“Saxey” Secor and the Gravity Railroad

1904 Reunion Gravity Railroad The_Scranton_Republican_Wed__Mar_6__1929_c

This is a great find for me because it features quotes from one of  my direct grandcestors —  quotes drawn from the author’s memory — no tape recorders circa 1860. 🙂

I was searching for info about the Gravity Railroad where my 3rd great grandfather Edward J. Secor worked, and I found an account of an A.C. Snyder’s first day working on the railroad in the early 1860s, under the tutelage of “Saxey” Secor.

There were two Secors nicknamed Saxey that I know of, father and son. It seems that Saxey was a not-uncommon nickname in the 1800s.

I think Mr. Snyder was writing about the senior Saxey, my 4th great grandfather Allen Secor, since he refers to his new boss as “the old man” throughout the article. Allen’s son Edward, who also went by the nickname Saxey, would have only been in his early 30s at the time of these events.

1904 Reunion Gravity Railroad The_Scranton_Republican_Wed__Mar_6__1929_c
1904 1st Reunion of Gravity Railroad Employees. Lead up articles to the reunion say that Great-great-great Granddad Edward J. Secor was expected to attend, so there’s a good chance he’s in this picture somewhere!

From The Citizen, (Honesdale, PA), 11 Sep 1912:

“Much has been printed about the coal cars and passenger cars that ran on the gravity railroads, but nothing has yet appeared regarding what were called “the trucks,” which were low flat cars for carrying logs.

A. C. Snyder, president of the Gravity Employees’ Association, left the lumber woods of New York state in the early [18]60’s, when he was a kid, and coming to Dunmore, our neighboring borough, obtained employment with “Saxey” Secor.

Mr. Secor, who lives near the foot of No. 6, was the contractor employed on the Pennsylvania gravity to load logs upon “the trucks” and bring them into this valley. Mr. Snyder, describing his first day on the road, as well as subsequent experiences as a Gravity hand, has written the following:

“We left the head of the No. 6 plane at 6 o’clock in the morning and went up the famous Moosic mountains. When we arrived at the head of No. 11, which was the last ascending plane on the mountain, the old man (Mr. Secor), said, ‘Now, my boy, we have 14 miles of a ride without the aid of wire ropes and steam engines.’

Away we went around short curves, and the first thing I knew we were in the No. 11 tunnel. When we came out in the daylight again, my hat settled down on my head and I felt great relief. That a train of cars could run through a hole like that was a stunner to me.

On we went, passing scrub oaks, huckleberry bushes and rattlesnake dens. In about an hour and a half we arrived at the foot of the No. 12 plane. There we found about half a mile of coal cars ahead of us.

While lying there, waiting for the coal to be hoisted up the plane, I said to the old man, “This is the way to railroad, for there is no stopping for wood and old ties along the road.’ He replied, ‘You have not seen it all yet.’

I wanted to hook on [I think he means hook one train car to another] but the old man said, ‘Boy, you get out of the way or you will lose your fingers, and then you won’t be good for anything.’

I climbed up on the little cars. One of the other boys hooked on and away we went up the hill.

On arriving at the top, we took another road, which was called the branch. This line ran to the foot of No. 19 on the light track, [at Lake Jones] now known as Lake Ariel.

An antique canthook
An antique canthook

When we were about half way over the branch, the train stopped along a big pile of logs and props.

The old man picked up a canthook, handed it to me, and said, ‘Now, boy, we don’t want any wood or old ties, but we want those logs and props rolled on those trucks in short order.’

I took the canthook and looked at it as if I had never seen one before, but I had used one ever since I was big enough. My father was a lumberman and I was at home with the canthook.

When the trucks were loaded, the chains were drawn over the top, the binders pulled down and fastened, and we proceeded on our trip.

On arriving at No. 19, we stopped for dinner in front of Potter’s Hotel. After dinner, we started out for home.

When we arrived at the head of 21, Mr. Secor said, ‘Boy, you will have 12 miles to sit down; watch me run the trucks and learn all you can about them.’

When we were about 5 miles from the head of 21, we came out of the woods at a little town called Dunnings, and I saw another another railroad across the creek. There was a train with three locomotives standing at the station.

One of the engines was at the wood pile, taking wood, and the pile appeared big enough to save the men the trouble of tearing down fences or picking up old ties. I asked Mr. Secor what road it was, and he said it was the Delware, Lackawanna and Hudson.

Before I could ask any more about the road with the big piles of wood, we were in the woods again, running over trestles, around the stumps and under hanging rock. When we reached Bunker Hill, Mr. Brady came out of his office to measure the logs.

He asked Mr. Secor where he got the ‘beecher’ (meaning me). Mr. Secor answered, ‘That boy is no ‘beecher.’

[What’s a ‘beecher’? I asked my Scranton-area raised cousin Ben if he had any idea, and his guess was: Beecher probably has something to do with Beeches Woods, the whole area that was Covington Township, that divided into Madison (Moscow) and some other townships. The area was known for its stands of beech trees. Another tip from Ben is that beech trees are considered “low value” wood, so maybe that has something to do with the apparently negative connotation of beecher? Just a guess!]

“I got a boarding-house place at the company boarding house at No. 6, which was kept by Alexander Stuart. At 6 o’clock the next morning we went to Bunker Hill.

Mr. Secor said to me, ‘You will go with me to Pittston with the props. The men will unload the trucks at the Darkey mill and then go to No. 12 and load them again.’

The old man took me on the head car so he could show me the country, but all I could see was woods until we arrived at Pittston. I unloaded the props at the mines and returned.

I worked on this train a year and then went on a coal train between Dunmore and Hawley with Edward Secor, son of Allan[sic] Secor.

I ran on this train until the fall of 1866, when I was compelled to leave on account of the cars riding so hard.

The track was nearly all strap iron, spiked on sleepers. After it was used a while it became rough, and it was impossible for me to stand the jarring any longer.”


A.C. Snyder, from “Ninth Reunion of Gravity Employees,” The Citizen, (Honesdale, PA), 11 Sep 1912, Wed, Page 8, digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed Feb 09, 2018, https://www.newspapers.com/image/?spot=17299083 [Public Domain]

Relationship chart – How I’m related to Allen “Saxey” Secor (1804-1882):

Allen is the fourth great grandfather of Alison

  1. Allen Secor is the father of Edward J. Secor
  2. Edward J. Secor is the father of Francis D. Secor
  3. Francis D. Secor is the father of Mary L. Secor
  4. Mary L. Secor is the mother of Clarence McClintock
  5. Clarence McClintock is the father of my dad
  6. Me



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