|• Type||Borough Council|
|• Mayor||Dorothy Petrosky|
|• Total||1.2 sq mi (3.1 km2)|
|• Land||1.1 sq mi (2.8 km2)|
|• Water||0.08 sq mi (0.2 km2)|
|• Density||5,000/sq mi (1,900/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
Plymouth is an incorporated borough in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, United States, 4 miles (6 km) west of Wilkes Barre, on the Susquehanna River. Prior to its incorporation in 1866, it was part of Plymouth Township, established in 1769 by the Susquehanna Company and claimed by Connecticut based on the charter of that colony. The Pennamite-Yankee War was fought in the environs.
Plymouth is situated in the rich hard coal fields of Pennsylvania. Coal was first shipped in 1807. In the past, the chief products of its industrial establishments included mining drilling machines, miners' squibs, silk hosiery, and lumber products. In 1890, Plymouth's population was 9,340; its population peaked in 1910 at 16,996. The population was 5,951 at the 2010 census.
- 1 Geography
- 2 Demographics
- 3 History of Plymouth (1753-1972)
- 3.1 The Yankee Era (1753-1860)
- 3.2 Years of industrial growth (1861-1900)
- 3.2.1 The Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Railroad
- 3.2.2 Capt. David Schooley's Map of 1864
- 3.2.3 The First National Bank
- 3.2.4 Incorporation of Plymouth Borough
- 3.2.5 Welsh, English, Scottish and Irish immigration
- 3.2.6 The Avondale Mine Disaster
- 3.2.7 1873 Beers Map
- 3.2.8 Labor troubles
- 3.2.9 Polish, Lithuanian and Slovakian immigration
- 3.2.10 The First Central High School
- 3.2.11 Aerial View of Plymouth in 1884
- 3.2.12 The Typhoid Epidemic of 1885
- 3.2.13 Martin Wilkes and the Polish-Lithuanian Church War
- 3.2.14 The electric railway and the Carey Avenue Bridge
- 3.2.15 The Spanish American War
- 3.2.16 The start of the 20th century
- 3.3 Years of prosperity (1901-1929)
- 3.4 Years of retrenchment (1930-1972)
- 4 Coal mining in Plymouth
- 4.1 The 1858 Anthracite Map
- 4.2 The Susquehanna Coal Company Mines
- 4.3 The Chauncey Colliery
- 4.4 The Avondale Colliery
- 4.5 The Nottingham Colliery
- 4.6 The Parrish Colliery
- 4.7 The Dodson Colliery
- 4.8 The Lance Colliery
- 4.9 The Gaylord Colliery
- 4.10 Hillside Colliery
- 4.11 Delaware & Hudson Collieries Along Brown's Creek
- 4.12 Delaware & Hudson Collieries Along Shupp's Creek
- 4.13 Kingston Coal Company Mines
- 4.14 Woodward Colliery
- 5 Notable people
- 6 Burgesses of Plymouth
- 7 References
- 8 External links
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2), of which 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2) is land and 0.08 square miles (0.2 km2), or 7.31%, is water.
At the 2010 census Plymouth had a population of 5,951. The reported racial and ethnic origin of the population was 90.6% non-Hispanic white, 4.3% African-American, 0.2% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.1% non-Hispanic from some other race, 2.0% reporting two or more races and 3.3% Hispanic or Latino.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,507 people, 2,794 households, and 1,673 families residing in the borough. The population density was 5,924.2 people per square mile (2,284.0/km2). There were 3,260 housing units at an average density of 2,968.0 per square mile (1,144.3/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 98.43% White, 0.75% African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.11% Asian, 0.22% from other races, and 0.34% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.80% of the population.
There were 2,794 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.6% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.1% were non-families. 35.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the borough the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 20.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 86.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.2 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $27,379, and the median income for a family was $36,060. Males had a median income of $26,111 versus $20,429 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $14,207. About 10.8% of families and 15.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.2% of those under age 18 and 13.4% of those age 65 or over.
History of Plymouth (1753-1972)
The Yankee Era (1753-1860)
The Susquehanna Company and early settlement
The origins of Plymouth (also known as Shawnee and Shawneetown) date back to the creation of the Susquehanna Company in Windham, Connecticut, on June 18, 1753, formed to promote the settlement of certain lands along the Susquehanna in what is now northeastern Pennsylvania. This place, called "Wyoming," fell within the bounds of the charter issued in 1662 by Charles II to the Connecticut Colony. It also fell within the bounds of the charter issued by the same king in 1681 to William Penn, thus setting the stage for a conflict between the two colonies.
In 1754 at Albany the Susquehanna Company purchased a deed to a tract of land along the Susquehanna River from the Iroquois (Six Nations) who had long held the land by right of conquest. This purchase met with the disapproval of the Pennsylvania proprietors, and with many in Connecticut, but the Susquehanna Company persevered. In 1769, John Durkee and a group of 240 Connecticut settlers created five townships, and surveyed their bounds, naming them Wilkesbarre (later renamed Wilkes-Barre), Nanticoke (later renamed Hanover), Pittstown (later renamed Pittston), Forty (later renamed Kingston) and Plymouth. During the summer of 1770, the settlers began to survey and sub-divide the five townships into lots, and settlement began in earnest in 1772.
Armed men loyal to Pennsylvania twice attempted to evict the Connecticut settlers in what are known as the Pennamite-Yankee Wars. Following the American Revolution, and ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1781, Pennsylvania sued to resolve the conflict with Connecticut. A trial was held at Trenton, New Jersey, in 1782, and the conflict resolved in favor of Pennsylvania, which was granted full jurisdiction over the Susquehanna Company's lands.
Years of uncertainty ensued for the Connecticut settlers in the Wyoming Valley, until in April 1799, Pennsylvania passed the Compromise Act allowing settlers (in those townships which had been created and settled before the Trenton Decree of 1782) to prove their chain of title and pay a fee in return for certification of their title. Thus, Plymouth landowners who could establish their chain of title retained ownership of their land, but came under the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. The process took years, but by 1811 most land claims had been resolved. Today, all ownership of land in Plymouth can be traced back to these certified titles.
Plymouth sits on the west side of the Wyoming Valley, wedged between the Susquehanna River and the Shawnee Mountain range. Just below the mountain are seven hills that surround the town like the hills of Rome, and form a natural amphitheater which separates the town from the rest of the valley. The hills are named Avondale Hill, Curry Hill, Turkey Hill (or Cemetery Hill), Levi's Hill, Welsh Hill, Pierce Hill (or Shonk Hill) and Ross Hill. Eight creeks run between the hills down to the river. These are Harvey's Creek, Jersey Creek, Coal Creek (formerly Mill Creek, Smith's Creek or Ransom Creek), Wadham's Creek (formerly Whittlesey's Creek), Brown's Creek (formerly Nesbitt's Creek, Cooper's Run or Pine Swamp Creek), Shupp's Creek and Toby's Creek. Below the hills, the flat lands are formed in the shape of a frying pan, the pan being the Shawnee flats, once the center of the town's agricultural activities, and the handle being a spit of narrow land extending east from the flats, where the center of town is located.
The Smith Coal Mines
At the beginning of the 19th century, Plymouth's primary industry was agriculture. However, vast anthracite coal beds lay below the surface at various depths. At a few locations these beds were visible in the form of outcrops, and one such location was a gorge created by Ransom Creek (now Coal Creek) located about a mile upstream from the Susquehanna River. Coal could be seen (and accessed) on both the east side (Turkey Hill) and the west side (Curry Hill) of the creek.
Attracted by this outcrop, Abijah Smith came to Plymouth about 1806 from Derby, Connecticut, intending to mine, ship and sell coal. In the fall of 1807, Smith floated an ark down the Susquehanna River loaded with about fifty tons of anthracite coal, and shipped it to Columbia in Lancaster County. The significance of Smith's shipment went unnoticed until 1873, when Hendrick B. Wright, in his Historical Sketches of Plymouth, wrote,
"Anthracite coal had been used before 1807, in this valley and elsewhere, in small quantities in furnaces, with an air blast; but the traffic in coal as an article of general use, was commenced by Abijah Smith, of Plymouth."
By 1808, Abijah Smith secured a patent for coal lands on the east side of the creek. In 1811, Smith's brother, John Smith, began to mine coal on the west side of the creek. This second mine (often called, erroneously, Plymouth's first coal mine) achieved national fame as a kind of tourist attraction. In 1829, a writer from Wilkes-Barre posted a notice in the Connecticut Mirror, writing, "among the curiosities of our county (and we have a few) are Smith's Coal Mines, situated in Plymouth township in this county ... it sends a sudden twinge through a fellow, say, to think himself walking under a mountain fifty feet through, with only here and there a pillar to support it ... those who feel desirous of knowing more about this matter, must do as many others have done - go and see for themselves."
Beginning with the fifty tons of coal shipped by Abijah Smith in 1807, Plymouth's and the Wyoming Valley's coal industry grew steadily. In 1830, the Baltimore Patriot reported that "... a greater quantity of Anthracite Coal has been sent down the Susquehanna this Spring than in any former season. The Baltimore Company have sent three thousand tons, and from other mines about seven thousand tons were dispatched, making an aggregate of ten thousand tons."
The North Branch Canal
As late as the 1840s, whenever high water allowed, coal from Wyoming Valley's coal mines was shipped down the Susquehanna River on wooden arks. But by the end of 1830, canal boats began to replace arks as the preferred method of transporting coal and other goods to market. In 1826, the Pennsylvania Board of Canal Commissioners engaged John Bennett to survey the route of a new canal, to be called the North Branch Canal, to run alongside the north branch (the main branch) of the Susquehanna River from Northumberland to the New York border. In early 1827, Bennet reported that the canal was feasible, and in 1828, the state legislature authorized funds for construction. Charles T. Whippo, who had worked on the construction of the Erie Canal, was engaged to survey the route and supervise construction. The southern portion of the canal, as built, ran for 55.5 miles (89.3 km) along the west side of the river, from Northumberland to West Nanticoke, where a dam at Nanticoke Falls was built to divert water from the river into the canal. The work was generally complete by the fall of 1830. The first load of coal shipped from the Wyoming Valley reached Berwick in October.
The canal was a boon to Plymouth's coal operators, who in 1830 included John Smith, Freeman Thomas, Henderson Gaylord and Thomas Borbidge, and encouraged others to open mines, such as Jameson Harvey and Jacob Gould. Smith's teamsters led teams of horses deep into his mine, turned the team, loaded the wagon and then drove the team to the river bank to load the coal into canal boats. Gaylord, whose mine was at the base of Welsh Hill, improved on this method and built a gravity railroad that ran along what is now Walnut Street, down what is now Gaylord Avenue, to his wharf on the river. A similar road, called the Swetland Railroad, was built from mines in Poke Hollow down a route which later became Washington Avenue, across Bull Run to another wharf on the river. Freeman Thomas built a railroad from his Grand Tunnel mine to a chutehouse along the river near the entrance to the canal.
The early coal mines in Plymouth supported an ancillary industry, boat building. The arks used to transport goods on the river were built in a basin where Wadham's Creek entered the river. After the canal was built, the arks began to be replaced by flat-bottomed canal boats, built in the same basin with a distinctive design, known as "Shawnee boats." Many of the town's young men became boatmen and were well known along the length of the canal for their distinctive call, "Shawnee against the World." George Bedford, writing in 1917, evoked the antebellum charm and character of Plymouth in the 1840s:
There was at that time no evidence in sight of coal mining. At several places on the main street there were small clusters of houses, but all else was highly cultivated farm land, extending from well up on the slope of the mountain to the river’s shore ... Taking it all in, there was no more beautiful part of the Wyoming Valley. In the twilight of the summer evenings we were wont to sit at the front of the old home and hear the pleasant and oft recurring sound of the boatman’s horn miles away, wafted across the river and giving signal to the keeper of the outlet lock [at West Nanticoke] to make ready for the passage of boats in and out of the canal. Alas, all is changed! Towering coal breakers and huge culm banks are marked features of the landscape. The canal and its locks, its boats and its boatmen, together with the boatman’s horn, have long since passed away.
Years of industrial growth (1861-1900)
The Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Railroad
The Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Railroad was incorporated by a charter from the Pennsylvania state legislature on April 5, 1852. The Board of Directors of the railroad included two Plymouth native sons, Henderson Gaylord and William C. Reynolds. The railroad reached Plymouth by 1857, and by June 1860, all 80 miles (130 km) of the railroad, from Scranton to Northumberland, were complete. In 1873, the line came under the control of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, which was backed by powerful New York financiers, and which operated several collieries along its length, including the Avondale Colliery in Plymouth.
The completion of the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Railroad connected Plymouth to the nation's growing transportation grid, making it easier and cheaper for mine operators to ship large quantities of coal to distant markets. The railroad's arrival led to the rapid transformation of the small agricultural village into a major supplier of anthracite coal. Small mining operations founded by local residents gave way to large, highly capitalized collieries, capable of reaching coal veins deep underground. These large operations attracted foreign labor, first from the British Isles, and then from Eastern Europe.
Industrial growth brought the town prosperity, which in turn brought amenities like a central water system, gas and electrical systems, paved streets, sewers, elaborate school buildings and a trolley system connecting Plymouth's residents to other towns and cities in the Wyoming Valley. On the other hand, industrial growth had disadvantages, including strife between labor and management, and wild swings in the economic cycle. The jobs provided by the coal industry came with the constant risk of death or injury and, for those who survived, chronic health problems. The annals of Plymouth's history include a long list of mining fatalities as well as one of the nation's greatest mine disasters.
Capt. David Schooley's Map of 1864
In 1864, Capt. David Schooley published a detailed map of Luzerne County, including Plymouth Township, two years before the borough was incorporated. The map illustrates the Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad running through the town, as well as four branch railroads that connected coal mines either to the new railroad, or to wharves along the river. These branch railroads were (from east to west): The Swetland Railroad, running from Poke Hollow across Bull Run to a wharf on the river; The Gaylord Railroad, running from Poke Hollow, across what would later become Walnut Street, and then down what would later become Gaylord Avenue, to Gaylord's wharf on the river; The Smith, or Reynolds Railroad, running from the Smith mines along Coal Creek to the Smith boat basin along the river; The Jersey Railroad, connecting the Jersey Colliery to the new L & B Railroad. The Map illustrates Plymouth just before its mines were taken over by major corporate operators.
The First National Bank
The First National Bank of Plymouth was organized on December 10, 1864, under the National Banking Law of 1863, which authorized banks to handle and distribute national currency. The bank opened its doors for business on February 22, 1865, and was granted Federal Certificate No. 707 in September 1865. The enterprise was started with capital of $100,000.
The bank's earliest directors included the heads of Plymouth's old Yankee families. Smith, Gaylord, Turner, Reynolds, Davenport and Harvey were represented. Notably absent was the Wadhams family. The directors also included a smattering of more recently arrived men, such as the Philadelphia-born William L. Lance, and the Scotsman, Charles Hutchison. But whatever their family background, all of the directors were involved in the coal business. The bank was formed at a time of transition for the coal industry, when the town's independent mine operators (most of whom were directors of the bank) were handing over the operation of their mines, either by lease or by sale, to a few large corporations — by 1880, the Kingston Coal Co., the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co., the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, and the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Co. would control most of Plymouth's coal mines.
Initially, the First National Bank’s directors met in the MacFarlane Building (which later became the Stegmaier brewery, which in turn became the Golden Quality ice cream store and factory). In July 1865, the bank moved across the street to the corner of Girard and Main streets and for the next fifty years operated on that site out of a simple Italianate building which it shared with a separate residence.
Incorporation of Plymouth Borough
What is now Plymouth Borough was originally a part of Plymouth Township. Plymouth Borough was incorporated in April 1866. According to Samuel L. French, author of Reminiscences of Plymouth, Luzerne County, Penna., "...the present Borough of Plymouth was erected by decree of Honorable John N. Conyngham, President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, on the 23rd day of April, A. D., 1866, upon the recommendation of the Grand Jury..."
The incorporators were John B. Smith, Henderson Gaylord, Peter Shupp, Draper Smith, Josiah M. Eno, Daniel Gardiner, A. R. Matthews, William Jenkins, George P. Richards, S. M. Davenport, Edward Griffith, Lewis Boughton, A. F. Shupp, John J. Shonk, James McAlarney, J. P. Davenport, Eli Bittenbender, David McDonald, C. A. Kuschke, Andrew F. Levi, Querin Krothe, David Madden, John Dodson, Darius Gardiner, John Cobley, William L. Lance, Jr., J. E. Smith, R. N. Smith, John Dennis, David Levi, W. W. Lance, William W. Dietrick, James Hutchison, George Brown, Oliver Davenport, Samuel French, A. Gabriel, Theodore Renshaw, Edward G. Jones, J. L. Nesbitt, J. W. Weston, J. H. Waters, John E. Halleck, E. R. Wolfe, F. E. Spry, C. F. Derby, Anthony Duffy, D. Brown, A. G. Rickard, Thomas P. Macfarlane, William L. Lance, Lewis Gorham, John Jessop, A. S. Davenport, A. Hutchison, Brice S. Blair, John S. Geddis and C. H. Wilson, M.D."
The boundaries of the new borough extended from the line of the No. 11 Lance Coal Breaker on the east to Driscoll Street on the west, about a mile and a half; and from the river on the south to near the foot of the mountain on the north. When first created, the borough was divided into two wards, east and west, the dividing line being Academy Street. Later, these two wards were sub-divided into additional wards. After incorporation, the borough elections were held in the Old Academy where the township elections had previously been held. The first borough election was held in May 1866. Oliver Davenport was judge of the election, and John J. Shonk and Ira Davenport were inspectors. Elijah C. Wadhams was elected as the borough's first Burgess.
Welsh, English, Scottish and Irish immigration
In the wake of the arrival of the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Railroad in 1857, a large number of immigrants came to Plymouth to work in the coal mines and, as the population grew, it became more diverse. According to the 1860 census, Plymouth Township had 2,393 residents. Of these, 75% were born in Pennsylvania. Among the other 25% a small number were foreign born: 246 in Ireland, 78 in Wales, 53 in England, 49 in Scotland and 37 in Germany.
By the time of the 1870 census, the population had grown to 7,736, including 807 born in Ireland, 926 born in Wales and 713 born in England. In addition to these newcomers, there were 138 Scots, 52 Germans, 39 Canadians, 5 French and 1 Norwegian. Moreover, many of the 4,635 Pennsylvania-born residents were the children of these immigrants. By 1870, roughly 75% of the town's population was either foreign-born, or the children of foreign-born parents.
Along with these new immigrants and the rapid increase in the population, came an inevitable change in character of the town from a sleepy agrarian village to a rough and tumble mining town. In the mid-1870s, there were numerous crimes and atrocities (often labor related) attributed to Irish secret societies, collectively known as the Molly Maguires. A few of these incidents occurred in Plymouth, including shootings and anonymous death threats. As an example, on February 10, 1875, the Plymouth Weekly Star published a threatening letter, or "coffin notice", which included the demand that the recipient leave town or else be killed:
A gentleman in the employ of one of our prominent merchants has received the following letter:
"Plymouth, Feby 1, 1875, Mr. ____: youre Days is numbered in Plymouth we will guve you 24 hours to lave and if you don’t lave in that time dath will be youre dom. Leave leav you blackleg ____. No more from me at pres. M. MacGuire.
Mr. Barthe, editor of the Star, wrote that "the letter is ornamented with a coffin, skull, cross-bone, pistol & dagger. A reward will be paid to any person introducing the writer of the above." Samuel L. French, who was Burgess of Plymouth when this letter was published, mentioned the Molly Maguires in his history, Reminiscences of Plymouth, Pa., writing that "one of their number named Dunleavy was mysteriously shot one evening in a saloon on East Main Street, which incident had the effect of putting a quietus on the band in Plymouth."
In addition to quarrels between newly arrived immigrants and the established order, quarrels often arose among the immigrant groups themselves. These were sometimes personal in nature. The Philadelphia Inquirer, on February 25, 1881, reported one such incident between two mineworkers, one Welsh, the other Irish.
"In a quarrel between James Kelly, a car runner, and A. D. Williams, a miner, at the Nottingham mine, Plymouth, today, the latter struck Kelly a terrible blow with a heavy piece of wood knocking him senseless. The wounded man was taken home and died in the afternoon. Williams was arrested. The quarrel arose out of the division of cars of which Kelly had charge."
The influx of immigrants from the British Isles led to the construction of several new buildings, including St. Vincent's church for the Roman Catholic congregation, St. Peter's for the Anglicans, the Presbyterian church for a largely Scottish congregation and several new churches for a variety of Welsh congregations.
The Avondale Mine Disaster
The Avondale Mine Disaster occurred on September 6, 1869, when 108 men and boys died at the Avondale Colliery, located just west of the Plymouth borough line. A fire in the mine shaft, ignited by a ventilating furnace, spread to the breaker which stood over the shaft. The breaker was destroyed by fire, trapping those working in the mine below. All were killed, as were two men who volunteered to enter the mine soon after the fire. One result of the disaster was the enactment in 1870 of a law regulating mining which required employment by the State of mine inspectors, the mapping of all mine works, the creation of two means of egress from every mine, provision for proper ventilation, reporting and investigation of all accidents and the establishment of rules of conduct for employees.
1873 Beers Map
The Plymouth, Pa. Beers map is taken from an atlas of Luzerne County cities, towns and townships, prepared by D.G. Beers and published in Philadelphia in 1873. The Beers map provides detailed information about the town as it stood fifteen years after the railroad arrived, eight years after the end of the Civil War, and seven years after Plymouth Borough was created out of Plymouth Township.
The map illustrates the division of the town into two wards, east and west of Academy Street.
A bank panic on September 18, 1873, led to a prolonged national depression, and by 1877 there were about three million unemployed, roughly 25 percent of the working population. These circumstances led to the outbreak known as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. It was the first nationwide strike, one in which Plymouth played a small but interesting part.
The strike began in June 1877 when the Pennsylvania Railroad cut wages by 10 percent. The following month it announced that all eastbound trains from Pittsburgh would be doubled in size without any increase in the size of crews. Railroad workers declared a strike, took control of switches and blocked the movement of trains. Meanwhile, on July 13, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad cut wages, and on July 16 the railroad's firemen and brakemen refused to work. A sympathy strike broke out in Pittsburgh, and troops were sent from Philadelphia. When the troops were confronted by strikers, they fired into the crowd, killing twenty and wounding twenty-nine. Workers broke into a gun factory and seized rifles and small arms and exchanged gunfire with the soldiers throughout the night. On July 22, Pennsylvania's governor ordered every militia regiment in the state to report for duty. Samuel L. French, Plymouth's Burgess at the time, recalled,
"In July, 1877, almost immediately succeeding the peaceful enjoyments incident to the centennial celebration of our national independence, the country was startled at the outbreak of very serious rioting by the railroad employees of Pittsburgh. These outbreaks of lawlessness, like an epidemic of a contagious disease, rapidly spread over near the entire state. Railroad traffic was for a time interrupted, employees being assaulted and engines and cars demolished. Local authorities were utterly unable to cope with the situation."
A national strike was on all over the country. On July 25, a general strike was called in northeastern Pennsylvania on the Delaware and Hudson Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (the line that ran through Plymouth). The mine workers employed by these railroads (many from Plymouth) struck as well. On August 2, three thousand state militia troops arrived in the Wyoming Valley. Samuel L. French wrote,
"The miners in the anthracite regions of Schuylkill and Luzerne and Lackawanna counties were at the time on strike and soon became infected. A demon like spirit seemed to pervade the masses. In Scranton, Mayor McKune had been violently assaulted, and a posse of the leading citizens had fired upon and killed several of the rioters. A passenger train on the L&B R.R., arriving at Plymouth from Northumberland in the evening was stoned and the train obliged to remain on the siding at the depot. I was Burgess at the time and a committee of representative citizens reported to me, their fears of contemplated incendiarism against certain of the properties located here and connected with mining industries, and requested me to officially invoke protection from the State. I telegraphed the State authorities and soon thereafter a regiment of soldiers was in possession of the town."
"...Brigadier General E. W. Matthews, a former school teacher in Plymouth, was in charge of the troops which invaded the town. In front of the engine of the train which carried the troops was placed a gun, and at Nanticoke several companies were disembarked, and as skirmishers, during the night, proceeded up the road, taking into custody every man caught out of doors. Near a hundred of these night prowlers were thus captured, quite a number in Plymouth, some of whom were carried to Scranton, there to give an account of their actions. The troops remained stationed here, and in the locality for several weeks, the staff officers using the stalled railroad cars for their headquarters."
Polish, Lithuanian and Slovakian immigration
By 1880, a new mix was added to the population of Plymouth with the arrival of immigrants from Eastern Europe. These were welcomed by the mining companies because they worked for low wages, and thus undercut the bargaining power of the increasingly organized Irish and Welsh miners. In the 1880 census, only 86 of Plymouth's residents were born in Poland, 25 in Prussia, 9 in Hungary, 8 in Austria and 2 in Russia. Most likely they were all ethnically Slovakian, Lithuanian and Polish.
In 1885, during Plymouth's great typhoid epidemic, it was implied (incorrectly) in the press that the epidemic was caused by the new immigrants' unsanitary living conditions. In fact, the disease was caused by contamination of the town's water supply by the careless behavior of a typhoid-stricken dairy farmer living near the town's water system. Ironically, because some of the immigrants lived at the lower end of town (and therefore happened to live close to the source of the water supply), they suffered disproportionately from the tainted water. As they grew ill, their neighbors took notice and the plague was quickly attributed to them and their crowded quarters. Furthermore, the town fathers were blamed for allowing such lax conditions. In June 1885, a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote:
"The situation at Plymouth is about the same as it has been for a week past. The Hungarian settlement in the lower part of the town is reported to be in a wretched condition. The inhabitants of this colony live huddled together in filth, and it has been made known that as many as twenty persons live — eating, sleeping and cooking — in one room. They refuse to make known to the Relief Committee the number of sick among them. Steps will be taken at once to compel them to live in a different way or to leave the town."
The new immigrants were unwilling (or perhaps unable) to cooperate with the Relief Committee: among the list of 1,153 victims treated at the makeshift hospital in the Central High School, prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, no names of Eastern European derivation are listed.
Like most immigrants, many of the new arrivals were poor and uneducated and, at first, spoke little or no English. They were referred to in the press as "foreigners" and during the early years of their arrival were often made to feel unwelcome. Their function as strike-breakers added to their unpopularity. On February 26, 1890, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported:
"The Poles and Hungarians who live in such numbers in Plymouth and vicinity promise to be speedily cleared out. At different times before several hundred have been shipped away to fill the strikers place at Punxsutawney by the agents of the company who are circulating throughout this region and today 300 more were sent off in a special train. They left on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad at 11 o'clock, many of them accompanied by their wives and children and carrying a most miscellaneous collection of goods with them. Each man was supplied with a bottle of whiskey, a big paper of tobacco, and a ticket to Punxsutawney. Another batch is being raised and will leave Plymouth in a day or two."
While some of the Eastern European immigrants were transitory, many more came to Plymouth and stayed, eventually forming a large and important part of the population. By 1890, Plymouth boasted three Roman Catholic churches with Eastern European congregations, St. Mary's (Polish), St. Stephen's (Slovakian) and St. Casimir's (Lithuanian). By the 1920s, these three groups were said to represent 40% of the town's population.
The First Central High School
The first Central High School was built in 1884 by Samuel Livingston French and his Plymouth Planing Mill Co. The school saw its first graduating class in 1886, but was destroyed by fire in February 1905. According to the February 24, 1905 edition of the Wilkes-Barre Times:
"A serious fire occurred at Plymouth this morning at 12:30, when the Plymouth Central high school was so badly gutted and damaged that it will have to be re-built. The building is located on Shawnee Avenue, only a short distance from the busiest section of that town, it being about 1,300 feet from the Pioneer and Wyoming Valley knitting mills and Shawnee box factory. The fire was discovered at 12:30 and an alarm was rung from Box 26 calling out the entire fire department which quickly responded, but the blaze had gained considerable headway and a sheet of flames could be seen issuing from the top of the building."
"The origin is a mystery. The building is heated by steam supplied by the Parrish Coal Company. There was no fire in the building whatsoever ... Ambrose West’s handsome residence, against the building on the west side, and a double block owned and occupied by Daniel R. Davis, against the building on the east side, were in danger, but the firemen confined the blaze within the brick walls of the burning building."
"The higher branches were taught in this building and a large class was to graduate this year. There were 400 pupils attending school there under the instructions of eight teachers. The building was used as a hospital in 1885 when the typhoid epidemic visited that town and scores of people died of the malady . . . At a meeting of Fire Co. No. 1 held at 4 o’clock, a resolution was passed offering the use of the company parlors for a school . . . a number of trustees of the several churches have also offered the use of their church basements for the use of school purposes and it is thought by Monday that matters will be arranged so that all the scholars will be provided with a place to continue their studies."
Aerial View of Plymouth in 1884
The Typhoid Epidemic of 1885
The Typhoid Epidemic of 1885 was caused by contamination of the town's water supply. Like the Avondale Mine Disaster of 1869, it aroused the sympathy of the entire nation. The epidemic was eventually traced to a dairy farmer who lived on Mountain Road alongside Coal Creek, the stream that fed the town's water supply. During the Christmas holiday in 1884, he visited his brother, the owner of a cigar store in Philadelphia, and returned home in January ill with typhoid. During his weeks of recuperation, the snow on the ground around his farmhouse became contaminated. At the same time, the water company's reservoirs had become so low, that the company began to pump water, as a substitute source, from the Susquehanna River.
In late March, the weather began to warm and the snow began to melt, so that the stream and one of its reservoirs (known as the Third Water Dam) became contaminated. Furthermore, because of the melting snow, the reservoir began to fill. Hoping to stop pumping river water, the water company's superintendent lit a fire at the exit pipe of the reservoir, allowing water to flow freely downstream and contaminate the town's water supply.
By the week of April 12, between 50-100 new cases were reported daily. By September, 1,104 cases were recorded (out of a population of just over 8,000), including 713 in April, 261 in May, 83 in June, 31 in July, 15 in August and 1 in September. Taking into account unreported cases, the number was probably much higher.
Dr. Morris Stroud French was a physician in Philadelphia at the time of the epidemic, one of several sent to Plymouth to set up a temporary hospital in the Central High School building. After the epidemic, French prepared a report of the hospital's activities, listing all the patients who were treated, the ward where they lived, the length and cost of their treatment, and, when applicable, the date of their death. French recorded 1,153 victims, of whom 114 died. He estimated the cost of the epidemic, including the cost of treatment and lost wages, at about $100,000.
Martin Wilkes and the Polish-Lithuanian Church War
By the time that the 1887 city directory was published, there were three Roman Catholic congregations in Plymouth: "St. Vincent's Catholic Church", for "English-speaking" (mostly Irish) Catholics, "St. Stephen's Hungarian Catholic Church", (for Slovakians), and "St. Mary's Polish Catholic Church" (for Poles and Lithuanians). St. Mary's congregation was founded in the spring of 1885. The trustees purchased land on Willow Street and built a small wooden church (on the site of the later school building). Although the Poles and Lithuanians spoke different languages, their histories were intertwined, and the Diocese of Scranton assumed the two groups would amicably share the same church and cemetery so long as their parish priest was fluent in both languages. As it turned out, there was an animosity between them. In 1889-1890, these feelings were inflamed by an outspoken parishioner named Martin Wilkes, who came to be known in the national press as "the Polish King". Wilkes was born in Poland and immigrated to the United States in 1873. By the time of the 1880 census, he was working as a coal miner, living in West Nanticoke, and by 1889, he had acquired a saloon, gained a small following and proclaimed himself leader of the Poles in Plymouth.
St. Mary's congregation's first priest was Polish. But after he departed, trouble arose when the Diocese of Scranton appointed, not once, but twice, a Lithuanian priest to St. Mary's. The Poles objected on the grounds that their greater number, earlier arrival and greater financial contribution entitled them to preference. The second Lithuanian priest, Father Alexandras Burba, was appointed to St. Mary's on August 22, 1889. Burba spoke Polish and Lithuanian, but was an ardent Lithuanian nationalist; the Polish trustees allowed him to celebrate mass in the church but refused to give him possession of the parsonage. On October 22, Bishop O'Hara arrived from Scranton and sent Father Mack (of the St. Vincent's congregation) to gain access to the parsonage, but when he knocked on the door, he was "met by three guns pointing at him from an upstairs window."
Next, Father Mack went to the Town Hall and got warrants for the arrest of the rebel faction, after which the police arrested three of them. When the rebels reached the town lock-up (in an effort to rescue the prisoners), they encountered constable Michael Melvin and in the ensuing scuffle broke his leg. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Thousands of people collected on Main Street ... There was some strong talk about lynching Martin Wilkes, the Polish leader. He was finally arrested and lodged in jail. The Polanders still hold possession of the priest’s house tonight. The Burgess says he will clear every man out tomorrow if he has to make dead men of them all."
After this episode, Father Burba departed St. Mary's, and the split between the two nationalities became permanent, with the Lithuanians forming their own congregation. The war between the Polish faction and the Scranton Diocese settled into a standstill for the Christmas holidays, but in January 1890, war resumed, and this time the focus was the cemetery on Welsh Hill which the Diocese had created for use by both the Poles and the Lithuanians.
On January 20, 1890, a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote:
"The Polish church war at Plymouth is on again. The church authorities were about congratulating themselves that the difficulty was settled when they were confronted with a new issue ... Friday, the little son of a leader of the Lithuanian faction died, and yesterday afternoon an attempt was made to bury him in the Polish cemetery ... the Poles were on hand when the funeral procession reached the gates of the cemetery. They were armed with guns, and one of them raised his weapon and told the driver of the hearse if he dared to enter the sacred grounds he would be shot on the spot ... The Lithuanians did not expect to meet with an armed body of men and they had nothing to do but retreat, which they did speedily ... A committee of Polanders went to Scranton last night and had an interview with Bishop O'Hara. The latter said the burial must take place tomorrow and he will invoke the aid of the civil authorities. As the Lithuanians will comply with the Bishop's instructions, trouble is looked for."
After the incident at the cemetery, Martin Wilkes was arrested and jailed in Wilkes-Barre and released on bail. Once released, he swore vengeance against the Lithuanians. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "When Wilkes reached his home in Plymouth, he at once proceeded to carry out his threats. He summoned about twenty of his devoted followers, and arming themselves with shovels and pickaxes, the party left for the cemetery ... arriving there they opened the graves of the two Lithuanian children buried yesterday. The coffins were thrown over the fence onto an adjoining field. One of the bodies was badly lacerated. The pick axes had been driven through it in several places ... The Lithuanians are gunning for Wilkes. They say they will shoot him on sight."
After the incident at the cemetery, Wilkes and seven associates were arrested and taken before Justice Donahue. They were charged with forcible entry, detainer of a cemetery, violating a sepulcher, resisting public officers, felonious shooting, surety of the peace, riot, and affray. In February, Bishop O'Hara installed a Polish priest at St. Mary's, Father S. F. Szymanowski. Wilkes's first encounter with the feisty Father Szymanowski was to be his last, as The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on February 21:
"...This evening Wilkes and a half dozen of his followers went to Father Szymanowski’s residence. They were received pleasantly by the pastor. Wilkes stated his mission, demanding that the priest surrender the church books, give up the keys of the house and vacate the premises. Before the visitors were aware of it, the priest reached to a bureau drawer, pulled out a revolver, and pointing at the men said: 'Now you fellows have made trouble enough in this congregation. I will have you understand this is my house and I want you to get out at once or I will compel you to.' Wilkes didn't wait to hear any more. He and his party fled. Wilkes and his followers now threaten to burn the building. The priest has stationed himself at the window up stairs, revolver in hand."
On April 26, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Martin Wilkes was "convicted of aggravated assault and battery on Constable [Michael] Melvin. There were eight other indictments against the prisoner." Wilkes served one and a half years in prison. Meanwhile, the Lithuanians had begun to build their own church, completed in December 1890, as well as their own cemetery. Life returned to normal for the Polish congregation, and it no longer appeared in the news. As for Wilkes, he appeared in the newspapers one last time. Having served his sentence, he attempted to obtain a liquor license in Scranton. But Bishop O'Hara had a long memory, and took steps to have the application denied, and thereby managed to have the last word. On April 24, 1890, the Wilkes-Barre Times, published the following account:
"Many people will recall Martin Wilkes, who created a great deal of trouble among the Polish residents at Plymouth two or three years ago. An effort was made yesterday in the Lackawanna courts to have the license of a successful applicant transferred to Wilkes, but it seems the latter’s bad reputation has followed him from Plymouth to Scranton, for the transfer was opposed by Joseph O’Brien, Esq., who was supposed to represent Bishop O’Hara in the case although the identity of his client was not made known. He called George Smith, formerly of Plymouth, who testified that Wilkes kept a place in Plymouth, the reputation of which was bad and that he was refused a license by the Luzerne County court two years ago. He also stated that Wilkes was one of the principals in the Polish church riot and that he ordered Bishop O’Hara out of the house; that he was indicted for selling liquor on Sunday, and that the chief of police had his leg broken while making an arrest in his place. Judge Archibald refused to grant the transfer."
The electric railway and the Carey Avenue Bridge
The Plymouth Street Railway was incorporated on May 14, 1889, and in 1891 its directors built an electric railway, or trolley line, down the middle of Plymouth's Main Street, running from the east end of the borough to a turn-around at the west end of town. That same year, the line was extended along the north side of Ross Hill to Edwardsville where transfers could be made to a similar railway that ran across the Market Street Bridge to Wilkes-Barre. When the Plymouth Street Railway was complete, the Wilkes-Barre & Wyoming Valley Traction Co. leased it and operated it along with several other trolley lines. After the Carey Avenue Bridge was completed in the spring of 1895, the Wilkes-Barre & Wyoming Valley Traction Co. built a second railway line across the bridge, providing a second, more direct route to Wilkes-Barre's public square.
Ultimately, the network included the boroughs and townships of Ashley, Courtdale, Edwardsville, Forty Fort, Hanover, Kingston, Larksville, Miners Mills, Nanticoke, Parsons, Pittston, Plains, Plymouth, Sugar Notch, West Pittston, West Wyoming, Wilkes-Barre, and Wyoming. The trolley cars ran until the 1950s and were an important amenity, making it easier for residents to go to work, to shop, to visit friends and relatives, and to spend time at new amusement parks that sprung up along the lines, including Sans Souci Park, located between Nanticoke and Wilkes-Barre.
The Spanish American War
In 1898, the Ninth Regiment, a state militia organization founded in 1879 and headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, volunteered to serve in the war with Spain. On April 27, 1898, two days after Spain declared war, the various companies that formed the regiment (including Plymouth's Company I) met at the Wilkes-Barre armory and marched to the Lehigh Valley railroad station. Enthusiasm for the war was at a high point, and it was estimated that 130,000 people gathered to see the troops off. In May, they made camp at Chickamauga Park, Georgia, where in July an outbreak of typhoid occurred with roughly half of the 1,300 troops contracting the disease, from which 29 men died. The war ended on August 12 while the Ninth Regiment was still camped in Georgia, and on September 19 the regiment returned to Wilkes-Barre. Plymouth's Company I was led by Capt. Harry W. Pierce, First Lieut. Adnah McDaniel, Second Lieut. William F. Powell, First Sergeant George W. Kostenbauder and Quartermaster Sergeant John May. The musicians were John T. Hayward and George N. Van Loon.
The start of the 20th century
December 31, 1900, was the last day of the 19th century. That morning John Kinney, an old man who came from Tipperary decades before, and Margaret Carey, an infant, were both buried in the Welsh Hill cemetery. William Cleary, the town's correspondent for the Wilkes-Barre Times, and his betrothed, Mary Lynch, made preparations for their upcoming wedding. That evening, the married couples on Welsh Hill held a New Year reception at Owen's Hall, featuring an "old time" hoop dance. Andy Brennan, the Master of Ceremonies, joked that the new century was the last any of them would ever see. The Plymouth Band performed dance music at the Plymouth Armory, while professor William Lewis's choir performed a midnight High Mass at St. Vincent's church (Nora Heffernan, Margaret Gallagher and John Ryan were the soloists and Joseph Flaherty the organist). On New Year's Day, the Ebenezer Baptist Church held an extended service including a roll call of the members, a song service led by Mary Philips, a student at the Philadelphia Bible Institute, and a temperance address for the children. At Duffy's Hall, the Plymouth Athletic Association held a series of boxing matches. In the grand finale, Hayden from Wilkes-Barre fought three rounds against Wilson of Danville, the latter described in the newspapers as the "dark wonder." For those who wanted to memorialize themselves at the beginning of the new century, James Beacham, Plymouth's talented photographer, opened his studio for portraits.
Those who had lived in Plymouth during the previous forty years had much to recall. During that time, Plymouth had nearly reached its ultimate state. Virtually all the streets that would ever be created were now in place, and most of the houses, churches and commercial buildings that would ever be built had now been built. Plymouth's coal mines were established and consolidated in the hands of a small number of operators, and its water system, telegraph and telephone service, electrical lines and gas pipes were fully developed. A trolley system connected the residents to all of the neighboring towns and cities. The next 29 years would be mostly prosperous ones during which the town's residents would enjoy the bounty of the years of industrial growth. Coal production would grow and the population steadily increase in size and wealth. One of the problems that this increase presented was the need to build sufficient school buildings to accommodate the growing population, and the growing number of families who could now afford to send their children to school, rather than to work in the mines.
Years of prosperity (1901-1929)
The Great Flood of 1902
One of the most destructive floods in the history of the Wyoming Valley occurred on Sunday, March 2, 1902, when the waters of the Susquehanna River rose and flooded a vast developed area. It was the largest flood since the Great Flood of 1865. Eight deaths were reported in Wilkes-Barre. The temperature suddenly rose, and snow which had covered much of the Susquehanna's watershed melted. At the same time, more than 2 inches (51 mm) of rain fell within a short period. The combined melted snow and rain caused the river to rise rapidly and the ice to break on February 28. All day Saturday, March 1, the river rose, until Sunday when it crested at 31 feet (9.4 m) above the low water mark.
Wyoming Valley had experienced less extensive flooding a few months earlier, on December 15, 1901, and therefore, residents were more prepared than they might have been. In Plymouth, water covered the streets closest to the river and surrounded or flooded many houses. The railroads were damaged, bridges were swept away and great portions of roadbeds washed out. Wyoming Valley's street car system was paralyzed, and it was a few weeks before cars were run regularly.
Plymouth recovered quickly from the 1902 flood. On March 6, trains began running on schedule to Scranton on the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. And by March 8, the first street car arrived in town from Edwardsville. The West family set up an electric pump on Main Street and began pumping out flooded cellars for the town's businessmen. Capt. Theodore Renshaw went to Peter Shupp's old house on Center Avenue and measured the flood's high-water mark and found it to be at street curb level. Renshaw recalled that the 1865 flood had risen 6 inches (150 mm) above the floor of Shupp's residence, and calculated that the 1865 flood had been 2'-9" higher than the 1902 flood.
The second Central High School
The architect of the second Central High School was Harry Livingston French. In 1905, when French was awarded the commission to design the new school, he was already well known to the Plymouth school board: French was a native of Plymouth, descended from an old and distinguished family. In 1900, when the school board commissioned him to design alterations to the Franklin Street School, Harry French had been an architect for only a few years. He graduated from Cornell University in 1894, but soon after left for Meeker, Colorado, where his brother practiced medicine. French spent sixteen months in Meeker, returning east in the beginning of 1897. By April 1899, his firm, McCormick & French, had won third place in the design competition for the new Luzerne County Courthouse. For their efforts, they received a prize of $300. However, in 1905, architect F. J. Osterling of Pittsburgh, the winner of the competition, was forced to resign in the middle of construction. He was replaced by McCormick & French.
Harry French inherited numerous social, business and political connections — his father was Samuel Livingston French, born in Plymouth on September 8, 1839, a great-grandson of Noah Wadhams, Plymouth's illustrious 18th century preacher. Samuel L. French was a veteran of the Civil War, having served in the Union Army from 1861 to 1862. Afterwards, he was a politically active Republican. In 1872, he was elected Register of Wills for Luzerne County, and in 1874, became the first clerk of the Orphans' Court. In 1875, he was elected to the first of several terms as Burgess of Plymouth, and held that office during the great labor troubles of 1877. Samuel L. French was also an amateur historian — he wrote a book about the Army of the Potomac, and in 1915 published Reminiscences of Plymouth, his homage to the antebellum years of his hometown.
In 1880, Samuel L. French became a retail lumber dealer, founding the Plymouth Planing Mill Company, which he ran until 1902. It was this company which built the old Central High School in 1884. The old school, and the new one that replaced it, sat on a bluff overlooking the Parrish Colliery of the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co. Both school and colliery sat on land that once was part of the Wadhams estate. After the fire, the school board must have engaged McCormick and French immediately, for it was only one month after the fire that the board met to announce that the architects' plans were accepted, plans for a much larger building than the original. On March 23, 1905, the Wilkes-Barre Times reported:
"At a special meeting of the school board held last evening in the office of the secretary, J. A. Opp, held for the purpose of adopting the plans and specifications of the proposed new school building, which is to take the place of the building which was burned down on February 24, it was decided to accept the plans that had been prepared by McCormick and French. The plans are for a building of sixteen rooms, which is twice the size of the old building, and it will be a substantial structure, which will be one of the prettiest buildings in town. The secretary was instructed to advertise for bid, and another meeting will be called on April 12 for the purpose of opening the bids and awarding the contract. A motion was unanimously carried that the sale of bonds be held in the office of the secretary on April 10."
On June 1 that year, the class of "nineteen-five" held its commencement exercises. Fourteen students received their diplomas. Charles H. Kaeufer read an eloquent speech entitled "Memorial of the Central Building".
"Workmen have now removed the last traces of the old school. Whatever will remain of the old building in the future is embedded in the minds and hearts of the boys and girls who have come to maturity during the twenty-one years of its usefulness. The shelter which the building has afforded has resulted in the up-building of character and the implanting of healthy sentiments in the boys and girls of Plymouth. The expenditure has not been in vain. The building has been a fortress against ignorance and superstition. Its memory should be cherished lovingly. Patriotism has been infused, industry fostered, and wickedness condemned. Therefore the influence of the building must be ranked among the permanent possessions of the community."
On the following evening, the Plymouth High School Alumni Association held its fourth annual banquet. Mrs. L. S. Smith, one of the "few surviving members" of the first graduating class (1886), spoke of her memories of the old school, a talk that was followed by a musical presentation and a toast given by the future governor of Pennsylvania, Arthur James.
The summer of 1905 came and went as work began on the new school. On August 18, the Times reported that "sills were laid for the new Central School house yesterday." On August 26, pupils were ordered to report to Rooms 7 and 8 of the Willow St. School. The class of 1906 would spend the entire school year in temporary quarters, for it was not until Labor Day, September 3, 1906, that the new building was dedicated. The Wilkes-Barre Times sent a reporter:
"Plymouth's handsome new High school was dedicated and formally opened to-day with impressive and appropriate exercises amid the cheers of several thousand people. Prior to the exercises at the school there was a grand parade, in which many secret societies from in and out of town took part, together with bands of music ... The parade formed at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets, moved to Davenport, countermarched to Gaylord and thence to the high school where the exercises were held ... “The progress of the public school” was the subject of an eloquent address by J. Q. Creveling, who began by comparing the present school system with that of years gone by when Plymouth and all its institutions were in their infancy. He spoke of the rapid advancement in the education of America's army of children and of the responsibility resting upon the thousands of men and women employed in the work of fitting them to enter upon life’s duties."
The event was organized by the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, perhaps a union representing the men who built the building. The O.U.A.M. presented the school with a new flag as well as a bible for each classroom. The new building served as Plymouth’s high school for only seven years, for on Labor Day, September 1913, another parade and dedication exercise took place, this time to celebrate the opening of yet another new high school building — this one on Main Street. After 1913, the 1906 Central High School was used to educate children in the lower grades.
The third high school building
Plymouth's third high school building was dedicated on September 1, 1913, following a large parade through the town. The parade featured the police force, three fire departments, the school directors, school children on floats, various labor unions and several fraternal organizations. At the ceremony, the Central School children sang "March of our Nation", and after the graduates of the class of 1914 raised the flag, the students and audience sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," accompanied by the school's marching band. The chairman of the dedication ceremony was Harold L. Freeman, and the architect of the new building was his brother, New York's Alfred Freeman, a Plymouth native and graduate of Plymouth High School's class of 1892. The building was built by Perkins and Heffernan, and the plumbing work installed by Doyle Brothers, both Plymouth firms.
The building (which was later added onto) had four rooms on the first floor and four on the second floor plus a large study room. The basement was reserved for the cloakrooms, boiler rooms, lavatories and a room for the School Directors.
William B. Cleary, writing in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, noted that "The new school building is located in the central portion of the town, set back sufficiently from the main street to give it an important position and affords an opportunity to make most attractive grounds."
Plymouth's third high school building was demolished in August 2014. Architectural historian (and former attendee) Michael Lewis commented in The Times Leader: "As far as architecture is concerned, the high school is neither original nor innovative. It is simply one of those solid, serviceable and beautifully constructed school buildings built a century ago, when it seemed that America could build durable and efficient public buildings effortlessly."
The First National Bank Building
In 1915, the First National Bank announced plans to construct a new building designed by architect Harry Livingston French. It was completed by August 21, 1915, when a reporter for the Times-Leader inspected the building and pronounced it satisfactory:
"The handsome new bank building is thirty-four feet wide and eighty feet long, and rests upon a reinforced concrete slab, sixteen inches thick. It is entirely fireproof in all parts of its construction, all floors, partitions and roof being built of steel and cement. The banking room floor is thirty-one feet wide by fifty-nine feet long, and from floor to ceiling is twenty-four feet high. In the front portion, on the right and left sides of the entrance, respectively, are the president’s office and the ladies room. Back of the banking room and on each side of the vault, are the paymaster’s room, stair hall, locker room, lavatory, and coupon booths."
"In the center of the rear of the working space is the massive vault, the big circular door weighing fifteen and a half tons, and the vestibule sixteen and a half tons, and the heavy steel lining of the vault forty-eight tons, a total of eighty tons, or one hundred and sixty thousand pounds, the back and sides of the steel vault having a heavy reinforced concrete wall outside."
Visitors on opening day were presented with a postcard image of the new building as well as a souvenir medal with an image of the bank on one side, and on the other, the inscription, "we will accept this on deposit for 50 cents if you open a new savings account of $5.00 or more, leaving it in the bank for 12 months and pay 3 per cent compound interest on your savings."
The First World War
The First World War broke out in 1914, but America remained neutral until it declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. The Selective Service Act of 1917 was passed on May 18, 1917, and by July a lottery was scheduled so that local districts could meet their assigned quotas of men. District 6 (comprising Plymouth and Larksville boroughs) was initially required to furnish 154 men, and many more, men and women, would eventually serve. The war ended when an armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, but "Welcome Home" day in Plymouth was not celebrated until June 30, 1919. That day, a parade formed, with the public school students gathering at Wadhams Street, fraternal lodges on Girard Avenue, soldiers and sailors on Gaylord Avenue, the Polish and Slovak societies on Centre Avenue, and Catholic school children on Eno Street. Participants marched up to the Carey Avenue Bridge and back to Gaylord Avenue where they disbanded. Burgess George E. Gwilliam declared the day to be "one of rejoicing with a cessation of all labor," and banned all cars and trolleys from the streets. After the parade, all four movie theaters opened their doors to veterans free of charge.
By the time of the "Welcome Home" parade of 1919, a fundraising drive was underway to erect a monument to the soldiers and sailors who had served in the First World War. A committee was formed, and George T. Brewster (1862–1943), a sculptor from New York, was engaged. Brewster had studied at the Massachusetts State Normal Art School, and in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts. Since 1915, he had been busy creating a large number or statues, busts and relief portraits for the Vicksburg National Military Park. For Plymouth, Brewster prepared a design of two life-size figures, a soldier and sailor, mounted atop a granite base. In the contract, the sculptor agreed not to duplicate the design anywhere in Pennsylvania. The unveiling was scheduled for November 11, 1919, but the work was delayed and funds ran short. The bronze plaque, listing the names of the fallen, was optimistically dated Memorial Day, 1920. The dedication finally took place on November 11, 1920, two years after the war's end. Schools and mines were closed for the day, and afterward a parade formed, said to be Plymouth's largest ever. The monument still stands and is the principal public work of art in the borough.
The fourth high school building
Plymouth's fourth high school building was completed in 1925 on a site immediately to the west of the third high school (which then became the Junior High School building). The new building cost $203,000 and was dedicated on February 12, 1925. A few weeks before the dedication, a reporter took a tour of the building, writing that:
"After years of anticipation and debate, the new high school represents the achievement of an ideal. It has advanced Plymouth several years ahead of the status formerly held. Allied with the adjacent recreation field, where athletics are carried out, the school is a complete foundry of young manhood and young womanhood, an inspiration to the spirit that has written the name of Plymouth High School upon the top of the roster of public educational institutions."
Many of the town's residents credited school board member Ward P. Davenport for expediting the construction of the school, for attending to its details and for keeping the costs under control. By the time the school was complete, Davenport was in poor health and retreated to Atlantic City to recuperate. Davenport's health did not improve, and the December 1925 issue of the school's newspaper, the Shawnee Arrow, made note of his death. By the spring of 1926, the school had been renamed Ward P. Davenport High School, and the stone tablet over the front door with the inscription "Plymouth High School" was replaced with one inscribed with Davenport's name.
Years of retrenchment (1930-1972)
Plymouth Post Office
In November 1933, funds were allocated for a new post office building in Plymouth. The allocation was expedited by two Plymouth natives, Michael E. Comerford, the movie-theater owner, who happened to be the regional representative of the recently created National Recovery Administration, and Frank C. Walker, Comerford's nephew, a Roosevelt ally and the NRA's executive secretary. Among the sites suggested by the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce was the east half of the old railroad depot, across Main Street from the Plymouth high school, more or less where the new post office was built. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was an amateur architect who admired early American architecture, and the new building was designed in the Georgian style that was especially popular at the time. An addition, undistinguished but sympathetic to the original wing, was built in the 1960s.
The post office's most interesting feature is a mural installed in 1938 by the noted artist Jared Blanford French (1905–1988) entitled "Mealtime, The Early Coal Miners," one of more than 1,200 works of art commissioned by the U.S. Treasury between the years 1934 and 1943 through a program intended to embellish Federal buildings and encourage the arts during the Great Depression. French's mural and the town's Soldiers and Sailors monument are the two most significant secular public works of art in Plymouth.
The Great Flood of 1936
One of the Susquehanna River's most damaging floods occurred in March 1936. In the Wyoming Valley, the flood waters covered approximately 45 square miles (120 km2). Property loss in Plymouth Borough alone was estimated to be about $1,000,000. A large number of Plymouth residents were left homeless, and many volunteers responded to help with rescue and relief efforts. These were coordinated from headquarters set up in the Town Hall building. The Vine Street and Franklin Street schools were converted to temporary dormitories, and the Central School served as a makeshift hospital. The town's three fire companies patrolled the flooded areas during the inundation, and afterward did duty pumping out flooded cellars. After the flood waters receded, Atty. Harold L. Freeman and Mrs. John Q. Mask chaired a fund-raising drive to aid families left destitute by the disaster, while Mrs. Ralph Worthington and Mrs. C. C. Groblewski coordinated donations of clothing made by the Red Cross.
The First National Bank's 75th anniversary
In 1940, Plymouth's First National Bank celebrated its 75th anniversary, and published a pamphlet of the town's and the bank's history. The bank began operating in 1865, and following the Civil War, as America's economy grew by leaps and bounds, Plymouth and the First National grew with it. The bank was a success by one important measure: in 1890, deposits stood at $634,210, and by 1926, (the bank's, and the town's, apogee) deposits had grown to $5,498,200. The bank even survived the Great Depression — while deposits declined, in 1940 they were still a respectable $4,720,702.
The pamphlet's authors, glancing back at the difficult economic times of the previous decade, asked and answered the question of the town's future prosperity:
"Does coal remain here in quantities to guarantee a second era of anthracite prosperity? It does. In the final perfection of production and marketing we find that Glen Alden Company has produced 60 to 75 percent of all Plymouth’s fuel contribution. Its engineers look forward to another hundred years of operation."
But neither the bank nor Glen Alden’s engineers anticipated the impact of two rival energy sources, oil and natural gas, both of them cheaper to extract and to ship than anthracite coal. The anthracite industry received a temporary boost during the Second World War, but by the late 1950s, the industry was all but dead, with the exception of some strip mine operations that continued throughout the 1960s.
The pamphlet's authors cited another example of progress, the construction of "great flood dykes, started after the highest of all river rises in 1936 caused millions of dollars of loss." We read of a "dyke system which will shield the community from such disasters as Plymouth and all of Wyoming Valley suffered from water in 1865, 1902, 1904 and 1936." Unfortunately, the dike system was unable to withstand the flood waters of 1972, which rose 10 feet (3.0 m) higher than those of 1936, washing over the dikes and dealing a severe blow to an already reeling economy.
As for the bank, it survived only thirteen years beyond its anniversary. In 1953, the Wyoming National Bank of Wilkes-Barre acquired all of its assets while continuing to do business in the Plymouth building. The Wyoming National sold the building after the 1972 flood.
The Diamond Jubilee celebration of 1941
In September 1941, seventy-five years after Plymouth was incorporated as a borough, the town began a five-day celebration at Huber Field, including a pageant with the patriotic theme "America on Parade". Like many American towns, Plymouth had an ethnically diverse population, formed largely by the descendants of Irish, Welsh, Polish, Lithuanian and Slovakian immigrants. Patriotism had an important place in the school curriculum, and the generation that was coming of age in 1941 had been educated to think of themselves as Americans first and foremost. After the Grand Finale of the pageant, according to the Jubilee's promotional pamphlet, the audience was "requested to join with the cast and with the Shawnee Choral Society in the singing of our National Anthem."
While the townspeople celebrated, war was raging in Europe and Asia. The ninth scene of the pageant, "Democracy Defended", was described in the Jubilee's pamphlet as a...
"... tableau of “Peace,” following the [First] World War — a war which we fought to “end war”. It is presented as a tribute to the brave men and courageous women who gave their all so that Democracy might survive, and in the hope that America may continue to remain honorably at Peace."
The prayer for peace went unanswered: the celebration took place two months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when America was drawn once again into war. Many men and women from Plymouth served in the armed forces during the Second World War.
The writers of the Plymouth Diamond Jubilee pamphlet expressed optimism about the future. In the pageant's tenth scene, "American and Plymouth Today", the Diamond Jubilee Queen, Catherine Oldfield (in later years a Plymouth school teacher known as Catherine Bogdon), delivered her address of welcome "attended by boys and girls, young men and women of Plymouth and vicinity." The scene was described as "symbolic of modern youth, keeping step with the times, moving forward in step with current events. They are the men and women of tomorrow — the destiny of America we love will be in their hands." But owing to the decline of the local economy, many of the young men and women in attendance would have to move elsewhere in order to find work.
The Plymouth Diamond Jubilee celebration of 1941 occurred at an interesting time in the town's history. Still vital, and having survived a decade-long economic depression, the town looked forward to a return to its past prosperity. But unbeknown to the populace, a slow and steady decline would soon begin. Because of the collapse of the anthracite coal industry, the town's population, 15,507 in 1940, would decline to 5,951 by the year 2010.
Plymouth centennial celebration
In 1966, the residents of Plymouth celebrated the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the Borough of Plymouth. The honorary chairman was the Burgess, Edward F. Burns, and the general chairman was Angelo Grasso. The festivities began on June 11, 1966 with the Centennial Ball, held at the Gaylord Avenue Armory, during which Sandy Smith was chosen to be Miss Plymouth Centennial. A week of parades and parties culminated on June 18, Pioneer and Homecoming Day, with the Grand Parade. In between, the Centennial Committee presented at Huber Field "In Olde Shawnee", a fifteen-episode spectacle produced by John B. Rogers Productions of Fostoria, Ohio. Many residents, church groups, and civic and fraternal groups participated in the Centennial. During Centennial Week, many women donned old-time costumes from colonial days, and many men grew goatees, moustaches and "mutton-chop" side-burns, which by 1966 had been long out of fashion.
School consolidation 1966-1967
The first Plymouth High School graduating class received their diplomas in 1886, and the last graduating class received theirs in 1966. In the fall of 1966, Plymouth's school system merged with the Edwardsville and Larksville schools to become "Plymouth Area High School", one of three divisions in a consolidated school district called "Wyoming Valley West". In the fall of 1967, the Plymouth Area division combined with the other schools in the district to form a single high school in which freshmen and sophomores attended the Plymouth high school building, and juniors and seniors attended the Kingston high school building. Currently, the Wyoming Valley West High School building is located in Plymouth, south of Shawnee Avenue, near the site of the old Central High School, Plymouth's second high school building (1906), which has been demolished. Plymouth's third high school building (1913) still stands and is now the Main Street Elementary Center. Plymouth's fourth high school building (1925), known as the Ward P. Davenport High School, was demolished after the Agnes Flood of 1972.
Unlike earlier floods in the Wyoming Valley, most of which were caused by spring freshets, the 1972 flood was caused by bizarre and unusual weather patterns, including heavy rainfall that began in mid-April. In May almost 7.93 inches (201 mm) of rain fell, and in June another 7.55 inches (192 mm) fell, so that by late June the Susquehanna watershed was becoming saturated. By Wednesday, June 21, tropical storm Agnes arrived and was hovering over the Susquehanna watershed, dropping up to 12 inches (300 mm) of rain upstream in a single day. All around the valley, signs of trouble loomed: Main Street in Shavertown flooded, Harvey's Lake overflowed, Hunstville Dam was full, a bridge washed out in Towanda. But meanwhile, at Wilkes-Barre the river height was only 13.67 feet (4.17 m) above the low water level. Nevertheless, by 10:00 pm that night the river had quietly risen to 20.98 feet (6.39 m), causing Civil Defense Headquarters in the Luzerne County Courthouse to evacuate. Plymouth residents were ordered to leave their homes by 2:00 am.
By early morning Thursday, June 22, a widespread evacuation of the valley's flood zone was underway. At 6:00 am, water poured through a dike at Plymouth, and one hour later the river reached a height of 34.62 feet (10.55 m), rapidly approaching the 37-foot (11 m) limit of the valley's dike system. Countless volunteers passed sandbags from hand to hand in a futile effort to raise the dike level and hold back the water, until at 11:00 am, Civil Defense sounded the alarm calling a halt to all efforts on the east side. At 1:00 pm, water came over the dike at Forty Fort, after which work stopped on the west side as well.
Telephones no longer worked, electricity was no longer available and sewage systems were incapacitated. The absence of refrigeration led to a shortage of food. Martial law went into effect as rescue efforts got underway, and thousands of volunteers descended on the valley to assist with the rescue and then the clean-up. Meanwhile, the water rose higher and higher, finally peaking at 40.60 feet (12.37 m) at 7:00 pm, Saturday, June 24. At its greatest extent the flood was 5 miles (8.0 km) wide and 35 miles (56 km) long. Eventually, the water receded, leaving behind 25,000 homeless residents, and acres of devastation and mud.
Coal mining in Plymouth
The 1858 Anthracite Map
On the 1858 map (below), the Nanticoke Dam and entrance to the North Branch Canal at Harvey's Creek can be seen at the far upper left. Several collieries appear at the west end of Plymouth, including the Harvey Mine, Grand Tunnel, Reynolds (Chauncey), French Tunnel (Jersey Mine), Reynolds (Washington Mine) and the Smith mine operation at the upper end of Coal Creek. The Wadhams mine appears along Wadhams Creek above Plymouth Village. A railroad branch line (Gaylord's Railroad) is shown running along Pine Swamp Creek (later Brown's Creek). One branch of this railroad crossed what later became Bull Run and led to a wharf along the Susquehanna River. Another branch ran down to Henderson Gaylord's wharf, near what is now Gaylord Avenue. The Patten mine and Cooper mine (labeled as Galard) are shown along the creek. East of Plymouth village, John Shonk's colliery, called Rudmandale, appears where the Lance Colliery would later be, and above that, Shupp's Creek and Ross Hill are illustrated just before the Boston Mine was established.
The 1858 Anthracite Map, prepared as part of the First Pennsylvania Geological Survey, illustrates Plymouth's mines and collieries at a moment of transition. The Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad was largely completed and had begun to replace the North Branch Canal as the preferred method for shipping coal. In 1858, most mines in Plymouth were tunnels driven into the hillside above water level, with one exception: in 1856, a shaft had been sunk at the Patten Mine by experienced miners from England and Scotland. It was the first deep mine shaft in Plymouth and the first on the west side of the river...a harbinger of things to come. In 1858, all of Plymouth's mines were run by small local operators. This would soon change as large corporations, some affiliated with railroads, began to take control of much of the town's coal lands. The larger firms would be better able to handle labor disputes, and had the necessary capital to conduct deep shaft mining and operate the mines on a larger, more efficient scale.
The Susquehanna Coal Company Mines
The Harvey Mine
Jameson Harvey was born in 1796, the son of Elisha Harvey and his wife, Rosanna Jameson. Harvey's farm, about 350 acres (1.4 km2), was located in Plymouth Township on the east side of the intersection of Harvey's Creek and the Susquehanna River. In 1832, he built a Federal-style farmhouse and barn, both of which still stand today greatly altered, on what is now McDonald Street. By 1830, probably inspired by his neighbor Freeman Thomas's Grand Tunnel coal mine, Harvey supplemented his farm income by constructing a coal tunnel. Perhaps learning from Thomas's experience, Harvey's tunnel was higher up the hill, and thus a shorter distance from the coal beds. Later, Harvey constructed one of Plymouth's first coal breakers. His mine was closer than any other to the Nanticoke Dam and the entrance to the North Branch Canal, and when the railroad arrived, it ran right across Harvey's property. These geographical advantages helped make the mine a very successful venture. In 1869, Harvey moved to Wilkes-Barre, and in 1871, he sold his coal lands to the Susquehanna Coal Co., which merged Harvey's mine with the Grand Tunnel into a new operation called the Susquehanna Coal Co. Colliery No. 3.
The Grand Tunnel
Freeman Thomas was an early land owner in Plymouth. In 1809, he acquired several patents for lots in the lower end of the township, calling his estate "Harmony", better known in later years as the "Grand Tunnel". About 1828, Thomas began to dig a tunnel through solid rock into the hillside, hoping to reach the famed Red Ash coal vein. He must have succeeded by 1834, for on the 6th of August that year, he petitioned the courts for the right to build a gravity railroad from his tunnel to a chute house along the Susquehanna River just above the Nanticoke Dam. The private railroad allowed Thomas to ship his coal to the iron forges in Danbury and to other points south via the newly built North Branch Canal. Thomas died in 1847, and in 1852, William L. Lance, Sr. became a tenant of Thomas's children. Lance operated the mine until 1856, when he assigned his lease to the Mammouth Vein Coal Co. In January 1860, Mammouth abandoned Thomas's chutehouse and built a new one adjacent to the recently built Lackawanna & Bloomsburg railroad. In 1866, the Grand Tunnel Coal Co. operated the mine, and in 1871, the New England Coal Co. operated the mine.
Susquehanna Coal Co. No. 3 Colliery
In 1871, the Susquehanna Coal Company, owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, took control of both the Harvey Mine and the Grand Tunnel, although James Hutchison stayed on as mine boss. After a boiler explosion in 1871, the SCC took down the old Harvey breaker and by 1872 built a new one, considered to be one of the largest in the district.
The Chauncey Colliery
The Chauncey Colliery was located between the Grand Tunnel and the Avondale collieries. It was one of the few Plymouth colleries to remain independent of the large mining corporations. The mine was named after Chauncey A. Reynolds of Plymouth who was said to have driven the first tunnel, probably in the late 1850s. The Chauncey was also known as the Union Mine, and from about 1861 to 1866 the Union Coal Co., in association with Charles Hutchison, operated the mine, working both a shaft and a slope. At the time, capacity was about 50,000 tons per year.
From at least 1869 until at least 1875, the mine was operated by Roberts, Albrighton & Co., and John Albrighton, the mine boss, employed about 100 men. In 1875, a major cave caused a stoppage of work at both the Chauncey and the adjacent Grand Tunnel mine. In 1880, the mine was operated by B. B. Reynolds. In 1881, Thomas P. MacFarlane was the operator and 24,515 tons were shipped. In 1891, MacFarlane still operated the mine. By 1896, Reynolds & Moyer Coal Co. operated the Chauncey.
The last operator of the Chauncey, George F. Lee, was the son of Conrad Lee, from 1865 to 1886 the outside foreman of the nearby Avondale Colliery where George F. Lee was born in 1870. He purchased the Chauncey in 1902, and operated it as the George F. Lee Coal Co and also ran a coal distribution center in Brooklyn, New York. In 1914, the Chauncey processed about 6,600 tons per month. In 1919, Lee built a new breaker with a capacity of 1,000 tons daily, which began operating on August 25. The breaker, designed by Frank Davenport, an engineer from Wilkes-Barre, was destroyed by fire on January 28, 1923, the loss estimated to be $250,000. The following day, Lee engaged E. E. Reilly of Kingston to build a new breaker. At the end of 1936, the George F. Lee Coal Co. still worked both the Chauncey mine and breaker, producing 38,712 tons of coal, but by 1940, the company was bankrupt and in receivership. In 1940, the Glen Alden Coal Company took ownership of the colliery, and in February 1941 began to dismantle the breaker.
The Avondale Colliery
In November 1808, Hezekiah Roberts, Jr. obtained patents on five lots in the western end of Plymouth Township, about 120 acres (0.49 km2) total. He called his estate "Avondale", and it eventually gave its name to the colliery. After receiving these patents Roberts sold his soon-to-be valuable coal lands, and by 1810 was farming in Genoa Township, Ohio. In addition to Roberts' 120 acres (0.49 km2), the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad compiled a large number of lots, including part of Freeman Thomas's Grand Tunnel property. If one includes the Wright family's 225 acres (0.91 km2) that comprised the Jersey mine, the DL&W's Avondale holdings included over 600 acres (2.4 km2).
The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western took a circuitous path to ownership of Avondale because its 1854 charter limited its ownership of coal lands. As a result, it used surrogates to acquire coal properties. In 1863, John C. Phelps, a director of the DL&W, leased a portion of the Avondale property from William Reynolds and Henderson Gaylord, Plymouth natives. In 1866, the mine was transferred to the Steuben Coal Co., which in turn became part of the Nanticoke Coal & Iron Co., whose board of directors overlapped with the board of the DL&W. The NC&I built the first breaker at Avondale.
On September 6, 1869, the Avondale Mine Disaster occurred, during which a fire in the shaft, ignited by a ventilating furnace, spread to the breaker which stood over the mine shaft. The breaker was destroyed by fire, trapping 108 men and boys in the mine below. All were killed, as were two men who volunteered to enter the mine after the fire. Soon after the disaster, a second breaker was built at the colliery.
In 1914, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western operated both the mine and the breaker. On February 9, 1935, Glen Alden Coal Co. (successor to the DL&W) began to dismantle and demolish the Avondale breaker and to close the mine. In 1936, no coal was produced. However, in December 1940, Glen Alden resumed mining on a limited scale taking coal to the Lance Breaker to be processed.
The Jersey Mine
The Jersey was one of Plymouth's oldest mines, a tunnel located at the top of Jersey Road in the hollow between Avondale Hill and Curry Hill, just west of the Plymouth Borough boundary. The mine was located on two lots of about 225 acres (0.91 km2), patented to Ellen Wadhams in 1808 by virtue of the claim of her late husband Moses Wadhams. The mine was established by Joseph Wright, Ellen's second husband, a Quaker who migrated to Plymouth from New Jersey. Wright's stepdaughter, Lydia Wadhams, married Samuel French who became the second operator of the Jersey. French, who was the stepson of mine operator John Smith, operated the mine until about 1855, when the Scottish immigrant Robert Love, then a young man in his twenties, took control. Love built a gravity railroad from the mine down to the newly arrived Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad and supplied the L&B with the first coal shipped from Plymouth by rail.
By 1865, the Jersey was operated by the Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad and had an estimated annual capacity of 50,000 tons. In 1871, and in accordance with laws enacted following the 1869 disaster at the adjacent Avondale mine, the DL&W sank a 10-foot (3.0 m) X 14-foot (4.3 m) air shaft at the Jersey to help ventilate the mine. A breaker sat on the hill just below the mine as early as 1885. The DL&W operated the Jersey until 1902, when an underground mine fire broke out. As of 1942, the DL&W's successor, the Glen Alden Coal Co., was still trying to extinguish the fire.
The Nottingham Colliery
As perfected by 1908, the Nottingham Colliery included the mines established by Abijah and John Smith, and the Washington mine. All four operations have separate histories:
Abijah Smith's Mine
Abijah Smith was born in Derby, Connecticut, about 1763, where he married and fathered numerous children. He worked as a blacksmith or harness maker. In 1804, he advertised: "For sale by Abijah Smith, at Derby Landing, Skirting and Bridle leather, of the first quality, May 7, 1804.
It is not known exactly why Smith left Derby for the Wyoming Valley, but one journalist reporting in 1901 related an anecdote that had been passed down through the years. "The story is that Abijah Smith heard through some man, who had been traveling in Pennsylvania, and who passing through Derby on his way home stopped at Smith's blacksmith shop to have his horse shod, about black stone in Pennsylvania that would burn. The result of this conversation was that Smith made a trip to Pennsylvania and eventually located there ... He left Derby in 1806 and in 1807 mined 56 tons of coal in Plymouth, Pa. at the old mine now rented to the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Co., and known as the Smith red ash coal."
According to Hendrick B. Wright, in the fall of 1807, Abijah Smith purchased an ark from John P. Arndt, a Wilkes-Barre merchant, which Arndt had used for the transportation of plaster. Smith floated the ark from Wilkes-Barre to Plymouth, loaded it with about fifty tons of anthracite coal, and shipped it to Columbia, in Lancaster County. According to Wright:
"...this was probably the first cargo of anthracite coal that was ever ordered for sale in this or any country. The trade of 1807 was fifty tons ... Abijah Smith therefore, of Plymouth, was the pioneer in the coal business. Anthracite coal had been used before 1807, in this valley and elsewhere, in small quantities in furnaces, with an air blast; but the traffic in coal as an article of general use, was commenced by Abijah Smith, of Plymouth."
John Smith's Mine
In 1805, Hezekiah Roberts, Sr. obtained a patent for 121 acres (0.49 km2) of land, called Lot 49, on the west side of Coal Creek, which he sold to William Currie (who gave the place the name Curry Hill). In 1810, Currie sold the mineral rights to Lewis Hepburn (Abijah's Smith's partner), and in 1811, Hepburn sold half of these rights to John Smith, Abijah's brother. In 1816, after Lewis Hepburn died, Hepburn's son Patrick sold Smith the second half of the coal rights.
John Smith operated his mine on the west side of Coal Creek from 1811 until about 1837. A visitor in 1830 described Smith's coal mine as having a 20-foot (6.1 m) thick bed of coal, and found the mine "...extensively wrought, and the scene both without and within is exceedingly imposing. The bed is followed into the mountain, large pillars of coal being left to support the superincumbent weight..." The visitor noted that in some areas Smith had removed all of the coal, leaving only a roof of slate which then caved in. As a result, Smith modified his technique to leave two feet of coal to form the ceiling.
In 1840, John Smith leased his coal beds to his son, Francis J. Smith, his stepson, Samuel French, and his sons-in-law, Draper Smith and William C. Reynolds. In 1848, Smith sold the coal rights to Lot 49 outright to Reynolds.
The Washington Colliery was first opened by John Shay about 1854. Shay built a drift, an inclined plane, and a breaker. Shutz, Shay & Heebner operated the colliery until August 1869, when they sold their rights to Broderick, Conyngham & Co. At the same time, BC&C entered into leases to operate the Nottingham Colliery, the old John Smith mine and the old Abijah Smith mine, and from then on all four mines were operated under common management. On April 1, 1872 BC&C sold their lease to the Lehigh Navigation & Coal Co., and on January 1, 1874, the LN&C sold to the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co. which operated the mine as the Reynolds No. 16. By April 1890, the first breaker had been dismantled and a new breaker was in operation. In 1908, the L&W-B abandoned the second breaker and began to process coal from the Washington mine at the Nottingham breaker. In March 1912, the company destroyed the Washington breaker with dynamite.
The Nottingham Coal Co. of Baltimore was incorporated on March 21, 1865, and obtained a lease to mine coal from Plymouth's Reynolds family, a lease which would bring the family great wealth. Bryce R. Blair was named superintendent, and proceeded to construct a coal breaker and a 380-foot (120 m) shaft, said to pass through 40 feet (12 m) of quicksand on its way to the coal beds below.
In August 1869, the Nottingham assigned their lease to the firm of Broderick, Conyngham & Co. In order to create a second means of egress from the mine, as required by the mine safety law enacted after the 1869 Avondale Mine Disaster, BC&Co.. drove 2,400 feet (730 m) to the west to connect with its Washington mine. On April 1, 1872 BC&Co. sold their lease to the Lehigh Navigation & Coal Co., and on January 1, 1874, the LN&C sold to the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co. which operated the mine as the Nottingham No. 15 Colliery.
In 1936, the Glen Alden Coal Co. operated the Nottingham and produced 263,836 tons of coal. However, in August 1936, Glen Alden demolished the Nottingham breaker, part of a general consolidation of mine operations in the Wyoming Valley. Thenceforth, coal from the Nottingham was processed at the Lance breaker. Interestingly, the lone voice of protest of the Nottingham's demise was the Luzerne County Communist Party, whose presidential candidate, Earl Browder, called upon the community to raise its voice against "this wrecking plan of the coal companies." In December 1936, Glen Alden operated the Nottingham for the first time since the breaker's demolition, and after a subsequent period of idleness, resumed operations at the Nottingham again in 1938. The mine continued to operate into the 1950s. In June 1954, Charles Medura was killed in the mine by a fall of rock, the last of many fatalities at the mine.
The Parrish Colliery
The Parrish Colliery was a relative late-comer to Plymouth. Its origins can be traced to the sale by the Wadhams family of their homestead farm in 1871 to the Wilkes-Barre Coal & Iron Co. The property was located in the center of Plymouth Borough, between Academy and Girard streets. In 1874, the Wilkes-Barre Coal & Iron Co. became part of the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co., which acquired the property, but by some arrangement the mine was operated by the Parrish Coal Co., organized in 1884. The company built a breaker, said to be "a model of neatness," built by contractor Joseph C. Tyrrell and completed in September 1884. On the night of January 25, 1887, the new breaker caught fire and was completely destroyed. Another was built and was operating by July.
By 1914, the mine had reverted to the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co. which operated a washery and breaker. Ash and waste water from the washery were flushed into the Susquehanna River. In June 1914, the company closed the Parrish breaker and began construction of a tunnel under the river to transport coal to the company's breaker in Buttonwood. In 1920, the Glen Alden Coal Co. acquired the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co., including the Parrish Colliery, and in July of that year the breaker blew down in a wind and rain storm.
The Dodson Colliery
The Dodson Colliery was located at Bull Run in Plymouth Borough, and its breaker stood alongside the tracks of the Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad. The Dodson's coal lands ran from Center Avenue on the west to Pierce Street on the east, and thus the Dodson's mining operations took place beneath the central business district of the Borough. The colliery was first developed by Fellows & Dodson, Co., beginning in 1869, and by 1870 a large breaker had been built and a shaft sunk to a depth of 220 feet (67 m).
By 1872, the mine was operated by the Wilkes-Barre Coal & Iron Co. which had recently gained control of nearly all of Plymouth Borough's coal lands east of Academy Street, including the Lance and the Gaylord collieries. In 1872, the company employed 80 men at the Dodson, sank the shaft to a depth of 280 feet (85 m), and began to experience problems with water infiltration. In 1874, the Wilkes-Barre Coal & Iron Co. merged into the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co., but by early 1877 this firm was overextended and (temporarily) in receivership.
In 1877, the Plymouth Coal Company, managed by John J. Shonk and John C. Haddock, gained control of the Dodson. In October 1877, the Wilkes-Barre Times reported that "work is to be resumed at the Dodson shaft by the Plymouth Coal Co." In 1882, Haddock assumed sole control of the Plymouth Coal Co., and ran the Dodson until his death in New York in December 1914. Haddock had a litigious reputation due to his disputes with neighboring mines, with Plymouth Borough and with Plymouth's Sweitzer family. He disputed freight rates, testifying before the Interstate Commerce Commission that the railroads discriminated against small operators.
On July 13, 1899, the first Dodson breaker burned down, and on March 5, 1900, work began on the second breaker. In 1914, Plymouth Borough obtained an injunction preventing the Plymouth Coal Co. from mining, owing to surface subsidence, and for most of that year the mine was idle. In January 1915, the Kingston Coal Co., which operated the adjacent Gaylord Colliery, announced it would buy the Dodson mine.
The Lance Colliery
In his will of 1834, Jacob Gould bequeathed to his seven children "all the coal mines which are now or may hereafter be found on any part of my landed property ... and that there shall be a reserve made in the division of my real or landed property sufficient for all necessary roads to go to and from said coal mines and sufficient land for to deposite all coal and coal dirt and the like that is necessary, and that each one shall have an equal right to dig or mine coal at anytime, and each one shall be at their proper expense of keeping said coal mine or mines in repair according to what coal they may dig or mine." He further willed that with respect to "the division of all my coal mines ... each daughter is made equal to each son and holding equal rights & interest..." Twenty-four years later, the 1858 Pennsylvania Geological Survey reported that "coal has been wrought languidly for thirty years" at "Gould and Shunk's mine," the operator being John Jenks Shonk, and the mine called Rudmandale, located just west of Shupp's Creek. The small operation eventually became the Lance Colliery, one of Wyoming Valley's largest and most enduring.
Despite its name, the Lance Colliery was controlled by William L. Lance, Sr. for a very short time. About 1865, Lance and his sons bought the Gould Homestead, which ran from the Susquehanna River to State Street, just east of the Plymouth Borough line. The land contained about 150 acres (0.61 km2) of coal measures. In order to develop the property by sinking a deep shaft to reach the coal seams, and building a breaker to process the coal, Lance borrowed money from Payne Pettebone, a coal mine operator. Lance overextended himself, and Pettebone aggressively pursued repayment. In January 1871, Lance's friend, Samuel Bonnell, Jr., bought the property at Sheriff's Sale so as to satisfy the debt. Bonnell allowed Lance and his sons to continue to operate the mine. As of 1871, Lance had sunk the shaft 175 feet (53 m), and was in process of sinking a second shaft for emergency egress. However, in July 1871, Bonnell sold the improvements and leased the coal rights to the Wilkes-Barre Coal & Iron Co., and in February 1876, Bonnell sold the property outright to the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co. Lance, who moved to Philadelphia and became a mat manufacturer, spent years in court, suing his old friend Bonnell in a futile attempt to recover the mine.
According to The Engineering and Mining Journal, in 1879 the Lance Colliery was operated by Charles Parrish & Co., a subsidiary or tenant of the L&W-B. The journal reported that "the mine having been idle for about a year, has again been started up." In 1883, William Lance's old breaker was torn down and on June 30, 1883 the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co. began building a new breaker.
In 1931, the Glen Alden Coal Co., successor to the L&W-B, erected a third breaker. By this time, large coal companies were more concerned about their public image, and Glen Alden made an effort to make the building and grounds attractive. Writing in 1941, a newspaper reporter described the colliery as "beautifully landscaped." In 1936, Glen Alden produced 653,141 tons of coal, and in 1945 produced 489,889 tons of coal.
The Gaylord Colliery
The Gaylord was opened about 1854 by Henderson Gaylord, who built a private railroad from the colliery across what was then the Nesbit family farm to a wharf on the river near the corner of Gaylord Avenue and Main Street. Gaylord leased the mine to Van Homer & Fellows, then to Eric L. Hedstrum (of Buffalo, New York). In 1866, J. Langdon & Co. (later H.S. Mercur & Co.) operated the mine. Beginning in 1871, the Wilkes-Barre Coal & Iron Co. and then its successor, the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co., operated the mine, but this firm fell into receivership in 1877 and lost their lease. The Gaylord Coal Co., operated by Thomas Beaver and Daniel Edwards, took control of the Gaylord, and later merged with the Kingston Coal Co. On March 5, 1879, the breaker at the Gaylord was destroyed by fire.
In August 1879, The Engineering and Mining Journal wrote, "the Gaylord Coal Co. is building a new breaker in place of the one burned down last summer, and which is to prepare the coal from the old slope workings, with its tunnel to the seven foot seam, as well as the coal from its new shaft which was sunk by the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co., when it had it, to the Bennett seam. The new firm contemplates sinking down through the Bennett to the Red Ash seam. The coals from the Seven Foot and the Red Ash will cause it to be a very fine colliery." The prediction proved accurate: in 1887, the Gaylord shaft and slope mined 248,276 tons of coal.
On February 13, 1894, the Scranton Republican reported a large cave-in at the Gaylord mine: "We are called upon to detail the awful scenes of another miner horror. Thirteen men who went down to repair some damaged work-lugs in the Gaylord slope at Plymouth are caught by a fall of coal and most probably called to the great beyond, their bodies crushed and very little hope entertained for their recovery for days to come." On February 14, The Wilkes-Barre Record reported one hundred men were digging for the entombed miners. Despite these efforts, the situation was hopeless. On February 19 the Wilkes-Barre Record reported that ground water in the Gaylord was hindering the rescue. Finally on March 12 the body of Peter McLaughlin was recovered, the first of the miners to be found. By April 6, the last of the bodies was taken out of the mine, that of the foreman, Thomas Picton.
According to the Water Supply Commission of Pennsylvania, in 1914 the colliery was still operated by the Kingston Coal Co., preparing about 225 tons of coal per day. Slush and waste water were pumped into three boreholes, rather than into Brown's Creek, and washwater was pumped from the Susquehanna River, 23,000,000 gallons in four months.
In May 1935, the Glen Alden Coal Co. bought the Gaylord mine from the Kingston Coal Co. for $100,000. Glen Alden paid about $40,000 in back taxes owed to Plymouth Township, Plymouth Borough and Larksville Borough. It was around this time that the second Gaylord breaker was demolished with dynamite. By this time, the mine was largely depleted, but in December 1940, the Sunday Independent reported that "the old Gaylord mine, now being operated by Samuel Bird, brother of Morgan Bird, is showing signs of being able to absorb additional number of men in the future...[the] Lance [breaker] prepares the coal." In 1945, the Gaylord worked 284 days and produced 26,301 tons of coal. In January 1955, the Bird Mining Co. stopped mining at the Gaylord.
Hillside was a minor operation first worked by George W. Shonk and John Barry, operating as the Barry, Shonk & Dooley Coal Co., perhaps on land owned by the Barry family, old settlers on Plymouth Mountain east of Poke Hollow. Coal was extracted by means of a slope dug into the side of the mountain. According to the newspapers, in November 1906, the colliery began "mining on a large scale" and a "breaker ... erected which has a capacity of several hundred tons daily." In 1907, Shonk and Barry sold their interest in the mine to Bright Coal Co., owned by a group of investors from Scranton. The newspapers reported that mining operations would be "carried out on a much larger scale" than before. In 1914, Bright Coal Co. still operated the Hillside. At the time, waste water from the mine was dumped into a tributary of Brown's Creek. In 1917, Bright mined 10,252 tons.
Delaware & Hudson Collieries Along Brown's Creek
Fuller's Shaft (Delaware & Hudson No. 5)
The former railroad crossing at Plymouth's Bull Run (long disappeared) was originally called Fuller's Crossing, after the mine operator J. C. Fuller. The railroad ran from his mine (and several others), crossed Main Street and continued down to a wharf on the Susquehanna River. Fuller's mine was located just above the Gaylord colliery along what is now Washington Avenue. According to Munsell, the shaft was sunk by the (old) Plymouth Coal Co. and J. C. Fuller in 1858. In 1864, Fuller operated the mine, which produced 23,827 tons of coal, making it that year the fourth largest mine in the Plymouth district. In 1871, operation of the mine was transferred from Fuller to the Northern Coal & Iron Co., a firm owned by the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. and by 1873, if not earlier, a breaker was operating at the mine.
On April 27, 1907, the No. 5 breaker burned to the ground, causing an "awe inspiring spectacle." At the time, the breaker had been abandoned by the D&H and was being used as a washery by the Rissinger Bros. By 1909, a second breaker was built, intended to process coal from several D & H mines. In 1914, The D&H was operating both the breaker and a washery and waste water from these was dumped into Shupp's Creek, not Brown's Creek, suggesting that the breaker may have been relocated from its original site to a new one farther south. In 1919, fire destroyed the second No. 5 breaker. That year, a new reinforced concrete breaker, called the Loree No. 5 Breaker, was built to process coal from all of the D&H operations in Plymouth.
Swetland Shaft (Delaware & Hudson No. 4)
The Swetland Shaft was located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Vine and State streets in the Poke Hollow section of what is now Larksville Borough. According to court records, William Patten and Thomas Fender established this mine in 1851. About 1855, Patten and Fender contracted with an English immigrant, John Dennis (a future Plymouth burgess), to sink a shaft to the coal seams below. It was said to be the first mine shaft on the west side of the Susquehanna River. In January 1857, William Patten died when he fell down the newly constructed shaft. Fender continued to operate the mine, but on February 25, 1860, lost the property at sheriff's sale. Josiah W. Eno built a breaker at the mine in 1857, which he operated until 1861.
A.C. Laning & Co. bought the mine, and subsequently John Jenks Shonk, Payne Pettebone and William Swetland bought the mine. In 1865, J. Langdon & Co. operated the mine. According to Samuel L. French, David Levi, a Welshman, operated the mine, followed by A.J. Davis and Charles Bennett. By 1870, J.C. Fuller operated the mine, and in 1871, the Northern Coal & Iron Co., a subsidiary of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co., assumed operation of the mine. Michael Shonk was mine boss for both Fuller and the NC&I. By 1873, a coal breaker stood on the site, and in 1901, the D&H dismantled the breaker. As of 1914, coal from the No. 4 shaft was hauled to the No. 5 breaker for processing, although a washery at the No. 4 prepared enough coal to run the colliery boilers. As of 1925, the D&H continued to operate the mine, calling it the Loree No. 4.
Delaware & Hudson Collieries Along Shupp's Creek
The Boston was unique in that the mine and the breaker were originally built about 1-1/4 miles apart from one another. The mine and shaft were located north of State Street where it intersects with Shupp's Creek. A railroad was built from the mine along the creek down to the first Boston breaker, located next to and east of the old Shupp Cemetery at the bottom of Boston Hill. The mine was opened in 1857 by the Boston Coal Co., which leased to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Co. in 1858, and sold to the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. in 1868, subject to the lease of 1858. In 1883, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western mined 4,351 tons, but in January that year the Delaware & Hudson assumed operation of the mine.
On January 16, 1887, the Boston breaker burned and was totally destroyed. The Delaware & Hudson built a second breaker, this time adjacent to the mine. It was completed by November 1887. In 1909, the second Boston breaker was demolished and coal from the mine processed at the Delaware & Hudson No. 5 colliery.
Delaware & Hudson No. 1 Colliery
The No. 1 colliery was the most westerly of three collieries constructed in the late 1860s along Shupp's Creek by the Northern Coal and Iron Co. The No. 1 was located along Main Street on the west side of the creek. The Delaware & Hudson Canal Co., which owned the NC&I, built a railroad branch connecting the No. 1, 2 and 3 collieries to the Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad. By 1872, the shaft was 295 feet (90 m) deep and 130 men were working in the Lance and Cooper veins. By 1873, the NC&I operated a breaker at the No. 1 shaft. In 1914, the D&H continued to operate the mine, dumping waste water into the creek.
Delaware & Hudson No. 2 Colliery
The Northern Coal & Iron Co. built the No. 2 shaft on the north side of Shupp's Creek, west of Nesbitt Street or about 650 feet (200 m) east of the No. 1 shaft. By 1872, the shaft was 500 feet (150 m) deep reaching the Lawler and Wilkman coal veins. By 1873, the NC&I operated a breaker at the shaft. 1n 1914, the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. operated a breaker and washery there, dumping waste water into Shupp's Creek.
Delaware & Hudson No. 3 Colliery
The No. 3 Colliery was located along Shupp's creek about a mile east of the No. 2 Colliery. By 1872, a contractor, T.C. Harkness, had sunk the shaft 350 feet (110 m), and was driving a tunnel toward the Boston Mine to create a second means of egress. By 1873, the Northern Coal & Iron Co. operated a breaker on the site.
By the year 1893, the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. operated the colliery and produced 219,044 tons of coal. However, on November 15, 1894, the first No.3 breaker burned. The headline in the Wilkes-Barre Times read, "A glorious scene - the whole valley lighted up and glare seen in Scranton - will be re-built at once." In January 1895, the new breaker at the No. 3 was under construction, designed by Abram Shaffer; it began operating on June 1, 1895. According to the newspapers, it was clad in corrugated iron and had a "fine appearance." By 1916, the D&H decided to abandon the No. 3 breaker and run coal from the mine through the company's No. 5 breaker, but on the morning of December 2, the No. 3 breaker was destroyed by fire.
Kingston Coal Company Mines
Kingston Coal Co. No. 2 & No. 3 Collieries
In 1864, Waterman & Beaver Co., owned by industrialists from Danville, Pennsylvania, sank the No. 1 shaft in Kingston, known as "Morgan's Shaft" after superintendent David Morgan. In 1868, Daniel Edwards, superintendent of W&B's Danville iron mines, replaced Morgan as superintendent. The firm's coal lands spanned the boundary between Plymouth and Kingston townships, and in 1872, the No. 2 shaft and the No. 2 breaker were constructed, both in Plymouth. A railroad branch connected the No. 2 colliery to the Lackawanna & Bloomsburg Railroad. In 1877, the firm's name was changed to Kingston Coal Company. The Plymouth side of the colliery became part of Edwardsville when it was incorporated as a separate borough on June 16, 1884.
The Woodward Colliery was located on the eastern slope of Ross Hill up-hill from Toby's Creek. With 925 acres (3.74 km2) of coal lands, it was a major colliery, and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad took several years to establish it. In 1881, in what was then Plymouth Township, the DL&W began to sink two shafts, the largest of which (at 22 X 55 feet) was sunk 1,000 feet (300 m) to the Red Ash coal vein. By 1883, the DL&W had begun to construct a breaker and to prepare railroad beds for a branch line connecting the breaker to the DL&W's railroad line on the west shore of the Susquehanna River. In September 1883, four men working on the shaft were killed when the platform supporting them collapsed. In 1884, the colliery became part of the newly formed Edwardsville Borough. By 1888, the colliery was complete, and in July the Woodward began to ship coal. The new mine and breaker had a large capacity: in May 1904, the colliery broke a record, producing 77,383 tons of coal.
In July 1916, the DL&W announced plans to build a new concrete breaker, and to fill in part of Toby's Creek so as to straighten the railroad bed leading to the breaker. By 1917, the new breaker was under construction. The foundation was built by Curtis Construction Co. of New York, and the steel frame built by the DL&W. The facade of the breaker was clad with special high-strength wire glass. The new colliery had its own power plant fueled by coal from the mine. In 1936, the Glen Alden Coal Co., successor to the DL&W, operated the Woodward and produced 858,711 tons of coal. In 1945, they produced 745,586 tons.
Among the noteworthy individuals who claimed Plymouth as their birthplace or former residence, and then gained a measure of fame beyond the town's borders were:
Michael E. Comerford (1865–1939) was born at Heckscherville, Pennsylvania, to parents who had recently immigrated to the United States from County Kilkenny, Ireland. In the 1870s, the family relocated to Welsh Hill in Plymouth Township where Michael Comerford grew up. He became a pioneer of the American movie industry in the 1920s and the 1930s, and was the President and General Manager of the Comerford Theaters, Inc., which once owned and operated 78 theaters, mainly in eastern Pennsylvania, but also in New York and Maryland. Among these was Plymouth's Shawnee Theater. Comerford was a founder of the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America and a director of the Scranton Chamber of Commerce. In the late 1930s, he was President of the Amalgamated Vaudeville Agency, Inc., which had booking offices at 1600 Broadway, New York. Comerford died in Miami on February 1, 1939, and was buried in St. Vincent's Cemetery, Plymouth, on February 6, 1939.
Dr. Fuller L. Davenport (1877–1935) was born in Plymouth, the son of Edwin Davenport and his wife, Mary McAlarney. He was the brother of Ward P. Davenport (for whom Plymouth's fourth high school building was named), and the congressman Stanley Woodward Davenport. Fuller Davenport attended Plymouth's public schools and prepared for university at Wyoming Seminary. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1903 with a degree in dentistry. While at Penn, Davenport was a member of the famous eight-oared crew that traveled in 1901 to England to compete in the Henley Regatta. The Penn Crew won both of its trial heats at the regatta but lost in the final to an English crew. However, the trip was considered a success as Penn had the distinction of being the only American crew to mount a serious challenge to Britain's retaining the Grand Challenge Cup, the most prized trophy in amateur rowing. After his graduation, Davenport practiced dentistry in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston for many years.
Stanley Woodward Davenport (1861–1921) was born at Plymouth, a son of Edwin Davenport and his wife, Mary McAlarney. He attended Plymouth's public schools and Wyoming Seminary, and graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1884. He studied law with Plymouth attorney George W. Shonk, was admitted to the bar in 1890 and commenced the practice of law in Plymouth in 1891. In 1893, he was appointed a Director of the Poor for the Central Poor District of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and later served as secretary and treasurer of the Poor District. He was the Register of Wills of Luzerne County from 1894 to 1897. Davenport was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-sixth Congress from Pennsylvania's 12th District and served from 1899-1901. He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1900, after which he resumed the practice of law in Plymouth.
Edward M. Dwyer (born 1936), a Plymouth native, graduated from Plymouth High School in 1953, where he starred on the basketball team for three seasons. During his junior and senior years, he led his team to consecutive league championships for which he received Wyoming Valley All-Scholastic and Pennsylvania All-State honors. After graduating second in his class, he entered Columbia College, graduating in 1957, and then Columbia Medical School, graduating in 1961. As an undergraduate at Columbia, Dwyer played basketball for three years. During his junior year he was named to the All-Ivy-League second team, and during his senior year to the first team. In 1975, he was elected to Columbia's Hall of Fame. Between 1966-68, Dwyer served as a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, after which he pursued a career in medicine in New York.
Harry Livingston French (1871–1928) was born at Plymouth, the son of Samuel Livingston French. He was a graduate of Cornell University and a member of the Architectural League of New York. His firm, McCormick and French, was the architect of the second Central High School (1906), the Plymouth National Bank (1907) and the First National Bank (1915), all in Plymouth, and the First Eastern National Bank (1907) in Wilkes-Barre.
Simon Goldstein (1868–1942) was born in Europe and came to the United States in 1887, settled at Plymouth and set up in business as a grocer. Ice cream was popularized in America at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, and around that time Goldstein began to manufacture ice cream for his grocery store. By 1905, the ice cream became so popular that the store was abandoned and the Golden Quality Ice Cream Company formed. Goldstein's ice cream was manufactured on the site of the old Stegmaier Brewery, and the building fronting Main Street became an ice cream parlor. By 1924, Goldstein's son, Eugene Goldstein (1901–1985), a graduate of Plymouth High School class of 1919, was a partner in the firm, which he continued to operate at least until 1983.
Major Leo G. Heffernan (1889–1956) was born in Plymouth Township. He was the son of an Irish immigrant from County Tipperary, Andrew Heffernan, and his Elmira-born wife, Mary Connole, the parents of ten high-achieving children. By 1900, the family was living on Willow Street in Plymouth Borough. Leo Heffernan graduated from Plymouth High School, class of 1906, and in 1907 won a competition to earn a congressional appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He joined the cavalry in 1911, but in 1915 procured an appointment to the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army, attended flight school and first soloed in 1916. He served with the 1st Aero Squadron beginning in July 1916 on the Mexican border, and in Mexico with the "Punitive Expedition" led by Gen. John J. Pershing sent to capture Pancho Villa. In 1934, after a long and distinguished career, Heffernan retired from the armed services, after which he worked for Anheuser-Busch and then for Lurrie Pizer Co. Heffernan died in 1956 and was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, Wilkes-Barre.
Heffernan's most famous moment came in 1923, when Time magazine reported the news that "...in a blinding sandstorm, Major Leo G. Heffernan made the fastest flight on record, when he achieved an average speed of 250 miles an hour, according to an announcement of the War Department dated March 24. Major Heffernan flew in a DH-4B plane from Columbus, N. M., to Fort Bliss, Texas, a distance of 75 miles, in eighteen minutes. During the flight, which was aided by a following wind, the plane was surrounded by clouds of dust, out of which it was unable to climb."
Thomas F. "Red" Heffernan (1871–1951) was born in Plymouth Township, the son of Andrew and Mary (Connole) Heffernan. Thomas Heffernan attended Plymouth High School and Wyoming Seminary. After completing his studies, he taught for three years in the Plymouth school system and then worked for thirteen years as a newspaper reporter at the Wilkes-Barre Record. Heffernan was active in Luzerne County politics, and was for many years the boss of the county's Republican party. In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him postmaster of Wilkes-Barre, and in 1911, President Taft reappointed him. In 1914, Heffernan bought the Sunday Independent newspaper, which he ran for many years with his younger brothers John (Plymouth High School class of 1903) and George.
Arthur Horace James (1883–1973) was born at Plymouth, the son of Welsh immigrants, graduated from Plymouth High School in 1901 and from Dickinson College's law school in 1904. He was elected District Attorney of Luzerne County in 1920 and again in 1923. From 1926 to 1930 he served as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. He was Judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania from 1932 to 1939, and served as Governor of Pennsylvania from 1939 to 1943. Arthur James died in 1973 and was buried in Hanover Green Cemetery, Hanover Township.
Col. Benjamin Washington Johnson (1914–1992) was born in Virginia, but his African-American family settled in Plymouth during the Great Depression. As a high school junior in 1932, Johnson won both the 100- and 220-yard dashes in state record times. He qualified for the Olympic Trials in California, but his family was unable to fund the trip. The town of Plymouth sponsored a "Ben Johnson Olympic Fund" and raised the money to send him to the trials, where he took fourth in his semifinal. In 1934, Johnson entered Columbia College where he broke many records. At the 1938 Millrose Games before 17,000 spectators in Madison Square Garden, he finished the 60-yard dash in 6.2, 6.1 and 6.0 seconds, tying the world record, then breaking it twice. He enlisted in the army in 1942, eventually retiring with the rank of colonel.
John E. Mazur (1930-2013) was born in Plymouth and was a star quarterback at Plymouth High School, class of 1948. He attended Notre Dame University where he played quarterback from 1949-1951. In 1952, Mazur enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, playing quarterback for both the Quantico and Camp Pendleton Marines. Upon his discharge in 1954, he played professional football for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League until an ankle injury ended his career.
Between 1955 and 1961, Mazur coached football at Tulane University, Marquette University and Boston University. In 1962, he was hired as backfield coach by the American Football League's Buffalo Bills, helping them win AFL titles in 1964 and 1965. In 1969, Mazur was hired by the Boston Patriots as assistant coach. When head coach Clive Rush resigned in November 1970, Mazur was named the Patriots' head coach, a position he held until 1972. Subsequently, he coached with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets before retiring in 1980.
John G. Mellus (1917–2005) was born in Plymouth, a grandson of Lithuanian immigrants. He attended Villanova University and went on to play professional football as an offensive tackle for eight seasons in the National Football League, from 1938-1941 with the New York Giants, in 1946 with the San Francisco 49ers, and from 1947-1949 with the Baltimore Colts. He was inducted into the Villanova University "Wall of Fame" in 2002.
Sephaniah Reese (1866–1944) was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, but came to Plymouth with his family when he was about four years old. Like his father, he was a machinist and began working for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad when he was sixteen years old. After a few years, he opened his own shop. Reese produced machine parts for the local railroads, mills and coal mines, but he also manufactured two lines of bicycles, known as the "Reese" and the "Shawnee," which he sold in the United States and Europe.
In the 1880s, Reese cobbled together a gas-powered "horseless carriage" which he began to drive around town, according to some claims, around 1884-1887. The vehicle was a three-wheel, open-air automobile with a one-cylinder aluminum engine mounted onto the rear axle of a tubular steel frame. The tires were mounted onto wire-spoke wheels, with front forks said to be old Civil War bayonet scabbards. For many years Reese's automobile lived in the window of his shop, initially as a promotion (he made copies upon request) and later as an antiquated curiosity. All in all, Reese made only a few automobiles, but today is recognized as a pioneer of the automotive industry.
While Reese's efforts at automobile production were limited, he anticipated the Duryea brothers of Springfield, Massachusetts, who in 1896 founded the first company to manufacture and sell gasoline-powered vehicles. In later years Reese became an automobile dealer, selling Abbott-Detroit, Lambert and Cadillac automobiles, and operated a river dredging business. He is buried in Edge Hill Cemetery, West Nanticoke.
John Jenks Shonk (1815–1904) was born in Hope, New Jersey, but came to Plymouth with his parents as a young boy, and became one of its most prominent citizens. About 1832, he began to mine coal at Plymouth, and later became involved in mining bituminous coal in West Virginia. Shonk also had an interest in the Wilkes-Barre & Harvey's Lake Railroad Co. In 1875, he was elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature from the Third District as a candidate of the Prohibition Party. In 1876, he was elected again as a Republican.
Frank Comerford Walker (1886–1959) was born at Plymouth on May 30, 1886, on the second floor over his father's grocery store at Bull Run. He was the son of David Walker and his wife, Ellen Comerford, and moved to Montana with his parents about 1890. He attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and received a law degree from Notre Dame University in 1909. Walker practiced law in Montana with his older brother, Thomas, and served a term in the Montana State Legislature in 1913. During World War I, he was commissioned a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and saw limited action on the western front before returning to his law practice. In 1925, he moved to New York to become general counsel and manager of Comerford Theaters, an enterprise founded by his uncle, Michael E. Comerford.
In 1931, Walker became a founding member of the Roosevelt for President Society, and after the 1932 election, President Roosevelt named Walker treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. In 1933, Roosevelt appointed Walker executive secretary of the president's emergency council, later renamed the National Emergency Council, and in 1940, appointed Walker to the cabinet-level post of Postmaster General, which he held until 1945. After resigning to allow new President Truman to appoint his own Postmaster General, Walker was named an alternate delegate to the first United Nations General Assembly meeting in December 1945. He died on September 13, 1959, in New York City and was buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery, Butte, Montana.
William Aubrey Williams, aka Gwilym Gwent (1834–1891) was a musician, born at Tredegar, Wales, on November 28, 1834. Williams was a blacksmith by trade, but as a young man moved to Blaenau Gwent where he became conductor of a local orchestra. He married in 1862. In 1865, he won the prize at the Aberystwyth eisteddfod for a duet for female voices, and also won a ten pound prize for his cantata, "Y Mab Afradlon". He was one of the most popular and prolific composers in Wales in his time, composing "part-songs," anthems and solos. Working with David Lewis (1828–1908), he edited Llwybrau Moliant, a collection of hymn-tunes for use by Welsh Baptists, a work which contains several hymn-tunes of his own composition. In 1872, he migrated to Pennsylvania. He died at Plymouth on July 3, 1891 and was buried in Hollenback Cemetery, Wilkes-Barre.
Hendrick Bradley Wright (1808–1881) was born in Plymouth Township, attended the Wilkes-Barre Grammar School and graduated from Dickinson College in 1829. He studied law, was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in Wilkes-Barre. He was appointed district attorney for Luzerne County in 1834, was a member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives from 1841 to 1843, serving in 1843 as house speaker. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1844, 1848, 1852, 1856, 1860, 1868, and 1876. Wright served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district from 1853–1855, from 1861–1863, and from 1877-1881. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1880 and was unsuccessful in getting the Greenback Party nomination for President the same year, losing to James Weaver. In 1873, Wright published a history of his birthplace, Historical Sketches of Plymouth, Luzerne Co., Pa.
Burgesses of Plymouth
Elijah Catlin Wadhams was born at Plymouth on July 17, 1825, and was educated at Dickinson College and New York University, from which he graduated in 1847. His house, later known as the Parrish House, once stood on Main Street immediately west of the Ward P. Davenport High School building. His home farm ran from Academy Street to Wadhams Street, and from Main Street to Shawnee Avenue. He was Plymouth's first Burgess, elected in 1866, and held the office until 1869. When he and his family moved to Wilkes-Barre in 1873, his farm became a colliery operated by the Parish Coal Co., which eventually became a part of the Glen Alden Coal Co. In addition to the colliery, the Wadhams farm was also the site of many Plymouth landmarks, including the West Knitting Mill, the Ambrose West residence, all four Plymouth high school buildings, Huber Park and the Soldiers and Sailors monument, Huber Playground, Huber Athletic Field, Plymouth tennis courts, the Plymouth Little League, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church and the St. Stephen's R.C. church and school buildings.
Josiah William Eno was born in Simsbury, Connecticut, in 1820 and migrated to Pennsylvania, settling at Plymouth in 1855. He was one of the signers of the 1866 petition asking the courts to create Plymouth Borough, and was elected auditor in the first borough election the same year. Eno was elected Justice of the Peace in 1867, 1872, 1877 and 1882, and in this capacity served as coroner during the inquest into the Avondale Mine Disaster of 1869. He was elected Plymouth's second Burgess in 1870 and re-elected in 1871. He became the fourth Burgess in 1873 and was re-elected in 1874, holding office until the election of February 16, 1875. Josiah Eno was one of the principal organizers, along with John J. Shonk, of the Plymouth Land Co., which created the sub-division of streets between Centre Avenue and Cherry Street, formerly the Nesbit and Noah Wadhams farms. He was a charter member of Plymouth's Masonic Lodge No. 332, and was a trustee of the Presbyterian congregation. Eno and his family lived in a house on East Main Street, east of Vine Street. Plymouth's Jeanette Street was created as a sub-division of his house lot, and the street was named after Eno's daughter, Jeanette Eno Campbell. Josiah Eno died at Plymouth on June 11, 1895 and was buried in the Forty Fort Cemetery.
Charles H. Cool was born on January 4, 1839 at Beaver Meadow, Pennsylvania, the son of William H. Cool and his wife, Jane (Lockhart) Cool. The son was educated in the public schools of Beaver Meadow, at Wyoming Seminary (1857) and at Crittenden College. The father owned a 25% interest in Plymouth's Gaylord Slope.
Charles H. Cool appeared in the 1870 census at Plymouth, age 31, and gave his occupation as "retired merchant." He became Plymouth's third Burgess when he was elected in 1872, but by 1880, he had moved to West Pittston. Cool entered the political ring at least one more time, long after he left Plymouth: in 1892, he ran as the Prohibitionist candidate for the United States Congress, Twelfth Congressional District, and lost the election to William Hines by a wide margin.
Edward D. Barthe (aka Edmund D. Barthe) was born in Philadelphia on September 7, 1829, the son of General Peter D. Barthe, and as a young man he learned the printing trade. During the Civil War, he joined the Pennsylvania Volunteers, Twenty-Sixth Regiment, Company C, entering the service as a sergeant and leaving in 1862 by medical discharge. In 1867, he came to Wilkes-Barre and joined the staff of the Wilkes-Barre Record. For many years Barthe was the editor of the Plymouth Weekly Star newspaper. He was Plymouth's fifth Burgess, elected on Feb 16, 1875. Brice S. Blair was Assistant Burgess. Barthe died on June 4, 1892 and is buried at Hillside Cemetery in Roslyn, Pennsylvania.
Samuel Livingston French was born in Plymouth on September 28, 1839. He was Plymouth's sixth Burgess, holding the office from 1876–1877, and was Burgess during the 1877 labor riots. He was succeeded by John Y. Wren in 1878. However, in the election held Tuesday, February 18, 1879, Samuel L. French and the Citizens Party won every contested office, and French returned to office as Plymouth's eighth Burgess. Brice S. Blair was elected Assistant Burgess.
John Young Wren was born in Glasgow, Scotland on July 6, 1827, the son of William Wren and his wife, Jean McCreath. He fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War in Battery G, 2nd Artillery, 112th Regiment, and was mustered out with the rank of Captain. In 1870, he lived at Plymouth and worked as a machinist. In 1880, he lived at 149 Eno Street. About 1871, he established an iron foundry located at the corner of Cherry and Willow streets, but the business suffered during the economic downturn of the mid-1870s, and eventually failed. By 1887, the family lived at 54 Gaylord Avenue, supported by Wren's son Christopher, an insurance agent. For many years, Wren's daughter, Annie, was the art teacher at Plymouth's Central High School. Captain Wren was elected as Plymouth's seventh Burgess in 1878 and served for one year. He died at Plymouth on June 14, 1899. and was buried at Edgehill Cemetery, West Nanticoke, PA.
Henry Coffin Magee was born in Carroll Township, Pa. in 1848. His father was a carpenter. Magee graduated from the State Normal School, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1871. He taught school and was the principal of the public schools of Plymouth from 1871-1876. He was admitted to the Luzerne County Bar in October 1875, and began to practice law. In 1880, he was an attorney and lived at 115 Main St. (old address system), next door to former Burgess E. D. Barthe. That year he was elected Burgess, the ninth to hold the office. He was a member of the Pennsylvania state legislature between 1885-1886. In 1887, he boarded at the Parish House (formerly the Wadhams Homestead). Magee died at Plymouth on April 27, 1888.
Capt. John Dennis was born in Bere Alston, Devon, England, in 1810, and after emigrating to the United States in 1848 settled at Scranton. He lived at Plymouth between 1854 and 1856 when he was the contractor who sank the Patten shaft in Poke Hollow, the first mine shaft sunk on the west side of Wyoming Valley. He returned to Plymouth about 1865-1866, in time to sign the petition requesting that Plymouth Borough be formed. He was elected the tenth Burgess in 1881 and served two terms. On May 7, 1883, at a meeting of the Borough Council, the "Bonds of Chief Burgess, John Dennis, [were] approved." Capt. Dennis was twice married, once in England, and a second time during his term as Burgess, but none of his children settled at Plymouth. He died at Parsons, Pa. on May 3, 1887 and was buried in Shawnee Cemetery.
Thomas Kerr was Plymouth's eleventh Burgess. He was born in Kilbirnie, Scotland in 1844 but migrated with his parents to the United States in 1849. Kerr grew up in Wilkes-Barre and pursued a number of business enterprises there and in Altoona, Hazleton and Alabama. In January 1879, he established a music store in Plymouth and later added a hardware store and a real estate business. In 1887, his shop was located at 60 East Main Street, and advertised "Hardware, Stoves and Tinware, House-Furnishing Goods, also Sewing Machines, Music and Musical Instruments. Agent for Slate Roofing." In 1885, Kerr was elected Burgess as a Republican with the backing of the town's Prohibitionist faction, and in 1887 was reelected. Kerr and his family attended Plymouth's Presbyterian church. In April 1895, when no longer Burgess, Kerr acquired the Plymouth concession for Singer sewing machines. On May 4, 1895, he made news when he was seriously burned as the result of a gas explosion. Kerr died at Wilkes-Barre on March 15, 1911, and was buried in Oaklawn Cemetery, Hanover Twp., PA.
Alfred J. Martin was born in Cornwall, England, in 1839, and migrated to the United States in 1869. Martin was born at the Cornwall county prison in Bodmin where his father was warden. He was Plymouth's twelfth Burgess, was elected in 1889, but probably began his term as Burgess at the beginning of 1890. However, in May 1890 John C. F. Jenkins filed a petition in the Prothonotary's office to have Martin's citizenship papers annulled on the grounds that they were fraudulently obtained. The court decided in favor of Jenkins, and in June 1890, Judge Charles E. Rice declared Martin's naturalization to be null and void, forcing Martin from office. In 1908, Martin traveled back to England to visit siblings he hadn't seen in forty years. Martin died at his house at 70 Academy Street on October 6, 1913, and was buried in Shawnee Cemetery.
Peter C. Roberts was born in Denbighshire, North Wales, in 1832 and came to the United States in 1864. In 1886, he lived at 59 Bank (later Girard) Street and was the sexton of the Welsh Baptist Church. In 1888, he was a Justice of the Peace, with offices at 45 West Main Street. He was Plymouth's thirteenth Burgess, appointed by the courts in 1890 to replace Alfred J. Martin. At the same time, he was a Justice of the Peace and had offices at 30 Center Avenue. After his first term expired, Roberts was elected in February 1891 on the Citizens ticket, and then re-elected in 1892. In 1893, no longer Burgess, he was a Justice of the Peace and a real estate agent. Roberts died on January 1, 1894 and was buried in the Shawnee Cemetery.
Daniel B. Loderick was born in New Jersey about 1853. He was a harness maker, having learned the trade from James Laird of Wilkes-Barre, who later became his father-in-law. As a young man, "Dan" Loderick was a well-known baseball player in the position of catcher for Wilkes-Barre's "shoemaker nine". By 1880, Loderick was living in Plymouth, working at his trade. He was included in the 1887 City Directory: his shop was at 12 West Main Street and his residence at 40 Center Avenue. He served as Plymouth's High Constable from 1881–1884 and from 1889-1892. He was the borough's fourteenth Burgess, and despite being a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican town, he was elected three times, serving from 1893-1897. Loderick died at his home on Gaylord Avenue of Bright's Disease on February 1, 1898, at the age of 45, and was buried in Shawnee Cemetery.
Philip Walters was born in Wales in 1846, and migrated to the United States in 1869. He was nominated for Burgess at the Republican convention held in Plymouth's Town Hall on January 18, 1897, edging out J.D. Williams and William Hoover. Walters was subsequently elected in the general election. He served until early 1900. Afterward, he served as a Justice of the Peace and worked as an insurance agent. Philip Walters died on June 17, 1916, and was buried in the Shawnee Cemetery on June 20, 1916. At the funeral, the pallbearers included former Burgess W.D. Morris and future Burgess Charles W. Honeywell.
Elijah Coxe was elected Plymouth's sixteenth Burgess on February 20, 1900, defeating Joseph Anderson, former Burgess Thomas Kerr and future Burgess Morgan Bevan. Coxe served until 1903. He died at Plymouth on February 26, 1918, and is buried in the Shawnee Cemetery.
John M. Thomas was elected as Plymouth's seventeenth Burgess in the election held on February 17, 1903. Running as an independent, he defeated Alonzo Whitney, the Republican candidate and John T. Dwyer, the Democratic candidate. Thomas ran the River Breeze hotel for many years, but at the time of his election, worked as a miner at the Gaylord Colliery. On April 20, 1903, acting as Burgess, Thomas shot and killed a mad dog on Main Street. He was tried for extortion in connection with a peddler's license that he had issued, a somewhat frivolous charge prosecuted by the peddler, and was acquitted on June 19, 1903. One of his last acts as Burgess was to sign on February 13, 1906, an ordinance creating a regular police force in the borough. On January 25, 1913, when no longer Burgess, Thomas shot and killed his son William, a veteran of the Spanish–American War. The shooting occurred on Main Street. Thomas was defended by H. L. Freeman and future governor Arthur H. James. He testified in his own defense, claimed the shooting was accidental and was acquitted by a jury on April 10.
Morgan Bevan was born in Wales about 1850, the son of John M. and Elizabeth Bevan. In 1887, Bevan lived with his parents at 30 Ridge (now Cambria) Street. The father died in 1890. In 1900, Morgan Bevan was a bachelor, living with his mother on Cameron Street, working as a "medical salesman" selling patent medicines. He was elected Burgess as a Republican on February 20, 1906, defeating Bernard Feenan, the Independent candidate, John Jones, the Citizen's party candidate, and Stephen Cusma, the Workingman's and Roosevelt candidate. There was no candidate from the Democratic party. Bevan held office as the Borough's eighteenth Burgess from 1906-1909. He died in September 1924 and is buried in the Shawnee Cemetery.
David D. Morris (also known as W.D. Morris) was born in Wales about 1847. He was said to have been a veteran of the Civil War. He lost the Republican primary on January 23, 1909 to Thomas Evans. There was so little interest in the Democratic primary that no record was kept, so Morris claimed to have won it in order to stay in the race. In the end, he ran on the Citizens ticket. His campaign was managed by future governor Arthur H. James and was considered to be unusually well run. In the general election held on February 16, Morris drew 1,317 votes to Evans' 989 and became Plymouth's nineteenth Burgess. In February 1911, Burgess Morris ordered all of Plymouth's businesses to close during the funeral services for Rev. T. J. Donahue, the rector of St. Vincent's church. On July 4, 1911, Morris presided over the grand opening of a playground at Cherry Street on the grounds of the Gaylord colliery, donated to the town by the Kingston Coal Co. In July 1912, Morris made national news when he arrested 30 hoboes who were loitering in Plymouth, and arranged for them to compete in a baseball game. The losers were arrested and taken to the town lock-up, whereas the winners were given a free dinner and made to leave town. On January 6, 1914, Morris submitted his final monthly report for December 1913 to the town council. Morris was buried in the Shawnee Cemetery with military honors on Memorial Day, 1919.
Samuel U. Shaffer began his political career as Borough clerk in 1879, when Samuel L. French was Burgess. In 1887, he lived at 70 Bead Street, and ran a hardware store at 11 West Main Street. He announced his candidacy for Burgess on July 9, 1913 and was elected on November 4, 1913, defeating Edward F. Burns by a vote of 1,101 to 573. Shaffer was sworn into office as the twentieth Burgess on January 5, 1914 by his predecessor, David Morris, and held the office until January 1918.
George E. Gwilliam was born in Pennsylvania in 1883, the son of Welsh-born parents George and Annie Gwilliam. The mother emigrated to the United States in 1854; the father in 1865. Relatively prosperous by 1900, the father owned an insurance agency, while his son, sixteen years old, had the luxury of being "at school" rather than at work in the coal mines. By 1908, George E. Gwilliam had followed his father into the insurance business. In the primary election on September 19, 1917, Gwilliam won both the Republican and Democratic nominations defeating William E. Smith, Thomas Close, William D. Morris and Gomer Reese. Gwilliam won the general election on November 6, 1917 and served as Plymouth's twenty-first Burgess from 1918-1925. He was a fervent Prohibitionist and in August 1920 ordered the saloons of Plymouth to close on Sundays. After he retired as Burgess, Gwilliam remained active in politics and in November 1927 was elected Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds.
William E. "Billy" Smith was born in Wales about 1880, and migrated to the United States with his parents in 1881. As a young man he lost a leg when he leaped from the balcony of the Plymouth Armory. From at least 1908 until 1915, he ran a pool hall and cigar store on Main Street. In 1917, Smith ran unsuccessfully for Burgess. In 1922, he was a Justice of the Peace. In November 1925, Smith ran against John Boney, a Democrat, and Sephaniah Reese, an Independent candidate. Boney, considered a Republican running as a Democrat, did not really campaign and on November 3, 1925, Smith won by a large margin. In October 1933, at the end of his second term, Smith fell ill and Joseph Bialogowicz, a Borough Council member, acted as Burgess. Smith died in late October and for a short time there was a move to appoint his widow Burgess (she would have become Plymouth's first female Burgess) and give her the Democratic and Republican nominations in the November general election, but the appointment and the nominations were given to Charles W. Honeywell instead. To his credit, Honeywell gave his salary for the remainder of Smith's term to Smith's wife.
Charles W. Honeywell was born about 1858, probably in Exeter Township, Pennsylvania, the son of Daniel D. and Julia Ann Honeywell. In 1860, the father was a farmer. By 1880, the family lived at Plymouth where the father worked as a shoemaker, and Charles, now 22, worked in a brickyard. In 1887, Honeywell was employed as a manager for J.E. Coursen, owner of a general store, but also employed by the Plymouth Police Department. By 1891, Honeywell was a constable, tax collector and insurance agent with offices at 34 East Main Street. After a long career as a Justice of the Peace, Honeywell became Burgess in October 1933 upon the death of William E. Smith. Smith had won both the Democratic and Republican nominations, and was replaced by Honeywell on both tickets after his death, by agreement of both parties. Owing to poor health, Honeywell served one term and resigned as Burgess in December 1937. He died shortly thereafter. Upon his resignation, he was replaced by Samuel J. Brokenshire.
Samuel John Brokenshire was the last of Plymouth's Cornish-Welsh-born Burgesses. He was born at Redruth, Cornwall, England in 1872, the son of Samuel Brokenshire and his wife, Wilmot Opie, and migrated to the United States sometime between 1874 and 1885. The family settled on Palmer Street near the corner of Jeanette Street, a popular neighborhood for newly arrived Welsh and English immigrants. Samuel Brokenshire Sr. died at Plymouth on July 1, 1888, age 46. In 1891, Samuel Jr. was employed as a driver, boarding with his mother. In 1900, he lived with his mother and worked as a day laborer. After serving as constable for five years, on June 3, 1907, he was named Plymouth's High Constable. On his 1918 draft registration card, Brokenshire gave his occupation as "high constable" and a note is appended: "right arm amputated below elbow." Brokenshire never married, and from 1910–1930, he boarded with the Andrew Hendershot family on Shawnee Avenue. In the 1910 census, his occupation was given as a constable. In May 1912 he rescued a child from being run over by a street car. In 1921, Brokenshire made local news when he was called for jury duty. He claimed that his only vacation each year was to attend the World Series and was dismissed.
On May 1, 1937, Brokenshire announced his candidacy for Burgess, but Charles W. Honeywell won the election. However, Brokenshire was appointed Burgess in December 1937 when Honeywell resigned. In July 1939, Brokenshire sent the Borough police to stop Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a union organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World and a well-known member of the American Communist Party, from giving a speech in Plymouth. In the general election held on November 4, 1941, Brokenshire, running as a Republican, defeated his Democratic opponent (Edward "Starky" Stugenski) by a vote of 3,490 to 2,406. It was Brokenshire's second term. He was elected for a third term in November 1945. In January 1954, Brokenshire began is fifth term as Burgess at the age of 82, Pennsylvania's oldest chief magistrate. Brokenshire died in April 1956.
Horace Cooper was born about 1883, the son of Joshua Cooper, a house builder who lived on Girard Avenue. In 1930, Horace Cooper lived on Wadhams Street, engaging in the same occupation as his father. Cooper was appointed to be Plymouth's twenty-fifth Burgess after the death of Samuel Brokenshire, but failed to win election on his own account in 1957.
Joseph J. Braja was born in Plymouth on June 9, 1915, the son of Jacob Braja and his wife, Hedwig Gilica. He served during the Second World War in the Third Armored Division under the command of General George Patton and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant, and was awarded the Silver Star (1945) and the Purple Heart medals. In the 1957 race for Burgess, seven men vied in the Republican primary for the office, including incumbent Horace Cooper, who was defeated by Donald E. Hosey. Nevertheless, on November 5, Braja, backed by the Democratic boss Ben Mazur, defeated Hosey by 97 votes to become the first member of the Democratic Party to be elected Burgess. He was sworn in on February 6, 1958 and served until 1962. When not serving as Burgess, he was an employee of the Luzerne County Road and Bridge Department. Braja died on May 23, 2003, and was buried in St. Mary's R.C. Cemetery, Plymouth Township.
Donald E. Hosey was born on May 13, 1922, the son of Plymouth political leader and council member I. J. Hosey and his wife, Mary (Mangan) Hosey. Running as a Republican, Hosey was elected Plymouth's twenty-seventh Burgess in 1962, and served until 1966. He was the borough's first ethnically Irish Burgess. Hosey died on December 28, 1990.
Edward F. Burns was born on August 5, 1922, the son of Edward and Rose Burns, and grew up on Plymouth's Church Street. His father was a coal miner. Burns graduated from St. Vincent's High School (1940) and served during the Second World War in the Army Air Forces. He graduated from King's College, Wilkes-Barre, in 1951, and after briefly teaching school in New Jersey, returned to Plymouth, where he worked as a bank employee for many years. Burns was Plymouth's twenty-eighth Burgess. He was also Plymouth's longest serving Burgess, first elected to the position in January 1966 and holding it through consecutive elections until his death in January 1994. As Burgess, he presided over Plymouth's Centennial celebration in 1966, and oversaw the borough's restoration efforts in the aftermath of the 1972 Agnes Flood. Burns's love of his hometown and his relish for the job were evident to all who knew him, and, in return, he was much beloved by his constituents.
Stanley T. Petrosky was born about 1940, the son of Stanley A. Petrosky and his wife, Margaret Harnen. He attended Plymouth's St. Vincent High School, where he was a member of coach Joe Evan's legendary 1957 basketball team, which won the Pennsylvania state championship. Petrosky graduated from Plymouth High School (1958) and King's College, Wilkes-Barre. He was elected to the Borough Council in 1989, and was appointed Burgess in 1994 after the death of Edward F. Burns. Petrosky died in February 2001 and was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, Plymouth Twp., Pa.
Dorothy Novak Petrosky is Plymouth's thirtieth and current Burgess (2014). She is a lifetime resident of Plymouth and a graduate of Plymouth High School (Class of 1957). She was married for 36 years to Burgess Stanley T. Petrosky, and was appointed to replace him after his death in February 2001. Petrosky was elected in her own right in the general election that same year and is the first woman to hold the office of Burgess in Plymouth.
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- Sunday Independent, September 23, 1917.
- Sunday Independent, November 11, 1917
- 1930 U.S. Census, Plymouth, Pa.
- Sunday Independent, October 18, 1925
- Sunday Independent, November 8, 1925.
- Sunday Independent, October 22, 1933.
- Sunday Independent, October 29, 1933.
- 1860 U.S Census, Exeter Twp., Pa.
- Sunday Independent, November 5, 1933.
- Sunday Independent, October 29. 1933.
- Sunday Independent, December 12, 1937.
- Certificate of Birth, Redruth District, 1872.
- Certificate of Marriage, Redruth District, 1864.
- Sunday Independent, April 15, 1956.
- Sunday Independent, May 2, 1937.
- Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac and Record, 1942 (Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wilkes-Barre Publishing Co., 1942).
- Sunday Independent, November 11, 1945.
- Sunday Independent, January 10, 1954.
- Sunday Independent, January 5, 1958.
- James Ellsworth, My Hometown, Plymouth Pa., (Plymouth, PA: self-published, 2003).
- James Ellsworth, My Hometown, Plymouth, Pa., (Plymouth, PA: self-published, 2003).
Media related to Plymouth, Pennsylvania at Wikimedia Commons