For the past week or so, I’ve been reflecting on the soliloquy spoken by Juliet in Act Two, Scene Two of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
You know the one.
“What’s in a name?” the protagonist ponders. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
I admit, I’m not a big Shakespeare fan. Mostly because I don’t understand his writings. This scene and the equally well-known “to be or not to be” bit from “Hamlet” mark the extent of my Shakespearean knowledge.
I do, however, see and appreciate Juliet’s point. A name does not dictate the traits of a flower.
Or a community.
But at the same time, names can tell stories and carry pieces of history that might otherwise be forgotten.
Such is the case in the Abingtons.
Last week I wrote here about the geography of our area and briefly touched on the history of its nomenclature, specifically the naming of Waverly Township. Dennis Martin, one of our local historians, contacted me afterward with some additional information about the Abingtons which I found (and believe readers will find) interesting.
“There are still a few unknowns about the name,” Mr. Martin wrote in an email.
He cited a story about a man named Ebbington who some people believe the area was initially named after. I vaguely remembered hearing this story somewhere before, and Mr. Martin’s email prompted a little research to refresh my memory.
A quick Google search lead me to “History of Scranton and Its People, Volume 2” by Frederick Lyman Hitchcock.
On page 382 under “Waverly,” Hitchcock states, “the townships of North and South Abington, in which the villages, later boroughs, of Waverly, Glenburn, Dalton, La Plume and Clarks Summit, are situated were formed from Abington Township, called in the Connecticut claim and survey ‘Ebbington,’ in honor of Colonel Ebbings, an extensive land agent. When the titles to the land he had sold proved worthless under the Pennsylvania construction of the law, the settlers were so incensed that they changed the name to Abington, after a township in Connecticut.”
“I can’t find any reliable references on that, but it is an old story,” Mr. Martin told me.
It’s an amusing anecdote, nonetheless. I can imagine the early settlers’ rage upon learning they’d been swindled. If the story is true, their eagerness to erase the man’s name from their history was understandable.
“The Susquehanna Company was started in Wyndham County in northeast Connecticut,” Mr. Martin continued in his email. “Abington is a well-established town in that county. Both it and the Abington near Philadelphia are named after the same-named town in England. Abington, Connecticut is about 10 miles north of Plainfield where William Clark came from as well as John Miller.”
Deacon William Clark was the founder of Clarks Green. According to a history of the borough found online at clarksgreen.info, Deacon Clark was born in 1757.
“He and his sons, William, Jeremiah and John were the first settlers in 1792, building a log cabin on the site of the current Clarks Green Cemetery,” the website reads. “The next year, [his] entire family relocated here from Rhode Island. By 1812, the first road through the borough was built and known as the Philadelphia – Great Bend Turnpike. Along the side of this road, Deacon Clark’s son, Jeremiah Clark, built a tavern as a stop for the stage coaches traveling the road. This was the first commercial business established in the borough. As the community grew, a militia was formed which held its practices on a greens ward (lawn) resulting in the name of the practice site, Clarks Green.”
John Miller was another early setter of the Abingtons – a preacher who, according to Hitchcock, “continued a faithful minister for 45 years.”
“He conducted many revivals, baptized two thousand people, preached 1,800 funeral services and married more than 450 couples,” the text reads. “He died in 1857. He was also much in demand as a surveyor, was the first teacher, preacher and postmaster of Abington, and the first Baptist church in the township was built on his farm. … He was also the first justice of the peace and the first Sunday School superintendent.”
What a resume.
Another tidbit from Mr. Martin that caught my attention was in regard to the Abingtons’ relation to the Tunkhannock area. I mentioned last week that some people consider Tunkhannock a part of the Abingtons. I’ve always thought that to be a bit of a stretch, but it may be more accurate in a historical sense than I realized.
“I believe that Abington was once part of Tunkhannock Township, and its early settlement came by way of that town,” said Mr. Martin. “Robert Reynolds settled Factoryville in 1790 before William Clark came to the area in 1799. He is also called the first settler in the Abingtons. While Factoryville history says that he entered the area through the Notch, John Miller has pointed out that the Notch was only a footpath before 1799 when William Clark and others made it accessible by wagon. I suspect that early settlement of the area was in its western part by way of Tunkhannock, and I believe that the name Abington went almost to Tunkhannock. I would like to find out if I am correct or not, but that research is hard to find reliable sources for.”
Maybe that’s what history is about: questions. Sometimes there are more of those than answers.
But that’s what makes it intriguing.
It would be impossible to even scratch the surface of the history of the Abingtons and its towns in a single column or even a series. But embarking on your own treasure hunt is more exciting than reading about someone else’s adventure, anyway. I hope this inspires readers to learn more on their own about the history of our area.
A good starting point in this search for knowledge is at the Abington Community Library. You’ll find the best place to pick up the scent is in the reference section under the “local history” sign.
Contact the writer:
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