I’ve spent part of the past four days working on the fall newsletter of the Lackawanna Historical Society. The newsletter features an article about a Scranton artist, the dedication of a historical marker that the LHS supported, and a few grants the LHS recently received.
While working on the newsletter, I fished out a copy of the summer issue. I wrote the cover article for that edition – a bio on Isaiah F. Everhart, the Scranton businessman who endowed and stocked a museum for the city. Of course, it was easier to be such the community philanthropist when your heir was involved in a plot to murder you. That’s a clear sign that it’s time to write somebody out of the will. This year marks the Everhart Museum’s 100th anniversary, which lead to the article.
Here‘s an excerpt from the article (posted September 17):
Out-of-town visitors who wander away from “The Office” tour can find a number of area sites that deserve tourist attention. One of them sits at the entryway to Nay Aug Park and is named after the Bucks County-transplant who was central in forming the museum.
An extensive interest in collecting and traveling combined with successful business ventures in and around Scranton put Isaiah F. Everhart in the position to open, stock, and endow a museum that 100 years later remains a Scranton landmark.
It was Everhart’s many business ventures – the Everhart Coal Company, the Scranton Forging Company, the Everhart Brass Works – that gave Dr. Everhart the means to travel, expand his collection, and eventually donate more than $200,000 to build and endow the museum for the city of Scranton.
Everhart’s interests in collecting – seeds, animals, skins, furs, fish – and his interest in science and nature filled his collection and laid the beginnings of the Everhart museum. We remember Everhart the benefactor, who gave the city its signature museum for arts and science. He rightfully deserves that credit. But Everhart was also a successful businessman who turned his financial success—and his hobby interests—into an entity that serves the community and reminds us of its original benefactor 100 years after its dedication.
The youngest son of James and Mary Everhart, Isaiah Everhart was born January 22, 1840 in Bucks County. He studied medicine at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster and the University of Pennsylvania, and worked at the West Philadelphia U.S. Military Hospital. After school, Everhart joined with the Union forces as a surgeon – initially as an assistant with the Eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Cavalry and culminating as the surgeon-in-chief of the Military District of Lynchburg (Virginia). He left his wartime duties on August 11, 1865.
Following the Civil War, Everhart traveled to Europe – visiting medical schools to continue his studies but also to tour the major industrial and art centers of the world. Everhart set out again on an extended trip in 1893, this time to tour Mexico, the Pacific Coast, and Alaska. During these tours – and through many smaller trips within Pennsylvania – Everhart began to amass a collection that filled his house at Franklin Avenue and Spruce Street and eventually his museum.
Everhart settled in Scranton in 1868 where he quickly began work in his field of expertise—medicine. Scranton was a part of Luzerne County when Everhart arrived. As Scranton continued to develop, and Lackawanna County was born, Everhart found himself assuming a role in the community. He declined to run for office, but he served as a member of Scranton’s first Board of Health and was a member of the Scranton State Hospital.
Everhart joined several business ventures in the city, often teaming with his brother James. Isaiah Everhart involved the Everhart Coal Company, the Everhart Brass Works, and the Scranton Forging Company.
Everhart married Annie V. Ubil on January 2, 1871. She bore him one son – Edwin – and died in 1898. Edwin, arrested for plotting his father’s murder, died in 1934.
Without a large family to receive an inheritance, Everhart turned to fill the needs of the city. Everhart gave $100,000 to build the museum and donated another $100,000 to serve as an endowment. The museum was formally dedicated on May 30, 1908. Many of Everhart’s items from years of collecting found their way to the museum.
Everhart, who expected his extensive collections from throughout Pennsylvania would be of some scientific use, died three years after the dedication—on May 26, 1911. In the century since its founding the museum has served as a monument to one of the great men of the community. It has also preserved and shared his lifework with generations of Scranton children and untold visitors from outside Everhart’s adopted town.
Contact the Lackawanna Historical Society for back copies.