HAWLEY – In the decade preceding the American Civil War, strong emotions were generated across the United States over the slavery question. Hawley, Pennsylvania was no exception.
    Reaction was quick in this growing canal town on the southern edge of Wayne County, once a controversial Fugitive Slave Law was enacted in 1850.

  HAWLEY – In the decade preceding the American Civil War, strong emotions were generated across the United States over the slavery question. Hawley, Pennsylvania was no exception.
    Reaction was quick in this growing canal town on the southern edge of Wayne County, once a controversial Fugitive Slave Law was enacted in 1850.
   This law authorized federal marshals to aid in the recapture of missing slaves. To refuse carried a $1,000 fine against the marshal, and full reimbursement of the slave’s value to the owner if the slave escaped from the marshal’s custody. Furthermore, commissioners that were newly appointed to adjudicate runaway slave cases could also take part in the retrieval process.
   Most troublesome was the provision that anyone aiding an escaping slave was subject to fine and imprisonment. Northern whites, usually among the most highly respected of their communities, suddenly found themselves a criminal. Law enforcement had authority to search and seize their fine homes, trampling what a free man expected to be his personal rights.
    It would not be efforts of politicians morally opposed to slavery, but a grassroots movement of resentment against the Fugitive Slave Law that would lead the country towards the brink of war. Wayne County Herald, November 14, 1850 edition, offers the following report.

••• Meeting in Hawley

    On November 7, 1850, the citizens of Hawley and the surrounding area held a public meeting in the new school house in town. The express purpose was to voice objection to the Fugitive Slave Law.
   James Purday (probably “Purdy”) was named president of the session.
Amzi L. Woodward and William L. Stuart were named vice-presidents, Dr. John R. Thomas and Frederick Saxton were appointed secretaries.
Thomas, along with Saxton, William C. Freeman, Charles Jameson and Charles Daniels were named to the committee on resolutions.
   In giving the committee’s report, Thomas said,  “Whereas in consideration of the recent enactment by Congress of the Fugitive Slave Law and the desire of the southern states and their adherents to extend the institution of slavery over territory that is or shall be acquired by the United States, we feel prompted by the dictates of conscience, and our admiration for republicanism, to oppose to the utmost any measure calculated to extend the area of slavery beyond its present limits. Therefore, be it resolved,
    "1st. That we deprecate the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law by the late Congress, and believe that it conflicts with the Spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and that we will have failed to discharge our duty as friends of morality and of republican institutions until we petition for repeal.
   "2d. That as the Federal Constitution was formed and adopted expressly to secure the blessings of Liberty to the people of the United States, the general Government ought to relieve itself from all responsibility for the existence or continuance of slavery wherever it has the constitutional power.
   "3d. That we are opposed to the further extension of human slavery over any State or Territory that may be hereafter acquired.
    "4th. That we rejoice in the admission of California as a State; that her people have adopted a Constitution which fully exemplifies their capacities for self-government, and their friendship to the free institutions of our country.
   "5th That we regard the Union of those States as the bond of our power, the bulwark of our liberty, and the only safeguard of our prosperity and glory, and that it will neither be strengthened by the threatenings of the South nor by the undue concessions of the North.”    The resolutions were unanimously approved and resolved to be furnished to the newspaper editors in Wayne County for requested publication.
   Hawley’s first newspaper, the Hawley Chronicle, did not begin circulation until 1851. This account, in The News Eagle, could be the first time the resolutions were published in Hawley.
   We may be able to identify where the “newly opened school” was found. It may be the Shanty Hill School (Marble Hill), the building which is still standing, on Columbus Avenue. There were several schoolhouses across Hawley.  According to available records, the only schoolhouse that was opened close to 1850, was the Shanty Hill School which was built in 1849.  This may be where the abolitionist meeting convened.

••• Who they were

   Only a little information has been learned about some of the named participants.
 •  James Purdy was the third son of Elder William Purdy, who was a Baptist preacher whose ministry extended from Wilkes-Barre and Abington to Paupack and Pleasant Mount. Elder Purdy was among the large family of Purdys who settled in Paupack Township in the late 18th Century. They were concentrated around Purdyville, which has since been known as Lakeville.
   There were six sons and two daughters in the family. Sons Reuben and William were also Baptist preachers.
   "The Purdys must have been of Puritanic origin," wrote historian Phineas Goodrich in 1880, "as they preached, prayed and read in the sing-song tone of the old Puritans. They were a quiet, peaceable, law-abiding, temperate people."
    James first settled east of his father, and later purchased a farm on the Lackawaxen River near Paupack Eddy (Hawley).  The 1860 map lists the home of  ”J. Purdy” along the Plank Road (Route 6) just west of Hawley, across from the canal and river. This is the general vicinity of where we find Wallenpaupack Bowling Center.
  James Purdy and his wife Charity were among the charter members of the Baptist Church in Hawley in 1834, when the village was still known as Paupack Eddy. They were meeting in a schoolhouse but by 1850 they had their own facility by the Old Eddy Cemetery (Walnut Grove) on what is now Hudson
Street. Rev. William Purdy, along with Rev. Henry Curtis, founded the church.
   The 1850 Census lists James Purdy as a farmer in Palmyra Township-Wayne. He was 66; James and  Charity had at home, their son William Purdy, 23; daughter Sarah Purdy, 26; son Manson Purdy, 21; and Slicia Purdy, 2. The 1860 Census lists, with James and Charity, Manson, 31; Sarah, 30; Marcus, 9; Isa and Idilia, both 1.
     Manson was a wheelright; William was a teamster. Manson may have served in the Civil War; his registration for the draft was found, dated June 1863.
   James died October 22, 1860 at the age of 77. Charity died March 20, 1871. They were laid to rest in the Old Eddy Cemetery near their church. Their daughter Sarah died at age 35 on August 12, 1858; her name then was Sarah D. Croner.
   Elder William Purdy (1749-1824) was laid to rest in the Purdytown Cemetery.
 •  Amzi L. Woodward (1806-1878) turned 44 in 1850. He was a resident of Palmyra-Wayne, and had a farm on the Middle Creek. He married Irene R. Killam in 1830. Both the Woodwards and Killams were some of the early Connecticut settlers who arrived in the Paupack area in the 18th Century. The Woodwards had five children.
  • Charles Jameson, in 1850, lived in Paupack Township and was a builder. He was 43. Also at home were Nancy Jameson, 28; Henrey Roeman, 31 and Aaron Grabowski, 32, both tailors.
 •  Charles Daniels was born in 1820 in Paupack Eddy (Hawley); he was a canal lock tender and later a farmer, locating on the site of Shanty Hill (Marble Hill). He and his first wife Mary (Smith) had eight children. He was later active in Hawley public office. A more detailed account of his life is planned.

••• Not all favored repeal

    A search of several issues of the Wayne County Herald before and after the November 14, 1850 edition found nothing more on this Hawley group. There were several national stories on the Fugitive Slave Law.
   The December 5, 1850 edition contained comment that few in Wayne County would likely petition for repeal of this law.
    “We observed a telegraphic dispatch from Honesdale going the rounds of the press,” the Herald reports, “stating that petitions in favor of the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, are in circulation and have received a large number of signatures. This is news to us, for nothing of the kind have we seen, or heard of, save the above dispatch. There may be in the pockets and private drawers of a few abolitionists of this vicinity such petitions, but they can never receive many names of them in this County.”
NEXT WEEK: Part 2: The Underground Railroad

• Lincoln: The Northeastern Pennsylvania Connection by Aileen Sallom Freeman (2000)
• Wayne County Historical Society files
• History of Hawley, Pa. (1927) by Michael J. McAndrews • History of Wayne County, Pa. (1880) by Phineas G. Goodrich
• History of Wayne County, Pa. (1880) by Phineas G. Goodrich