The auto industry depended on and thus helped build the steel empire of Charles M. Schwab during the early decades of the 20th century.
Ironically, the automobile was also responsible for one of the most traumatic incidents in the life of Schwab's wife, Emma Eurana (Dinkey) Schwab.
Eurana spent most of her childhood in Weatherly, a far cry from the lifestyle she would have during her marriage to one of the richest men in the world. After Eurana and Charles were married in Weatherly in 1883, she reportedly supported her husband's career by helping with experiments in his private laboratory.
Later, when Charles grew the second largest steel business in the United States, the couple would adapt to a life of luxury reserved for the richest Americans. In 1919, Charles built a 44-room mansion in his home town of Loretto in Western Pennsylvania. The summer retreat, which cost $3 million dollars, featured opulent gardens and even a nine-hole golf course on 1,000 acres.
Charles was far from the perfect husband. As part of his lavish lifestyle, he was a high roller at the gambling tables, and reportedly had a string of extramarital affairs, one of which produced a child out of wedlock.
Charles Schwab's public face was much more positive and included a charitable side. Among the beneficiaries was Lehigh University. In 1916, Schwab gave a generous gift for the athletic department to complete Taylor Stadium.
"When completed, Lehigh will have one of the finest stadiums in the country costing more than $125,000 and capable of seating about 25,000 persons," the New York Times reported on May 22, 1916.
Charles didn't ignore his wife's home town of Weatherly. Eighteen years after their marriage in the picturesque community, they returned for a visit in 1901. Charles was overwhelmed by the peoples' kindness, which included a tour and a reception for him and his wife.
"We would like to do something for the community," Schwab said. "My wife is a native of Weatherly and I would like to remember the town that gave me such an excellent wife. You must decide what you want."
After meeting with a committee of town people, Schwab decided to give the community a new school. Andrew Breslin of Summit Hill was contracted to build the school on Sept. 3, 1901.
After the three-story domed C.M. Schwab school was completed in July 1903, the $75,000 structure became the landmark building in town. It was used as a school by the Weatherly Area School District until 1991.
On Sept. 19, 1903, the Schwabs arrived at the local Lehigh Valley Railroad station in their private car. The steel magnate presented Elmer Warner, president of the school board, with the keys to the new school.
While that was a high point in the life of Mrs. Schwab, an accident that occurred eight years later was most distressing, leaving her personally devastated. In early November of 1911, Eurana and her sister, Mrs. Mack of Philadelphia, were traveling from the Schwab home in South Bethlehem to visit a relative in Lehighton. In the area of Bowmanstown, her chauffeur-driven automobile struck 6-year-old James Nansteel, who darted in front of the car.
Mrs. Schwab said this was the first automobile accident she was ever involved in.
"Our chauffeur is very careful and did everything possible to avoid the accident," Mrs. Schwab later told a reporter. "When we arrived at Hazard there were a number of boys playing in the street and my chauffeur tooted his horn and repeatedly slowed down.
"The boy that was killed started to cross the road in front of the machine but before he reached the other side he turned back again, when the machine struck him. We couldn't avoid the accident, as the chauffeur did everything possible to avert it."
After the accident, the chauffeur picked up the boy and rushed him to the office of Dr. Sitler in Bowmanstown, who then ordered the boy transferred to Palmerton Hospital. A few hours later the boy died of internal injuries.
Mrs. Schwab was at Dr. Sitler's office in Bowmanstown when she received news of the boy's death. A newspaper report stated that she "cried like a child" after getting the report.
"I never felt so bad in my life, and am sick at heart about it," she later told a reporter.
Mrs. Schwab offered "any assistance possible to the grief-stricken parents" and requested that Bowmanstown postmaster Seitz help the family in any way. She promised to return to the area to "make complete settlement with the dead child's family."
Mrs. Schwab died on Jan. 23, 1939, in Manhattan at the age of 79 of heart disease. In later life, she devoted her time to philanthropy.
She was never more grieved in her life, however, than on that brisk fall day in 1911 when her automobile struck little James Nansteel near Bowmanstown.