Is the 150th anniversary of Avoca this year, or should it be next year, 2022? Or how about 2039?
More on that later, because right now, Avoca is ready to celebrate with a parade and community social on Sunday, Sept. 5. The parade will begin at 1 p.m. on McAlpine Street and travel along Main Street to the borough building. A party will be held at Queen of the Apostles Parish Hall from 2 to 6 p.m. and will feature food, refreshments, children’s activities, raffles and live music. The day caps off a weekend that started with the Battle of the Tracks kickball tournament and sesquicentennial kickoff celebration on Friday and Avoca’s Small Business Saturday on Sept. 4, with many local businesses offering sales and promotions to mark the occasion.
The borough was incorporated by the state legislature as Pleasant Valley on May 24, 1871, but the first council — made up of Peter Brehony, Robert Reed and George Lampman — didn’t meet until May 25, 1872, a year and a day after the incorporation. M.C. Early was the first mayor, an office then known as burgess. If these men were elected, there is no record of the election. They may have been appointed by the county court and in turn appointed Early as burgess, but there is no record of the appointments. No pre-1900 records or newspaper accounts of any borough business can be found, except for an auditor’s report which showed the borough spent $1,072 in fiscal year 1872 — $108 of it defending a suit against the borough by Burgess Early — and began the 1873 fiscal year with $11 in the treasury.
Not sure what the lawsuit was about, but Early was a live wire. A story in the Pittston Gazette called him out for his “mulishness.” The story said he ordered equipment for the borough “which is of no earthly use and which he is not able to pay for.” He didn’t last a year. In 1873, two residents sued him for land, a house and a stable they claimed belonged to them and won.
A few newspaper accounts like these were found, but borough officials did not keep records, such as meeting minutes, for more than 20 years. This lack of documentation was a story in the Pittston Gazette in 1912 “It is very unfortunate, and very hard to understand, that the person who seeks information concerning borough affairs soon learns there are no town records in existence,” the article stated.
Then along came A.J. Healey wearing a cape. He was appointed borough secretary, police chief, street commissioner and health officer around the time Pleasant Valley was renamed Avoca in 1889. He kept meticulous records. The borough’s name was changed for the want of a center-town post office. The Marr Post office, named for an assistant postmaster general in Washington, D.C., was on the northern edge of the borough. The population was booming in the center of town with mostly Irish immigrant coal miners who wanted a new post office, but a Pleasant Valley post office in Bucks County had already been established in 1828. There couldn’t be two. A Luzerne County grand jury granted a request to change the name of Pleasant Valley to Avoca, overruling a request by the Scottish immigrants who championed the name Langcliffe.
Pleasant Valley was a pastoral name, but Avoca was pleasant, as well, named after the town of Avoca in County Wicklow, Ireland. From the poem by Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852): “There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet
As the Vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet O, the last ray of feeling and life must depart
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.”