Memories of Sixty-three Years
In 1825 my father owned and lived on a new rough farm in the northeastern part of Pittston township, and I used to think that the more we had of such land the poorer we got. The fact was, everybody was poor in Pittston. In the first place, the land was generally poor, and farming was poorly done, and consequently we did not raise much; and if we had, there was no market and no money. We raised and lived on rye bread mostly. We seldom cultivated wheat, and if we happened to raise a load of it we had to cart it seventy miles to Easton and sell it for about 60 or 75 cents a bushel to get money for taxes, etc.
There was plenty of game in the woods and fish in the streams, and plenty of whisky, and the majority of the men neglected their farms and spent their time fishing and hunting. I venture to say to say there were not ten farmers in the township that anything over when the year came around; and frequently the most of them had to travel to Plymouth, to Calvin Wadams , to buy a bushel of corn. We were not aware of the great wealth that lay away down deep at the time, consequently we did not get much for our land. I knew a number that almost gave their land away and moved to what we used to call Beach Woods. The Van Fleets moved to what is now Benton; the Deckers to Abington; and some moved to Drinker’s Beach, and they generally became men of means and prominence.
About this time, when we were distressed for the want of a dollar in money, the news came that the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company was building a canal and men were wanted to shovel and wheel, and that they paid money. This was a Godsend. A great many pulled out for the "raging" canal. At that time I was a lad just turned of my fourteenth year. I had been used to hard work and little or no pay, and I had some ambition and concluded to make a strike for the canal. My mother seconded the motion and fitted me out necessary clothes, and a knacksack with bread, cheese, etc. and thirty-one cents in cash, and bright an early on a May morning I left home afoot and alone and came up what was called the back road to Slocum Hollow, which was considered quite a business place. Two brothers, Ebenezer and Benjamin Slocum, owned the whole concern. They had a forge and made common Bloomer iron from the ore they picked up on the mountain in the neighborhood. They had a still house that furnished all the whisky needed. They also had a grist mill and saw mill and did quite an extensive business. The men, generally, when they went to mill, would have part of the grist ground and a part would be traded for whisky. I wish to state right here that I was intimately acquainted with the family, almost from my boyhood. Ebenezer Slocum had a family of eight sons and four daughters, who were all raised to men and women in the old Red House that used to stand near the mills. They were all used to hard work, and kept close to business that but one of the sons, Thomas, had even a common school education; and notwithstanding the rough manner in which they were raised, not one of them even became intemperate, and my impression is that but three of the twelve professed religion, Joseph, who is now some eighty-six years old, and has done a vast amount of business, told me he never had but three months schooling. There is one sister still living, Mrs. Lestor Bristol.
. From Slocum Hollow I traveled on to what was then called Swartz’s Corners, now Dunmore. A country tavern was kept by two brothers. I think I remember them as a couple of old Dutchmen that put me in mind of New York Knickerbockers. Thence on I traveled up the mountain, the roughest road a boy ever traveled. You could hear a wagon going over the rocks about as far as you can now hear a locomotive whistle. Next I struck John Cobb’s comfortable little inn on top of Cobb Mountain. Next, Salem corners. Henry Heermans kept a store and tavern there, a man very generally known. So on through Paupack, I struck the Milford and Owego pike at Taft’s. I stayed all night about ten miles this side of Milford, eat my bread and cheese, paid a flippenay bitt for my lodging, and traveled on to Milford, crossed the Delaware river at Carpenter’s Point, seven miles above Milford, and so on to what is now Port Jervis, and about a mile beyond, I struck a job on a Yankee section, and was employed as a grog boss and helper about the shanty, and grog boss was an officer to carry the whisky around to the hands, each taking a jigger, one-half gill, nine times a day. There were very few who did not take the whisky, and there were some that would take a double jigger if they could get it. Among them was an old soldier Tom Wall, who fought under Gen. Scott at Lundy’s Line, and was taken a prisoner by the redcoats and kept six months before he escaped. He used to amuse us very much on Sundays with his war stories.
I was promoted from grog boss to teamster and hauled cement from High Falls, near the Hudson, to build the aqueduct over the Minisink and remained until fall and returned home with the most money I ever had. The Delaware and Hudson Company has done more for this country than all the other companies combined. They started when times were hard, when money was comparatively scarce, when such a thing as a millionaire was unknown in this country. It was brought about by noble minded, big heart…such s the Wurtezs, Youngs and others of that day who have all gone to their reward. But there [Fells’ use] successors will still continue to give character to the noble company. I am reminded that there is but now and then a man living that helped build the Delaware and Hudson canal, and I think if I was wanting a job, I could get a lock, a switch, or a paymaster’s berth. Perhaps the present president of the company will invite the old veterans to a banquet or an excursion to Saratoga. It would not require a very long train to hold them. I am not enjoying a comfortable old age after so many hardknocks in my youth.
THE LAST SAD RITES
BURIAL OF THE VICTIMS OF THE LEHIGH VALLLEY DISASTER
Impressive Services at St. Peter’s Cathedral—Seven Funerals in One—Details of the Cortege—The Pleasant Valley Funerals—Twenty-six of the Victims Buried Yesterday.
The few who had the occasion to be on Lackawanna-avenue at midnight Friday must have witnessed the sad preparations which were in progress in and about the undertaking establishment of Owen Cusick. A number of wagons stood on the asphalt pave, and every now and then two persons would emerge from the building bearing a heavy coffin, which they placed in one of the wagons and immediately returned for another. Soon the silver-plated, black-draped caskets and snow-white coffins were gleaming beneath the electric lamps and the drivers climbed to their seats and rove rapidly away with their grim loads. Those who had halted to view these ominous signs asked no questions, then passed silently on, knowing that the preparations in progress were for the last ceremonies of the Scranton dead who had fallen victims to the Lehigh Valley disaster. That their impressions were true was evidenced yesterday morning when these same coffins, hearsed and followed by long lines of mourners, were borne slowly towards the Cathedral where thousand of sympathetic friends stood eager to assist in the last service about to be performed. It was after two o’clock when the last carriages arrived and the last coffin was conveyed up the main aisle of the church.
During the interim between the arrival of the first remains, that of William Dunhigg, and the last hearse, crowds surged about the doors of the church seeking admittance, but in vain, for the entrance was closed for a time to all but the immediate friends and relatives of the deceased. Such was the magnitude of the crowd, however, and their eagerness to effect an entrance that police assistance was necessary. Accordingly Chief-of-Police Wade stationed himself at the main entrance and assisted the church usher, Mr. Riley, in controlling the people. But soon additional help was needed and Officers Gurrell, Ridgway, Smith and Simpson were called to duty. They posted themselves at the entrance to the galleries and opened passages for the convenience of the pall-bearers until the time for the general opening of the church doors. Then they allowed the people to enter and in less than five minutes the vast auditorium of the church was packed with people. The coffins were arranged at the head and on either side of the main aisles, three on the right and three on the left. A number of lighted candles were placed on each coffin, after which the services began with the Rev. Father Moylan as officiating clergyman, assisted by Rev. Fathers Connolly, Milane, and Nealon. He sang a solemn high mass of requiem. The Cathedral choir rendered valuable assistance: Mrs. Joseph O’Brien nee Katie Crossin, singing the solo "Flee as a Bird." The sermon by the Rev.Father Moylan was an extemporaneous effort. The speaker seemed to realize the awful solemnity of his subject, and did not presume to deal with the details of the calamity or express his feelings on the terrible massacre, of which he was an eye witness. His text was taken from the first epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians:
During the mass the Rev. Fathers McHugh and Stopper were in the sanctuary and at its conclusion the final absolution was made in the sprinkling of holy water and the incense. Then the procession of pall-bearers bore the caskets down the aisles, out of the church, and soon the cortege was on its way to the cemetery in the following order:
In honor of the funeral almost every business house was closed and the mines and mills were abandoned for the day. On Lackawanna-avenue the procession was joined by another line of carriages from Green Ridge. This was the procession attending the funerals of the two Hart brothers, Edward Malia and Mr. Farry, and made the procession of immense length. The burial services at Hyde Park cemetery were very short, but marked the close of the saddest and most impressive rites performed in that burial ground in many years. They will leave a deep impression on the mind and hart of all who witnessed them.
THE PLESANT VALLEY FUNERALS
The lowering clouds which hung over Pleasant Valley, or Avoca, yesterday morning, were in striking contrast with the universal gloom that pervaded the borough while preparations were being made to inter the remains of twenty-six bodies of the twenty-nine residents of that place who met death in the Mud Run accident on Wednesday night. The mines were all idle, to give all an opportunity of attending the obsequies. Several mourning banners were fluttering on the main street, bearing the inscription, "We Mourn Our Dead," while emblems of death were attached to many door knockers. All the business men, excepting those who were providing entertainment of visitors, had closed their establishments. From early morning groups of people were upon the streets, and their whole topic of discussion was the Mud Run disaster. May of them had gone through the wreck, while not a few of them suffering from slight bruises. West of Erie and Wyoming Valley Railroad is the Catholic cemetery, and not until yesterday morning was the work of digging the graves completed. This proceeding was watched by anxious relatives of the dead whose eyes were red with weeping. It was about 11 o’clock when the graves were completed. Rev. Father Crane had arranged for a Mass of Requiem at 10:30 in St. Mary’s Church followed by the funerals and interments.
Everything was in readiness at this hour an the twenty-six bodies were borne to the church, some in hearses and others on the shoulders of Father Mathew men and St. Aloysius, while in the lead was the Thistle band of Pittston, executing a funeral dirge, and followed by the temperance organizations, the cadets, and the Albion band. Within the edifice was erected a bier on which all of the caskets were placed. The mass was celebrated by Rev. Father Curran, of Carbondale, formerly of Pleasant Valley, who was assisted by Rev. Father Kernan, of Parsons, and Green, of Pittston. Rev. Father Kernan preached the funeral sermon. The following clergymen were present: Rev. Father James Brehony, Eckley; Rev. Father Thomas Brehony, Manayunk; Rev. Bather Bergan, Kingston; Rev. Father Hoban, Ashley; Rev. Father Finnen, Pittston, and Phillips, of Plains. When the services ended, the caskets were borne to the hearses outside, and the funeral procession moved to the cemetery. The latter place was a mile and a half west of the church and the Thistle band had reached this place and was playing there before the rear end of the procession had left the church. At least four thousand people attended the funeral while the streets were lined with as many more. Pittston, Parsons, Miners’ Mills, Plains, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton were largely represented, and special trains on the Delaware and Hudson Railroad conveyed them to and from their homes. The scene at the cemetery while the interments were in progress were sad to behold. Even the autumnal pines appeared to look down with sorrow on the busy grave fillers who were surrounded by weeping friends and relatives until the green sods were carefully placed over the tombs of the dead, and with this closed another sad chapter in the Mud Run horror.
Charles Goelitz, included in the twenty-six buried yesterday, was taken to Wilkes-Barre for interment. There are three other victims yet to be buried: P. H. Brehony, William Kelly, and Thomas Morris of Moosic.
The names of those buried at Pleasant Valley yesterday were:
The eight victims of the Mud Run catastrophe who lived in Minooka were buried yesterday, the services being conducted in St. John’s church, and a solemn high mass of requiem was celebrated by Rev. Father Green , who also delivered the sermon. The burials were made in Minooka cemetery. The names of the victims are as follows: Richard Powell, Mrs. Richard Powell, James Conaboy, Thomas Toole, James Mullin, Festus Mulhearn, Willie Cusick.
John T. Clark, who is with John T. Porter, took a special train to Mud Run on the morning after the disaster, and assisted in taking the bodies from the wreck and arranging them in order for removal and identification. He made the arrangements for the funerals here yesterday, and to him is largely due the success which the complicated event me with throughout all the proceedings.
The funeral of Kate McNichols, of Hyde Park, will take place this afternoon at 3 o’clock. She was 26 years old, a sister of Mrs. F. D. Collins.
George H. Stevens, of Deacon-street, will take place at 3:30 p.m. today, services in the Primitive M.E. Church, East Market-street.
The Olyphant and Jessup victims of the disaster will take place this afternoon.
The Providence dead, victims of the late incident, will be buried this afternoon.
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