HAWLEY – Edward V. Murray left his home in Hawley, Pennsylvania in the 1870's answering the Call of the Wild West. Unlike many from the East, he came back, settling in his beloved Hawley where he founded the popular Standard Opera House.
HAWLEY – Edward V. Murray left his home in Hawley, Pennsylvania in the 1870’s answering the Call of the Wild West. Unlike many from the East, he came back, settling in his beloved Hawley where he founded the popular Standard Opera House.
He was a son of Irish immigrants. Born in Ledgedale, Wayne County, September 18, 1852 to James and Mary Jane (Smith) Murray, his father was a blacksmith and maker of wagons. His parents had emigrated from the Emerald Isle two years before.
Edward was the eldest. After him came Anna, Elizabeth, Henry, and Isabella. Their mother died in 1860 at the age of 38. Their father was married again, to Miss Mary Heintze, and from their union was born Sarah, Nellie, Cassie and Lucy. We have not determined how soon the second marriage occurred, but in 1862, James relocated to Hawley, in Edward’s 10th year.
James Murray continued his trade as a blacksmith and wagon maker in Hawley, which was passed on to Edward. The elder Murray was known as a leading member of the Democratic party in Hawley and served as a supervisor of Palmyra Township. He and his wife were devout Catholics.
At the age of 18, in 1870-71, Edward began learning the wheelwright and blacksmith’s trade with Jacob Keller at Hawley, serving a two-year apprenticeship. His father then bought out his employer, and Edward took charge of the business. Edward purchased it two years later.
The 1872 Hawley map indicates the dwelling of “J. Murray” on what is now Maple Avenue, directly behind the German Reformed (St. Paul’s Lutheran) Church.
••• Dakota Territory
Three years later, in about 1877, Edward sold out and went west to Dakota. We have only learned that he did not like the country, and after only six weeks came back to Hawley. We wish we knew more.
The Dakota Territory in 1877 was still largely a harsh prairie land, reeling from the Great Sioux War that started in 1876, marked by the famed Battle of the Big Horn and General Custer’s Last Stand. There was a population boom thanks to gold being discovered in the Black Hills, and the advance of the Northern Pacific Railroad. North Dakota and South Dakota would not be created or admitted as states until 1889. The landscape and way of life must have been so different for this Wayne County son.
We can imagine our young Edward V. Murray departing on the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) gravity passenger coach (maybe the one by the Hawley Library?), his family probably broken hearted yet trusting him to God. His coach, arriving in Scranton, would connect him with a steam train west to Chicago and eventually Dakota. He would not forget his home so far away, yet near enough in his heart to find his way back.
••• Made mark in Hawley
Returning to Hawley, Edward worked a year and a half for George Baisden. He then erected a shop of his own, where he conducted his trade until 1885, when he built the Opera House block.
We don’t know where he had the idea, but the introduction of the Standard Opera House brought a new measure of culture and entertainment for Hawley lasting into the 1910’s.
A more complete story in this series discussed the opera house, a venue for plays, vaudeville acts, lectures and other events including Hawley High School graduations for several years.
The opera house was built along Church Street between Chestnut and Maple avenues, next door and just up the hill from the Methodist Church. Edward kept his wagon shop in the basement.
Seating capacity at the Standard Opera House was 600.
The rising popularity of the motion picture theater - Hawley had two by the 1910's- brought the Final Act for opera houses and the vaudeville circuit. Non-profit playhouses, however, have enjoyed a renaissance, exemplified by Ritz Company Playhouse in Hawley which formed in 1973 and is still active.
Murray's cultural vision for Hawley has never died out.
He was hailed in a 1900 biography as being “energetic, prompt and notably reliable,” an expert mechanic. By that time, however, he was doing mostly repair work. Skilled at making carriages by hand, he found he was unable to produce them as cheaply as the new carriages being made by machinery.
••• Old stone hotel
Not only did he start the opera house in 1885, that year Edward was also married, to Miss Ellen Weldon. Father O’Malley performed the ceremony on September 26th.
Ellen was born November 2, 1855 in Hawley, to James and Mary (Stanton) Weldon. They were also Irish immigrants. Her father operated a successful hotel in the old stone house at the corner of Church Street and Chestnut Avenue- a landmark diagonally across from the Catholic Church. He had purchased the lot in 1857 and built the hotel soon after. The hotel served as a stage coach stop; Chestnut Street was the end of what had been the old route into Hawley coming from the direction of Wilsonville (what is now Lake Wallenpaupack).
Ellen’s mother had remarried, to Edward Connell. He died sometime in 1870-1872. Ellen’ s mother and sister Mary Ann continued to operate the hotel. Later, it appears Ellen and her husband Edward Murray were living here, and raised their own family. Their church was across the intersection and the opera house and wagon shop, across the street.
Descendants of James Weldon lived in the property until 1953 when it was sold.
A more complete story on th old stone hotel appeared earlier in this series.
Ellen appears to have lived all or most of her whole life near this same crossroads on the hill in Hawley.
Edward’s father died in June of 1891, age 65.
Edward and Ellen raised the following children: Mary A., born June 21, 1886; Joseph W., born April 29, 1888 (a month and a half after the Great Blizzard) and George L., born December 9, 1892.
Edward Murray served on Hawley Borough Council and was the treasurer. In politics he was a Democrat. He was active in several civic societies.
Tuesday, June 14, 1910, Edward V. Murray died suddenly at home. He had been in poor health for some time and was working in his carriage shop that morning when he took a bad spell, so states his obituary in the Honesdale Citizen. He was 58. Still managing the Standard Opera House, he was well known in Wayne County and was highly respected.
His grave at Queen of Peace Cemetery is next to that of his wife. Her marker gives her name as Eleanor A. Murray, born in 1854 and died in 1931.
••• Their children
Their daughter Mary had wed James Bried and was living in Englewood, NJ. Joseph and George were still at home in 1910. We read in a later issue that Mary with her little girl, Eleanor, to visit her widowed mother that August. Mrs. Murray had a cottage at “Pig Pond.” (Can anyone tell us where that is?)
In 1910, Joseph was 21 and was working as a painter of wagons. George was 17. Also living at the stone house was Ellen’s mother Mary Connell, who was 83, and sister Mary Ann Weldon, 59. Ellen was 55.
The 1927 street directory finds Joseph W. Murray living at the stone house, 304 Church St., with his wife Mable S., and his mother Ellen. Joseph was a contractor and builder.
The 1930 Census also lists Joseph and Mable's children living at home. They were Edward V., 12; Mary J., 10; Joseph W., 7; Sara E., 5 and David A., 1. Gertrude Dellert was their housekeeper. Joseph, who was 42, was working in the building trade. His mother wasn't listed but a 1931 street directory has her still there.
George Leo Murray was located in the 1940 Census, living in Englewood, NJ and wed to Elsa P. AT home were their children, Carl P., 17; George F., 15; Mary Ellen, 14; Carolyn E., 9; also his mother in law, Carolyn H. Prosch, of Honesdale. George was working as a retail salesman of building materials. His brother Joseph and family were still in Hawley.
Joseph and Mable were still at the homestead in 1940, with children Mary, Weldon, Sarah and David. He was still in the same trade.
Editor's Note: A photograph of the front of the Standard Opera House has not been found. If anyone has one that the editor may copy for publication and historical record, please call him at 570-226-4547 or e-mail email@example.com.