Spring Comes to the Mountains

Spring Comes to the Mountains
Cultured Carbon County's long awaited "SPRING" Layout

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ode to Spring: Moonshine and Horseradish, the life and wisdom of Joyce Gaumer

There’s a certain constancy that lingers here, in pockets of woods and runs, in places where time is trapped in the ticking calls of the chickadee above gurgling springs, where kingfishers work the same worn beat as their mothers and grandmothers. 

Mountain life included getting what you
could from nature.  Which meant
harvesting what was available: Root
vegetables and greens in springtime
and black bear in the fall.  This hunt is
from the Ahner clan of Franklin Township
who had kin ties with the Eckley clan of
the mountain.  This shot from 1922.
Author's note: I've been sitting on this story since last spring (2013).  Like many of my stories, I often need some final push to finish them.  Most times, as in this case, I'm searching for that elusive last shred of the story that the perfectionist in me must have in order to finish it.  In this case, I've been waiting for to hold in my own hands that copper pitcher her grandfather caught alternating drips wintergreen oil and moonshine from the coil of their still.  It was a hard winter. I'll be sitting with Joyce tomorrow, but today is the first of spring.

It’s a steady rhythm, the Lehigh waters resound today as they did when the hardscrabble immigrants first gathered around her to work, developing a distinct work ethic unique to these woods and valleys.  

The Great Pine Swamp was home to virgin hemlocks, oaks and pines.  Development though, soon followed with sawmills and tanneries.  Then came Josiah White’s Upper Grand and the railroads and soon the forest was deflowered.

It’s not certain whether the Great Depression ever left from here, it’s embedded in a culture of remembrance, of self-reliant resilience.

Joyce (Eckley) Gaumer just remembers being poor and moving around a lot, between Meckesville to Stoney Creek.  Her Stoney Creek home for the last fifty-four years once held the postal address “Christmans.”  Today it’s Star Route Jim Thorpe or Penn Forest.
One view of the Great Pine Swamp of Northern Carbon County.  Photo
courtesy of PA Department of  Conservation and Natural Resources
website.

Something can be said for keeping one’s roots here, connected to a land largely unchanged, though surrounded and increasingly permeated by an electronic grid that frazzles the senses and breeds an aversion to sinking one’s fingers into the earth. 


Mountain top living was austere, honest and tough.  Its people were bound to the earth, in timbering and tanning jobs.  But they also found work on the canal and the railroad as boatmen, brakemen, mule boys and firemen.
Archie Eckley's Bethlehem Steel photo.

Joyce's father was “Archie” Eckley (Archibald was born October 19, 1898).  As a young man, he worked in a stave mill along the Stoney, making slats for barrels.  

There were many sawmills here around the Great Pine Swamp, there was one where Yellow Run and Stoney Creek come together.  (Joyce's grandfather Eckley's sister Lillian married a Schock who ran Schock's sawmill at Mecksville.) Archie’s kid brother Isaac too worked at the same mill, doing the timbering.

One of the Pine Swampers or Ridge Runners, as people the mountain were known, was A. W. Smith (Anna Smith's father, Curtin Gaumer's grandfather).  He was a railroad track walker and also was a "distiller of wintergreens."
































Always making do, Alexander Wilson Smith (known as "Willis") and his wife Anna secured contracts from New York City firms who procured an agreed upon number of gallons of extract a year.  the 1918 letter from Joseph H. Bowne of New York City states his firm would take twenty-five to fifty pounds at $5.25 per pound.
"A. W." and his wife Alice Smith - He was Alexander
Wilson Smith, but everyone called him "Willis."  He
worked a still but was also on the Drake's Creek
School Board.  They were parents to Annie
Smith who married Martin Gaumer, Curtin's parents.
Alice had 19 brothers and sisters.  After their daughter
Annie became an early widow, they moved into her home
in Christman's, which is today near Stoney Creek, just
up Route 903 from "This Old House."

It went into all kind of flavorings from ice cream to cough syrup.  
This is Abraham Ahner, son of Amos Ahner of Franklin Township.  He was a brother to Herman Ahner.  This
photo certainly harkens to the Bonnie and Clyde days.  Herman did know his way around the still.  In fact, our home
today still bears the scorched joists in the cellar from the day Herman's still exploded.  According to family lore,
the oil cloth on the kitchen floor above lifted off the ground and Herman's wife was scalded.  Nearly all the men
on this branch of the Ahner clan distilled spirits.  Amos had public square dances on his property during Prohibition.
Those he knew and trusted got the Applejack.  All the rest got Near-Beer.  Earning extra money with a still even ran into
Herman's offspring.  One of his sons lost all his firearms after the ATF descended upon his property in the 1980s for
operating a distilling operation.

Today, teaberry goes largely untouched here on the forest floor, synthetic flavoring being more convenient. 
The Drake's Creek School ran from October 3, 1910
to April 25, 1911 and ran for 140 days.  The calendar
was more reflective of the closeness the people of the
area held to the land.  Children were needed for farm
work from May through September.  A. W. Smith was
a school director and Annie was a student.

Joyce remembers picking teaberry leaves with her mom and grandmother Amanda Eckley (both Adam and Amanda were first generation German-Americans) at an early age.  

The sliding around on the stony forest floor on her hands and knees was tough work.  They would use a short handled wooden rake with two-inch long dowel rod tines to pull leaves and twig debris away for the five-inch tall teaberry or winter greens.
A distiller's home - Alexander "Wilson" and Alice Smith's
home near Drake's Creek.

They would take it to Paury Green who also distilled and he would sift through their burlap sacks for any foreign material, especially rocks that would drive up the cost he'd pay.  

Joyce recalls being paid five cents per pound of teaberry.  She and her cousins would try to pick at least five pounds worth for spending money for special events like their community picnics.

Other than a few times a year when they looked forward to the pin-money, most times she and her cousins would cringe when their mother of grandmother announced it was a day for picking.  It must have been difficult and dirty work, for knowing Joyce now you know how hard she works and cleans.
Annie and Martin Gaumer in early 1930s
with their only child Curtain.  Martin
died young before the start of WWII.  Annie
helped make do running a "speak easy"
on the mountain. 

Her mother would say, "Dirty windows, a dirty house."  (As well as "A dirty kitchen door sill, a dirty house.")  Note: Joyce's house is spotless.

Wintergreen can still be found in many places in Carbon County forests.  But like the huckleberry, the terrain is lacking.  Joyce cites the source of the problem due to lack of the once intentionally set brush fires.  The now frowned upon practice would burn off enough undergrowth that allowed these low growing cash crops to thrive.

Later on, once A. W. Smith gave up the still and took on the job as a bonded supervisor of the township, they would take their teaberry greens to Paury (pronounced "Purie") Green’s grocery store, who also ran a still on the side. 
An early courtship letter from Martin to Annie.  Martin's family left the mountain for the "city life" of Weissport.
This letter offers to take Anna back home Sunday if she can find a way to Weissport on Saturday.  The postcard
of 100 years ago has been replaced by more instantaneous messaging of the texts or tweets of the cellphone.

And as the Smith-Gaumer family lore goes, Curtin's grandfather would occupy his still’s slack time by making Moonshine between the wintergreen and apple harvests.  Applejack season was his favorite.  Many a hunter lodging around Lake Harmony in the late fall came calling for his cider spirits.
Joyce Gaumer poses with Curtin Gaumer's grandfather's
distilling pitcher.  The copper container caught the
drips from the copper coil, whether those drips were
from wintergreen or other mountain products.


An early picture of the Martin and Anna Guamer home.
It still stands today, relatively unchanged, near Stoney
Creek, along Route 903. 

Though some considered it bootlegging, to them it was a plain matter of making do.  Curtin’s father Martin (born May 13, 1896) died near the start of the war when Curtin was just 17, leaving both he and Anna with an extra burden.  Anna like many others on the mountain enhanced her small grocery business with a little speakeasy, selling ‘shine and beer.'

Sometimes the revenuers would come to claim their share in raids and stings.  But the Pine Swampers went on about their business, in full knowledge of those possible setbacks, just as one looked upon the coming of a hard winter, taken as a matter of course, as something one simply endured.

The final raid came in November of 1950.  The agents, dressed in the clothes of house painters, were escorted by a here to be nameless man married to Joyce’s sister Marie.  Legend says the licensed inns on the mountain paid the said man $100 to help root out the speakeasies.

Curtin Gaumer was a veteran of the Great War, surviving the beaches of Normandy.  And when he came home he reacquainted himself with Joyce, the girl next door. They married in 1949.
Curtin and Joyce Gaumer homestead next door to
Anna Gaumer's home.  Joyce and Curtin built this home
side-by-side, like that did so many other things in life.

Joyce and Curtin were as natural together as the cool beneath the pines.  When he went fishing, Joyce fished too.  They loved to fish together, occasionally traveling to Canada.  When his old Dodge truck needed a tune-up, she stood across the fender, taking care of the plugs on her side of the block just as well as Curtin took care of his.

In 1959, the wooded lot of pines and oaks next to his mother’s home and store was cleared by Curtin and Joyce with their two-man saw.  Together they drew up the prints and took the timbers to Milton Schock’s sawmill. 

Curtin loved to make homemade wines, like dandelion wine, from oranges, lemons, currants, raisins and of course sugar and dandelion.  He was a foreman on the railroad and Joyce worked in Dr. Thomas’ office and after his passing she continued working in Attorney Carol Walbert’s office.

When they both retired, they took a cross-country trip, across the north, through the Badlands, Yellowstone, to the space needle in Seattle and along the Puget Sound.  They enjoyed salmon cooked on open-grills by the Northwest Indians as well as fresh caught tuna in Oregon. 

They returned through California, saw the swallows of Capistrano, then onto Texas, and the Grand Ole Opry.  They saw Lincoln’s log cabin of his birth in Kentucky.  Joyce was struck by its primitiveness, lacking windows.  
Spring emerges with promise of life.
The horseradish emerges during the
dogwood winter in the Gaumer back yard.

Joyce set the “Dogwood Winter” as our appointed date to meet to make some horseradish, a time of the first warm days just after the last of the snow is gone, when the blooms of the Dogwood set.  Had we waited too long past the early, hoped for Spring, the horseradish would otherwise become too “pithy.”

I waited for Joyce to come home, she arrived in Curtin’s old black Dodge, her “fishin’ truck.”  Once again she showed up the men at “the Pond” up in the Swamp, catching four meaty brookie’s in less than two hours.  She soaked them in the kitchen sink while she went to work chopping up the horseradish roots. 
Joyce once again shows up the men at her favorite
fishing hole.

We saved the peelings and the tops to replant, most of which ended up on my patch, the former farmette of Herman Ahner in Franklin Township, who also knew his way around a still.  And along with it, comes the hope that the tradition will carry on. (Click here to read more on the Herman Ahner family.)  


And now, just a few weeks later, the green leaves are already reaching into the air, to produce white flowers by June.

One of the smaller roots to go into our horseradish.
The peelings though, were transplanted to the Rabenold
homestead in Franklin Township so the tradition can be
restarted at the former Herman Ahner homestead.
In talking of these old habits, of reaping sustenance from these springtime offerings, Joyce laments, as perhaps only a Dutchwoman of her generation can, of how “young people today don’t take the time to do the simple things,” like picking dandelion greens for salads and making home-made hot bacon-dressing for on top.  (The key is to pluck the leaves before the flowers emerge.) 

She was always told how dandelion was good for “cleansing the blood.”  Of course there is science today that supports this Dutch wisdom, citing dandelion’s plentiful iron and antioxidants.   

Joyce also remembers how the Swampers would forage through the hills for early spring teaberry sprouts, coming up in a deep burgundy color.  These were sought after because they too were good for the blood.



It’s the same wisdom that tells her to put bay leaves in her cupboards to keep the ants away each spring.  It’s common sense. 

We placed the pieces of horseradish root into her food processor, adding “enough vinegar (only use white vinegar) to hold it together, to make it wet.”   

We underestimated the power of our creation, it having thoroughly cleared our sinuses to such a degree that the open window wasn’t enough.  We had to finish bottling it out on the porch. 
Joyce reels from the vapor.

















We took to the porch as we were overcome by the strong horseradish vapors.

















We took our rest at the kitchen table, reflecting on our productive day over a glass of Curtin’s last bottle of dandelion wine.  It was labeled “1984.”  

We were warmed not only by our friendship and our little homesteader’s project but also by Curtin’s labors of so long ago.  

We drank a toast, to spring and to the many springtime gifts, to Curtin, and to all good things that had passed, to the simple things, to the goodness of life to come. 

 
If you have the pleasure to talk to Joyce you won't miss the joy in her voice when she speaks of her departed husband.  The two were surely happy.



 POSTNOTE:

The following account has been transcribed word-for-word from The Miami News of Palm Beach, August 18, 1928 describing the wintergreen industry in the Pocono Mountains:

Waning Wintergreen
The old mountain industries die out as we progress.  The wintergreen still, under pressure of the black birch, in on shaky legs.  A few wintergreen distillers may be found up in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania and in several adjoining states, but they grow fewer. 

The evergreen teaberry, or checker berry, is one of the commonest of mountain herbs.  It is a pretty plant.  Its flowers are white and bell shaped, its leaves of a leathery texture.  Pleasantly flavored red berries follow the blossoms, but the wintergreen is distilled from the stems and the leaves.  The checker berry grows in great abundance in the mountains of the Atlantic states and once yielded a fair income to collectors.

The remaining stills not infrequently afford a means of livelihood to several families each.  Wintergreen oil was once a common cure for rheumatism.  It is widely used now as a flavoring in cooking, medicine, chewing gum and confections.  The distiller finds a market for all he can produce, but his small-capacity plant cannot compete with the chemist who produces synthetic wintergreen or extracts, as a substitute, the oil of the black birch.

Most of the gatherers of the checker berry herb are women.  An efficient picker can collect 200 pounds a day, but the average is 125 pounds.  This is brought to the crude outfit of the distiller, who pays about $3.25 for 100 pounds.  The plants are put into the still with water.  The container is sealed airtight.  A fire beneath the great kettle boils the mixture.  The condensed vapors drip from a coil into a jar.  The oil sinks to the bottom, and the waste flows off the top.  Then the oil is filtered and sold.  The day’s production averages from two and one-half to three and one-half pounds of oil.

The distiller as a rule makes little more than 250 pounds of oil in a year.  More energetic and larger operators have produced 600 pounds, but that output is rare.

The extracting of the oil from the bark of the sweet or black birch is a forest industry which has supplanted, to a great extent, the picturesque figure of the wintergreen distiller.  In time it will be crowded out by the artificial product.  The dawning synthetic age is due to bring many changes.  It will be a more efficient, but hardly as colorful, era.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Post Two: Lehighton's Vibrant Business Moves Forward

Lehighton’s growing and prosperous industrial age population fed a vibrant downtown business atmosphere. 
The Packerton Car repair shops employed 762 men in 1901.  This number was augmented by the Packerton Store House, which was the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s supply house, employed 51 men, not to mention the Central Railroad of New Jersey employees adding another 51 men at their repair facility. 
The Mansion House Hotel also known as the Valley House.  The former
Kovatch Jeep dealership eventually took its place on North First Street.


These numbers do not count the numerous men who also worked as engineers, firemen, brakemen, track walkers, and conductors.  .  Not to mention those who worked on the Lehigh Canal as well that operated into the 1930s.

Most of these men lived in the downtown area, some living full-time in hotels, and many others stayed for short times and stop-overs, while working for the railroad.  Needless to say, Lehighton had a bustling hotel trade. 
The Henry Miller Planing Mill on the Flats in Lehighton.  Henry Miller's
mother died in a most unfortunate way.  In July 1899, at the age of
79, she fractured her skull when she fell into her well at her Franklin
Township home.  She was attempting to store some butter and some milk
in it for safe keeping.  His father was George Miller.  After Henry's death
his sons ran the operation as "Miller Brothers."  It was later succeeded
by "City Lumber Company" in the 1930s.  Photo courtesy of
Brad Haupt collection.
But there were many other businesses as well: Henry Miller’s Planing Mill (in the flats) employed 10, the Lehigh Stove Foundry and Manufacture employed another 75.  Not to mention the employees who worked on the Lehigh Canal as well. 
An early 1900s parade in Lehighton showcasing the town's self-sufficiency, this float proudly displays two models of stoves among the many manufactured items that were made in Lehighton.  Cropped photo from the Brad Haupt collection.

Joe Obert’s slaughter and meat packing house had 35 workers, the Baer Silk Mill housed a total of 264 workers in both the Throwing Mill portion of the lower levels of the mill combined with the workers in the upper levels of the Helvetia Weaving Mill.  Men made up the majority of the silk throwers at 165 to 59 female.  The weaving portion employed 25 men and 15 women. 
Here is a 1899 letterhead from Eugene Baer's silk mill written by one
of Baer's accountants to his brother E. J. Kuntz in Treichlers, PA.

In the railroad industry, less than one percent of the workers were younger than twenty-one.  Not true in the silk mills.  A fair percentage was not only younger than adult age but since the mills were allowed to legally employ children down to the age of 13, a fair to large portion of their workers were young.  

Of the 264 workers at Eugene Baer’s mill, 174 of them were under the age of twenty-one.  (That’s 65%.)  Breaking the 174 under twenty-one down further, 47 boys and 20 girls were below sixteen.  That’s 25% of their work force.  Thank goodness our youth have video games today!

Eugene Baer was a third-generation silk weaver.  His parents were Jacob and Louise (Blattner) Baer who were born in Switzerland.  Jacob Baer learned the trade from his father John F. Baer.  Jacob immigrated to the U.S. in 1856 and his son Eugene was born in Patterson New Jersey in 1868.  After a few ups and downs in the business, Jacob once again established his own silk factory in 1888, calling it the Helvetia Silk Mill.  From that time until the early 1900s, it was the leading employer of all Paterson.

The Lehighton plant was built in 1898 being one of the largest employers of that kind in town.  He was also one of the largest shareholders of Citizens' National Bank when it formed.  He married Miss Cora B. Tice in December 1889 and had six children, only the last of which was born in Lehighton: Cora E., Geneviece L., Eugene W. and Rose L. were twins, and Carlos A. and Margie E.

(I have many great uncles who worked in the mills at a young age.  One was killed after a flying shuttle broke free and injured him in the head.  He died on account of the infection that set in.  He was only fourteen.) 
The first three streets of Lehighton buzzed with activity.  There were many homes there for these workers and families, all nestled within the businesses that wished to cater to them. 

With taut backs and gritty skin, these men sought out a strong drink and a good cigar to soften the blows of the day.  The many taprooms and hotels accommodated this need as well as the numerous cigar manufacturers that existed in town too.  (See Post #1 and Isborn S. Koch cigar maker who solved a mysterious death.) 
The Leuckel Building as it stood over 100 years ago.  It was housed a bank and the post office and was considered a modern building of its day.  Photo courtesy of Brad Haupt.

One of many early business people who came here near penniless was Frederick Leuckel.  Born in Hessen Germany in 1807, he came to America trained as a butcher with $40.  He first started a meat market in Easton and then opened one in Lehighton in 1834.  By 1875 his meat market earned him enough to retire, having invested in real estate and stocks in the First National Bank of Lehighton, the First and Second National Banks of Mauch Chunk, and the First National Bank of Catasauqua.  

His son John amassed a fortune of his own in pottery factories in New Jersey.  He oversaw the construction of the Leuckel Building, a most prominent of the modern buildings of the downtown business sector in 1894.  It house the bank and the post office.  In 1928 Samuel Sondheim had a store there as well.  In the 1980s it was Rea & Derrick Drugs and is today a dentist office.

Both Frederick and son John Leuckel died in 1899 within five months of each other.  John had sotmach trouble and was only sixty.  He was never married. 
The Steam Laundry of Lehighton was owned by "J. D. Kistler,"  It
is unclear if this was owned by Daniel "Jacob" Kistler.  It was located
between the Carbon House and T. D. Clauss's tailor shop on North First.
Photo courtesy of Brad Haupt.

One business owner who bridged the gap from the old horse and buggy days was a man by the name of Daniel “Jacob” Kistler (1862-).  (Daniel’s father was also named Daniel prompting him to sign papers by his rightful name, but preferred to be called “Jacob.”) 
Daniel "Jacob" Kistler owned this livery which would be located in the
parking lot of the bank at North and First Streets, below present
day Lehighton Memorial Library.  Photo courtesy of Brad Haupt.

He owned Kistler’s Livery on North Street in Lehighton, located in what is today the bank parking lot by the Lehighton Memorial Library.  One could rent a horse and buggy there for $2 a day in the 1890s.   



But Kistler too was a smart businessperson.  He saw the newly rising automobile as a challenge to his old business, so he branched out into the lucrative Lehighton hotel trade.  He bought the Lehighton Exhange Hotel, scene to at least one trolley mishap (click here).  At first he partnered with George Reichard, but later continued it on his own.

The former tannery business started by the Olewine family atop land
originally tamed by the Moravians later became the Penn Lace building.
The building still stands catty-corner from the Baer Silk Mill, which is
now the Body and Soul Complex owned by Woody Frey on Bridge St.
Photo courtesy of Brad Haupt.
Kistler married Minnie Reichard (1868-before 1930).  They had at least two children, Mahlon who took over many of his father’s business holdings and a daughter Mary who married Lee Gaumer.  Jacob lived in his widowhood with his daughter on Lentz Ave into the 1930s.  He continued operating the Penn Lace Mill Company, catty-corner from the Eugene Baer Silk Mill on Bridge St, until that time.

The Lehighton Exchange Hotel, later to be called the Hotel Lehighton, not only housed Mr. and Mrs Kistler, but partner Reichard and six servants who did the cooking and cleaning lived there as well.  Sometime after around 1904, one of those cooks at the hotel was Alma Young, the recently widowed wife of Theodore Young.  She was the mother of Marcus V. Young, the founder of Young’s Bakery (More on the Youngs in Post Three.) 
Lehighton Exchange Hotel owned by Kistler and Reichard.  Photo courtesy
of Brad Haupt collection.  The scene of at least one trolley crash (click here 
for link to post of Blakslee's Trolleys.)

In 1900, the hotel also had twenty-one permanent resident customers as well.  Among them were two ambitious young men who boarded there: Benjamin Losos and Samuel Sondheim.  They were partners in gentleman’s clothing and they ran their first business in the front corner store of the Obert Packing house building.  The later had other locations in Lehighton and Mauch Chunk as well.

There was I. S. Koch’s cigar factory employed eight men and two women.  A. F. Diefenderfer, also in cigars employed 5 men.  These were just two names of at least five cigar factories that existed in downtown Lehighton.  There was a Kutz Cigar store near the Carbon House (which was located on the corner below the library where the bank is today.)  This was next door to Tilghman Clauss (and later son Frank Clauss) and his tailor shop (More Clauss genealogy can be found in Post 1.)
T. D. Clauss's tailor shop in 1900.  Photo
courtesy of Paula Kistler Ewaniuk.
For more on T. D. Clauss, see Post One by clicking here.

Lehighton also had a fair number of candy confectioners, premise-made ice cream shops, as well as bread and pastry bakers and ones that also specialized in pretzel baking.

Area bakers were T. E. Arner (employed 3 men), C. W. Laury (employed 5 and 1) and F. A. Graver (2 men and 2 women).  All were bakers in Weissport.   John B. Coles of Lehighton employed three men and a woman, of those, two were under twenty-one, one of those was under sixteen.    Lehighton also had Leopold A. Kuehn who employed 4 men and 1 woman.  All of them baked bread and pastries but Graver of Weissport specialized in bread and pretzels.

Benjamin K. Culton started as a confectioner in the 1890s, and sometime around 1900 bought out the bakery of George Snyder on First Street.  He became the third husband of Maria Horn Nusbaum Guth who amassed a small fortune as a hat-maker.  (See Post One for the Maria Culton Empire story.)  

According to a current long-time Lehighton resident, that bakery was located in the basement of what was once “Rene’s Beauty Salon,” catty-corner from “Alfies Pizza” of today.  As a young child of about twelve, young Marcus V. Young got his start in the baking business with Culton.  “Bums,” or hobos, were said to line the streets in those days.   

Part of Marcus’s job was to run trays of pastries across the still dirt First St to the storage area in the basement of Obert’s building.  And each day he’d risk his job by nudging a pastry to the ground to help feed these men who seemed to line the street at times.   (More on this in Post Three.)
One of several early Lehighton bakers, J. B. Cole of either First or Second St.  This photo looks like a residence of Second St.  Photo courtesy of Bill Schwab.

Both the building housing Culton’s bakery and the building housing Losos and Sondheim’s clothing store, the front office and housing of Joe Obert’s meat packing business were owned by Obert. 

Joe Obert not only owned one of the largest slaughter houses of anywhere in the immediate vicinity, but he held a fair amount of other property holdings in the downtown such as his Bone Meal Grinding Mill down on the flats. 

Shortly after emigrating here at the age of 20 in 1841, he established himself first as a cabinet maker and then he went into farming.  Later he ran a grocery and dry goods store among many property holdings all along First Street.    

By 1867, these ventures grew into the slaughter house, at first and mainly in pigs.  The entire works burned to the ground in 1875.  But he rebuilt it, better than before, a 4-story mammoth brick building, unlike any other slaughter house in the whole Lehigh Valley.  In 1897, the year of Obert’s death, he had recently added a $25,000 addition to the building. 
Joseph Obert was among the many who came here near penniless and was able to build a substantial fortune.  To the rear of the photo you can see the huge four-story meat slaughtering facility.  The photographer is standing amid the stock pen, as evidenced by the partial picket fence in the foreground left.  The business in the right of the building (today's "Alfie's Pizza") was the first clothing shop of partners Losos and Sondheim.  If you download this picture from the Brad Haupt collection, you will see a cast of characters: An older man with a white beard dressed ala Abe Lincoln hidden amid the ivy covering the building, a clean and dirty butcher in white in the front, and a few creepy looking mannequins in front of the clothing shop.  According to lore, pastries from the former George Snyder/Benjamin K. Culton Bakery were stored in the basement of this building.  Photo courtesy of the Brad Haupt collection.  See the end of this post for some high resolution close-ups of the people in this picture.

The above two advertisements appeared
in the 1928 Lehighton "Gachtin Bambil
yearbook and apparently shows
the eventual separation of the
Sondheim and Losos partnership.












Joseph married Catherine Heberling of Kreidersville on December 26th, 1849.  They had four sons and a daughter: John (1850-1921), Charles (1858-1921), William (1861-1936), Franklin (1868-1951) and Emma (1865-1939) who married Henry B. Kennell.  Catherine died on the very first day of 1900. 
All the sons and Kennell served in various managerial capacities and as officers of the corporation after Joseph’s death in 1897 and into the 1930s.    All lived in and around the Second to Fourth Street area.  All are buried in Lehighton Cemetery.
Another ad from the 1928 Lehighton yearbook placed by the Obert family.

The Obert and Bretney families were connected in friendship.  Clinton Bretney the cobbler, at the age 65, was one of a few friends who bore up the industrious and philanthropic Obert’s pall at his funeral.

The Thomas Bretney family lived at 120 South Second St in Lehighton.  The building still stands across the alley from today’s Lehighton Hardware.  Thomas (1850) was known to be both a confectioner and a baker of bread.  He was of the youngest sons of shoe cobbler Henry (1803-1881; the first of three Henrys) and Salome (Beck) Bretney (1809-1883) of the Mahoning Valley.  (They are both buried at St. John’s Cemetery.)
The father son Bretney's bakery
and photo studio.  Photo courtesy of Brad Haupt Collection.

Thomas operated his business from about 1900 until about 1920.  His son Clement “Clem” (1873-) ran Lehighton’s well-known photography studio right along-side of his father’s bakery. 

One of the oldest of Henry and Salome’s children was their son Clinton Bretney (1833-) who followed his father in the shoemaking business.  He had a son named Henry II (1856-) who became the cashier at the First National Bank in Lehighton. 

He and his wife had four children: Clara (1879-), Charles (1880-), Bessie (1882-), and Florence (1887-).  Clara was a school teacher and Florence stayed with her mother, unemployed much of her early adult life until she became a telephone operator around the time of her father’s death. 

It was son Charles who followed in his father’s career in the banking trade, taking one of his first jobs as cashier of a bank in Lynn Township.  Here, he started his family and where his eldest son Henry Bretney III (1909-1992) was born. 

Henry and his wife Dorothy lived at the corner of Seventh and Coal Sts for many years.  He started out as a clerk in a butcher shop and soon started his life’s work as a gas station attendant.  He owned and operated the Atlantic (later ARCO) service station at Seventh and Mahoning since the late 1930s and on up through the 1970s until he sold it to Joe Muffley in 1978. 
The Bretney Bakery and Photo Studio behind what looks to be Henry Bretney III's father Charles.  The car is a 1910.  In 1910 Charles would have been about 30 years old.  The man behind the wheel to me looks to be the spitting image of the same Henry who owned the ARCO station on Mahoning St for many years of my childhood.

Henry’s character is embedded in our family history as I was growing up.  My older brothers and I all spent time there.  We’d sip 10-oz returnable A-Treat sodas from his refrigerator at 25 cents a pop, placing the debt on Dad’s open account.  (We were entitled to one soda a week by Dad.)  We’d listen to the parade of characters and old time and unique expressions of this cagey, somewhat cantankerous and extremely lovable man. 

I can remember how one neighborhood youngster would parade around the station, the staccato bangings of the his “Big Wheel’s” front tire onto the ground, along with what must have been to Henry some annoying whoops and unreasonable shouting of youth as the child seemingly circled the station in an endless cycle. 

As I remember it, there truly was something significantly amiss in that family.  Henry would catch one look at this child and a visible shift in his load would take place.  A load of dismay that could only be shed with the muttering refrains that would trail off into a whisper: “Strange child…strange child...”

One of Henry’s hallmarks was his drawn out “sunna-ya-beech.”   This could be heard anytime something upset the cosmos of Henry’s life.   Anything from low-grade dismay to amazement to out and out frustration could elicit one. 

To me, he embodied what small town supporting characters were all about, someone right out of a Frank Capra movie, complete in his winter jumpsuit and his trumpet gold 1966 Olds Toronado.  Henry certainly had a taste in cars much like his father.
Henry Bretney's 1966 Olds Toronado.  

One story my brother loves to tell centers on a spooked deer that ran into town one afternoon.  As Randy remembers, it was a long “sunna-ya-beech” as the animal crossed Mahoning Street, reaching a peak of faster, more intense ones after the poor animal broke its neck when it slammed into a house on South Seventh St. 

The buck was flailing, sending Henry scrambling for his snub-nosed 32-caliber from the storage area of his garage bay.  Just then, Postman Hinkle arrived on the scene, halting Henry’s plan and supplanted it with his own: to give a “clean” death he’d use his pen knife. 

It turned into a spectacle fury of cursing and fur that ended with Hinkle’s postal blues covered in blood.
Perhaps one of the last vestiges of that former time of our town of Lehighton, a link to the past that will never return, was working at Henry’s station after Joe Muffley took over. 

Henry always seemed to have been from another time.  And even though both men were veterans of the WWII, Henry was nearly twenty years older than Joe.  When ownership was passed onto Joe, even my young eyes could sense the shift from that older time of our past, dawning into a new generation of Lehighton business. 

The Carbon County Fair was just a few blocks west of the station and Joe’s business depended on the influx of travelers during that week.  Perhaps for Joe, the annual demolition derby of the Fair was his release, an opportunity to once again exhilarate him to a bit of danger within a perhaps mundane civilian life.

I guess you could say at the young age of 12 I was already a relic, a carryover from the Bretney to the Muffley days.  New in the business, Joe had a conundrum during fair week.  He didn’t want to miss competing in the demolition derby but he surely couldn’t miss the evening business of Fair Week either. 

It was 1980 and I don’t believe most of any places had “self-serve” yet, at least nowhere in Lehighton.  Joe asked me to work the two nights of the derby and I remember how thrilled I was to have such a glorious job!  This, I was certain, was every young boy’s dream come true.  To run a gas station alone.  

I suppose Joe’s faith in me was rooted in my early retail experience at Haas’s Store at Fifth and Coal Sts.  It was the family business started by my grandfather.  It was a place were I had worked  since my early grade school days on up through high school.

Even though most people paid in cash, I remember with anxiousness how Joe showed me how to operate the all manual credit card machine: how the card laid in the bed of the machine, how you set the numbers of the amount with these handles that stuck up and went click-click as you moved them to the right amount, how there was no “authorization” then, how you took the card in faith, and how they signed the triplicate carbon copy in the car, and how the merchant only got the money after mailing the forms into the credit company.

To this day, I cannot remember exactly how I was to close down or until what time I stayed open.  I do remember doing it more than once and I can remember Joe coming for my relief once or twice, but I too remember how I’d padlock the two pumps, the blue one with “unleaded” that no one bought because it was more expensive, and the red pump with “regular.” 

I seem to remember the sun going down, the gaining darkness, trying to remember if I took care of everything.  I can still feel the rather small silver door knob of the half-glass white wooden door in my hand, sensing that it was locked, and that brief moment of uncertainty I felt just before I pulled it all the way shut.  I did not have a key to re-enter.  Had I had a good reason or need to go back in I would have been stuck.  

Funny how that knot in my stomach returns to me now just thinking about those early days of responsibility.
Maybe it was just Joe or maybe it was it was a totally different time than the one in which we currently live.  But even so, I admire Joe and his faith in me. 

And that is how this chapter of history closes, like all those doors of our past that we can no longer open.

Well Henry and Joe, if you’re out there listening somewhere, know that you are missed.  I think of you fondly.
Joe Muffley: World War II veteran and
 gas station owner.



 John Faga's Sewing Machines and Organs - Not sure who the men were but it is interesting just the same.  Their manner of pose and how the one man, perhaps a butcher in the slaughter house with some sort of dirt, while the worker next to him is clean as a whistle. 

Another man who looks to work in daily grim highlights the people in the yard in the finest of the day.  Interesting how everyone in this frame is intently focused on the photographer yet most look like their days couldn't be more different.

These wardrobe models really have a time period look in style and in their apparent stiffness compared to modern ones.

The Leuckel family plot as it looks in Lehighton Cemetery today.  The First Ward School is in the background.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Connecting the Dots of Lehighton Business Post 1: The Maria Culton Empire

When discussing turn of the century business, most of the talk usually focuses on the accomplishments of men.  Seldom and few opportunities existed for most women in those days.  Most often than not, an ambitious and career-minded woman would end up on a pathway of frustration and sorrow rather than to feel the upward slant of the ladder of success. 
This turn of the century photo of downtown Lehighton
is taken from the bottom of South St looking toward
South First Street in the vicinity where Maria Culton
owned property and where Benjamin K. Culton ran
a bakery for about twenty years.  Photo is courtesy of
Bill Schwab.

However, there was one Lehighton area women who was able to buck that trend: The thrice married Maria Horn Nusbaum Guth Culton.  
(This is part one of three posts focusing on the interconnected business families of the Lehighton area from 100 years ago.  Post two and three will show some of these families and their transcendence into modern times.)
POST TWO (click here)
Buried along with one of her daughters and granddaughters along Fourth Street, between the towering obelisks of Brinkman and Beltz, is the lone and tall rectangular memorial to Mrs. Maria Culton.  The memorial attests to the wealth she amassed. 

If given a second look, most passersby would more than likely assume she either was born into it or married into the money.  It was Maria’s intelligence and hard work that allowed her to climb.  She was self-propelled. She earned it all on her own.
This is Mariah "Mary" (Strauch) Rabenold in the late 1920s or
early 1930s at the corner of South and First Sts Lehighton.
.  She was a "milliner" here in Lehighton at
the same time Maria and Belle ran their hat business.

Her story begins with the marriage of Christian and Catherine (Davis) Horn of “North Whitehall” Township.  Shortly after their wedding they lived near Ben Salem Church in Andreas.  They baptized four of their children there: George in 1807, Esther in 1814, Hermann in 1816 and Rebeka in 1817.  (There is no clear reason for the gap in time between George and Esther.)

According to a 1910 Lehighton Press retelling, Christian Horn was an “influential pioneer in this vicinity.”  He was known to be a butcher by trade but was also known to have operated a tavern on Bankway in the 1840s.  It was said to be near the end of the wooden covered bridge that spanned the river into Weissport.
A copy of Christian Horn's 100-acre land grant application.  It is unclear
whether the word written on the second page said the land or payment
was "received" or perhaps "retracted" in March of 1839.  He applied
for the land in Lausanne Township in 1834.  He was never understood
to have taken up residence there.

In 1834 Horn applied for a 100-acre land grant in Lausanne Township (up the Lehigh River a small ways from Mauch Chunk).  The claim was either settled or withdrawn in 1839. 

Later, sometime after July of 1850, his wife Catherine dies.  For reasons not known, Christian then relocated to Somerset County where he died in 1859 at the age of 75.    (There are two men, known to be possible brothers of Christian, buried in Weissport’s Bunker Hill Cemetery: Abraham Horn (1784-1851) and Jacob Horn (1775-1867).)

Though some of his at least ten offspring appear to have spread themselves far and wide, it appears that five of them stayed in the Lehighton area: Herman, Sarah, Amanda, Eliza and Maria.  Herman Horn served in the Civil War and lived his retirement years in Bethlehem.  He was appointed for a few short months to 1st Lieutenant of Company A of 4th PA Cavalry. 

Sarah Horn (1819 to 1897) was a wife of James Conner (both are buried in Parryville).  Amanda married John Arner of the Weissport area who was a carpenter, employee of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company and at one time served Carbon as County Commissioner.
This picture was taken before Citizen's National Bank was built
in the burned out section of buildings.  The Lehighton Hi-Rise
would be out of frame to the right.  The Leuckel Building seen here still
has the sign reaching off the roof centered between the finales, but
today it retains the name of a previous owner "White's Trading."
The building to the left of that is 115/119 North First Street.  The left
 side was the site of Elias Snyder's Drugstore and the basement was
the location of his suicide.  The burned out building was last owned by
T. C. Horn Drugs from 1900 until the fire in 1908 or 1909.  Previous to Horn
it was owned by A. P. Faucet.

Eliza Horn (1833-1914) married Elias H. Snyder (1833-1903) who owned one of Lehighton’s first drugstores.  He started it as early as 1875.  It was located at 119 N. First St.  Elias was the “Honorable” E. H. Snyder as he served in the legislature for Carbon County in 1883. 

The Lehighton Press was the town paper run by David McCormick (1873-1933) and later by his son Robert (1899-1986) at 131/133 North First St.  McCormick employed six men and one woman back in 1903, two of which were under twenty-one years old.  The Press ran the following “newslet” in August of 1903 in honor of Eliza and Elias’s forty-third wedding anniversary, containing a bit of irony:
“Both are traveling down the shady side of life and are enjoying good health.  Long life to our neighbors.”
The graves of David and Bertha McCormick as they
lay in Gnaden Hutten Cemetery in Lehighton.  David
and later his son Robert were Lehighton's sole
journalists from the 1890s up until around 1949.
The green double-door building was Elias Snyder's drugstore from 1875 until 1903.  The real estate became part of Maria Culton's estate sometime after that.  Elias was Maria's sister Eliza's husband.  You can compare this modern
Lehighton view with the century old picture above.  The brown and white building, the former Rea and Derrick and later Putty White's Trading in the 1980s and 1990s was originally built by father and son Frederick and John Leuckel.  Both men died in 1899 from separate illnesses.  You can see the a picture of that building in Post Two of downtown Lehighton businesses by clicking here.

But Elias did not live a “long life” after this printed. 
Maria was the youngest.  Her mother died in the summer of 1850 and given that her father left the area shortly after that might have impelled Maria to marry at the early age of fifteen.

Maria’s first husband was Charles Nusbaum.  He was born in Germany and in 1860 was working as a “brewer.”  (There were two beer bottlers in the area by the 1890s, but I cannot find a beer brewery anywhere.)

Besides young Charles, they also had a young women by the name of Susanna Hoffman (age 18) and a woman named Caherine Oberle (age 25) living with them.  Oberle was also born in Germany.    

Charles and Maria had three children together: Charles H.(1857-1917), Emma C. (1860-1922), and Belle (1862-1926).  Charles H. Nusbaum was known as “one of Weissport’s best known businessmen.”  Mrs. Belle Nusbaum Meredith, herself a strong business sensed woman like her mother, ironically too became widowed at an early age.  And daughter Emma C. Nusbaum, married Oliver A. Clauss of Lehighton. 

Nusbaum’s death on June 13, 1862 left Maria alone for a time.  Perhaps it was during the war, with so many men away caught up in the fight, which gave Maria the time to establish herself as an independent woman.

Maria’s future husband John Guth had been born in Guthsville.  He and his brother Alfred moved to Weissport sometime before the start of the war.  It is not known if she knew John before he enlisted, but both John and Maria’s brother Herman Horn served in 
What John Guth's Company A 4th PA Cavalry
tombstone looked like to ardent Civil War researcher
Joe Nihen of Lansford when this picture was taken
a few years ago.  Even though perhaps vandals have
taken this marker, thanks for Nihen's efforts we
still at least have a visual reminder of this man's
service to our country.

Company A of the 4th PA Cavalry together. Herman was an officer and John was a “farrier” (hoof groomer) and later became the company blacksmith.  (Herman resigned only after a few months over his “irritability” of not being named as company commander.)   
John’s brother Alfred also fought in the war. He served in Company B of the 176th PA Volunteers.  Herman’s short tenure ran from August to December of 1861.  John however served nearly the entire length of the Civil War in the 4th Cavalry from August of 1861 until July of 1865. 

(There were at least three other Weissport residents who also served in the 4th Cavalry.  Joseph and Thomas Connor, a father and son also served.  According to Captain William Hyndman from Mauch Chunk and officer in the 4th Cavalry, Thomas was “wild and daring.” 
Joseph C. Conner served in the 4th Cavalry
along with John Guth.  Joseph
served for nearly the whole war mustering out
with his second son Wilford in July of 1865.
Joe continued to fight despite being present
at the loss of his first son Thomas at Kelly's
Ford in the spring of 1863.

Thomas was shot at Kelly’s Ford Virginia and died at Judiciary Square Hospital in Washington D.C. on May 19, 1863.  His father Joseph was said to be on hand when he went down.  Joseph continued serving until another son, Wilford reached enlistment age. 

Joseph and Wilford would serve out the war together.  Joseph returned to Weissport and is buried in Bunker Hill.  It is unclear what happened to Wilford after he mustered out in July of 1865.  He most likely did not return here. Thomas is most likely buried in a mass grave somewhere near D.C.)
Susanna Conner stands quietly amid Bunker Hill's snow.
Often times the grieving mother is a forgotten
part of many Civil War stories.  Her mind must
have been terribly worried while both her
husband and eldest son served.  She surely had an
 even heavier burden of worry after Wilford also signed on.

So it was that Maria married her second husband John Guth sometime after the summer of 1865.  In May 1867 Maria’s fourth and final child was born, daughter Lillian Guth.  It is not known if the war negatively impacted John’s health, but John died at the young age of forty, leaving Maria to grieve yet another husband.

It was during her second time of grief as a single woman from September of 1874 until the mid-1880s that saw the rise of Maria’s business empire. 

It wasn’t easy.  Records show that Maria gave her children over to her sister Eliza and her drug store husband Elias Snyder to help raise them.  Though the papers only credit her youngest child Lillian Guth (1868-before 1930) as being their “adoptive” child, the records show the other children were also living with the Snyders for at least part of this time.

With her hat manufacturing business in full swing and her children off and being successful in their own right, Maria certainly was in no urgent need to marry for convenience.  There was no reason why Maria couldn’t marry solely for love.  And that, according to the press accounts, is exactly what she did.  

For husband number three, she chose a man twelve years her junior.  Perhaps it was blind love or perhaps she was simply trying to ensure she’d never bury another husband again, but after ten years of marital solitude, Maria united with fellow Lehighton businessperson Benjamin K. Culton (1851-1937).  

Surely even if it wasn’t for love, no one would shame Maria for securing such a “trophy husband.” 

The 1900 census record bears witness to Maria’s strong disposition.  Rare for this time-period, Maria listed herself as “head” of the household in front of her fairly successful businessman husband B. K. Culton.
T. D. Clauss was an early tailor and founding member of the town of
Lehighton.  His clothing store was located at 130/132 North First
Street next to Kutz Cigar Store.  To the left of this picture is would be the
corner of North Street where the bank is today and Blue Ridge Cable
would be a few doors and across the alley to the right of this photo.
The older gentleman looks to be T. D. Clauss himself.  This photo
appears courtesy of Paula Kistler Ewaniuk, T.D.'s great,
great granddaughter.

Besides burying two husbands of her own, Maria would be called upon to help her grieving sister Eliza.  In December of 1902, Elias Snyder, the longtime Lehighton druggist, set upon his normal and methodically mundane morning duties: He tended the fires, fixed a kettle of tea, and saw to the filling of the coal box next to the stove. 

Within only a few moments of when witnesses recalled seeing him sweeping the sidewalks in front of his store, he sat himself upon a crate before a mirror at a basement workbench.  Taking deliberate aim, he raised the muzzle of his thirty-two caliber pistol to his right temple and put a hole through his head. 

It was said that he was upset about a recent kidney issue and he was worried over the slow decline of his business.  His behavior was indicative of the popular thinking of the time of having a “clean” death, one in which a person has the time to put his affairs in order.  It was the same thinking that placed a death by consumption (tuberculosis) as romantic, virtuous, and noble. 

B. K. Culton was an interesting character in Lehighton’s history.  He was born in Shamokin to a family of coal miners.  He and all his siblings, including allegedly a sister, all worked for the mine company.  He came to Lehighton and quickly embedded himself here.

He was a councilman, served on the first board of trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church on South First St, and was one of the initial members of the Carbon County Historical Society that formed in 1914. 

As early as 1893, Culton had a confectionery and toy store on First Street, selling ice cream at thirty cents a quart and eighty-five cents a gallon.

All told, with her union to Culton, Maria and her family were a formidable force in the Lehighton/Weissport business community.  Her widowed daughter Belle Meredith helped Maria manager her shops and business holdings as an equal partner.   Her son Charles Nusbaum and his dressmaker wife owned several Weissport stores. 
Perhaps this is an example of the Culton millinery
handiwork.  This is Leila Weiss of Weissport around
1918.  She was born in 1893 to John and Jeannette
(Spohn) Weiss.  She worked as a telephone
operator in her 20s and later a stenographer in
a real estate firm before marrying her husband Ed
Murley when she was in her 40s.  She is buried
in Union Hill Cemetery.  Photo appears courtesy
of Paula Ewaniuk.

Maria’s youngest child, Lillian Guth (1868-after 1930), married Aaron F. Snyder (1858-after 1930).  She also ran her own dress shop and millinery.  Her husband Aaron had a hand in several businesses, starting out as a furniture maker and an undertaker in the home of what later became the Heller Funeral Home in Weissport.  He also sold pianos, organs, and sewing and washing machines. 

In the 1890s, Snyder sold “Western” washers with ringers for $7.50, without for $5.00.  He sold pianos from $180 to $325 and sewing machines for $25-$35.  In one month in 1893 Snyder once claimed to have sold over 600 washing machines.  His brother Milton owned and operated “Snyder’s Popular Bazaar” across the canal near the start of Main Road (a parking lot is there now on the right).
Here is a scan from Eckhart's "History of Carbon County" of Aaron
Snyder's brother Milton's store on Main Road.  Today it is a parking lot
just above the four-way stop.

Maria’s daughter Emma Nusbaum married Oliver Clauss of Lehighton.  Clauss too was the product of  Lehighton business, he was the son of Tilghman D. Clauss.  T. D.’s tailor shop on First Street employed five people.  He was also an early town leader and judge of elections in the 1860s.

T. D.'s father Daniel owned the building at 130/132 North First Street since 1875.  T. D. and his wife ran the hotel at Normal Square for five years starting in 1857.  After that, he began establishing himself as a tailor on First St.  He died in 1901 and his son Frank Clauss took it over the following year and ran it there until 1908.   

T. D.'s other son, Oliver Clauss, was a clerk at the court house in 1900 and ten years later he and Emma Nusbaum Clauss moved to Wilkes-Barre where he was a bookkeeper in a brewery.  They raised their family there, but they are buried in the Gnaden Hutten cemetery.
Oliver was the son of Lehighton tailor T. D. Clauss.  Here
are Oliver and Emma's headstones from the Gnaden Hutten
Cemetery.  Photos courtesy of Paula Kistler Ewaniuk who
is a great great granddaughter of Tilghman Clauss.

At least two of Maria’s employees were from Hazleton.  Miss Annie Hartig and Leona Celiax.  Celiax was the “head trimmer” for years and married Horace Strang of Philadelphia in September 1909. 

Maria must have been an affable woman to work for, because on more than one occasion, the newspaper retold accounts of birthdays and
Emma Nusbaum Clauss was the youngest daughter of
Maria Horn Nusbaum Guth Culton.  Emma and her husband
Oliver lived in Wilkes-Barre for a time after the were
first married.
anniversaries of Maria’s family, which included the names of some of her employees as guests. 

One employee, Miss Elsie Rouse was allowed a leave of absence when she was summoned home to her home in Clayton, New Jersey after her mother died.  She had been attempting to start a fire using coal oil when she suffered fatal burns.

At times the lines between employee and family seemed to have been blurred as the 1900 census record indicates.  Starting with the employees living with Maria and Ben at their White St., Weissport home were: Carrie Heintzelman, clerk as well as were Effie Brumbaugh, Edith Clark and Leona Celiax, who were all “milliner trimmers” in their early twenties. 

The household also included Belle, who was already widowed, and her eleven year old daughter Marguerite (1888-1955).  Seventy-three year old Alfred Guth (1826-1907), brother to her second husband also lived there with his forty-three year old, never married daughter Josephine, known as “Phoena” (1856-1936). 

Maria’s niece “Phoena” was living there as Maria’s “servant.”  Forty-two year old Maria Roth was also live-in servant help.  Also boarding there was twenty-two-year-old Ammon Metzger who was a clergyman.

As much good as having a strong feminist role model as they had in their boss, few of Maria’s employees seem to have made a longtime career in the trade after they married.  Annie Hartig married Alvin Pohl of Weissport in June of 1897 and Carrie Heintzelman who was at least a ten year employee married Frank Wilson of Mauch Chunk in June of 1900. 

When my own grandmother married in Lehighton in September of 1911, she listed her occupation as “milliner.”  No one in our family ever heard of her working in the hat trade while married.  (She did, however, work at the Baer Silk Mill after she was widowed in 1950.)
This is a scan of Mary Strauch Rabenold's September 1911 wedding
application.  Her family moved to Allentown sometime before 1910.
Mary was able to support herself for more than a year in the hat-making
trade.

Benjamin Culton was not immune to tragedy either.  In the spring of 1904, he received the sad news of the premature death of his brother back in Shamokin.  Then a month later, Ben’s dead brother’s son George, a station agent in Lewisburg, was run over and killed by a train. 

Compounding this, a week later someone broke into his nephew’s house and stole $400 cash, of which, $150 was from his father’s death pension.  The final insult came in the spring of 1909 when he learned of the death of his 45-year-old brother George.

Also in 1909, Culton was called upon to try to solve the murder mystery of civil war veteran Henry Koch of Lehighton.  Koch, who lived across the street from Schafer’s saloon on North Second Street, and who was known to take residence there from time to time as caretaker, was found shot dead there in February of 1909.  Culton served on the inquest jury for the case in which no culprit was ever found. 

Another First Street business owner was Isborn S. Koch (1850 to c.1930).  He started manufacturing “fine Havanan” cigars in Lehighton in 1876.  
Here is a scan of I. S. Koch's "fine Havana Cigars" in Lehighton.  He
operated the manufacture and sales of his cigars from the late 1800s into
the 1920s.

(According to the town census records, up until about 1920, the preferred spelling of cigar was “segar.”) 

Koch employed ten people, eight of whom were men and two were women in 1903.  Two employees from the 1890s were Preston Koch and James Yenser.  In the early 1900s, two other employees were A.D. Buck and John Rehr.  These names were mentioned in Lehighton Press accounts of that time as working there.  One man was referred to as employed in “the rolling of the weed at I. S. Koch’s.”   

Isborn Koch married Ellen (1857-) and they had two of their three children live to adulthood.  Martha (1883-) married South First Street jeweler Harry J. Dotter. Their wedding was by today’s standards unusual in that it was held on a Tuesday at noon.  It took place in Koch’s “finely decorated home,” presided over by the family relative Bishop W. F. Heil of Illinois.

Isborn and Ellen’s son Howard worked for his brother-in-law Dotter’s jewelry store as a “watchmaker” in 1920 and listed his occupation as just a “jewelry store clerk” in 1940.

This is a photo from a large collection of turn of the century photos of
downtown Lehighton businesses discovered and owned by Brad Haupt.
It could be the jewelry and clock shop of Henry J. Dotter from about 1910
where Howard Koch worked as a "clockmaker."  Obviously it is possible
to be any number of Lehighton jewelers as well.
I. S. Koch was involved in helping to solve a local suicide mystery in an odd occurrence of happenstance.  In September of 1900, the body of a man was discovered in the Packerton Yard.  It was determined that the man had purchased a bottle of carbolic acid from a drugstore in Mauch Chunk and swallowed the deadly dose in a freight car.  The man’s age was estimated at thirty-three years of age and he was buried in the “common ground” of the Lehighton Cemetery. 

While talking to customers on a routine business sweep through the lower Lehigh Valley, Koch was able to connect the unidentified man to a missing butcher from Richlandtown near Quakertown.  His name was George J. Jones and he had a wife and two children.  It was fully expected that his family would reinter his body closer to his home.

It appears that as Maria Culton was putting her own affairs in order too, and in doing so, she once again showed her strong feminist side.  It was customary to bequeath inheritance and especially family businesses to the eldest son.  Even if there were older sister siblings, the oldest son usually got everything.  Not so in Maria’s family.

She bypassed her eldest child, son Charles Nusbaum, having proven himself a rather apt businessperson of his own.  Instead Maria chose to trust her younger two daughters with handling her estate.
On February 17, 1910, the awaited inevitability happened when Maria succumbed to a long struggle with stomach cancer. 

Among the many residential and business properties in her impressive $70,000 estate were several homes along First Street, including her hat “emporium” located at 123 S. First St.  It also included the manufacturing factory located at the end of the bridge in Weissport.  

(This factory building would later become the Hofford Mill textile mill and is owned by Tommy McEvilly today.  It is unclear how much of that building was used for making hats.  However Maria owned the entire located that included a foundry and the onetime power plant built there in the early 1890s.) 

She also owned the three-story brick apartment building across the street from Fort Allen and various other properties along Bridge St in Weissport. 
This could be one of the floods to devastate this area of Weissport in the early winter of 1900 or in the spring of 1901.
Note the three-level brick apartment house on the left that belonged to Culton and the Fort Allen Hotel on the right.  Photo appears courtesy of the Brad Haupt collection.

(One story of lore in Weissport relates that both the Fort Allen Hotel and the aforementioned three-story brick building were competing for the same liquor license.  While both buildings were under construction, the first one to be completed would receive the sole license.  As the story goes Fort Allen was the winner.)

Maria had been grooming Belle Meredith for a number of years.  Belle would seamlessly conduct herself as surely Maria would have do so herself.  And probably true to her mother’s own spirit, Belle later changed the name of the shop from “Maria Culton’s” to “Belle Meredith’s Millinery.”

Widowed Benjamin K. Culton received the three-story brick apartment house along with $2,500.  She gave $500 to her live-in “servant” niece Josephine “Phoena” Guth, $100 to her granddaughter Marguerite Meredith and up to $2,500 to erect a monument. 

The remaining balance of the still sizable estate consisting of other dwellings, the foundry and silk mill properties in Weissport were to stay whole for a period of five years, afterward to be divided equally between the surviving four children (Charles Nusbaum, Belle Nusbaum Meredith, Emma Nusbaum Clauss, and Lillian Guth Snyder). 

Her unmarried widowed daughter, Belle moved into one of her mother’s homes at 127 N. First St.

Benjamin Culton would remarry a previously married woman named Emma.  They lived at 264 South Second Street and ran his bakery into the 1920s.  Ben and Emma lived out their retirement years in the home of Emma’s daughter Mary and her husband Fred Cook at 238 East Paterson Street in Lansford.  Fred was a clerk for the coal mine.

Interestingly, old maid Josephine “Phoena” Guth, Maria’s niece, continued in the service of the family as Belle’s household servant at 127 North First St.  Phoena did so until Belle’s death in 1926.  

But Phoena didn’t have to move.  Instead, Belle’s daughter Marguerite Meredith Acker moved in, and Phoena stayed on as her servant.  You could say Maria’s family “worked her to death,” but to be fair, it should remain that she worked “until her death.” 
"Phoena" is buried beside a few of the other Guth's buried in
Weissport's Bunker Hill Cemetery.  Among the Guth buried here are
the descendants of the original emigrants from Guthsville of brothers
John and Alfred Guth.  John was Maria's second husband.

And true to the tradition begun by her grandmother Maria, Margurite also listed herself as “head” of the household once she married her husband Mr. George Acker. The Acker’s, along with Phoena, also took in a boarder.  He was a young teacher by the name of Milton A. Stofflet.  Stofflet later went on to found the newspaper “The Hamburg Item.”

Phoena lived until December of 1936.  She is buried among the rest of her Guth family including Maria’s husband John at the Bunker Hill Cemetery in Weissport.
Perhaps one of these men behind the counter of the c. 1910 Lehighton
picture is Howard Koch who listed his occupation as "watchmaker."
He was employed by his sister's husband Harry J. Dotter a jeweler and
clockmaker on South First St. Lehighton.

Coincidentally, Howard Koch, the son of cigar maker I. S. Koch, lived for a time in the 1940s as a boarder with George and Marguerite Acker.  A near life-long bachelor, he later married a woman named Myrtle a few short years before he died.
The Fourth Street view of the Culton memorial
near sunset.  Marguerite and George Acker's
names are listed on this side.

Amid a spacious spread of green in the Lehighton Cemetery you will find the marker engraved “Culton.”  It subtly lists only the most recent of the four names Maria collected in her lifetime. 

She is buried with three others, her widowed daughter Belle Meredith, her granddaughter Marguerite and her husband George Acker. 

None of Maria’s husbands are buried with her. 
And I think Maria is quite ok with that.
The Maria Culton and Belle Meredith side of the Culton Memorial.  Rest in peace Maria.