On October 8, 2017, the Weatherly Area High School Alumni Association is having a 25th anniversary celebration. Now you may say, what is so special about that? Well it is special, of course, to the people of Weatherly but it is also special to state and local history.
On a day in May, 1901 former Weatherly resident Emma Eurana Dinkey, then the wife of multi-millionaire and steel magnate Charles M. Schwab, offered to give the community a gift. They asked for and received a high school. And though it closed in 1991 its alumni bonded to save the building as a proud symbol of their community identity.
Emma Eurana Dinkey’s early life was not an easy one. Born in 1858 just outside Lehighton, she was the daughter of baker Reuben Dinkey and his wife. As a child her family re-located to Weatherly. In 1865, her father was walking along the railroad tracks when he was killed by a train. Her mother, left with few options, did what many widows at the time did: she took in boarders. Eventually, along with running a boarding house she was also operating a bakery. Undoubtedly her daughter must have been there, changing sheets and doing laundry beside her. In 1878 Eurana and her mother moved to Braddock near Pittsburgh, where they once more opened a boarding house. It was here that she drew the attentions of a young grocer named Charles Schwab. Both were in their early 20s and felt an attraction to each other. Soon Schwab hung up his grocery clerk’s apron and took a job with Andrew Carnegie’s steelworks. On May 1, 1883 they were married in Schwab’s hometown of Loretto.
Her husband rose in the ranks of America’s steel industry. By 1901, at the tender age of 39, Charles Schwab was named the first president of the U.S. Steel Corporation, the largest industrial complex in the nation. But life for his wife was not easy. The one thing she wanted was to be was a mother, but it gradually became clear she could not be one. A shy, small town person, “Rana” Schwab was not one for the high life of Monte Carlo roulette tables and opera divas that her husband enjoyed. According to Schwab biographer Robert Hessen, operating on the Victorian-era double standard, he let his eyes wander. But Schwab always respected his wife and made her a partner in all decisions concerning their home life. He never forgot her birthday and always wrote to her from abroad when on business trips. It is certain that when he called her an “excellent wife,” he meant it. “He loved her deeply,” writes Hessen, “not with the passion and emotional intimacy between a husband and wife in a close marriage, but rather with the kind of love he felt towards his mother.” Perhaps her husband’s willingness to allow her to make a gift to Weatherly reflected that love.
It was on May 5, 1901 that the Schwabs, celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary, returned to her old home town. The railroad station was crowded to greet the special train that carried them into town. Greeting old friends and local officialdom, Schwab was approached by a member of the local press.
As the first corporate CEO in America to hire a press clipping service, Schwab was quite aware of how important the press could be in promoting a project. It was probably not by accident that he told the reporter of a suggestion Eurana had made to him. “My wife would like to remember you (Weatherly) because this is her native town,” he said, “and I, too, remember the town that gave me such an excellent wife, but you must first decide on what you would want.”
The officialdom of Weatherly immediately went into action. Meetings and more meetings were held until finally a decision was reached. On May 21, 1901 a delegation met with Schwab in his offices. They would like, if a suitable location could be found, that a school be built for the children of the community. When word got out that a lot was being selected in Weatherly for the new school, the prices for lots skyrocketed. It was then that William Brown, a former Weatherly resident then living in Weissport, came forward. He offered a lot on which he had paid $350 for $60.
With that, the deal was agreed to and the architects Davy & McGlyn of Wilkes-Barre began drawing up plans. Bids were taken and presented to Schwab, who decided to pick the lowest. At an informal dinner that evening at the Waldorf Astoria, at which Eurana Schwab was present, he decided to give a large clock for the school’s cupola. Many years before, a clock maker named David Weatherly promised to give the community a clock tower if they named the town after him. After they made the change, the citizens were surprised to discover Weatherly left town under cover of darkness without making his promised clock tower. Schwab’s action healed a long sore community wound.
The first stone for the “MRS C. M. SCHWAB SCHOOL” was laid on October 22, 1901. Work progressed slowly due to the careful oversight by the community leadership. The dedication date for the school was set at Labor Day September 7, 1903. But Mrs. Schwab was ill and the date was changed to September 19th. Schwab arrived with his wife and her brothers, who both were working as steel company executives.
The Schwabs returned twice to Weatherly in 1913 and 1928. On her last visit Eurana Schwab was suffering from a variety of illnesses, due partly to her weight. She was also plagued with inflammatory rheumatism. A year later the stock market crash and the Depression that followed seriously depleted Schwab’s fortune.
In 1939 Schwab, shortly after his wife’s death, and several months before his a few months later from a heart attack, sent Weatherly the large, full length portrait of his wife done in 1907 by Richard Hall (1857-1942), an English born artist who was a French citizen. Among his other subjects were members of the Vanderbilt family and titled French aristocrats.
The portrait of Eurana Schwab hung in the school until it closed in 1991. Since that time the Alumni Association has managed to raise money to have Eurana Schwab’s portrait restored and kept it in Weatherly. It is working toward saving the school building in spite of many obstacles. All these years later Eurana is still loved in her old hometown.
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