“It’s Stone Avenue or nothing!” (But now it’s South Webster.)

1898 Sanborn Map Stone Ave
Sanborn Map Company, “Insurance maps of Scranton, Pennsylvania, including Dunmore. Vol. 2,” (1898), sheet 1595

Did you know that Scranton’s South Webster used to be called Stone Avenue?
My great-great grandparents John and Barbara Pallien lived on that street. I was looking up their address on newspapers.com, and it turns out there was some entertaining drama surrounding the avenue’s name change.

The first assault on “Stone” appears to have occurred circa 1900, when a name change to South Webster was suggested at a city council meeting1 by a Mr. Vaughan. By 1903, the avenue had undergone a few name changes. It went from Stone to South Webster to Jermyn (reported in some newspapers as “German” Avenue — coincidentally, my great grandparents were German immigrants). And then, it reverted back to Stone.

All this change was not without a little confusion. From The Scranton Republican, April 1903:

“For a time the people of this side [the South Side] will be somewhat confused over the names of the avenues from Prospect to Crown on account of a change. Stone avenue, which has been changed to South Webster, is again changed to Jermyn avenue, not “German,” being called after the late John Jermyn.”2

Stone Avenue or nothing!

A few months later, in July 1903, there was a shouting match over the name of Stone Avenue at a city council meeting. The chairman, Mr. Merriman, was reading from a list of proposed street-name changes that were up for vote. When he read out “Stone Avenue or South Webster Avenue to Jermyn Avenue,” Mr. Vaughan declared that the people preferred South Webster, and he made a motion for calling the street by that name.

But then, Councilman John McHale, whom the reporter described earlier as leaping to his feet with “eyes blazing,” informed the committee:

It must be Stone avenue or nothing! It was Stone avenue before we were born, the people want it Stone avenue, and it will be Stone avenue when we’re dead!

“He begged the chairman to immediately call it Stone avenue regardless of anything Mr. Vaughan might say.

Mr. Vaughan explained that the name had been changed from Stone to South Webster avenue by ordinance two years ago because it was a continuation of North Webster avenue and because the residents wanted it so.

“What is Webster? Give me a definition for Webster?” said Mr. McHale excitedly, while at the same time Mr. Griffiths was on his feet asking for information.

A TIE VOTE RESULTS.

The article continues:

“It was some time before order was restored and when it had been, Mr. McHale was instantly on his feet asking for a vote on his motion. It was seconded by Mr. Barrett, and the question was put. The responses appeared to be evenly divided.

“I’m in doubt,” said Chairman Merriman.

“No doubt about it,” said Mr. McHale, “We win. Let’s have the ayes and nays.”

Instead, a rising vote was taken and it resulted in a tie of 5-5. Mr. Merriman declared the motion lost.

“Hurrah,” said Mr. McHale. “You lose, you lose; we win,” and he very politely begged Mr. Griffiths’ pardon when the latter suggested that the matter be left for the councils to decide.

“It’s all settled now,” [McHale] said, notwithstanding that his own motion was lost.

Mr. Vaughan afterwards moved that the name be changed to South Webster avenue and the same tie vote resulted. The matter was then left for councils to decide.”3

As of 1936, a street in Scranton named Stone Avenue still appeared in newspaper articles, although South Webster Avenue is what’s listed on the 1920 census.4 Go figure! But, as all Scrantonians know, this street is known as South Webster Avenue today. Sorry, Mr. McHale!

Sources

[1] “Hard to Find a Customer: Difficulty in Selling the Sewer Bonds,”(07 Dec 1900), The Scranton Tribune, (Scranton, Pennsylvania), Page 2, digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed Jan 17, 2018, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/16629237/stone_avenue_south_webster_ordinance/

[2] “Change in Names,” (06 Apr 1903), Scranton Republican, (Scranton, Pennsylvania), page 6, digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed 17 Jan 2018, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/15041373/stone_avenue/

[3] “Mr. M’Hale’s Humor: City Father Convulsed Committee on Public Works with His Wit at Last Night’s Meeting,” (31 Jul 1903), Scranton Republican, (Scranton, Pennsylvania), page 7, digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed 17 Jan 2018, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/1767876/stone_av_to_s_webster_av_scranton/

[4] “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFYQ-Y7V : accessed 17 January 2018), John Pallion, Scranton Ward 20, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, United States; citing ED 187, sheet 7A, line 8, family 116, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1581; FHL microfilm 1,821,581.

[5] Sanborn Map Company, “Insurance maps of Scranton, Pennsylvania, including Dunmore. Vol. 2,” (1898), sheet159, New York: Sanborn-Perry Map Co., digital image, accessed Jan 18, 2018.
https://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/maps1/id/24477/rec/7

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