People

John Shepard (1765 - 1837) - one of the early pioneers of the Sayre area. He was born in Connecticut, and came to the Valley in 1784 at the age of 19. He worked as a clerk in Tioga Point. Four years later he purchased a grist mill and saw mill in Milltown on Tioga Creek (now known as Shepard Creek) By the end of the 1700s he also owned a fulling mill, and oil mill and a distillery. John Shepard became one of the most successful business men of his time. He donated the land for Rest Cemetery located on the corner of Bradford and Hoover Streets in Sayre, where he and many of his family are buried. This was also the site of the first log cabin school in the area.

Howard Elmer (1833 - 1892) A Waverly banker who had a vision for the Pine Plains located between Waverly and Athens. In 1870, Mr. Elmer, and other investors purchased the Plains and proceeded to convince Asa Packer to locate a new railroad repair facility on this land. A rail executive who helped Mr. Elmer cement the deal was rewarded by having the town named for him - he was Robert H. Sayre.

Robert H. Sayre (1824 - 1907) Mr. Sayre was an engineer who started his career in the canal business then moved into railroading. He was the chief engineer for the development of the Lehigh Valley Railroad system. As the LVRR pushed north to join the New York state railroads he was convinced by Howard Elmer to build a major railroad repair facility on some available farm land on the New York, Pennsylvania border. In recognition for building the facility, Mr. Elmer named the town Sayre.

Robert Asa Packer (1842 - 1883) Mr. Packer was from a wealthy family in Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) PA. The family was involved in mining, canal building and later railroads. Mr. Packer was an investor in Howard Elmer's, Sayre Land Company and with Mr. Elmer was one of the key players in the promotion of the development of Sayre. Mr. Packer built a large Victorian mansion on the property currently occupied by the Robert Packer Hospital. After Mr. Packers death, the mansion was donated to the town by his sister Mary Packer Cummings for use as a hospital for railroad workers and other town people.

Dr. Donald Guthrie was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1880 the son of a prominent Pennsylvania family and physician. His formal education was completed at Yale University, the Medical School at the University of Pennsylvania where he received his Doctor of Medicine degree. He served a one-year internship at Wilks-Barrie General Hospital followed by a three and a half year position as surgical resident at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Guthrie, at the age of 30, was hired as surgeon-in-chief of the 25-year-old Robert Packer Hospital January 1910. For his services he received $1500 per year, use of a residence with heat and receipt of operating fees from paying patients after payment in full of all hospital charges were satisfied. The 25-bed hospital was in need of repair, $35,000 in debt, with no operating funds, or equipment save one wheel chair when Dr Guthrie took charge. In his tenure a 345-bed hospital was built and 78 full time doctors staffed the Guthrie Clinic. His philosophy was simple - provide the best in service, ability and tools; keep the lowliest detail at the highest level; observe everything both at home and abroad to bring the newest in medicine to Sayre. An interesting tribute to Dr. Guthrie - when Dr Mayo's, son Charles, finished medical school he came to the Robert Packer Hospital to serve his internship under Dr. Guthrie. Dr. Guthrie remained active in his leadership roll until failing health forced him to step aside in 1957 - he died the following year on October 30.

Memoir of Donald Guthrie by Hugh Robertson, M.D.

Mrs. J. W. Bishop, nee Mary Wells

Born in 1850 in Meshoppen, PA, the daughter of Dr. Nathan and Mary Horton Wells, Mary was one of four children. She married Joseph W. Bishop in 1872; they resided in Towanda until 1876 when they moved to Sayre as part of the Lehigh Valley Railroad general offices placement there. Her husband was employed by the Lehigh Valley Railroad from 1867 until 1894, at which time he entered into a retail coal business, the Bishop Coal Company. The Bishops built a home at 101 Park Place in 1879. They had four children, Howard Elmer, who was an administrator at the Robert Packer Hospital from 1913 to 1951, Louise, Nathan Wells, and Katherine Wells, who married Rev. Frank Thurber Cady. Their son, Dr. Joseph Cady, served on the staff of the Robert Packer Hospital and Guthrie Clinic. Present when the history of Sayre was developing, Mrs. Bishop knew those personages about whom she wrote and who are historic figures today.

Mrs. Bishop was a charter member of the Tioga Point Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She played a part in the founding of the Sayre Library and the Monday Club. She was one of the first communicants of the Church of the Redeemer where she played the organ.

She died on October 29, 1929. She and her husband are buried in the Tioga Point Cemetery in Athens, PA.

Her “Short History of Sayre” gives a glimpse into the earliest time of the development of Sayre.

Data compiled from information from James R. Nobles and from an article by Henry Farley in Volume 8, Number 1 of the Spring 1999 issue.

Mary Hannah Packer Cummings

In honor of National Women’s History Month in March, we present Mary Hannah Packer Cummings, the woman who was instrumental in the formation of the Robert Packer Hospital.

It was she who after the 1883 death of her brother Robert gave the use and purpose of the vacant Robert Packer mansion as a hospital for the Lehigh Valley Railroad workers and their families.  In 1885 the charter was granted and the Robert Packer Hospital was opened in July.

This singular act set in motion the establishment of what was to become the renowned Robert Packer Hospital.

Born in 1839 into the Asa Packer family of Mauch Chunck, now Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, Mary Packer was the third oldest of the seven Packer children.  By the year 1885, she was the only remaining member of an illustrious family.

Her life mirrors that of a woman of her time no matter the extent of the family wealth.  Even as the sole survivor but an unmarried woman, she was unable to gain control of the family wealth.  However, in accord with the passing of the 1848 Married Women’s Property Act, Mary Packer arranged a marriage with Charles Cummings complete with the first pre-nuptial agreement in Carbon County.

Upon her marriage in 1885, she inherited the family fortune of $54 million dollars, making her the wealthiest American woman, second only in the world to England’s Queen Victoria.

She and Charles eventually divorced in 1893, but she retained her married last name

Mrs. Cummings became ill in August of 1912 and died in October.  She was laid to rest in the family plot at Mauch Chunck Cemetery.

More information about Mrs. Cummings, Robert Packer and the Asa Packer family can be found at asapackermansion.com.  For information about Robert Packer Hospital, go to guthrie.org.