The Hawley Free Press was published in Hawley, Pa. during the tumultuous time of the American Civil War and assassination of President Lincoln. During its press run, Hawley also saw significant changes, with the arrival of the Erie Railroad and its impact on the D&H Canal operations.

HAWLEY -  The Hawley Free Press was published in Hawley, Pa. during the tumultuous time of the American Civil War and assassination of President Lincoln. During its press run, Hawley also saw significant changes, with the arrival of the Erie Railroad and its impact on the D&H Canal operations.

In publication only two and a half years, the journal went through four different owners.

At least one front page, of one issue of The Hawley Free Press is known to have survived to the present day. John Nichols, who manages the Facebook page, “You know you are from Hawley…” and is a collector of memorabilia related to the town, shared an image of the page. He said it had been reproduced in The News Eagle years ago, the date of which has not been learned.

This was the second attempt to produce a newspaper in Hawley. The first was the Hawley Chronicle, published by Robert Denton. The weekly ran from May 23, 1851 to October 10 of the same year, when it ceased due to lack of support.

Charles K. Beardslee started a new weekly, The Hawley Free Press, September 4, 1863. He continued as editor three months when he sold it to Jacob Smethers. On January 8, 1864, Smethers sold the paper to Frank A. Doney, who managed it until June 1865. At that time he sold it to Charles B. Cotter.

On February 8, 1866, Doney took over The Hawley Free Press for the second time but turned out only three issues before closing the newspaper. It would be another eight years until Hawley again had its own newspaper.

The copy that has survived is dated Friday, June 19, 1864, when Doney was publisher and editor. If only we had the inside pages, but at least we can learn a few things from page 1. The paper was a broadsheet. It is further identified as a “New Series” and is Volume I, Issue 24. Perhaps this was the 24th edition since Doney took charge.

It leads with a quote from President Jefferson, “Equal and Exact Justice to All Men.”

There is no price listed, but a news brief from January 1864 in The Herald (a Honesdale paper) indicated that The Hawley Free Press had changed to a four page paper, and had a subscription price (hard to read- may be $1.50 a year).

An advertisement for Jacob S. Ames’ store states that the store was located “near the Free Press office.” Ames’ store was at the southeast corner of the intersection of Main Avenue (18th street at the time) and Keystone Street (17th). Hawley Depot antique store is there today, in the Jos. Skier building (227 Main). The newspaper office may have been next door or a few doors up on Main.

There are also ads for Maple Saloon (ice cream, fresh oysters and ale) on 1st Street (Hudson Street); Hawley House (lodging); and The Northern Eagle, a newspaper published in Milford by Edward Haliday.

There is a listing of men from Palmyra Township (which included Hawley) and Paupack Township who had been drafted. Among the names from Palmyra was C. K. Beardslee (possibly the newspaper’s first editor)!

Other news items include a list of food prices at Hawley markets, a railroad time table, two items on the re-nomination of Abraham Lincoln for president, and part of a letter about the war from General Grant. The very bottom of the page seems to have been cut off.

Charles K. Beardslee

The Rondout Freeman (NY) reported in September 1863 that Beardsley had just started the paper, saying was “readable” and “well worth the patronage of the Hawley folks.” Rondo, on the Hudson River near Kingston, was where the D&H Canal ended.

Beardslee was born at Indian Orchard, Texas Township, where he always lived. His obituary stated he was generally engaged in farming and lumbering, but during a short time he edited the Wochenblatt (German for a weekly newspaper), published in Wayne County. The Hawley Free Press wasn’t named.

He was Deputy Grand Master of the I.O.O.F. for Wayne and Pike continues in the 1870’s.

A Democrat, Beardslee held township offices. He was remembered “kind hearted and honorable.”

He died March 30, 1894 at the age of 56 after an illness. It appears he was single, although there is some uncertainty in the records.

Jacob Smethers

Jacob Smethers was born about 1821 in Pennsylvania.

He served as Justice of the Peace in Hawley in 1854.

Smethers later, however, was in partnership in a foundry and machine business at Seely’s Mills (Seelyville) in texas Township, near Honesdale. A notice published in May 1856 listed him in business with someone named Bennett. They made steam engines, steam boilers, and all castings and machinery needed in saw mills, grist mills, tanneries and other factories.

By December 1857 he was partnering  with D.W. Church. An ad stated they were prepared to make on order, plows, stoves, mill-irons, bark-mills and sleigh-shoes. Old iron, brass, copper, and etc., were accepted in exchange for work.

A notice was published in March 1859 that the partnership was being dissolved, and the business continued by Church.

In 1893 Smethers ran unsuccessfully for Wayne Country Sheriff.

His wife Esther (1821- 1871) was laid to rest in Hanover, Luzerne County (assuming this is the correct person). In the 1860 census, Jacob and Esther lived in Texas Township, and had five children at home.

Charles B. Cotter

Charles B. Cotter -known as C.B. Cotter- was born near East Aurora in western New York, March 18, 1815. He learned the printing trade as a lad and was doing editorial work at age 19. He published a paper, Vox Populi, at Warren, Pa. inn the 1850’s, and later published the Northern Democrat, the Potter County Pioneer, the Milford Herald and The Hawley Free Press, all in Pa. He also started the Clinton Democrat at De Witt City, Iowa, in 1860.

He was an ardent Democrat and pushed for James Buchanan for President.

In 1862, the Tri-States Union (Port Jervis) charged Cotter, who was the Milford Herald editor at the time, of blaming the Abolitionists for starting the Civil War. The year before, Cotter was given authority to recruit volunteers for the war effort.

In later years he was editor of the Saginaw Valley Herald and The Caro News, the former in Saginaw, Michigan.

He was married to Anna M. Cotter; she had three sons and a daughter.

The career editor was a member of the Odd Fellows.

Cotter died at Saginaw on July 5, 1873 at age 58. Anna lived to 1884.

Frank A. Doney

Frank A. Doney, after his editorship in Hawley, took charge of the Eleventh District Monitor published in Honesdale. In 1868 he was admitted to the bar of Wayne County.

Later, he enters the ministry and joined the Wyoming Conference of the Methodist church. He served as city missionary of Scranton for one year; afterward secretary if the American Sabbath Union - later the Northeastern Sabbath Union, for three years.

Newspapers circulated the story of the near escape from death for Rev. Doney and his family, that occurred July 13, 1876.

They were living in Susquehanna County. They were on their way home in the buggy passing through Cherry Ridge near Honesdale, when an afternoon thunderstorm struck. They took refuge under a large tree, and after waiting for several minutes for the rain to cease, drove slowly on.

They had gone only two rods when a flash of lightning, accompanied by deafening thunder, crashed through the tree under which they were moving.

The horse was killed. Mrs. Doney received a severe shock, and Rev. Doney and their little daughter were only slightly stunned. “It is said to be the most wonderful escape ever known in this section,” one paper said. Rev. Doney telegraphed the news all over the country about what was called a “providential escape.”

May 8,1879, while Rev. Doney conducted a funeral for a man killed accidentally by an ax, a new house built next to the church burned, killing an elderly woman inside. During the excitement, two of the mourners in the church fainted. Over 20 men labored to keep the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. (The Hancock [NY] Herald story wasn’t clear as to the location but the man killed by an ax was from German Flats.)

Rev. Doney went on to spend many years as a missionary among the Indians in the western United States. At a meeting of Methodist pastors in Scranton, December 21, 1891, he spoke of “The Indian as a Man.” The missionary stoutly defended the Native Americans. He hinted that even William Penn had cheated the Indians, and declared boldly that Sitting Bull, who Rev. Doney had personally known, had been cruelly murdered. “His words were listened to with close attention and evident interest,” the Tri-Weekly journal of Susquehanna, reported.

Rev. Doney, who had twice owned The Hawley Free Press, died at home in Scranton, January 13, 1897.

Journalism carries on

In 1874, The Hawley Times began publication and was in service for 70 years. In 1853 The Pike-Wayne Gazette began, followed soon after by The Pike Wayne Eagle. After John C. Dyson Jr. purchased The Pike Wayne Eagle in 1965, the Hawley-based publication eventually became entitled, The News Eagle. It is now owned by Gatehouse Media.

Main sources:

History of Hawley, Pa. (1927) by Michael J. McAndrew

Vintage newspapers at Fultonhistory.com

Census data, etc. at Ancestry.com (Hawley Public Library)