Saturday, January 31, 2009

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By the 1830's the town limits were still between North and South streets in one direction and "Back street" (Canal), and River street in the other. Northampton street was the outlet to Philadelphia and New York, by four-horse stage coaches. The hills just east of town were charming Oak woods from a line east from South street and the foot of the hills, covered with what was then called "Ross Woods." In this woods, were caught flying squirrels, and shot wild pigeons for many a pot-pie. It was a delightful place in which to roam on a warm summer day. The pigeons which in the spring and fall of the olden time were in such large flocks, stretching often, in extent, across our valley from one mountain to the other, thousands not to say millions of them.

The ground below South street was farm land. There were a few houses on South Main street some distance down.

On the east side of the town there was a large swamp, extending from what is now South Wilkes-Barre to North street, and from the base of the hill to Canal street. This street took its name from the canal after the canal was built, early in the thirties. Washington street was not laid out or opened until some years afterwards, and in its course ran through the old burying ground on its western side.

The population was about 1,200, and we seldom met strangers or those we did not know at least by sight.

Houses were of frame, two stories in height, and the style of living much plainer than now. Most of the houses had gardens attached, which added much to the comfort of the residents, giving them fresh vegetables during the summer.

Every house hoisted the water from a well by a windlass and crank. The water from these wells was of various quality, mostly too hard for Monday's wash day. Barrels and hogsheads were used to catch the rain water from the roofs; also utilized to raise mosquitoes.

People ate with a knife and fork, the knife plain steel or iron with a bone or horn handle, and two tined iron forks.

A very convenient, handy and handsome article of head dress of the ladies was the calash. It was light in weight, and when the fair sex had their hair dressed, to go a visiting, this "calash" was usually worn to prevent any disarrangement of the same. It was made of a thin material, barege, or something akin to it, sometimes green, sometimes blue, over light hoops, and could be thrown back or brought forward like a buggy or gig top, being tied under the chin. When thrown forward, the face of the wearer could only be seen from a front view.

The dress of the man was generally a frock coat, or a swallow tail, with the collar stiff with padding, coming well up under the ears, a large, black silk handkerchief folded neatly and passing round the neck twice and tied in front in a bow knot. It was the fashion to have this handkerchief come out in front, to the end of the chin, and well up under the ears, shirt collars sometimes just showing their points of white above, and very often no collar at all. The ruffle shirt was occasionally seen on men of style. Boots were in general use, and trousers were sometimes worn with straps under the foot, the trousers varying in width, sometimes very wide, at others very tight, as the changes in fashion dictated. Boys' clothing was generally made with tucks at the bottom of the trousers, which were let down as the youngsters grew in stature.

There was no ready made clothing in those days; the goods for these were purchased at the stores, together with all the trimmings, and made up at the tailors, or by the family or seamstresses. Hats were usually of fur, or silk, and were of the high order, white or black. Boys and men, too, wore caps much more than now, and common straw hats in summer. A linen blouse with a shirt waist and large sleeves, buttoned at the waist, was quite the rage among the young men at one time for summer wear.

"Bootblacks" were unknown, and seldom were boots and shoes seen with a shine on them, except on the Sabbath with church goers.

There were, in 1830, four brick buildings in the town: The Hollenback house and store at Market and River streets; The Slocum house on the Square, and the Perry house at Main and Northampton streets and the Allen Jack building on Main street.

There was no pavement in those days; coal ashes were used to improve the walks, and many people dumped all their coal ashes on the sidewalks or street, whichever was most convenient, and when they wanted a crossing from one side to the other they made it of coal ashes, which had to be frequently renewed as the mud swallowed it up.

There were no public lights in the streets. All the light pedestrians had on the business streets at night came from the stores up to 9 o'clock p. m., when they usually were closed. Of course, the old punctured tin lanterns were in use to enlighten the path of those persons who were fortunate enough to possess one.

Unfortunately, cows were in general use, and would often walk into these gardens and help themselves; and many of these cows, by practice, would open the gates with their horns, as they were allowed the largest liberty in roaming about at their own sweet will, the river common being their pasture ground.
The only coal mined in the valley for shipment was from the Butler mines, afterwards Baltimore Coal Company, in lump, which was hauled in wagons to the river bank just above Union street, and piled there to await a rise in the river. Then it was loaded in arks and started for a market,

Salt and plaster came down the river in arks and were also sold by the merchants

Money was not plentiful and most of the business was barter or exchange, the farmers bringing their produce and trading it out at the stores.

The stores at that time kept a general stock of all kinds of goods necessary for use: dry goods, groceries, hardware, queens-ware, etc. Cloth was purchased for coats, trousers, vests, etc., and all the trimmings taken to the tailors and made up. Dresses for the ladies in the same way, and all goods sold were expected to be carried away by the purchaser, whether potatoes, oats, corn, clover seed, molasses, vinegar, or finer goods.

During the day, very often, a farmer would drive up with a load of wheat, rye, or corn, in bags of three bushels each, and if a bargain was struck, the clerk would take down the store-house key and proceed with the wagon to the store-house, and carry on his shoulders the bags of grain into the building and often upstairs into the second story and deposit the load into the bins prepared for that purpose.

The stores were open until "Old Michael" rang the bell of the "Old Ship Zion," on the Public Square, which was the signal for closing stores, provided there were no customers at that hour, nine o'clock p. m. Then the shutters were adjusted to the doors and windows and everything made snug for the night. At the ringing of this curfew people timed their visits and retired, as it was the signal of shutting up.

The "Sinton's store", Jacob and Joseph Sinton were the owners, served the people for many years with goods, served out with the strictest honesty. As, at that time, the old Spanish currency of sixpences, shillings, quarters, etc., was in use, a sixpence being six and a quarter cents, and a shilling twelve and a-half cents. These honest Quakers made change with pins, cigars, &c., to see that everyone got the honest change, to a quarter of a cent; they would give ladies their half cents in pins or needles, and the men in "half Spanish cigars," two for a cent, or gun flints, perhaps, if they wanted any. In measuring molasses, in the summer, they used a long, wooden knife, made from a shingle, to scrape the tin measure. In winter, when molasses was stiff and not disposed to run, they would tell the customer to come back in half an hour, giving sufficient time for the molasses to make its way through the funnel into the jug or other receptacle, being placed by the stove in the meantime, and then never failing to scrape the measure into the funnel and thus see that none was left behind.

The River Common was the manoeuvering ground for the military, and general training day in May, where the "Wyoming Blues," uniformed in white pants and blue coats, and all kinds of hats (civilian suits), and the other companies from Plymouth, Kingston, etc., comprising the regiment, paraded.

The circus and the menagarie were popular shows. The river common below Northampton street was the principal ground on which these shows were held. (Samuel H. Lynch)