Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Delving into Forty Fort's history, via an Oliver Optic novel

As I continue a sort and partial purge of some old books, I came across a copy of The Young Lieutenant or The Adventures of An Army Officer by Oliver Optic (aka William Taylor Adams).1 Here is what I discovered on the inside front cover (shown above) and the first page:

1. The book was once part of the Forty Fort Presbyterian Church Library.

2. It was once housed at Red Door, located at 1516 Wyoming, in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania.2

3. Someone named Wilcox was part of the book's provenance at some point.

4. The book was given to George Perley on Christmas Day, 1910, "from Ma."

5. The book, like many others, ended up in possession of John Brake of Greenville, Virginia, in December 1976.

6. At some point, the book was for sale for $15.00.

7. Not noted on the pages are the facts that this Oliver Optic book was once part of the inventory of a Red Lion, Pennsylvania-based bookseller before being sold to me in a bulk lot as part of the dispersal of unwanted inventory. (Should I write that in, for the historical record and/or the next blogger?3)

* * *

So, Forty Fort is an small borough in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. It was named for the fort that was built there during the time of the Revolutionary War and included, literally, 40 settlers from Connecticut. The fort no longer exists, but the borough is home to the Forty Fort Meetinghouse, which was constructed in 1807.

The Forty Fort Presbyterian Church was an outgrowth of the Meetinghouse, but I can't find any information online about when it was built. Perhaps if I attend next year's "Tour of Historic Greater Pittston," I can learn more.

The big mystery from this book, though, is the yellow RED DOOR sticker. Was it a business? A man who just happened to be named Red Door? There is a Red Door Construction, located in Kingston, which is less than two miles from Forty Fort.

Finally, through some additional diligence, I found my answer within the 2004 obituary of Eleanor Roberts Morgan:
"Mrs. Morgan was the owner of the Red Door Antique Shop on Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort during the 1950s, '60s, and early '70s. She dealt in all aspects of the business, from fine china and furniture, jewelry and art, to first edition and historical books. After the flood of '72, she and her husband 'Phil,' 'Dake,' or 'Coach Morgan,' moved to Florida for 19 years of good dining, ocean swimming, beach shelling and their old loves, flea markets and friends."
And so there you have it. This might be one of the few remaining artifacts that can be directly linked, via its sticker, to the Red Door Antique Shop in Forty Fort. Thank you, Eleanor.

1. There is, annoyingly, no publication or copyright date on this book, which was published by A.L. Burt Company of New York.
2. I can't say "Forty Fort" without thinking of Ossie Davis' character named Portifoy from that awesome Night Gallery episode with Roddy McDowall.
3. Okay. Done.

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