How Factoryville Was Born – By Allean Derr 1939-2013
Factoryville’s beginning can be traced to two local families; the Reynolds and Capwells.
The first settlers arrived around 1800. It was not until 1828 when a post office was established that the town was officially named. In 1824, the first school was built. In 1869, Keystone Academy was founded. The Baptist and Methodist Churches were built between 1850 and 1860.
Factoryville is located in the scenic Endless Mountain Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Our borough got the name Factoryville from a factory that operated along the S. Branch of the Tunkhannock Creek in the 1820’s. People came from miles around to have their wool woven into cloth at that factory. Only a few years after the wool factory opened it was closed down never to open again. There is a conspicuous lack of factories in present day Factoryville but the name remains.
Christy Mathewson, one of the all-time great pitchers in major league baseball, was born in Factoryville in 1880. Christopher “Christy” Mathewson, better know as “Matty” or “Big Six” became a member of the New York Giants team in 1900 and retired from baseball in 1922. Christy Mathewson died in 1925 at the age of 45. He was one of the first five baseball players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, fourteen years after his death. Christy graduated from Keystone Academy and Bucknell University and played for the New York Giants from 1901 to 1916. His accomplishment in baseball was outstanding, helping to make baseball the national pastime. And he served overseas during World War I. Christy’s contributions to baseball and to pitching continue to be recognized including in 2005 when the New York Daily News named him the “Greatest pitcher who ever lived”. Each year we honor his birthday with a week-end celebration.
Before the first settlers arrived, this whole region was wilderness covered by dense forest with trails made by the Delaware Indians. Those trails ran through the valley extending from the Lackawanna River to the Susquehanna River.
The first settlers to arrive here in the early 1800’s were Captain Robert Reynolds and Stephen Capwell, both from Rhode Island. These men, along with their sons, journeyed three weeks by foot with few supplies to find new farming land and a better life for their families. They settled in what was known as the West Settlement, with the Reynolds’ on the West side of the Tunkhannock Creek and the Capwells on the East side. Here they cleared the land, built log cabins and carved farms out of the wilderness. Then they returned to Rhode Island to bring their families to their new homes.
Other families soon joined them and settled in other parts of the area. Among them were the Seaman, Wilson, Green, Wall, Gardner, Dean, Moore, Carpenter and Colvin families.
These early settlers soon established church services and schoolhouses for the education of their children. The first school, known as the Long Schoolhouse, was destroyed by fire and was later replaced with a new structure called the Square Top Schoolhouse. This building served the community not only as a school, but also as a place where church services and various town meetings were held.
When the War of 1812 broke out, these resourceful settlers built a textile factory run by water power at what is now the center of town. This was the first factory of any kind in the entire region and it made such an impression that everyone spoke of going to “The Factory.” The machinery and raw cotton were transported over rough roads from Newburgh, New York. When the war ended the factory went bankrupt and ceased to operate.
A post office was established in 1828 by Dr. John Wilson, who served as the first postmaster. It was operated out of the home of Jeremiah Capwell, a mile south of the village until 1845 when it was moved to the center of the village. It was at this time that the village took on the name of Factoryville. The first general store was also built about this time.
The West Settlement was originally a part of Abington Township , but when Wyoming County was created in 1842 from part of Luzerne County, this part of the new county was set up as Clinton Township in 1843.
The Methodist Church was built in 1854, as was the Six Principal Baptist Church which is the present-day Borough building. The Baptist Church was formed in 1860 and the church building, long known as the Brick Church was completed in 1866.
The coming of the Delaware , Lackawanna and Western Railroad in 1850-51 was a great boost to the town. It was built from Scranton to Great Bend, with a depot at the upper end of town. This is now the Route 6-11 highway. This railroad provided the farmers and the coal industry in Scranton a means to move their products to larger cities. In order to make the railroad more efficient and profitable, the line was moved along the mountains where it reduced mileage, costly grade crossing accidents and train delays. This line resulted in the construction of two new tunnels and the building of the Tunkhannock Viaduct at Nicholson, the largest steel reinforced concrete bridge in the country.
Factoryville continued to grow and expand, and on November 12, 1883, the town incorporated. By this time the population had reached 823, and the town had seven general stores, two hotels, three doctors, a tannery and a grist mill. There was also an active military reserve unit which had built an armory in town in 1882.
In the early 1900’s a two story brick schoolhouse was built which held grades one through eight. This was erected where the present Lackawanna Trail elementary school stands. Seeing a need for higher education the townspeople and members of the Baptist Association organized Keystone Academy. This was one of only three higher education institutes in the state of Pennsylvania . They secured the services of Dr. John Harris as the first principal, and classes were held in the basement of the Baptist Church until the school was built. Now the school is a four year college known as Keystone College .
During the Civil War, the community responded and sent off a number of young men to fight in the Union Army. When they returned they organized a local Grand Army of the Republic Post which was a strong fraternal organization for many years.
Around the turn of the century, electric lights and telephones came to town. From 1907 until 1912 the Northern Electric Railway, an inter-urban electric transportation line, ran from Scranton through Factoryville to Montrose. As the automobile became more popular the need for this rail service dwindled and “The Peoples Trolley” stopped running in 1912.
A number of individuals native to Factoryville have gone on to become famous. Christy Mathewson is, of course, the most famous Factoryville native. Other notable figures are Dr. G. Bromley Smith, professor at John Hopkins University; H. Loren Fassett, director of the U.S. budget Office in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Mary B. Harris, superintendent of the Federal Institution for Women in West Virginia; Dr. Dora Capwell, director of Psychological Service for Pittsburgh; Dr. Edwin Kemmerer, known as The Money Doctor, a professor of international finance at Princeton University and a financial advisor to several world governments; Judge Roy Gardner of the Wyoming County Courts and Dr. Jason Petula, Penn State University who participated in teachers Arctic and Antarctic expeditions and other earth and science exploration and research projects.
Historical information provided by resident historian, the late Allean Derr who self-published an extensive History of Factoryville book which is available to borrow from the Factoryville Public Library.