Building the Brick Road Between Watsontown and McEwensville

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, September 23, 1912:  Walked the muddy way to school this morning. Don’t have much to write these days.

Recent photo of the road that went between McEwensville and Watsontown in Grandma’s day.  . . Once dirt, then brick, and now paved. . .

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

With all the mud, it’s a good thing that Grandma got new rubber overshoes  the previous Saturday. September, 1912 must have been a rainy month.  On September 18  Grandma also wrote about the muddy walk to school.

1912 was the last year that Grandma had to walk the entire way on dirt roads.  She lived between McEwensville and Watsontown, and a brick road was apparently under construction that would replace the old dirt road.

According to George Wesner in  History in McEwensville (1976):

The brick road leading from McEwensville to Watsontown was one of the first of its kind to be built in Pennsylvania. Construction was begun at McEwsville in 1912 and completed the following year. . .

It was built by the construction firm Fiss and Christiana of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. In grading, the ground was moved by horse-drawn dump wagons which were loaded by manual labor. While some local people were employed most of the laborers were Italian immigrants. Very few could speak English. They were quartered in a labor camp which was located in a ravine on the farm of Isiah Elliot,  now owned by Samuel Raup. All the materials, sand, gravel, brick and cement were hauled by teams and horses. The only mechanical equipment used was a steam roller. . .

On an occasion when a period of bad weather had caused the operation to run behind schedule, the contractors, in an effort to catch up, requested that they work on Sunday. . . .

I wonder if the wet days that Grandma wrote about during September 1912 were when the road-building crews got behind schedule.

Grandma would have walked this road to school every day while it was being transformed from  a muddy dirt road to fancy brick one. It sounds like a major activity to me, yet she never thought it worth mentioning in the diary. Sigh. . .

13 Responses

  1. you would think that mud turned to brick would be noteworthy

  2. She’s a typical teenager who lives in the present and how it affects her.

  3. It must have taken forever to build a road back then. ‘Brick by Brick’ really takes on a significant meaning

    • I think that they were really proud of the road after they got it completed. The road had been paved by the time that I was a child–but people still referred to the road as “the brick road.”

  4. Another thing interesting about the crew that laid the road. They were hired as soon as they processed in from Italy. There was a quota that limited Italian emmigrants but off hand I don’t remember the date that the quota started. It was because Italians were considered not as good as Northern Europeans. I should go and look it up in Wikipedia.

  5. Maybe she felt it would never be finished…will she comment when it’s done, when I’m finished.

  6. Makes me wonder if “the muddy way” refers to some part of the road that had yet to be built … agree, though, that it seems it would have been noteworthy.

  7. There must have been many noteworthy events taking place but she only mentions a sentence or two directly relating to herself. When they paved our dirt road in Mississippi we just kept using it while they were working. I don’t remember if all the work was done while school was out but if not the bus rolled right on down every day.

    • It probably was similar to how we now consider it a minor annoyance when a road is being repaired. For example, they currently are rebuilding a bridge between where I live and my work. I’m annoyed that I need to drive a few extra miles–but it’s not a big deal.

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