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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: Dr. Henry Stephens, physician & preacher

  • HAWLEY- Dr. Henry B. Stephens practiced medicine for the last half of the 19th century most of that time in Hawley, PA, where he also became known as a preacher of the Gospel. His wife Elizabeth was a firebrand for the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), an organization staunchly in defense of sobriety.
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  • HAWLEY- Dr. Henry B. Stephens practiced medicine for the last half of the 19th century most of that time in Hawley, PA, where he also became known as a preacher of the Gospel. His wife Elizabeth was a firebrand for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), an organization staunchly in defense of sobriety.
    He was one of the early physicians in town, setting up practice in 1849. Hawley at that time was undergoing dramatic growth with the building of the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) gravity railroad and canal basin, and fast development of entirely new neighborhoods.
    The son of Holloway and Mary (Ball) Stephens, Henry was born at Slate Hill, Orange County, NY, June 19, 1822. At the age of 21 he graduated from the Medical University of New York City. At once, he began the practice of medicine in his native village. Two years later he moved to Hawley. He practiced for 52 years.
    The 1860 map of Hawley locates what is likely both his home and office on the Plank Road, what is today the west end of Hudson Street Route 6, a short distance west of the intersection, what is now where Route 6 turns at the traffic light. Deed research may reveal whether the house, fourth from the corner, may have been Dr. Stephens’ building.
    An 1890 directory lists his home and office somewhere on 16th (Church) Street, Hawley.
    As a doctor, he was described as generous, responding to the calls of the suffering even when there was no prospect of being able to pay him.
    An 1886 state medical directory lists four physicians in Hawley, Dr. George B. Curtis, Dr. Abram C. Dingman, Dr. Henry A. Plum and Dr. Henry B. Stephens.
    In 1857 he married Caroline L. Nash, (born Nov. 12, 1836) who died five years later (Dec. 18, 1862). They had two sons, Randall Stephens, who in 1900 was living in Carbondale; and William H. Stephens, who at that date was a resident of Montclair, NJ.
    He then married Mary E. Mitchell of Hollisterville (born Dec. 23, 1843) in 1862. The 1870 Census places Dr. Stephens and his wife living in or near South Sterling, Wayne County. Dr. Henry Stephens was 48; Mary was 26. Also at home were his sons Randal, 15; William, age 12 and Frances, who was born to Dr. Henry and Mary Stephens five years earlier.
    Mary died in 1878, according to one source. Her gravestone reads Jan. 24, 1879.
    The doctor moved to Waymart where he was listed in the 1880 Census, with William H., age 21, and “Mary F.” (Mary Frances?), age 15.
    William worked as a store clerk; Frances presumably was in school. No occupation, however, was listed for their father. Soon, however, Dr. Stephens would be returning to Hawley.
    --- Elizabeth Hand Rhone
    In October 1882, Dr. Stephens was wed to Mrs. Elizabeth L. Hand Rhone, of Hawley.  She was the daughter of Robert and Susan Hand, born in 1836 or 1837.
    Page 2 of 3 - Her father arrived in Hawley in 1831 when the village had only “four or five houses” and was surrounded by a wooded wilderness.  Robert Hand purchased a 180 acre tract near the Middle Creek two miles from the present town, and erected a large home and barn. Hand commenced to felling trees and sending them down the Lackawaxen River to the Delaware, to reach market.
    Elizabeth was one of seven children.  Her brother David B. Hand became a prominent physician in Scranton.
    Mrs. Elizabeth Stephens taught in Wayne County schools eight years.
    She became Sunday School Superintendent at the Methodist church in Hawley, where she was a class leader for 30 years. She was very active in the WCTU, beginning in 1876, along with her sister Mrs. Sarah Hand Brown. In 1884 Mrs. Stephens was picked as president of the Wayne County WCTU and served six years. She later became state superintendent of Mother’s Work, serving six years.
    She had first married George M. Rhone in 1857; he served in the Union army in the Civil War. They had two daughters, Susie M., and Carrie S., who married James Stevenson. In 1900 Carrie lived in Hawley, as well as Mrs. Stephens’ only granddaughter, Edith Berna.
    --- Became a preacher
    A significant turn occurred in 1854, when during a great revival held at the Hawley Methodist Episcopal Church, the doctor was converted.
    Pledging his life to Christ, he became an active worker in the church.  A few years later he was made a local preacher and ordained deacon.
    Both he and his wife Elizabeth were known as evangelists.
    Another source gave the year of the “great revival” at the Hawley Methodist as 1853, during which 120 people were added. The church was founded in 1851.
    ••• Laid to rest
    Dr. Stephens died September 27, 1897. His 1900 biography refers to him as being “highly respected and beloved by all who knew him.”
    Elizabeth died May 5, 1909 at the age of 72, In Hawley. She apparently was was laid to rest at the old Hawley Cemetery (Walnut Grove) where the inscription reads, "Elizabeth L. Hand Rhone wife of Dr. H. B. Stephens 1837-1909". Interestingly, however, she also has a grave marker in the Hamlin, Pa. cemetery reading "Elizabeth L. Hand wife of  Dr. Stephens born April 9, 1836" but without a death date.
    Dr. Stephens shares the grave marker in Hamlin with Elizabeth. It reads, "H. B. Stephens M.D. born June 19, 1822. Died Sept. 27, 1897." Also laid to rest at Hamlin and sharing the same stone marker are Carolne L. Nash and Mary E. Mitchell, identified as previous wives of Dr. Stephens.
    Conceivably, the remains of Elizabeth Stephens may have been reinterred in Hawley.
    The doctor's son Frances Stephen was wed to G.O. Mott of Hollisterville, by 1900.
    Page 3 of 3 - A newspaper item in June 1912 mentions Dr. Stephens’ son William Stephens living in Brooklyn, NY; his daughter Alice had wed Ralph Sands of Hawley.

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