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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History - Recalling Curtis & Evans' general store

  • HAWLEY - Simon Richard Evans, a veteran of the American Civil War, was one of Hawley's key merchants in groceries and dry goods, with a store facing the busy canal basin.
    He was one long time owner among others, in a succession of related grocery markets, which served the community around 150 years. Fire would destroy the markets no less than five times.
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  •   HAWLEY - Simon Richard Evans, a veteran of the American Civil War, was one of Hawley's key merchants in groceries and dry goods, with a store facing the busy canal basin.
        He was one long time owner among others, in a succession of related grocery markets, which served the community around 150 years. Fire would destroy the markets no less than five times.
         Evans and his business partner, William D. Curtis, operated Curtis & Evans, located at the intersection of what is today Hudson Street and Spruce Street, a rather forlorn, empty lot opposite Bingham Park that many recall as the site of a large brick sewing mill. Hawley Medical Center is across the street, and diagonally across is The Settlers Inn.
       A busy crossroads today, the section was booming during the latter half of the 19th Century. As described in detail in a previous story, this street facing today's park was Hawley's "Waterfront." Hudson Street was known as Plank Road, later First Street- lined with wooden planks all the way to Honesdale and regulated by tolls.
        The Delaware & Hudson Canal led into the basin in the northern half of the future park and ballfield. Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC), which brought coal-laden cars into town by gravity railroad, built the basin where a fleet of boats waited to take on the anthracite (until the PCC brought a steam rail line into town).
        Curtis & Evans was first in line of a long section of commercial properties facing the basin, which included one or more bakeries, liveries, blacksmiths, hotels, saloons and other establishments. The steady stream of canal boat operators and families brought them regular business, supplementing the growing community of Hawley which patronized them as well.
        This was actually Hawley's "main street," in existence before the PCC started operations here in 1850. Until that time the community was largely built along the Plank Road and streets on the hill above it, as well as at the Eddy near the mills lining the Paupack Falls.
        The commercial district on the Plank Road was gradually replaced by the developing downtown south of the basin and river, as the PCC expanded the village. Devastating fires taking out numerous homes and businesses along the waterfront hurried the process along.
    ••• Born in England
        Simon Richard Evans was born in Liverpool, England, March 9, 1841, a son of Richard and Maria (Hazleton) Evans. He sailed to the United States as an infant, with his parents. The father was a carpenter by trade, and also took up undertaking. He was recalled as a quiet man and devout Episcopalian.
        They first located in Sterling Township in western Wayne County, and later went to Salem Township. In 1868 they settled in Scranton. Richard died in 1879, age 71, and Maria in 1889, also age 71. They were interred at Salem Corners (Hamlin).
    Page 2 of 4 -     He was one of seven children.
        On November 22, 1869, Simon Richard Evans was married in Canaan Township, Wayne County, to Miss Rena Louise Buckland. They had two children, Evangeline L., who was at home in 1900, and Elsie, who died as a baby.
       Simon's wife died at the age of 40, on October 23, 1889. She was laid to rest in Keen Cemetery, Canaan Township (near Waymart).
       Simon began work at age 11 haying for a farmer, Luther Weston, in Salem Township. He boarded there, and earned 10 cents a day, totaling $2.40. Simon purchased with this money, two sheep from Mr. Weston, agreeing to return double the investment in four years.
       He worked for the farmer in the summer and attended school until the spring of 1857. At that time he went to work operating a delivery wagon for a store in Scranton. He returned to Hamlin in 1858, working in the post office and then for a merchant who had stores in Hamlin and Lake Ariel.
       His arrival in Hawley came about in 1859, going to work as a clerk for Charles V. Taft, for a year. He returned to Lake Ariel to work, until September 1862.
    ••• Buried comrades at Antietam
        At this time, Simon enlisted in Company A, 137th P.V.I. for nine months, under the command of Capt. J. M. Buckingham of Canaan Township. His company saw no regular battle during the Civil War, but came under artillery fire at South Mountain and Chancellorsville.
       At Antietam he was detailed to guard the baggage wagons in the rear, and afterwards helped to bury the dead left on the battlefield.
        On June 1, 1863, Evans was mustered out at Harrisburg, PA.
        Returning to Hawley, the veteran worked in the mercantile establishment of Cromwells & Solliday for a year, which was at the Eddy across from the Eddy Hotel (Cora's 1850 Bistro) next to the bridge.
        He didn't stay long. Evans found a government transportation job, working in Tennessee for a year and a half.
    ••• Settled in Hawley
        In 1866 he started work with William Curtis at a store in Lake Ariel.Three years later they came to Hawley, and bought the corner lot on First Street (the plank road) across from the canal basin, erecting their store.
       A sweeping inferno occurred in that section in 1864. Among the businesses lost was the corner store of Uriah Mills. Described as a large grocery and dry goods store, it was known run by Uriah Mills and his son. There was a meat market in the basement operated by Dick and William Freethy. The store is plotted on the 1860 Hawley map.
    Page 3 of 4 -      Uriah, born in 1809, and his wife Mabel had a son James Mills, who was 15 in 1860. James worked as a clerk. An Irish immigrant, Bridget Mooney, 25, stayed with them as a domestic servant.
         Curtis and Evans purchased their lot.
        Across the street, where the medical center now stands, was the large hotel and meeting place, known as the Ewen House. With 50 rooms, the PCC erected the place and held their elaborate social events here. The Ewen House was wrecked in a fire in the winter of 1876 and never rebuilt.
        Where today there is a four-way intersection and a traffic light, with Route 6 continuing straight alongside the park, at that time there was a bridge crossing the canal. This led to the PCC's busy coal transfer operations next to the canal basin.
        We found a couple advertisements for Curtis & Evans from this period.
        One, listed on the 1872 Hawley street map, states: Curtis & Evans  -  Dealers in dry goods, groceries, hats, caps, boots & shoes, flour, feed, meal & provisions. Patent medicines, drugs & dry stuffs & agents for domestic sewing machines. 1st St. corner 7th. (Spruce Street was formerly known as 7th Street.)
       An ad was found in the Hawley Times newspaper, repeated in several editions in April 1876. It reads:
    Curtis & Evans, general dealers in dry goods, boots & shoes, notions, flour & provisions, teas, coffee, lime, cement and plaster-of-paris, rubber goods, hemlock lumber, "seasoned boards & shingles always on hand," and also "agents for the new Singer family & manufacturing sewing machine, Demorests' paper patterns."
        The 1876 ad emphasized teas, spelled out four times with two words added in large type, "GOOD" and "CHEAP."
         Fire, however, would come to call again, this time in 1877 destroying the store of Curtis & Evans. They rebuilt in the same year and continued in business until 1885 when the firm "was obliged to take an assignment," a 1900 biography reads.
        Mr. Curtis retired, and Mr. Evans continued the business in the Mourman building a few doors down. In 1893 he purchased their old store and moved the business back.
        The third fire on that corner raged in December 1897, again destroying Evans' store, as well as taking out most of the commercial district First Street facing the basin, the second such disaster in 33 years.
        Evans was not done.
        United Knitting Mills had a factory next door, built of wood, and the owner desired to expand their operations. Evans exchanged lots and erected a fine building on the opposite corner where the Ewen House stood nearly 25 years earlier. Evans was still in business at his new location in 1900, when an article of him was published in Commemorative Biographies of Northeastern Pennsylvania. He turned 61 that year (He was  listed as 59 in the Census records).
    Page 4 of 4 -     United Knitting erected a large factory made of brick, where textiles were produced by various owners into the mid-1990's. Last known as Anke Mill, the landmark was razed in 1997, and the lot has been left empty.
        Simon's daughter Evangeline lived with him; in 1900 she was single, and 25. Where they lived is not  confirmed but they may have lived above the store.
    ••• Hawley Councilman
        We read in the 1900 article, "He has taken an active and commendable interest in public affairs, has done much to advance the welfare and prosperity of the village..." Evans served three years on Borough Council and also three years on the Board of Health. He was also a school director. He was a member of Hawley Lodge No. 305, F. & A.M., and James M. Thorp Post 157, Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) of Hawley. The latter was the organization for Civil War Union veterans.
        Evans was a Republican.
        "As a businessman and citizen he well deserves the success he has achieved in life, and the high regard which is accorded him," his 1900 biographer penned.
      Simon Richard Evans died on July 28, 1904. He was interred at Keen Cemetery where his wife laid. In 1929 he received a special government headstone for Civil War veterans ordered by "Mrs. A. L. Spiegil" of Waymart.
        No record of what became of Evangeline has been found.
        Evans' store was purchased by Frederick F. Swingle. The 1904 Hawley directory lists Swingle at this location, selling groceries and dry goods. He and his wife Mary lived there. their son Floyd was a clerk there, and would later own the store. Thomas and his brother Eugene Sheridan bought the store in 1952. It remained as a popular grocery market.
       Fire would touch this market twice more. In 1978 Sheridan's market burned, and was rebuilt as a one-story steel building, renamed Gene's Market. Jack and Pat Spruce bought it in 1985. Spruce’s Market went out of business when it too burned in 1994.
        
    ••• Sources:
    Commemorative Biographies of Northeastern Pennsylvania (1900)
    History of Hawley by Michael J. McAndrews (1927)
    Wallenpaupack Historical Society newspaper records

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