100 Years Ago on February 13, 1917
Many of us can recall some large Mahanoy City fires of the past sixty years: the Herman Coffee fire, the Toy Shop block fire, the Morton's Furniture block fire and more recently, the fire in the two hundred block of East Centre. These are just a few of the large fires in my memory - there are others. Of course the largest fire in Mahanoy City history was the Memorial day fire of 1945. Other fires covered on this web site are the Kaier Opera House fire of 1913 and the Mahanoy Township High School fire of 1938.
February 13, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of two fires that have been practically forgotten. These fires occurred on the north side of the 100 block of West Centre Street and on the south side of the 1000 block of East Centre Street five hours apart on February 13, 1917. The property loss from these two fires amounted to $88,000. Adjusting for inflation over the past one hundred years that property loss would be valued at almost two million dollars today.
To read more about these two fire and a $80,000 fire which occurred in Girardville the next day click on the link below.
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Remembering John Curtin Lieberman
The Mahanoy Area Historical Society has recently received word of the passing of John C. Lieberman on August 8th. John was the great grandson of Charles D. Kaier and the sixth and last brewmaster of the Kaier Brewery.
John graduated from Mahanoy City High School in 1945, and entered the service before the end of World War II. After returning to Mahanoy City, he began
his employment at the Kaier firm which his great grandfather had started in 1862 as a whiskey rectifying business.
John received his credentals as a brewmaster in 1950 and served as assistant brewmaster under Martin Hasenfuss until the early 1962 when he bcame kaier's brewmaster and the youngest brewmaster in the nation.. John served as brewmaster and plant manager of Kaiers until the brewery was sold to Ortleib's in 1966. Note: My father, Bill Coombe, worked with John for twenty years at Kaiers.
After leaving Kaiers, John and his wife, Loretta Lucyk Lieberman, and their two children, Janet and Eric moved to Perry, Georgia where John helped open the new Pabst brewery. In 1983 he became director of operations for the Perry, Georgia Brewery.
In retirement John devoted much time and effort to preserving the Kaier and Lieberman family history and brewing legacy. This effort became evident to the historical society when John shared much of his research and photos with us over the past few years. Much of the information on this web site's Kaier Page has been contributed by John.
John's knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to share his historical research will be sadly missed by the Mahanoy Area Historical Society.
Click the link below to read the article.
"Beneath this mound my body lies defiled by cruel scars...."
When I was old enough to hike on the mountains around Mahanoy City - about age 8 in 1957- I would sometimes tramp up the Pottsy with my dad to pick huckleberries along the Pennsy tracks on the way to the Bore Hole.
Near the left turn at the first cemetery, the Slovak Lutheran, we took a short path that my dad called "the Indian Path". After leaving the Indian Path we entered St. Fidelis Cemetery and climbed the hill to the Kaier family grave site. From this vantage point we could look down at the town. In the distance, less than a mile to the northwest, we could see the Kaier Brewery where my dad worked. I now wonder what went through my dad's mind as we sat in the grass near Kaier's grave and gazed at the brewery that C.D. Kaier had built .
After a short break in St. Fidelis, we continued our hike toward the Pennsy tracks. On the way we often stopped in St. Canicus Cemetery. It was there sometime around early July of 1957 or 1958 that my dad first pointed out to me John Brennan's grave and the poem that was etched on the stone sixty-seven years earlier.
In 1957 the words of the poem were still fairly legible. My day could recite the poem from memory and I would look at the words as he stood back from the grave and began," Beneath this mound my body lies..."
Down through the years I visited John Brennan's grave occasionally when I was in the vicinity of the cemetery. I noticed as the years passed that the poem was becoming less and less readable. By the time the poem was very hard to make out I could recite it from memory.
I had often wondered who John Brennan was, where he lived and how he came to be " crushed at the end of day by Reading Railroad cars"?
Those questions were finally answered this week with the help of the historical society's digitized files of Mahanoy City's Tri-Weekly Record, and my accounts with Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com.
Using the information on the stone, I searched the Tri-Weekly Record and newspapers.com and came up with the clippings below. They answer the questions I had wondered about for so many years. From ancestry.com I found out that in 1870 the Brennan family lived in Mahanoy Township ( Jackson's patch) and consisted of Lawrence Brennan, his wife Catharine and six children: Catharine, William, John, Thomas, Mary and Sarah.
I often thoought how hard it must have been for Lawrence and Catharine Brennan to lose two sons, two years apart, both at the age of twenty-six.
If you go by St. Canicus Cemetery perhaps you can stop and take time to visit John Brennan's grave and pray for him who loved us all when you are kneeling on his grave.
If You Go
The date of the Reading Railroad collision pictured below has been a mystery. It was known to have occurred around the turn of the century from the elements of the pictures. I recently uncovered the newspaper article below at www.newspapers.com. The mystery is now solved. The accident occurred just east of the freight station on August 3, 1900. You can see the northeast corner of the freight station on the bottom right part of the second picture.
A Walk in the Woods - 1928
Click the link below to access an editorial which appeared in The Record American on August 4, 1928 in the midst of a mid summer heat wave. The author sought relief from the the hot pavements of Mahanoy City by taking a walk on the mountanside just south of the borough. We would certainly like to determine the identity of the author as this lyrical piece of writing gives one a true sense of what the author experienced in his jaunt along the lokey tracks almost ninety years ago.
Mahanoy City's Little Known Artistic Heritage
The four internationally known artists pictured below all visited Mahanoy City during the 1920s and 1930s to draw, sculpt and photograph scenes related to the anthracite coal industry and the miners who risked their lives to bring the " black diamonds" from deep within the earth to the surface.