BLAZED TRACKS—EXPRESS—MAILS—TURNPIKES—STAGE DRIVERS—GEORGE ROOT AND CONRAD TETER—FIRST HIGHWAY—RIVER NAVIGATION—CANALS—RAFTING—RAILROADS— SHIP BUILDING—BRIDGES—STORMS AND FLOODS—ETC.
AS early as 1777 an express was established between the Wyoming settlements and Hartford. In Miner's history is an account of the accidental finding of "an old smoke-dried, torn and mutilated document, which was the subscription paper signed by all the prominent men of the valley, and agreeing to pay a stated amount toward keeping up the express trips." On the paper were over fifty names, not all legible, and this was but a portion of the whole. The messenger went once a fortnight, and his main object, it seems, was to bring on the papers, and, of course, he carried the chance letters passing back and forth. Prince Bryant was a rider of the express, it seems, for more than nine months. He removed from here to near Wyalusing, and from there to Tioga Point (Athens), and became one of the early and prominent men in the northern part of what is now Bradford county. In the list of names (all were not recovered) are legible those of Elijah Shoemaker, Elias Church, George Dorrance, Nathan Kingsley, Elisha Blackman, Nathan Denison, Seth Marvin, Obadiah Gore, James Stark, Anderson Doud, Jeremiah Ross and Zebulon Butler. This express simply followed the blazed trees that had pointed the way of the immigrants to Wyoming from the older settlements in Connecticut.
Prior to the march of Sullivan's army up the Susquehanna river, through the county to Elmira, N. Y., there was nothing leading north and south more than the dim Indian trail. These trails were difficult for a man to pass along even on foot. Indians travel single file, and they had but one idea of a road—simply to get over it that time. Future travelers must look out for themselves. There was no trading among tribes, and infrequent communication, and they really had no imperative demand for good roads. The savage built neither house, bridge, nor road for future use.
Sullivan brought his army across the mountain from Easton, and then followed the river to Elmira and returned by the same route. He had both land and water transportation. The men on land had transportation wagons and live stock, the wagons sometimes carried on the boats, but at other times his small cannon and wagons traveled by land. But some idea of the way he forced a passage through the country may be gathered from the fact that at "Breakneck," a few miles above Towanda, some of the cattle fell from the difficult trail along the mountain ridge and were killed. And it was quite a time after the first settlement when men would have to drive their oxen along the river, the family in a boat, and had to unyoke the cattle in order that they could thread the narrow passages. A sober man's life was often in danger if he attempted to go a considerable distance. The heavy timber, the steep gorges, the narrow ledges high in the hard rock, were the difficulties in the way of early travel or making roads. The Indians used canoes, and the white men found this the easiest way to pass up and down the river. When canoes became insufficient, then rafts and "arks" were built, and every possible turn made to avoid land travel. But imperative necessity soon came, and wagon [p.251] roads had to be made, not only along the river, but from settlement to settlement, as well as an outlet to markets.
Communication with Philadelphia was an early necessity. For some time people would go to Easton, and then by the Lehigh river, instead of the long, circuitous route down the Susquehanna and up the bay, or down the river and across to the city from the nearest opposite point. Those woodsmen who first came were experts in traveling through the trackless forests, and could find their way over wide stretches of country with astonishing facility. Nimble of body and quick of brain, they gave small heed to what now would simply appall the average man.
It is now difficult to depict the original obstructions to travel that once confronted the pioneers at this place. For a long time, except by the rivers and confluent streams, it was nearly impossible to go at all. For some time the mail, weekly, was carried on foot from Wilkes-Barre to Elmira (Newtown). Then the roads were worked in the early part of this century and it was quite a triumph to be able to carry the weekly post on ponies. The rider was justified in securing a tin horn to announce his approach to the postoffices on the route. We can readily understand that the pony mail's arrival was of far more public interest then than is now the arrival of a great palace-car train with the country's chief officials on board. Everyone would rush out to the road to see the horse and rider coming in triumph. In all that crowd there would not perhaps be more than one that was in reasonable expectation of getting a letter. There were no crowds around the office awaiting the opening of the mail. Rather, if a letter or paper came, the postmaster would put it in his hat and go out to look for some neighbor to send word there was a letter in the office. Postage was from 8 cents to 25 cents, according, to distance and was prepaid at the option or ability of the sender—25 cents then, too, was wealth to many people. Commerce, in its limited way, was mostly trade and traffic. And a notice from the office of a letter, postage unpaid, double postage if more than one shoot of paper, was often a serious family affair. The postmaster's salary would hardly justify him in assuming the payment of or crediting out many letters. In the year 1800 the state felt called upon to assist the people in opening public highways, both on the land and on the streams. That year a "state road" was surveyed from Wilkes-Barre to the state line north following the river. The state did but little more than make the survey, yet the road was established and it was made in a way passable for vehicles within the next decade.
In 1807 a company was incorporated to build a turnpike road from Berwick to Elmira, N.Y. Work was commenced at Berwick and pushed northward. A considerable portion of the south end of the road was along the top of a high ridge until it reached the south line of Bradford county.
The state had given about 400 acres of land to this enterprise, and the corporators owned large bodies of land that the turnpike would be of great advantage to. It was not completed until about 1825 through to Elmira. But as early as 1810 it was the first good wagon road in this part of the state; it was passable and the large streams were bridged, and by rare chance you may yet meet an ancient stage driver, whose old eyes will again gleam and snap in recalling those halcyon days. "Yes, I druv stage over the old turnpike. Several times I was catched in the great snow storm on the mounting and it looked as though team and driver wuz about to be called to pass in checks, but we pulled through and wuz always ready to meet every foe the next day again. Oh, yes, them be glorious times; nawthin like it neow; things wuz defferent then and it nearly makes me sea-sick to think of getting into the kyars and lolling along over the country and see just no fun at all." There are but precious few—never were many—of these rare old Sam Wellers now left. A genuine one, when the canal boat came, went out behind the barn and nearly laughed himself to death. He talked about the "mule river boat," the "boss boat" a great deal to his horses and if his favorite only switched its tail, he took it [p.252] for granted that the animal agreed with him about the "one-hoss" affair through and through. It is one of the nicest points in our ancient history to determine of the three which was the greatest man—the stage driver, writing master or singing-school teacher. This question should never have been raised, or if it had to come it should have been when the stage-driver was here in all his glory. In the minds of all well-made boys of fifty and sixty years ago the man who drove the four- horse stage coach was the greatest man on earth. Before nor since nature has made no effort to parallel his splendors. Horace Greeley was flattered up with the idea that he was quite a somebody until he fell into the bands of overland stage driver "Hank." The real stage driver not only knew everything, but loved his horses and was awfully loved by the cooks at every stage-stand on his route. Slow and oracular of speech, stumpy in build; in summer with a broad-brimmed hat, leather belt for suspenders, and his cheek bulged with his cud of tobacco, joking familiarly with the great or noted men of the land, this was the man off duty. But on the stage box, his tin horn and long whip, and, as he enters the village where obsequious hostlers change his team, when he disdainfully throws them the lines as he dashes up to the tavern door—the observed of all—then indeed it was he was not only a great man, but a great institution. This hero of the whip and horn went down only before the railroad. Nothing, short of fire and steam could conquer here, and, little as the modern boy may think it, nevertheless it is true he has missed wholly one of the great things of this world by the silent passage from earth of the old stage-coach days. Of all the creations of Dickens' teeming brain the one that will linger in your recollection longest, that will bide with you closest, is Sam Weller—the old stage driver. The little old jaded two-horse bob-wagons that now carry the mails and truck to back townships are but a sad burlesque on the great old four-horse Concord coaches. Those we now have are not even starved shadows of the original. To see one of these present forlorn concerns come limping and reeling into town along a back alley, a well-grown boy with a frayed hickory withe pounding the poor, long- haired jaded horses, would surely produce a serious case of mania a potu on any old-time Sam Weller were he compelled to look upon the whole decrepit fossil. The biggest of us are but grown up children. A monotonous plethora of even the most desirable things of life soon pall upon our senses and even worry us. Instead of rushing now down to see the great railroad train arrive; instead of everyone's heart bounding with delight as the scream of the whistle announces its approach, as once our fathers did at the sound of the stage horn, men build away from the depot, fleeing from the clang and roar of busy commerce, and village councils are passing ordinances against blowing steam whistles in their limits. A boy now at the age of fifteen, the average at one time of the first pair of trousers, is actually blase —wearied with all life's shows and pageants and its butterfly existence, as the little girl of to-day with her twenty-dollar doll knows nothing of the exquisite joys of childhood of her grandmother with a stick and a rag for a doll. A splendid, imported, hand-painted set of toy dishes awakes no semblance of matronly joy and delight known and felt by little girls of the old time who had gathered up the broken remains of the old blue flowered potter's ware and with rioting imaginations prepared the covers for a royal feed under the blooming apple trees on the rare occasion of a visit from a distant cousin and her mother to spend the day. These were a hearty, healthy people, who had never heard of the fashionable "call," lolling in a carriage and sending in a card by a footman. The boy then dreamed dreams of when he could ride a pony and by himself some day go to town. "Wait till the turnpike is finished—then I can find the way." I insist that of the two, the poverty of means of pleasure is preferable to the excess of the same. The child that barely has enough to eat is more apt to have healthy food and a sound constitution than one born to the other extreme. It is the condition our whole nature is in that constitutes the most exquisite enjoyment of life in gaining simple and harmless desires, and generally, if not always, the added enjoyment comes of the rarity itself.
[p.253] Sam Weller is the immortal English stage driver. This dear old stub-and-twist, whose experience gave birth to the eleventh commandment, "Beware of the vidders, Sammy," was in no way more deserving of everlasting fame than were George Root or Conrad Teter, the noted cracks of the whip of Wilkes-Barre. Then there was Philip Abbott, who drove Robinson & Arndt's coach in 1806. Root was on the box forty years and upward—the king, of his trade many years. Conrad Teter was a heavy fat man and as jolly a soul as ever lived. He drove his own stage. He loved nothing better than getting a good subject on the box with him and entertain him all the way by pointing out the finest improvements on the roadside and explaining that was his and when he made all the improvements and how much they cost him. His innocent victims would conclude, and some of them wrote back to England that they had ridden with a great "duke in disguise," called Conrad Teter.
The customs and habits of these people in the old roadless days were severely simple. Often they suffered for actual necessities, and we are apt to shudder when we are told the details. We forget that they too had their compensations, for
Such are the dispensations of heaven,
That in the end make all things even.
The very first arrivals brought no wagons with them and they hardly needed a blazed way to follow. The emigrants of 1762-3 had crossed the Hudson near Newberg and pushed westward across the Delaware near its junction with Shohola creek, following the Indian path along Roaring brook to the Lackawana river and then by another trail to the place of destination. But the next wave of pioneers (1769) that followed the same route brought their carts, drawn by oxen, and they were compelled to cut a way, and this may be called the first wagon road in northern Pennsylvania. In October, 1772, a common roadway that could be traveled had become important enough to cause a meeting of the people to be held, where a committee was appointed to collect funds to improve the road. At this meeting were Messrs. Jenkins, Goss, Carey, Gore and Stewart, who were the committee mentioned. Funds were raised and work performed the following November, and by 1774 they were proud to know the good work was completed, that is, a cart could pass.
The road through Kingston, along the river, six rods wide, was laid out in 1770, Another road was laid out through Kingston flats, crossing the Susquehanna at the head of Fish island, below Wilkes-Barre, which joined the road to the latter place near Gen. E. W. Sturdevant's residence. Another road was laid out from Wilkes-Barre to Pittston on the east side of the river. Sullivan's army in the march from Easton to Wilkesbarre, in 1779, opened the road to the Delaware. The people afterward for a long time used this old army road, and when Luzerne county was formed in 1786, appropriations were made to further improve this route, and it became the great highway to and from Philadelphia.
In 1787 a road was laid out from Nescopeck falls to the Lehigh river, by authority of the commonwealth; completed in 1789, forming the third line of communication between the Delaware and Susquehanna.
In 1788 the court of Luzerne appointed Benjamin Carpenter, Abel Pierce, Lawrence Myers, James Sutton, Benjamin Smith and John Dorrance to lay out additional roads in Kingston township. It appointed as viewers for Hanover township, Christopher Hurlbut, Shubal Bidlack, Richard Inman, Conrad Lyon, John Hurlbut, Elisha Decker and Nathan Wartrop; for Plymouth township, Samuel Allen, Rufus Lawrence, William Reynolds, Luke Swetland, Hezekiah Roberts and Cornelius Atherton; for Salem township, Nathan Beach, George R. Taylor, George Smithers, Amos Park, Jacob Shower and Giles Parman. In 1789 John Jenkins, Stephen Harding, Peter Harris, David Smith, S. Dailey and J. Phillips were appointed to view and lay out additional roads in Exeter township. For Wilkes-Barre township, [p.254] the viewers were Zebalon Butler, J. P. Schott, John Hollenback, Nathan Waller, Abraham Westbrook and John Carey.
In 1790 John Phillips, John Davidson, J. Blanchard, Caleb Bates, David Brown and J. Rosin were appointed viewers for Pittston township. In 1791 the viewers appointed for Providence township were Daniel Taylor, John Grifford, Gabriel Leggett, Isaac Tripp, James Abbott and Constant Searl. In 1792 William Jackson, John Fairchild, Mason F. Alden, M. Smith, Daniel McMullin and A. Smith were appointed to view and lay out roads in Newport township. The surveyors who accompanied the committees and laid out the work were John Jenkins, Christopher Hurlbut and Luke Swetland.
Turnpikes.—As the population, productions and wealth of the county increased, there was an urgent demand for better roads and easier communication between distant points. In 1802 a charter was procured for the Easton & Wilkes-Barre turnpike. It occupied a large portion of the old road, and it was chiefly through the exertions of Arnold Colt that the first twenty-nine miles, reckoning from Wilkes-Barre, were completed in 1806. Soon after, the whole distance from Wilkes- Barre to the Wind gap, forty-six miles, was finished at a cost of $75,000.
During the embargo, in 1812 and 1813, the farmers of Northampton county were unable to procure plaster from the seaboard, and were compelled to use New York plaster, which was conveyed down the Susquehanna in arks to Wilkes-Barre, and thence in sleds and wagons over the turnpike. A turnpike mania now seized the people. The old Nescopeck & Lehigh road was made a turnpike under the name of the Susquehanna & Lehigh turnpike.
The Susquehanna & Tioga Turnpike company was organized to build a road from Berwick, through Fairmount and Huntington townships, in this county, to Elmira, N.Y. At that time this was the most expensive improvement undertaken in this portion of the State. The State gave some aid in land, but the expense to the stockholders was great. It never paid the investors, but was a great improvement for the people, and in a few years it was abandoned as a toll road and opened to the public.
The Wilkes-Barre & Bridgewater turnpike was built about this time, running north through Tunkhannock and Montrose.
The Wilkes-Barre & Providence Plank-road company was chartered in 1851, and the first section to Pittston built, but never went further. The common roads were now much improved in keeping with the spirit of the times.
Remembering that our government assumed control of our postal system in 1775, with Benjamin Franklin as first postmaster-general; that the system was a very small beginning, it could hardly be expected that it would amount to much to this frontier during the remaining years of the past century. Hence in 1777, all the mail facilities in Wyoming were private affairs and paid for by subscriptions. We have seen that the first post route here was a two weeks' pony rider from here to Hartford, ridden by Prince Bryant. During the land troubles all letters and communications were by private hands. Mrs. Abigail Jamison, wife of Lieut. John Jamison, daughter of Maj. Pierce Alden, on one occasion left Wyoming for Easton, where her father and twenty others were prisoners in jail, to carry letters and news from home and held important communication with the prisoners. She hid the letters in her hair, and when discovered, as she passed along in the night near Bear creek, by Col. Patterson's men, who arrested her, but could find nothing wrong about her and she passed on in safety, and delivered her messages.
After the war, and the organization of Luzerne county, a weekly mail was forwarded between Wilkes-Barre and Easton. In 1797 Clark Behe, the post-rider, informed the public. through the Wilkes-Barre Gazette, that as he carried the mail once a week to Easton, he would also carry passengers, "when the sleighing is good," at $2.50 each. During the same year the mail was carried on horseback, [p.257] once a week, from Wilkes-Barre via Nanticoke, Newport, and Nescopeck to Berwick, returning via Huntington and Plymouth. The only authorized postoffice in the county was at Wilkes-Barre, and all letters and papers for Nescopeck, Huntington, and other places in Luzerne, were left at certain private houses designated by the Wilkes-Barre postmaster.
In 1798 a mail was run once in two weeks between Wilkes-Barre and Great Bend, and in the following year a weekly route was opened between Wilkes-Barre and Owego, in New York. These routes were sustained chiefly, if not altogether, by private subscription, like those of the early settlers; the subscribers to newspapers paying as high as 50 cents per quarter to the mail carrier.
Jonathan Hancock rode post from Wilkes-Barre to Berwick in the year 1800; and in 1803 Charles Mowery and a man named Peck carried the mail on foot, once in two weeks from Wilkes-Barre to Tioga (Athens).
In 1806 Messrs. Robinson & Arndt commenced running a two-horse stage, once a week between Wilkes-Barre and Easton, through in a day and a half. The stages from Easton to Philadelphia ran through in one day.
In 1810 Conrad Teter contracted with the government to carry the mail, once a week, in stages, from Sunbury to Painted Post, by the way of Wilkes-Barre and Athens. He, however, sold his interest in the route from Sunbury to Wilkes-Barre to Miller Horton, but ran the other portion himself until 1816. In that year Miller, Jesse and Lewis Horton opened a new era in stagecoach traveling, and in carrying the mails in northern Pennsylvania. These enterprising brothers contracted in 1824 to carry the mails in four-horse coaches from Baltimore to Owego by way of Harrisburg, Sunbury, Wilkes-Barre and Montrose, and from Philadelphia to Wilkes- Barre, via Easton. They also contracted to carry the mails from New York city to Montrose, by way of Newark and Morristown, in New Jersey, and Milford in Pennsylvania. Postoffices were established at Plymouth, Kingston, Pittston, Tunkhannock, Providence, and other places in the county; and comfortable and substantial four-horse coaches rolled daily and rapidly over the highways.
River Navigation.—We, as is the nature of all mankind, adjust ourselves to surroundings. The people, while pushing forward facilities for overland travel were not indifferent to the temptations presented them by the Susquehanna river, winding its way from the richest valley in New York down to the bay and the ocean. In the first decade of the nineteenth century was born the idea of navigation by steam, and the people of the valley were abreast with even the foremost of mankind on the subject, made so by their surroundings.
The attempts to navigate by steamboats the Susquehanna was a failure and almost a continuous tragedy. Fulton invented and launched his first steamboat on the Hudson river in 1809, and the wonderful story of propelling a boat against the stream by steam spread over the civilized world, and mankind, that had been toiling and pushing the old keel and Durham boats so painfully up all their long journeys, was now rejoiced. People went down to the banks of the clear and swift flowing Susqaehanna and looked upon the steam with wholly new sensations; a providence of God truly, and the old-time slow and horrid work of carrying on the travel and commerce of the country would soon change—the steamboat was coming—the great factor and hand-maiden of civilization. Why not "sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea?" The good time coming is here; man's ingenuity has overcome the appalling difficulties, and the age of fire and steam has arrived.
First it was canoes, flatboats or rafts, then rudely constructed "arks," and finally the "Durham" boats—so named because they were first built at Durham on the Delaware. The latter were about sixty feet long and shaped something like a canal boat, with a "running board" on each side the entire length, manned usually by five men-two on each side "setting poles" and, one steering. The best would carry about fifteen tons. With good luck they would ascend the stream at the rate of two miles an hour. [p.258] The provisional assembly of Pennsylvania of 1771 declared the Susquehanna river a public highway and appropriated money to render it navigable. In 1824 a boat called the "Experiment" was built at Nescopeck and intended to be operated by horse power. On her trial trip she arrived at Wilkes-Barre July 4, 1824. A great jubilee was held over the arrival. The thing, however, proved a failure.
Necessity was pushing the people along this river. The Delaware river was being navigated successfully with steamboats, then why not the Susquehanna? In 1825 three steamboats were built for the purpose of navigating this important river. The "Codorus," built at York, by Davis, Gordon & Co., sixty feet long and nine feet beam, launched, and with fifty passengers drew only eight inches of water, ten- horse-power engine, and was expected to make up stream four miles an hour. She started on her trip in the spring of 1826 from New Haven. As she puffed along the people flocked in hundreds to the banks to see her. Arrived at Wilkes- Barre, April 12, where the town had an old-style jollification day of it. Capt. Elger invited the heads of the town and many prominent citizens to take an excursion to Forty fort. After a short stay the boat proceeded on its way and soon arrived at Athens, making frequent stops at way places. The Athenians, indeed the people for miles, even way up into New York, now realized their fondest dreams. The boat continued on to Binghamton and turned back and after a trip of four months reached its starting point. Capt. Elger was disappointed and reported to the company that it was a failure for all practical purposes.
The next boat was the "Susquehanna," built in Baltimore, eighty-two feet long, two stern wheels, engine thirty-horse power, intended to carry 100 passengers, loaded drawing thirty-two inches. The State appointed three commissioners to accompany the boat on her trial trip; several merchants and prominent business men were passengers, and these were continually added to at stopping points. It was hard moving against the current. The boat reached Nescopeck falls, May 3, 1826. This was considered the most difficult rapids, and so the commissioners and all but about twenty passengers left the boat and walked along the shore. As she stemmed the angry current the thousands of people on shore cheered and cheered; reaching the middle of the most difficult part she seemed to stop, standing a few moments, then turned her course toward shore and struck a rock and instantly followed an awful explosion, and death and horror followed the merry cheers of the people. John Turk and Ceber Whitmash were instantly killed, William Camp died in an hour or so, Maynard, engineer, lived a few days. The fireman and William Fitch and Daniel Rose slowly recovered; Col. Paxton, C. Brobst and Jeremiah Miller were severely scalded, Woodside, Colt, Foster, Hurly, Benton, Benjamin Edwards and Isaac Loay were all more or less wounded and scalded. William Camp was the father of Mrs. Joseph M. Ely, of Athens, who was on his way home with a fresh stock of goods.
The third boat was the "Pioneer," which was abandoned after an experimental trip on the western branch of the river.
In 1834 Henry F. Lamb, G. M. Hollenback and Pompelly built at Owego, "The Susquehanna," a strong, well-built boat, forty-horse power. Her trial trip was down the river to Wilkes-Barre, reaching that place August 7, 1735, traveling 100 miles in eight hours, and returned laden with coal. Her second trip she broke her shaft at Nanticoke dam, where she sunk and was abandoned.
In 1849 the "Wyoming," was built at Tunkhannock, 128 feet long, 22 feet beam, stern wheel sixteen feet, to carry forty tons of coal. This was a coal boat and made trips from Wyoming valley to Athens during the years 1849, 1850 and 1851. The arrivals of this boat were known all along the river, and the people were wont to crowd the landings to see the sight, and hearty cheers greeted it. They would lower their smoke-stacks, and at Athens land at the foot of Ferry street. The cargo generally was anthracite coal, and in return carried grain and farm- products.
[p.259] The last steamboat for commercial purposes was built at Bainbridge, N.Y., by a company, under the superintendence of Capt. Gilman Converse, commander of the "Wyoming." She was named "Enterprise," ninety-five feet long, to carry forty tons—completed and launched in 1851, and the first season had a profitable carrying trade, as the river was high through the season, but in the fall she grounded and was left on the dry shore to rot, and this was the end of attempts to navigate the Susquehanna.
Rafting at one time was the inviting stepping-stone to the young man of the country, strong, active and desirous of great fortune. The first wealth of northern Pennsylvania lay in her great pine trees that stood straight and tall in the valleys and on the hillsides. Logs were cut in the winter and in the snow were "snaked" to the water's edge and a raft was built and the spring rise in the river would float them away to market. Early in 1790 these were to be seen in the river and success had followers and there was a rapid growth of the industry until every little stream in the country contributed to the swelling tide of rising commerce. It was a vast work to denude these boundless forests and make merchandise of it, yet if there is "millions in it" there are few things man's energies are not capable of doing. For fifty years this work went on until at one time during twenty-six days of high water in 1849, 2,243 rafts floated by Wilkes-Barre, estimated to contain over 100,000,000 feet of lumber.
Wheat was shipped down the river in arks first, in the year 1800; taken to Port Deposit and in sloops from there to Baltimore. This, too, rapidly grew in importance and in 1814 no less than eighty of those passed Wilkes-Barre, and in the fall rise of 1849, 268.
Canals next became positively necessary after building the turnpikes, and steamboat navigation had proved a failure. As early as 1824 the question of a canal along the Susquehanna river began to be seriously stirred. Remote neighborhoods were moved to its importance and engineers began to travel along the banks noting every advantage as well as obstruction. All over the State the movement for canals now commenced, and so quickly did this bear fruit that in 1826 the legislature enacted a general internal improvement law that soon after resulted in building the many miles of those water-ways within the commonwealth.
The North Branch canal was commenced in 1828 and by 1830 completed to Nanticoke and immediately came the first boat ever in Luzerne county—the "Wyoming," built at Shickshinny. The second boat, the "Luzerne," came in 1831. This was built on the docks on the bank opposite Wilkes-Barre, and that year made a successful trip to Philadelphia and return to Nanticoke dam. The canal was completed as far as Lackawanna in 1834 and then this boat "Luzerne" made the first round trip between Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia. Beyond the Lackawanna the work on the canal was suspended in 1882. It was a busy institntion from the Lackawanna to the south from the day of its opening. It was the great outlet for the vast wealth rapidly developing in the valley, the outlet to the world's trade and commerce. It was twenty-two years after the completion of the canal through Wyoming, 1856, before the entire line was completed to a junction with the New York canal at Elmira. Those were two decades pregnant with important things to the civilized world, in some respects the most important era in the nation's history— the coming of the railroad. Within two years after the completion of the canal, a great work truly and one that had taxed human energies to the strongest tension, the public mind had already advanced so far beyond the artificial water way that the State in 1858 sold the canal to the Sunbury & Erie Railroad company, and in turn this company at once sold the North Branch division, from Northumberland street in Wilkes-Barre, to the North Branch Canal company. This was the beginning of the end. The canal was hardly completed before its insufficiency for the age became only too apparent. The State had put $40,000,000 in her public [p.260] works, mostly of this kind, the authorities following in the wake of the notable State internal improvement convention which met at Harrisburg in August, 1825, at which Nathan Beach and Jacob Cist were the representatives from Luzerne county. Garrick Mallery and George Denison, perhaps two of the most brilliant men in the county, were sent to the legislature in 1827, for the express purpose of hastening State action in reference to the North Branch canal. In the act providing for it the commissioners were directed to place the North Branch division from Northumberland to the State line under contract and ground was broken at Berwick, July 4, 1828, where were crowds from Luzerne to witness the event. A great day! A great multitude were present. State officials, military drums and colors flying and the booming of cannon proclaimed that the ground was being broken, the canal was now coming. Nathan Beach held the plow, and the yoke of red oxen were owned and driven by Alexander Jameson. As stated the North Branch extension was slow to push the work and every legislature nearly would pass some act to assist or encourage builders. This portion of the canal, when sold by the State, had cost the commonwealth $4,658,491.12. It was November, 1856, before the first boat laden with coal departed from Pittston for Weston, N.Y. The boat was the "Towanda," commander, Capt. A. Dennis, carrying forty tons, from the mines of Mallery & Butler. In the sale by the State of the North Branch extension mentioned above, the purchasers soon sold the portion from Northumberland town to Northampton street, Wilkes-Barre, to the Wyoming Canal company, retaining that portion from Northampton street to the State line, a distance of 104 miles. July 14, 1858, S. T. Lippincott left Pittston with five boats of coal and reached Elmira, and from there by New York canals to Buffalo, thence by steamboat to Cleveland, which he reached August 8, the first cargo of coal that ever passed beyond the mountains from Luzerne county.
Railroads.—The first successful attempt in this State at what in time became a railroad, was in 1827—the Mauch Chunk railroad, connecting the coal mines with the Lehigh river. The Mount Carbon railroad was commenced in 1829. In 1831 the State granted charters to twelve railroad companies and this may well be named as the date of the commencement of the great railroad era. The steam whistle succeeding the pony express tin horn; the stage horn and then the canal big tin horn, all telling of the evolution—the transcendent strides of man's energy and ingenuity in bearing aloft the glories of civilization. There are left now but precious few to whose minds will come like far-off chimes of half-heard bells pealed from the kingdom of the dead yesterdays, the fading dreams, the old landmarks, where no more is heard the sounding horn of the packet boat, Capt. Wells commanding, as it plowed the "raging canal" triumphantly into "Port" Wilkes-Barre. When the way from Canal bridge to the public square was green fields and sweet blossoming apples, and which are now replaced with great solid business blocks, shops, factories and tall chimneys, filled with eager fire and the roar and whir of heavy iron machinery and the spell, the charm, the day dream is gone—the dolce far niente flits as the silent sadow and the terrible struggle for life is on; wealth and splendors flashing in blinding colors from myriad facets; in the background—but—put out the lights—then put out the light.
The Lehigh Navigation & Coal company, begun in 1839, and completed in 1841, the original Lehigh & Susquehanna railroad, from the public common at the foot of South street, Wilkes-Barre, to White Haven, then the head of slack water navigation of that company.
It was designed as a portage over which to transport boats between White Haven and Wilkes-Barre, and thus form a link in the connection between Buffalo and Philadelphia through the North Branch canal and the canals in New York on one side, and the Lehigh and Delaware rivers on the other. This portage over the mountain was accomplished by three inclined planes, having their foot at Ashley. [p.261] The aggregate ascent which these planes make is about 1,150 feet. From White Haven the road was afterward built down the Lehigh to Mauch Chunk, and thence to Easton.
At first horse cars ran between Wilkes-Barre and the planes. These planes have been much improved, and more coal is taken over them than over any similar planes in the world. The ascent of the mountain is now overcome by a circuit to the northeast. This circuit was built about the year 1866. The same year the Lehigh & Susquehanna was extended to Green Ridge, above Scranton, where it connects with the Delaware & Hudson Canal company's road.
The Nanticoke & Wanamie branch of the Lehigh & Susquehanna railroad connected with this road at the foot of the planes and extended northeastward a mile above Wilkes-Barre, to the Baltimore coal mines, and southwestward to Nanticoke village. It was built in 1861 by the Nanticoke Railway company, which was composed of owners of coal lands along the route of the road. In 1866 or 1867 the Lehigh & Susquehanna company, which had purchased this road, built a branch from near Nanticoke to Wanamie, and an extension from the Baltimore mines to Green Ridge. Subsequently a connection was made between this extension and the Delaware & Hudson Canal company's road. Another branch by the Delaware & Hudson Canal company connects the Lehigh & Susquehanna at South Wilkes-Barre with the Bloomsburg branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad by a bridge in the township of Plymouth, and thereby with the collieries on the west side of the river.
Another connection between the Lehigh & Susquehanna and the Bloomsburg branch is by a short track over the bridge across the Susquehanna at Nanticoke. This branch and bridge are owned by the Susquehanna Coal company.
The Nescopeck branch was built by the Lehigh & Susquehanna company in 1867, between White Haven and Upper Lehigh. In 1871 this road was leased in perpetuity by the Central Railroad company of New Jersey.
Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad.—April 5, 1852, a charter was granted for a road between Scranton and Bloomsburg, fifty-six miles, with authority to extend the same to Danville. By a supplementary act passed March 3, 1853, a further extension of twelve miles to Northumberland or Sunbury was authorized, making a total length of eighty miles. The company was organized at Kingston, April 16, 1853, and William Swetland was chosen president, Thomas F. Atherton secretary, and Charles D. Shoemaker treasurer.
The Lehigh & Eastern Railroad was chartered in 1889, intended as a line from Tomhicken to Port Jervis, N.Y., tapping the Lehigh anthracite regions in the southern part of Luzerne county, and 106 miles in length, connecting at Port Jervis with the Erie railroad; thence over the Poughkeepsie bridge, making, when built, the shortest line by fifty miles between the anthracite region and New England; also connecting with the New York, Susquehanna & Western road at Gravelplace, and by tidewater to New York. Ten miles of the eastern end of the road is already built. Capital stock of the company, $10,000,000. Senator Hines and Liddon Flick are the Wilkes-Barreans actively in this enterprise. The charter originally was issued in 1869, and from that time on it has been in a sea of troubles—litigation has delayed the progress of the enterprise—that are now, it is hoped, all settled, and the road soon to be built, a matter of great importance to the county.
The Wilkes-Barre & Williamsport Railroad is now an assured fact; was chartered November 26, 1889; W. P. Ryman, president. Directors: W. P. Ryman, George R. Bedford, Ira A. Hartrode, F. C. Sturgis, H. A. Fuller, George F. Nesbit, F. W. Wheaton, E. Troxell, A. S. Orr, Gustave E. Kissel and Joseph W. Ogden, a direct line from Wilkes-Barre to Williamsport. The assurances are that this road will be shortly finished.
Wilkes-Barre & Eastern Railroad was chartered March 8, 1892. Officers and [p.262] chartered members: W. P. Ryman, president; De Witt H. Lyons, vice-president; Roswell Eldridge, secretary and treasurer; H. A. Fuller, assistant secretary; J. W. Hollenback, G. R. Bedford, Ira E. Hartwell, George H. Buller, E. Troxell, F. C. Sturgis, Henry A. Fuller, Tuthill R. Hillard, Albert S. Orr, De Witt H. Lyons and Charles B. Copp. The entire line is under contract and much of the work completed, ten miles being done early in the summer. This road starts on the west side, opposite Market street bridge, and crosses the river at the north limits of the city, through Plains township, and passes Yatesville toward the northeast and continues to Stroudsburg, where it strikes the New York and the Susquehanna & Western railroad, thus making a most important outlet from Wilkes Barre to tide- water. The Record of a recent date (October) announces that the Delaware & Hudson railroad has entered into a traffic arrangement with this railroad, and says that "near the Yatesville depot, at the Delaware & Hudson crossing, a connection is being constructed at an enormous expense, on account of the heavy grade. A satisfactory arrangement will give the Delaware & Hudson through trains to New York over the shortest route yet surveyed from this region." This new line is therefore a promise of great things in the way of northern and western connections.
Lehigh Cut-off is a freight road starting at Pittston, and, avoiding the "Planes" by nearly a straight line that runs to the east of Wilkes-Barre and the steep grades or long circuits in climbing the mountains south of the latter place, connects with the main line at Mountain Top. This was built in 1886-7, and is a great improvement in the road's facilities.
Harvey Lake and Towanda Branch.—During the past season the Lehigh Valley has extended its branch road, recently built from Wilkes-Barre to the lake, and from the latter point to Pittston and to Towanda, making a direct line from Wilkes- Barre to Towanda via Harvey's lake. The first train over this road carrying official inspectors was in the early part of October, 1892.
The Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad was built chiefly through the exertions of Chief Justice Woodward, William Swetland, William C. Reynolds and Samuel Hoyt. The work thereon was done in 1854. It was an extension of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western road from Scranton to Sunbury, and by a great mistake of supposed economy it ran on the west side of the river instead of the east side and through Wilkes-Barre, as the builders really desired. This was the first railroad extending through the county, and as its chief purpose with the projectors, it opened to the valley an outlet for both coal and lumber that was a matter of the most important consideration. It was not the first railroad in the county, but was very near it.
Largely through the influence of Mr. William C. Reynolds in 1837 the Lehigh Coal & Navigation company were by law authorized to build a railroad to connect the head of navigation on the Lehigh river with the North Branch canal at Wilkes- Barre. The bill was a compromise measures releasing the company from the operation of certain clauses of its charter bearing upon the extension of its system of slack-water navigation, but making obligatory the building of the railroad to Wilkes- Barre. Work was began on the road in 1838 and completed five years later; the first railroad completed in this part of the State, the really great opening day of the anthracite coal fields in the valley, as well as the rapid development of one of the richest spots on the continent, that has so signally followed.
Lehigh Valley Railroad was chartered in 1846 as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad company. In 1850 the route was surveyed from Easton to the mouth of Mahoning creek. In 1851 Asa Packer became a principal stockholder and to this circumstance largely is due the great railroad system now known as the Lehigh Valley railroad. In 1852 he secured Robert H. Sayre (after whom the important borough of Sayre in Bradford county is named), as chief engineer. This year Mr. Packer commenced the building of a road from Mauch Chunk [p.263] to Easton to connect with the New York and Philadelphia outlet. The name of the corporation was changed in 1853 to the Lehigh Valley Railroad company. The first train from Easton to Mauch Chunk passed over the road in 1855. In 1865 steps were taken to extend the road to White Haven and thence to Wilkes-Barre; this was built in 1867. Mr. Packer in the meantime had purchased the North Branch canal from Wilkes-Barre to the north State line and had a charter for the Pennsylvania & New York Canal & Railroad company, authorizing the building of a railroad the entire length of the canal and along the tow path. This was the most important extension of the Lehigh Valley system. The road was completed to Waverly in 1869. Between Wilkes-Barre and Lackawanna junction the road was leased by the Lehigh Valley company. To-day this is one of the most important railroad systems in northeastern Pennsylvania. Before this account appears in book form the Lehigh will have its own road pushed through to Buffalo. It is a double track and in many respects the best equipped and operated road in the country—one of the great trunk lines and the hourly rush of long trains day and night the year round are the tremendous evolution from the hundred-year-ago blazed way through the forest.
A marked characteristic of the Lehigh valley's history is that from the time that Asa Packer took control, through his entire operations and the same under Robert A. Packer, the policy was to extend the lines in every direction; buying lines wanted when already built, or building new lines where there was a needed connection or a demand for a railroad, or a link to fill in toward making the whole.
In 1868 the stocks of the Hazleton Railroad company and the Lehigh & Luzerne Railroad company were absorbed into that of the Lehigh Valley road. Another feature of Asa Packer's management was for the company to obtain where possible an interest in the coal lands and accordingly they have large interests in the valuable coal lands through which the road passes. In crossing the mountain range south of Wilkes-Barre this road makes a sharp loop to the northeast around the base of the mountain, which is here nearly 1,200 feet high. The other road makes a similar loop to the west, and simply to look at the map that is only giving the true course of the road bed, these opposite loops facing each other at the mouth of the two funnels present a curious appearance. It is the engineer's way of clambering up a mountain—simply winding around the sides, gradually rising all the time.
May 23, 1843, as stated, the first railroad train entered Wilkes-Barre over the Lehigh & Susquehanna railroad. Surely this was a great day in the valley, especially in the chief town, Wilkes-Barre. No people were ever more exultantly excited—the cannon was whirled out, unlimbered and belched forth the common joy; flags fluttered, the people cheered and a great day had dawned. The new era was here and all felt it fully. The road was twenty miles in length when completed. It had three planes from the Susquehanna river to an elevation of 1,270 feet, and then it descended with a grade of 50 feet to the mile to White Haven. Up these planes the cars were drawn by stationary engines. All the early short roads were built with a view of transporting the coal found here; this was the prime incentive. Their builders perhaps little foresaw the limitless commerce of all kinds that would some day, as we now have it, flow in a never-ending stream over these iron tracks. The old strap rail and stationary engines over heavy grades would be little more than a provocation in this age; they were great things then and here as in all time our fathers "builded better than they know."
Ship Building was one of the many fruitless struggles of the people to advance themselves. The theory was broached that with our coal and timber so plentiful ships could be built here and floated out on high water to the bays and oceans and a profitable industry created. Messrs. Arndt & Philips, therefore, built a shipyard on the bank across from Wilkes-Barre and built and launched a twelve-ton sloop in 1803—"The John Franklin." This was floated out to tide-water in safety. This [p.264] encouraged the formation of a stock company, which commenced operations in 1811 and they built the first ship, a sixty-ton vessel. Far and near people came to look at the wonderful ship building, and soberest heads dreamed day dreams when the wide commons across the river would all be a vast shipyard and the all those river villages great cities. Lots and timber lands advanced in selling price rapidly and fortunate holders of stock in the shipyard were envied. April 6, 1812, the first ship was completed, and of her the Gleaner, of April 12, said: "Last Friday was the day on which the launch of the vessel on the stocks in this port was announced. A scene so extraordinary, 200 miles from the tide-waters of the river, raised the curiosity of every one. The old sailor and the inhabitants of the seaboard, whom the vicissitudes of fortune had settled in this sylvan retreat and to whom such scenes had once been familiar, felt all the interest so naturally excited. * * * * From Monday to Friday all was bustle and activity. Early on Friday people began to gather from all parts of the country. The firing of the cannon on the bank at noon gave notice that everything was in preparation. A little after two repeated discharges announced that all was ready.
The banks were lined far above and below with people, and a little after 3 the sound of axes, the bustle and noise about the vessel, indicated they were knocking away the blocks. It was a hundred feet to the water, and with flying colors thirty persons on board, the great crowd standiing nearly breathless, the last block was knocked away—and the vessel did not move." Stewart Pearce accounts for the stubborn boat's action by the fact that the news of the "embargo" had just come to town. And as there was now no business on the ocean, why not lie idle on the docks? The thirty passengers were all at the bow; when she would not move they all ran to the stern, and then slowly the boat did move, the speed accelerating, and as gracefully as a swan the keel kissed and married the waves. As the boat and waves met, the usual bottle was broken on her prow, and the vessel was christened "The Luzerne of Wilkes-Barre." The fate of this unhappy venture is soon told. In a few days she started down the river with clearing papers from the "port" of Wilkes-Barre, and reaching Conawaga falls, near Middletown, was dashed to pieces on the rocks. The vessel and the hopes of the company were wrecked together. A costly experiments severe lesson. But the eternally invincible man was but temporarily discouraged. When the vast timber found its way to tide-water in rafts, then came the far greater wealth, the coal of the incomparable valley, and ways were found such as we are now blessed with for its transportation to the world's markets.
Bridges were a prime necessity after the first blazed roads were laid out. The ordinary streams were, for over twenty-five years from the first settlements, waded on foot or passed over in low water on horseback or in wagons. At first those that could not be forded were carried over in temporary rafts, where the wagons would be taken apart and the animals made to swim. After a while rope ferries were crossing the river, and these are yet spanning the stream in many places, but there are more iron bridges now over the Susquehanna than there were rope ferries in the opening of the century.
An old yellowed scrap of paper that bears date June 6, 1794, was recently recovered. A subscription paper, signed by James Wilson, Robert Morris, G. Eddy, Timothy Pickering "and fifty others," as it says, collecting money to build bridges over Bowman's creek and the Mahoopany, on the road to Wyalusing.
Ferries were established at Kingston, Wilkes-Barre and Pittston in 1770. Yet there are old men to-day who can remember of crossing the river on horseback when they used to go courting in the neighborhood of Kingston, or to apple pearings, or to any of the other "bees" that once were "great times" for the young people.
Storms and Floods have come to Luzerne county. In 1784 occurred the great snow storm, when the level ground was covered to a depth of five feet, and in the [p.267] gorges it was in places hundreds of feet in depth, and for weeks all communication among the settlers was cut off. The soldiers in Fort Wyoming were cooped up until fuel getting threatened to became a serious question.
The following March the snow passed off with heavy rains, and the great ice flood came rushing down the river. The streams were covered with thick ice, broken up by the rising waters, choking them at points, and the river overran its banks, carrying destruction in its course. At Nanticoke, where is an old dam, the ice remained firm, and on this the loose ice lodged until piled high. The plains all through the valley were submerged, and the people were driven to the hills. Maj. James Moore, writing from the fort at Wilkes-Barre, March 20, 1784, said: "The people in this country have suffered exceedingly from the late freshet. Not less than 150 houses have been carried away. The grain is principally lost, and a very considerable part of the cattle drowned. The water rose thirty feet above low-water mark. The water was so high in the garrison that some of the ammunition was injured." Some of the immense piles of ice left on the plains only melted entirely away late in the summer.
The Pumpkin Flood occurred in 1786, getting its name from the quantities of these embryo pies seen floating on the waters. November 7, 1786, Col. John Franklin wrote about the flood to Dr. Joseph Hamilton: "The terrible rain fell, October 5, in twenty-four hours, that raised the river from six to ten feet higher than then known, sweeping away mills and denuding the farms, often digging the potatoes and carrying them away. Rev. Benjamin Bidlack, then a strong young man, was carried in his house down the river. He would, in the darkness, call to the people along the shore. The building lodged against the trees near Harvey's coal mine and he finally escaped. The widow Jamison, with her children, in Hanover, were taken from the second story in a canoe."
In July, 1809, the Susquehanna rose sixteen feet above low-water mark, and inundating the lower flats, destroyed the grain. In January, 1831, the flats were again inundated; and again in May, 1833, the low lands were flooded by the high water. Arks and rafts, torn from their moorings in the smaller streams, came floating down the swollen flood without men to guide them. Stacks of hay floated by covered with living poultry. As they passed Wilkes-Barre the cocks crowed lustily, intimating to their brethern of the borough that their heads were still above water. In January, 1841, the weather suddenly changed from cold to warm, accompanied with rain, which rapidly melted the snow, and produced an inundation of the low country along the Susquehanna and Lackawanna. But its effects on the Lehigh were of the most terrible and destructive character.
In 1842 and 1843 were very high waters. In the spring of 1846 the water stood three and one-half feet deep on the river bank opposite the old Phenix hotel. This was the highest to that time since the "Pumpkin flood," and caused far more damage, carrying away costly bridges on the Susquehanna and doing damage to the public improvements.
The most destructive flood was that of September, 1850. In Luzerne the loss of life and property was greatest on the small streams. Solomon's creek rushed down the mountain's side with fearful impetuosity, destroying the public highway and the improvements of the Lehigh & Susquehanna company at the foot of the plane. The Wapwallopen, with its increased volume, dashed madly over the country, sweeping away two of the powder-mills of Knapp & Parrish. The Nescopeck, undermining the dam above the forge of S. F. Headley, bore off to the Susquehanna on its turbulent flood the lifeless bodies of twenty-two men, women and children. These unfortunate people had assembled in one house near the forge. The house stood upon elevated ground, and was supposed to be the best place for safety. One man, fearing to trust to the stability of the house, took up his child in his arms, and calling to his wife, who refused to follow, rushed through the rising waters, and [p.268] gained the hillside. When he turned to look behind him, house, wife and friends had disappeared.
All the low lands along the Susquehanna were covered with water, and, as usual on such occasions, the communication between Wilkes-Barre and Kingston was carried on by means of boats.
At Tamaqua forty dwellings were swept away, and thirty-three persons were drowned, sixteen being members of one family, and the damage sustained at this place was estimated at $500,000. At Port Clinton twenty-six persons were drowned, eleven of whom constituted a family of father, mother and nine children.
Wind Storms.—The first tornado known to carry havoc through the valley was in 1796. It passed over the country from west to east, unroofing barns and dwellings, and producing on the headwaters of the Lehigh what, among the old inhabitants, was called "The Great Windfall." The road leading from Wilkesbarre to Easton was completely barricaded with fallen trees, which required several months of labor to remove. Our county appropriated $250 toward the expense.
In February, 1824, a most terrific hurricane passed up the Susquehanna river, prostrating fences, trees, barns and dwellings. Such was its power that it lifted the entire superstructure of the Wilkes-Barre bridge from its piers, and bore it some distance up the river, where it fell on the ice with a thundering crash.
On July 3, 1834, a hurricane, sweeping from the northeast to the southwest, nearly destroyed the village, now the borough, of Providence.
Tornado, August 19, 1890, swept over the western part of Luzerne and part of Columbia counties. People were attracted by the peculiar appearance of the clouds. Three distinct movements of the wind could be seen in the two strata of clouds and the motions of the air on the ground. It started in Columbia county, passing into Luzerne in a northeasterly direction, entering this county at Huntington township, with a track about 600 yards wide, in a waving course, about fifteen degrees north of east, and near the road from Maple Grove to Cambra, and before it entered this county was marking its path by general destruction. Great harm was done the properties of Clinton Hughes and Cornelius White, near Cambra. The latter gentleman recalled a similar though not so severe storm that passed near the same track fifty-six years preceding. The kitchen and barn roofs of C. M. Callender's were taken off. George Smith's house was picked up, carried 200 feet and dropped over a ledge, a mass of ruins. His little son was reported as receiving a fractured skull. Ambrose Bonham's buildings were destroyed. At D. L. Chapman's place, near Harveyville, the doors of the parlor were burst outward, tearing out the paneling. At Harveyville the Methodist Episcopal parsonage was totally destroyed. Mr. Hamline's furniture and library, with furniture and clothing, were destroyed, the Methodist church unroofed and the brick schoolhouse left a mass of rubbish. A barn in which several persons had taken refuge was destroyed, but no one seriously hurt except Thomas Brickla, who was killed. A. W. Harvey's store was badly wrecked and his flouring mill moved from its foundations. One and one-half miles east of Harveyville the schoolhouse was totally destroyed, Martin Gregory's buildings much damaged and portions of his iron roof carried miles along the storm's track, and Roland Wilkinson's buildings entirely destroyed. At Mallory Wolfe's place everything was converted into debris, Mr. and Mrs. Wolfe injured, and their daughter, Mrs. Lodetia Wilkinson, killed. James Turner's house was moved, and Mamie Burns, who had started for the cellar, was caught and killed. The storm passed Muhlenburg just to the north of the postoffice, destroying the trees at James Wood's place, blowing away Gregory's house. The storm then crossed the Pleasant Hill mail route at J. H. Wagner's, and its severest force was about the farm of A. R. Kittle, in Hunlock township, pulling a pine tree thirty inches in diameter out of the ground and carrying it away, and then totally destroying many acres of forest. Lorenzo Craigle's house was blown away, but no one seriously hurt. George Lammereaux' [p.269] house was destroyed, his step-daughter,Lizzie Frace, severely hurt in the spine, but eventually recovered. The Leonard schoolhouse was moved from its foundations. The track of the storm gradually narrowed after it crossed Hemlock creek, and after passing Harvey creek about a quarter of a mile above Rice's sawmill it left only a partial track on Lehman Center, and here it gradually disappeared, having passed through Huntington, Union and Hunlock townships into Lehman. Whether the terrible funnel cloud was lifted from the earth into midair and was instantly transferred across the hills and the river or whether its mate sprang into existence and started in its race along the east side of the river—in other words, whether it was all one or two distinct tornadoes or not, is not material. It was, with its awful whirl, racing along at the rate of a mile a minute. There was no visible track connecting the two, if they were distinct storms.
About half a mile south of Nanticoke, on the top of Eagle's Nest ridge, a pine tree was blown down. A brisk gust of wind was noticed in Nanticoke. The whirling wind blew down at the east end of the bridge, and, following the river from this point, the trees were marked by characteristic twisting; then there is no trace until Butzbach's landing, where the effects are strong, passing to the cemetery at Hanover Green and through the woods to the Catholic cemetery to Petty's woods; then veered to the north and entered South Wilkes-Barre on the line of the D.& H. R.R., with a track about 100 yards wide, at the hour of 5:30 p.m.
Striking Main street near its southern extremity, the storm swept northward to Wood street, where it widened and struck Franklin street and the lower end of Dana place. At Academy street it turned to the east, and from here to Ross street the damage was confined principally to Main and Cinderella streets. At Ross street the storm turned again eastward and swept out Hazle and Ross streets to Washington and Canal, where it struck the Pennsylvania Railroad company's roundhouse and the Hazard Wire Rope works, and then turned northward up Washington, Fell and Canal streets. At Northampton street the storm turned to the east and swept out Northampton to the Central railroad of New Jersey. From here to North street the buildings on Canal street and along the railroads suffered most severely. At North street it again turned eastward up Bowman, Scott and Kidder streets to Five Points, where it left the city.
Within the city limits the following is the list of the killed: Jacob Bergold, John Fritz, Mrs. James Henaghan, Mrs. Eliza J. McGinley, Baby McGinley, Frank Olean, Eddie Schmitt, Nettie Thompson, Adam Frantz, George Hannapple, Joseph Kern, John McGinley, Evi Martin, Peter Rittenmeyer, Andrew Szobal and Berlin Vandermark.
Seriously injured: Mrs. Barrett, Frank Fulrod, John Housch, John Long, James McGinley, John McNulty, Frank Volkrath, George Fry, Miss Henaghan, Fred Linn, Mrs. Margaret McAvoy, Mary McGinley, Isaiah Newsbigle and Franklin Walsh. Unknown employe of D.& H. R.R. company.
Thirty-five others were slightly injured.
Two hundred and sixty buildings, residences, stores, schoolhouses, churches, factories, public and railroad buildings were more or less injured, some totally destroyed. The estimated damage to property, made carefully by the relief committee, was a total of $240,000 in the city limits.
After leaving Wilkes-Barre the storm did no serious damage, as its track was through a wooded region. Touching at Mountain park it crossed Laurel run and over the north end of Indian hill across John P. Lawler's farm and on to the northern side of Bald mountain, where it became diffused and left no distinct marks of its course.
It seems evident, however, that this storm continued its course further on, as a clearly marked path passes about a mile to the east of Spring Brook, and an envelope which was doubtless blown from Wilkes-Barre, was picked up near Hamilton, Wayne county.