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History of Freeland, Pa.

What's on this page:
  • Influenza epidemic of 1918
  • Photos and notes on St. Ann's 1920s plans and groundbreaking
  • Jeddo Progressive Club

New pages added: MMI 1947 and MMI 1948. Also more information on Freeland's taverns, saloons, bars.

Previous featured photos: Here are links to three pages containing previously posted photos and information from the Featured Photos section of the home page: earliest postings, more recent ones, and the most recent ones. They are credited to the sources. Some of these have also been integrated into other parts of the site, while others are still waiting for that. Meanwhile, these past Featured Photos are always available via these links.

Please also visit the News & announcements page to see the list of recent updates to the site.

Featured Photos:

Influenza epidemic of 1918, from Charlie Gallagher, with information from Emily Pecora and Tony Sutherland

Charlie Gallagher wrote: "Before October is over, you may want to commemorate the influenza of 1918." He cited Emily Pecora's thesis about Ralph Pecora's tailor business, chapter 2, pages 108-109:

The stress of war time was compounded in early October of 1918 by the outbreak of the Spanish influenza in Freeland. To control the spread of the virus, all churches, schools, and places of amusement (including Freeland’s widely popular saloons and movie theaters) were forced to close, and most public gatherings, including funerals, were forbidden. The pastor of St. Anthony’s church publicly decried the closing order as “discrimination on the part of health authorities,” pointing out that the profitable and powerful “factories, workshops, and trolley cars” of the town—all sites of public gatherings themselves—were allowed to continue to operate. Idle teachers were put to work distributing food and linens to housebound residents and four army doctors helped tend to the sick. By late October, 277 cases of the flu had been reported in the town of Freeland alone. In late November, the State Department of Health reported 42,000 influenza deaths statewide.

Think about that: in just 2 months, Pennsylvania had 42,000 influenza DEATHS. Charlie shares these two photos captioned "The nurse aides at the Freeland Borough Building, 1918 Influenza. Mary B. Gallagher second from right." We are looking at a portrait of courage here. Just think how brave these women, as well as doctors and other volunteers were, to be willing to tend to and otherwise assist their fellow citizens who were suffering from this very contagious sickness!

Health care workers in Freeland 1918 Health care workers in Freeland 1918

In addition to Charlie's photos and Emily's thesis, here is some information that came to me some years ago from Tony Sutherland, then editor of the Jednota newspaper. He had been looking through information in the Jednota library and reported that he had found "seven names of people in Freeland who died from the influenza epidemic 1918-1919. These are only the people who belonged to the FCSU [First Catholic Slovak Union] and had [FCSU] insurance. I am sure there were many more. The FCSU members were: Kristian Cajko (Shigo, age 37), Mikulas Ondusko, Orsula Kirvetajtes, Juraj Tokar, Anna Hirkala, Leonard Suchy, and John Kusnir."

Looking just at the FCSU rolls, he continued: "There were 32 people in the September 1918 FCSU death list. In October this number jumped to 168; November 441; December 179, January 1919,103; a total of 891. ... Only mass immunity saved the rest of the population." He noted that sometimes the influenza would come on suddenly, but the type where the onset was more gradual proved generally to be more deadly, adding: "Incidentally, the 1918-1919 influenza outbreak coincided with one of the worst winters of the century, at least in New York. … There was also a typhoid epidemic or outbreak around 1903 and a diphtheria outbreak [possibly in] the 1890s." [I don't know if those outbreaks also occurred in Freeland.--CT]

Regarding the influenza epidemic in the Freeland area, my brother Steve and I remember walking through the Upper Lehigh cemetery in the late 1970s or early 1980s and also in the Freeland cemeteries, seeing many tombstones dated 1918 that included many, many children and sometimes whole families.

Thanks to Charlie, Emily and Tony for these reminders of an epidemic in the Freeland area from a century ago.

St. Ann's groundbreaking for school, etc., along with a booklet showing the planned church that was never built, both from Colleen Tatar; 3 related newspaper clippings from Shawn Carr; St. Ann's "basement church" from Ed Merrick; and comments about the incomplete church building from Charlie Gallagher

St. Ann's groundbreaking, circa 1929 St. Ann's Catholic Reference Booklet, circa 1924 I'm adding something new to the featured photo that was posted on 9/21. That day we saw a large group photo (left) that Colleen Tatar had from her father and allowed me to scan some years ago. Recently I posted it on facebook and asked for comments on what it might be a photo of, as she didn't have any information about it. Consensus was that it shows the groundbreaking of St. Ann's School, rectory, and perhaps also the convent. Thanks to everyone who participated in that discussion.

Meanwhile, I had also scanned another item from Colleen, a booklet called the Catholic Reference Book and Parish Register. She also had this from her father. Dated circa 1924, it contains many local business ads and a brief biography of parish founder Rev. Michael J. Fallihee, in addition to the Catholic reference material that forms the core of the text. However, the most interesting thing about this for local history is the image on the cover and the ad on the inside back cover. Charlie Gallagher tells the story:

"I was told that was the church that was never built.
On page 12 you see that Durnin Construction was to have been the General Contractor for the Church.
They got the basement completed and that was it until the new church was built October 15, 1967.
(but the basement church had its charm and was unique).
Apparently upon completion of the school, convent and rectory, the church construction was started.
I’ve been told that concerns over the amount of debt the parish undertook resulted in a suspension of the additional construction.
Father Leo Gilroy, who brought the parish out of debt, was pastor of St. Ann’s from 1946 until he died on February 17, 1965.
He was succeeded by Father Gilleogly, who raised the money for a new church in 24 months and built it in 18 months."

He added: "It couldn’t have been a worse time to start a full parish construction project. Just before the 1929 stock market crash and the continuing depression into the mid thirties. Then right after all that, WWII. I imagine donations dried up during those years."

Shown at left is St. Ann's first church, founded in 1874 in Woodside, as a mission of the Immaculate Conception Church in Eckley. The center photo shows St. Ann's second church, which was built in the 800 block of Centre Street and served the parish for about 40 years, from the 1920s to the mid-1960s (photo from Ed Merrick). At right is the model for the planned completion of the 'basement church.'

St. Ann's in Woodside St. Ann's 'basement church' The planned St. Ann's church circa 1924

Here is the booklet that shows what the church would have looked like if it had been completed in th 1920s.

St. Ann's Catholic Reference Booklet, circa 1924

Clicking this link will open an Adobe PDF file of this booklet. If you don't have Adobe Reader on your computer you can download it for free at

PDF logo St Ann's Catholic Reference Booklet, circa 1924 - (PDF file size = 4.1 MB)

This is the groundbreaking photo from Colleen Tatar. St. Ann's Band was in attendance, along with a large group of parishioners. Perhaps someone from your family was there! The enlarged crop shows the priest holding a shovel.

St. Ann's school, etc. groundbreaking, 1929 St. Ann's school, etc. groundbreaking, 1929

St. Ann's school, etc. groundbreaking, 1929 St. Ann's school, etc. groundbreaking, 1929

These clippings come from Shawn Carr, who wrote: "Picture looks like groundbreaking for the rectory. Found these clips in Wilkes-Barre paper from 1929."

Newspaper clippings, new St. Ann's School Newspaper clippings, new St. Ann's School Newspaper clippings, new St. Ann's School

Freeland Shirt Company Annex, 1929 And in another example of how clues to additional pieces of Freeland area history show up in photographs of other things, Cal Herring noticed that the photo includes the only view I've seen of the Freeland Shirt Company Annex, which suffered a major fire two years later in 1931. According to news coverage at that time, "The building is an old Freeland landmark and was built 42 years ago [circa 1889 - CT] by Emmanuel Berger, Freeland contractor, for a religious sect known as the "Burger Church." ... It was the first factory to be operated by the Freeland Shirt Co., but was abandoned a number of years ago, when the new Dewey street mill was completed. Almost two years ago [approximately when this photo was taken - CT] it was remodeled and converted into a cutting department and storage house by the company and has been used for this purpose ever since." The building apparently continued to stand for some years, as Bob Zimmerman remembers it from his childhood in the 1940s; I don't know whether it was repaired and used again after the 1931 fire or not.

More about the Berger Church on a page about it here. A newspaper article quoted there seems to indicate that the building was still standing as recently as 1974.

Thank you, Colleen for sharing this great photo and the booklet. Thank you to Ed Merrick, Shawn Carr and Charlie Gallagher.

Jeddo Progressive Club, group photo from John Zubach

Jeddo Progressive Club event invitation
A while ago I bought this postcard that has printed along the left side: Annual Ball, Thanksgiving Eve. No year, and nothing on the back. So it's an event announcement. I don't know whether this house is just chosen as a representative image of a worker's house in Jeddo, or if there's any possibility that the club might have met there.

The only other thing in my files about this club is this very interesting group photo that I'd gotten from John Zubach some years ago, now given to the Freeland Historical Society.

Jeddo Progressive Club 1894 Jeddo Progressive Club 1894

Names on the poster, top to bottom, left to right:

A. X. McGill, B. Ferry, J. J. Marley
F. J. McHugh, D. J. McGlynn, J. J. Brislin
P. J. McNelis, P. Marley, J. E. Quigley, J. M. McHugh, A. T. McNelis
P. Timony, D. J. Marley (center), D. J. Timony
P. McMonigal, C. McCole, P. McHugh, C. M. Gallagher, J. S. Coll
P. J. Gillespie, P. D. Brislin, C. P. McGill, D. J. Boyle
J. C. Burns, J. J. Gallagher, H. B. Brislin

Written across bottom: Jeddo Progressive Club, Organized Nov. 9th 1888

Written (slanted) near bottom right: Freeland Pa. March 28th 1894

Written (slanted) near bottom left: J. J. Ward Photographer

What is this club? If you know anything about it and would be willing to share, we could post that information here.

Books on a shelf Newest updates to the site: Please visit the WHAT'S NEW! page for announcements and updates.

Gubi from St. Mary's
              Church Past Featured Photos: Here are links to three pages containing previously posted photos and information from the Featured Photos section of the home page: earliest postings, more recent ones, and the most recent ones. They are credited to the sources. Some of these have also been integrated into other parts of the site, while others are still waiting for that. Meanwhile, these past Featured Photos are always available via these links.

Merkt Market in
                the Birkbeck Block Note: Photo at top left of this page came from J. Zubach; identification from Gretchen Collins says that the business on the right in that photo was Merkt Confectionery, run by Charles and Lena Merkt. It was located in the Birkbeck Block on Centre and Main streets, and reputedly sold fabulous ice cream.

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Site contructed by C. Tancin, and last updated November 21, 2018.
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