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 History

 

     Originally known as Dyberry Forks, Honesdale was incorporated in 1831.  For practical purposes, Dyberry Forks was just a small logging town until William and Maurice Wurtz changed the region forever.  In 1814, the Wurtz brothers began to explore the hills of Pennsylvania and discovered vast anthracite coal deposits in Scranton and Carbondale.  The thought of transporting vast amounts of coal to the marketplace in New York would be one of the most expensive private ventures in American History.  The project would mean hauling  Abandoned D & H Canal south of town.      

    View looking down the Lackawaxen River up top Irving Cliff - Circa 1900 Flood on Main Street, Honesdale, 1936 Last Canal Boat leaving Honesdale, 1898 Abandoned D & H Canal south of town Downtown Honesdale, Circa 1880's Hotel on top of Irving Cliff burned down in May, 1889 Gravity Railroad unloading coal into canal boats in Honesdale Foundry in Stourbridge England where The Stourbridge Lion was built Stourbridge Lion Smithsonian Institute - Home of the Stourbridge Lion Philip Hone - First President of the D & H Canal Company Ralph Waldo Emerson - Great American Author and Poet Washington Irving - Author of Rip Van Winkle and Thwe Legend of Sleepy Hollow Jacob Astor - The first multi-millionaire in America General Lyman Lemnitzer - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Lyman Lemnitzer with President John F. Kennedy & Joint Chiefs  coal over the mountains by sled and wagon and then loaded onto canal boats in Honesdale.  Later, the construction of a gravity railroad would be built to carry the coal through the Lackawanna Valley to Honesdale.  From Honesdale, a canal would need to be built along the Lackawaxen River to the Delaware River, then along the Delaware to Port Jervis, then across New York via the Neversink River to Kingston, New York, then down the Hudson River to New York City.  The project cost was over one million dollars and was the largest private investment ever made in America.  It was 108 miles long and needed to be constructed entirely by hand.

 

     The canal was built in an era when America's industrial greatness was just beginning.  The project helped New York City become the greatest manufacturing city in the world.  It was also the beginning of the American Industrial Revolution.

 

     In 1825, a stock company was formed for the purpose of constructing the canal.  Its first President was Philip Hone of New York City.  After incorporation, it was three years later that the canal was completed.  The canal had 22 aqueducts, 137 bridges and 108 locks.  At the side of the river ran a towpath for mules that pulled the boats.  Twenty-five tons was the weight limit for the first canal boats, but later boats were able to carry from 125 to 150 tons.  Coal passed through the canal for the first time in November, 1828.  At 1 - 3 miles per hour it took 7 to 10 days to make the trip along the canal.  By 1848, the D & H Canal Company was the largest private corporation in America.  By 1859, the company was transporting over 1,300,000 tons of coal annually, as well as cement, stone, hides, iron, general merchandise and passengers.

 

     By the 1870's railway lines began carrying more goods to more markets, while transporting by canal became obsolete.  In 1898, the canal was abandoned.  Remnants of the towpath can still be seen along the Lackawaxen River in many areas between Honesdale and the Delaware River.

 

Philip Hone

 

     The town of Honesdale was named after its most famous businessmen, Philip Hone.  He was named the first President of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company in 1825.  The company was the first corporation in America to invest over $1,500,000 in a project that would change Honesdale forever and help jumpstart the Industrial Revolution in America.

 

      He was born in New York City in 1780 from a family of moderate means.  He had little formal schooling and worked in his brother's business, which was auctioneering ship cargoes.  In 1801, he married Catherine Dunscomb and together they had six children.  He retired a very wealthy man 20 years later and began traveling around Europe.

 

     He associated with many leading politicians and authors of his day, including Washington Irving, Samuel Morse, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jacob Astor and Daniel Webster.  Daniel Webster gave credit to Hone for giving "The Whig Party" its name.

 

     In 1825, he became the mayor of New York City, the office then elected by the Common Council.  While mayor of New York, he was also looking for investments for his accumulated wealth.  He became one of the largest shareholders in the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company and was named its first President On March 8, 1825.  At 45 years of age he was one of the most successful men in America.  He inspired the confidence of the investing public and the company stock shot upwards.  Under his leadership the company took off and the canal was started with Hone taking the first shovel of dirt on July 13, 1825.  By 1826, Hone had other commitments and resigned as president.  However, he remained on the Board of Directors for many years and took great interest in the company.

 

   On January 20, 1831, the local village was incorporated as a borough and named it Honesdale.  He died in 1851, but left a legacy in New York City and in Honesdale.

Stourbridge Lion

 

 

     The Stourbridge Lion was the first steam locomotive to turn a wheel on railroad tracks in the United States, making the first run in Honesdale, Pennsylvania on August 8, 1829. 

 

    In 1827, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company was looking for an alternative to the gravity railroad to haul its coal from the coal mines in Carbondale to Honesdale, and then by canal to New York City.  The company thought the answer may lie in a steam locomotive system and decided to send its deputy engineer, Horatio Allen, to England in 1828 to investigate.

 

     Horatio Allen went to Stourbridge, England and met a brilliant engineer, John Urpeth Rastrick.  Rastrick already had a patent for the steam engine in 1814 and Allen decided to purchase 3 steam engines from Foster, Rastrick and Company.  Among them was the Stourbridge Lion named for the lion's head that had been painted on the front boiler.  The Lion cost was $2,915.00 and weighed 8 tons.

 

     It was shipped to Liverpool, England in February 1829, and two months later crossed the Atlantic and arrived in New York City in May, and was in Honesdale by July.

 

    The trial run was to take place on August 8th, 1829.  Large crowds assembled in Honesdale to marvel at such an undertaking.  Many did not believe it would work and were convinced the iron Lion would never run!  Horatio Allen took the controls of the Lion as she hissed down the track and out of site.  The crowd's jeers turned to amazement as the Stourbridge Lion made American history in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

 

     After another trial run it was decided by the company that the wooden rails would not sustain the heavy usage of the locomotive and the haulage of coal.  The Lion was put into storage in Honesdale and never ran again.

 

     Today the Stourbridge Lion is part of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and travels around the country on display.  The Wayne County Historical Society has an exact replica of the Stourbridge Lion on display at their museum on 810 Main Street in Honesdale. 

 

     The town of Stourbridge, England is very proud to have built "The Lion" knowing the history she made in America.  Unfortunately, the foundry where the Lion was built is in disrepair and is on the verge of being torn down.  A number of preservationists and historians are trying to keep the building intact for posterity and future use as a heritage center.

 

     Dr. Paul Collins, a local historian in Stourbridge said "It is a sad indictment that in the U.S.A. they are celebrating the 175th Anniversary of the first run of "The Lion" - while the very building where it was built faces the threat of demolition."  Dr. Collins also claims the building is the oldest standing foundry in Europe.

General Lyman Lemnitzer

 

     General Lyman Lemnitzer was one of the most distinguished military commanders in American History.  He was a graduate of Honesdale High School in 1917 and went directly to West Point.  In World War II he was assigned with General Eisenhower and helped blueprint the invasion of North Africa.  After 40 years of military service he reached the pinnacle of military leadership when he became the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1960 under President John F. Kennedy.  In 1963, he returned to Europe to become the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  In July, 1969 he received the Distinguished Service Medals from all three services from President Richard Nixon.  At the age of 87 he was awarded the highest military award given in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented by President Ronald Reagan.  General Lemnitzer died on November 12, 1988 and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

 

 

 

Washington Irving

 

     In the summer of 1844, Philip Hone, John Jacob Astor, Washington Irving and other prominent gentlemen took a trip from New York City up the Hudson, then along the D & H Canal to Honesdale.  A boat was fitted in a most elegant manner to carry them.  Sleepy Hollow's Washington Irving described the trip  "I do not know when I have made a more gratifying excursion with respect to natural scenery - for many miles the canal is built along the face of perpendicular precipices rising into stupendous cliffs, with overhanging forests, or  Washington Irving jutting out into vast promontories, while upon the other side you look down upon the Delaware, roaring and foaming below you, at the foot of an immense wall or embankment which supports the canal.  Altogether, it is one of the most savage and almost impracticably defiles.  For upward of ninety miles I went through a constant succession of scenery that would have been famous had it existed in any part of Europe."

 

     After arriving in Honesdale, Irving noticed a huge outcropping of rock high on a hill and insisted on climbing to the top to get a view from the summit.  Irving was so impressed with the vistas that Philip Hone insisted that the ledge be known as "Irving Cliff."

 

    On the summit of this historic cliff forty five years later a large summer hotel resort was built.  The four story building was erected in commemoration of the visit of Washington Irving to

 

Honesdale.  The hotel had a capacity of more than two hundred guests, 125 spacious bedrooms, broad verandas and many other elegant appointments.

 

    The formal opening of the hotel was to have been on June 22, 1889, but less than a month prior to its grand opening a massive fire burned the hotel to the ground.  Nothing has ever been built on the site since that time.  Today, it is a memorial park overlooking the borough.