A son of Ireland, Patrick J. Gibbons joined his compatriots in America, settling among the Irish enclave in Hawley, Pennsylvania.

HAWLEY - A son of Ireland, Patrick J. Gibbons joined his compatriots in America, settling among the Irish enclave in Hawley, Pennsylvania. Like his peers, he was not afraid of hard work, of the toil they faced with the moving of coal and the risks of working on the railroad. He also knew the joys of home and hearth, of raising a family of newly born Americans far removed from the Emerald Isle.

His life would be cut short at 47, by the dangers of his occupation only six years from the dawn of the 20th century. His legacy would live on, his family continuing to make their mark in the community.

Shanty Hill

Patrick J. Gibbons was born about 1848 in County Mayo, Ireland, a son of Patrick and Bridget (Casey) Gibbons. After his father died, Mrs. Gibbons with her five sons left their homeland, crossed the Atlantic and made their home in Hawley. Their settled at Shanty Hill, later known as Marble Hill, a distinctly Irish neighborhood set aside for the immigrant laborers and their families coming to this town to work on the canal or gravity railroad.

From this lofty perspective, they lived in small houses, were able to keep their familiar traditions and bind together as they acclimated to their new nation. Shanty Hill was laid out out in the late 1840’s by the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) just above their coal pockets and transfer operations, where the gravity rail cars would bring their coal for sorting and loading onto canal boats- and starting in 1863, Erie coal trains. The Irish-Americans established a Catholic church in Hawley in 1853, easily accessed from Shanty Hill from a bridge that spanned the Middle Creek, connecting near the corner of Wangum Avenue and River Street.

Her other children included John, who was employed as a “walking boss” on the Delaware & Hudson Canal at Hawley; Michael, who died at Hawley at some time before Patrick- cause not recorded; James, who was killed by being crushed between two canal boats and William, who died of diphtheria. Patrick appears to have been second youngest, after William.

On Hawley’s 1st train

Starting in is early boyhood, Patrick Gibbons worked on a canal boat, until 1862. At that time he became employed as a brakeman for the New York & Lake Erie Railroad. He was on the very first steam train to leave Hawley station in December 1863. The PCC had built the branch, to take the coal to market- in direct competition to the D&H Canal Company. Gibbons continued working on this branch line until his death.

The 1880 census lists Patrick Gibbons as a laborer at Hawley; he was 32. His wife Bridget, who was 27. They had two children at that time, Katherine (Catherin), age 4 and William, age 2. Patrick’s mother Bridget, age 60, also resided with them and helped her daughter in law in keeping house.

They may well have had relatives in the Hawley area. “Patrick” and Bridget” are both common Irish names, and they are found among Gibbons’ families residing nearby in the 1870s and 1880s. There was a Michael Gibbons (wife, Mary) and a Miles Gibbons (wife, Margaret) nearby, who both worked on the canal and had large families. They each had a son named Patrick; Michael had a daughter named Bridget. There was another Patrick Gibbons at White Mills, a glassblower, son of John and Bridget Gibbons.

Patrick J. Gibbons was described in a 1900 biography as “a man of exemplary habits, never using intoxicants of any kind” and carried the respect and confidence of all he knew. He was a Democrat and a member of the Catholic Church. He was affiliated with the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association.

His wife Bridget was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb. 22, 1858, to Irish immigrants, John and Catherine Golden. They crossed the Atlantic in 1852, settling in Ohio. In 1859 they came to Hawley, Pa. Her father worked for the PCC for many year.

The Goldens had four children, Mary, Patrick, John and Bridget. Their son John entered the Union Army in the Civil War but was never heard from again.

It was in Hawley that Patrick Gibbons was wed to Bridget Golden, in the Catholic church. They had six children in all, Catherine; William; Joseph, who died at the age of three years; James; Ambrose, who also died at the age of three years and Thomas.

Dangerous career

Patrick Gibbons had at least two other mishaps working on the railroad, joining the many like reports in the local press. Railroading was a very busy activity and a principal employer, carrying coal and other cargo, as well as regular passenger service. Hawley was a rail hub for several decades, with trains coming and going in three directions.

All of these incidents, however, occurred at the Port Jervis, NY Erie train yard.

The December 1, 1881 edition of The Herald stated that Patrick Gibbons was the brakeman aboard Conductor James Keen’s train, on the Hawley branch, early Wednesday,  November 30th. That morning, Gibbons became “badly squeezed” between two cars in the Erie yard at Port Jervis, NY. Gibbons was taken on the train back to Hawley where Dr. Plum attended to him. Gibbons suffered a fractured rib and “was considerably, though not dangerously, hurt otherwise.”

The Evening Gazette of Port Jervis carried a regular column, “Splints From the Rail.” The May 26, 1891 issue reported on page one that Patrick Gibbons of Hawley was injured while at work in the Erie train yard at Port Jervis. While making up the westbound coal train that day, he fell from a car. Before he could save himself the wheels of a moving car passed over the forward portion of his left foot, causing a serious injury. He was taken to the hospital in that city where Dr. Hunt was able to save Gibbon’s foot.

Tragedy befell him, however, four years later.

The Tri-States Union of Port Jervis reported that on Wednesday, November 6, 1895, Gibbons was run over in the yard in that city. At about 3 p.m., Gibbons was securing the necessary supplies for the crew for the return trip to Hawley. He was the under the direction of the conductor, Martin Harrison.
While returning from the supply room, Gibbons stepped aboard engine 255 intending to ride to Germantown [a suburb of Port Jervis], to meet his caboose. He did not notice that engine 449 was coming down the next track to the one of which his train was going. When he reached his destination, Gibbons stepped directly in front of engine 449. The engine passed over both legs.
Hospital surgeons found it necessary to amputate both limbs. He died at the hospital at about 8 a.m., two days later. He was 47.
“Mr. Gibbons had an enviable record as a railroad man and was esteemed by everybody who knew him,” the Tri-States Union stated.
His remains were taken back to Hawley that day aboard the train.

The family

The 1906 Hawley directory lists his widow living at home at Marble Hill, Hawley. Son James was a clerk in Martin Barrett’s grocery store on Keystone Street. Katherine  (or Kathryn) was the principal at the Marble Hill School. William was the superintendent at the Maple City Glass Company in Hawley (today, the building housing Ledges Hotel). Williams was listed with his wife, Lillian, who sold shoes.
Their home at Marble Hill was listed as on Railroad Avenue (1912); later the address is given as 216 North Street (which may be the same location). James went on to be a carpenter in Hawley; Katherine continued to teach at Marble Hill; William was cutting glass. No further information was found on son Thomas.
James was later listed as having a wife named Bridget. They lived at 406 Keystone Street.
Mrs. Gibbons was 78 in 1930, when she was still living at the homestead in Marble Hill, with William and Katherine. Mrs. Bridget Gibbons may have passed on between 1931 and 1935.

Main sources:
Commemorative Biographies of Northeast Pennsylvania (1900)
Vintage newspapers at Fultonhistory.com
Census records, etc. at Ancestry.com (Hawley Public Library)