HAWLEY - A sign in Bingham Park reminds passerby that Hawley, Pennsylvania was named for Irad Hawley, president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company. We also know this occurred around 1850, at a time when the village was seeing tremendous growth. But who came up with the idea of calling it Hawley?

  HAWLEY - A sign in Bingham Park reminds passerby that Hawley, Pennsylvania was named for Irad Hawley, president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company. We also know this occurred around 1850, at a time when the village was seeing tremendous growth. But who came up with the idea of calling it Hawley?
   This bit of information was recently discovered in a grainy, photocopied newspaper clipping stuffed in the files of the Wayne County Historical Society in Honesdale. The original clipping was from a 1907 edition, but the name of the publication was not preserved.
  It details the life of the man who came up with the idea to christen this village with a name that has survived over 160 years.
  He was an Irish immigrant named Michael W. Morris, who worked here as a store clerk. He was only about 20 years old, and single.
 
••• The setting
 
  The valley where Hawley is located, trisected by three waterways, was first known as Paupack Eddy when early settlers, in the 1790’s, began harnessing the power of the Paupack Falls. The village grew with the establishment of the Delaware & Hudson Canal, which started operations in 1828. The first post office was started in 1837 and used the name Paupack Eddy. The name refers to the eddy created in the Lackawaxen River where the water from the falls circulated at its confluence.
   Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) arrived in the late 1840’s. The PCC set up its own gravity railroad, as another avenue to bring coal to the D&H Canal. This was at first a subsidiary to the D&H Canal Company, which had its own gravity rail system linking the coal mines to the canal at Honesdale. By the 1860’s the PCC became a fierce competitor to the D&H.
      The PCC greatly expanded the village, laying out new streets and even setting up a neighborhood for the Irish immigrants who were arriving to work on the canal or the PCC’s gravity rail operations.
 
••• Emigrated at 17
 
    Among those Irishmen was Michael W. Morris.
    He was born March 1, 1830 in Lougheurra, in the county of Galway, Ireland. His parents were James and Sarah (Fahey) Morris.
    Michael immigrated to the United States, arriving May 24, 1847 in New York aboard the ship Clarence, with 102 passengers. Records show he was in the steerage compartment. He was 17 years old.
    “After he set foot on the land of the free he turned in the direction of Hawley, whither many go his fellow countrymen had gone, and there he secured a position in a store of a clerk,” the obituary states. “He was also clerk in the post office connected with the store.”
   We know who his employer was.
    Henry B. Hayes had been postmaster since October 22, 1849, and he was a merchant.
     A very old and rare map has also surfaced of Hawley, which appears to be from around 1850. The map, in the possession of David Dunsmore who found the map in their house in Hawley where he and his wife Marcia live, locates Hayes’ store and post office.
   Hayes’ dry goods store was at the northeast corner of 7th Street (later named Spruce Street) and 1st Street (Later known as Hudson Street, what is currently a vacant lot.
   Across 7th street was the Ewen House, a large hotel and ball room built by the PCC. In later decades a grocery occupied the corner, and today is the site of the Hawley Medical Center.
   This map, which unfortunately only locates a few buildings, is remarkable in that shows the downtown laid out only as far as 16th Street (Church Street); there was nothing to the south. The map refers to the town as the “Village of Hawley.”
    Looking over the 1850 census for Palmyra Township (Hawley) found Hayes, living by himself. He was listed as a merchant, with real estate valued at $500. Michael Morris was not located among the names.
 
••• Arrived by canal boat
 
      Morris arrived in Hawley from New York on a D&H Canal boat. This was in 1847; the village was still Paupack Falls.
     In March of 1848 the postal authorities changed the name to Falls Port, referring to the falls. This proved only temporary.
       The community “was just springing to life” at the time Morris had arrived, the obituary article states. “There was not a semblance of a village then, rye fields being most conspicuous where the town now stands.”  David Bishop was growing rye in the heart of town. Another source notes that where Bingham Park is located, was a field of rye. The PCC, however, started digging a canal basin in that area for the boats that would be lining up for the coal arriving on the new gravity railroad. Levi Barker also arrived about that time and started a successful business building canal boats next to the basin.
   Hayes’ store overlooked all this and was situated on what was the main street at the time, lined with plank boards. This is now Hudson Street.
 
••• Suggested a name
 
   In 1849 the post office was moved in Hayes’ store. Although the village was now known as Falls Port, a new name was desired.
   “Trouble ensued, however, when the people came to decide on a name for the office,” the article states. “Each and every farmer wished to have his name down in posterity by means of the post office. Mr. Morris, to offer a way out of the muddle, suggested the name of Hawley, in honor of Irad Hawley, of Connecticut, then president of the Washington Coal Company, which was afterward merged with the Pennsylvania [Coal Company].”… “Mr. Morris’ suggestion was accepted, and that’s the story of how Hawley got its name.”
   At first it was known as “Hawleysburg” but in 1851, when a new postmaster was announced, the town’s name was changed to “Hawley.”
   In the 1850’s the village was half in Palmyra Township and half in Paupack Township. Adjustments to borders were made, and by 1860 Hawley became fully part of Palmyra.  Hawley did not receive the surname “Borough” until 1884 when its own municipality was established.
     Morris stayed another six years, as store clerk.  He went to work in the PCC office for two years, when he decided to strike out on his own. He entered the mercantile business on a modest scale. In 1856, Morris, who was still unmarried, relocated to Pittston on the Susquehanna River, in Luzerne County. This area was quickly growing with the mining of coal, and was where the PCC obtained its coal.
   The 47 mile gravity railroad linked Hawley with Pittston.  Morris arrived in Hawley (Falls Port) on a canal boat but he may have left Hawley on one of the PCC gravity rail coaches such as the one preserved today by the Hawley Public Library.
 
••• Life in Pittston
 
   He lived the rest of his life in Pittston, Pennsylvania, where he held a long and successful career. He became a longtime banker in Piston and Wilkes-Barre, and was a director of the Pittston Street Railway Company. He served as treasurer of Pittston Borough. Morris was a long time school director.
   Morris was also known as a consistent and staunch supporter of total abstinence from alcohol. This conviction was traced back to Ireland when he was only 12, in 1842, inspired by preaching from the renowned Father Matthew. The priest was referred to as the “Apostle of Temperance.” The priest was on one of his speaking tours, and encouraged the lad to take the pledge of total abstinence. Morris’ father was also of the same conviction.
  For 18 years Morris was treasurer of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of Pennsylvania. He credited in later years, his excellent health and to a large measure, his business achievements to turning down alcohol.
   In the years leading up to the Civil War, Morris was also known as an “original abolitionist.” When the Republican party organized, he was one of its most active workers.
   Back in Hawley, in 1850, an organized effort to oppose slavery was announced. Although Morris was not listed as one of the officers of the group, it is possible he was a member and at least would have known about it.
    In 1861 he ran for Luzerne County Treasurer but did not win.
   Morris became an ardent supporter of renowned journalist Horace Greeley. When Greely was defeated in his campaign for President, Morris switched to the Democratic Party.
    The year following his arrival in Pittston, on June 11, 1857, he was wed to Bridget W. Mulligan. They had four children, Alice, James, Mary and John.     
    His son John Lincoln Morris became a prominent attorney in Luzerne County.
    Michael W. Morris died May 16, 1907 at home, at the age of 77.
   The long tribute given to Michael Morris following his death stated, “He was in brief a strong, honest, rugged character.”