Fred (Frederick Charles) Brenckman.

History of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, online

. (page 19 of 44)
Online LibraryFred (Frederick Charles) BrenckmanHistory of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, → online text (page 19 of 44)
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F. A. Hanto Brink. This being the first birth to occur
in the town, the inhabitants considered the event
worthy of public demonstration. "The forest was
illuminated with pine torches, plenty of pure old rye
whiskey was drunk, and the noise and dancing were so
great that it seemed as if the very tops of the pines had
caught the infection, and kept time by swaying to and
fro."

This celebration was participated in by about six-
hundred men, the number then engaged in pushing to
completion the improvements which had been begun.

The only avenue of approach to Mauch Chunk at this
time was the line of the Lehigh and Susquehanna
turnpike.

The road lay along the margin of the river, and, in
passing through the ''Narrows" below the town, there
was room for but a single vehicle at a time. For years
it was necessary to take the precaution to send word
ahead to a place where such as came from the opposite
direction could halt and wait until passed.

In making his report, one who had visited the locality
for the purpose of examining into the practicability of
the projects under way, said: "The making of a good
road is utterly impossible, and to give you an idea of
the country over which the road is to pass, I need only
say that I considered it quite an easement when the
wheel of my carriage struck a stump instead of a
stone!"

Many viewed with similar feelings of incredulity
the proposition that a town should be built where na-
ture seemed manifestly to have made it impossible.



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HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY. 265

But the men who had undertaken this enterprise were
of the kind whom obstacles onlj spur to greater en-
deavors, and the work went steadily on.

In 1821, Josiah White was joined by his wife and
four children, and during the following year a com-
fortable house was provided for them. This stood im-
mediately in the rear of the spot where the Soldiers'
Monument has since been erected, and was surrounded
by spacious and well kept grounds.

Sixteen stone houses were completed on the lower
part of Broadway in 1823. The Mansion House was
begun at this time, and was finished in 1824. During
this year the ravine was given a further appearance of
being inhabited by the erection of nineteen log build-
ings above the place where the Town Hall now stands.

A stone grist mill was completed in 1825, while three
additional saw mills were placed in operation on the
river about the same time.

In 1827 the company built a wooden bridge across
the Lehigh, also putting up a fire-proof office building
adjoining the present court house.

A two-story stone building, which served as the com-
pany 's store house, was put up in 1828. It stood on the
spot now occupied by the court house, and was donated
to the county upon its organization, being its first tem-
ple of justice.

Men and manners were for the most part as rough as
the surroundings during the early period of the settle-
ment, as is commonly the case where hardy spirits are
engaged in subduing nature, and where the refining
influences of home and civilization are lacking.

Fights were of common occurrence, although the men
were not so much given to quarreling among themselves
as they were to waging war against the laborers of
Lehighton, with whom they frequently had sanguinary
encounters on their own ground.



266 HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY.

The habitual use of intoxicating beverages, too, was
then approved by custom, and laboring men were sup-
plied with liquor by their employers.

Josiah White, sturdy Quaker though he was, made
no exception to the rule.

The men employed at Mauch Chunk were given their
whiskey as regularly as their meals, a man being kept
on the payroll whose sole duty consisted in dispensing
it, a ^'jiggerful" at a time to each man.

William Speers was the "jigger boss," and it was in
recognition of his first name that the allowances came
to be generally called "Billy cups."

Reference is made to this custom in a song which
was once locally popular :

''When old Mauch Chunk was young,

At noon they blew the horn,
And, gathering thick, came gangs of men,

And so at eve and morn.
With grace and promptitude and skill

They moistened Up and tongue.
And luent to tvork with right good will.

When old Mauch Chunk was young."

Prior to 1832, the land about Mauch Chunk and the
improvements which had been made upon it were
owned by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company.
The town at that time contained about one hundred
and fifty buildings of every description, having a resi-
dent population of approximately one thousand people.

It had a church, four schools, a newspaper and print-
ing ofiice, one hotel, an iron foundry and a car manu-
factory, while boat building was also carried on exten-
sively.

But above all, it was at the head of the Lehigh Canal,
and the boats which departed from this point laden



HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY. 267

with coal wafted back cargoes of merchandise and
freight for a large extent of country.

The wild and picturesque location of the town, the
many novelties of the nearby coal mines, and the won-
ders of the Switchback Railroad, which was the first of
any importance in the United States, drew many visi-
tors to the place.

This railroad, following the same route then as at
present, carried the product of the mines to the plateau
at the foot of Mt. Pisgah, whence the coal was conveyed
by means of inclined planes and chutes to the river
below.

With its accustomed liberality, the company, in
1832, threw the town open to public enterprise, effect-
ing the sale or lease of a large number of lots, and in-
augurating an era of individual activity and prosperity.

Speaking of the pioneer residents of Mauch Chunk,
Josiah White and Erskine Hazard were chronologically
and in other respects the first. They were indeed
among the princes of pioneers, and their names are in-
scribed in imperishable characters on the title page of
the almost fabulous history of anthracite coal.

John Ruddle, a native of England, came here as an
accountant for the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Com-
pany in 1820. He was one of the earliest residents of
East Mauch Chunk, where his descendants still live.

Isaac Salkeld, accompanied by his family, arrived
here from Philadelphia in 1823. He was a general
foreman for the company, and superintended the build-
ing of the Mansion House, the gravity road to Nesque-
honing, and many other improvements.

For a time he had charge of the old Mauch Chunk
Foundry, one of the first in the state outside of Phila-
delphia. His son, Jacob, was for many years promi-
nently identified with the life and activities of Mauch
Chunk.



26S HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY.

George Belford, who was one of the company's first
employes, in later life became a coal operator and was
chosen as the first president of the Mauch Chunk Bank.

Others who were here as early as 1824, and who left
their impress upon the town were: Samuel Lippin-
cott, Benjamin Mears, Isaac Dodson, Abiel Abbot and
Alexander Lockhart.

William Butler, a leading churchman, located in the
place in 1826 ; Ezekiel W. Harlan, later a coal operator
also came at this time.

Asa Lansford Foster, who achieved substantial suc-
cess in various fields of endeavor, arrived in the set-
tlement in 1827.

Joseph H. Chapman came during the ensuing year.
He was a man of many activities, but in later life had
charge of the coal shipping department of the Lehigh
Coal and Navigation Company.

Daniel Bertsch, prominent among the early coal
operators, and in other respects, came here as a black-
smith in 1827.

John Leisenring, Sr., a native of Lehigh county,
with his familv, came in 1828 to become the landlord
of the Mansion House. Later he was a merchant and
general business man. The name of his eldest son,
John, is intimately associated with the development of
the transportation facilities of the Lehigh Valley; he
also became a wealthy coal operator. Another son, A.
W. Leisenring, became a leader in the financial affairs
of ]\[aucli Chunk.

The year 1833 witnessed the coming of one who was
destined to become one of the foremost men of his
day, Asa Packer. He was accompanied by his brother-
in-law, James I. Blakslee.

During the same year, Robert Klotz, a native of the
Mahoning Valley, began life as a mule driver on the



HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY. 269

towpatli at Mauch Chunk. He was later a conspicuous
figure in the town, and represented his district in
congress.

Among the best known of the comparatively early
settlers was Colonel John Lentz, a veteran of the war
of 1812, and a native of Lehigh county. He was a
leader in the movement which resulted in the organ-
ization of Carbon county, under which he subsequently
held various offices of trust and honor, being also a
hotel keeper. His son, Lafayette Lentz, is one of
Mauch Chunk's oldest and most respected residents of
to-day.

Others of subsequent prominence who made Mauch
Chunk their home during the first twenty-five years of
its existence were: E. A. Douglass and his brother,
A. A. Douglass, the former an official of the Lehigh
Coal and Navigation Company, and the latter a coal
operator; A. G. Brodhead, the well known railroad
man, and Charles 0. Skeer, a leader in the coal in-
dustry and in business and financial affairs.

The first mercantile establishment to be opened in
Mauch Chunk after the discontinuance of the company
store was the famous "corner store," which occupied
the site where the Navigation Building now stands. It
was originally owned by Asa L. Foster, who had form-
erly conducted the company store, Benjamin R. Mc-
Connell and James Broderick.

This was the principal establishment of its kind be-
tween the Susquehanna and the Delaware, and many
of the farmers of the first named region disposed of
their surplus products here, and the fact that they
received cash in exchange, instead of being asked to do
business on the basis of barter, which was then the
custom in most rural neighborhoods, made the market
a very desirable one to them. The store was so con-



270 HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY.

structed that boats could be floated beneath it and un-
loaded by wheel and axle through hatches in the floors
of the building.

After a few years, Mr. Foster became the sole owner
of the establishment, and in 1837 he sold out to Asa and
R. W. Packer. They carried on the business until
about the middle of the next decade, being succeeded
by Hiram Wolf, Harry Wilbur and David Trehorn,
under the title of Wolf, Wilbur and Company.

Casper Christman, James Speer, Nathan Fegley and
Company and John Kent and Company were among
those who early entered into business in the town.

John Leisenring, Sr., was a leading merchant from
1840 until his death, which occurred in 1854.

The pioneering spirit which distinguished the build-
ers of Mauch Chunk was made particularly manifest
in the realm of invention.

John Wilson, whose trade was that of a tinker, and
who was one of the first men to come to the locality,
made the first heating stove to burn anthracite coal. It
was a plain, round, sheet-iron cylinder, with fire-door,
tearing-door, ash pit and a screen under the grate. It
also contained a pan to receive the ashes.

Wilson, too, is said to have been the maker of the
first cook-stove successfully burning hard coal. He
was of a humorous disposition, and delighted to be
called ''John Wulson, the tinker."

Asa L. Foster did a great deal of experimenting in
the endeavor to perfect the coal-burning stove, and
many of his ideas were utilized by John Mears, a
worker in iron and tin, who engaged in the manufac-
ture of stoves in the place.

The first attempt attended with any considerable suc-
cess to utilize anthracite coal in the smelting of iron
ore in this country was made at Mauch Chunk.



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I A31 on, LENOX ANt) [

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HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY. 271

White and Hazard, the managers of the Lehigh Coal
and Navigation Company began to experiment in this
direction in 1825, when they erected a blast furnace,
together with a tilt-mill and forge on the site where the
Broadway livery and boarding stables now stand.
The knowledge they acquired was later turned to good
account, but produced no immediate results, the fur-
nace being abandoned and another built on adjoining
ground, in which charcoal was used.

In the fall of 1837, the old furnace was again fitted
up and the experiment retried by Henry High, Joseph
Baughman, F. C. Lanthrop and Julius Guiteau. The
result encouraged them to go on with their work, al-
though they were ridiculed by old-fashioned iron mas-
ters, who affirmed their readiness to eat all the iron
that could be manufactured in this manner.

To test the matter more thoroughly, a small furnace
was built below the weigh-lock, which was completed
during the summer of 1838.

After overcoming many difficulties, the furnace was
made to produce iron of good quality, but the venture
was not financially successful.

A few years later, however, the Lehigh Coal and
Navigation Company promoted the building of the first
blast furnaces of the Crane Iron Company at Cata-
sauqua, where success was achieved from the start.

A foundry started by the first-named company near
the old furnace on Broadway was sold about 1830 to
John Fatzinger. He and Jacob H. Salkeld carried on
the establishment for many years.

The Mauch Chunk Iron Works, until recently owned
by the estate of W. H. Stroh, were opened by Edward
Lippincott and Elias Miner in 1845. Formerly a fur-
nace was conducted in connection with the plant, but
this feature was found unprofitable and was aban-
doned.



272 HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY.

One of the thriving industries of Mauch Chunk in
earlier times was the wire mill established by the Le-
high Coal and Navigation Company in 1849. Opera-
tions were first carried on in the old grist mill building
on Susquehanna street, and later another building was
added. All the wire rope used by the company was
manufactured here, the process having been evolved
by Erskine Hazard. The works were closed in 1872
and the industry transferred to Wilkes-Barre.

The grist mill property referred to occupied the spot
where the establishment of the Hooven Mercantile
Company is now situated.

In 1875, Ario Pardee opened a steam rolling mill on
the corner where the Central Hotel has since been
built. Alexander Robinson conducted the business.

Among the other local industries which are still in
existence is the West End Brewery, formerly owned by
John R. G. Weysser ; the Mauch Chunk Silk Mills, and
the repair shops of the Central Railroad of New
Jersey.

Mauch Chunk was incorporated as a borough on
January 26, 1850. At that time the population of the
place was about twenty-five hundred, which included
the people living in East Mauch Chunk, which was not
separated from the older settlement until 1854. Both
boroughs were set off from Mauch Chunk township.

At the first municipal election Charles 0. Skeer, E.
W. Harlan, Joseph Bullock, Jacob H. Salkeld, Leonard
Blakslee and J. R. Twining were elected as councilmen.
They chose E. W. Harlan as burgess at their first
meeting.

Upper Mauch Chunk, constituting the Second Ward
of the borough, and occupying a natural terrace over-
looking the rest of the town, was laid out for building
purposes in 1846. The first settler in this neighbor-



HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY, 273

hood was David Pratt, who lived in the vicinity as
early as 1823. Elliot Lockhart, Philip Swank, Nathan
Tubbs, Joseph Weyhenmeyer and Charles Faga were
other early residents. This section of the town has
from the beginning been ^principally a locality of
homes.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad, which has been a factor
of vital importance in the life of Mauch Chunk was
placed in ojDeration between here and Easton in the
fall of 1855. During the days of its infancy, the head-
quarters of the road were located here, and for many
years the work of important departments was centered
in Mauch Chunk.

The same may be said of the Lehigh and Susque-
hanna Railroad, which was built during the next de-
cade by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, and
later leased to the Central Railroad of New Jersey.

The interests of the town are now more closely cen-
tered in the latter road than the former, since Mauch
Chunk is an important division point of the Central
Railroad of New Jersey.

Owing to the height and steepness which character-
ize the mountains of the region, and the rapidity with
which smaller streams pour their water into the river
during periods of heavy rains or melting snows, the
valley of the Lehigh is subject to sudden floods, which
have at various times resulted in the destruction of
many lives and much valuable property.

Mauch Chunk has suffered severely in a number of
these floods. It has also had one costly fire.

The first of these floods was that of June 9, 1841,
which was a disastrous one throughout the valley. Sev-
eral residents of the town were drowned, among the
number, Adam Beers and his family. Quite a number



274 HISTORY OF CAEBON COUNTY.

of buildings were also washed away, together with the
bridge across the Lehigh at the Mansion House.

The fire alluded to occurred on July 15, 1849, and the
business portion of the place was laid in ashes.

About thirty buildings including the court house
and jail, were consumed, entailing a loss of one hun-
dred thousand dollars.

When the flames attacked the jail, the prisoners
were set free. The fire taking place during the day
time, the county records were saved.

The freshet of 1862 was the most memorable event
of its kind in the history of the Lehigh Valley. One
hundred and fifty people were drowned, while the prop-
erty loss was almost beyond calculation. A heavy and
continuous rain, which commenced on the third of June,
caused a rapid rise in the Lehigh and its tributary
streams above Mauch Chunk. On the afternoon of the
succeeding day, the force of the flood broke the booms
in the vicinity of White Haven, thus casting adrift a
large quantity of saw-logs and other timber to pursue
an almost resistless course down the river. The dams
on the Lehigh Canal were gradually battered down,
and the pent up force thus released heightened the
intensity of the flood.

The water attained its extreme height in the neigh-
borhood of Mauch Chunk at about midnight. At the
Mansion House it rose thirty feet above the usual low-
water mark, reaching the second storj^ of the building.

About half the buildings on the lower portion of Sus-
quehanna street were washed away. Six lives were
lost in this immediate vicinity during the continuance
of the flood, while many thrilling escapes from death
were recorded.

The most marvellous of these was that of Leonard
Yeager, who yet lives in Mauch Chunk. He was caught



HISTOBY OF CAEBON COUNTY. 275

at his place of business on Susquehanna street by a
sudden rise of the flood, and surrounded by wreckage
and drift-wood was swept away through the darkness.
Near Packerton he succeeded in climbing aboard a
floating canal boat upon which he rode over the town
of Weissport and on to Parryville. At the latter place
he escaped from his perilous jDosition by grasping the
limb of a tree overhanging the river, making his way
back to land.

The canal between Mauch Chunk and White Haven
was almost completely demolished by the flood, and
was never rebuilt. It required the labor of between
two and three thousand men and six hundred horses or
mules during more than four months to repair the
damages to the canal between Mauch Chunk and Al-
lentown. The Lehigh Valley Railroad Company also
sustained heavy losses as a result of the flood.

In recent years, Mauch Chunk, in common with other
towns in the Lehigh Valley was several times devas-
tated by disastrous floods.

The first of these occurred on August 24, 1901. On
this occasion Mauch Chunk creek, which flows beneath
Broadway burst its confines and engulfed Jesse
Struthers, Harry Haggerty, William J. Morgan and
Patrick Johnson, who were drowned.

Another freshet visited the region about the middle
of December during the same year, destroying hun-
dreds of thousands of dollars worth of property be-
tween Mauch Chunk and Lehigh Gap.

On February 28, 1902, a veritable cloud burst raised
the Lehigh several feet beyond the point attained in
December. The bridge at the Mansion House was
washed away by this flood, railroad traffic was par-
alyzed for weeks, and the damage to property in all
parts of the county was enormous.



276 HISTORY OF CAEBON COUNTY.

Among the institutions and utilities of Mauch
Chunk, the postoffice, established in the year 1819, was
the first. For years there were but two mails a week.

In 1829, the postal facilities had been so far im-
proved that the number of mails arriving at and dis-
patched from the town numbered thirty-eight each
week. During this year the company controlling the
Union line of mail coaches established connections be-
tween this place and Philadelphia. Another route, ex-
tending from Mauch Chunk to Pottsville, was opened
in 1831.

Erskine Hazard was the first postmaster, he being
succeeded by Josiah White. Many other prominent
citizens have held the office since their day. John
Leisenring, Sr., who was the incumbent from 1831
until 1847, and Mrs. Jane F. Righter, who was post-
mistress from 1860 until 1880, served the longest terms.

The free delivery of the mail was instituted in the
borough in 1906, and during the following year a postal
sub- station was opened in Upper Mauch Chunk. At
the same time a rural route, running through Beaver
Run and Bloomingdale Valleys was started. This
office was designated as a postal savings bank in 1911.

Asa Packer secured the charter for the Mauch Chunk
Water Company in 1849. The source of supply is the
valley of Mauch Chunk creek, and the water furnished
the town is excellent for its purity and health giving
properties.

The Upper Mauch Chunk Water Company was or-
ganized in the spring of 1872, the prime movers in the
enterprise being E. F. Luckenbach and James Ross.

James I. Blakslee was the leader in the establish-
ment of the Mauch Chunk Gas Company. The com-
pany was chartered in 1854. Its capital stock now is
$45,000, and its president is H. A. Butler.



HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY, 277

The Mauch Chunk Heat, Power, and Electric Light
Company was incorporated in 1880. E. B. Leisenring
was the first president, while William 0. Lentz is now
the head of the company. The generating plant is run
by water power, but a steam equipment is also main-
tained for emergency purposes.

The pioneer monetary institution of Mauch Chunk
was the private bank of Rockwood, Hazard and Com-
pany. The bank was established in 1852 with a capital
stock of fifty thousand dollars, and was in existence for
five years.

The Mauch Chunk State Bank was chartered in 1855,
Hiram Wolf being its president, and A. W. Leisenring,
cashier. Its successor was the First National Bank of
Mauch Chunk, which was organized in 1863, beginning
with a capital stock of one hundred thousand dollars.
Two years later its capital was quadrupled. William
Lilly and A. W. Butler originally served as president
and cashier, respectively.

Early in 1903 this bank was consolidated with the
Linderman National Bank, forming the Mauch Chunk
National Bank of to-day. This bank is a depositary of
the United States and of the State of Pennsylvania.
It has a capital stock of two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars, and has accumulated a large surplus. M. S.
Kemmerer is its president, while Ira G. Ross holds the
position of cashier. S. S. Smith is the assistant
cashier.

The Second National Bank of Mauch Chunk was
chartered in 1864, continuing for a period of thirty-
eight years. Charles Albright served as president of
the institution until his death, in 1880, being succeeded
by Thomas L. Foster, who had previously been the
cashier.

With the expiration of its charter, at the close of the
year 1902, this bank was succeeded by the Mauch



278 HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY.

Chunk Trust Company, the only institution of its kind
in the county. The capital of the company is one hun-
dred and fifty thousand dollars, and its surplus is
equal to half that amount. J. M. Dreisbach, who was
the last president of the Second National Bank, has
been at the head of the trust company since its organi-
zation. His son, George Dreisbach, is its secretary
and treasurer.

The banking house of G. B. Linderman and Company



Online LibraryFred (Frederick Charles) BrenckmanHistory of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, → online text (page 19 of 44)