A valuable account of life in Hawley, Pennsylvania in the hey-day of the D&H Canal appeared in The Pike Wayne Eagle, August 7, 1958.
HAWLEY - A valuable account of life in Hawley, Pennsylvania in the hey-day of the D&H Canal appeared in The Pike Wayne Eagle, August 7, 1958.
This paper, a predecessor of The News Eagle was published by J. Vance Hunt, with the aid of his son Phil Hunt, long time printers on Main Avenue. The story in that edition reprinted a lengthy letter dated February 17th from who was described as an “old timer,” W. L.
McLaughlin living at that time in Cliffside Park, NJ. He was writing to Hawley resident Fred Schutz, sharing some stories about his beloved hometown.
He contact Schutz after seeing the 63rd wedding anniversary notice of Mr. and Mrs. Schutz in the paper. Schultz was a well known fiddler “who draws quite a mean bow,” the editor added.
What follows is a summary of the account. Background information is added in brackets.
McLaughlin said he was a driver on the last two canal boats that Levi Barker built in Hawley. The boat, the No. 1001, was built the winter of 1885 and turned over to James Mulligan of Hawley. The last boat built in Hawley was No. 545, built over the same winter, and sold to Gas Galloway of Phillips Port.
[Levi Barker (1810-1889) came to Hawley in 1849 and started a boat building business, alongside the newly dug canal basin. The basin was in the northern half of what we know as Bingham Park. Barker, who lived on Hudson Street, had his operations on the south end, close to where the senior center (former VFW) is today. He is said to have constructed 645 boats. The price ranged from $1,500 to $1,800 each.
The Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal operated from 1828 to 1899, mainly moving anthracite coal. The PA Coal Company’s gravity railroad brought coal to Hawley from 1850 to 1885, at first transferring it to boats at the basin before switching to steam trains in 1863.]
Started a club
“You know, the last years of the canal boating, the boatmen were not making their expenses,” McLaughlin recalled. “One winter the young crowd on the east side organized a club. They used the second floor of a building owned by Mike Laig, and called their club, “Tammany Hall.”
His friend Jim Grady- a violin player- urged McLaughlin to get a crowd together to have some dances. Grady was in need of some money, and being winter, the quarry business wasn’t any good.
The club officers wanted two dances a week before the start of Lent. Jim received what he could from a hat that was passed around, about $1.50 or $2.00. The club members wanted half. “I told Grady to get another manager,” McLaughlin said. Grady insisted on being paid before the dance. The house committee let him go.
Jimmie Compton agreed to play each night for 50 cents.
Then Will Shear and Frank Dunne wanted to have a ball in the rink before Ash Wednesday.
“Those days the girls didn’t dance during Lent,” McLaughlin reflected.
He got together an orchestra and had Grady as band master. Others were: John Bowers, violin; Arm Hobature, clarinet; Ana Kelleher, piano; Fred Beemer, base viol; Willie Giltner, coronet; James Grady, violin; and a chef, Will Jacobs, who had charge of the supper.
Money was scarce but the had a fine time, McLaughlin said. They made their expenses, $25 for the music and $15 for the John Conklin, who had the rink.
“Most of the stores and buildings were empty,” McLaughlin said.
[This may have reflected the economic recession the area was experiencing in the mid-1880’s. On one hand, manufacturing was staring to boom, with the Bellemonte Silk Mill and Hawley Glass Works starting up. The boom of textile mills gave many job stop women and girls, and a lesser amount for males. Many people were thrown out of work with the close of the Pennsylvania Coal Company gravity railroad in 1885, which was a major employer in Hawley. There were also labor troubles for the numerous glass companies.
A short item in the Port Jervis Evening Gazette, December 17, 1886, was headlined, “Hard Times Anticipated.” The brief states, “The fires at the Hawley glass factory were down Monday night. From present indications, it is not likely that the will be put up again this season. The Hawley Times states that is the Glass Blowers Union had not gone back on their agreement, the present state of affairs would not have existed. As things now stand Hawley bids fair to experience the hardest times this winter that it has known since it was first designated a manufacturing village.”]
McLaughlin wrote that wages in the boat yard were somewhat higher than other lines of work.
At the Silk Mill
“I went to work in the Hawley silk mill the year of 1883 [Bellemonte Silk Mill, what we know as Hawley Silk Mill, was built in 1880-81.]; worked six weeks. My take home pay for the six weeks was $3.75 for 11 hours each day.
“The Thorrason girls waked from Baisdens [Baisdenville, about a mile and a half out of Hawley along the canal in Pike County] to the Belmont Silk Mill every day, rain or shine, and worked from 6:25 a.m. till 6:15 p.m. Fifteen minutes out for lunch, and we often hear people say the ‘good old days.’”
McLaughin and his family moved to Honesdale when the gravity railroad shut down in 1885, and the Pa. Coal Company had switched to steam trains to transport coal.
His father worked for the Erie Railroad the first winter, McLaughlin said he was among the first boys that went to work for the newly opened Hatch Cut Glass Company, in 1884. He earned 25 cents for a 10 hour day, “with the promise of learning the art and mystery of glass cutting.”
There were 15 journeymen, most of whom were of foreign birth. Each had a boy working for him. “Between strikes and no orders, we worked less than half-time,” he said.
[George Hatch opened the factory in 1884 at Industrial Point, along the river bank at the end of 12th Street in Honesdale. Thomas Clark became co-owner, and the original firm dissolved. T. B. Clark & Co. started in 1885, and continued until 1927.]
In 1887, he recalled, the men went on strike from March until September. “White Mills and Corning did the same,” he wrote. “In 1889 glass cutting went on he ricks; there was no life in the business until 1900, when it came back like a flash flood. It boomed ’till about 1921 when it went into a trance.”
“There is something about glass cutting - when once a person gets the bug, he won’t get away or stay too long.” He said he worked at many cutting shops., including James S. O’Connor’s glass factory in Hawley, which opened in 1890 [today, transformed into Ledges Hotel].
“Frank Carlen and I worked for Jim Conroy and Jas. Connors, two Scotsmen. They were married to Doze Vandermark’s sisters. When Doze lost his legs he got some galvanized sheeting from Leeber. Made himself a pair of legs. He was often seen on the streets of Hawley and he trumpeted through the woods hunting for rattlesnakes.
“Some people, when they get to a certain age they think they have nothing to live for. They feel they are living on borrowed time. Everyone should feel that they living a useful life and they should carry on while they are able.”
Fire in Hawley
Late Saturday night, July 2, 1887- or early Sunday morning, McLaughlin recalled that a fire broke out in Pat Neary’s hotel on the east side of Hawley. “The canal was in full bloom at the time. There was a number of light boats in the Hawley basin.
“A boat captain named Peter Duffy, was active in helping people get out of the burning building. There were two men trapped in a room on the second floor, Dick Mannie and Tim Flanagan. Duffy rescued Mannie, but Flanagan perished in the fire.”
Reflecting on changing times, McLaughlin penned, “When the railroads put the canals out of commission, we had great faith in the railroads. When Hi Henry drove his horseless buggy through the streets of Hawley, no one thought a contraption of the kind would be improved to be a competitor of our great railroads.
“The early car driver was often threatened to be locked by teamsters for scaring their horses. You know the story of the automobiles, buses and trucks and what they did to the railroads.”
In 1891 McLaughlin worked three months for the Erie, when the glass cutting shops went on strike. The Erie business started dropping off in 1893, he said.
The railroad company reduced the number of freight crews. The Erie began picking up in 1907. About that time, McLaughlin took a job as a brakeman, but didn’t stay long. He earned $2.25 for 10 hours work.
“Pike County is not a rich county, but the Lake Wallenpaupack is putting the county on the map. There are people from far and near locating on the lake shores. Now, with the automobile, betters highways and the P.P.&L., there is no better place to live.
“About 1953 I had a trip from here to Port Jervis, stayed overnight, and next morning started for Hawley by way of Hawk’s Nest. At Barryville we got on a highway along the bed of the old canal. Went though the aqueduct [Roebling Bridge] at Lackawaxen.
“We kept on the towpath till we got to Rowland. Saw Dave Solversen. Dave said if we went over the old road we would see Jack at the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
William L. McLaughlin
Little else has been learned about W. L. McLaughlin. It appears his first name was William.
The 1870 census for Hawley, Pa. lists “Tung” (perhaps “Tim”) McLaughlin, 48, who was a retail merchant. He and his wife Catherine, 44, were from Ireland. At home were their sons John, 13 and Thomas, 8. Whether this was his family has not been confirmed.
The 1872 map of Hawley shows the home of “Mrs. McLaughlin” on 21st Street, what we know as Wangum Avenue, about a half block from 14th Street (River Street) on the east side.
William appears to have been born in October 1874.
An 1880 census record shows a boy, William McLaughlin, age 5, living in Texas Township (which surrounds parts of Honesdale and includes the village of White Mills). This child’s parents wee David and Barbara (“Barbery”?); David was a laborer, Children were Ann, Cornelius, William, Edward, Margaret and Catherin.
(The 1890 federal census records were lost in a fire in Washington D.C.)
At the time of the 1900 census William was 25, and working as a glass cutter in Hawley. He boarded on Erie Street (Welwood Avenue). Among the other boarders was Cornelius McLaughlin, 27, a railroad brakeman.
From there, census records are more vague, in attempting to find these same William McLaughlin.
If he was born in 1874, he would have been about 9 when he went to work at the silk mill in Hawley. That is not that unlikely, as children were being put to work in factories. He stated he was a driver of the last canal boats built in Hawley. If we have his birth year right, he may have done worked on canal boats as a teenager- before the canal was abandoned in 1898.