History of Luzerne County

Ashley Borough

 

When a mere "Corners," or in the beginnings of this as a business place, it was known, far and wide, as "Scrabbletown," especially after Daniel Kriedle built his forge, a stone building six or eight rods below the Back road, on Solomonís Creek. The old sawmill stood on this Back road, about thirty rods from the forge; it was a water mill, and was one of the early day important improvements, when people began to get off of dirt or split puncheon floors, and how happy the housewives were made as they swept and polished the real, smooth sawed-plank floors of their cabins. Indeed, then they could have real plank doors to the cabins, and no longer the old batten doors made of split boards, with a wooden pin for the fastening. The old mill stood about where is now the railroad companysí house. In 1830 the land belonged to the Huntingtons. The mill and the old stone forge both ceased operations about 1839. A little further up in Solomonís gap was "Inmanís tavern," and a couple of cabins. This place was then called "Inmanís tavern," and, no doubt, Inman and his friends intended the future borough should be there. But in 1840, when the building of the "planes" was going on, Inmanís tavern went into "innocent desuetude," and Inman sold out and went West, after Horace Greeleyís advice to young men.

The coal mine was sunk in1851at Ashley, and the name of Scrabbletown, by general consent, was changed to "Coalville." This mine was where the Hartford marker stood; the latter, built in 1856, burned in 1884. IN 1856 a large breaker was built over the old shaft, and a "slope" was opened at the foot of the mountain in the "Baltimore vein," a seam of coal nineteen feet thick. A tunnel into the mountain was commenced near the mouth of the slope. After the first breaker was burned another was built, called the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre No. 6 (now called No. 8). The Dundee shaft was sunk in 1857-9, passing to and through sixteen veins of coal. Nothing has been done at this shaft since 1859; the property purchased by the Delaware & Lackawanna railroad.

Chapman says that Rossí mill at Ashley, on Solomonís creek was built in 1830 and abandoned about 1850.

One of the most important improvements consists of the "planes". In 1848 the Lehigh & Susquehanna railroad was completed from White Haven to Wilkes-Barre, to facilitate the supply of coal to the New York and Philadelphia trade, then rapidly growing. At first, light trains for freight and passengers were hauled up but in 1846 this mode of transportation stopped. The railroad was opened for full traffic only in 1847; even then, horses were used to haul trains every where except at the "planes," or where gravity would do it. The trains were hauled up the mountains by stationary engines, and on the other side run by gravity. From Ashley there are three long "planes" to reach the top of Big mountain--a total rise of 1,000 feet. Originally, says Mr. Miner, verified by Mr. Plumb, "straps" of soft steel, attached to a "truck," were used to pull the cars up or let them down; two sets of "straps" to each of the three "planes," and at the top of each "plane" was a stationary engine revolving a large drum to wind the "straps" on. These "strapsí were discarded in 1850 for wire ropes, and then locomotives were put on instead of horses, and the "planes" became much as you can see them now, great stationary engines hauling to the mountain top the long coal trains as they start from Ashley. The "planes" beginning at Ashley, made a necessity by the development of the coal industry, and these together have made it an important, busy and enterprising place.

Our chronicler insists that Ashley has had a plethora of names; one time, even way back in the other century it was irreverently styled "Skunktown," then "Peestone," "Hightown," "Newton," "Hendricksburg," "Scrabbletown," "Coalville," "Nanticoke Junction" and "Alberts." All these before it became officially Ashley.

Tradition gives no excuse for its never being called Wadetown, after its first settler--Abner Wade.

Fritz Deitrick opened the first tavern, on the site of Payne & Cuninghamís store.

Samuel Pees (or probably Pease) then had a tavern, and this gave it the name of "Peesville." The present hotel is on the site. These two were log hotels in the days when two rooms and the "loft" with a ladder, constituted an average hostelry. Samuel Black opened

and ran the first frame tavern, situated on West Main street, where his widow resided many years after it had ceased to entertain guests; then Lewis Landmesser opened his hotel. Alexander gray opened the first general country store in the place.

Railroad Shops of the New Jersey Central are located at Ashley, and are the most important institution of the place. The day these located here it made the place fairly jump out of its "Hardscrabble." clothes and put on the full regalia of an important, thriving borough. The post office name of Hendricksburg was changed to Ashley, and the office and center of the hamlet moved to about its present place. The works were thought to be great affairs at the first, but time and the growing enterprise of the road has shown itself as distinctly in their shops here as anywhere else. Additional buildings, and additions to the first ones, and increased capacity in every shop as well as numbers of employees have marked every department. Seven hundred men now find employment in the different shops. These skilled mechanics are of the best class of permanent residents of the place. The roar of the forges, and the whir of the heels, the pounding of many hammers, and the turning of the great lathes, are some of the songs of busy, happy and the well-paid and well-kept industrial world to be seen here.

Here is the foot of the "plane"--one of the remarkable concerns of the kind in the world. Here is seen the ingenuity of the mechanics in construction; the automatic movement of the "push truck" and the long ropes that pull great coal trains up the mountain side. At this foot are two tracks, and the way this "truck" runs under trains, and is automatically changed from the front to the rear; the way it and its great steel wire rope seem to jump from track to track; the general movement of the whole machinery, with the stationary engine way off out of sight on the mountain side, are marvelous to the raw and uninitiated, as they were to the writer and his friend, as they stood on the old wooden bridge and watching, tried to comprehend it all, and could not. (By the way, at that very moment men were at work replacing the old wooden bridge with a new iron structure, and in a few days the old will be gone and the people will be proud of the bridge over the track of planes---July 30,, 1892.)

The "planes" were a necessity, and are one of the most valuable improvements in the county. The question will arise to the reader as it did to the writer, and as it has no doubt to nearly everyone, "Why didnít they tunnel the mountain?" For the best reason in the world, the tunnel, commencing, say, at the foot of the plain, would have to got White Haven to find an outlet--fifteen miles, and al that long distance would have been from 1,000 to 1,700 feet below the surface. So, you see the "planes" were the only practical solution of the question.

The charter of Ashley borough bears date December 5, 1870. The principal petitioners for its organization were J.C. Wells, E.L. Deifenderfer, C. T. Lohr, William J. Day, George Dunn, J.K.P. Fenner, Samuel Crow, A.T. Joslyn, E. C. Cole, J.W. Cole, William Powder, A. Le Bar and John White. First borough offices: Burgess, Jeremiah N. Gette; council: J.C. Wells, M. A. McCarty, E.L. Diefenderfer, John Campbell and A. D. Le Bar.

Present officials: James K. P. Fenner, burgess; council: E. Lindermuth, president; John H. Eyer, treasurer; Peter Murphy, secretary; R. J. Carey, John Bowden, John Brenner and L.L. Newhar. The foreman of Rescue Hose and Engine No. 1, Thomas McDonald. A street car (horse)has rendered efficient service, but its capacity had long been insufficient for the enormous demand upon it, and in November, 1892, it was changed to an electric line, and became a part of the great traction company;s system of roads. The place has ample railroad, telegraph and telephant facilities.

But a short time ago Ashley was a small place, said to be three miles from Wilkes-Barre, and a generation ago the people would ride along the dusty road, through the heavy old forests to town to do a little shopping or some other small errand. Now you may ride on the railroad, or street cars from the remotest part of Ashley to the courthouse, and you can not tell there is a break in the city on any foot of the way. It is purely and imaginary line that divides Wilkes-Barre and Ashley. It is certainly one of the flourishing suburbs of the city. Its industries outside of t its railroad and coal may be enumerated as: 5 bakers, 3 barbers, 1 shoemaker, 3 druggit, 1 furniture store, 9 general stores, 10 grocers, 3 hardware 3 hotels, 1 livery, 3 meat markets, 1 merchant tailor and 2 jewelers.

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This Town History was donated by Jacqueline M. Wolfe.

© 1997-2010 by Mary Ann Lubinsky for the PAGenWeb Project, and by Individual Contributors

 Mary Ann Lubinsky
County Coordinator

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