DORRANCE TOWNSHIP

In 1850 it had a population of 420; 1860, 553; 1880, 639; 1890, 742, a very moderate growth in forty years, and still it is not jealous of Chicago, nor even Wright township. It lies between the coal-bearing lands of the north and the south; is rough and mountainous, and but little adapted to agriculture. Its first attraction must have been its game and fish, and the hunters and fishermen were followed by the sawmill men, looking for mill sites on the streams with an eye to converting into lumber the grand old trees that had faced the storms of centuries and bided the coming of the utilitarian white man. White and yellow pine, oak and hemlock were its abundant forest trees, and when these are gone it is estimated that agriculture is barely possible on about one-fifth of its twenty-eight square miles of territory.

It bears the immortal name of Col. George Dorrance, who fell in the Wyoming battle July 3, 1778. The first settlers were from Northampton county and came from the southeast, piloted by the little army, which under Capt. Klader were so cruelly massacred in Sugarloaf township. Just why they should cross Sugarloaf valley and continue on to this point is now not apparent.

The first came in 1785, one year after John Balliett arrived, and settled in what is now Butler valley. A number of people came to the Sugarloaf in 1785; and the few who pushed across that valley and on to this place must have been of the character of the old pioneer who left the new country in disgust when he heard a neighbor had settled within fifty miles of his cabin - because he "would not be crowded." In 1865 it had four sawmills, one gristmill and a tavern; the latter was at the only hamlet in the township Dorrance, but there was not a store or church in the township. Pelts, whisky and lumber were the active lists on its board of trade. Then F./ K. Miller built a tannery in the southeast corner of the township, on a branch of Wapwallopen creek.

In the township is the drainage Wapwallopen creek and Little Wapwallopen creek; the former running nearly along the north line of the township and the other in the south part of Dorrance. It has been suggested that this part of the county was handicapped with these names - ruthlessly saddled on two little streams. It is further said that the pioneer Irishman school-teacher in this section never could spell the creek's name exactly right but contented himself with the idem sonans rule and wrote it "Whackwallopen." The word is a hybrid, a cross between Indian, Portuguese (sic), Dutch, Irish, and Pigeon English and the natives have long since ignored it wholly and simply say "up the crick." It is a tradition that the original flax breaker name means black water, because the water is so awfully black from the coal washings. As there are no coal mines along the streams and as the name is much older than the discovery of coal in the country, the tradition is therefore reasonably well verified by the water being blackened in some of the other streams in the county where coal is actively mined.

In time after Miller built his sawmill there was a gristmill built south of the village of Dorrance, and another in the north part of the township. Each of these gristmills was on one of the two Wapwallopen creeks, possibly tempted to thus build in the hope of utilizing the names for mill stones. One thing is certain, all the game and the saw logs have disappeared.

The first settlers along the creek in the south part of the township were: the Woodrings, Eishenbrout, Reinheimers, Wener, Heller, Whitebread, and Eroh. Along the creek in the north part of the township were Myers, Bleim, Vandermarle, Engler, Lutz, and Stuart.

Dorrance Township was taken from Newport in 1840.

Dorrance village (must not be confounded with Dorranceton borough) is the only hamlet in it, and is located near the center of its territory. The two roads crossed there and for a long time it was Dorrance corners. Two of the above pioneers settled there and then the roads crossed each other and in time a blacksmith, wagon maker and tavern keeper were domiciled in the place, and a schoolhouse - combination "meeting house" - was in the course of time the addition to the place.

When this was Hanover Township among the prominent families were John Arnold's, George Stair's, John Hawk's and Stephen Lee's.

Back to Town Histories

This Town History was donated by George.

1997-2010 by Mary Ann Lubinsky for the PAGenWeb Project, and by Individual Contributors

 Back To Luzerne Genweb