"perp "-Function: noun : a perpetrator especially of a crime


Phillip (hereinafter “Phil”) Callender’s family can trace its Connecticut heritage back as far as one John Franklin who was a cousin of Benjamin Franklin.  See Pennamite_Wars for the history of a conflict called the “Yankee Pennamite War.” Even before the final resolution of that conflict, one Phillip Callender III, his wife Abigail (Franklin) Callender and their son, Darius Franklin Callender, migrated to what would become Luzerne County, PA.  Both Philip III and Abigail had been born in Canaan, Litchfield County, Connecticut but had apparently moved to Massachusetts at some point.  A Luzerne County deed found at Book 4, Page 528 and dated January 31, 1797 (there are only 3 OLDER deed books in all of Luzerne County) says that Phillip was “late of Sheffield Berkshire County, State Of Massachusetts.”  By said deed, he bought a parcel in Huntington Township from one Joseph Potter for the sum of seventy five pounds. Philip III, Abigail, and Darius are buried in Huntington Township.

By 1839, Philip III‘s grandson, William Callender, had moved to Union Township, Luzerne County. William began buying, on an installment plan, a 117-acre farm in the middle of Sweet Valley.  William died in1840 but his family continued making the payments and, on June 3, 1850, the land (now lying in recently-created Ross Township) was conveyed to Phil and five of his siblings.  It took him a while but, by 1866, Phil had bought out his siblings’ interests and owned the entire farm outright.

Fast forward to 1878.  Our nation was still in its formative years, with only 38 states having entered the union.  Colorado had been the 38th, joining on August 1, 1876, and “The Dakota” was still a territory awaiting establishment of its two entities in 1889.  Rutherford B. Hayes was our President. We had just celebrated our centennial with an exposition in Philadelphia.  The city of Chicago was struggling to rebuild from the devastating fire of 1871, Alex Bell had just patented his "electrical speech machine” (1876), and Tom Edison was working on his light bulb.  In the West, Wyatt Earp was still an Assistant City Marshall in Dodge City, KS (he didn’t die until 1929) and Geronimo still eluded capture (he lived until 1909 when your author’s father was 4 years old.)  Nationwide, we were in the middle of “one of the worst depressions in the nation's history” Molly_Maguires #Six years of depression but farmers such as Phil Callender weren’t greatly affected.  In fact, judging by the amount of cash he had on hand that fateful night in January, 1878, it’s quite likely that his ancestor,  Phillip III, had been fairly wealthy when he brought the family down from Connecticut over 75 years earlier.

The hamlet of Sweet Valley was a small farming community just west of the city of Wilkes-Barre. As the county seat, Wilkes-Barre featured the county courthouse. Sweet Valley had no financial institutions, so major commercial transactions, as well as lawsuits, required a trip “to town.”  Plymouth Mountain was a steep climb for horses pulling wagons. Going by way of Dallas, Luzerne, and Kingston was too far. Sweet Valley farmers, therefore, chose to go by way of Hunlock Creek and then take the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg railroad to either Plymouth or Wilkes-Barre.

The Crime :

 photo_callender_philip_and_sarah.jpg (790906 bytes)

“Phillip and Sarah Callender. Date unknown.  Courtesy of Mike Miller.”

Phil, a 47-year-old farmer who had married Sarah Snyder, traveled “to town” on Wednesday, January 16, 1878, to settle a lawsuit he’d filed on behalf of his minor son. William W. “Wilson” Callender, a 19-year-old, who had been wronged by an anthracite miner from Plymouth named John Connell.  Connell had failed to pay Wilson for some wooden “pickets” he’d made.  A “picket” was “a stake or mark placed by a responsible individual some distance in front of a drill; used by a driller to point and line up a drill to drill a borehole in a specific direction.”

Phil won the suit, but that fact, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily explain the reason he was carrying $300 back to Sweet  Valley.  It’s doubtful that Connell would have brought that much money, if any, to court, for he likely didn’t expect to lose.  The Callenders were, as will be explained later, a fairly substantial family. It’s quite probable that Phil had withdrawn funds from a Plymouth or Wilkes-Barre bank, combining that transaction with the trip to settle the lawsuit.  The sum of $300 in 1878 was equivalent to $6,258.34 in year 2006 dollars. (See: )

Having settled their affairs for the day, Phil and Wilson began their return trip at 7 PM, considerably after dark on a winter’s day.  They alighted from the train at the Hunlock Creek station and crossed the road to the livery stable where their horses had rested all day.  Hitching the team, they returned to the station, paid the stationmaster for their incoming freight, loaded their wagon, and headed up the hill toward Sweet Valley.

At some point along the road, two shots rang out in rapid succession, striking Phil in the back of the head. Mortally wounded, he fell from the wagon. Wilson had been walking behind the wagon to ease the load on the horses.  At least one of the shots grazed Wilson’s head and destroyed the crown of his hat.  He saw the dark outlines of two men he couldn’t identify run into the underbrush and he lit out to seek help.  Returning with George Wildoner who lived nearby, they found Phil lying in a pool of blood that streamed from his head. (A coroner’s inquest would later reveal the presence of both a “ball” and “fine number 2 shot.”) The $300 was gone. Dr. James W. Davenport was summoned but could do nothing for the victim. Phil Callender was pronounced dead at 3:30 AM on Thursday, January 17, 1878.

My analysis of the crime

1.     Motive: The motive for such a dastardly act could have been either a “revenge killing” or a simple robbery, or both. If he’d inadvertently flashed his wad in front of strangers “in town” or on the train, any number of people could have decided he’d make a good robbery target. 

2.     Opportunity:  See the attached 1873 map of Union Township which, in 1877, had become part of the newly-formed Hunlock Township

union_township__map_1873.JPG (1561114 bytes)

“Purchased on e-Bay.” 

      Given that Alex Bell had only invented his "electrical speech machine” a little over a year earlier, there’s no way a plotter could have called ahead to a conspirator to say “He’s on his way!” Telephones simply weren’t available in the rural areas of PA that soon after they were invented.  Sam Morse’s telegraph HAD been operational for nearly forty years but its use would have required a telegraph operator to have been in on a plot.  I therefore conclude that the shooters most likely rode the same train as Phil and Wilson, hurriedly departed the Hunlock Creek Station on foot ahead of them, and were lying in wait when they approached. 

A.     Evidence to support that theory:  Phil and Wilson had driven a team of horses

and a wagon, rather than a horse and buggy, to the station.  This tells me that they planned to bring home a load of something that probably had come in by train.  They wouldn’t have loaded the wagon and left it there, filled, all day long while they transacted their other business.  They would have only loaded it after returning from “town.”  Loading the wagon afforded the perps plenty of time, even on foot, to get up the road ahead of them.  The train depot lie on the bank of the Susquehanna River which, like any river, is at the lowest point, topographically.  Of necessity, leaving a riverside implies traveling uphill.  A heavy load is also suggested because Wilson walked behind the wagon to ease the strain on the horses on the hill. 

B.     Where did it happen?: Refer to the above map and this picture.  

wildoner_general_store.jpg (85282 bytes)

“George Wildoner’s general store. Photo supplied by Hunlock Township.”

On September 6, 2007, I photographed the initial hill leading away from the train station.  It is quite steep and runs 0.4 mile up to the first road to the right, which is known as Hartman Road today.  The terrain then flattens out for an additional 0.4 mile to the next right, which is today’s Sorbertown Hill Road.  George Wildoner’s General Store, in 1878, was located on the corner of Sorbertown Hill Road and the Hunlock Creek United Methodist Church stands there today.   This topography fits my ideas that:

1.     The bad guys had no idea how long it would take Phil and Wilson to load their wagon and, therefore, how little time they had to get up the road and hide.  The very first hill near the station was their likely stopping point.

2.     Wilson, at age 19, was familiar with the terrain.  He knew that the nearest help lie just up the hill and, therefore, headed for the nearby Wildoner’s store on the flats.

C.     How did the perps escape?: Witness Frank Monroe (not seen on the map because he may not have been a landowner) testified that he had heard two men run past his home between 7 and 8 PM, headed in a southerly direction towards Shickshinny.  Bad guys would hardly head back to the station to await the next train.  That would have been the FIRST place the gendarmes would have looked for them.  It’s most likely that they hid out in the woods for a day or two until the heat died down. They may even have just hidden their loot and walked back to “town.”

Perp Number ONE: John Connell, who lost the lawsuit, would have had the motive to shoot both Phil and Wilson.  He and a crony also could have followed them from the courtroom and boarded the train in a separate car.  Men with guns would not have been an unusual site in 1878.  At the Hunlock Creek train station, they’d have had only to sneak off the train unseen and hurry away in the dark while Phil and Wilson loaded their wagon.. All that I write about this murder comes from just the articles that ARE available through

As stated above, the murder took place on Wednesday, January 16,1878.  A summary of a week’s activity appeared in the Thursday, January 24 edition of the Wilkes-Barre Times.  A coroner’s inquest had been held.  John Connell and “another man not known to the inquest” had been accused.  Connell was a safe bet since, having lost the lawsuit, he had a motive.  The constabulary of long ago apparently had no jurisdictional issues such as we see today. The Wilkes-Barre police chief, one Mr. Kelly, traveled outside what would have been his jurisdiction – to Connell’s home in Plymouth.  Connell merely laughed at the chief and told him that he had an airtight alibi—he’d been working below ground in a mine at the time of the incident.  The two proceeded to the home of his mine boss and the boss confirmed it.  Connell had worked an overnight shift commencing at 5 PM on the 16th, two hours before Phil left on his trip home.  Several co-workers also vouched for Connell and no arrest was made.

Having no further leads, The Luzerne County Commissioners posted a $500 reward for information.

Perp Number TWO: Wilson Callender -A month then passed before it was decided that, if Connell didn’t do it, then poor Wilson Callender must have killed his father.  Your author is a child of his times and, frankly, is having quite a time understanding the US legal system of some 129 years ago.  Unlike today, they apparently believed back then that the proper way to do things was “arrest first, put ‘em the pokey, and only THEN investigate.”  It’s not known precisely who accused Wilson but the names “Avery Long” and “Thomas Lyons” have been bandied about by Phil’s descendants ever since.  Said individuals, unless they, themselves were the perps, were simply NOT present at the event on a dark winter’s eve.  The only possible motive in accusing Wilson would have been the lure of the $500 reward. They had no factual basis, for they certainly hadn’t overheard him confessing.  Far be it from this author to formally charge Long and Lyons with doing the accusing but their names DID turn up in previous research I did for another Sweet Valley story.  It HAS been documented in both court records and newspapers accounts that, in 1901, some 23 years after the Callender murder, the two WERE engaged in another nefarious deed.  As seen in  White Family Trial they did assault poor Asa Smith as he tried to dig a grave for Juber White.  (Truth be told, they and several other defendants were subsequently acquitted in a criminal trial but the judge DID make them pay costs, hinting that they did bear some culpability.)

Absent any real evidence, and based on mere accusation, Wilson was arrested and jailed on Friday, February 22.  So much for the probable cause standard to which we are entitled today.  He vigorously protested his innocence to no avail and demanded an immediate hearing.  “Immediate” turned out to be four days later, on Tuesday, February 26.

The “hearing” turned out to be more of what could be called a “one-day mini trial.”  Witnesses for each side were sworn and subject to cross-examination.  Testimony was heard from two doctors who had conducted post mortem exams on Phil’s body.  A description of the two bullets they removed was provided as well as of the trajectory the bullets traveled.  It was determined that the bullets had come from the rear left of Phil’s position on the seat of the wagon. George Wildoner, who accompanied Wilson back to the scene, and other neighbors described the roadside bushes that afforded cover for the assailants. Mention was made of the fact that a few pellets had actually grazed Wilson’s head. That fact, in and of itself, should have sufficed to prove that Wilson HAD NOT killed his father.  Who in their right mind would try to wound their own head to cover up their crime?  One might wound one’s leg or arm, maybe, but one’s HEAD? The slightest variation in the angle of an intentional wounding might prove fatal!  Where could Wilson have hidden not one, but TWO guns? Further “forensic” testimony concerning the damage to Wilson’s hat was given but the expertise of the examiners was not clearly cited.  One witness said he took a double-barreled shotgun and fired from a distance of 15 feet at a similar hat.  The hat was riddled but its crown was not completely torn away as was Wilson’s.  (It wasn’t disclosed how many people may have stepped on Wilson’s hat at the scene before it was retrieved.) Several witnesses recounted statements Wilson had made over the month since the murder. Much testimony was heard regarding whether Wilson possessed a revolver at the time. A determination was made that, yes, he HAD borrowed a revolver earlier but that he had returned it well in advance of January 16.  (Testimony about a revolver was kind of silly for there was NO talk of Wilson having a shotgun which produced the “fine number 2 shot.”) Wilson’s mother (Sarah Snyder Callender) and sister (either Emily L, age 26, or Mary E., age 22) were also called to the stand but exactly what they said was not reported.  The hearing ended with Wilson being freed.  The Wilkes-Barre Leader of February 28, 1878 reported “The innocence of the young man is fully established in the mind of the public, and all are left to conjecture what prompted the arrest.”

[Google bait: witnesses at the hearing included: George Wildoner, Dr. James F. Davenport, Dr. W. H. Sharpe, Hiram Croop, M. E. Walker, William J, Honeywell, William Kelly (or Keller – not quite legible), George Dailey, C.D. Honeywell, William Wandell, Stephen Sims, John Montgomery, Charles Loomis, S. S. Shultz, Joseph Harris, J. W. Chamberlain, Chief (no first name) Wilson, Frank Monroe, and Leander Dodson.]

Perps Number THREE and FOUR:  William (a\k\a John) Garvey and Michael McAlarney (a\k\a John Conoughan) -Six months went by. Then, on Saturday, August 24, 1878, two additional suspects were arrested some 275 miles from Wilkes-Barre.  Garvey and McAlarney were both employed by the B & O Railroad, which explains their being arrested in Connellsville, Fayette County, PA, southeast of Pittsburgh.  Railroad employees did tend to sometimes work far from home. 

I found no original Wilkes-Barre newspaper article about these gentleman but there exists a Wilkes-Barre Leader reprint of an article from the Harrisburg Patriot of August 26. The Patriot reported that the two had been in the Wilkes-Barre area at the time of the shooting but had left shortly thereafter.  Police chief Edward Bender had approached Garvey at a Connellsville saloon with an arrest warrant in hand on Friday, August 23.  Garvey shot Bender in the leg and escaped.  Had Bender waited for backup in the form of Wilkes-Barre officer Charles Beisel, he may have avoided injury.  Beisel, with the assistance of a B&O Railroad official who ID’ed the men, made the arrests on Saturday, August 24. Despite his demonstrated propensity for violence, Garvey gave up without a fight. McAlarney ran five blocks to no avail.  Beisel boarded an eastbound Pennsylvania Railroad train with his prisoners on Sunday morning but missed a connection to Wilkes-Barre and they were held overnight in the Dauphin County Prison.  They arrived in Wilkes-Barre on Monday.

Somewhere along their journey, Garvey pulled a stunt worthy of inclusion on a “Dumb Criminals” video.  He tried to escape out a train window.  He succeeded only in injuring himself AND McAlarney, for Beisel had shackled them together, hand and foot!

As in the case of Wilson Callender, there is no recitation of exactly who accused Garvey and McAlarney or on what “probable cause” they were arrested and jailed.   This was another fine example of the prevalent “arrest first, put ‘em the pokey, and only THEN investigate” attitude in 1878.

I can find no articles relating to trials being held for either Garvey or McAlarney.  The cost of records search in the Luzerne County Clerk Of Courts office has risen to $30 per name, with no positive results guaranteed.  Given that each had one alias, looking for a trial or trials would run $120 and I’m not willing to spend that much.  We shall see (below) that, some six years later, in 1884, the $500 reward was still outstanding.  That fact, alone, tells us that, even if either or both were tried, NEITHER was found guilty.

Perps Number FIVE and SIX: Delaney and Evans -The reward was obviously tantalizing.  In October, 1878, seven months after the murder, a Plymouth man named Barney Tims said that men named Delaney and Evans did the killing.  Tims swore that; Delaney had been paid $250 by a “Connells” (most likely the previously-cleared John Connell); Evans had been with Delaney; and that Tims himself had been present.  The newspaper account stated that Tims’ story was somewhat at odds with what Tims had told a reporter just days earlier.  A hearing held in front of Judge Stanton likely didn’t last long, for it was revealed that Tims was a “serial accuser.”  He and his wife were well known for accusing neighbors with whom they had quarreled.  Proof of their perfidy was the continuing confinement of two Edwards brothers (murdered a man in Pittston and tossed his body into the Susquehanna River) as well as men named Searles and Jones (arson in Plymouth.)  Here we have even more evidence of  “arrest first, put ‘em the pokey, and only THEN investigate. “ The Leader concluded its article with “Tims is either a full fledged (sic) lunatic or one of the worst men in the county.”  Aside from a November 11, 1878 cite of Tims himself having been arraigned in connection with the Callender murder, there is no further mention of him.  Neither is there any evidence that either Delaney or Evans were ever tried. There is convincing evidence that there most likely were no trials for Delaney or Evans.  As in the cases of Garvey and McAlarney, if there were trials, neither was convicted.  Proof is found in that, in 1884, some SIX YEARS AFTER the murder, the reward was still outstanding and we are led to our final perp:

Perp number SEVEN:  William Judson Garrison -In 1884, our nation was comprised of 38 states. A special dispatch from “The Dakota” (Territory) was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on December 12 of that year.  One Dave Howard, a “noted criminal from this county” (Luzerne is implied), had worked his way west.  Apparently, he had committed additional crimes in “The Dakota”, crimes that warranted his being “lynched.”  (The article is quite short and doesn’t spell out what crimes he had committed in either place.) From the gallows (or a tree), Howard sought to “get right with his Lord” (author’s inference) and he confessed to being involved in no less than seven murders in Luzerne County during the reign of the Molly Maguires.

Howard admitted to being in on the Callender murder and that one William Judson Garrison had fired the fatal shot.  Word of this confession was passed back to Luzerne County and Garrison was arrested.  As in the cases of all six perps previously mentioned herein, a mere accusation sufficed to warrant arrest. 

At this point, the trail grows cold—nay, DIES.  Search as I may, I simply cannot __positively__ ID what happened to William Judson Garrison.  I do find what I judge to have about a 90% chance of being the right man.  Articles from the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader and Philadelphia Inquirer published on January 26 and 27, 1911, respectively, speak of one “Dr. William J. Garrison” of Wyoming. (Wyoming lies north of and across the Susquehanna River from Wilkes-Barre and is not very far from Sweet Valley.)  Dr. Garrison was absolutely “nutso”, for he threw his 4-year-old daughter, Regina, under a passing trolley car!  Fortunately, she glanced off an air tank below the car and did not fall under the wheels.  Garrison was eventually formally declared to be insane and, in June of 1913, a guardian was appointed to handle his affairs.  Given the tabloid-nature of reporting at the time, I am utterly convinced of one thing.  I don’t believe that Garrison was ever TRIED for the Callender murder. Had he been tried, I’m positive that this subsequent reporting, some 27 years after about-to-be-hung Dave Howard accused him, would have mentioned his prior trial.  Similarly, a mere accusation, while sufficient to warrant jailing, may well have been forgotten. 

The collective memory of the Callender family does not include anyone ever being convicted of Phil’s murder.  At one point, years after the event, Frank Monroe, who had testified at the hearing that cleared Wilson Callender, spoke to Warren Callender, Phil’s grandson.  He claimed that John Connell, the very first perp ever accused, had actually killed Phil.  Connell, said Monroe, had been a member of the Molly Maguires (see link above) a group which, rightly or wrongly, had been accused of all sorts of violent acts in NE Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s.  Monroe, under death threats from Connell and his cohorts, had been afraid to mention at Wilson’s hearing what he knew.  Threats could well have been made against the mine boss and co-workers who validated Connell’s alibi or, perhaps, they were “Mollys” as well.  Thus ends the “Cold, COLD Case Of Phillip Callender.”

The Callender farm and family after the murder:

As previously stated, Phil had, by 1866, bought out all his siblings’ interests and owned, outright, a 117-acre farm in Sweet Valley.  I have no doubt that, in subsequent years, he deeded away a small portion of it via deeds that I haven’t studied.  Suffice it to say that he retained 108 acres and that is the farm about which I shall further elaborate

William W. "Wilson" Callender, as has been said, was 19 in 1878, when he was charged with and cleared of killing his father.  By 1885 when he was 26, he had married a girl named Mary and had two daughters.  He moved “over town” to Pittston and owned a dye works.  He must have died between 1900 and 1910, for the 1910 census shows Mary as a widow.

George S. Callender, 25 at the time of the murder, was the eldest of Phil’s boys and he inherited the farm in Sweet Valley.  He is cited several times in my previous story at History ofSweet Valley as are his 3 sons; Harry LeRoy “Roy” Callender, and twins Wayne B. and Warren G. A fourth son, Edgar, died in 1890 at the age of 2.  George operated the farm (see below) up until his death in 1944.  He, his wife Sarah C. Bronson, and son Edgar are buried in the Christian Church (a\k\a “The Brick Church”) Cemetery in Sweet Valley.  

callender_family_tombstone.jpg (412252 bytes)

“Callender family tombstone in the Christian (Brick) Church Cemetery, Sweet Valley, PA.  Photo by Ron Hontz, 2007”  

Despite his name being inscribed on that family tombstone, I have it on good authority (caretaker Bill George) that son Warren G. is REALLY interred in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Pikes Creek, Lake Township.  

tombstone_callender_warren.jpg (455764 bytes)

“Warren Callender’s tombstone in Maple Grove Cemetery.  Photo by Ron Hontz, 2007.”

George’s daughter Mae became a schoolteacher, married Lloyd Wilson in 1913, and bore him 5 children.  His other daughter, Estelle "Stella" I. Callender, married later in life.  In 1910, she was17 and living “over town” with her Aunt Mary (Wilson’s widow.)  Even by 1920 (at age 27) when she was a schoolteacher and living back home at George’s farm in Sweet Valley, she remained unmarried.   In 1931, at the ripe old age of 39, she married James "Harry" Wright and bore him a son in 1935. 

photo_callender_boys_a.JPG (126265 bytes)

“George Callender’s three sons; Roy, Wayne, and Warren.”   Courtesy of Joe Callender.”

The Callender Farm:

George Callender died on June 23, 1944 and his estate was settled six months later, with the farm going to Wayne and Warren.

  photo_aerial_view_of_farm.JPG (3558484 bytes)

Aerial view of the Callender farm, adjudged to have been taken between 1949 and 1960.  House annotated as “Phil’s house” is said, by its present owner, to be well over 100 years old and is much older than the other house.  The other house is, therefore, labeled as “George’s house” and is definitely the home in which George’s sons, Wayne and Warren, resided. Courtesy of Joe Callender.”

Harry LeRoy “Roy” Callender was the eldest of George and Sarah’s sons, having been born in 1890.  He went away to college and graduated from Penn State University (main campus) in the Class of 1914 with a degree in Agronomy.  

“Courtesy of Joe Callender. “ 

Despite that degree, he returned to Luzerne County, but not to George’s farm.  He married Amy Newitt in 1916.  On the 1920 census, they lived with her folks in Kingston where he was employed as a “drayman” (truck driver) with a moving company.  By 1930, they had moved back to Sweet Valley and lived next door to where the fire hall was built in 1947 on land donated by his brothers. (Wayne Callender also loaned the new fire company $4,000 [$39,913 in 2006 dollars] to purchase a truck chassis from Warren Boston.) 

fire_hall.jpg (605830 bytes) photo_1947_fire_engine.jpg (184267 bytes)

“Present-day fire hall.  House to the right was the residence of Roy and Amy (Newitt) Callender in 1930. Photo by Ron Hontz, 2007 and the 1947 fire truck from  

Roy had gotten into the lumber business back on North Mountain but was a bit late to that game for most of the timber had been depleted by then.  His company was highly leveraged and, with the stock market crash in 1929, he went out of business.  Roy and his family left the area and began moving southwestward, first to Millville, then to Bloomsburg and, later, Northumberland. A classmate from PSU named Rockefeller (no relation to the rich ones) owned some timber near Northumberland and asked Roy to take a look at clearing enough of it to pay the taxes on that land.  It turned out be worth way more than just the taxes and Roy spent years clearing it.  Eventually, he retired from lumbering and ran a grocery store.  He died in 1978 and is buried in Northumberland Memorial Park, Stonington,  PA.  Roy and Amy had 7 children in all. Only 78-year-old Joseph remains and, from down in Selingsgrove, he has been one of my major sources.

Twins Wayne and Warren, about 8 years younger than Roy, were born on November 18, 1898.  They graduated from the Pleasant Hill Academy just 100 yards from their house and then briefly attended the Bloomsburg Normal School (Bloomsburg University today).  With George growing older, they returned to the farm to help him and, thereby, put into practice that which Roy had only studied.  By 1919, when they were only 21, they pretty much ran the place.  I’m not sure when their home in which I knew them to live was built, probably by George, but here is how it looked in 1913. 

photo_callender_homestead_1913.jpg (259295 bytes)

 “Warren Callender, age 14, training 7-month-old oxen Duke and Dime.  Courtesy of Maude Luskey.”    

It’s also known that Phil’s original homestead had been, by 1930, converted to a rental property (hereinafter a\k\a “the rental house.”)  My father, Albert Hontz, lived there then with his first wife, my oldest half-brother, and his two cousins.  

ross_township_1930_census.jpg (3551643 bytes)

“1930 Ross Township census from”

The Callender Farm was quite an operation but it’s NOT possible to attribute any particular activity to either George alone, or George and his sons jointly, or to just the sons.  There are simply no sources I know of who can recall George running the farm before, say, 1921 or so when the sons got involved.  (A person BORN in 1905 and, thus of an age to recall events in 1919 would be 102 today.)  Given the age of people I DO interview, I’d guess that about 90% of the activity was by just the sons.

Thanks to a heads-up from my  classmate, Rich Bronson, I have learned about an item called a “stationary baler” or “hay press.”  

“Ad for a hay press.  From the Internet.” 

As children of the 1950’s and beyond, neither Rich nor I ever saw such a contraption. Rich’s father and grandfather, however, had told him of “the Callender Boys” having had one.  (Wayne and Warren, throughout their lifetimes, were known familiarly around Sweet Valley as “the Callender Boys” even by people 50 years younger than them.) The only balers Rich and I knew of were pulled behind tractors.  This one was hauled to a hayfield by a horse-drawn flatbed wagon and then unloaded onto the ground. Farmhands would bring hay to the baler and torque created by horses walking a circular path around it compressed the hay into bales. Given that a stationary baler was invented back in the 1850’s, it’s quite likely that Phil had used one before he was killed in 1878.

As late as the mid-1960’s, one old building still standing on the farm showed evidence of its prior use as a cider press.  George Callender was known to have been in the cider business as long ago as the 1890’s and the press was most likely initially steam-powered.  (By the time Ken Williams bought the 108-acre farm from George’s sons, Wayne and Warren, on January 19,  1970, the remaining power source left behind was an International truck engine.) Built into a side hill, the building featured four floors. Farmers would drive up behind the building and dump their apples into a concrete holding bin. From there a conveyor belt took them to the fourth floor and emptied them into a two-story hopper.  At the bottom of the hopper a “sluice gate” (author’s term) would be slid open and as many apples as needed could then be fed down into a grinder and thence to the press on the second floor.  Cider flowed down to the first floor, where it was fed into a large vat (approximately 8’ to10’ in diameter and 4’ high.)  A spigot on the vat allowed the product to be placed into barrels and moved in either of two directions, both of which involved rolling the barrels.  Anyone who has ever tried to roll a barrel will quickly tell you that they are brutes to steer because they are far from perfect cylinders; the middle has a larger diameter than does either end. To guide the steering, the Callenders cut one channel into the flooring which would accommodate the wide middle of a barrel.  That channel led from the vat to an exterior door for easy customer pick-up.  Most barrels of cider to be picked up days after the pressing would be stored on the first floor because three-fourths of that ground floor was below grade, i.e., insulated by earth outside its walls.  At times when the first floor storage area was completely filled, more barrels followed a second channel in the floor and were hauled to the third or fourth floor by a hand-cranked elevator.  One could drive one’s wagon onto the second floor and load barrels brought down from above.  Given the scope of that operation, it’s fair to surmise that the Callender family may well have been selling cider commercially, i.e., to an “over town” market.  They also found a use for apple pulp left from the operation.  It was fed to their livestock.

The livestock consisted of, at one time, some pigs, a herd of Guernsey cows and, as Joe Callender recalls, “One NASTY bull.”  “The Boys”, as most dairy farmers do, raised their own grain for silage. Beyond threshing their own grain, they hired out to other Ross Township farmers to thresh theirs. It’s not known at what point in time the grist mill operated but Ken Williams found evidence of its prior existence when he bought the place in 1970.  On the second floor he found what appeared to have been a grain bin which would have held as much as a ton of feed.  The milling MAY have coincided with the cider press operation but, most likely, followed it.

George also ran a sawmill in the 1890’s but not much is known about that.  On the other hand, how much CAN one say about a sawmill?  Given what we have surmised about the cider press, the sawmill, too, was likely steam-powered.  Logs came in and boards went out.

The Callenders were known to have sold farm equipment at one time, but precisely when cannot be determined.

George’s three sons (Harry LeRoy “Roy”, Wayne, and Warren were all registered for the WW1 draft but none were actually drafted. 

In WW2, Roy’s three oldest  boys served their country. Warren Newitt Callender, born in 1917, was married by 1941. Although he sought to be assigned to a combat unit, he ended up as a Navy ammunition instructor stateside. Harry LeRoy "Steve" Callender, Jr. was born in 1920 and became an Army Air Corp mechanic, servicing B-25 bombers in England. George Russell Callender, born in 1924, was in an Army artillery unit and was wounded in France.  Roy’s youngest son, Joseph Edgar Callender (my source), was born in May of 1928 and, thus, was just turning 17 when the war in Europe ended and he wasn’t called.

George S. Callender died on June 24, 1944 shortly after D-Day.  “The Boys” carried on without him.  Wayne married Irma Harrison, some 15 years younger than him, but they had no children.  Warren never married and he remained in the homestead, with Irma keeping house for all three of them. “The Boys” were quite frugal and their three pairs of “long john” underwear, which they wore year-round, could be seen hanging on the clothesline.  One brother, it isn’t clear which, considered the other to be a spendthrift. He observed “You don’t need two pair of long johns! One pair is enough; just wash it out and put it back on!” 

Exactly when “The Boys” ceased farming is hard to pin down but I can give a couple of approximate dates when they were still at it.  Donation of the land for the fire hall in 1947 was a charitable act but it caused them one consternation.  Their chicken coop sat not far from the fire hall.  Each time the siren blew, they’d have to run to the coop to un-pile their chickens.  Fowl are notoriously “chicken” and will, upon being frightened, fly about in a panic, ending up in a pile under which the bottom ones would smother.  (As a teen, I used to clean Garfield “Goody” Goodman’s chicken coop.  [Watch out for wet corners where rain had leaked in.  The smell of ammonia is enough to knock you over.] I giggled mightily at hearing him sing out softly “Good morning, girls” as he approached the coop but he had a rational explanation.  It gave them advance warning and they wouldn’t fly up as he opened the door.) 

A Callender neighbor who chooses to remain nameless admits to having caroused, with his\her friends in the Callender barn around 1955.  The chief activity involved jumping from the hay mow into the hay wagon, following which there would be little, if any, hay left in the wagon; it’d mostly be on the barn floor.  Haying, in and of itself, doesn’t, in my mind, constitute much real “farming” activity.  It simply grows and one harvests it.  “The Boys” would come to chase them and the teenagers would run and hide in the cornfield. Aha! Now, growing corn DOES take more effort than haying because one must plant it. Based on there being a cornfield in which to hide, I feel safe in saying that they were still “farming” as late as 1955 when they were 56 years old.

“The Boys” lived a fairly comfortable retirement, for they had engaged in a lifelong tradition started, I have no doubt whatsoever, by poor murdered Phil or maybe even Phillip III.  The were the informal “bankers Of Sweet Valley.”  I personally know of five families who borrowed money from George and, later, Wayne and Warren. There were, undoubtedly, dozens of other families who benefited from their sideline, too.  Income from Notes Receivable would easily have supported their frugal lifestyle.  Wayne’s wife, Irma, was also a good-hearted soul who believed in helping out her neighbors.  When Alberta Foss broke her collarbone and couldn’t sweep up in her restaurant, Irma crossed the road and did it for her.  Irma was also a noted cook and baker.  Joe Callender (Roy’s boy) tells me that each time they’d go “home” to visit, he could look forward to Irma’s Graham Cracker Cream pie.

I don’t recall ever meeting Wayne Callender.  I don’t THINK I did, for they were close enough to being identical twins as to fool the casual observer.  Warren was easy to spot for he was usually dressed in a black suit, the “uniform of the day” for driving a limousine for funeral director Alfred Bronson.  As a teenager, I’d encounter Warren at Ord Trumbower’s grocery store. He knew I was Albert Hontz’s boy and I knew him to be the limo driver.  He’d acknowledge my “Hi, Mr. Callender” with a nod but that was the extent of our interaction.  I’ve heard that Warren, upon a doctor’s advice, bought a bicycle to exercise his arthritic knees  but I never caught sight of him on it.  A teenage brain would never forget seeing an old man on a bike.  

The overflow from Harris Pond crosses the rear of the Callender Farm and flows down to Prichards Corners on its way to the Susquehanna River. In the mid-1960’s, a developer named Sherman Hoover had a plan to dam up the creek about three-fourths of a mile downstream from the Callender Farm to create a recreational lake.  The farm would have constituted the “rear end” of a long, narrow lake.  Had the plan succeeded, Callender Road and other roads would have had to be raised for the flooding would have covered their present grade.  The plan failed, however, when one neighbor owning a parcel along Niemchick Road to the rear of the Callender Farm refused to sell.  Hoover took his idea down to Union Township, and built Shickshinny Lake on “the Wolfe Farm” there. 

photo_buffalo__pasture_with_fence.jpg (681855 bytes) photo_shickshinny_lake_3.jpg (672312 bytes) photo_shickshinny_lake_1.jpg (603719 bytes)

“Callender Farm hayfield which WOULD have formed the back of a lake in the 1960’s.  It also later served as a buffalo pasture. Note fencing installed in 1994.  Two views of the lake as it WAS eventually built (as Shickshinny Lake.) Photos by Ron Hontz, 2007.”   

In so doing, he outbid a tomato farmer named Ken Williams who had been renting “the Wolfe Farm” since 1959 and who had made an offer to purchase it.  Undeterred, Williams essentially swapped places with Hoover, moving his operation to the middle of Sweet Valley and renting the Callender Farm.  “The Boys” gave Williams the first right of refusal to buy it. 

I’m told that Wayne was rather sickly in his later years.  Despite that fact, his much-younger wife, Irma, died first, on January 1, 1969 at only age 55.  Her death from cancer no doubt sharpened the twins’ foreboding of their own mortality.  Wayne drafted his will just seven months later, in August, 1969. In January, 1970, they sold the farmland and the “rental house” to Williams, retaining the homestead house on a one-acre lot.  (Williams only owned the “rental house” for a short time and then sold it to the present [2007] owner, Ronnie Cross.)  Wayne lived just a little over one year longer than did Irma, dying on March 19, 1970.  He was 71.  Warren was the last to die, passing at age 75 on Christmas Day, 1973.  Both twins left considerable sums of money to the Sweet Valley Church Of Christ.

In its heyday, Ken Williams’ tomato operation had some 125 acres under cultivation, comprised of the Callender Farm and rented fields stretching to Lehman.  Initially, he farmed both sides of Callender Road but shipped his produce to a packing house in the Broadway\Bloomingdale area of lower Ross Township.. In 1979, he decided to move the packing operation to a more centrally-located site—the old cider press building.

  photo_ken_williams_packing_house.jpg (292152 bytes)

“Packing house addition built onto front of old cider press building. Courtesy of Ken Williams.”

To raise funds, he sold the right-side 20 acres to Russ Major, who wanted to expand his private air strip.  Russ, it turned out, needed only half of that. He re-sold to Don Wesley the 10 acres fronting on Main Road and extending westward from Callender Road toward the fire house.  Wesley, a major Sweet Valley developer, sub-divided the rear of the 10 acres, built three homes, and sold them.

  photo_airstrip.jpg (677791 bytes) photo_wesley_homes.jpg (638174 bytes)

“Russ Major’s airstrip and homes built by Don Wesley.  Photos by Ron Hontz, 2007.”

In 1999, Jamie Wallace opened a boat-repair business called Lakeside Restorations Lake Side Restorations in a small building on the Callender Farm.  He works on all manner of boats, from “cigarette” racing boats to luxury craft.  As the business grew, in 2002, he expanded into the old tomato-packing shed.

  photo_shopext1.jpg (42534 bytes) photo_lakeside_restorations_front.jpg (577936 bytes)

“Two views  of the former tomato-packing shed built by Ken Williams.  Four-story older building to the rear held George Callender’s cider press and grist mill. Wide view courtesy of Jamie Wallace and close-up by Ron Hontz, 2007.”

  photo_boat_1.jpg (43824 bytes) photo_boat_2.jpg (103580 bytes)

“Present-day boat business operated by Jamie Wallace in the old tomato-packing shed. Courtesy of Jamie Wallace.”

With part of the money raised from the sale to Russ Major, Williams also constructed a one-story cinder block building to house migrant pickers.  That structure was divided into six units, each housing up to five migrants for, as Williams says, he was “licensed for thirty migrants.”  Said “licensing” was overseen by the PA Department of Environmental Resources, which annually inspected the migrant housing to be sure it met established standards.   In October, 1994, Williams gave up the tomato business, sold the entire 108 acres of the Callender Farm to a man named Law, and turned to selling real estate.  See

Larry Law was a substantial individual. A Kansas native, he had been a decorated Lt. Colonel, serving with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam.  He’d followed his military career by rising to a Senior VP position with Manufacturer’s Hanover Bank. He worked for the bank in places as varied as Miami and Mexico City. World traveler Law was drawn to the Sweet Valley area because his wife came from nearby Nanticoke.  With an eye toward retirement he had, in 1972, purchased 70 acres of the “Renold Morris Farm” where your author had spent his high school years.  In 1979, Don Stroud constructed a house for him there and Law commuted from his job in New York City. In 1988, following his retirement from “Manny Hanny”, Law founded Sweet Valley Buffalo, Inc. with just four head of American bison. 

Buffaloes in Sweet Valley proved to be, as one might expect, quite the attraction.  Law allowed the public to take photos of them and even drive inside the fence to mingle with the herd.  Buffalo meat is very good for one’s health and if often prescribed for heart patients. Not “marbled” like that of conventional beef cattle, its fat is easily trimmed, lying chiefly around the perimeter of steaks.  Come harvesting time, Law would ship his animals to a slaughterhouse some 60 miles away, in Hegins, Schuylkill County, PA.  The meat would be immediately frozen and then brought back to Sweet Valley.  One could buy buffalo burgers from Law in a small retail outlet next to his house or order them at the Red Rooster Restaurant in Pikes Creek. 

  buffalo_price_list.jpg (1438748 bytes)

Buffalo price list.  Courtesy of Pete Kirsch.

In 1994, Law expanded his operation by buying from Ken Williams the remaining 88 acres on the left side of Callender Road. Almost immediately, he was challenged in court by neighbors fearing the buffalo would escape.  Supported by Ken Williams’ testimony and a paper on bison farming published by Penn State University, he proved that his fencing exceeded the standards it spelled out.  He’d kept most of the fence that Williams had originally built to keep deer from his tomatoes and had added to it considerably.   An outer ring kept humans away from the inner ring, of which three out of the eight strands of barbed wire were electrified.  (See picture of the hayfield\proposed lake above.)  Law had even drilled into solid rock to install some of his pressure-treated pine fence posts.  He won the lawsuit easily as the judge pointed out to the neighbors that, after all, they HAD moved into an agriculturally-zoned area and that raising bison was a recognized form of bovine husbandry.

  photo_buffalo_1.jpg (381865 bytes) photo_buffalo_2.jpg (184229 bytes)

“Courtesy of Larry Lanning and Pete Kirsch.”

The former migrant housing built by Ken Williams was converted (by “The Stroud Boys”, Dick and Don) to three apartments.  Law hired a full-time caretaker named Pete Kirsch to manage the herd and Pete lived in one of the apartments.

  photo_former_migrant_housing.jpg (654887 bytes)

"Former migrant housing where the buffalo-caretaker, Pete Kirsch, still lives.  Photo by Ron Hontz, 2007.”

The buffalo remained on the Callender Farm for less than two years.  Larry Law died of a heart attack in May, 1996.  His widow, Patricia, was never too fond of them anyway and, within two months the entire 150 head, including the ones from the Morris Farm,  had been sold.   A man named Chad Peterson came east from Basset, Nebraska  Peterson Buffalo Ranch  and spent nearly the entire month of July, 1996 around Sweet Valley making arrangements to ship them.  Chad tells me he drove a rental car around the pasture to round them up.  In the end, he sold off a few to other ranchers in PA, NY, and VA. Only the greater portion of the herd went West.

The status of the Callender Farm in 2007 is as follows:

A.     The 88-acre left side of Callender Road (except for the “rental house”) that previously served as a tomato farm and buffalo ranch is owned by two partners from the Philly area.  They own the barn immediately next to the “rental house” and they rent the old cider press\packing shed building to Jamie Wallace’s boat business.

  photo_barn_next_to_rental_house.jpg (549871 bytes)

“Barn owned by Philly-area partners next to the rental house. Photo by Ron Hontz, 2007.”

They may yet subdivide the remainder for a housing development.

B.     The “rental house” that was likely built by poor, murdered Phil, and in which his grandson, Joe Callender, was born, is owned by Ronnie Cross.

  photo_phils_house_front.jpg (797506 bytes) photo_phils_house_rear.jpg (629695 bytes)

“Phil’s house. Photo by Ron Hontz, 2007.”

C.     The house on the right side of Callender Road where Wayne and Irma and Warren lived has changed hands twice.      Following Warren’s death in 1973, it was initially owned by Dave and Carol Valentine. They sold it to Don Wesley, who consolidated it with the rest of the 10-acre piece he bought from Russ Major in 1979.  Don sold it to the present owner, Jim Davis, who owns Davis Trophies (Davis Trophies ) across the Main Road from it.  It, too, has been converted into a rental property and features three apartments.

  photo_wayne_and_warrens_house.jpg (680364 bytes)

“House on right side of Callender Road where Wayne and Irma and Warren lived. (Note red barn across Callender Road to the left.) Photo by Ron Hontz, 2007.”

D. The stretch of frontage along Main Road from Callender Road westward to the fire hall was part of the 10-acre plot bought by Don Wesley in 1979.  In the 1950’s, it featured an equipment shed which, I believe, was only rented and not sold, to Ross Township. The township moved down near the grade school and that stretch did, for a time, have a used-car lot which, too, is now gone. In 2007, there is just a hair salon and a couple of small outbuildings owned by the fire company and used for their annual carnival in May.

There remains no trace of the Callender family in Sweet Valley today other than Callender Road which was so named for “911” purposes.  My 90-year-old source chuckled “Callender? I haven’t heard THAT name in 20 years!”  I was most fortunate to find Joe Callender (“Roy’s boy”) still living in Pennsylvania.  Descendants of George’s two girls, Mae and Stella, may still live in the area but, given that US censuses after 1930 are not yet available, I can’t track them.  Perhaps one or more of them may find this story by Googling and, thereby, learn something of their ancestors. 

Accreditation: Sharon (Strzelczyk) Robinson, for having found at

The internet posting that caused me to begin this story and for serving as my editor\proofreader-in-charge.  Newspaper articles from  US Census information from

Joseph Callender, great grandson of Phil Callender, for family information and pictures.  Lt. Col. James T. Callender (USAF – retired, and Phil’s 1st cousin, four times removed) for additional family information and gravesite data at

Also (in alphabetical order)  Richard Bronson, Gladys (Foss) Chapple, Bill George, Pete Kirsch, Patricia Krivak , Larry Lanning, Ronnie Lanning, Rich Long, Maude Luskey, Patty Matthews, Mike Miller, Freece Morris, Chad Peterson, Joyce (Pearson) Partington, Vicki Seward, Don Stroud, Dick Thomas, Jamie Wallace, Don Wesley, Ken Williams.


Written in 2007 by:

Ronald E. Hontz

33 Whitcraft Lane

Shrewsbury  PA  17361

(717) 235-5791

cell phone (717) 309-1402