HAWLEY - It was the height of the 1st World War. After a late entrance, American servicemen were being called to duty, many on the front lines in France helping its allies to push back the German forces of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Patriotism in the United States was at fever pitch, with its collective rage aimed at the emperor (the Kaiser).
This was no exception in the small town of Hawley, Pennsylvania, which like so many big and small, were sending its sons in defense of freedom and the American flag, and losing their share. The Scranton Republican recounted the story of a retired Hawley druggist, who despite the loss of his sight, fearlessly stood his ground for what he felt was right one autumn day in 1917.
It seems another local citizen, of German decent, held feeling contrary to the majority and was daring enough to speak out in defense of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Note: The original story in 1917 identifies this man by name, but has been withheld here. The reasoning is that the man is not alive to offer his side of the story, nor was he given that chance in the 1917 article. He could have descendants, and as is discussed later, there is an unusual twist to this saga not covered by the Scranton paper. He claimed to be the Kaiser’s cousin; we shall call him “Mr. Cousin” here (not his real name).
The article reported that friends and neighbors erected a flagpole in front of Snyder’s house at 411 River Street, and hosted a large American flag in his honor.
Sat on the bench
Snyder was 62, and was totally blind as a result of paralysis to his optic nerves.
He got about with a cane. As was his custom, one fine fall afternoon he walked unattended to Charles Rose’s grocery store in the Odd Fellows Hall at the corner of River & Main, a few steps away.
Nearby there was a bench where Snyder and his pals would sit and exchange the views of the day.
Cousin was a farmer, and lived about four miles from Hawley. He came by in a light wagon, pulled by a single horse, stopping at Rose’s store. Snyder sat on the bench.
Snyder later said. “I have known Mr. Cousin for many years. He came up and shook hands” asking Snyder if he knew who it was. Snyder said he did.
“Myron, I am the Kaiser’s cousin,” the man said.
“I would be ashamed to tell it,” Snyder replied.
“I glory in it; the Kaiser is the biggest man in the world, and this country has got to go down,” was the bold reply from Mr. Cousin.
Snyder arose, and told him, “…You are a darn fool; I don’t want to talk to you. Snyder then entered the store to get away from him. Cousin followed him in and said, “Snyder, what I tell you is true.”
“I said, ‘… you are a traitor; somebody ought to give you a punch in the nose.’” Cousin shot back, “Nobody dare punch me.”
“I could not stand the abuse heaped upon the country any longer,” Snyder related later.
Carefully judging the direction and distance of Cousin’s voice, Snyder swung his right fist, catching the pro-German in the chin. Cousin landed on his back on the floor near the door.
Evicted from store
Mr. Rose, the grocer as well as the borough tax collector, helped Cousin to his feet, told him shut up and leave the store, and never come back.
[Another version, reported in The Harrisburg Telegraph, stated that the incident occurred November 5, and that, “Snyder had so much American steam behind his wallop that a doctor was called in to revive the Teuton advocate…” The Telegraph said Snyder had “knocked him out cold.”]
Cousin hurried off in his buggy and had only been seen in town once since that time. Snyder said nothing about the affair and went home. Soon after, nearly everyone in Hawley was talking about the beating Snyder gave the alleged Kaiser’s cousin.
A week later, Snyder went to Scranton to visit his son Russell. Meanwhile, Dr. Lewis P. Cook, president of the First National Bank; Merton E. Lewis, superintendent of the Bluestone Flag Company, and Richard W. Murphy, of Keystone Glass Company, together with other prominent residents of Hawley, decided to honor Snyder for his brave act.
Flag 6 x 10 feet
Funds were soon raised to buy the 6 x 10 foot flag. A maple tree was cut in the woods to fashion a 40 foot flagpole. It was painted white. Plans were made for a big parade, headed by the town band, with appropriate flag raising ceremonies in front of Snyder’s home.
The exercises were postponed, however, due to the sudden death of Synder’s brother Abraham.
Since the pole was put up, Snyder raised the flag on he pole every morning.
Residents passing by gave a salute. “The townspeople are proud of Mr. Snyder and he is proud of the flag,” the article reads.
One of his neighbors, E.A. Marshall, 77, a Civil War veteran, proudly watched the flag being raised from his window. If by chance Snyder did not raise it at the usual time - about 8 a.m.,Marshall would hurry to get dressed and went to over to Snyder’s home and hoist the flag for him.
There were 37 men from the Hawley, Pa. area who answered the call to arms in the 1st World War; five were killed in action. In all, 53 men from Wayne County gave the supreme sacrifice in the war.
On September 19, 1917, the first 50 men from Wayne County were drafted and left on the train with a big send-off ceremony in Honesdale. Twelve were Hawley sons.
One of the young men from the Hawley area who were killed in the war was raised on a farm in the same area where the “Mr. Cousins” in this story, farmed. A relative of this young man had the very same first and last name as the man in this story who claimed to be the Kaiser’s cousin.
The young man was still at home, in the National Guard during the fall of 1917 when the incident with Mr. Snyder occurred downtown. The young man was deployed the next summer and was killed in the fighting in France, in the fall of 1918.
He had been heartbroken about leaving his family and the work on the farm which he loved.
We cannot say what was transpiring if indeed the soldier’s relative was the same man, and again, his side of the story has never been found.
Myron T. Snyder
Myron Taylor Snyder was born August 2, 1855 to Abraham and Jane Snyder, of Hawley.
Snyder became a pharmacist, and opened a drug store at 213 Main Avenue, what is today occupied by Joe & Lorenzo’s Pizza & Hoagies. Snyder’s store was called Myron T. Snyder’s Drugs & Medicines. He was listed as a druggist as early as the 1880 census.
One of his clerks, William C. Bea, became a pharmacist in about 1905 and worked with Snyder. A news brief from April 1905 tells of the new soda fountain placed in the center of the floor space. It was enclosed on three sides with counters having marble tops. Perpendicular from the front was a “magnificent onyx pedestal bearing three handsome electric lights.”
On either side of the store there were recently added elegant quartered ok, plate glass show counters.
In March of 1907 he opened a new location with a business partner, Charles H. Freethy, in the Murray building on the west side of Main Avenue.
In May 1891, Myron Snyder was wed to Mary K. Dreher, of Monroe County, at Stroudsburg. After an extended wedding tour they settled in Hawley where a grand reception was given them by George Ammerman, brother-in-law of the groom.
They raised two sons, Russell and Rolland.
His wife was active with the Ladies Aid Society at the Methodist Church in Hawley.
Snyder was an active Republican, attending the state convention in Harrisburg in 1902. He was elected to the school board covering Hawley, White Mills, Paupack and Palmyra, serving as president.
In 1902 he was one of the incorporators of the Harloe Insulator Company, serving as treasurer. The company built a factory on Old Gravity Road.
His wife passed way in 1908.
Myron T. Snyder died in March 1919. To show their respect, local businesses in Hawley shut down during the time his funeral, Saturday, March 25. He was interred at Walnut Grove Cemetery.
The Scranton Republican, via Newspapers.com
Wayne County Herald, etc. at Fultonhistory.com
Census and other public records at Ancestry.com (Hawley Public Library)