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Old Forge Borough


Old Forge Borough Hall is located at 310 South Main Street, Old Forge PA 18518; phone: 570-457-8852.

Beginnings [1]

Thomas Smith moved from Nanticoke to Old Forge in 1786 "to get above high water mark." Cornelius Atherton (of the Taylor Athertons), about this time made the first tailors' shears. He was afterwards employed by the government to manufacture guns and bayonets for the Revolutionary soldiers. He was the first American inventor in the cutlery industry. For 60 years after the opening of the nineteenth century the settlers were relieved of the misery of Indian outrages, starvation periods, fear of the Pennamites and contested land boundaries.

In 1808 the Charles Drake family came in from Schooley's Mountains in New Jersey, established a general store, built a tannery and later kept a place of entertainment for "horse and man" in the lower end of the present day borough. He purchased large tracts of coal land of which he afterwards disposed to the great coal mining corporations. Edmund B. Babb, in 1820, built an iron foundry and made farm utensils. This family was succeeded by William Howard, who, in turn, was followed by the brothers George M. and Steven H. Miller.

The Athertons, the Gordons, the Smiths, the Scotts, the Knapps, the Careys, Atens, Breeze's, Tisdels, Winters, Stewarts, Albrights and Besecker's were permanently settled and making progress by the early first quarter of the last century.

In 1870 Old Forge had four schools, geographically well located, employing one teacher each, with an average attendance of 180 children. At this period the natural beauty of Old Forge was not surpassed by any other agricultural district in the Union. Fronting on the main thoroughfare were the semi-colonial mansions of the Athertons, the Stewarts, the Smiths and the Drakes. The highway was flanked on both sides by continuous lines of sweet smelling locusts, beautiful maples. The farms were well fenced, the pastures were filled with cattle, horses and mules and the fields were abloom with corn, wheat and rye. The mountains on the west were clothed with virgin forests, the pure spring water of the creeks were filled with trout and the Lackawanna River supplied the breakfast table with delicious fish. Churches, a Sunday school and aid societies furnished the people their spiritual life and, winter sport was found in skating, sleighing and once a year barn dances.

After the Civil War the Chittenden breaker, along the D. L.&W. Railroad, not far from the Moosic road, the first coal operation was built, two shafts sunk, company houses and a large store erected and in ten years the whole township was humming with the noise of steam engines and the voices of busy men and women. Other mines opened by the Pennsylvania Coal Company and the Jermyn Company and three silk mills gave employment to hundreds of girls.

In 1890 the population had increased ten-fold. The company houses were bought by their occupants and improved, whole farms were plotted into building lots, rapidly sold and occupied, sidewalks laid, Main Street pre-empted by electric cars running to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and the physical aspects of the old township so changed as not to be recognizable, by the very oldest of the 14,000 population.

  1. Murphy, Thomas, Commemorative of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Lackawanna County Pennsylvania, Volume One, Historical Publishing Company, Indianapolis, 1928.
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