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Nathan D. Cortright was born at Beach Grove, Salem township, Luzerne Co., Pa., Feb. 11, 1817.  His ancestors originally emigrated from England, settling in New York State, on the Hudson, from where they moved to the Wyoming Valley, being among the first settlers of that rich and inviting soil.  His maternal great-grandfather, Thomas Dodson, was a soldier, and lived in the time of the Revolutionary and Indian wars.  In one of their engagements he was taken prisoner by the British soldiers and carried into Canada.  Some time afterward he was exchanged or released.  He endured great hardships during his captivity, having to return to his home through hostile Indian lands, traveling the whole distance on foot by the Indian path.


Soon after peace was restored, his son, Thomas Dodson, volunteered the hazardous task of going to Canada on horseback to bring home Miss Abigail Dodson, who was kept a prisoner by an Indian chieftain, having been taken prisoner along with the Gilbert family from Gnadenhütten during the Indian wars.  He succeeded in rescuing her, and brought her safely to her family and friends.  This was considered a daring feat, and her relations ever held him in high esteem for this act of humanity.  Mr. Cortrights’s paternal grandfather, Elisha Cortright, was among the pioneer settlers of the Wyoming Valley, and during the trying scenes of the Revolution and Indian wars endured the hardships incident to that period.  Being sick with a prevalent fever at the time of the battle of Wyoming, or which is more popularly known as the “Wyoming Massacre,” July 3, 1778, his brother, John Cortright, served in his stead, and was killed.  His name is inscribed on the monument at Wyoming, placed in memory of those who fell at that perilous time.


After the struggle between the Pennsylvania settlers and the Connecticut claimants, Elisha Cortright moved to Beach Grove, bought lands, and made a settlement.  He married Huldah, daughter of Andrew Dingman, of Dingman’s Ferry, Pike Co., Pa.  His son, Isaac Cortright, father of the subject of this sketch, was born in Hanover, Luzerne Co., in 1776, and removing with his parents to Beach Grove, Salem township, in the same county, in 1786, grew to manhood’s years at that place.


He subsequently married Mary, daughter of Thomas Dodson, and engaged in farming pursuits through a long and active life.  For fifty-two years his wife and he lived together in the same house, surrounded by many friends, in a Christian community, with good schools, and in a neighborhood where peace and social contentment reigned, his farm bordering on the west side of the beautiful and historic Susquehanna.  They were blessed with eight children, namely, - Elisha D., Mabel D., Nancy A., Thomas D., Huldah D., Nathan D., Abram D., Rachel B., - Nathan D. being the sixth in succession.  His early life was passed upon his father’s farm, enjoying at the same time the benefits of such education as was imparted at the Cortright school-house, which was located upon a plot of ground donated by Elisha Cortright for educational and church purposes.  At the age of nineteen he removed to Beaver Meadow, Carbon Co., and in the spring of 1836 secured a position in the corps of engineers of A. Pardee and J. G. Fell, civil engineers, who were engaged in building the Beaver Meadow, Hazleton and Summit Railroads.  In the winter of 1838-39 he was appointed the general shipping and boat agent of the Hazleton Coal Company, and in 1842 was made superintendent of the same company, under the direction of Dr. Samuel Moore, president, holding that important position continuously until 1857.  This company during that period was one of the strongest coal organizations in the State.  Its transactions, though numerous and varied, were carried on with the strictest integrity, even amid the most threatening financial storms, and it may be truthfully said that some portion of this success and prosperity were due to the fidelity, executive ability, and excellent business judgment of Mr. Cortright.  In 1857 he engaged in the coal business for himself, and is still actively engaged, in connection with his son, N. D. Cortright, Jr., in carrying on that branch of business.  He had witnessed the gradual and successful development of the great coal and iron interests of the Lehigh and Wyoming regions, and occasionally participated in such development.  From 1847 to 1852 he was interested with others in driving the old tunnel at Hacklebernie through about twelve hundred feet of rock and coal at the east end of the basin of the coal lands of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company.  Since 1845 he has resided on the same premises, having built a new house in 1860 in Mauch Chunk, where he is recognized as a useful and valuable citizen, of modest tastes and inclinations, and actively identified with the various institutions in the locality.  He is a member of the board of directors of the Second National Bank of Mauch Chunk, and has been one of the leading members of the Methodist Episcopal society since 1854, holding official relation with the same for many years, and in active sympathy with the temperance, Sabbath-school, and Bible causes.  In 1851 he was appointed by Governor William F. Johnson one of his aides-de-camp, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.  On Feb. 6, 1845, he was married to Margaretta L., daughter of Ezekiel W. and Margaret Harlan, who were of Quaker origin.  They came to Mauch Chunk from Chester…



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                                                                                                                                                           … County in 1826.  Mr. Harlan was one of the early employés of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, and afterwards became a partner of the late Asa Packer.  This firm, Packer & Harlan, contracted for and rebuilt a portion of the Lehigh Canal, after which they operated the Nesquehoning mines.


Mr. Harlan’s family consisted of twelve children.  Margaretta L. was born Oct. 8, 1826.  Their married life proved a happy and prosperous one; the issue of their union being six children, - four sons and two daughters.  The eldest, Harlan W., who married Eliza Le Fevre, of Hurdtown, N. J., was superintendent for the Ogden Mine Railroad Company, near Dover, N. J., for sixteen years; is now engaged in the coal business.  Nathan D., who married Maggie Kennedy, of Port Kennedy, Pa., has been engaged in the coal business for the past eighteen years; is the junior member of the firm of N. D. Cortright & Son, also postmaster of Mauch Chunk for the past five years.  Gertrude M. is living at home with her parents.  Samuel M., late superintendent of the Pennsylvania Telephone Company, married Maggie Weyhenshimer, of Allentown.   William S., after attending Lafayette College, at Easton, Pa., then graduated from Wyoming Commercial College, at Kingston, Pa., and graduated from the College of Dental Surgery in 1879; has been a successful practitioner of his profession at Mauch Chunk ever since.  On June 5, 1883, he married Miss Jennie Rawling, of Mineral Point, Wis. Emma L., youngest daughter, was married to Edwin F. Keen, wholesale merchant of Philadelphia, Nov. 21, 1883.










The History of the Counties of Lehigh & Carbon, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,


Alfred Mathews & Austin N. Hungerford

Published in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1884


Transcribed from the original in May, 2003


Susan Gilkeson Sterling


Web page by

Jack Sterling

May 2003