Peeking into the past: James J. Brown finds wealth and Molly Brown

Peeking into - the past - Judy Minsavage


In 1960, why didn’t any Pittston Main Street proprietors or shoppers call the police when they saw two men breaking into an armored car carrying tens of thousands of dollars?

1956 – 62 YEARS AGO

A visitor dropped in to the Sunday Dispatch office and related a story about former Pittston resident James J. Brown who, in 1877 at the age of 23, headed west to seek fortune. After many years studying geology and mining techniques, Brown settled in Leadville, Colorado and married Margaret “Molly” Tobin on Sept. 1, 1886. Living in a two-room log cabin, the Browns started their family. In 1893, Brown’s knowledge of mining and engineering proved instrumental in the production of a substantial gold and copper seam at the Little Jonny Mine of his employers, Ibex Mining Company. The grade of gold was so pure and the vein so wide it was heralded as the world’s richest gold strike. For his efforts and expertise, Brown was awarded a 12.5% ownership share in the company and a seat on the board after which he and his wife became extremely wealthy. Molly Brown formally separated from husband James in 1909 but, after being summoned to return home from Cherbourg, France due to the illness of a grandchild, she boarded the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage. Brown survived the sinking of the ship on April 15, 1912. After a Broadway play and subsequent movie about her near-fatal experience was released in 1964, she was thereafter known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” James J. Brown died in a New York hospital in 1922 at the age of 68.

1957 – 61 YEARS AGO

Marlene Goldsworthy, 10, of West Pittston was on her way to Atlantic City to appear with the Tony Grant Dance Revue at the famed Steel Pier. Grant, who took over the show’s production in the 1,700-seat theater in 1947, had four rules as published in the New York Time’s article in 1973, “A performer is not allowed to be on the pier in costume. A performer is not allowed to sit in the first 10 rows of the theater. No chewing gum on stage, for you can’t dance and chew gum together. And if you’re old enough to smoke, you’re too old for the Children’s Theater.” Also, according to the article, Connie Francis, Frankie Avalon and Mary Lou Metzger, of the Lawrence Welk Show fame performed in Grant’s shows.

“The Prince and the Showgirl,” starring Marilyn Monroe and Lawrence Olivier, was featured at the American Theater in Pittston. “Tammy and the Bachelor,” starring Debbie Reynolds played at the Comerford Drive-In and all “lady drivers” were admitted free to the Riverview Drive-In to see “Green Dolphin Street” starring Lana Turner.

An article in the Sunday Dispatch detailed the creation of West Pittston Borough. The Garden Village, as it had been nicknamed, was carved from several acres of farmland by a group called the West Pittston Land Association. The lands acquired were the Peter Polen farm, which extended from Exeter Avenue to Luzerne Avenue; Washington Barber’s farm located south of Sharp’s farm which extended from the Susquehanna River to Tunkhannock Avenue; William Shaw’s land, extending as far back as Wyoming Road and the farm of Amos York Smith, which encompassed the area from Exeter Avenue to Clyde Street and the river. In 1851, it was reported that Augustus Frothingham, of Pittston, and a Mr. Smith, of Honesdale, erected the first homes. By 1852, West Pittston contained three houses, a few barns, fields of grain and orchards. The unusual home erected at 1000 Susquehanna Avenue by Augustus Frothingham was highlighted as a unique architecture. Painted yellow, it was known as the Dandelion Cottage.

1960 – 58 YEARS AGO

The Sunday Dispatch Inquiring Photographer asked, “The Republican National Convention will be starting in Chicago. Do you think it will be as interesting as the recent Democratic Convention?” Carrie Guiboni, Pittston, answered, “I didn’t bother watching the Democratic convention; it’s not very likely I will watch the Republican. It’s a good time to take a vacation from television.” Sam Falcone, of Pittston, said, “I can’t see where there will be any interest unless some opposition is provided for Nixon.” Art Donohue, of Port Blanchard, added, “It will be all cut and dried; Nixon seems to have the nod unopposed.” The 1960 Democratic convention held in Los Angeles, CA, nominated Senator John F. Kennedy Senator from Massachusetts to run for president. He then chose Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas as his runningmate. The Republican convention in 1960 gave the nod to Vice President Richard Nixon to run against Kennedy.


Who did Presidential Republican nominee Richard Nixon choose to be his running mate in 1960?

Mrs. W.J. Lawler, of Pittston, was anxiously waiting to hear whether the National Democratic Headquarters would use a song she had written as the official campaign jingle for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Lawler had been receiving enthusiastic comments from music publishers and area residents regarding her song, “Let’s Show the World We Mean It.” Lawler’s words were set to music by Ascot Publishing Firm in California.

1972 – 46 YEARS AGO

Top Ten Songs

1. “Too Late to Turn Back Now” – Cornelius Bros & Sister Rose

2. “Lean on Me” – Bill Withers

3. “Nice to be With You” – Gallery

4. “Rocket Man” – Elton John

5. “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” – Wayne Newton

6. “Too Young” – Donnie Osmond

7. “Song Sung Blue” – Neil Diamond

8. “I Wanna be Where You Are” – Michael Jackson

9. “Living in a House Divided” – Cher

10. “The Runaway” – Grassroots

1976 – 42 YEARS AGO

The talent of artist Joseph Borini was common knowledge in the Greater Pittston Area. But when his 9’ x 5’ commissioned painting entitled “America, We Love You” was unveiled in the Tobyhanna Army Depot’s administration building lobby, Borini’s fan base grew to include his fellow employees at the depot. The painting presented to Colonel William E. Dasch, depot commander, depicted the bald eagle, Mt. Rushmore, Statue of Liberty, the American flag and veterans of major wars. Borini, who cited Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth as his favorite artists, admitted he also favored one of his own creations, entitled “Coal Miner Trapped.”

1996 – 22 YEARS AGO

Established in 1927, The Wyoming Free Library was in desperate need of more room. With only one change in location in seven decades, the existing building which housed the library since the 60s was becoming too small to maintain all the materials held by the library. Mr. and Mrs. Coray Miller, Ivo Giannini and Joseph Olesky, members of an organizing committee to build a new library, hoped the residents of Wyoming and Exeter Boroughs would help meet the $300,000 goal to complete the project.

Answer #1

In 1960, Pittston business owners and shoppers on Main Street watched as two men used crow bars to open a heavy metal door of a Cross armored car. They weren’t afraid; they were simply curious, because the two men breaking into the auto were the driver and guard that drove up in the vehicle in the first place. After exiting the vehicle with “guns showing,” the two men took money bags into the Miners Bank on Main Street. Upon returning, both realized they were locked out of the vehicle. It took the two men more than an hour to gain access to the reinforced steel-plated car.

Answer #2

After winning the nomination of the Republican Party to run for president of the United States in 1960, Richard Nixon chose Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Senator of Massachusetts, for his running mate.


1789 — Thomas Jefferson becomes the first head of the U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs.

1812 — A British army under the Duke of Wellington defeats the French at Salamanca, Spain.

1814 — Five Indian tribes in Ohio make peace with the United States and declare war on Britain.

1894 — The first automobile race takes place between Paris and Rouen, France.

1934 — American gangster John Dillinger is shot dead by FBI officers outside a Chicago cinema.

1938 — The Third Reich issues special identity cards for Jewish Germans.

1943 — Palermo, Sicily surrenders to General George S. Patton‘s Seventh Army.

1966 — B-52 bombers hit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam for the first time.


1882 — Edward Hopper, painter

1898 — Stephen Vincent Benet, poet and short-story writer (“John Brown’s Body”)

1898 — Alexander Calder, sculptor

1908 — Amy Vanderbilt, American journalist, etiquette authority

1923 — Robert Dole, U.S. senator and presidential candidate

1946 — Paul Schrader, screenwriter and film director (“Taxi Driver”)

Peeking into

the past

Judy Minsavage

Reach the Abington Journal newsroom at 570-587-1148 or by email at

Reach the Abington Journal newsroom at 570-587-1148 or by email at