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Luzerne Borough


Luzerne Borough Hall is located at 144 Academy Street, Luzerne PA 18709; phone: 570-287-7633.

Beginnings [1]

Luzerne Borough was incorporated in 1882, of territory taken from Kingston Township.

The history of Luzerne's first settlers is given in the general history of the settlement of Wyoming Valley, as epitomized from Miner, Pearce, Chapman and other chroniclers of those early times. Mr. Miner's History of Wyoming is not only accurate, but in most respects is full of those interesting details of the people, brought down to 1844. To this are added the valuable Annals of Stewart Pearce, coming down to 1866. Dr. F. C. Johnson, in 1889, published in his Historical Record a communication from the pen of John Mathers his account of Luzerne Borough, that is so complete as to make the best possible history of the place, and we give it nearly entire:

"The area of Luzerne borough is 296 acres, bounded as follows: Beginning at the center of Union street, on the west side of the D., L. & W. railroad, thence along the same north forty-six and a half degrees, east one hundred and thirty-nine and a half perches, to the line between the Pettebone estate and the estate of Charles Bennett, thence along said line north thirty degrees ten minutes, west two hundred and eighty perches to an old railroad, thence along same south sixty-five degrees, west twenty-eight and a half perches, south eighty-three degrees, west one hundred and thirteen perches, to edge of dug road, thence north sixty-four degrees, west fifty-three and a half perches to buttonwood in Raub's millpond, thence south thirty degrees ten minutes, east one hundred and eighty-six and a half perches, east thirty perches, south thirty degrees ten minutes, east two hundred and three perches to place of beginning."

To accommodate the little fringe of settlers at the base of the mountains, and just west of the borough lines, that were too few to provide their own schools, the west line of Luzerne Borough was extended in 1890 to the top of the mountain. This increased the borough area about 175 acres.

"After an absence of fifty years from my native town, 'Hartseph Hollow,' I return to tell you of Luzerne fifty years ago [named Hartseph, in honor of the early settler, Zaehariah Hartseph].

"Within the present limits there were twenty-six dwellings, nineteen of which remain to tell the style of residences in 1839 and of an earlier date. A few of these remain where they were originally while the balance of the nineteen have been repaired or removed and only parts remain."

"Alighting from the train at Bennett station there can be noted at once the farm house on the Charles Bennett estate known in the olden times as the Isaac Carpenter house — a man from New Jersey of that name having bought the farm of the Nace heirs. Balser Carpenter lived and died in the house in 1839. Walking some distance on Bennett street we pass the Cramer house now occupied by Ellen, daughter of Morris Cramer who built it in 1823. That "lean to" on the E.W. Abbott's residence was built by two brothers, John and Jacob Hunter, in 1826. The front part of the house was built by Godfrey Bowman in 1811. Two tenants rented the house in 1839 — Charles Pearce and Betsey Shaffer. This dilapidated structure on the corner of Main and "high toned" Walnut streets was known in my childhood days as the Amanda Pettibone house. The fabrick has an interesting history. The Peggy Shafer house was built by Christopher Miner in 1816, stood on the ground where Eliza Harris built her residence, and fifty years since became the home and property of James Mathers, father of John Mathers. The old house was moved on Buckingham avenue and is now the home of Nancy Walker. The old homestead on the Hughes estate is at present the home and property of A. M. Hughes, daughter of James and Hannah Hughes who were the occupants fifty years ago.

"This old house blacked with culm dust from the Black Diamond breaker was the home of our early friend Reuben Holgate. It was built in 1817 or 1818 and occupied fifty years ago by George Haughton. That low kitchen connected with the Luzerne house was known as the James Holgate house which was built eighty-three years ago. Susan Hicks lived there in 1839. The old red mill looks very natural. It was an old house when we were small boys, and was the property then of Holgate brothers; built eighty years ago. James Holgate occupied the house in 1839. Reuben Holgate built a store where J.E. Nugent & Co. now have a drug store, in 1830. It was moved across Hancock street about 1837, and is now a part of the Luzerne house, two stories of the front."

"The old red mill was built in 1839 for William Hanceck by Charles and John Mathers, two young millwrights. This was the first mill built by them after serving their apprenticeship. Their helpers were John Bartholamew, John Lott, William Haines, James Haines and Solomon Haines. The first miller was Lambert Bonham.

"That back kitchen on George W. Engle's rented house is a part of the old Philip Water's house, was built in 1824. George Houghton moved from this house into the Reuben Holgate house April 1, 1839. The house of Sarah Laphy was built by her husband David Laphy in 1836, who lived here with his family fifty years ago. The old house opposite the iron bridge was built about 1839 by Charles Laphy, who was then one of Hartseph's citizens. David Atherholt rented the house between iron bridge and Waddell's shaft, it was built by Jonas De Long in 1814 and fifty years ago was the home of Peregrine Jones, when it was known as the Jonas De Long house. Thomas Waddell's rented house near the shaft was built by Josiah Squires in 1826, whose family resided here fifty years ago. Your humble scribe was born in this forbidding abode in 18 — . The Island schoolhouse was built between the years 1818 and 1825. It has been repaired a number of times. C. Hasbranch taught the winter term of 1839, hired for three months at $15 per month and board, commencing the term January 10, 1839.

"Between 1816 and 1820 a building was erected on the ground where H.N. Schorley's plaster and chopping mill is. This building and its connections were used for different purposes in the olden times. Thomas Reese moved a barn across Toby's creek and had it for a blacksmith shop. This was then turned into a plaster and chopping mill, also a clover mill; an oilmill was connected with the building. Jacob Hoover had charge of it in 1839. The property was then owned by George Hallenback. Over fifty years ago George W. Little built the old part of Thomas Wright's mill. It was originally built for a plaster-mill. G.W. Little used it for a time as a dwelling."

"About this time a boarding-house was erected for the accommodation of the "Louisa Little" furnace hands. It was built by Gaylord & Smith. William Wallace is now a renter in the house. The part of Raubville hotel that fronts on Main Street was fifty years ago a storehouse built by Henderson Gaylor and Draper Smith in 1838. The front and old part of the residence of Mrs. Caroline Raub was built by George W. Little, and was his home fifty years ago. Raub's old red millhouse was built by John Gore in 1838. Henry Stroh was miller in 1839. Raub's white mill was built in 1812, by James Hughes, Sr.; it was repaired and repainted a number of times. George W. Little and John Gore owned the property in 1839."

"The ancient village was called Hartseph, in honor of Zachariah Hartseph, an old settler who lived here nearly 100 years ago. Our grandmothers used to tell us he had a son, Peter Hartseph, who 'was one of your handsome men.'

"The 'village blacksmith' fifty years ago was Pierce Bowman, a resident of Pringville at this time [1889]. I met him the other day on his way home from Luzerne post office with his Herald, which he peruses with as much interest as he did the Gleaner in the days of long ago. He gave me the address of a number of our early acquaintances still living. The list includes John Mathers, Andrew Raub, Hiram Johnson, Mary Ann Hughes, Ann Maria Hughes, Charles Hughes, Margaret S. Hughes, Edward Hughes, James Hughes, Betsey Houghten, William Houghten, Sarah Lapley, Martha Raub, Mary Raub, Deborah Raub, Henderson Bonham, Fuller Bonham, Barnes Bonham, Catharine Wagner, James Hancock, Elizabeth Hancock, Catharine Hancock, Ann McCormic, Charles Pierce, Jefferson Pierce, Kate Line. Ellen Cramer, Priscilla Cramer, Caroline Cramer, Susan Cramer, Elizabeth Stroh, Mary Stroh, Ruth G. Stroh, Peter Stroll, Sallie Stroh, Christiana Stroh, John Fox, Lucinda Reese, Mary Haines, Rachael, Margaret, Sallie Leagraves, John S. Carpenter and Elizabeth Carpenter."

A few days after Mr. Mather wrote the above account of the early settlers he was at a dinner of the descendants of old friends and they made up the following:

Josiah Squires built the first house ever in Luzerne, the noted log that stood on Tobey Creek, a few rods from Waddell's shaft. The first child born there was Elizabeth Bowman, July, 1807; the first preacher was Benjamin Bidlack; the first Sunday school superintendent, James Abbott; first physician, Eleazer Parker, 1809; first schoolhouse, the Island, built in 1818; first teacher, Esther Dean, fifteen pupils; first blacksmith, Johnny Bowman; first butcher, John Woods, 1825; first whisky seller, Adam Shaver. 1814; first cabinet-maker, George W. Little; first wagon-maker, Daniel F. Coolbaugh; first politician, William Hicks, Sr.; first undertaker, John W. Little; first miller, James Gray; first shoemaker, Peregrine Jones; first carpenter, Jonas De Long; first tanner, Samuel Thomas; first painter, Rhode Smith; first cooper, Josiah Squires; first miners, William Evans, Henry Beck, Nicholas Beck and Henry Brown; first gravestone cutters, Joseph Wheeler and Abel Flint; first news agents, William Barker and John Karknff; first tailor, David Laphy; first merchant, Reuben Holgate; first gunsmith, Abel Greenleaf; first combmaker, George Houghton; first millwright and surveyor, James Hughes, Sr.; first milliner Amanda Pettebone; first dressmaker, Maria Trucks; first tailoress, Esther Marsh; first molders, George Shafer and William Norris; first temperance lecturer, Thomas Hunt; first gristmill, Little & Gore's; first plaster, oil and clover mill, George Hollenback's; first drugstore, William Tucks; first postmaster, E. Walter Abbott, commissioned May 15, 1866; this was the time and cause of a change of the name from Hartseph to Mill Hollow, because there were four mills there; first tin store by Martin Pembleton and James Pettebone, 1869; first candy shop, Morris Gibler; first culm bank, the Black Diamond.

This is largely a census of the survivors and descendants of the twenty families that fifty years ago constituted the inhabitants of what is now mostly Luzerne Borough. What a pity for local history, which after all is the real history, that there is not another John Mathers for each locality and for each generation. While the borough of Luzerne lasts it will at all events carry down with its history the name of John Mathers, who jotted down in the above his recollections.

The first officers on the organization of the borough were: Ziba Mathers, burgess; T.M. Fry, secretary; council: Jesse T. Welter, president; Thomas Wright, James L. Crawford, Michael Laphy, John Thomas, Michael Farley.

The burgesses in the order of service as follows: Ziba Mathers, John McKay, J.B. Cole, A.J. Brace (who disappeared and his term was filled out by Lazarus S. Walker), Henry C. Johnson, Robert Wallace, William Wallace, and the present incumbent, Lazarus S. Walker. The present council: Jacob Young, president; David Pembleton, Benjamin Morrissey, James N. Hake, Edward T. Jones, Nathaniel Van Orisdale, Lancey Arnold, Addison C. Church; secretary, Henry C. Johnson; chief police, Gotlieb Walty; street commissioner, George Hughes. A fire company is organizing and a town and company house is being constructed on Hughes Street, near Main. The borough is supplied with water by the Wilkes-Barre water company, which extended a thirty-inch main to the place in 1880.

In the borough are 4 gristmills, 2 breakers, 1 planing mill (the same party building machine shop), 1 lumber yard, 5 hotels, 3 livery stables, 3 company and 2 general stores, 1 hardware, 1 clothing, 6 small trading places.

Electric street cars from Wilkes-Barre, every fifteen minutes, extended to this place in 1890; electric light by the Kingston Electric Light Company — incandescent.

The most of the land in the original town limits is rich valley soil and admirably adapted to farming. Until after 1864 it was farmed extensively. The development of the coal business about this time and the growth of the place and the sale of lots for residences, rapidly changed the old conditions.

  1. Bradsby H.C., History of Luzerne County Pennsylvania, S.B. Nelson & Company, Chicago, 1893.
**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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