The residents of Nanticoke have known a number of prominent families over the years, some of whom are still remembered long after they and their relatives have moved on to other pastures.
THE SHEA FAMILY
Anna Shea (1873-1888)
Charles A. Shea
Children: James; Rosemary (d. 1937); Charles A., Jr. Thomas M.; Neville (d. 1971); others?
Married: John Smoulter (Nanticoke Banker and Luzerne County treasurer)
James T. Shea
Married: Joseph Smith (Nanticoke Health Officer)
Neville Shea (1913-1971)
Patrick Shea (1840-1892)
Married: Honora Shea (1840-1883)
Children: Thomas D.; Charles A.; Anna (1873-1888)
Thomas Shea (1800-
Married: Mary Shea
Children: Patrick; Ellen; Mary
Thomas D. Shea (1868-
Married: Theresa C. Maloney
The long building at the right is the Shea Building at E. Main and Prospect in 1924. The Shea Law Offices were located there for many years and it was a prime location for many businesses and offices until it was demolished to make way for a convenience mart in the nineteen seventies.
Shea’s Orchard occupied the land between Shea and Walnut Streets where fairs, carnivals and tent shows entertained residents from the 1890’s to the 1920’s. Eventually the area became too small to contain the increasingly larger shows, which were moved to Lincoln Field. The Orchard was also a favorite site for sporting groups such as the Nanticoke Tennis Club which maintained a court there.
This house at 12 S. Walnut Street was the first residence constructed on Shea’s Orchard, circa 1919. Nanticoke insurance agent George T. Knoll and his family occupied the house in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This photo was taken in August 2010.
The Shea Family Lot; St. Francis Cemetery
THE FAIRCHILD FAMILY
This photo is of the original Fairchild homestead is undated. The building still stands on Enterprise Street in Nanticoke.
John Fairchild was born on 9 February 1753 and died on 29 April 1824. (Tombstone inscription, Newport Cemetery)
John Fairchild and his wife, Mary (Van Dyne), who emigrated from England prior to the Revolution, originally settled in Connecticut. After the Wyoming Valley Massacre in 1778, Abram, Peter, John, Solomon and Mary, moved to Nanticoke and purchased land for a farm on what later became Enterprise Street (at that time on the Newport Township side of Townline Road [later Hanover Street]).
There were four brothers and one sister.
Abram Fairchild: Had three or four sons, two of whom were Moses and George. They soon moved from Newport to Ohio.
Peter Fairchild: One son: William
John Fairchild: Four daughters and four sons; Mary, Jane, Rachel, Elizabeth, Solomon, John, Jacob, Peter
Solomon Fairchild: born 17 October 1788, died 16 September 1857; married Elizabeth Lutsey. They had thirteen children; Polly, Anna, Margaret, John, Rosanna, William, Elizabeth, Priscilla, Solomon, Isabelle, Martha, Emily, Abram (Historical and Biographical annals of Columbia and Montour County, 1915, by JH Beers & Company)
Polly or Mary: Five children; Jane (Lines), Rachel, Lydia, Eliza, Amanda.
(The inscription Emily Fairchild was copied without details from a worn tombstone in Newport Cemetery by Norman Niccum in 1931. Nearly all of the names copied by Niccum were deceased prior to 1890. It is not known whether or not Emily was the daughter of Solomon Fairchild.)
Like the Shea family, the Fairchilds owned large areas of land in Nanticoke, including most of the land between W. Main and Hanover Streets as far as Church Street and into Newport Township, as well as Fairchild Pond in Alden, where they owned a home and engaged in the ice business for many years.
The Fairchild Ice Business. Ice was cut at Fairchild’s Pond at the foot of Alden Mountain and driven to their storage facility at the rear of 162 Hanover Street where it was sold to their many customers.
Charles L. and Grace Fairchild and family, about 1897.
This Fairchild residence still stands, although much altered, at 162 Hanover Street, Nanticoke. Charles and Grace Fairchild lived here until their deaths in 1956 when it was passed to their children. Their last surviving daughter, Emma Fairchild Kelly, occupied it until her death in 1997, when it passed out of the family. She was the last of the Nanticoke Fairchilds.
THE MILL FAMILY
John Mill arrived in Nanticoke in 1802 and purchased land from Matthias Hollenback. He became the first occupant of the homestead on E. Main Street. Most of the 600 acres he acquired in the next several years was used for farming.
Undated photo of the Mill homestead
The house as it appeared in 1919
Samantha Mill, the most famous and last surviving member of the family
After her death in 1937, Samantha Mill bequeathed her estate for the construction of a public library on the lands of her former home. After several years of legal wrangling between the Mill Estate and the City, the first Mill Memorial Library was opened in the former Ebenezer Church on Prospect Street in 1945. It would take another decade before the Mill Estate won their case in court to uphold the terms of the will. Construction began on the new library building in 1957 and it was opened to the public the following year.
Silas Alexander arrived in Nanticoke in 1820. Born 25 April 1799 in Dover, NJ, he was educated in NJ and became a teacher in the Nanticoke public schools about this time. Among the men who sent children to Mr. Alexander’s school were Col. Washington Lee, James S. Lee, Isaac Ripple, John Mill, and Thomas Bennett.
At the time of his arrival, the whole of the territory south of Main Street was a dense wilderness, and between E. Main and the river was a swamp, which was considered worthless. There were only two or three houses. The land between what became Locust Street and Market Street was a charcoal pit.
Silas Alexander married Elizabeth Smith on 19 October 1821. She was the daughter of Valentine Smith of Newport Township. Their son, Cyrus, the first of 13 children, was born in Newport Township on 28 November 1822.
Alexander opened his first store at Nanticoke Corners (Main and Market Streets) and by 1845 had moved to a second location at Locust and Main where the charcoal pits once existed and which would become the Alexander block.
Over the next several decades, the Alexander family bought up numerous lots along E. Main Street and opened up businesses on both sides of the street.
Silas Alexander’s Dry Goods was at 9 E. Main in 1877, which became 15-17 E. Main Street after the Borough of Nanticoke began simplifying the postal addresses in 1891.
Alexander’s Hall was established about this time as a meeting room for clubs, political groups, and various societies, etc. The building in the lithograph was constructed in 1877, a year after a devastating fire destroyed the entire block from Broadway to Locust Street, which allowed the Alexanders to buy up many building lots cheaply.
Civil War Veteran; detail of a photo taken in front of Hill & Evans Hardware, 30 may 1893; the name is partly obscured but last letters are “nder.” This may have been Eugene N. Alexander, who was also a member of Lape Post and GAR; E.N. Alexander had served in the 41st PA Infantry.
The Alexander stores, particularly their massive department store at the intersection of E. Main and Locust Streets, was the largest and most important department store in Nanticoke from the 1890’s to the 1920’s, until it was eclipsed by newer, more modern stores like Challengers, Levy’s and Strauss’ Million Dollar Store.
The end came in 1921 when Herman Alexander announced that the store was going out of business and that the building had been leased to the Woolworth Company for a period of 20 years. The 3-story structure at the intersection of Main and Locust was 42x192 and covered the area between Main and Arch Streets. A mammoth sale was planned within a few days to disperse their $10,000 stock.
Unlike the other prominent families of the era, the Alexanders have left no physical marker to note their participation in commercial life. Sheatown and Shea Street are reminders of Sheas, Fairchild Street is a tribute to that family, and the Mill Memorial Library keeps the memory of the Mills alive. With no streets or buildings bearing their name, and no known family members living in Nanticoke since the late 1920’s, the Alexander name has completely faded from memory.