Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday's Obituary - Arthur W Matthews

Last Monday in my Amuensis Monday post we got to the part in my grandfather's story where his father, Arthur William Matthews, passed away.  Last year I was lucky enough to find his obituaries on Genealogy Bank.

A large concourse of sorrowing friends and relatives were in attendance yesterday afternoon at the funeral of Arthur Matthews, which was held from the family home on Nafus Street.  Services were conducted at the house by Rev. L.E. Van Hoesen, pastor of the M.E. Church.  The services consisted of a prayer, suitable address, the reading of Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar," and the singing of "Abide With Me," by a quartet composed of Fred Fear, Harvey Harris, Mrs. Lillian Daniels and Mrs. Charles B. Smith.  The floral tributes were many and completely covered the casket.  The pall bearers were four sons and two sons-in-law of the deceased.  They were William, John, Leroy and Fred Matthews, Floyd Hunter and William Ahlers.  Interment was in Pittston Cemetery.

I love the melodrama in that opening sentence and of the elements of  service.  I don't mean to make light of his death, though, it changed everything for my grandfather who was the youngest of his eight children and only 14 when Arthur died at 71.  If you're interested, you can read more about that in my Amanuensis Monday posts.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shopping Saturday - Pittston Shoe Factory & City Music Store

Since I first read my grandfather's autobiography and family history I have known that his father, Arthur William Matthews, owned a local music store in Pittston, PA and that he was a violinist, composer and choir director, but finding out that he owned a shoe factory was a more recent revelation.

I first found mention of it in this article from the Wilkes-Barre Times that said my great-grandmother had thrown a dinner for the employees of the family shoe factory.  The dinner was given in 1905.  I was intrigued, but could not find anything further.

BREVITIES. Thursday evening Mrs. Arthur Matthews, of Nafus street, tendered a banquet to the employees of the Pittston shoe factory, of which her husband is proprietor, and it was a most enjoyable affair. Miss Bessie Matthews entertained the company with several vocal and instrumental selections.

At the end of our short trip to Pennsylvania last year we found ourselves at the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society where they had one incomplete city directory from 1890 listing the members of the Matthews family with information about their businesses (below). While this confirmed that Arthur did indeed own a shoe factory I was disappointed to find that the referenced ads were missing.

Recently I was very excited to find these ads on Ancestry:

So many questions remain for me, though.  Why is Arthur's son William listed as the proprietor?  What made them open a shoe factory?  What is Dongola? And why did the music store and shoe factory close?  Why was the family in debt when Arthur died in 1915? And why wasn't any of this in my grandfather's family history?

Two of those questions were answered for me this week when I found another obituary for Arthur from the Pittston Gazette on  Although seriously ill only for the last three weeks of his life, Arthur had apparently been in poor health for a few years and was forced to close the shoe store around that time.  There were no details in the article about the music store.

Last year someone shared a turn of the century photo of a Pittston business on the Facebook page of the Greater Pittston Historical Society.  I was green with envy! I'd give my left arm for photos of this family and their many ventures.

I will be on vacation the week of Columbus Day and after a short trip to visit family in Canada I will be spending a day helping my stepmother go through some of my father's things.  I doubt if I will find any photos of the Pittston Shoe Factory but whatever I do find I'll be sure to share here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday - Arthur W Matthews, Dec 6 1915, Age 71

Yesterday I posted the part of my grandfather's story in which he loses his father.  Later this week I will post my great-grandfather Arthur's obituary. Today, I am posting a photo of his headstone.

Just about a year ago we visited my grandfather's hometown of Pittston, PA and the cemetery where my great-grandparents and other relatives are buried.  I shared about that visit here and especially the help I received from the Greater Pittston Historical Society.  I only found the headstone in the very large Pittston Cemetery with their help.

Arthur W Matthews - December 6, 1915, Age 71

Monday, September 29, 2014

Amanuensis Monday - Everything Changes

This is the 9th installment of the autobiography and family history written by my paternal grandfather, Howard Beirly Matthews.  It is December of 1915, my grandfather is 14 years old and everything in his world is about to change.

Arthur William Matthews

Dorothy has said that Grandpa Matthews, my father, must have had a good position for the family lived well and he worked at the mines only the first two hours of the day and that he was a very generous man.  Perhaps he had been too generous; when he died there was very little left but life insurance, the family home and a bunch of debts remaining, perhaps, from his oft expressed boast that when Arthur Matthews needed money he just went to the Bank and got it.  I remember that when I needed a pair of new shoes my father always said go get them and charge them to Arthur Matthews.  My first long-trousered suit was a Hickey Freeman, which cost $15!!!

So a year or so later the house was sold and we moved to Forty Fort, Pa. near Wilkes-Barre to be near Will Ahlers' office and that of my brother Charles at the Maltby mine of the Lehigh Valley Coal Co.  I commuted to Pittston to complete my Sophomore year at its High School.

In those days very few from our area went to college, altho Floyd Hunter's sister graduated from Cornell, and not many even finished High School.  And since my brother Charles, then 21, wanted to plan on getting married, it was decided that I should not return to High School but get a steady job and contribute to the family income.

In the summer of 1917, with World War I creating a great demand for coal and so many jobs vacated by men joining the armed forces, I found it easy to get a job, underground, at the Maltby mine of the Lehigh Valley Coal Co., whose Supt'd. lived just a block away from us.  He hired me as a "mechanic's helper" and told me to be at the mine shaft at 6:30 am, properly clothed and equipped by which he meant overalls, a cap and an acetaline [sic] (gas) lamp, a full lunch pail and, most important, a Union button on my cap indicating that I had joined and paid my first month's dues.  I complied.

Despite the fact that I was raised in a region that had many mines and that my father worked in one, I had never been in a mine.  Access to the Maltby mine was by cage, two cages in parallel shafts, one cage coming up while the other went down, but suspended on heavy steel wire cables, activated by a single stationary steam piston engine which turned two large drums on which one cable was wound while the other was unwound.  During the day these cages were used to hoist loaded 3-ton mine cars and, simultaneously, drop empty cars 600 feet down the shaft.  The same cages were used to lower workers into the mine in the morning and bring them up to the surface at the end of their shifts,--presumably at a lower speed!

I stepped aboard that first morning, packed in among the miners, and the cage dropped into pitch blackness at what seemed to me terrific speed, and then a fast slacking which buckled my knees, and with a bang and a bump we were in the mine.  But to me it didn’t look like a mine as I stepped off the cage into a wide, white-washed tunnel, its roof supported by steel beams, lighted by dangling electric light bulbs.  Down the middle of the tunnel were parallel narrow gauge tracks, one bearing loaded mine cars, the other empties.  To the right, behind the windows, was the Superintendent’s office and to the left were stables housing dozens of mules which were used in the far reaches of the mine to haul loaded cards out of the main tunnels.

Soon I learned that the real mine began just beyond that whitewashed and lighted area, for those loaded cars waiting to be hoisted one at a time up the shaft had been hauled through miles of pitch black tunnels which sloped down to lower and distant levels where loaded cards were assembled by electric locomotives (actuated by overhead electric wires) and then were drawn up the slope to the foot of the shaft by a long steel wire cable activated by a stationery electric motor. The long line of cars, hooked together, were drawn at terrific speed and the tail-end car had a cable attached to it which in turn would serve to pull the empties down the slope.  The noise was deafening and no one walked these slopes.  There was a parallel tunnel for walkers.  Neither was lighted.

The excitement of these new surroundings dispelled in me, a 16 year old, any thought of danger or fear.  and the seriousness of this change in my life did not hit me until mid-September when I realized it meant the end of High School for me and I would not be joining my schoolmates Malcolm Miller and Clinton Myers there.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Amanuensis Monday - Visits to Uncle Joe's

In the 8th installment of my grandfather's story we learn more about his Uncle Joe Hobbs, brother of his mother Ada Merritt Hobbs.

Uncle Joe was a locomotive engineer for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western RR.  By virtue of seniority he had his choice of trains so he chose the line's top passenger train, the Chicago Limited.  He left home around 5 pm every second day, dressed like a banker, and went to the Scranton station, changed his clothes and climbed aboard the enormous steam engine which stood there, all spit and polish, emitting that familiar "panting" sound as it and he awaited the arrival of the west-bound section of his train which had begun the first lap of its journey in Hoboken, NJ.  When it arrived its engine was unhooked and Uncle Joe backed his in its place.  At exactly 6:20 pm, upon signal from the Conductor, Uncle Joe gently gave it the gun and his train began the second lap of its trip--Scranton to Elmira, N.Y., which at 70 miles per hour it reached around 10pm.  There Uncle Joe stepped down and walked to the RR YMCA and slept until about 4 am when a "call-boy" awakened him.  He went to the station where his engine had been serviced, washed and polished awaited the arrival of the east-bound section of his train which Uncle Joe would then pilot to Scranton.  I don't remember the exact time but he was always back home by mid-morning and was free until 5pm the following day.

Several years later, Uncle Joe purchased a home and small farm in Clarks Summit, just north of Scranton.  There, around 7 pm every second day, Fred, Milton and I stood on a small bridge over the tracks to see and wave to Uncle Joe as his train picked up speed after the steep grade out of Scranton.  He never failed to toot the whistle and wave to us.

Our days at Green Ridge were spent swimming or exploring Nay Aug Park or going to Emily's home (Harrison had built a find new house near the Church of the Good Shepherd)  where we were always assured of "eats".  Some of our time was spent planning what we should do if Aunt Ella gave a bad report when Uncle Joe arrived home as, usually, his first question was "have these young bucks been behaving?"  Our preparation usually involved stuffing towels, pot lids, etc in our pants to protect our bottoms.  Sunday always meant attending the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd as the Hobbs retained loyalty to their Anglican upbringing.

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