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This is Buttermilk Falls, in Falls Township along the Susquehanna River about 7 miles west of Waverly. Pretty as it is, Falls also was a center of “Copperhead” hostility to Lincoln and the military draft during the Civil War. You can read about that in Chapter 7.
Below, in full, is the text of a fiery Copperhead manifesto written by Waverly lawyer Thomas Smith and presented at a large gathering in nearby Fleetville. It vilified President Lincoln and war taxes, asking, “Do the people of the North desire such additional burdens of taxation added to what Lincoln’s Abolition war has already brought upon the country, and all for the sake of negro emancipation? We say no.”
This newspaper from January 1850 was used as wall insulation in the Colored Hill home of Lot Norris, one of the first fugitives to settle in Waverly. Later that year the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted, bringing renewed danger to Norris and others. The present owner of the old Norris home uncovered the newspaper pages during a restoration and keeps them under glass there as a tribute.
Fleetville, a haven for Copperheads during the Civil War, later was one of the area’s gathering spots for Ku Klux Klan activity. These two articles from 1924 appeared in the Scranton Republican. (1 of 2)
Fleetville, a haven for Copperheads during the Civil War, later was one of the area’s gathering spots for Ku Klux Klan activity. These two articles from 1924 appeared in the Scranton Republican. (2 of 2)
This profile from the Scranton Republican in 1892 shows the regard that some Waverly whites held for the aging fugitive slaves, especially mild-mannered ones like Ignatius Thomas. When Thomas died in 1897, his obituary said he had left a twin brother behind in slavery and never saw him again.
Waverly’s progressive Madison Academy provided an advanced education to a select group of paying students from 1844 until it closed in 1878. This photo of its last graduating class (from the book This Is Waverly) shows that Madison Academy was both coed and interracial.
This enrollment ledger from May 1874 records the two young daughters of Colored Hill war veteran William Bradley, Mary and Lucretia, as being among the students in the Waverly school. The ledger is at the Lackawanna Historical Society archives in Scranton.
George Keys Jr. discussed his father’s life in slavery and eventual flight north in this 1904 profile that appeared in The Scranton Republican newspaper.
There are three notable points in this 1888 widow’s pension claim by Sarah Washington, widow of 22nd U.S.C.T. war veteran John Washington. She attests that her marriage was never recorded because “I was married when I was a slave.” Second, “I have borne nine children – they all died but one.” And finally, being a victim of the slave system, she is illiterate and can only sign with an X mark.
This 1895 affidavit by Catherine Bradley of Colored Hill supports Mahala Thomas’ widow-pension claim. Mahala was the widow of Samuel Thomas, Waverly’s only member of the famed 54th Massachusetts regiment. It is one of a series of affidavits on file at the National Archives that describe the feeble health of Colored Hill’s veterans after the war. Catherine Bradley was free-born in New York and is able to sign her name at the end of her statement.
Most of the Colored Hill war veterans are buried in Waverly’s Hickory Grove Cemetery, along the eastern side of Row 5 as shown here.
Frederick Hitchcock of Scranton was among the white officers of the 25th U.S.C.T. infantry, which included Pvt. Richard Lee of Colored Hill among its ranks. After the war, Hitchcock went on to head Scranton’s Board of Trade and write an official history of the city.
During the long Siege of Petersburg, both sides dug in with earthen fortifications like this one. From just such a spot, Waverly’s George Keys Sr. and Francis Asbury Johnson headed out into danger on a water detail and were shot. Their wounds proved fatal.
Prior to the Petersburg assault, the 22nd U.S.C.T. was assigned to build and defend an earthwork fort along the James River called Fort Pocahontas. Being on remote private land today, much of the fort remains, eroded and overgrown but visible. This is one of the cannon batteries that the soldiers, six of them from Waverly, erected with shovels and picks. In May 1864, a Rebel force led by Gen. Robert E. Lee’s nephew swept across the field and attacked this side of the fort. They were repulsed by the black defenders.
The National Park Service now features the accomplishments of the black troops at Petersburg with an educational marker installed at the site of their June 15 breakthrough.
In recent years, the ranks of Civil War re-enactors have come to include men depicting the U.S.C.T. troops. These fellows were representing the 3rd Regiment at an event inside Philadelphia’s historic Fort Mifflin. The re-enactors say there is a constant need for more of them, and younger ones.
As early as 1839, Waverly and environs had a core group of avowed anti-slavery activists. This call for a convention, which appeared in The Volunteer, a weekly in Montrose, Pa., lists signatories from the surrounding counties. The last six from Luzerne County—Alvinzy Gardner, John Raymond, Rodman Sisson, Isaac Tillinghast, Lyman Green, and Benjamin Bailey—were all from the Abington vicinity.
Young Pvt. Francis Asbury Johnson’s death at age 18 from “wounds received in action” at Petersburg is recorded in this military doctor’s certificate from 1865. It shows that the soldier had not been paid for a year and had an outstanding debt for provisions.
In 1895 the great black orator and intellectual Frederick Douglass died. A committee of black men in Scranton took out a notice in The Scranton Tribune to express their sadness on behalf of “the colored citizens of Scranton.” The committee had two men who hailed from Waverly: George Keys Jr. (who went by George W. Keyes) and Ben Burgette.
William Fogg, the mixed-race settler in Abington whose voting rights lawsuit backfired and led to the disenfranchisement of black people across Pennsylvania for 33 years, lies buried in obscurity in a country graveyard next to Interstate 81. By scraping Fogg’s headstone and briefly applying shaving cream, the author and a friend were able to reveal his epitaph engraved at the bottom. The words are not political but rather the desultory lyrics of an old hymn: “Hark! from the tomb a mournful sound / Mine ears, attend the cry / Ye living men, come view the ground / Where you must shortly lie.” (1 of 2)
William Fogg, the mixed-race settler in Abington whose voting rights lawsuit backfired and led to the disenfranchisement of black people across Pennsylvania for 33 years, lies buried in obscurity in a country graveyard next to Interstate 81. By scraping Fogg’s headstone and briefly applying shaving cream, the author and a friend were able to reveal his epitaph engraved at the bottom. The words are not political but rather the desultory lyrics of an old hymn: “Hark! from the tomb a mournful sound / Mine ears, attend the cry / Ye living men, come view the ground / Where you must shortly lie.” (2 of 2)