This week we take a trip back to the days of the American Civil War, and an account of one stagecoach traveler who describes what he saw on his journey through Honesdale and Hawley, Pa.
HAWLEY - This week we take a trip back to the days of the American Civil War, and an account of one stagecoach traveler who describes what he saw on his journey through Honesdale and Hawley, Pa.
We don’t have our traveler’s full name; in fact it may only be an alias. Identified at the end as “Vindex”, it appears he was an itinerant, evangelistic minister and his trip occurred a few months earlier. His travelogue first appeared in the Pittston Gazette, and republished in the Wayne County Herald, a Honesdale paper, on May 29, 1862.
Pittston is along the Susquehanna River in the Wyoming Valley, just north of Wilkes-Barre. It was in this area of Luzerne County where coal was being mined for the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC). The PCC’s coal came to Hawley aboard their gravity railroad for transfer to canal boats. The Gazette was founded in 1850, the same year the PCC began sending coal.
Coaches used daily
Stagecoaches regularly served Honesdale and Hawley in those days.
An article from June 11, 1908 in The Scranton Tribune showed a picture of a stagecoach used daily between Honesdale and Hawley, “sixty years ago.” The coach was eventually put out of commission by the Erie Railroad- no doubt by the increased reliance by the public on train travel. After this, John B. Smith purchased this coach and kept it in his barn for many years, the newspaper stated. It was used in a recent parade, which occasioned its mention in the newspaper.
The Hiawatha stagecoach is owned and displayed by the Pike County Historical Society in Milford. The coach was said to have been built in Honesdale. It could take as many as 21 passengers (many sitting on top), as well as the mail. It was known ton have been used between Honedale and Susquehanna, before being brought to Pike County in the 1860’s. It is not ruled out that this coach was also used on trips to Hawley.
The trip from Honesdale to Hawley would have been along the Plank Road, what became Route 6. It was paved with timber planks and must have made a distinctive racket as the heavy coach and horses came by.
Excerpts from Vindex’s travelogue follows, with some explanatory information in brackets.
“All aboard for Hawley!,” said the coachman, as he reined up before our quiet stopping place in Honesdale, Pa. Hawley was nine miles away. We soon made the coachman’s words true, for in a moment we, i.e., ourself, wife, baby, trunk, valise, satchel, band-box, big box and little box, were all aboard.
Crack! Whew! And away we went, leaving the busy town behind. We gave answering goodbyes to many that we passed, and thought, such is the itinerant’s life. Two years have we passed with this people. We have seen the bride in her beauty and bliss; shared the pious joy and hope of parents when presenting their children at the baptismal altar; we have seen the mother, maiden and child shrouded in white and laid in the grave, and have wept with those that wept; have extended the hand of Christian welcome to those seeking a place in Zion, and now we start for a future field of toil a thousand miles away!
[The itinerant missionary continues to reflect on the comforts of home he leaves behind, in exchange for a higher call. He expresses hope to be back to a “Western” home in a few months.]
What of the town we leave behind? [Honesdale] It contains over 3,000 inhabitants and is situated in a neat-like vale at the junction of the Dyberry and Lackawaxen. It is the inland terminus of the Delaware & Hudson Canal, and the place of transshipping large quantities of coal, taken to that point by rail from Scranton and Carbondale. It is the county-seat of Wayne County. Its schools and churches will compare favorably with other towns of similar size. The best house of worship it contains is that occupied by the Episcopals. It is a stone structure, tasteful and commodious in its internal arrangements, but antique and somber without.
Several hotels are kept open week days and Sundays. Gas lights furnish light for all that can afford it. Three weekly papers are issued and find creditable support.
On we go, picking up a passenger here and there. A man in his shirt sleeves enters the coach. He has a white beard and is talkative. He leads off in this wise:
“Wal, stranger, what news from Yorktown?”
“The dispatch is confirmed that the rebels have fled?”
“I been a dreaming’ o’ that this nine days, but howsumever I was in hopes he’d catch ‘em.”
“Perhaps he will yet,” we replied. “Do you think,” we ventured to ask, “that the rebels can be whipped out?”
“Whipped out or not, they’ll be subdued. I ‘spect some of ‘em are so stubborn they’ll die fast - but let ‘em die!”
The old man has two sons in the army, and he will soon rejoice in their return, or mourn their fall. The issue is at hand.
Our road in the valley of the Lackawaxen winds about the base of the mountain range that stretches from Honesdale many miles to the south, and east. A narrow strip of fertile land, together with the river and the canal, completely fill up the valley. A part of the way, the way the mountain side is so precipitous and rocky that the land is valueless except for rattlesnakes and bushes.
Yet the habitations sprinkled along indicated that the people managed to live. We smile as we remember the incidents of a ride over this road a few months done. A talkative woman was a fellow passenger and prevented our having Quaker meeting. She persisted in giving her opinion of war, politics, commerce and religion. She said she hoped General Sherman would soon captivate Charleston. Looking out of the coach window she proclaimed:
“I wonder what led people to come here if I had ever so much money I would never investigate (!!) it in such land as this!”
[Note, along the way, no mention was made of White Mills. This was only a very small hamlet with a sawmill painted white at that time. In a few short years it would be transformed by the establishment of Christian Dorflinger’s cut glass works, which opened in 1865.]
Here we are in Hawley, and have taken lodgings at the Ewen House, which is being refitted in elegant style by Messrs. Clearwater & Bro., who have leased it for a term of years.
[The PCC built the Ewen House in 1850. The grand, 50-room hotel stood at the corner of Route 6/Hudson Street and Spruce Street, where Hawley Medical Center is located today. The hotel burned in 1875.]
If any of your readers wish to take a summer excursion to the upper coal fields of Wyoming, they must pass over to Hawley and stop at the Ewen House.
[A direct route was available on the PCC’s gravity railroad; coaches arrived daily, connecting Dunmore and Hawley.]
The gentlemanly proprietors, the excellent table, clean, soft beds, tidy rooms, promptness and order of the entire house give refreshing entertainment to the weary traveler.
Hawley is not “beautiful for situation.” The Pennsylvania Coal Company have their machine works at this place. They also bring their coal to this point from the Wyoming Valley, a distance of 44 miles. We saw mountains of it piled up waiting for the boats that are to bear it to market by the Delaware & Hudson Canal.
Methodism is flourishing and ascendant in Hawley. Rev. J. F. Wilbur, the newly appointed pastor, is kindly received and zealous in his work. While waiting for tea we pen a brief incident, replete with instruction…
[The traveling minister next reports a story of a despondent, young man (who was not named) in Hawley. The young man was without a job and means to feed he and his family. He considered ending his life in a pond. Instead, he picked up a printed, paper tract which pointed him on a religious path and gave him hope. He gave life another chance, and passing the office of the Pennsylvania Coal Company, inquired if he could go to work. The foreman, who was “generous and pious,” took him in and gave him a job. The young man from then on, led a life of “true penitence” and devotion to his newly found faith. This concluded the minister’s travelog that was published in the newspaper.]
The “Hiawatha” stagecoach - owned by the Pike County Historical Society -was operated originally by the Erie Railroad at Honesdale, where it was constructed, according to the Society. One source states it was built in 1840. Another states that the model can be traced to a manufacture in 1850. In about 1861 the coach, referred to as a “tally ho,” was purchased by John W. Findlay and used in his livery business in Milford. It was pulled by four horses.
The Abbot & Downing Concord stagecoach was used to transport people and mail. It also went to Dingmans Ferry. It was used to pick up passengers from the railroad station in Port Jervis, who were heading to Milford. In 1953 the Findlay family donated it to the Pike county Historical Society. The Society raised $18,000 to restore the coach. It is now displayed outside The Columns Museum under the portico.
An 1850 business directory lists Corey & Estabrook, Honesdale, as a carriage maker.
It is known that Jacob Vetter had a wagon shop in Honesdale, at “the east end of the covered bridge” which is where Fritz well drilling is located today, next to the bridge to 4th Street. An 1870 advertisement stated that Vetter built wagons, coaches and buggies. He also made sleighs, and did repairs as well as painting an dtrimming of horse-drawn vehicles. He used Jersey oak and hickory.
In 1875, a directory for Hawley businesses listed George J. Baisden & Co. as “carriage manufacturers.” Their plant, which was powered by water, was located close to the Lackawaxen River at the end of Church Street, near the bridge. They also turned out carriage wheels, spokes, hubs, sawed fellows, handles and tools.
Wayne County Herald, found at fultonhistory.com
Milford, Pennsylvania “Heritage 250”
All Roads Lead to Milford, Pa. by Skip Gregory
Pike County Historical Society
Wayne County Historical Society