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First Female Post Mistress serves in Opp in late 1890s

By Staff | Mar 9, 2016

By HAYLEY BREECH/For the Luminary Barbara Wood of Muncy poses with her grandmother's wedding dress and hat. Emma Dimm made her entire ensemble for her 1898 marriage to John W. Fague. Emma was a teacher, boarding house owner, and the first Post Mistress at Opp.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To honor Women’s History Month, this is the second of a series of stories about local women who made some historical strides in our community.

OPP/MORELAND TOWNSHIP – Soon after Emma Jane Dimm and John Wilson Fague married in December 1892, the couple moved to Opp where the husband clerked at the village general store. On the same premises, Emma served as official Post Mistress.

Wedded at age 30, Emma was considered well along in age when the nuptials occurred. Born in Moreland Township to John and Sarah (Hoffman) Dimm, the family later moved to the lower side of the Muncy Hills, south of Mile Hill in Northumberland County.

Emma graduated from Muncy Normal School then taught at the brick clad two-story school in East Muncy.

Across the street from the school, Emma’s future husband clerked in a small grocery store. Their first meeting occurred when Emma bustled into the establishment to confront the person selling chewing gum to her students.

Emma Dimm Fague circa 1898

It’s obvious that sooner or later the encounter ended well. At Opp, the couple moved into a small house along Route 442. There in 1897, daughter Ester Myrtle Fague was born and in 1903, son Harland Dimm Fague arrived.

Part of the clerk’s duties was as a weigh master tending the scales. One day while weighing a wagon load of lumber, a horse kicked him. So serious was the injury that Fague was unable to continue his duties.

The family of four moved to 10 Bruner Street in Muncy. The husband took a job as night watchman at Robinson Manufacturing, the forerunner of Young’s Machinery Company.

Emma and her family returned to the church were she’d pledged her vows fifteen years earlier; the Muncy Lutheran Church, the congregation now St. Andrew. At the church, Emma was active in the Lutheran Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society, a group who in 1888, received as new members her and friend Fannie Trumbower.

The society met at the Fague home, where a pocket door opened to enlarge the room. A pump organ graced the parlor around which the women sang.

Following two years of illness, John Fague died in 1919. Now without an income, Emma took in borders who were female instructors at the Normal School. On the occasions when the son was home from university, he slept in the attic.

Harland continued his schooling at Susquehanna University and the Susquehanna Theological Seminary in Selinsgrove. This advancement was due to the influence of the Rev. B. F. Bieber, the Lutheran minister at the time. The pastor was Harland’s mentor and father figure.

Emma was also a member of the Rebekah’s, the women’s counterpart of the International Order of Odd Fellows. Harland often escorted his mother to social functions. One recollection was at the conclusion of a cake walk, Emma could not locate her hat. The wraps of several guests were stacked on an upper story window sill. As the window was open, it was suspected the hat had tumbled downward.

Acquiring a lantern, the son descended the stairs to ground level, but was unsuccessful in his search. Upon returning, Harland learned the hat had been recovered from beneath the pile of coats. When recounting the story in later years, it may not have been a compliment when the son said, “She was a peach.”

While in Selinsgrove, Harland met and married Sara Hassinger of Mifflinburg. In 1928, the Rev. Harland Fague took his first pastorate at the Lutheran Church’s at Lairdsville, Moreland, and Mt. Zion. The couple resided in the parsonage across the street from the parish in Lairdsville. During their three-year stay, Emma’s first grandchild, Mary Ann, was born at the hospital in Muncy.

In 1933, Emma died and with her husband is interred on her parent’s lot near the soldier’s monument in Muncy Cemetery. Of Emma it was said, “Her life was part of a fine thread of Lutheranism which the Dimm family brought to Penn’s Woods In 1750.”

The house on Bruner Street is currently occupied by Barbara Fague Wood, who shared this story of her grandmother Emma Dimm Fague, the first post mistress at Opp.

Mrs. Wood reports than when the Muncy Post Office celebrated its 50 anniversary about 1986, ledgers were among the displays. There Barbara saw her grandmother’s signatures that were logged for incoming mail at Opp. Many had been orders from Sears & Roebuck, a well-known mail order catalogue.