A scared horse running off with a wagon load of dynamite is not a good thing.
It happened on the streets of downtown Hawley, Pa. a little more than a century ago. It was just one of many horse tales of the day, the more unusual stories making headlines and recounted by word of mouth not just here but anywhere.

HAWLEY -  A scared horse running off with a wagon load of dynamite is not a good thing.
It happened on the streets of downtown Hawley, Pa. a little more than a century ago. It was just one of many horse tales of the day, the more unusual stories making headlines and recounted by word of mouth not just here but anywhere.

A marked difference between the horse and the motor vehicle is that the horse has a mind of its own. Although the future possibilities of driverless car technology may amaze us, it was the horse, not the car, that could take you home even if the driver was incapacitated. It was also the horse, not the car, that might take off on its own if something came along to distract it.

The arrival of the horseless carriage on our streets in the early 1900’s could only mean more of the latter.

The dynamite

Let’s get back to the horse and the dynamite. That should not be kept waiting.
It was on Wednesday morning, July 3, 1912.

Only a day more and it would be time for the fireworks on the 4th of July.
The 4th was almost “celebrated” a day early in Hawley.

The Hawley Times ran the headline: “HORSE RUNS AWAY WITH 25 POUNDS OF DYNAMITE.”
“The running away of one of H. P. Plum’s livery horses with a wagon containing about 25 pounds of dynamite caused considerable excitement on Main Avenue Wednesday morning,” the reporter penned.

A man by the name of Mr. Moulten, an employee of the Hawley Coal company, tied the horse in front of the Syndicate building while he went up to the Elite Club rooms for a few moments.

Which building was known as the Syndicate, has not been verified. It may have been another name for the Odd Fellows Hall at 204 Main Avenue, a landmark to this day at the corner of Main and River Street. A news article from March 1912 told of the Elite Club hosting their third annual ball at the Odd Fellows Hall meeting room, which was on the second floor. The same article stated that the occasion also marked the “opening of the club's new rooms on Main street.”

Mr. Moulten then, may have tied up his horse and wagon in front of 204 Main Avenue, and gone upstairs.

“He tied the animal with a line, which caused the bridle to break when, shortly afterwards, the horse became frightened at an automobile,” the Hawley Times reported.

“The animal apparently did its best to set off the dynamite, as it turned every available corner before it was captured,” the Times said. “No one was injured and fortunately no damage was done.”

Herbert P. Plum operated a livery in the Murray building on the 300 block of Main Avenue.
Mr. Moulton was likely William Connell Moulton, who was a co-partner and secretary of Hawley Coal Company. They organized in 1912 to build a washery where the old culm piles left behind by the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) could be dug out and sold as fuel. The piles were along the former gravity railroad in Palmyra Township, beginning at Hawley. The washery was located about two miles from town. Using a large steam shovel, the work was expected to last two years.

More runaways

There are numerous other stories that have been found in local newspapers, about horse incidents in the region.

Not all had happy endings, either for the people involved or the horse, or both. It was clear that unlike the motor vehicle, the horse that took us places had a mind of its own. It was the horseless carriage, however, that ultimately was the undoing of the time the horse reigned on our roads.
Here are a few more cases of horses becoming frightened, but not always due to an automobile.
The morning of May 28, 1885, John Coleman’s horse was standing by a store on lower Main Street, Honesdale, when it took off in a fright. The horse was pulling a wagon with one of the owner’s little children aboard. The child held on tight while the horse dashed madly up the street. Mart Worstein was able to stop the animal. Neither the horse nor the child suffered any harm.

• Ernest Vogler and his wife, of Hawley, were heading up to Cherry Ridge on Route 6, Sunday morning, May 16, 1909, when their horse became frightened at a heap of stones piled up in the road. The horse backed up and the buggy went into the old canal bed adjacent to the road, just west of Hawley. Mr. Vogler received some cuts and scalp wounds. His wife was in the water up to her neck and may have drowned, except for Edward Marshall, who lived nearby, coming to her aid.

• Monday morning, November 28, 1910, two school girls, Alma and her sister Lillian Sweizig, daughters of the pastor of the Carley Brook Methodist Church, were taking the buggy to the high school on Church Street in Honesdale. They had reached 7th Street when a big red touring car came at high speed, scaring the “old staid horse,” which was attached to the buggy.

The horse raised up its forelegs, and when it came down, becoming hobbled in one leg. It tried to run away, but Lillian was able to get out and catch the horse, while Alma took the reigns and guided the horse and buggy away from a line of maple trees. The girls were a bit shaken, as was the horse, but they all were doing well.

The auto, however, did not stop, but was speeding so fast that spectators failed to notice the plate number.

Noisy motorcycle

• A noisy motorcycle was blamed for scaring horses in Hawley, Friday, July 28, 1911. L. Griswold, who lived some 10 miles below Hawley, left his horses standing in front of B. DeGroat’s blacksmith shop on Church Street. The motorcycle, despairingly called a “puffing rattle box” in The Citizen newspaper account, came by and scared the horses. The ran some distance and were caught after the tongue of the wagon was smashed into splinters. The cycle’s owner was arrested and taken before the justice of the peace, where it was settled by paying damages and costs.

• R. B Wilcox of Pleasant Mount was driving his horse team down from the fair, Wednesday evening, August 16, 1911, when his team was run into by an automobile. This occurred as he went over the Main Street bridge in Honesdale. The car had just rounded the corner by Peil’s drugstore. The horses reared up and came down on the car. One of the horses received cuts and bruises. The occupants of the motor vehicle jumped out uninjured. There was some damage to the car.

• A stampeding horse on Penn Avenue, Hawley, created a stir, Sunday evening, August 20, 1911. Just before sunset, the horse dashed up the street stripped if everything but a few dangling straps. On turning the corner the animal stumbled and fell on its side, sliding in the dusty street for about 10 feet.

Fred Shearer and Ed Goldbach caught the frightened horse and took it to a stable.
Later it was learned that the horse became frightened by an auto on the turnpike above the Bellemonte Silk Mill (Hawley Silk Mill) and threw the occupants, two of whom were found badly bruised and unconscious. Dr. Lobb was taken to the scene and ministered medical aid.

Harness broke

• It was noon on Monday, October 30, 1911, when Mrs. Andrew Seely, 62, of Pink (a hamlet between Honesdale and Lake Ariel) came to town in her rig. She came to town every Monday with butter. She was coming down the Ridge Street hill when the back strap of the harness broke.

This frightened the horse, which broke into a gallop down Ridge and across Main Street, stopping on the sidewalk.

Mrs. Seely had lost control of the reigns and fell out. Her daughter happened to be nearby, and came to her rescue. She took her home, and a doctor was called. Mrs. Seely was found to have a cut and bruises, but nothing was broken. The horse was uninjured and the wagon unharmed.

• This time it was an umbrella that frightened a horse, which resulted in the animal’s death, Monday morning, February 26, 1912, Frank C. Bunnell was driving his horse team from his farm, with two cans of milk. This was near Bunnelltown, a rural hamlet just outside the main town of Honesdale.

He had gone only a short way when Mr. Bunnell raised his large umbrella, as it was snowing at the time. The wagon smashed against a rock, demolishing the wheel and ejecting the farmer and the milk cans. The team, badly frightened, took off down the icy hill. The horses clashed with a maple tree; the off horse fell and broke its neck. Its mate freed itself and ran down the road, where it was caught by neighbors.

The Bunnell home was telephoned; Miss May Bunnell hurried to the scene and found that her father was upon his feet and “apparently none the worse for his shakeup.” The one horse appears to have died from the fall or from freight. Bunnell placed his loss at $200. Just a few days before, he turned down $600 for the matched team.

There was a time in our very midst, and involving our very own forefathers, when horses were part of everyday life. In Hawley alone there remain dozens of stone hitching posts scattered among many streets. Liveries, blacksmith shops, wainwrights, wheelwrights, and harness making were a necessary part of our local economic fabric. While numerous people in the countryside still keep horses, the time when horses ruled the road was destined to be eclipsed by the inevitable spread of internal combustion mechanization.

“Horse tales” were fodder for many a conversation. Only a few were written up.
More of those stories will be kept for another day!