Properly known as the mover of anthracite coal, the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal - as well as the gravity railroad also served as a lucrative conduit to ship all sorts of cargo down the line.

HAWLEY - Properly known as the mover of anthracite coal, the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal - as well as the gravity railroad also served as a lucrative conduit to ship all sorts of cargo down the line. A receipt from Cornell & Co.’s Line, dated July 22, 1856, reminds of the business that went on in Hawley, PA, as in other D&H canal towns.

Carl F. Rose, who was raised in Cromwelltown, Hawley, worked many years as an auctioneer. He shared a copy of the receipt he came across.

Decorated on top with a horse-drawn canal boat in each corner, the drawings are connected with a squiggly line (water) above which is written the shipping company’s name. Below that it states “Hawley” next to the line for the date.

The customer was Noble & Turner, which is believed to have been a retail store at Sterling corners, Wayne County. With blanks filled in with the stylish cursive handwriting that is all but forgotten these days, we read that 20 barrels of flour was being shipped from Pittston (Luzerne County, PA) to what appears to be “C.O. House.” The cost was $6.40, a large sum on that era.

Payment was received by the agent, signed, “William Gillmore.”

This shipment would apparently have arrived via the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) gravity railroad, a 47 mile route from Pittston, through Dunmore end ending at Hawley.

The canal company had started operations in 1828; the canal was greatly enlarged in 1850. At that time, the PCC connected its gravity system to bring coal to Hawley to meet the waiting canal boats. The 108 mile canal went from Honesdale to Rondout, NY on the Hudson River. The PCC maintained its own fleet of boats at the basin in Hawley (today, Bingham Park). Levi Barker made over 600 canal boats at his operation next to the basin (he was located near where the Hawley Senior Center is today). Boats costs around $1,600 each.

Cornell & Co. referred to “T. Cornell & Co.”, owned by Thomas Cornell, who is described later.

In about 1852, Cornell had taken over another company that shipped cargo on the D&H Canal, Wilbur’s Delaware and Hudson Canal Line.

There was also a competing freight business in Honesdale, using the canal. E. Fitch & Co. published an announcement in 1849.


The Wayne County Herald carried repeated advertisements for Wilbur’s line, in edition located from 1849, 1850 and 1851. The proprietors were Henry Wilbur of New York City and John A. Patmor of Honesdale, PA. The ads lists various deck canal boats by name, that were available for transporting merchandise from New York to Honesdale daily, without re-shipping at Rondout where the canal met the Hudson just south of Kingston) and Eddyville. Each boat was insured for the season.

Wilbur and Patmor had a basin at Honesdale where their boats were pocked. Hard to imagine today, Patmore’s Basin occupied 7th Street alongside Honesdale National Bank. The basin went as far as Church Street and met the D&H Canal basin, where the railroad bed was later established, at a right angle. There was a bridge on Main Street that spanned the slip leading into Patmor’s Basin.

Patmor also had a line of packet canal boats, which carried passengers.

In addition, arrangements were made with the owners of steamboats to ship freight on the Hudson River daily between New York and Rondout. Once reaching the Hudson, canal boats from Honesdale or Hawley were towed by steamboats to New York.

The 1849 advertising states that extensive arrangements have been made in Honesdale by both the D&H Canal Co. and Cornell & Co. who have erected store houses, larger than they had previously. The store houses would facilitate delivery at Honesdale as well as transshipping on the D&H gravity railroad from Honesdale to Carbondale and Archbald.

Merchandise was received at the pier foot of Chambers Street in New York.

The 1849 ad refers to a competing steamboat line, which Wilbur’s Line refuses to do business with.

In 1850, ads from Wilbur’s D&H Canal Line announced that arrangements have been made to ship cargo on the PCC’s canal boats.

Ads published in 1851 state that the shipping service on the PCC has been extended as far as Wilkes-Barre.

Wilbur’s published a list that year of 36 deck canal boats available for merchandise (up from 18 the year before).

The 1851 ads state that steamboats docked at Jay Street in New York. “All small parcels, also codfish in bundles must be properly boxed or they will not be received,” Wilbur’s D&H Canal Line said. “… As soon as the enlargement of the canal is completed and in good running order, the proprietors of this line have it in contemplation to establish relays of horses by which boxes will run both night and day, consequently freight can then be sent through in muck quicker time…”

All freight was subject to payment on delivery. Unfortunately, prices are not listed.

The 1851 ads also started listing William Gillmore as the agent for the PCC at Hawley.

Ads in 1852, including one from the April 1st edition of the Herald, announced that T. Cornell & Co. had purchased the interest of Messrs. Wilbur & Patmor, who had retired from the freighting business.  They thanked their many patrons and wished the new firm well.

The ad reads generally the same as before. In addition to Gillmore at Hawley, the agents for Honesdale were listed to be E. Stanton and E.B. Burnham.

An ad from 1857 continued to list Gillmore as Hawley’s agent. Thomas Cornell was the agent at Rondout; D. Horton at New York and Coe F. Young, at Honesdale.

The May 5, 1859 edition of The Herald, carried an ad for Coe F. Young’s Del. & Hudson Canal Line. “successor to T. Cornell & Co.” Based in Honesdale, the freight line continued to utilize the canal as well as the PCC gravity system, and steamboats on the Hudson. Ira Daniels was listed as the agent at Hawley; Thomas Cornell was the agent at Rondout and D. Horton, at New York.

This notice added that the proprietor would not be held liable for fire damage at their warehouses, leakage of casks, breakage of looking lasses or glassware- unless the packages were damaged during handling.

20% besides coal

To get an idea of what was being shipped, in addition to the main commodity, coal, here is a statement from the D&H Canal Company for 1872, with the tonnage. Just over 20% of the cargo shipped that year was something other than anthracite coal. It should be noted that stream trains did not reach Hawley until 1863 and Honesdale in 1868, offering competition to the canal cargo business.

Merchandise & provisions 15,944

Plaster 349

Cement and cement stone 130,588

Tanner’s bark 729

Leather & hides 1690

Stone, brick & lime 51,521

Iron ore, pig iron & sundries 5,938

Mill stone 456

Staves, hoop poles and lath 4,584

Manufactures of wood 3,927

Glass and glassware 1,010

Bituminous coal up the canal 856

Cords of wood 41,826

Hemlock shingles 244

Ship timber and railroad ties 1,188

Hardwood 12,013

Pine and basswood 1,184

Hemlock 16,758

SUBTOTAL: 290,775

Anthracite coal down the canal 1,409,628

TOTAL FOR 1872: 1,700,403 tons.

Canal superintendents and foremen, as well as the lock tenders who manned the canal’s 108 locks, issued permits for passage. The fee for shipping was determined in the special weigh locks.

Thomas Cornell

Thomas C. Cornell was born in 1814 in White Plains, NY. In the 1830s he worked for David P. Mapes of Coxsackie, NY. Mapes operated a side-wheeler steamboat and and a contract to haul barges for the D&H Canal Company on the Hudson. Mapes also ran a stagecoach line.

In 1857, with his own sloop, Cornell started what became his own steamboat company. In 1850 he obtained a contract with the D&H to haul barges.

Cornell served in the Civil War as a major in the New York Militia.

After the Civil War, the Cornwall Steamboat Line virtually monopolized freight traffic on the Hudson River, lasting into the early 20th century. In 1883 he was said to be own 26 steamboats, the most of anyone in the United States.

Cornell also operated railroads, was a banker, a hotel owner and served two terms in Congress as a Republican.

He died on March 30, 1890. He and his wife Catherine had four children.

William Gillmore

Hawley’s agent for the PCC and the T. Cornell Co. Line was William Gillmore. He was born in 1822 in Ireland.

He was first wed to Julia Peck; they had a daughter, Mary, born in 1853 at Honesdale (she married James Reilly, and died at Matamoras, PA in 1933).

For a time he worked the Erie freight depot in Honesdale.

In 1857, Gillmore was wed to Hannah Jane Hamlin, of Salem Township. At the time, Gillmore ran a store in Aldenville, Wayne County. Afterwards they moved to Hawley where he entered the employment of the PCC. He became their auditor, working out of the PCC headquarters in Dunmore. News briefs tell of his visits to Hawley when he would bring the paychecks.

William Gillmore resided at Dunmore for 25 years. He died December 26, 1897, and was buried at Honesdale. “He was a man of sterling character,” a biography in his wife’s genealogy states. Mrs. Gillmore died in 1909.

Freight business on the canal would eventually bow to the escalating development of steam railroads. The PCC arranged for the Erie to bring a rail line to Hawley in 1863 and started shipping by steam train, bypassing the much slower canal. In 1885, the PCC closed the gravity system in favor of steam railroading. The D&H, which was already investing in its own steam railroad, held on to the canal until 1898.

Just six months after closing the canal, on May 31, 1899, the D&H board resolved to sell it. An offer was quickly made by Samuel D. Coykendall of Kingston, NY, president of the Cornell Steamboat Company, to build a new railroad on the canal bed. The Erie Railroad sued. The Wayne County Court, in 1900, ruled against the move.

Main sources:

The Delaware & Hudson Canal: A History by Edwin D. LeRoy (1950)

Old newspapers at

Census data, etc., (Hawley Public Library)