Skip to main content

Full text of "Territory of Scranton Immediately Prior to the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Co. Purchase"

See other formats

/ / 

' T- Sc^rzLn -tr^n " Hl^'ta'T^ 



By Edward Merrifield. 

[HiSTORicAi, Notes, No. 4.] 

The intention of this sketch is to describe the condition 
of affairs in the territory which comprises the city of Scran- 
ton, just at and immediately prior to the time when what is 
now known as the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company 
commenced operations ; prefacing, however, with a brief his- 
torical account leading up to that time. 

Originally this section was included in the Connecticut reser- 
vation known as Westmoreland, Litchfield County. About 
1773, Providence township was organized. A conflict as to 
jurisdiction existed between Pennsylvania and Connecticut, 
which was finally settled in 1782, by what is known as the 
Decree of Trenton, recognizing the claims of Pennsylvania. 
Shortly after, Providence township was organized as a part of 
Northumberland County. In 1786 Luzerne County was set 
off from Northumberland, Providence remaining a part of 
said Luzerne until it became extinct by a portion being at- 
tached to Lackawanna and the creation of the Borough of 
Providence, March 14, 1849 ; the Borough of Hyde Park, 
May 14, 1852; the Borough of Scranton, February 14, 1856; 
the Borough of Dunmore, April 10, 1862 ; and finally the 
merging of the Boroughs of Providence, Hyde Park, and 
Scranton, and the remaining portion of the township, into 
the City of Scranton, by act of the Legislature of April 
23, 1866. 

The first white settler upon this territory was Isaac Tripp, 
who came in 1771, building a log house on the flats east of 


the residence of the late Col. Ira Tripp, on North Main 
Street. Philip Abbott, who had purchased the tract upon 
which are built the iron works and the principal part of the 
business houses of the city, came in 1788, establishing him- 
self near the old Slocum residence on the banks of the 
Roaring Brook, and not far in rear of The Lackawanna Iron 
and Coal Company's Steel Mill. Ebenezer Slocum subse- 
quently became the purchaser of the Abbott property, settling 
upon it in 1798, where he lived until his death in 1832. 
He was the first to establish iron works in this locality, 
attempting to make iron from the native ores. It did not 
prove a success. Here in 18 16 was established the first post- 
office, called Unionville, and Benjamin Slocum was appointed 
postmaster. In 18 19 it was moved to the village of Provi- 
dence with John Vaughn as postmaster. A post-office was 
established at Hyde Park, Julv 14, 1832, and William Mer- 
rifield appointed postmaster. In 1850, in the portion which 
had been known as Unionville, then Slocum Hollow, subse- 
quently Harrison, a post-olifice was established under the 
latter name, with John W. Moore as postmaster. The name 
was subsequently changed to Scrantonia, afterward Scranton, 
and thus the territory remained with three post-offices, even 
after the city was inaugurated. The first settler in Provi- 
dence village was Enoch Holmes, and here it was that the 
first church was erected. It was blown down before com- 
pletion by the great hurricane, which on the evening of July 
3, 1834, nearly destroyed the hamlet. The church was not 
rebuilt. The first settlement in Hyde Park was in 1790 by 
a Mr. Lindley making a clearing, and building near the 
corner of Washburn and Main Streets, A Mr. Dolph fol- 
lowed shortly after, settling on the opposite side of the street. 
Elder William Bishop came later, and built a log house on 
the same spot where now stands the Merrifield homestead, 
just above the Masonic Hall. He was a Baptist, and the 
pioneer preacher. The projector of the village, however, 
was Philip Heermans, at whose instigation his brother-in-law, 
Joseph Fellows, then residing at Albany, was induced to lay 
out and sell lots, three-fourths of an acre in size. 

Long prior, and at the time the white settlers first began 

to come, there was an Indian village called Capouse, named 
after the chief who was of the tribe of Monseys. ' It was 
located on the flats east of the Diamond coal-breaker. Until 
within about thirty years an old Indian apple-tree, great in 
its proportions, stood there to mark the locality. It is 
designated among the records as the first place for holding- 
town meetings for the township of Providence. In 1813 the 
place for holding township and general elections was fixed 
at the house of Stephen Tripp, on Mam Street, at the sum- 
mit of the hill above Hyde Park. This was the first public 
house for entertainment. 

The settlers were as a rule engaged in clearing up the land 
and farming, hence the growth in population was slow, and 
nothing of particular note occurred until the advent of the 
projectors of the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company. The 
attention of William Henry, of Stroudsburg, a geologist, and 
man of scientific attainments, was called to this region. He 
succeeded in securing the aid of capitalists, and in 1S38 com- 
menced negotiations with William Ricketson, William Merri- 
field, and Zeno Albro, who were the joint owners of the tract 
upon which the Iron Company subsequently commenced 
operations. On account of the death of Edward Armstrong, 
the principal man, the arrangements fell through. Mr. 
Henry subsequently induced George W. Scranton, S. T. 
Scranton, and Sanford Grant to complete the purchase, 
and on the 20th day of September, 1840, as Scrantons & 
Grant, they commenced the erection of the blast-furnace. 
This was the dawn of a new era for this section, and the 
beginning of its development. As stated in the outset, it is 
now proposed to describe the condition of affairs witiiin the 
territorial limits of the city at that time. 

There were four roads running up and down the valley. 
On the Hyde Park side there was what was known then, as 
now, as the Back Road, located about as it is at present. Then 
came Main Street, which has not been materially changed. 
On the easterly side of the Lackawanna, the street com- 
mencing from the direction of Throop, and running on 
through Sanderson Avenue, thence into Penn until passing 
the Dickson Works, was practically the same. Prom there it 

went diagonally across to the neighborhood of the Wyoming 
House, thence down to the grist-mill, and past the old Slocum 
residence, crossing the Roaring Brook just below the present 
bridge into Cedar Street, which it traversed very nearly. 
The other street was called the Dunmore road, the upper 
part of which has not been materially changed. From the 
neighborhood of the Moses Taylor Hospital it came diagonally 
down past where the blast-furnace stands, intersecting the 
road just previously described near the Slocum residence. 
Running easterly and westerly was, first, Luzerne Street, 
substantially the same as now until crossing the Lackawanna, 
from which it ran across the fiats, winding along under the 
hill until it intersected the north and south road near the 
Slocum place. Jackson Street, on the Hyde Park side, was 
about as it is now. After crossing the Lackawanna bridge 
the street went directly up the hill, thence in a zigzag direc- 
tion towards Lackawanna Avenue, and occupying nearly the 
same ground until the intersection with the road leading to 
the old grist-mill. Northerly there was the Drinker turnpike 
coming from the direction of Abington through Providence, 
now called Market Street, which still remains about as it was. 
Another street branching off from North Main above Provi- 
dence, leading through Capouse, has not been changed. The 
street running from Providence diagonally across the Tripp 
flats and through the Pine Brook section was not opened 
until several years after. The Lackawanna was spanned by 
two covered bridges, one at the foot of Luzerne Street, and 
the other at Capouse ; and by two open bridges, one at the 
foot of Jackson and the other at Market Street, Providence. 

Along the back road the land was fairly well cleared up, 
there being a belt of forest toward the lower and one near 
the upper end. All along Keyser Creek it was densely 
wooded, a considerable portion being swamp-land. The 
creek abounded with speckled trout. The ridge back of 
Hyde Park, from one end of the city to the other, was 
almost entirely forest. In the vicinity of Main Avenue, 
on each side, the land was principally cleared. The banks of 
the Lackawanna were mostly wooded, especially the easterly 
side. About Providence it was fairly well cleared in each 

direction. There was more of the native forest standing 
in the seventh, eighth, ninth, eleventh, twelfth, seventeenth, 
nineteenth, and twentieth wards, than in any other section 
of the city. 

Commencing on the street below the Roaring Brook 
bridge was the farm of Joseph Slocum, where he resided. 
He was the son of Ebenezer Slocum, heretofore referred 
to as a pioneer, and lived to a great age, having died 
within a few years. The next was the old Slocum resi- 
dence on the hill north of the bridge, then occupied by 
Samuel Slocum. There was a good-sized farm attached. 
On the bank of the brook was the stone grist-mill, and 
opposite lived Barton Mott, the miller. On the hill north- 
erly from the mill and across the street was a small school- 
house. Following the street towards Hyde Park was a five 
or ten-acre clearing in the neighborhood of Wyoming and 
Lackawanna Avenues. Up the brook a short distance from 
the grist-mill was the Slocum saw-mill. 

On the road leading to Dunmore were the residence and 
farm of Elisha Hitchcock. The house was in close prox- 
imity to the corner of Monroe Avenue and Linden Street. 
His clearing extended down a little below the corner of 
Washington and Mulberry. All that section where the Court 
House stands, extending westerly as far as Wyoming Avenue, 
and on the south near the Wyoming House, was a swamp 
covered mostly by spruce and tamarack trees. About where 
the Young Men's Christian Association building stands was a 
good-sized pond, which afforded to the lovers of skating a 
place of recreation for many years after. 

Going back to the Dunmore road, the first place above 
Hitchcock's on the easterly side of the street belonged to 
Jacob Fike, a German, and above him was Samuel Horn- 
baker ; while on the other side of the road was Joseph Carey, 
each having a small clearing. Over beyond the hill towards 
Roaring Brook lived Baltzer Swartz. 

On the road leading through Green Ridge, the first place 
reached was the farm of Miner Carey. The house was on 
the left-hand side of the street, on the same spot now occu- 
pied by the house of the late Simon Ward, who performed 

the first labor towards the erection of the Iron and Coal 
Company furnace. Next beyond and on the opposite side 
lived Frank Frazier, a gunmaker and repairer. A Httle further 
on was Philander Howard ; and on the opposite side of the 
road lived Michael Lutz. The Dings farm came next, it being 
the place subsequently purchased by Henry Whaling, after- 
wards by the late George Sanderson, the originator of the 
Green Ridge enterprise. The house was near the place now 
occupied by the Sanderson homestead. On the same side 
of the street just beyond lived Thomas and Zeno Albro. 

The next place was on the westerly corner of Market 
Street and Green Ridge Avenue, then known as Griffin's 
corners, where lived that substantial old farmer, Joshua 
Griffin. Diagonally across and some distance up in the 
lot was Philip Swartz, and above him in the direction of 
Dunmore was John Besecker. Above the corners on the 
road towards Olyphant was Jacob Besecker ; next John 
Mills. On the same side of the street and quite a 
distance back was Charles Wedeman. Philip and Zophar 
Mead lived near the road. Back quite a distance was Peter 
Moore, and then came Thomas Griffin, Jr., and the last 
within the city limits, Philo Grifiin. Daniel Bowman's place 
was on the westerly side of the street, near the intersection 
of the Capouse road. 

From Griffin's corners towards Providence on the right-hand 
side and standing on the knoll was a school-house. Right 
opposite lived John G. Finch, shoemaker. Jacob Myers lived 
under the hill near the bridge. Across the bridge stood the 
grist-mill as now. A short distance west of the mill lived 
John Drake, the miller. On the side of the hill near the 
summit was John Vaughn, then one of the Justices of the 
Peace for Providence township. In the same house lived Mr. 
Williams, with whom Sweet Gardner was a boarder. 

This brings us to the corners. The village was usually 
called at that time Razor\alle. On the southerly corner of 
Market and Main Streets was the store and residence of Alex- 
ander Jeffi-ies. Opposite on the easterly corner was the widow- 
Betsy Griffin's place, the front room of which was occupied by 
Mrs. R. H. Lackey as a millinery store. On the northerly 


corner was the tavern of Nathaniel Cottrell, now known as the 
Bristol House. Westerly and opposite was Cottrell' s store, 
managed by Charles T. Atwater. In part of the same building 
lived Robert Higgs, tailor. Pursuing the old turnpike west- 
erly and tirst above the tavern was the home of Esquire Elisha 
S. Potter. Next above was the tailor-shop and residence 
of Asa Corson. Then came the old red house, which is still 
standing, and where Atwater lived and with whom I think 
Maria Snyder, his sister-in-law, made it her home. Nearly 
opposite was Solomon Newton. On the hill and where is now 
the home of the late W. W. Winton, lived a Mr. Prosser. 
Mr. (Griffin lived next above on the opposite side. Quite a 
distance beyond on the westerly side of the street was Ebenezer 
Leach, tanner and currier. His establishment was nearly 
opposite. Next above and on the corner of Market and the 
Back Road, lived Aaron Gregory, and above him Jacob Silk- 
man. From Gregory's corner on the Back Road leading 
down through what was then called the Briggs Settlement, 
lived the following farmers in the order stated : William 
Lockwood, Stephen Wheeler, and Tobias Kilmer. Mrs. 
Lydia Brown and family were quite a distance easterly 
towards Tripp's. Going back to the road, came IraTownsend, 
Samuel Church, Thomas Moat and his father-in-law Nathan 
Roberts, Job Briggs, Tanner Briggs, Abner Briggs, Peleg 
Briggs, Jeremiah Briggs ; then at the intersection of Jackson 
Street came Isaac Gray, next Martin Washburn, Alva Allis, 
and across the way Benjamin Corbin the carpenter. On the 
opposite side was a school-house. Next Elijah Luckey, and 
last Daniel Dodge, where the southwesterly city line is 

Going back to the upper end of the city, traversing Main 
street, on the right-hand side was Ephraim Stevens, then 
Samuel, and next William Stevens. John McDonald followed, 
then Mrs. Hutchins. Opposite lived Samuel Ward, wood- 
turner; then came Spencer's saw-mill and grist-mill. Peter 
Bond had been the miller there, but whether just at that time 
is in doubt. Edward Spencer and his brother Calvin lived 
nearly opposite. 

We then come to the road leading to Capouse, where 


Artemus Miller carried on the business of wool -carding 
and making cloth. Jerison White lived there and was just 
about completing an axe-factory. Coming back to Main Street, 
the first place reached was that of Henry Heermans. Besides 
conducting a farm he had a store of general merchandise, and 
Sylvanus Heermans, a noted politician of those days, was the 
clerk. Next below was Aretus Heermans, and nearly opposite 
was the Bell school-house. Col. Ira Tripp was the next 
resident. Below and on the same side was a dwelling-house, 
occupant not recollected, and next the cabinet-shop of Newton 
& Bennett, which brings us to the Cottrell travern. On 
the other side of the street and below the Bell school-house was 
John Kinney. Next and almost at the corner was Williams' 
blacksmith-shop, then the corner occupants heretofore referred 
to. Passing the Cottrell store, on the westerly corner we 
come to the tavern of Jacob R. Bloom. Across the way was 
a wagon-shop and the residence of R. H. Lackey. On below 
was Charles H. Silkman's law-office. Crossing the street and 
below Bloom's tavern was a log house occupied by Harvey 
Chase. Next came John Stewart, shoemaker, then the Van- 
stork homestead, occupied by William Vanstork and brothers. 
Ferdinand Vanstork came next. Nearly opposite and about 
where Bright's wagon manufactory how stands, was built 
during the summer of 1840. one of the famous log cabins 
incident to the spirited political campaign of that year. The 
next place below and on the right-hand side of the road, 
was the residence and office of Dr. Silas B. Robinson, the 
only physician in this section at that time. Dr. Benjamin H. 
Throop came and opened an office in Providence in October. 
Next came Thomas Griffin, one of the noted farmers of that 
period ; below him Philip C. Griffin. Then came the Tripp 
homestead, which still stands a monument to the enterprise of 
its founder, Isaac Tripp, senior. It was built in 1825, and 
with the exception of the porches and recent modern improve- 
ments, remains about as originally erected. It was occupied at 
that time by Isaac Tripp, now residing in Kingston, Luzerne 
County, brother of Ira. Next came Benjamin Tripp. Next 
below and on the hill were Stephen Tripp and his three sons, 
Samuel, N. W. and William H. The house still remains. 

1 1 

Next and close by the glen lived Charles H. Silkman, the only 
lawyer at that time, Down the ravine a short distance was 
the Holden Tripp residence, then occupied by William 

Returning to Main Street, the next place on the right 
was that of W. W. Winton. Then came Samuel Depuy 
on the left, then John Launch ; next Talman Corbin. 
William Merrifield's store and residence, then Robert Merri- 
field came next, the buildings still remaining. Nearly 
opposite was the residence of Alva Heermans, Justice of 
the Peace, then came the Hyde Park school-house. Be- 
low lived William Engler the wagon-maker, then came 
his shop, and opposite, the noted yellow tavern, recently 
owned by Thomas Briggs, where all the balls of that period 
were held. It was kept by Frederick Hubbell, with whom 
John Sherman and family lived. Diagonally across the 
street was Corbin's cabinet-shop. Next J. A. Atherton, 
shoemaker ; then Mrs. P. Hotchkiss, with whom lived her 
daughter and son-in-law William Ricketson. Opposite was 
the blacksmith-shop of Orr & Decker. Next the Charles M. 
Orr place, then George Decker and Abel S. Cosier. 
Opposite and on the corner of Main and Jackson was the old 
white tavern, kept by N. D. Green. On the westerly corner 
was the Heermans blacksmith-shop. In the next house lived 
John Heermans; next Harmon B. Dailey, cooper, and then 
Calvin Washburn. Opposite was Z. R. Knapp. The only 
church building in the territory was next, standing on the 
corner of Main and Division Streets. One of the original log 
school-houses, in a dilapidated condition and not in use, was 
on the other corner. A little below to the left lived Henry 
Fellows. Next came the store and residence of David 
Benedict, situate on the corner of Main and Luzerne Streets. 
Edrick Davis lived on the opposite corner, and a short distance 
below was Benjamin and Joseph Turvey Fellows, father and 
son. The next place was that of Sylvester and Lester Bristol, 
manufacturers of grain-cradles. On the opposite side was 
Henry Knapp, and the last within the city limits was Joseph 

Returning to Luzerne Street and going east, Thaddeus B. 


Newton had a small store near the corners. Nearly half a 
mile beyond was John Fellows, father of our recent mayor. 
Next was the widow of Benjamin Slocum ; and not far from the 
bridge lived Thomas Nichols, coal-miner. On the same street, 
west of Main, were William Atwill, Thomas Taylor, and Dan 
Pepper. The latter lived near the creek and had a saw-mill 
opposite. West from Main on Jackson Street, the tirst 
resident on the right was Thorn Griffin, opposite Jonas 
Knickerbacker. On the side hill above was Milton Knicker- 
backer. On the hill to the right, James Kilmer. On the left- 
hand side beyond lived Elder William K. Mott. Next came 
Andrew Winton, and at the foot of the Boon Hill was John 
Boon, from whom the hill took its name. East of Main 
on the same street there was but one place, and that the 
farm of Sylvanus Fellows, whose house stood at the foot of 
the hill. 

This completes the list of families and counts up about one 
hundred and thirty. There were a few persons who were not 
housekeepers, all of whom it would be impossible to 
enumerate. Among them, however, were Luke Flood, who 
mined most of the coal about Providence, and Jacob Teeter, 
butcher. Whether Henry Reichard was here at that time I 
have not been able to determine. There were others 
prominently identified with this section, so much so that they 
ought to be named herein, but who lived outside the present 
city limits. Among them Hon. A. B. Dunning and Chas. W. 

Estimating according to the usual rule for agricultural com- 
munities, this would indicate a population of six hundred and 
fifty. There were sixty-one farms, forty-two of which were on 
the west side of the river. The land, especially on the west 
side, was very productive, it not being unusual to note a yield 
at the rate of six hundred bushels of potatoes per acre, 
thirty bushels of wheat, and eighty of shelled corn. The 
market was partly at Pittston, then the head of the North 
Branch Canal, but principally at Carbondale, the seat of 
the coal-mining operations of The Delaware & Hudson Canal 

There was some wild game, but it was not abundant as is 


generally supposed. Neither did the Lackawanna teem 
with brook-trout. Suckers, chubs, catfish, and eels were 
rather plentiful. The homes of the speckled beauties were 
Leggett's and Keyser's Creeks, and Roaring Brook, where the 
follower of Isaac Walton found abundance to gratify his 
ambition, and boys could catch them on a pin-hook. 

The manufacturing interests were represented by four shoe- 
making, three blacksmith, three wagon-making, and one 
cooper-shop, one axe-factory, one grain-cradle and two 
cabinet-making factories, one fulling-mill, one gun-making 
and repairing shop, one for wood-turning, and two for 
tailoring, four saw-mills, three grist-mills, and one tanning 
and currying establishment. 

Coal was mined and sold for domestic use by William 
Merrifield from the side of the Hyde Park hill, back of 
the Baptist Church, by Tripps near the Diamond mines, 
and by Vanstorks on their place near Providence. While 
the people understood the importance of the coal deposit, 
it gave the land no appreciable value, because there was no 
way of getting it to market. 

The selling-price of improved land was from fifteen to 
twenty-five dollars per acre. 

There were six stores for general merchandise and one 
millinery shop. Merchants as a rule bought goods in New 
York which were shipped by the Hudson River to Rondout, 
thence by the Delaware & Hudson Canal and Gravity railroad 
to Carbondale, and from there hauled down in wagons. From 
Philadelphia they came by way of the North Branch Canal to 

There was a line of two -horse coaches running through 
the valley between Wilkes- Barre and Carbondale, going up 
one day and down the next. The principal route to New 
York was by way of Carbondale, thence to Newburg and 
down the Hudson River. It took nearly three days to get 
to the city. To Philadelphia the route was by way of Wilkes- 
Barre, thence to Easton and Philadelphia, all the way by 
stage. This gave to the inhabitants a tri-weekly mail from 
each direction. It is instructive to note that letter-postage 
at that time was graduated according to distance. The least 


was sixpence, then one shilling, and then one shilling and 
sixpence, and so on. 

There were four licensed hotels, all doing a fair business, 
especially the Cottrell stand, as it occupied a convenient place 
for travelers going by way of the Drinker turnpike ; also the 
old white tavern at Hyde Park, which was central between 
Carbondale and Wilkes-Barre, and the dinner-station for 
the stage travelers. 

The educational interests had not been neglected. There 
were five school-houses ; the one at Hyde Park and one at 
Providence being kept open the greater portion of the year, 
but part of the time by private subscription. The male 
teachers received about eighteen dollars per month, and 
boarded around among the patrons of the school. Never- 
theless it commanded fair talent ; indeed, there was no 
difficulty for any person desiring it, to become well versed 
in the common English branches. Among the educational 
features was "The Providence Union Library" with a goodly 
number of valuable historical and scientific works, and 
with headquarters at Hyde Park. Connected with it was 
a debating society which was faithfully kept up during 
the winter months. It is a singular circumstance that, 
from the beginning of the material prosperity of the valley, 
the interest in the library began to languish, and it finally 

There was but one church building. That was erected 
by the sect called Christians, but when not occupied by them 
was used by other denominations. It stood on the corner of 
Main and Division Streets, Hyde Park. The school-houses 
were utilized for religious services, and scarcely a Sunday 
passed but that meetings were held in one or more. In 
the Methodist denomination the district was in the Pittston 
circuit, and Rev. P. G. White was the minister. Rev. Mr, 
Ellis succeeded him, and moved into the old Holden Tripp 
residence in October, 1840. Alva Heermans, an exhort er 
among the Christians, preached occasionally, as did Rev. 
Nathan Roberts, who lived over in the Briggs Settlement. 
The stand-by, however, was Elder William K. Mott, that 
faithful and devoted Baptist minister, who, besides holding 


regular Sunday services at the Hyde Park church, had quite 
a circuit in the surrounding townships. 

Of those heads of famihes named herein there are but 
four left who still reside in the city : Jacob R. Bloom, William 
Vanstork, of Providence, George Decker, of Hyde Park, 
and Balzer Swartz. Of their immediate descendants (children, 
I mean), there are about fifty. 

These were the people and such their surroundings fifty- 
five years ago. They had plenty to live upon, but knew 
nothing of luxurious living. If money was scarce, their 
wants were few. Neighbors met during the winter evenings 
around the big open fire-places of those days, their spirits 
as exuberant and their faces just as cheery as though the 
occupants of palaces. Who can say that they were not as 
happy, even their enjoyment not greater, than those who now 
find themselves in their places in the midst of a big city ? 

October, 1895. 



■ ■■A