charles Armbruster came into this world in March 1853 at Mauch Chunk, Pa., now known as Jim Thorpe in Carbon County. After attending public schools and Downington Academy, "he began the battle of life down the towpath," as his biographer states.
    In Mauch Chunk, Charles' father operated a hotel. A 1911 postcard shows the town's Solidier's Monument outside the Armbruster Hotel.
    The 1880 Census shows that Charles was working in a restaurant in Mauch Chunk; he and his wife Martha had three young children- eventually they would have 12- Annie C., age 5; Charles L., 3 and Edward E., age 2. Next door was his parents, Lewis Armbruster, age 50 from Baden, Germany, listed as a hotel keeper; and Maria Armbruster, of Alsace, France, age 48.
    ••• Keystone Hotel
    Charles G. Armbruster pursued a varied career, prior to coming to Hawley and becoming proprietor of the Keystone Hotel in 1887.
    The Armbruster family resided at the hotel; by 1894 they lived in their own house.
    Keystone Hotel was three stories and made of concrete; it stood at the corner of Main Avenue and River Street - then known as 18th and 14th streets- in the same location as the brick Odd Fellows Hall. The large and handsome hotel had 30 rooms. One of the few pictures that have been located of the hotel show there was a central entranceway of steps. There was a barroom downstairs.
    The Keystone Hotel was constructed in 1876 by William Schardt. That same year, Hawley lost another large hotel and ball room, the Ewen House, to fire.
    When Hawley Borough was formed from Palmyra Township, the first Borough elections were held at the Keystone Hotel on February 19, 1884. On July 19, 1897, an inferno raged across much of the block taking out several homes and businesses, including the Keystone Hotel.
    When the Odd Fellows Hall was constructed here in 1898, the newly formed Hawley Fire Department was stationed on the ground floor in the back of the new borough offices, which were on the left side as seen from Main Avenue.
    At some point in the 1890's, postmaster George Ammerman moved the post office into a store owned by Armbruster, next door to the hotel (to the left as seen from Main Ave.). This was for easier public access and safety, removing it from close to the railroad. The post office burned along with the hotel in 1897.
    Armbruster sold the Keystone Hotel in 1894 and in September 1895 he became collector for August Hartung, who operated the Irving Cliff Brewery at Honesdale.
    ••• Served as sheriff
    Armbruster served in various public offices in Hawley in the late 19th Century. In October 1891 he was listed as a Hawley delegate to the Wayne County Democratic Convention, along with T. J. Oldfield. Armbruster was named as a committee vice-president and a state delegate. Reinhard Warg, a shoe marker from Hawley discussed in a prior article, was renominated to the county committee by Armbruster.
    Page 2 of 3 - Polling places in Wayne County in those days were held in a variety of places from halls to homes. For the November 7, 1893 election, Hawley voters were to cast their votes at the house of Charles G. Armbruster.
    That year the popular Hawley hotelier had his eyes set on becoming Wayne County sheriff. In August he failed to achieve the Democratic nomination; T. Lincoln Medland achieving a ballot position. The Republican candidate, Richard W. Murphy, also of Hawley, won the election.
    In 1896 he again ran for Wayne County sheriff but was hampered by a serious illness late in the election. Hawley's polling station was held at Murray Hall that year. In 1899, challenged by Byron A. Simons. Armbruster prevailed and served one three year term. (The office of Wayne County sheriff became a four-year term in 1908. No one served more than one term until John A. Foster, who was first elected in 1932.)
    Lawrence Atkinson, a Hawley native and subject of a prior story, was elected as District Attorney at the same time as Armbruster.
    In an apparent endorsement for his election, an item in the Wayne County Herald noted that Armbruster "is thoroughly competent, is in the prime of his life and will make an ideal sheriff. He has hosts of friends and no enemies. He will be enthusiastically elected!"
    He had continued to reside in Hawley until elected sheriff, when he moved into the sheriff's residence next to the stone jail house in Honesdale. This house, on 10th Street, is today used for county offices; the historic jail, built in 1857, is preserved for periodic tours run by the Wayne County Historical Society.
    Illustrated Wayne stated that his wife was Martha L., a daughter of Thomas Dreemer of Mauch Chunk, adding, "they have 12 interesting children." He and his wife were married in 1875.
    The 1900 Census lists Sheriff Armbruster and his wife living in Honesdale. They were both 42. Their children residing with them were daughter Annie, age 25; son Edward, 22; daughter Louis, 17; daughter Hattie, 15; and sons Robert, 14; James, 11; Herbert, 10; Henry, 6 and Harold, not quite 1 year old.
    Their son Edward was listed as Deputy Sheriff.
    "His genial disposition makes him friends everywhere," Illustrated Wayne penned. He held membership in the Masons, as a Red Man, the Hawley Maennerchor and the Royal Areanum at Mauch Chunk.
    He had plans to return to his boyhood home of Mauch Chunk after his term as sheriff expired. He had cut off his connections with the brewery in Carbondale and had purchased his father's hotel at Mauch Chunk.
    There was a change of plans. Charles and his family moved to Scranton, Pa. in 1903. A Scranton city directory for 1906 lists a Charles G. Armbruster living at 1609 Mulberry Street, and working as a collector for E. Robinson's Sons brewery. At the same address were his children Anna C.; Harriet L., a stenographer; James, an electrician; Robert D., laborer; Lulu and Herbert Armbruster, student. There is no listing here for Martha.
    Page 3 of 3 - He was also listed there in annual Scranton directories through 1910.
    Their son Charles L. Armbruster, an electrician living on Harrison Avenue. A draft notice for him has been located, dated in 1918.
    The patriarch, Lewis Armbruster of Mauch Chunk, died Dec. 29, 1907 after an illness, while visiting his son in Scranton. Lewis was laid to rest at Mauch Chunk.
    Their eldest daughter Anna died at the age of 34 following an operation for appendicitis on Jan. 24, 1909 in Scranton.
    ••• Loved boxing matches
    The Citizen newspaper of Honesdale reported that Mrs. Charles Armbruster died December 16, 1913. She was living in Scranton, age 60. She was survived at that time by 10 children, William, Charles, Edward, Robert, James, Herbert, Henry, Russell, Lula and Harriet, as well as by her husband. Interment was at the Dunmore Cemetery.
    Charles G. Armbruster died after a long illness on May 8, 1918 at his home in Scranton. His obituary in the Scranton Republican said he was known as "Sheriff" Armbruster and has "hundreds of friends in the city and county." It also says, "Fans attending boxing bouts at Town Hall will especially miss him, for during the past few years not a fight had been held where 'Sheriff' was not a ring side spectator."
    He was said to have a "happy, genial disposition" and was an ardent supporter of local sports.
    His son Edward was living in Honesdale at that time.
    "Sheriff" Armbruster was also laid to rest at Dunmore Cemetery.
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