The following was excerpted from Nanticoke - 200 Years (1993)
During this period of Connecticut predominance, the settlers were of necessity almost self-sufficient due to poor transportation. The only means of transportation in 1836 was a weekly stagecoach which ran through Nanticoke and which by 1845, was increased to three times a week. The key which unlocked the potential wealth of Nanticoke and all of Wyoming Valley was adequate transportation. This arrived in 1830 with the opening Of the North Branch Canal and the completion of the Nanticoke Dam. Constructed of white pine timber cribs filled in with stone, the eight foot dam was completed under the supervision of Mr. Babb. The dam had a chute at one end for rafts and arks to run through. These would be lined six and eight abreast along the east side for miles above the dam waiting their turn to be run through the chute, Freight-laden barges were assembled at Nanticoke for transfer to both up river and down river points.
The North Branch Canal started at Northumberland and extended 72 miles to the mouth of the Lackawanna River and 94.19 miles to the New York state line. It followed the west bank of the Susquehanna to West Nanticoke crossed the river about one mile north of the Nanticoke Dam. It proceeded to Wilkes-Barre, Pittston and Athens. For three miles north from Nanticoke the river was used as a canal.
Boats were towed by horses or mules either two or four in number. A towpath ran along the canal. When the boats crossed the river at Nanticoke, the horses crossed on the bridge. Horses or mules were usually driven by a boy. Sometimes the captain took his family along on the trip. Then, wash tubs and clothes lines were often seen on the deck. Sometimes a boat would be washed and cleaned for a pleasure party trip down the river.
The first boat "Wyoming," built by Hon. John Koons at Shickshinny, was launched and towed to Nanticoke where she was loaded with ten tons of coal, a quantity of flour, and other articles; her destination was Philadelphia. The "Wyoming" passed through the Nanticoke chute and down the river to Northumberland where she entered the Susquehanna division of the canal and then by way of the Union and Schuylkill canals to Philadelphia. The first venture by river and canal was frozen up on the return trip and its cargo of 15 tons of dry goods was carried to Wilkes-Barre on sleds.
In 1831, the "Luzerne" ran round trips from Nanticoke to Philadelphia. By stagecoach or canal packet, it took two days to reach Philadelphia or New York.
Peter Miller of Dorrance Corners owned boats which plied the canal and the river from Nanticoke to Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Baltimore and New York. Gilbert Miller was the mule driver on the canal, making an average of nine round trips a year between Nanticoke and New York. The trip each way took thirty days. Because of the falls and rapids, navigation was difficult and dangerous in running rafts, arks, and Durham boats; therefore skilled river pilots were needed.
Water transportation was important in marketing coal in the industry's early days. Nanticoke was a terminal point for the canal which was used extensively for coal shipments to larger cities north and south of the city. In 1840, Co. Lee's mines shipped 20,000 tons of coal a year on the canal. From 1830 to 1900, the economy was entirely dependent upon it's canal system.
Canal boats were used to convey coal to the large cities. Al Grett of Nanticoke was one of the first boatmen from 1855 until 1890. Each boat carried at least 15 tons. Shippers paid the boatmen $5 per ton free of toil and towage. Besides, the boatman was given a bonus of $10 and his winter coal. The last two boats were shipped from Nanticoke on December 9, 1900 to Bloomsburg. Captain Cooper, father of Daniel Cooper, a former superintendent of the Nanticoke Light Company, was in charge. During the 70 year span from 1830 to 1900, the canal system played a major role in the life of Nanticoke. Then the canal water was drained into the river. Left abandoned were 178 canal boats, 2 steam tugs, 10 large scows, and 2 dredges.
Steamboats were used for freight and were popular for excursion trips in summer only. In 1826, the first steamboat "Codorus" which ferried sightseers from Nanticoke and Plymouth was the first iron ship built in America. In 1834, the Susquehanna Steamboat and Navigation Company built the "Susquehanna" for $13,000 but it was a commercial failure. In 1838 while in service between Wilkes-Barre and Nanticoke as a pleasure boat, she went aground and people had to walk back to Nanticoke. In 1843, one hour sailing on the pleasure steamboat, "The Fashion" cost 12-1/2 cents. An editorial in the 1854 "Democratic Expositioner," a Wilkes- Barre newspaper, stated, "The only proper and profitable use to which steamboats can ever be put, will be towing canal boats from Nanticoke to Plymouth and from there to the Outlet Lock and the various coal deposits on the Nanticoke pool." In 1874 the Wilkes-Barre Steamboat Company was chartered to carry passengers during the summer season between Nanticoke and Pittston with Wilkes-Barre as its main docking point. An 1892 news article: "The practice of bathing in the river in full view of passing steamer and boats should be stopped." "As the steamboat bringing the theatre- goers to Wilkes-Barre was coming upriver last night, it ran a ground and was stuck for half an hour." A June 1883 article: "For a pleasure trip, take one of the many steamboat trips down the Susquehanna to Nanticoke and you will be reminded of some seaport by the number of canal boats in the dam."
In 1885, the "Scotia" took passengers from Nanticoke to Wilkes-Barre to shop and attend plays and concerts. The three boats that docked in Nanticoke in 1899 were the Magnolia, the Mayflower and the Plymouth. By 1890, there were seven steamboats busily navigating the Susquehanna's waters. Excessive floods in 1865, 1886, 1889 and 1894, crippled the usefulness of this waterway. In the late 1880's the river between Nanticoke and Wilkes-Barre was dredged for boat navigation.
In the 1890's and the early 1900's the river afforded pleasure to Sunday boat-riders in the summer and ice skaters in the winter. They also enjoyed ferry boat rides to Wilkes-Barre, Pittston and Tunkhannock. The ferry station was situated at Edgewater Park below the first covered wooden bridge. It cost two cents per person and four cents for a horse and wagon to cross this bridge. When the iron bridge replaced the wooden one, it meant the demise of the ferry.
Railroads - The Iron Horse
The advent of the railroads spelled doom for canal transportation. In 1843, the first railroad in Hanover Township was completed from Hanover Green Cemetery to the Newport line, and in 1848, the first locomotive was used. By 1860, the canal was being replaced by the Lackawanna R.R. which first began operations in 1852. The Nanticoke R.R., built in 1861, was purchased by the Lehigh and Susquehanna, and the tracks were leased to the Central R.R. of N.J. In 1882, the Penn R. R. ran through Honey Pot, through Nanticoke, along the old canal towpath from the Outlet Lock, and transported coal to the south and west.
Gradually, passenger service started and soon there were 12 passenger trains a day on the Pennsy; at the ticket office at the Pennsy station, Mr. F. Hess sold you a ticket to Wilkes-Barre for 20 cents. Many people continued this mode of travel even after street cars appeared. Train excursion trips were the order of the day. A familiar sight occurred each summer at the Rhone Depot in Hanover when crowds of people with clothes baskets of food waited for the train to take them to the Keg Fund picnics at Mountain Park. These were the Bethel, Moriah, and Primitive Methodist Sunday School picnics. Passenger trains linked Wilkes-Barre to New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Harrisburg. An outstanding event in 1932 was F.D. Roosevelt's famous whistle-stop at the Pa. R.R. depot.
Trolleys and Buses
Streetcars entered the Nanticoke scene shortly after the Nanticoke Street Railway Company was chartered in 1891. They opened their doors for business in May 1893 with Tom Oplinger as conductor and William Mullery as motorman. In 1903 "Nanticoke and Hanover" Street Railway was organized. It later merged with People's Street Railway, operating from Hanover to Glen Lyon. The streetcar was the dominant form of local transportation until 1929, the advent of buses. The last streetcar was permanently retired in 1950. Memories of the open trolley cars still linger.
Nanticoke and all of Wyoming Valley had enjoyed tremendous prosperity when coal was king from 1915 to 1930. People had accumulated savings, had built homes and the population had increased.
The community owes its chief growth to the anthracite coal industry. Coal was first discovered by the Indians in 1710. In 1808 when J. Fell discovered that coal would burn in an open grate, this led to Nanticoke's transformation from an agrarian economy to an industrial center of mining, marketing, and transportation. Colonel Washington Lee was the first to mine it in 1825. Coal was quarried from the hillside; the teams drove right into the mine and loaded their cargo which they hauled in wagons to the river. The cargo was then loaded into arks which were navigated by skilled river pilots who expertly ran the treacherous falls below Nanticoke. Cargoes of coal were shipped downstream since there was no sizeable market for them up the river. In 1813, James Lee, a brother of Washington, sent a 4-horse load of coal to Germantown, Philadelphia. In 1840, Col. Lee's mines shipped 20,000 tons of coal on the canal.
Colonel Lee built Nanticoke's first breaker. Located near his home, it was erected in 1852 and ceased operation in 1891. After the war, the Valley Coal Co. and the Nanticoke Coal and Iron Co. made purchases. In 1869 the Susquehanna Coal Company, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania R.R., purchased Lee's entire holdings. This purchase marked the beginning of the powerful coal companies that were to rule this area for approximately one century. This period saw the end of the independent coal operator and small farmer. Agriculture had ceased to be the backbone of the economy.
The Susquehanna Coal Co. erected the following breakers: Breaker #2, December 1, 1870 which ceased operating in April 1892 in Honey Pot; Breaker #3, August 11, 1872, in West Nanticoke, ceased in 1896. Breaker #4, 1872, at the old stockyard. In 1878 Joseph Stickney was superintendent of the Susquehanna Coal Co.; Owen Richards was assistant superintendent and general outside foreman, with H. M. Frederick as outside foreman. George Morgan was inside foreman. Mine bosses were: Slope 1 - Timothy Downing; tunnels 1 and 2 - David W. Evans; slopes 2 and 4 - George Feltmeyer; tunnel 4 -Samuel Whitson; shaft 1 - John Parry and shaft 2 -Thomas R. Williams.
The coal from these different mines was passed through breakers 1 and 2 at Nanticoke. Men and boys employed in connection with breaker #1 inside the mine numbered 282, outside, 222. The total production of coal was 82,294 tons. At breaker #2 there were 408 men and boys employed underground and 203 on the surface. In 184 days 254,638 tons of coal were produced or 1,383 tons per day.
In 1880, Susquehanna Co. erected breaker #5 near Main Street (behind Hill and Evans - now Levanthal's); breaker #6 on Main St. Glen Lyon; and breaker #7 April 5, 1899 (right of West Church and West Main).
The D. L. and W. Coal Co. (later Glen Alden) also purchased land and constructed the Auchincloss, Bliss and Truesdale colleries. At the end of 1916, an anthracite coal record was made by the Truesdale Colliery. It produced 1,689,910 tons - an average of 542 tons per hour. In 1953 fire destroyed this largest anthracite producing mine in the world. In October 1974 fire also destroyed #6 colliery at Glen Lyon.
SOME FIRSTS IN NANTICOKE UP TO 1830
1774 - the first school teacher was William McKarrichan.
1776 - the first two "great roads," Middle and River Roads, were staked out.
1780 - first weekly mail from Wilkes-Barre.
1810 - the first school.
1820 - John Oint Miller began the first pioneer grist mill, saw mill, oil mill and the old forge which he later sold to Colonel Washington Lee.
1820 - Thomas Bennett opened the first tavern and blacksmith shop.
1820 - Matthias Gruver kept the first tavern on Main Street.
1825 - Col. Washington Lee mined the first coal in Nanticoke.
1825 - the first doctor was Alden Bennett.
1830 - David Thompson was the first postman.
1830 - the Nanticoke Dam was built. North Branch Canal extended to Nanticoke.
A SURGE OF IMMIGRATION
As coal, canals, and railroads expanded and brought markets near to hand for export and import, it brought increasing numbers of people and investments and the beginning of the decline of Connecticut domination. Coal mining, as an industry, emerged into national prominence through the exploitation of immigration labor. The earliest settlers, as mentioned, were English and German farmers. Welsh immigrants were imported to drive the shafts for the new mines in the 1840's. Because of the Potato Famine, the Irish came next, seeking a new livelihood. In the 1860s and 1870s, the Poles fled political persecution in Poland and hoped to secure liberty and freedom in this new land. For similar reasons, the Slavs and Hungarians arrived here and were followed by the Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and Italians in 1900. Coal company agents met these immigrants in New York and offered them employment. Many did not know their destination until they reached the depot at Boartown at the bottom of Cabbage Hill in Honey Pot. Boartown, the location of Col. Lee's Company store, was named by Charles Keithline after the large number of boar hogs that ate the leavings from Lee's grist mill nearby.
Sections where these immigrants resided have interesting names such as Honey Pot (where wild bees were prevalent), Pike's Peak, Eagle's Nest, Magee's Patch, Potato Patch, Cabbage Hill, Duck Pond, Lee Mines, Welsh Hill, Jowl Hill (Welsh for devil), and Boartown. The majority of these newcomers boarded with friends and relatives and then lived in company homes. The rent was cheap ($3.50 per month), for these double-block drab, unpainted dwellings, standing in two rows. Between them was the pump from which water was pumped into buckets and carried indoors. At the end of the yard was the outdoor toilet or outhouses, as there was no electricity or plumbing. An outdoor bake oven served several families.
The home orchard and garden yielded vegetables, fruits and herbs. Barrels of cabbage and crocks of cucumbers were prepared for the winter. Canning was a necessity. All root crops and jars of canned food were stored in cellars or outside pits. They raised poultry, cows and pigs. The pigs fed on mash wheeled from the Susquehanna Brewery nearby. The poultry and pigs were killed at home. The pork was used fresh, cured, and smoked, or pickled in brine. Sausage, headcheese, and ziltz or souse were prepared. Meat was cooked in home rendered lard. When chickens were killed, they were dipped into hot water and the feathers plucked. These feathers made fine pillows and warm, light feather ticks or bed coverlets. The nearby woods supplied luscious blueberries and flavorsome mushrooms.
A TYPICAL DAY
Each morning at dawn the housewife would arise, make breakfast, and pack dinner pails. The men and boys walked to the nearby mines or, in the 1900's, used the trolley. Youths of nine and ten years of age and older accompanied their fathers to work. The youngest toiled in the breakers, 80 foot wooden structures. The boys sat on boards over sloping coal chutes and picked rock and slate out of the chutes amid clouds of coal dust. At eleven years of age, the boys tended the mules that hauled coal cars through the mine shafts. Older boys, twelve years of age and over, went down in the cage to the deep mine shafts, started as door tenders, mule drivers, laborers and finally miners.
On his way home from work the miner usually stopped at the neighborhood saloon for a growler of beer and to cool his parched mouth and throat after a day of inhaling coal dust. Since there was no washhouse at the colliery for a shower and change of clothes (until 1910), he arrived home covered with coal dust. From the stove, his wife or landlady, poured pots of steaming water into a round wooden tub. At his call, she then washed his back. The wire clothes line sagged with the weight of his miner's clothes. On the table awaited him a bowl of steaming soup, all-embracing soups having the nutritive value of stews, including meat and vegetables.
HAZARDS AND HARDSHIPS
These early immigrants endured many hardships. They had to make all purchases at the company store. These bills were then deducted from their salaries. Wages were so low that on payday many returned to their homes with empty envelopes. Unlike the Welsh, they had never been in a mine and feared the underground. Some immediately started their own businesses. Those who were employed in the colliery often suffered humiliation and discrimination. In 1869, six of seven Poles recorded by the Susquehanna Coal Co. had to change their names because they were "too difficult to pronounce." Although many spoke five languages, the English language barrier presented great difficulties. To become a miner, a laborer had to pass an oral examination. Night school classes helped solve this problem.
Many miners, after years of working in the coal pits, were afflicted with miners asthma or black lung. Other hazards were danger of cave-ins, gas explosions, and mine car accidents. Miners wore open-flame lamps on their hats that often caused gas explosions. Rats were welcome in the mines, even fed by the miners, as they could detect gas. If danger lurked, they would scurry for safety. Safety lamps were used later. About 1895 dynamite replaced blasting powder; introduced were modern air compressors for ventilation, boilers, steel shaftheads, and electric lamps.
The outstanding mine catastrophe was the 1869 Avondale fire that took 110 lives. Nanticoke suffered many mine disasters. December 11, 1885, Colliery #1, Honey Pot, had a rush of water and quicksand, claiming 26 lives. This was the first accident in which the bodies were never recovered. In 1891, twelve men lost their lives at Colliery #7 explosion. In 1904, eleven were killed in a cage accident at Auchincloss Colliery. In 1905, an explosion at Colliery #7 took seven lives and another in 1920 resulted in the death of 16 men including four Novak brothers. In 1950 a rock and earth slide at Bliss Colliery took two lives.
The "Death Watch" by relatives took place at the head of a shaft or tunnel entrance following a mine explosion.
STRIKES AND UNIONS
Miners worked long hours for low wages and with poor working conditions. The long strike of 1875 was the result of a 1 0% cut in wages, long hours, dishonesty of company check-weighman, cost of blasting powder, and compulsory purchase of overcharged food and clothing at the company store. By means of union organization, the miner secured better wages and higher standards of living. The first major strike occurred July 3,1899 against the Susquehanna Coal Co. affecting 10,000men and boys throughout Luzerne County. At that time, the miners in Nanticoke and Newport were the only affiliates of the United Mine Workers of America. The strike was settled December 11 of that same year and was marked by a huge parade held under the auspices of the UMWA - the first of its kind ever held. The line of march included Stickney's Band, Polish Band of Nanticoke, Young Men's Citizen's Band, Glen Lyon Band and union locals. By the time the strike ended, there were 92 locals of the UMWA organized in the county. September 17, 1900, a general strike was called by President J. Mitchell. 20,000 miners conducted a massive parade in Wilkes-Barre; groups from Nanticoke and Glen Lyon arrived in a special 16 car train. A large demonstration followed at West Side Park. Colliery whistles announced the strike's end on October 29. The first major step toward national recognition was taken when John Mitchell led the miner strike of 1902 which marked the UMWA as the official union of the miners. Pennsylvania National Guard encamped at "Yank" McCarty's Grove, Middle Road (later the homestead of Governor Fine's parents). The strike in 1922 lasted 6 months.
Actually the locals in Nanticoke never gained much strength until after the strike of 1926, due to lack of money and threats by the coal operators. Those who dared to organize were frequently blackballed and consequently left the area. The strike of 1926 was the most effective of the union strikes and left the UMWA in an extremely powerful position. It lasted 165 days and was climaxed with the appearance of John L. Lewis, National President of the UMWA, who received a huge ovation in Nanticoke.
DECLINE OF THE COAL INDUSTRY
King Anthracite had attracted thousands. In 1880, the population was 3,884. Mass immigration took place from 1880and reached its peak in 1930when the population of Nanticoke was 26,043. With the decline of coal as king, the population in 1960 dropped to 15,061 and by 1970 to 14,641. In 1930 the company homes were sold to owners who then remodeled them. When Susquehanna Coal Co. returned the leases to the two estates, 10 acres to the George Estate and 50 acres to the Fairchild's, Nanticoke bought all the mineral rights. With active mining discontinued and reserves diminished to the vanishing point, there will be no further mining in Nanticoke.
Nanticoke was not excluded from the impact which the depression had on the nation. In fact, the end of the depression also marked the decline of coal as the chief industry of the town. The economy crashed and unemployment was rampant as the nation began to find cheaper and easier sources of energy.
But after 1930 when the nation turned to other energy sources, coal began to die a slow death. By 1934, 300 buildings were heated by gas. Because of its decline, people lost jobs and economic conditions grew increasingly worse year after year. Many left the area to seek employment elsewhere. By the late 50's and early 60's, the economy of Nanticoke and the valley as a whole was indeed depressed. Coal, once the town's biggest employer, became the chief cause of its unemployment.
In the ensuing years after the demise of the coal industry, Nanticoke residents became dependent upon the surrounding areas for their employment.
Today, Nanticoke remains almost exclusively a residential community enjoying the economic upturn and growing employment opportunities of surrounding areas and anticipates a brighter economic future with the coming of Travelers Insurance Company. %
FIRST BUSINESS ENTERPRISES
In 1778, John and Mason Alden built a forge on Nanticoke Creek. The forge contained one hammer and only one fire. The hammer was brought from Philadelphia to Harrisburg in a wagon and from there to Nanticoke in a Durham boat. It was in operation for 50 years until 1828. The Aldens made their own iron from ore and sold the bar iron as high as $120 per ton. In 1795 Capt. Andrew Lee acquired the rights of the iron industry - a forge, coal house, and an artificial pond. Iron ore was manufactured into bar iron, affording an available supply for blacksmiths, and was exported by river. The iron sold at $6 per hundred weight.
Col. Washington Lee - the first business magnate
After the War of 1812, Andrew Lee had transferred the title to his son, Col. Washington Lee, a lawyer, The site of Alden's forge lay within the present boundaries of Nanticoke in the Honey Pot area. At one time 1/3 of Nanticoke was a part of Newport Township.
The pioneer grist mill, saw mill, oil mill, and forge or trip-hammer shop was built in 1820 by John Oint and sold to Col. W. Lee at or before completion. Lee built a distillery and store at the same place about 1825. These establishments were on Newport Creek, near the depot of the L&S Railroad, later occupied by the Susquehanna Coal Company's Breaker # 1, engine house, and other buildings. He also established the first bank in Nanticoke.
In 1820 and later, on the site of the Nanticoke Hotel and Alexander's block, there were coal pits for the manufacture of charcoal. The first coal mined here was by Col. Lee about 1825. He opened his mine near the river and as there was no market up the river for coal, he shipped it down the river in Durham boats.
The first tavern was kept by Mathias Grover, Main Street, opposite O'Neill's store. In 1820, Thomas Bennett kept a tavern also. The first blacksmith was Thomas Bennett whose shop stood beside his tavern. He also tried the experiment of burning coal on a grate in his house. Because he used steamboat instead of stove or grate coal, his parlor fire was unsuccessful.
BUSINESSES IN NANTICOKE - 1864-1909
One of the little known aspects of Nanticoke is the existence at the turn of the century of a brewery, the Susquehanna Brewing Company. It was located on West Main Street and Alden Road, adjacent to a rail line, of course, and it provided beer for the miners for 50 years. It was built in 1878; only the bottling house remains. The site consisted of the main brewery and adjacent bottling, shipping and storage facilities.
As the community grew, millers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, harness makers and merchants were kept busy. Stores were general stores where besides groceries, all kinds of items were sold.
Business ads published in newspapers and programs provide us with a good cross section of the types of businesses that existed in Nanticoke at the turn of the century. Many of these ads give us some insight into the quality of life which existed then.
Taken from "The Leading Business Houses" - as listed in the October 1889, "Principal Cities and Towns" on the Bloomsburg Division of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad:
First National Bank - Nanticoke, Main St., - came into existence on January 14, 1889. Paid up capital $75,000. "The First National does a general banking business and respectfully solicits business accounts." The officers are: Isaac Everitt, President; John Smoulter, Jr., Vice President; and H.D. Flanagan, Cashier.
Hotel Broadway- D. B. Williams, corner Arch & Broadway - 32 light and airy sleeping rooms, besides parlors, dining room, bar, billiard, reading and writing rooms -is furnished throughout in a neat and tasteful manner. The eating and sleeping accommodations at this hotel are first-class in every respect, and it would be difficult to imagine a more desirable putting-up place for either transient or permanent guest.
Wernet House (built in 1870 by Xavier Wernet) Corner Main and Locust, J. H. Oplinger, Prop., since April 1888. "We have here a number of fine hotels whose general fame is widespread. Of this number is the grand old Wernet House, which has now been open as a public hostelry for 20 years and more. It is 4-1/2 stories high, is run on the American plan, contains a large number of finely furnished sleeping apartments, and is equipped with all modern conveniences, including a fine bar, reading and writing rooms. The dining room is a special feature, and the table, at all times, fairly groans with all the luxuries and delicacies in season."
Nanticoke Hotel - Corner Main and Locust - W.H. Leisenring, Prop. This popular hotel has 40 finely furnished apartments. Eight polite attendants are employed at this hotel, which has every needed facility at hand for the convenience and comfort of guests. Mr. Leisenring makes a genial and hearty 'mine host' to the travelling stranger in our midst.
S. W. Sutliff - Druggist, 18 Main St. - "A carefully selected stock is kept on hand at all times, including fresh, pure drugs, medicines, and chemicals of all kinds, acids, extracts, flavors and kindred pharmaceutical preparations, all the proprietary remedies, sanitary specialties, herbs, barks, etc., also a full and fine assortment of toilet articles, perfumeries, soaps, and druggists' sundries in great variety. Physicians' prescriptions are carefully compounded by experienced assistants. Some of the specialties made exclusively at this establishment are "Sutliff's Horse Powder," "Syrup of Tar and Wild Cherry."
S. H. Kress - Established in 1844 - 8 E. Main Street, Retail Dealer in Stationery, Blank Books Toys, etc. In the wholesale department, the house is a jobber of stationery, blank books, paper bags, wrapper, twines, school supplies, and novelties in season, which are sold under the name of the New York Stationery Co. In the retail department, Mr. Kress handles and sells all these lines of goods under his own name. (A former teacher, Mr. Kress and Dr. Harter invested $500 each in the business, but Dr. Harter withdrew. Mr. Kress, who became a multi-millionaire after he founded S.S. Kresge Co., national chain of retail stores, sent annual Christmas checks to Sarah Jane Thomas, his first clerk.)
A. Lape & Co. - Dealers in Fresh Meats, Fish, Oysters, Ice, etc. - 24 N. Market St. An admirable feature of this business community is the large and spacious meat market of A. Lape & Co., at 24 N. Market St. The business butcher shop was established in 1874 when Mildreth & Co. were mitted as partners. The firm's building is fully equipped with all modern essentials, such as refrigerators, ice-houses, etc., for the preservation and keeping of fresh supplies. A wholesale and retail trade is done, and all kinds of fresh meats, manufactured meats, such as sausage, etc., oysters and fish are kept in stock. The firm kills most of its stock, having two large slaughter houses 2 miles from town for this purpose. In addition, A. Lape & Co. are extensive ice dealers. Adjoining there premises is an ice house having a capacity for 450 tons. Out near the slaughter house is another one with a capacity of 900 tons of river ice. Over in Grand Tunnel is the largest ice house of the three, with a capacity of 4,000tons. The house does the ice business of this section and employs 11 people and five teams. Mr. Lape was born and raised in Nanticoke, his ancestral family being among the first settlers to come here.
In 1885 a Chinese laundry was established by Wang Lee.
The Centennial records of 1893 list the following: 11 wards, wooden bridge across river, 1 stone quarry, opera house, 4 schools, 30 teachers, 1461 scholars, .3 catholic schools, 1 bank, 2 dentists, brick manufacturer, laundry, feed mill, photographer, 3 blacksmiths, 1 stationery dealer, fruit dealer, 2 cigar stores, 1 harness maker, 2 bakers, 2 carpet weavers, 2 men's furnishing stores, 4 tailors, 4 jewelers, 3 coal breakers, 3 stove dealers, 3 undertakers, 5 carpenters, 5 clothiers, 5 crockery glassworks, 5 furniture dealers, 8 halls, 6 druggists, 9 confectionery stores, 9 hardware stores, 10 hotels, 13 dry goods stores, 33 groceries, 4 livery stables, 4,.milliners and 1 bottler.
Many recall having at one time or another taken a spin on ice skates on Fairchild's Pond, but few realize that at one time the pond served as a source of industry.
The Fairchild's ran a booming ice business through 1937 until the advent of pure and artificial ice. The processing of ice began with the cutting of ice from the pond, done with saws drawn by horses. These long slender strips of ice were loaded onto conveyor belts which extended from the pond to the ice house.
Inside the ice house, divisions of men shaved the snow off the ice and chopped it into blocks. Each section of the ice house processed 16,000tons of ice at one time. At the end of the platform the ice blocks mounted up from floor to ceiling until the room was full. Sawdust, stored in barrels, was drawn through the ice house by horses and spread between the layers of the ice to store it for the winter. In summer, the ice was taken to Nanticoke in wagons hauled by teams of horses.
The Fairchild Ice House in Nanticoke was located in the rear of 162 Hanover Street, which was then the family residence. Consumers in town could purchase their choice of a five-cent, 10-cent, or quarter block of ice.
Bill, Ken and Joe Kelly were among the neighborhood boys who were employed by the Fairchilds. Their favorite name for Grampa Henry Fairchild was "Prince" Henry because he reminded them of Prince Albert on the tobacco can.
The days of removing the pan of melted ice water from under the refrigerator have long since gone.
Incorporated as a village in 1830, Nanticoke was chartered by the Pennsylvania state legislature as a borough on January 31, 1874. The first borough election was held on Tuesday, February 17,1874 at the Fountain Hotel (site of Guaranty Bank) kept by Xavier Wernett. Lewis C. Green was elected burgess and inspectors were Patrick Shea and E. N. Alexander. The first council consisted of Xavier Wernett, E. N. Alexander, Patrick Shea, and George T. Morgan. Samuel Line, William Fairchild, L. W. Carey, Thomas Williams, Joseph Sheperd and George Ahrs, school board; Samuel Line, L. W. Carey and Dr. A. A. Lape, Auditors; L. W. Carey, clerk of the town council.
The successive burgesses were as follows: Milton Stiles, I.D. Williams, Thomas 0. Evans, James Marker, John D. Williams, John J. Boyle, W. Burnett, H. M. Williams, James Keating, Frank Stryszynski, James Cooney, F. W. Madajewski, William H. Oldfield and Dan Sakowski. By 1885, Nanticoke was a growing community as reflected in new laws being passed and in the appearance of improvements and utilities. A supplement to the "Nanticoke Sun" of 1885 mentioned many accomplishments, a few of which follow: a new law forbidding employment of boys under the age of 14 from working in the mines and boys under 12 from working in the breakers; fifteen additional street lights were recommended and adopted; purchase of 2 hose carriages; Nanticoke Water Company put into operation; building of new roadway from Broadway to river bridge commenced; ordered 35 ft. hook and ladder truck; and the Rough and Reddy Hose Co. #2 was organized.
Minutes of council meetings show many interesting and historical events as they occurred in the growing borough of Nanticoke.
In 1892, a paid police department was established. The police cruiser was called the "Black Maria."
1896 - It was decided to use the building at the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets for city hall; Mill Lane changed to Kosciuszko Street. Because Burgess Boyle ordered all unmuzzled dogs shot, 5 dogs having hydrophobia were shot.
1897 - Chestnut St. to be discontinued between Main and State Streets for coasting in the winter; old lock-up to be destroyed and to use Stickney Hose House for tramps.
1898 - Emil Malinowski asked to be exonerated from taxes on his spoke and handle factory that employed 15 men. He also requested the borough lock-up be sold. He obtained it for $60 per year. Offered $500 cash.
1899 - Plank sidewalks ordered constructed at once on Hanover Street from Green to Washington School to make it possible for children to get to the different Boro schools during muddy weather.
1905 - Council used Park building; city building to be used as Emergency Hospital for typhoid epidemic; police to distribute handbills to boil water; bucket of lime distributed to each family having typhoid.
1910 - Meetings held at new city building on West Main; Burgess to receive $1000 per year.
1915 - Cemetery Street changed to Washington St.
1916 - Enforced sidewalk paving. Owners had to pay Boro employees to lay them; tax levy was 6-3/4 mills; request for dummy policeman at corner of Market and Main Streets.
By 1900 there were 85 telephones. The first telephone switchboard was located at Main and Prospect Streets, and the first telephone operator was Miss Agnes Shelly.
Nanticoke experienced its greatest increase in population between 1917 and 1925 and qualified to become a Third Class city under the Pennsylvania code. The citizens voted in the fall of 1924 to form a city government and elections were held the following year. The new city government consisted of a mayor and four councilmen. Those taking office in January 1926 were: Mayor - Dan Sakowski; Council -Stanley Drapiewski, Stanley Janowski, Frank Nork, Sr., Teofil Znaniecki; Controller - Alex Skuzinski; Treasurer - Charles Gorski; Solicitor - Michael Torlinski; Secretary - Frank Wadzinski.
In 1931, caught in the throes of the Great Depression, the city struggled on. Although a Pontiac could be purchased for less than $600 or a 6 room house and a garage for $2800, few could afford either. The new treasury was bankrupt with no means of instituting a new system. Temporary loans sustained its operations until money became available to pay current expenses. Assessments were $17 million.
Succeeding Mayors were: Evan J. Williams, Stanley Ostrowski, John Paulus, Anthony Drier, Frank Kielar, Charles Makar, Vincent Znanieai, Edward Gorka, Frank Wadzinski, Jr., Stanley Glazenski, Edward Butkiewicz, John Haydock and Walter Sokolowski.
In 1960 the city was free of bonded indebtedness; the first time since it was incorporated as a borough or city.
In 1880 the population was 3,884. A fire department was deemed essential for the protection of the borough - its schools, churches, and homes. Early in 1885 a group of public-spirited citizens met in the offices of the Susquehanna Coal Co.
The volunteer fire company they organized was named the Stickney Fire Co. #1 in honor of Joseph Stickney, chief executive of the Susquehanna Coal Co. who helped in organizing it. Later that year it was officially recognized by the Borough Council, and they equipped themselves with a hand-drawn hose cart, which was housed in an old barn in the rear of E. Main St. adjacent to Levanthal's. The Company later moved to the site of City Hall.
In 1897 it was relocated at Market & Spring Sts. In 1912 it was moved it its present location on Prospect St.
In 1912 Council purchased a Seagraves pumper for the Co., which was the first motor fire engine used in Northeast Pa. In 1950 it was replaced by the LaFrance. Engine #1 now has a 1972 American LaFrance.
Charter members were: 0. K. Bennett - the first president; A. A. Enka, J. S. Deitrick, Solomon Harvard, Ernest Deltrick, W. W. Hedden, A. J. Cutler, A. A. Lape, 1. E. Leonard, Morgan Price, Evan Pugh, A. W. Rood, George Rhinard, C. S. Puckey, and A. K. Mowery.. Alvin Lape and A. K. Mowery have the distinction of having other city fire companies named in their honor. Many of the present members of this company are direct descendants of the pioneer members. The first fire chief was A. A. Lape.
In 1965 these veterans were honored at the 80th anniversary: Thomas Witheridge - 1892 - 73 years; William E. Williams - 1906 - 59 years; Phillip Faust - 1910 - 55 years; Delbert Oplinger - 1910 - 55 years; John L. Turner - 191 0 -55 years; Ralph Maynard - 1916 - 49 years; Bert Walker -1923 - 42 years; Dr. J. F. Hill - 1927 - 38 years; Henry Herman - 1935 - 30 years; Sommers Puckey - 1917 - 47 years.
The Stickney Band was the first band sponsored by a fire company.
In 1885 Council purchased Hook & Ladder equipment.
In 1886 a group of men organized and formed a company. Feb., 1886 - Hook & Ladder was organized and is the only Truck Co.
It was organized by David S. Williams and Gommer D. Lewis. Their first meeting place was Reggan's Hall, Market St., By-laws were borrowed from the Stickney. First officers were: Edward T. Williams - Pres.; David H. Davis - Treas., Thomas Hoar, and David Williams. The first hook & ladder was pulled by hand and housed in a barn behind the City Building. The first fire was in a stable opposite the Broadway Opera House. It had been struck by lightning killing 2 horses.
From 1898 to 1903 it was called Thomas C. Bache Hook & Ladder; in 1903 a court charter changed its name back to Pioneer Hook & Ladder,
A building at the corner of Broad and Walnut housed the Pioneer Hook and Ladder truck, the Lape pumper, and the ambulance. Built for $2,597, it not only served as a municipal building with a jail in the basement, but in 1905 it was used as an emergency hospital for typhoid victims.
In 1908 the firemen purchased a team and equipment through picnics and subscriptions; then asked Council to build a barn behind their building.
1917 - Council purchased the first Hook & Ladder truck.
In the 20's they sponsored a Pioneer Hook & Ladder Band, comprised mostly of men from McLuskie's 109th.
In 1933 Council purchased a new Hook & Ladder truck.
Pioneer Hook & Ladder #1, Truck #1 now has a 1968 Howe.
1886s - LAPE - ENGINE CO. #2 ....
Union Fire Co. #2 was also called "Rough and Ready". Later it was renamed in honor of Alvin Lape. It was located on Park St. The hose cart was drawn by hand. At one time the cart was pulled by a horse that belonged to a local hauler. When the fire alarm sounded, he would take his horse to the hose house on Park St. and hitch it to the cart. If the horse wasn't available, the men would draw the cart.
In 1918 the La France pumper was purchased by Council. Made before the advent of the self-starter, it was cranked by hand.
1888 - MOWERY - ENGINE CO. #3 ....
Union #3 was organized to give protection to the south or "back hill" section. (It was a long uphill climb for the men downtown to pull a hand-drawn two-wheel hose cart through dirt streets.) Its meeting place was the "Rising Sun Hotel" at Market & Union. because they had room in the barn to store the hose cart. Meetings were held at various barns until the lst hose house was erected on Prospect St.
Charter members were: John Jones - Chairman; Al Boone - vice ch.; John Clothier - treas.; John Fuge - sec.; trustees - George Elmy, David Evans, and J. Coppin. Other members were: John Bevan, Thomas Traher, Thomas Lee, Patrick Brady, John Williams, Richard Millington, George Banfield, Daniel Bolton, Hugh Meaghan, Elias Lloyd, Nicholas Stephens, Felix Ostronski, Daniel Richards, Edward School, John Stephens, John T. Hill, George Gulliford, Joseph Davis.
In 1889 the name was changed to A. K. Mowery, founder and then fire chief. He secured higher water pressure, so that the fire hoses could be more effective. In 1902 moved to E. Noble.
Mowery Hose Co. #3, Engine #3 now has a 1977 Hahn.
1895 - HANOVER - ENGINE- HOSE CO. #4 ....
Union #4 was organized in the Mansfield Building. Its first apparatus was a two-wheel cart, which was housed in a barn at the rear of 109 Espy St.
In 1897 the firemen purchased a wood frame building and a plot of ground at 108 Espy St. That wood frame building was moved to Welles St. prior to 1910. It was then that the Borough erected the present brick building which also housed a 2-cell jail. In 1912 it received a four-wheel hose (or chemical) truck and a team of horses - which served until 1924.
In 1924 it received a Reo Hose & Chemical truck which was replaced by an American LaFrance triple combination truck in 1927.
Besides fire fighting, this company serves the community in all civic movements.
On an interesting note, Hanover Section was named Rhone, PA before becoming a part of the City of Nanticoke.
1900 - WASHINGTON - ENGINE CO. #5 ....
It Was first called Union Co. #5; then Auchincloss Fire Co.; and in 1910, Washington. First located 1/2 block from its present location on Hanover St.
1919 the Borough purchased the Washington Hose & Chemical Truck, which was replaced in 1961.
Washington Fire Co. #5, Engine #5 now has a 1961 FWD.
1968 - HONEY POT....
Honey Pot is an independent fire company, having bought its own truck, but it cooperates and helps in fighting fires.
Honey Pot Fire Co. #6, Engine #6 now has a 1965 FWD.
This 4th ward group erected its own building at 13 Honey Pot St., and also paid cash for a $20,000 combination pumper and tank truck. In the 1960s it was officially accepted as a member of the City's Fire Department, whereby it could use the fire hydrants and the insignia N.F.D. on the truck. Wm. Dudack heads the group.
Today, Nanticoke has a first class fire department with seven volunteer fire companies.
Three of the fire companies are now centered in the large Fire Department Headquarters opposite the Municipal Building on Ridge Street, the geographical center of Nanticoke.
Great credit goes to these brave fire-fighting volunteers who keep fire losses at a minimum and for their continuous years of protective service to the community.
Only the fire chief and the truck drivers are paid employees. Alvin Lape was the first fire chief. The following succeeded him: A. K. Mowery in 1889, Abednego Reese in 1893, W. H. Hedden in 1896-97, and Bob Smith, John Boyes, Pat Lynch, Louis Gorograntz, Louis Kolanowski, Sommers Pickey, Percy Jones, Henry Noss, Ed Lewis, Gasg Vedor, Roy Turley, Bill Davis, Anthony Zabiegalski, Skeets Morris, Stanley Florkowski, Frank Mayewski, Donald Casey and William Ives.
Seven Firemen's Conventions were held in Nanticoke. The first in 1929 and the last in 1993.
From the desire of a small group of Nanticoke Fire Department members to learn First Aid, grew the determination to secure a community ambulance. Although the idea started in 1929, it was the flood of 1936 that determined the need for it. The group of First Aid students, together with other members of the N.F.D., raised the funds to pay for the first ambulance. The Lions Club donated an inhalor that year and in 1944 the American Legion donate-d a resuscitator.
The ambulance is now kept at the new Fire Department Headquarters. The community is grateful to these volunteers who answer the call at any hour to save the lives of their fellowman.
Before the Nanticoke Hospital was built, miners injured in the Susquehanna Collieries were treated by the company doctor or the family physician. Those burned by explosion or injured by cave-ins in the Glen Alden Collieries - Auchincloss, Bliss, Loomis, and later the Truesdale - were hauled by wagon or cart to Scranton to the Moses Taylor Hospital, built in 1892, for the employees of the DL&W Coal Co., which later became Glen Alden.
In 1905, a typhoid fever epidemic resulted in 531 cases and 50 deaths. It was traced to contamination of the water supply. Since there was no hospital, an emergency hospital was set up at the "city building," better known as Lape Hose House, headquarters for the city Fire Dept.
During this period Borough Council met at the Park Building.
Council voted $1,000 to suppress the epidemic. Dr. E. Bennett was appointed as night physician at $6 per night and nine district nurses were appointed at $20 a week, plus $6 for board. The state furnished five more nurses at $6 a week and their board was paid by Council.
Dr. Sam Dixon, state commissioner of health, appointed Miss Alice O'Halloran, director of the State Health Department of Nursing Services, to organize emergency nursing care. Dividing the borough into districts, she had a corps of visiting nurses covering each area. Since no one was willing to launder the linen of patients, she personally demonstrated how to do it safely. Then a laundry was established with paid workers.
Taking further steps to fight the disease, the Nanticoke Board of Health recommended prompt collection and burning of garbage, great watchfulness of cesspools, inspection of sewer connections, inspection of water supplies and boiling of water.
First National Bank accepted the responsibility to receive and acknowledge money, sheets, blankets, bed pillows, etc. Through the cooperation of the Gas and Water Co., free gas and water was given to those not so equipped.
The typhoid epidemic exposed the need for a Nanticoke hospital. Dr. Dixon met with Dr. J. H. Hughes and E. H. Kohlbraker, superintendent of Susquehanna Coal Co., and the necessity of a hospital was discussed. Later on John B. Evans agreed to get the United Mine Workers interested, while grocer Thomas Butkiewicz agreed to get the various Polish societies involved. After the death of Mr. Evans, several conferences were held by Mr. Kohlbraker, W. W. Bittenbender and Dr. Hughes, the result of which was the organization known as the Nanticoke Hospital Association.
Senator James of Hazleton exerted pressure on the State Legislature to provide appropriations and James had a loyal supporter in W. H. Owens. The people of Nanticoke and Newport Township worked hard to accomplish their goal. Charles Puckey was general manager of a fair that netted $12,000.
The three-story hospital had 20 beds in the male ward, 10 in the female ward, and a ward of eight beds for burned mine patients. Seven private rooms were furnished by John Smoulter, Nanticoke Eagles, Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Church, Mrs. Shea, Mrs. Chris Stegmaier, Miss Emma of Glen Lyon and Architect E. H. Davis. The operating room was furnished by the Stegmaier family in honor of their father, the late Charles Stegmaier. Chief of medical staff was Dr. J. Hughes. Resident physician was Dr. Kaimutz; Miss Caroline Davis of Plainswas superintendent and Dr. Trapold was chief surgeon.
A parade and hospital dedication took place Oct. 12, 1909.
In 1912, the State Legislature passed legislation approving the acquisition of Nanticoke Hospital and other small hospitals unable to operate as private hospitals. The school of nursing was established in June 1914 by Miss Margaret Leach, director of nursing. The first nurses' residence was erected in 1920 and the second in 1936. When the school of nursing was discontinued in 1935, a total of 189 nurses had been graduated.
The 1970's saw diverse changes at the hospital. The former Nurses' Residence Building was converted into the Nanticoke-Hazleton Mental Health Center which provides five mandated services, namely: short term inpatient services, out-patient services, day-hospital program, 24 hr. emergency services, and consultation and education services.
Installation of an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) takes up 1/2 of the former maternity floor and provides 6 to 8 beds plus central monitoring. $24,000 was allocated by the State for this project.
In the past years, the Commonwealth has been phasing out its hospitals. Nanticoke Hospital was acquired in 1989 by Mercy Med-Care, Inc. from the Commonwealth. It is now known as Mercy Hospital of Nanticoke.
Its mission was to provide quality health care particularly in the Greater Nanticoke Area. It provides 24 hour emergency care including Medic 301 Advanced Life Support System, outpatient diagnostic and therapeutic services, mental health and comprehensive health services.
Services considered for the future are: Transitional Care Unit, rehabilitation, and multi-specialty physicians' offices.
Volunteer units have contributed greatly to Nanticoke State General Hospital. Throughout the years, the Auxiliary has worked unceasingly with money-raising events and projects. Its aim was to promote general welfare and comfort of the patients and raise funds for the work of the organization. One contribution, $20,000, was used to purchase the adjoining Washington School, since demolished for a parking lot.
Mrs. Mae Evans helped found and was the first manager of the hospitality shop. Dedicated volunteers are respectfully appreciated by both visitors and staff.
"Candy Stripers," organized by Mrs. Gloria Suda, were also invaluable aides.
In August 1990. the organization changed its name to The Auxiliary for the Mercy Hospital of Nanticoke.
Nearly all the stages carried mail. In 1797 Clark Behee of Wilkes-Barre was post-rider when weekly mail was carried on the eastern routs from Wilkes-Barre to Nanticoke and on to Berwick. In 1800 Jonathan Hancock was the post-rider. The first weekly mail from Wilkes-Barre cost 60 for 1/4 oz., and it was paid for by the recipient. In 1892 free mail delivery was started.
At first, postmasters maintained offices within their homes. The first Nanticoke postmaster was David Thompson, appointed in 1828, and the office was in his house "on the hill" where in 1893 C. M. Richards lived. For years, the post office was located in the Masonic Hall Building, E. Main St., where the Anthracite Printery has its shop. From 1932 to 1963 it was located on the corner of Market and W. Main St., now the site of the Nanticoke Senior Citizens Center.
April 1964, the newly constructed U.S. Post Office on N. Market St. was dedicated.
In the past 20 years, U.S. postal rates have increased from 3 cents in 1957 to 13 cents in 1976 and 29 cents in 1991.