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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: Citizen stops Hawley post office burglars

  • HAWLEY- Robert Boland was a family man, a laborer in Hawley and loved baseball. He was credited in the local press with interrupting a daring burglary at the Hawley post office in the winter of 1895.
    "A bold attempt was made to burglarize the Hawley post office on Friday evening last," the Wayne County Herald reported on February 21, 1895...
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  •  HAWLEY- Robert Boland was a family man, a laborer in Hawley and loved baseball. He was credited in the local press with interrupting a daring burglary at the Hawley post office in the winter of 1895.
          "A bold attempt was made to burglarize the Hawley post office on Friday evening last," the Wayne County Herald reported on February 21, 1895. "The robbers pried open the front door with chisels and made their way into the inner room. They had drilled a nice hole into the safe and were just about to blow it open when Robert Boland, passing by, seeing a light inside, stepped and peered through a window."
         In the mid-1890's the Hawley post office was located in a small building near the Middle Creek bridge- where the tobacco shop is today, next door to the present post office, built in 1965.   
        The  post office in the mid-1890's was conveniently located across the road from the West Hawley railroad depot, which sat to the left of the present library building. The post office was located here approximately between 1885 and 1897. It has seen  many changes of address in town.
         The Herald continued, "One of the outside watchers soon discovered him [Boland] and compelled him to throw up his hands. Not content with that, the burglar struck him in the head with the butt end of his pistol, knocking him down. Mr. Boland, however, soon scrambled to his feet and ran away, the robber firing at him as he ran."
       What would you do in this situation? Many would keep on running and not look back. It would be enough to contact the police and let them handle the rest.
       "Boland soon met Watchman Stone and they returned to the office but the thieves had fled. Some stamps had been gathered up, but in their hurry to leave these were forgotten, and as far as Postmaster Langan is aware, they had simply their labor for their pains. No trace of them has been secured as yet."
        Our local laborer and baseball fan had come back to the scene with the watchman. Although willing to render more service to the good of his town, he learned that by simply stopping and checking on his community's post office when something seemed amiss, he foiled the plans of the intruders.
        Watchman Stone may have been John M. Stone. In the 1900 census he was listed as a railroad hostler, which was a locomitive engineer who moved locomotives within the roundhouse for maintenance or repair. The Erie had a roundhouse at Hawley. He and his wife Bertha had 11 children; they moved to Scranton before 1910, where he continued work as an engineer.
    Page 2 of 4 -    As an Erie watchman, Stone was likely nearby since the post office was close to the rail yard. At some point prior to July 1897, the post office was relocated further downtown, but that would have been further for Boland to find the railroad watchman. It seems more likely that the post office location was between Middle Creek and the rail yard.
       Patrick J. Langan was the postmaster at Hawley during the time of the burglary.
    •••  Parents from Ireland
        Robert Emmett Boland was born in Hawley on July 4, 1870, to Robert and Bridget (Clark) Boland. His parents were both Irish immigrants. His father worked as a saloon keeper in Hawley in 1870.
       The Wayne County Herald, on September 11, 1879 listed Robert Boland (Sr.) as on the September trial term in Wayne County Court. His offense was selling liquor without a license. Boland had a lot of company. On the same docket was 25 other saloon keepers in Wayne County with the very same charge.
        A search of the 1872 Hawley map did not identify Boland's home or saloon but there was a 'C. Boland store" on what is now Keystone Street between Maple and Chestnut.
        Robert (Jr.) was one of eight children: William, P., the eldest; Mary E.; Mary; Dora: Christopher C.; Robert; Emma; Harriet and Bridget.  They lived in Shanty Hill (later Christened Marble Hill), the Irish neighborhood west of the rail yard.
       At the time of the post office burglary Robert was 24 and unmarried.
       His mother died July 13, 1897 at her daughter's home in Scranton (Mrs. Owen O'Malley). Three other daughters also lived in Scranton, Mrs. Michael McNally, Miss Hattie and Miss Annie Boland. Another daughter, Mrs. Cramer, lived in Shiffield, PA. Sons Robert and Christopher lived in Hawley. It appears that Robert's father was already passed by this time.
         In 1898 Robert Boland was married. He and his wife were living with his father-in-law John Gallagher. John was 62, and was a laborer. Robert, age 28, worked as a brakeman. His wife was 29. Also at home was their daughter Julia, age 2.
         The 1906 Hawley directory places Robert and Adelia (Delia) L. living at Marble Hill. Robert still at work as a brakeman.
        In 1910 Robert worked at a box factory handling lumber. He and Delia had six children, Julia, 11; Joseph, 9; Gertrude, 7; R. Eugene, 4 and Francis, 1. His father-in-law also lived with them.
        By 1912 Robert was working as a glass cutter. There was more than one cut glass company in Hawley at the time. The Wangum Cut Glass factory was close to their home, at the corner of Wangym and River Street. They lived on Main (Columbus Avenue), Marble Hill, with a nearby bridge connecting to the top of River Street.
    Page 3 of 4 -    His father-in-law John Gallagher died December 30, 1913, at the age of 76. Born in County Mayo, Ireland, he had emigrated in 1861.
    ••• Baseball umpire
       It was in this time period we read that Robert Boland was active with the Hawley baseball team. The game was wildly popular in the area in the early 1900's; hundreds would turn out for a game between town teams.
       The Honesdale Citizen listed Robert as an umpire for the Hawley team, working the bases, at a game with pitiful consequences for his hometown, played on the last Saturday in July, 1911. The game was played at the Silk Mill Flats in Honesdale, where Dave's Super Duper market stands today, along the riverside.
        According to the Citizen, almost a thousand spectators came to watch. Over 200 came up from Hawley to cheer on their team. One precious photograph has been found showing boys peeking at one of these games played at this field through and over a board fence.
       It was a double-header; Honesdale reined victorious, winning 9-0 in the first game and 3-2 in the second.
        The family moved to 213 Wangum Avenue sometime before 1920. Robert continued as a glass cutter in 1920; by 1930 he was still at work but doing odd jobs.
         What if any relationship to the local priest has not been determined. Father Matthew P. Boland was given charge at St. Philomena Roman Catholic Church (now known as Queen of Peace), on January 17, 1922. He was the pastor here until January 31, 1931 when he was transferred to St. James Church in Jessup. He was born in 1879; his parents were from Pennsylvania, not Ireland, as were Robert's parents.
        Robert Emmett Boland died September 24, 1934 in Hawley, at the age of 64, just 11 days after his wife Delia died, September 13th.
        The Wayne County Citizen reported that he was on a camping trip with a friend, Joseph McGinty, opposite the Riverside Garage, midway between Hawley and White Mills. After camping Sunday night, they paddled a boat across the Lackawaxen River to get back to McGinty's car. They reached the car at 6:45 a.m., when Boland died suddenly shortly after getting in the vehicle.
       Dr. Arno Voigt from Hawley was called, as well as Coroner Oliver Osborne of Honesdale. Boland's death was ruled from natural causes.
       Boland was laid to rest at St. Philomena's Cemetery.
    ••• The children
         Mr. and Mrs. Boland were survived by their grown children, Joseph, Eugene, Francis, James C., Julia and Gertrude, all who lived at home on Wangum Avenue.
         There was another Robert Boland born in Hawley, March 2, 1906. He died in 1985. (This may have been a nephew of Robert and Delia, son of his brother William and Margaret Boland, but another reference says he was born about 1894).
    Page 4 of 4 -     In 1925, Julia, Joseph and Gertrude were living at home and were employed as silk mill workers. In 1940, Joseph was listed as a PP&L lineman; Francis was a plumber. They lived at 213 Wangum with sister Anna and brother R. Eugene.
        Art Glantz recalls Jimmy Boland who lived at the Wangum Avenue house and was a Master Sargent in the Army Air Corps during WW II. James lived in Moreno, California, in 1950.
         Robert and Delia's son R. (Robert) Eugene worked as a silk weaver and later as a knitter.
        A disastrous fire on October 18, 1952 wiped out Hawley Borough Hall and Fire Station #1, an apartment house and a private home, on Spring Street. Eugene Boland and his wife (Edith E.) were among the residents of the apartment house. They went back to 213 Wangum Avenue to live, where they were listed in the 1953 directory.
         By the 1960's they were living at 526 Spring Street. In 1968 Eugene and Edith were the only Bolands listed in Hawley. They were known as Gene and Edie.
        Francis P. Boland was married to Eleanor F. Krieg. Their daughter Dorothy B. Merrill died at the age of 97 June 11, 2009 at her home in Hawley. She founded the Wayne-Pike Chapter of the Audubon Society with her husband Daniel. She was an antiques dealer as well as a member of Questers.
      She was predeceased by three brothers and two sisters. At the time of Dorothy's passing she had a surviving brother, Robert Boland, living in Texas.

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