Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
The Romance of Old Barclay by Clarke
Chapter Four -The Horrible Epidemic of Diphtheria
The Romance of Old Barclay

By Staley N. Clarke

Originally Published 1928, Towanda PA

Photos by Joyce M. Tice October 4, 1998
Retyped for Tri-Counties by Richard Harris and Connie Unganst and Formatted by Joyce M. Tice

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About the saddest and at the same time most horrible period in the history of Barclay was at the time of the great diphtheria epidemic in the year 1884-1885. At least a score of children are known to have died from the disease before its ravages were stopped. Two families lost five, one being the family of Phillip Price and the other that of David Smiley. The oldest Price child was 16 years old and the youngest three months. They are said to have lived in the block just across the creek from the company store and barber shop. R. W. Cameron lost one child; Henry W. Strope, one; William Fuller, one; Smileys, four; Quinlans, two; Splann 1; Sculleys, one; two children of a Mr. Jones of Long Valley, Mamie and Freddie, were fatally stricken and buried in Barclay and a woman who came there visiting with two children, lost both of them.

The epidemic lasted about three months and caused a reign of terror through the community. Children would be seen at play one day and it seemed only a short time later that they were dead. Every family feared it would be next to be stricken and lived in horror of that time

Dr. Taylor was the local doctor during the epidemic and matters were getting worse and worse until finally Dr. R. Lyons of Franklindale got the situation under command. The Fullers and Marshal McCraney lived at Foot of Plane and in order to care for them, Dr. Lyons made a daring journey, driving down the inclined plane itself although it was snowy and icy and might have brought injury or death.

Doctors in those days were hired by the company and a certain amount deducted each time from each miner’s pay to make up the salary. Then there was no further charge for the doctor’s services when they were needed.

Among the doctors besides Taylor who served the community at Barclay at various times were Doctors McAuliffe, Byron, Cheney, Stevenson, Johnson and Hillis.

The Reporter-Journal of 1890 records to other very sad incidents happening in the community. The January 31 issue of the death of John Pewterbaugh, a youth of 17, as the result of an accident at Squire’s saw mill three-fourths mile from Foot of Plane. The boy in some way came in contact with one of the large saws and it cut straight back into his arm. No doctor could be obtained and finally the next day he was brought to the office of Dr. Woodburn in Towanda. A short time after he arrived at the office he died from loss of blood.

In the May 1, 1890 issue of the Reporter-Journal the following, which will be remembered by many, was in the Barclay items:

"Tom Cox, our blacksmith, buried his little blind daughter, 11 years old, Sunday. She could not see the beauties of the earth, but will see those of Paradise."

"Another drift is being opened toward Sand Run. We call it Harkness drift. Now business will be brisk again, we hope."

"I saw a goodly number of ladies coming out of Mrs. Moses Walker’s with their new hats and bonnets, so I guess she has her time fully occupied. They do say she is selling her goods cheap."


The following incidents showing the deep affection of former residents for the home of their childhood days and bringing in a little humor from the deserted village, were contributed by Mrs. T. J. Finn, who although never a resident there, has much interest in the vanished town and its former inhabitants:

That never-to-be-forgotten affection for the old home town was evidenced not so long ago by members of the family of the late Michael Cox who was a miner and lived at Long Valley.

The Cox family left there years ago to make their home in Binghamtom. All their lives the children had a longing in their hearts and a desperate desire to go back and see their little home but were discouraged by relatives who knew of the desolation that would confront them and knew that their dreams would be shattered. About two years ago they could be held back no longer and Mrs. Jane Gaffney, Mrs. Catherine Sweeney, Mrs. Margaret McAvoy (now deceased) and Miss Mary Cox, all daughters of the late Michael Cox of Binghamton, induced William Looney of Canton, also a former resident of the old place, to make the trip with them. They returned at night, worn and tired, with their clothes ripped and torn and their silk stockings almost in shreds from walking in the bushes, the tumbled down homes and the cellars, but happy in the recollection of their childhood days. Mary Cox, with a small slab of wood taken from the ruins of their little home, clasped to her heart and with tears in her eyes said: "At least we found that old well where we used to get our water and it was worth the trip."

Last year they started on another pilgrimage to the old home, bringing with them Mary and Theresa Higgins of Binghamton and Mary O’Rourke and sister of Chicago. On reaching Towanda they were unable to get anyone to drive them up the mountain on account of the very bad conditions of the roads. They suggested taking the train to Laquin and walking the balance of the way but were discouraged by the tales they heard of bears and rattlesnakes everywhere. The folks from Chicago were so heart sick at their failure to reach their destination that Mrs. Anna Sheehan of this place prevailed upon them to remain over night and she called together all of the old friends with whom she could get in touch on short notice and a love feast was held at her home, talking over the days of their childhood. They all left for home in the morning with a firm determination to try it again some day.

In speaking of Barclay, occasionally a little humor creeps into the story. It was told that on one occasion the keeper of the company store made a present of half a watermelon to a customer. Now the dear old lady who received it was not intimately acquainted with this kind of fruit. The next day the store keeper asked her how she liked the watermelon. "Watermelon! Well, is that what you call it?" she said. "That is a good name for it, for after boiling it for two hours I had nothing left but water."



As always when a community grows up, religious sentiment quickly cropped out in Barclay and two churches were organized-a Catholic and a Presbyterian.

Barclay was in the Towanda parish of the Catholic Church and it was when the Rev. Patrick Toner had charge of that parish that the church was built at Barclay. It was a fine building for those days, with the usual high steeple and cross. There were two galleries, one a each end, and the altar was fixed beautifully. The church also was fitted with an organ.

In 1875 when Barclay was booming, Rev. Charles F. Kelly, a highly educated and accomplished gentleman, was in charge and he is probably the best remembered of the priests going there. Father James Whalen followed Father Kelly. The first records of his activity are in February, 1877. He died several years ago at St. Patrick’s rectory, Scranton.

It is believed from records available at the home of Very Rev. Father J. J. McGuckin in Towanda that Father M. J. Hoban, who later became bishop of the Scranton diocese, followed Father Whalen. It is known that Barclay always held a dear spot in the venerable bishop’s heart and he often loved to talk of the days he spent on the mountain. Some of older residents will remember, too, how he traveled over the mountain roads in all kinds of weather to help cheer the sick and administer the rites of the Church to the dying. One of last priests to conduct services on the mountain was Father Morrison, who died several years ago at South Waverly.

In connection with the church, the Catholics at Barclay had a priest’s house with a living room and library. Usually the assistant pastor at Towanda went to Barclay on the train Saturday night and held confession there that evening. On Sunday he conducted mass and taught the large Sunday School, returning to Towanda on the train Monday morning. While in Barclay he took his meals at Andy Keeliher’s.

Now there is nothing left of the old church or priest’s house either. A few people have a piece of wood from the ruins of the former, but that is all. Mrs. Anna Sheehan of Towanda has a dearly loved prize in her home-one of the stations of the cross from the church-and it is believed Mrs. Mike Madigan of Grover near Canton, also has several of these. Mrs. Will Land of Towanda has some of the candlesticks.


By direction of presbytery, Rev. William Harris of Towanda visited Barclay and preached several times. Mr. Dechert also spent some time there in the months of September and November of the same year. Then in March, according to Craft’s history, Mr. McWilliams moved his family on the mountain; preached a few times at Fall Creek, at Graydon, but most of the time at Barclay. December 26, 1866, 24 persons were constituted a church by a committee of presbytery, and Messrs. Muir, Huntington, and Turner were ordained elders; William and John Ditchburn and D. Short were chosen deacons.

Mr. McWilliams left in February 1869 and was followed by Rev. Edward Kennedy. Mr. Christison was supply for a short time in 1875, and was succeeded by Rev. James Petrie January 23, 1876. He is the pastor best remembered by those from Old Barclay now living around Towanda. In 1878 the church property consisted of a pleasant little church, a parsonage, and a schoolhouse, costing all together about $4500. The Sabbath School had 225 teachers and scholars.

The Rev. Kennedy mentioned was the father of Mrs. F. I. Champlin of Orwell and W. B. Kennedy of Merryall.


According to Craft’s history there used to be a Baptist Church at Barclay but it could not have flourished much because little is known concerning it. It was formed June 8, 1877 with 11 members, five newly baptized and six on experience. John Hunter was deacon and Robert Morris clerk. George P. Watrous, an associational minister, preached there a number of times.



In all its history, there was never any major mine disasters at Barclay. Once in a while there would be a small cave-in injuring or killing one man but never any number. One who was badly injured was Bobbie Wilson. His back was broken in the mines at Barclay but he lived a good many years. For a number of years he was confined to an invalid chair. Levi Covey and L. S. Kelder were killed in the saw mill on separate occasions. Both of them got caught in the saws. One of them, although which cannot be said, lived to get home where he wanted to say something to his wife. Before he could give the message, however, the breath of life passed from him.

One of those killed in the mine at Barclay was Evan Meredith, father of Squire John Meredith of Towanda. Mr. Meredith moved with his family from near Pittsburgh to Barclay in 1863. He met death early in January 1864. Two branches of the track in the mine came together in a "Y." He hopped off one train directly in the path of one on the other track and was ground to pieces before he had a chance to get out of the way. His son Thomas worked in the mines first as a water boy and later driving mules to help support the family. He was in the coal business in Towanda for many years and still represented the Connell Coal Company there at the time of his death, on September 21, 1928.

Among others killed in the mines were men by the names of Reed, Hunter, McCloskey, Dayton, Devine, Lynch, McAuliffe and Davitt.

In those days no matter how badly anyone was hurt, there was no rush to a hospital. The injured and deathly sick were treated at their homes by the local doctors. A number died from what was known then as "inflammation of the bowels," but what is now known as appendicitis and cured by operation.

One time when R. T. Dodson, was local superintendent of the mines, Samuel Hines of Scranton, general superintendent, came on a visit of inspection and to visit his friend, Mr. Dodson. When he was ready to return, the two men started down the mountain with a horse and wagon to meet the train. The horse ran away, throwing both of them out. Mr. Dodson, with blood running down his face, went to the home of William Penn Crandall (now of Towanda) at the foot of the hill and the latter after summoning the local doctor took Mr. Hines, unconscious and badly injured, into the house. A short time later the family doctor and nurse were brought from Scranton. Mr. Dodson was able to be taken to his home in Barclay in a few weeks but it was a long time before Mr. Hines could be removed to Scranton and it was said that he never fully recovered.


There were several quite bad fires on Barclay mountain. The Keeliher family was especially hard hit along that line. The Keeliher saw mill at Sand Run burned down about 1875 and then they lost one of their twin daughters in a fire at their home. The little girl, two or three years old, hid behind a sewing machine and they were unable to find her in time to effect a rescue. Another bad fire was on Stump street when a girl named Annie Kerrigan used kerosene oil in starting a fire and caused an explosion. The girl was burned to death and four families made homeless when the block went up in flames. A Mrs. Bush also was burned to death, her clothes catching fire while she was preparing Sunday night tea.

Lizzie Crawford, a sister of Mrs. William Strope, aged 15 years, was fatally burned while building a fire to get breakfast. That was in the year 1892 at Carbon Run.


Probably one of the incidents which stand out most vividly in the memory of many is the fire which occurred near Carbon Run in late April, 1890. The first the residents knew that anything was wrong was when the hillside engine was noticed going up and down the track about 3:30 blowing the whistle and ringing the bell, giving an alarm of fire in the woods. The wind blew large cinders and limbs down upon the houses and barns. The men rushed out of the mines, climbed on their houses, and their good women and children carried water to them. By hard work they saved their homes. A good many had their clothing and bedding packed to leave.


At one time smallpox broke out on Barclay mountain. As remembered by Mrs. Thomas Coleman of Towanda, the McDonald family at Fall Creek was the first to be stricken. A little dog belonging to the O’Rouricke family went to the McDonalds and carried home the disease. Deaths of two more children resulted. John Mannix, John Falsey and John Welsh carried their boys and girls on their back in the night and buried them in the Barclay cemetery. When the burial was finished, the men removed their clothes outside their homes and buried them. They would take coal an supplies in the night to those who had the smallpox. Among the others afflicted with the dread disease was Pete Shields who lived in what was known as the Half Way House. The pest house was in what was known as Frog Hallow.



The inclined plane over which the coal was carried from the top of the mountain to the foot where it was picked up by the old Barclay railroad, now the S. & N. Y., was one of the most interesting features of Barclay. A railroad line a mile in length ran from the town to the head of the plane with the coal, which was then sent on down the plane under its own power. As a full car went down an empty one came up. The speed was controlled by a man at the head of the plane by use of great steel brake bands on the drum where the steel cable holding the cars was wound. Once in a while this would let go and the cars would dash to the bottom and pile up in a wreck, but not very often, and luckily no one was hurt.

On the railroad at the top of the mountain they had a good sized engine for those things. Sol Talada was the engineer along in 1880 and his son Charles was his fireman. Another son and Dite Havens were the brakemen. At that time Enoch Luther was foreman over the plane, Edward Sabin ran the plane and Jim Stalford drove the team which hauled the cars into position. Henry Strope and Jerome Alexander scaled the cars and William Minto, a one legged fellow, weighed the coal. At the foot of the plane working were Henry Blend, his son Steve and a Mr. Parks.

The first coal cars used on the Barclay railroad and the plane were small ones, holding about five tons. Couplings consisted of three links and a hook. They ran three of the cars over the plane at one time. The dumps were changed in 1881 to cars holding from 15 to 20 tons each.

Along toward the last only three men were necessary at the head of the plane where ten had been employed before. Charles Sage of Towanda ran the engine. William Strope of Towanda, now a special officer here, acted as fireman, brakeman and weighed the coal, and Henry Strope, his father, ran the plane. They had a small engine at Barclay which drew the coal from the various mines to the chutes. The first one weighed only five tons but one later weighed ten tons. The small engine was driven by George Talada.

William Strope weighed the last car of coal sent over the plane and he remembers the incident well to this day.

In the days when Bill Strope was a boy carrying water for a gang of Towandians at work along the old Barclay railroad, they used to sing a song, which though not particularly poetical, gives some idea of the life around the "Foot of the Plane." If Bill’s memory is right, it was as follows:

Song About McCraney’s Mill

At Foot of Plane

Come all my friends, I’ll sing you a song

And I mean to sing it plain,

It’s all about that little place

They call the Foot of Plane.


You can talk about the Foot of the Plane

And call it what you will

But I’ll tell you that’s a --- of a place

Around McCraney’s Mill

Sometimes we have the good fat pork,

Sometimes we have the lean,

But when we have the good fat pork,

We’ll sweep the logs up clean.

Elmer Champion bought him a coat

And hung it on the wall;

That one-eyed wretch, he stole that coat

And wore it to the ball.

George Archer, he’s the laziest man

That ever stood on the dock;

He spends his time in that 3c store

On a piece of a hard wood block

Here comes Henry Strope’s son,

He’s a perfect little dude;

He carries water for them Pools,

I’m afraid it makes him rude.

The working men of the Foot of the Plane

And the working men of far,

They went to town and all got drunk,

And stove up the Barclay cars.


Fall Creek was about two miles from Barclay and it bore a hard name. Most of the homes were log houses and the seams were plastered up with mud.

Foot of Plane, the settlement at the bottom of the incline, became quite a large, hustling community. It as a great lumbering place. William McCraney was the jobber. Jimmy Cox was the station agent. There were two stores, post office in the station and a school. Among the teachers were Eliza O’Brien and Nellie Lyons.

Now the place is inhabited only by deer and rattlesnakes, as is Long Valley, another village which grew up in the township about three miles from Barclay. At Long Valley John Carroll was foreman and Seville Travis took care of the mules. Mack Finney, now a resident of Towanda, worked in the store and Joe Foyle, now in the meat business here, cut the meat. The coal from Long Valley went down over the Long Valley plane and hit the Barclay railroad at Long Valley Junction. There are no houses left in Long Valley at the present time.

About 3,000 acres, formerly belonging to the Fall Creek Coal Co., around the Foot of Plane are now owned by Lieut. Gov. Edwin Corning of New York, Parker Corning, representative in congress, and James A. Burden, of New York City.


Carbon Run lies due west of Barclay about two miles, and three miles from LeRoy. It is about two miles from Sunfish Pond where the game preserve is now situated. Carbon Run was noted for fine coal. It had plenty of what was known as peacock coal with all the colors of the rainbow. It was a common occurrence to see lumps as large as two strong men could load into a car. In fact many had to be broken up. There were three openings at Carbon Run-the Frazer drift, the Flynn drift, and the Curry drift. William R. Jones was mine foreman and George Blaksley, store manager, Selah Plummer was the butcher and John Fassett ran the little engine.

The houses in Carbon Run were mostly double, two story buildings with cellars. They had laths and were plastered, according to Mrs. Mary Hines, nee Frazer, who has assisted considerably in preparing this sketch of the village.

They had two school houses, both of two rooms and graded. Teachers included Maud McDougall, Nora Fassett, Maud Hawkins, Fanny Kelly, Marian Miller, Minnie McCarthy, Nellie Ronan and Nan Burchill.

The first mining was done in Carbon Run about 1871. The land at that time was owned by the firm of Abbott & Davis but later went into the hands of the tanning company.

An Evangelical Methodist Church was organized about 1876 and a fine little church was erected. Before that, the Welch people had a Congregationalist minister come there to preach every two weeks. Later the Welch became active in the new church. Some of those who filled the charge there were Mr. King, Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Brader.

The population of the town was about 500 at the peak.

Mining at Carbon Run on a large scale closed down about 1886. The next year William Frazer, who had been employed by the company, leased the mines from the Union Tanning Company through their agent, the Hon. Joseph Powell of Towanda, and with the assistance of his son, James, continued to operate them until about 1920.

After the boom of Laquin began, Mr. Frazer saw an opening for business. He put about 40 cows in the fine pasture around Carbon Run and furnished milk for the people at Laquin. He also sold coal there for the homes and the various factories, etc., besides the engines used on the railroad. Mr. Frazer finally retired and bought a home in Monroeton where he died in 1919. He had operated the Carbon Run mines continuously for 43 years.


The big newspaper that everyone read in the mining settlement was the Williamsport Grit. It sold for five cents then, just as it does today, and it was handled by Fred Cameron, now chief of police at Arnold, Pa., who was one of the first carrier boys put on by Grit 42 years ago. Cameron sold 150 papers each week. On Saturday night he would meet a carrier with them at the top of the mountain and then peddle them through Barclay. Sunday he peddled through Long Valley and Foot of Plane. During the week Cameron carried mail from Barclay to Long Valley for $8 per month and he often made his way through when a horse couldn’t make the trip for two weeks because of the snow.

Mr. Cameron was back for the Barclay reunion this year and he declared if possible he will be back again next August when it is hoped to swell the attendance to 500, possibly more.

Another old Barclay resident who is very well known today, is R. D. Williams, the furrier of Sayre. Mr. Williams was born in Barclay where his father ran the store for some time.

One of the very old residents of Barclay was John Davis. He and his wife in later years conducted the post office. Another of the older residents was James Crawford who went there as a boy under Supt. Waget and tended door in the mines.

Young Jack Slavin will be remembered as a great quoit pitcher. He and Davy Bread had a good many matches.

John Cantwell was constable for many years and was never known to make an arrest. He is now a resident of Youngstown, Ohio.

Henry Haggerty was a fiddler and a good one. He was four feet, 10 inches tall and his wife towered more than six feet. He and a Spaniard named McDowell went one Sunday over on Cahill mountain and got home about 6 p.m.. Upon their return, they got in some kind of dispute and the Spaniard threw a pitcher which struck and killed Haggerty. This occurred in Sand Run a short time after Barclay shut down.

Uncle John and Aunty Davis were two of the best known characters of all on the mountain. "Aunty" was always present whenever there was distress of any kind. No kindlier soul ever lived. The sick always knew they could depend on her and when death occurred she was always among the first to help those left behind. Nearly always at funerals she was called upon to sing and the song she chose was "We Shall Die But Not Forever." Her death in later years caused general sadness for hundreds of people.

H. Crayton of Powell R.D. 1 recalls that they used to sell straw on Barclay for 10 cents to $1.00 a bundle. The ten cent bundle was straw; the 25 cent bundle had a half pint in it; the 50c bundle had a pint and the $1.00 bundle had a quart bottle in it.


Once a lynching almost took place on Barclay mountain. A. B. and William Burchill of the Burchill Brothers Monument Works in Towanda, remember the incident well. They believe it was in 1874 and the man’s name was John Jenkins. Jenkins was believed to have committed a brutal assault upon a little girl and the mountain residents were so aroused by the crime that they demanded his life without waiting for the formality of a trial. The mob had Jenkins and was rushing him off to be hanged, when Redmond Roche, father of Mrs. William Ronan of Towanda and Mrs. Hugh Hogan, of South Bend, Ind., formerly of this place, a man of strong personality and character appeared on the scene.

"In the name of God, stop!" Mr. Roche shouted. "Let the law take its course." According to the Burchills, the crowd was almost immediately subdued and Jenkins was brought to Towanda were he was tried and acquitted.

Later Jenkins was accused again of an attack upon a girl and that time he was shot dead without further ado.
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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 9/13/99
By Joyce M. Tice