Wayne County History

Wayne County History

In August, 1749, about 300 Native Americans of the tribes of the Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Tuscourara with the Seneca, Shawnee, Delaware and Mohican, realizing that the white race was gradually pushing them away from their ground, appended their respective seals to a deed, in consideration of the Proprietary Government paying them 500 pounds Sterling (about $2,500), and conveyed to the Government a strip of land containing what is now ten counties, Pike and Wayne, parts of Monroe, Luzerne, Carbon Northumberland, Lebanon and Dauphin Counties. The tribe, which occupied eastern Pennsylvania, including Wayne County, was the Lenni Lenape, called the Delawares by the Europeans, after the river along which they lived.
A sub-tribe, Nini, meaning “people of stoney country” was the group, which occupied the upper Delaware River, including present Wayne County. Eventually, the Delawares moved west – mainly because of the white man’s encroaching society. Today, the Lenni Lenape are scattered from Ontario to Oklahoma.

Established in 1798, Wayne County was named for General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a hero of the Revolutionary War. He was famous for ending the Native American Resistance and destroying the Northwest Native Confederation at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Ohio. General Wayne died at Preque Isle less than two years before the county was created. The County seat has been at Wilsonville, Milford, Bethany, and now at Honesdale.

In 1828, the Delaware and Hudson Canal, a 108 mile waterway was completed to carry coal between Honesdale and New York, while another form of transportation was in the making. Honesdale became known as the “Birthplace of the American Railroad” thanks to the Stourbridge Lion.

David Wilmot, born in Bethany in 1814 was a member of the House of Representatives from 1845 to 1851 and was author of the Wilmot Proviso which stipulated that in new United States territory slavery should be prohibited. He was indirectly responsible for the establishment of the Republican Party.

Samuel Meredith, was the first treasurer of the United States under the Constitution, appointed by President Washington in 1789. During his service as US Treasurer, he lent the new government more than $100,000, which it could not repay when he retired.
New Englanders were the first settlers. Joseph Skinnner, one of 1,200 Yankees, came from Connecticut to Damascus Township in 1775.

Mohican, or Chushetunk Native Americans lived on the Delaware between Shehawken and the mouth of the Lackawaxen River. People were generally poor, most of the old men had been soldiers of the Revolutionary War. Wayne County was designated in old records a “Lacawa” settlement.

Wayne County was set off from the County of Northampton in the year 1798 and originally included Pike County. The boundaries were the northern line of the State on the North, the Delaware River on the East, Northampton (now Monroe) on the South, and Luzerne and Susquehanna counties on the West. The area covered was 1,492 square miles, and the population in 1800 only 2,562, which was an average of less than two persons to the square mile.

The courts for the new County were temporarily established in Milford. The location of the County seat must have greatly agitated the sparse population scattered along the valleys of the principal streams, for the next year, 1799, the Legislation removed the courts from Milford to Wilsonville, a small manufacturing village at the falls of the Wallenpaupack Creek, a few miles above the point at which it empties into the Lackawaxen River (this is now the location of the PP&L dam on Lake Wallenpaupack). This was to be the location of the County Courts until suitable land and buildings could be located within four miles of the Dyberry Forks of the Lackawaxen River (this is now Honesdale).

Wilsonville was named for James Wilson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Judge of the United States Supreme Court. He came to that area following the close of the Revolutionary War and established a weaving mill on the banks of the Wallenpaupack River, for the manufacturing of linen from flax. The business flourished for a time, but raw material became scarce and Mr. Wilson was unable to receive a sufficient amount of flax to continue his business. The Wilsonville location proved unsatisfactory, even temporarily, so the Courts were again moved in April 1802 back to Milford for three years and no longer. Meanwhile, the trustees, under the organization act of 1798, accepted from Henry Drinker, a large land owner of Philadelphia, a tract of 999 acres of land in trust for the County of Wayne, to be laid out in town and outlots, and to convey to the County Commissioners such of said lots as they shall fix on for the purpose of erecting a Court House, Jail and Offices for the safe-keeping of records. (This is now Bethany). This deed, made in August 1800, was a compliance with the act of 1799, for the land it conveyed was within four miles of the Dyberry Forks. The land was divided into lots and sold for from a few cents per lot to twenty-seven dollars. The totals proceed came to $4,260.63.

Besides this sum was the land that forms the Public Square in Bethany and the site of the public buildings, and several lots given to the town for church and school purposes. It was in this manner that Bethany became the County seat of Wayne. A frame Court House and a log Jail were erected upon the square and the Court was moved there from Milford in 1805.

Great discontent among the people along the Delaware below Milford now flared up because of the great distance to be traveled to the County seat at Bethany. In 1810 legislation was sought to relocate the County seat at Blooming Grove (now in Pike County) but the lack of funds and tax burden already placed on the people prevented the building on that site and the County seat remained in Bethany. Pressure from the lower end of the County finally in 1814 caused the Legislature to set off this section as a new County to be called Pike, with the seat of Justice at Milford where it has remained to this day.

Pike County thus had an area of 772 square miles and a 1820 population of 2,894. Wayne County then had 720 square miles and a population of 4,127.

May 4, 1841, the County Commissioners fixed Honesdale as the new county seat and Bethany lost that distinction.

Historical Markers

WAYNE COUNTY – Formed on March 21, 1798, from Northampton county. Named for Gen.Anthony Wayne. Site of test run of Stourbridge Lion, first locomotive in U.S. to run on a commercial track. Honesdale, county seat incorporated 1831, was western terminus of D&H Canal. County Courthouse, Court St. between 9th & 10th Sts., Honesdale. Dedicated July 8, 1981.

SAMUEL MEREDITH – This memorial is a tribute to the financier-patriot of the Revolution who was first Treasurer of the U.S., 1789-1801. George Clymer and Meredith were large landholders in this area. Meredith died at his estate, Belmont, in 1817. Intersection PA 371 &670, Pleasant Mount. Erected July 28, 1948.

DAVID WILMOT – The author of the Wilmot Proviso of 1846 barring slavery from territory acquired in the Mexican War, was born in this house Jan 20, 1814. He died in Towanda, March 16, 1868, after a notable career in the State and Nation. Wayne Street off PA 670 at Bethany. Erected May 29, 1947.

STOURBRIDGE LION – A replica of the famous Stourbridge Lion, first steam locomotive to run on rails in the U.S., 1829, is housed here. Beside it is the Eclipse, the original passenger coach on the D & H Gravity Railroad. US 6 just west of Honesdale. Erected 1947.

HONESDALE – Named for Philip Hone, noted New York merchant-diarist, who pioneered in developing transportation and anthracite resources of the region. Laid out in 1827 at head of D& H Canal. County seat since 1841. US 6 & PA entering Honesdale from W&SE . Erected April 9, 1948.

LINCOLN NOMINATION – In May, 1859, Horace Greeley met with notable political leaders to create a boom to nominate Abraham Lincoln for President. The events that ensued at the Republican National Convention in Chicago paralleled the strategy planned at the parley held in this building. 115 9th St., Honesdale. Erected Aug. 26,1968.

DELAWARE & HUDSON CANAL – Terminus of the waterway uniting the Hudson and Delaware rivers. Built in 1825-28. A gravity railroad feeder reached to Carbondale. For 70 years it was the anthracite trade outlet for the region. US 6 & PA 191 (Main St.) at Historical Society, Honesdale. Erected May 29, 1947.

STOURBRIDGE LION – Here began the trial run of the first locomotive operated by steam on rails in the U.S., Aug. 8,1829. The Lion was English-built for use on levels on the gravity Railroad. It was piloted by Horatio Allen. US6 & PA 191 ( Main St.) at Park St., Honesdale. Erected May 28.1947.

DORFLINGER GLASS WORKS – Founded in 1865 by Christian Dorflinger on this site. Glass was made and cut here until 1921. Noted for the quality of Flint Glass, Dorflinger supplied the White House with sets of tableware through a number of administrations. US 6 at White Mills. Erected June 28, 1951.

CUSHETUNK – The first Connecticut settlement on the upper Delaware was made here in 1755, under the lead of Moses Thomas and Daniel Skinner, on lands called Cushetunk by the Native Americans. Settlement seized by Native Americans and Tories, 1778. SR 1004 (former LR63027) N of Milanville. Erected May 28, 1947.

Town Histories

Dreher & Greene Townships – In 1839, a section in the southern part of Palmyra Township, Pike County was separated to become Greene Township. What would become Dreher Township in Wayne County was separated from Sterling in 1877, and then included Lehigh Township until 1883. Both townships’ early histories were closely linked, as they are today, by the Wallenpaupack Creek, which forms a boundary between the two, encouraging travel back and forth through the valley of some five miles in length. Much of our history lies in the Moravian settlement of Newfoundland, the English of South Sterling and the Germans of Greene.
Early residents relied on the wealth of natural resources for survival and income. Subsistence farming was supplemented by a variety of industries including timber harvesting, sawmills, toy factories, wood stick mills and the Ledgedale Tannery. In winter, many farmers harvested ice followed by maple syrup and sugar-producing in early spring.
Beginning in the early 20th century when city dwellers learned of the crystal clear water and fresh mountain air, another industry, “tourism,” was born. While it began modestly enough with local farm families converting their homes to boarding houses in the summer and offering fresh grown vegetables and fruit and locally raised meat for dining, it continues to this day with quality resorts, restaurants and outdoor recreational activities in both townships.

Near the southern end of Dreher Township in South Sterling is the WSCS Hall. Built in 1904 for the Patriotic Order Sons of America (POS of A) Washington Camp No. 422, the building was purchased by the South Sterling Methodist Episcopal Church’s Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) in 1946. The WSCS Hall has been the home of the Greene¬ Dreher Historical Society since 2006 and is located at 465 South Sterling Road, South Sterling. The illustration shows the WSCS Hall with the South Sterling Methodist Church in the distance.

HAWLEY – Originally named Paupack Eddy, Hawley grew with the railroad and canals through its silk cut glass industries located next to the Lackawaxen River. Named for Irad Hawley, the first president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company, an original passenger car from the Pennsylvania Coal Company, an original passenger car from the Pennsylvania Coal Company’s Gravity Railroad (circa 1850s) can be seen near the public library. The largest bluestone factory building in America built in 1865 still stands. Architectural variety can be found in various other historical buildings in town. An Art Deco Theater built in 1933 now is home to a local repertory company; the original Eddy Hotel, built in 1850 is a restaurant, a gabled Tudor Manor now serves as a country inn, and several churches and other buildings feature styles such as Greek Revival, Queen Ann Stick, Normanesque and Romanesque.

HONESDALE – Named for Phillip Hone who, among others, created plans for a canal to carry coal from Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City. Originally known as Dyberry Forks, Honesdale was incorporated in 1831. The first steam locomotive in the United States was imported from Stourbridge, England in 1829 and the Gravity Railroad was constructed soon after. The “Birthplace of the American Railroad”, Honesdale was the largest stockpiler of coal in the world. The smallest synagogue in America having a continuous congregation since its founding in 1849, the Beth Israel Synagogue, was erected in Honesdale in 1852 and is of Romanesque design.

LAKE TOWNSHIP – Lake Township was formed in 1877 out of the northern part of Salem Township and a small strip of South Canaan. The most populated area in the Township was Jones Lake. After the building of the Pennsylvania Coal Company’s Gravity Railroad, a post office was established named Ariel, after the airy spirit in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, at the lake.

Soon excursions were making their way to Jones Lake, the newest resort in Wayne County. The Gravity Railroad was abandoned in 1885 and replaced by a steam line (The Erie and Wyoming Valley Railroad) in 1887. Jones Lake’s name was changed to Lake Ariel. The name according to a newspaper came from the Bible, Isaiah, Chapter 29: “Ariel, the city where David dwelt…”

The popularity of Lake Ariel went beyond anyone’s expectations. The boating, fishing and Lake Ariel Park brought people by the thousands to the township. East Shore Drive was now dotted with cottages of Scranton’s eminent businessmen and being call “Millionaires’ Row.”

These men wanted the luxuries of Scranton, in the country for their summer months at the lake. One of these luxuries was a bank. All the banks in Wayne County at that time were located in Honesdale, the county seat, or in Hawley, both another 10 miles from Lake Ariel. Soon a group of businessmen secured the help of Merton J. Emery of Scranton as cashier. Work on the Lake Ariel Bank building started in June and was completed in November 1910. With 800 people depositing over $46,000 the first day, the success led to the opening of other community banks. The illustration shows the bank in 1915.

History provided by Kurt A. Reed for the Lake Ariel Region Historical Association (LARHA).

PROMPTON – Described as a bustling community in 1904, Prompton boasted an excelsior factory, mine prop business, creamery and two stores. The railroad station at Prompton was opened in 1912 by the D&H Company. Due to the large number of lakes and ponds in the area, the ice industry was the biggest business for a number of years. The final harvesting of ice was recorded in 1953 with the onset of electricity.

SALEM – Salem (“Land of Peace”) was set off from Canaan and Delaware Townships in 1808, but its history started decades before. An old Native American trail passed through what was to become Salem Township. The earliest mention of it is dated 1741. The trail ran east to west, coming from the Hudson River to the Delaware River and on to the Wyoming Valley. The Connecticut settlers going to Wyoming made this into a wagon road in 1762. This was the first road in what was to become Wayne County and is today Route 590. A few miles east of Hamlin was Little Meadows Gust before the Goose Pond Road at Route 590.) A clearing was made by beavers building dams, flooding the land, killing the timber, and making the meadows. Here a man by the name of Seth Strong, on his way to Wyoming in 1770, decided to make it his home.

The day after the battle at Wyoming (July 4, 1778), Strong with some others had a desperate fight with the Indians at this place. Strong and his family were all massacred and Jacob Stanton was the only man who escaped. He fled and notified the settlers upon the Paupack of their danger, thereby saving many lives. Late in the fall of 1779, Stanton came back to Little Meadows and found the Indians had burned down the house. He dug a grave, gathering up the bones of the Whites and Natives and placing them together, and he raised a mound over them. This later became the “Land of Peace” and was the only site of a Revolutionary War battle fought in Wayne County.

Other wars since the Revolution have come and gone, but thankfully no more have been fought within Salem’s boundaries. But they have taken Salem’s sons. The illustration shown here is Salem’s veterans of the Civil War, leaving the Hamlin Methodist Church (built in 1866-67 and burned in 1944) enroute to the Hamlin Cemetery to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades.

STERLING – Sterling was set off from Salem Township on April 25, 1815; Dreher including Lehigh was taken off September 7, 1877. Sterling is bounded on the North by Salem, Northeast by Greene Township, Pike County; Southeast by Dreher; South by Lehigh; and West by Madison Township, Lackawanna County.

Six creeks bless the township: Stevens, Wilcox, Hornbaker, Webster, Butternut, and Uban. They all flow directly into the West Branch of the Paupack.

The first settler of Sterling was Henry Stevens, a Hollander, who married an English woman and settled on the old North and South Road (Route 196) on a little hill near the Butternut Creek and 1 mile South of Noble Town in the year 1800. When the township was formed in 1815, it was named Sterling. Richard Lancaster was first given credit for the name as he was a silversmith living in the township at that time. However, there was a second reason why it was most likely named Sterling, for it was thought to represent the quality of its settlers.

Nobletown was the only town in Sterling Township and still is today. The name was derived from the Noble family who established the first store in 1821-22. It is not known just when the name Noble town  was changed to Sterling, but it was not long before Sterling became one of the largest mercantile towns in the area, along with Hollisterville, both being thriving communities of new business and settlers.

The Cannon and Military Honor Roll are located in front of the old Sterling school now owned by the Sterling United Methodist Church located on Route 196. The first honor roll was placed at Sterling Corners in 1944 through the courtesy of John Gillner. Sterling High School pupils solicited the funds under the guid¬ance of Miss Ella Gilpin. Fifty-nine names were on it. Many years later the plaque found its way into a basement where it remained until the mid 1980s when it was moved to the front of the Sterling school. The honor roll was restored in 1994. In the year 2005 the honor roll was again restored by the Historians of Sterling Township. The honor roll now has 158 names listed on it. Since war and rumors of war were inevitable, space was made for names to be added in the future. A Memorial Day program is held yearly to honor those who have served and those who are serving in our military.

Cannon and Military Honor Roll, located on Route 196 in Sterling

WAYMART – The first settlers located in Waymart around 1790, however the borough was not incorporated until 1851. The Borough included an area of approximately 1920 acres. In 1875, a Gravity Railroad Depot was built and is the only gravity station left in Wayne County. Early 1900’s industry included an ice plant, sweater factory, creameries, saw mill, lumbering, farming and a grist mill. The name evolved since this was a weigh station for coal shipped to the upper portion of the Delaware and Hudson Canal.

WHITE MILLS – Christian Dorflinger moved his glass making business in here 1862. One of the largest glass works in America, it provided specially ordered items to the White House from Lincoln through the presidency’s of Wilson.