Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rickert's Coal Yards and the Coolidge Republicans of Rickertsville, East Weissport

Part 2: The Rickerts Revisited - A followup to this story and a more
 comprehensive Rickert family genealogy can be found on April 23, 2011 post.

The enterprising Rickert's of East Weissport as it looked at the apotheosis
of mercantile canal delivery.

The stately former Rickert residence from a distance sets to the left.  To the right,
a red frame structure with a center peak, is a former storeroom, election polling location
and headquarters for the "Coolidge Republican Club." 
 Jacob K Rickert came to Weissport in the 1850s looking to earn a living as a mercantile agent along the Lehigh Canal.  He eventually purchased land along the canal on what is today Main Road, East Weissport.  Through his son, Hiram Rickert and grandson Harry, Rickert's business continued to operate until the 1950s.  The Rickert Home was then established on Canal Street in what was probably a hotel or boardinghouse that was built just after the canal was dug and built in 1828.  Today the stately building is owned by Rod and Jennifer Mann.  The house is their home plus a guest house known as "The Canal Side Guest House."  (Rod and Jen Mann's Canal Side Guest House.)
This is an old ink blotter that Harry Rickert used
as a promotional item for customers.
The Rickert family formed the "Rickert Coal and Freight Company" and traded in flour, feed, grain, coal, fertilizer, gasoline and more.  They also operated a lime kiln and sawmill on the premises.  The 1880 census listed Jacob K. Rickert as a "merchant" born in 1821.  He was living in Weissport with his second wife "Liza," born in 1833 and their thirteen year old servant girl named Annie Snyder. 

His son Hiram Rickert, born in 1848 was married to Ida and he was listed as a "laborer."  Hiram had two sons, Harry born in 1875 and Miles in 1878.
In 1900, 23 year old Harry was listed as a "clerk" at a "boatyard."  The 1910 census shows Miles as a "delivery wagon man".  By 1920 Harry was the "manager of a coalyard" and was married to Meta, born in 1880.  Harry & Meta had a son, Hiram Donald, otherwise known as H. Donald, and simply "Donald."

In 1909, Hiram rented his vacant storeroom on election day for which the county paid him $15 to "cover rent, heat, and lighting" in 1920. 

In the early 1920s, Hiram and Harry were appointed to the first board of directors of the 'Fidelity Company of Lansford.'  This corporation was a stock, bond, mortgage, securities and loan institution headed by H. Donald Rickert now of Lansford who was the major shareholder.  Harry Rickert owned a bungalow at Lake Harmony in the 1920s.

The Rickerts bought and sold all things hauled on the canal, particularly coal, farm feed, hay and fertilizer. In September of 1903, Hiram purchased 300 sheets of roofing tin for $45 from the 'General Storehouse at Packerton' which dealt with the reselling of "second hand material." Later on in the 1930s with the Lehigh Canal out of business, his coal docks were moved closer to the Jersey Central Railroad tracks that ran through Weissport. By 1938, his business cards no longer mentioned feed and flour, only stating his dealing in "Coal and Roofing."

It was Harry Rickert who formed the Calvin Coolidge Republican Club in the large red wooden framed building on the Rickert property in or around 1934.  Perhaps it was a reaction to the depression and the politics of FDR or just for the sake of having a club to drink and play cards, the club had a healthy membership and a formal constitution.  Membership was open to any male of Republican mind of the Franklin Township vicinity.  Any member in six month arrears of dues would be automatically dropped.  Membership was ten cents a month or $1. per year.  Life membership could be purchased for $10. A key to the clubhouse cost 25 cents.

The Coolidge Republican Club Constitution
as started by Hiram and Harry.

The Canal Side Guest House of Rod & Jen Mann today with
the vacant Rickert storehouse and Republican Club to the right.

Membership in Coolidge Republican Club was like a 'who's, who' of the Weissport area.  Serving on the 'Building Committee:' H. D. Rickert, Earl Laury, Fred Kintz, Bertram Eberts, Milton Beers, Robert Phifer and Horace Boyer. 

Serving on the 'Membership Committee:' Frank Wentz, Hyman Lewis, Boise Boyer, Clayton Solt and John Krum.  'By-Laws: Mahlon Schoenberger and Clayton Beaver.  'Solicitation Committee:' LeRoy Whitehead.  'Entertainment & Publicity:' Richard Penberth.  'Shoot and Raffle Match Committee:' William W. Graver. 
All the above (including the Rickerts themselves) also bought their 25 cent keys, as well as other Weissport names: J.L. Snyder, Mahlon Hamm, George E. Ahner, Paul Dreisbach, Herbert Weiss, Russel Ahner, C.B. Heller, Wilbur Kern, Maurice Solt, LoRen Laury, Theo Walck, Charles Krum, Andrew Wesiss, Mark Adams, Luther Conarty, R.G. Penberth, James Kunkle, John Strausberger, Ralph Kresge, William Schafer, Fred Arner, George Strausberger, Wilmer May, Leon Hill, William Kunkle, Edwin Penberth, Reuben Kunkle, Albert Kresge, Thomas Schoenberger, Clayton Beaver, Thomas Markley, James Folk, M. Schoenberger, E.S. Kern, F. Heptner, M. Hahn, David Strohl, William Hahn, Carl Leslie, Walter Haydt, Asher Leslie, Willard Kunkle, George Reich, Earl Schoenberger, Evan Beers, Harry Morgan, David Leslie, John Skeer, Lester Buck, Harold Hall, Herbert Henry, Clarence Kuntz, Albert Walck, and Maurice Hoffman.

The Weissport Grain Elevator was fed by a spur of the Jersey Central Railroad
and sets directly across the canal and tracks from the Rickert property. 
It was first opened by James Blakeslee in 1894
and operated by David O. Christman.  Later it was run by Oscar and
son David Diehl.  In the 1930s, it was leased by Trader's Flour & Feed
of East Stroudsburg and then by Oscar J Straub.  His son Kenneth W Straub
purchased it in 1941.  Most recently, it was "Sebelin Lumber" owned by the Seblin Brothers.

The rolling mill Jersey Central spur leads off toward the west.  The Lehighton
Hi-Rise is in the distance and the coal docks on the right.

End of the line - Spur, coal bins and grain elevator.

The classic "Ralston-Purina" red and white checker was added
sometime after the 1930s.

Speaking to Mr. Lamont "Mike" Ebbert,who grew up on Main Road, he said his father Bertram Ebbert (Listed in a common misspelling "Eberts") was a member of this club.  And according to him the club was shut down after a raid for alcohol without a license and illegal gambling.

You won't burn your hands, but maybe your lungs...
From the days of Asbestos products (see near nail hole.)
Calvin Coolidge once said, "Industry, thrift, and self-control are not sought because they create wealth, but because they create character."  Certainly the Rickert's displayed these fine qualities as I'm sure many who joined their club.  Regardless, all these men were certainly characters.  To be a fly on the wall of one of those nights would be a priceless piece of history.


  1. Delighted to learn about the Calvin Coolidge Republican Club! Since 1985, I've performed a solo history - Calvin Coolidge: More Than Two Words. If the old club ever revives - Maybe they would like to hear me?

  2. Thanks Josh, Amber & Jim...It would be neat to hear you presentation Jim, but being his nickname of "Silent Cal," how much would you say?...Seriously, thanks for the visit and I stopped by your site...nice job...

  3. Thanks for your wonderful summary of all of those stacks of paper from the Coolidge Republican Club, know just to us as "the barn." We hope to continue our renovation and restoration on this building as we have lovingly done the with the rest of the Rickert property. You are a gifted writer, Ron, with a passion for keeping our history alive. Thank you, again.