County Feature is a series of articles on each county in Pennsylvania and its history.

The Land of Lakes, it might best be called. Its sweeping verdant valleys and velvety golden meadows harbor dozens of picturesque settlements – and more than a hundred natural and artificial lakes. Its resorts teem with summer colonists – primarily expatriate New Yorkers escap­ing the stifling heat of Manhat­tan in August – and recall a less frenzied era when there seemed to be more time for leisure and recreation. Its well­-cared-for homes and industri­ous businesses evoke a feeling of permanence, a sense of continuity. Its heritage is one that spans well more than two centuries. And its history is indelibly recorded in the an­nals of Pennsylvania.

Welcome to Wayne County.

Named in honor of Revolu­tionary War general and Indian fighter, Anthony Wayne (1745- 1796), the county, which covers less than seven hundred and fifty square miles, is part of the extensive vacation and resort country of northeastern Penn­sylvania. Contiguous with the state of New York, Wayne County relies on tourism as its chief industry, but its heritage is hallmarked with significant eighteenth and nineteenth century trades and commerce, including fanning, manufac­turing, railroading, milling and knitting.

Certainly not its earliest industry, but one whose prod­ucts reached all parts of the world, even the White House, was the manufacturing and cutting of glass. The most famous enterprise, C. Dorflinger and Sons, set nineteenth cen­tury standards for quality in cut glass. Established origi­nally as the Wayne County Glass Works in 1865 by Chris­tian Dorflinger (1828-1915), a French immigrant whose Long Island Flint Glass Works, es­tablished in Brooklyn in 1852, supplied Pres. and Mrs. Abra­ham Lincoln with an extensive service of tableware and acces­sories “rich cut and eng. with U.S. coat of arms” for the White House in 1861. Costing more than fifteen hundred dollars, the commission – as well as other large orders from the country’s leading families – ranked Christian Dorflinger as one of the truly great glassmakers in American history.

Less than ten years after operating his own glassworks, the thirty-three year old Dorflinger’s poor health forced him to seek early retirement from his beloved craft. His annual gross sales of more than three hundred thousand dollars a year enabled him to dispose of his factories and purchase a large farm not far from Honesdale, the county seat. In 1862, at what most of his contemporaries and com­petitors believed was the height of his career, Dorflinger quietly purchased an old farm­stead, much of which re­mained in timberland. He soon added to his original tract and the farm grew to fifteen hundred acres. But Christian Dorflinger was not able to simply rest.

The pure mountain air, credited with restorative powers, seemed to buoy Dorflinger. He cleared a por­tion of his land and erected a small glass furnace on the banks of the Lackawaxen River in 1865. The next year he sum­moned several of his expert craftsmen from Brooklyn to train the local residents in the art of glassmaking. To mu­seum curators and antiques collectors, the rest is history.

Inspired, encouraged, per­haps even charmed by the amiable glassmaker, the sleepy little village of White Mills blossomed seemingly over­night. He built more than a hundred houses for his work­ers, and helped finance many more. He greeted success with typical ease, and realized­ – once again – that his company needed his total devotion. With the Wayne County Glass Works and the village of White Mills thriving, Dorflinger decided to make Wayne County his permanent home. He sold his New York resi­dence and immersed himself in the business of manufactur­ing, rutting and decorating glass, which inevitably reached all corners of the world. Its quality and attrac­tion was characterized by an early county historian who, in 1886, wrote that “the flashing, chaste and beautiful ware, which now more than ever, is fascinating the artistic and fashionable world.” Even the excessive Victorian period prose was something of an understatement.

The company, whose name changed to C. Dorflinger and Sons in 1881, created stunning services for several presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, William W. Harrison and Woodrow Wilson. The Prince of Wales, later England’s King Edward VIB, ordered a set of fluted glassware. A grand ceremonial set of more than twenty-three hundred pieces, all engraved with the coat of arms of the Cuban Republic, was made for Pres. Mario Menocal of Cuba. For the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Phila­delphia, Dorflinger craftsmen created a monumental wine service known as the “Centen­nial Set,” which consisted of a decanter and thirty-eight wine glasses, each painstakingly etched and brilliantly cut. The record of special commissions to the workers and residents of tiny White Mills must have seemed endless.

Believing in the talents of the recruited local residents, and sensing the success of his company, Dorflinger built a large basin on the Delaware and Hudson Canal near the glassworks so that great barges could haul his products to market. The Erie Railroad even built a special spur and station to accommodate shipments and passengers on their way to and from the booming works. Needing a place to entertain both friends and visiting business associates, he began construction of a spa­cious hotel with thirty-six guest rooms and an elegant ballroom in 1868. Completed in 1870, it was christened the St. Charles and formally opened with a spectacular ball on May 25 for prominent local residents and Dorflinger’s New York and European friends.

In addition to gracing the lavishly set tables of America’s first families, including the Vanderbilts and the Goulds, Dorflinger glass was retailed by leading New York stores, such as Tiffany and Company, Black, Starr and Frost and Gorham, as well as Philadel­phia jewelers J. E. Caldwell and Company and Bailey, Banks and Biddle. Salesmen traveled the country, showing new lines of sparklingly cut glass in a seemingly limitless array of patterns and forms. By 1881, the company even opened its own retail outlet at 915 Broadway in the heart of Manhattan.

Even a disastrous fire which destroyed many of the mam­moth blowing, cutting and finishing shops in 1892 could not daunt Christian Dorflinger and his family. Although more than a thousand individuals were affected, the glassmaker persevered. Within a month, he fired one furnace and, by the end of a year, completely rebuilt the entire operation with the latest in machinery and equipment. It would have stunned his contemporaries to know at that time, but the rebuilt and reorganized Chris­tian Dorflinger and Sons was embarking on its most success­ful period!

Shortly after the turn-of­-the-century, White Mills buzzed with nearly fifteen hundred inhabitants, seVeral hundred of which worked directly in the glassworks. Dorflinger’s little empire by 1903 boasted two churches, three hotels, a public school, an opera house, its own fire department, a baseball team and a twenty-member band! For two decades, C. Dorflinger and Sons continued producing almost immeasurable quanti­ties of glass; in fact, it was not unusual to produce five hun­dred items al any given time, including apothecary jars, goblets, berry bowls, de­canters, cruet sets, punch bowls and humidors.

The death of Christian Dorflinger in 1915 devastated the entire community. Re­spected, admired and loved by generations of Wayne Coun­tians, his death, at the age of eighty-seven, sounded the death knell, too, for the glass­works and the village of White Mills. His sons continued the business for another seven years, but without the inspira­tion of its founding genius, the impetus to carry on began to wane. Other factors began to seriously affect the company. The outbreak of World War I made it impossible to obtain potash from Europe, while Prohibition caused a severe decline in orders for fine stem­ware. Rather than produce cheaper and more commercial glassware, the family decided to close Christian Dorflinger and Sons in 1921.

Christian Dorflinger’s glass plant was certainJy the most famous of Wayne County’s glass industry, but it was by no means its first. In 1840, the Honesdale Glass Works of Traceyville was established near Honesdale. It ceased operation in 1861 and the plant was destroyed by a flood. Ten years later, however, it was rebuilt by Christian Dorflinger. Dorflinger’s operations actu­ally helped spawn a county­wide industry. Dozens of cutting shops opened to carve and etch the tons of glass blanks that poured forth from the Dorflinger plants daily. Long gone, their names – T. B. Clark and Company, Krantz and Smith Company, William H. Gibbs and Company, the Irving Cut Glass Company, Demer Brothers and the McKanna Cut Glass Company, all of Honesdale – are legend­ary with antiques collectors specializing in American cut glass of the “Brilliant Period,” the years between 1880 and 1915, when flawless glass blanks were delicately cut and etched with myriad designs and intricate patterns. Today, however, even many of the buildings once housing this significant industry have dis­appeared.

Many years before Wayne County’s role as an important center for the manufacturing and cutting of fine glass, it served as a notable center of agriculture and transportation. Organized in 1798 with land taken from Northampton County, which included terri­tory later granted to Pike and Monroe counties, Wayne County loomed important in the development of Pennsylva­nia’s once titan anthracite trade. Early coal operators had planned to ship anthracite to market by way of the Lack­awaxen and Delaware rivers, but the scheme failed. The coal was then hauled along the old Connecticut Road and trans­ferred to arks which would ply the rivers. However, this strat­egy proved far too costly, and a road was cut from the Luzerne-Wayne county line to near present-day Honesdale. It was not long until the power­ful and lucrative Delaware and Hudson company gained control of both the canal and the extensive coal mining operations.

The canal, begun in 1826, took two years to complete, and was originally designed to accommodate barges carrying twenty-five tons. By mid­century, the canal – measuring one hundred and eight miles­ – was enlarged to accommodate cargoes averaging one hun­dred and thirty tons. As in most Pennsylvania counties, the canal was overshadowed by the burgeoning railroad industry. Rails were laid between Honesdale and Provi­dence, a distance of thirty-two miles, reputedly the second railroad in the country. In 1828, a locomotive, the Stourbridge Lion, was imported from Eng­land, but it proved too heavy for the narrow rails. In 1848, the Pennsylvania Coal Com­pany laid tracks from Pittston to Hawley, a distance of forty-seven miles, thirty of which passed through the southwest­ern section of Wayne County. Completed in 1850, the rail­road spurred the growth of the village of Hawley, making it second only to Honesdale, the county seat.

Honesdale, laid out in 1826 at the junction of the West Branch and Dyberry creeks and incorporated in 1831, be­came the county seat in 1842. It was originally named Hone’s Dale in honor of Philip Hone, an early president of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Com­pany. Population, boosted by the canal, coal and railroading industries, grew wildly. With just dozens of residents in 1832, the village’s population rapidly grew to more than a thousand in less than a dec­ade. Other early settlements reflected this tremendous growth as well. Waymart, incorporated in 1851, was an important stopping point for the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, which stock­piled enormous quantities of anthracite on its way to Hones­dale for shipping. The county seat from 1805 until 1843, Bethany – which declined after losing its county government offices – boasted a newspaper, the Wayne County Mirror, as early as 1818.

Wayne County, in claiming several significant industries and settlements, also claimed several important individuals whose contributions are re­corded in both state and na­tional history. David Wilmot (1814-1868), a native of Be­thany, authored the Wilmot Proviso of 1846 barring slavery from territory acquired in the Mexican War. A member of the House of Representatives from 1845 to 1851, he was indirectly responsible for the founding of the Republican Party. Samuel Meredith , the first treasurer of the United States under the Constitution, spent his retire­ment years at his country estate in Mount Pleasant Township. Appointed by Pres. George Washington, he served as treasurer from 1798 to 1803. Much of his own money subsi­dized the new federal govern­ment, which was unable to repay him. James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, owned im­mense tracts of land in Wayne County and built a flax mill in Wilsonville in 1792.

Events, “too, helped shape the county’s – as well as the Commonwealth’s – destiny. In May 1859 Horace Greeley met with notable political leaders to create a boom to nominate Abraham Lincoln for presi­dent. Honesdale, due to the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, was for many years the world’s largest coal storage center. And now, Wayne County basks in its continuing role as one of the principal resort and vacation areas on the East Coast.

Since the opening days of the twentieth century, the great wilderness of this “Northern Tier” county has been opened to sportsman and adventurer. Family resorts cluster around the many lakes and ponds, aU of which seem undisturbed by progress and development. Hunters are drawn to Wayne County by the lure of abundant game. while the sparkling clear wa­ters of rivers and streams beckon fishermen each season.

Wayne County’s history and heritage run deep and clear. Almost as clear, it seems, as the glass blown and cut by thou­sands of gaffers and engravers.

 

For Further Reading

Daniel, Dorothy. Cut and En­graved Glass, 1771-1905. New York: Barrows and Company, 1950.

Day, Sherman. Historical Col­lections of the State of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia; G. W. Gorton, 1843.

Egle, William H. An Illustrated History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Harrisburg: W. C. Goodrich, 1876.

Goodrich, Phineas G. History of Wayne County. Honesdale, Pa.: Haines and Beardsley, 1880.

Ham, Thomas J. Wayne County Before 1870. Montrose, Pa.: Montrose Publishing Company, 1963.

Matthews, Alfred. History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: R. T. Peck and Company, 1886.

Stevens. Sylvester K. My Pennsylvania. Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1946.

Whaley, Samuel. History of the Township of Mount Pleasant. New York: M. W. Dodd. 1856.

 

Michael J. O’Malley III is editor of this magazine.