(click on the title for some music)


Pittston township is one of the five original townships formed under Connecticut. It's existence dates back to 1768. Originally spelled PITTSTOWN, it was named for Sir William Pitt, an English statesman. It is situated in the northeast portion of Luzerne county, on the left bank of the Susquehanna river. Each township was five miles square and was to be given to forty settlers who would then organize, go to the land and become permanent settlers.

The Pittston township formed in 1768 was one of five townships of the Susquehanna Land company, and was surveyed and established in 1768. But in 1784 the high waters destroyed the surveyor's marks, and an act was passed for a new survey to ascertain the land claims of the Connecticut settlers. The lands in this township thus resurveyed became certified Pittston and contained thirty-six square miles.

The leading families who were in the township prior and during the Revolution were Blanchards, Browns, Careys, Bennetts, Silsbeys, Marceys, Benedicts, St. Johns, Sawyers, the gallant Cooper, Rev. Benedict, the first preacher in the locality. Capt. Jeremiah Blanchard, Sr., was commander of the Pittston company. His command was cut off from Forty Fort at the time of the battle and could not reach the patriots in time to partake in the fight. Zebulon and Ebenezer Marcy were brothers. The flight of Mrs. Ebenezer Marcy through the wilderness after the July 3, 1778, battle, with an infant six weeks old in her arms and leading another child two years old, and the death of the latter in that awful journey through the "Shades of Death" (most literally so in this case) is one of the many terrible tales of those times of deepest afflictions.

Zebulon Marcy was the first white man that ever built a brush or log cabin in the township, and may, therefore, be known as the first settler.

In 1776 Brown's block-house was erected in what is the borough of Pittston ans in the attack in 1778 this building was the refuge of all the women and children in the vicinity, and was guarded by thirty men under Capt. Blanchard.

As said this township was one of the five formed in 1768. The first step that was so soon to be followed by the migrating of the first forty of the "moss trooping" Yankees from the east and whose arrival and finding the Pennites in possession, determined to hold that possession, especially against the Yankees, was the opening episode in the "First Pennamite and Yankee War." This arrival of the Yankees was in the 8th of February, 1769, still in the dead of winter.

The morning of July 4, 1778, after the surrender of Forty Fort to the British officer Butler, he sent a detachment across the river to Pittston and demanded the surrender of Fort Brown., commanded by Capt. Blanchard. The fort was capitulated on fair terms. Mr. Miner says the Indian captors marked the prisoners "with black paint on their face, telling them to keep it there, and if they went out each should carry a white cloth on a stick., so that, being known, they would not be hurt." It is related elsewhere how the two Butlers, with Obadiah Gore, Dr. Gustin and Col. Dennison, met in the ruins of Wintermoot fort, and there the articles of capitulation were agreed on and signed for the surrender of Forty Fort.

From Pearce's Annals the following list of taxables appears as the settlers of Pittston who were assessed in 1796. In this list is nearly every one of the first settlers. The descendants of these are today among the prominent family names in this part of the county: James Armstrong, Waterman Baldwin, Elisha Bell, John Benedict, Ishmael Bennett, Anthony Benscoter, Conrad Berger, R. Billings, Jeremiah Blanchard, J. Blanchard, Jr., A. Bowen, David Brown, Enos Brown, James Brown, Jr., Samuel Carey, James Christy, John Clark, Jedediah Collins, George Cooper, John Davidson, Asa Dimock, David Dimock, Robert Faulkner, Solomon Finn, Jesse Gardner, Nathaniel Giddings, Ezekial Gobal, Daniel Gould, Isaac Gould, Joshua Griffith, Richard Halstead, Joseph Hazard, John Herman, Abraham Hess, Daniel Hewitt, Isaac Hewitt, John Honival, Jonathan Hutchings, Lewis Jones, Joseph Knapp, Ebenezer Marcy, Jonathan Marcy, Isaac Miles, Samuel Miller, Samuel Miller, Jr., William Miller, Cornelius Nephew, John Phillips, James Scott, John Scott, Miner Searle, Roger Searle, William Searle, Elijah Silsby, Elijah Silsby, Jr., Comfort Shaw, William H. Smith, Jonathan Stark, James Stephens, James Thompson, John Warden, Crandall Wilcox, Isaac Wilson, Thomas Wright.

The settlers on this side of the river in 1778 bore then part in the common defense, for we find record and traditions of at least two forts or stockades here, one near Patterson's lumber-yards and the other not far from the stone grist mill at the ferry bridge.

Dr. Nathaniel Giddings was the first physician in the settlement. He came from Connecticut in 1787, and practiced medicine here until his death in 1851. He set one of the first orchards in the township on his farm. About that time Z. Knapp, grandfather of Dr. A. Knapp, located in that vicinity. William Searle came from Connecticut before the massacre, and occupied a farm near those just mentioned. Roger Searle's first house stood where the Ravine shaft is, but in 1789 he moved to Pleasant Valley, now known as Avoca. David Brown, mentioned as assessed in 1796, had settled the D. D. Mosier place as early as 1790. His son, Richard Brown, settled Thomas Benedict's farm. Samuel Miller's farm was in this immediate vicinity. His date is 1789. Elijah Silsbee was here in 1778. His residence was on the north side of Parsonage street, opposite James L. Giddings. William Slocum lived where Edward Morgan now does, and the Benedict family lived near Morgan's stone quarry. One of the first clearings in what is now the lower part of Pittston borough, was made there the depot and the Farnham house were in 1883.

For sixty years after the settlement began in Pittston, the Yankee element predominated in the population of the township. When coal was discovered, a great migration of various European nationalities began. This influx is responsible for the heterogeneous population that is found today. Scotch came in large numbers in 1850-5; although many of the most experienced miners came to America before coming to Pittston, attracted by the gold mining in California. The Welsh inroad was more gradual. They came from the older mines in Carbondale, now Lackawanna county.

The coal interests soon became the largest source of wealth in the township, although there is some valuable farming land in the small valleys. Col. James W. Johnson was one of the pioneers in the mining and shipping of coal. He sent considerable quantities down the river in "arks" when this was the only mode of transportation. Colonel Johnson sold his coal works to William R. Griffith and his associates, who also purchased the franchise of the Washington Railroad Co. And by a consolidation of the charters formed the Pennsylvania Coal Company and became a large operator in mines and mining. The first shipment of coal ever made to the West was from this point. The Erie Railroad company became the proprietor of what is known as Hillside Coal & Iron company colliery at Pleasant Valley, now known as Avoca. The Pittston Coal Co. Was organized in 1875, by parties who had purchased the old Pittston & Elmira company, and operated the Seneca Slope, the Ravine shaft and the Twins. The Columbia mine, by Grove Bros., was opened in 1862; it stood at what was the head of the canal. Near them was the Phoenix Coal co. J.M. McFarlane & Co. sunk the Eagle shaft as Tompkins colliery in 1850. They were succeeded by Alvah Tompkins in 1855.

About 1835 John and Lord Butler opened the old Butler mine. Their brother-in-law, Judge Mallory, of Philadelphia , became a partner, and their canal shipping point became known as Port Mallory. This name was applied to the old hotel at that place.

The first sawmill in the township was built near the mouth of the Lackawanna in 1780 by Solomon Finn & E. L. Stevens. In 1790 the necessity for river crossings and highways brought about aborad with authority to lay out public highways in the township. It consisted of the following individuals: Caleb Bates, J. Blanchard, David Brown, John Davidson, John Phillips and J. Rosin. In 1773 Caleb Bates, James Brown and Lemuel Harding were named as directors of the township.

The first bridge was build in 1850. It took the place of the rope ferry. This bridge was replace in 1864 by a covered wooden bridge, which was destroyed by the ice flood of 1875. The next year an elegant iron toll bridge was built by the King Iron Bridge Company.

McCarthyville, popularly known as Corklane, was a mining town or collection of houses in Pittston township. In 1892 there were 900 inhabitants and 140 dwellings. Browntown was also a mining place in Pittston township. In 1892 the population was estimated at 1,000 and 200 dwellings.


The exact date of the first settlement cannot be ascertained. It probably occurred around 1770. David Brown and J. Blanchard were well settled here with others and there were enough people on this side of the river to warrant the establishment of a rope ferry in 1772 to connect them with the settlers in Wyoming.

The borough is on the east side of the Susquehanna river, a short distance below the junction of the Lackawanna with the Susquehanna river. The first attempt at tavern keeping was made about 1799 by Col. Waterman Baldwin, on the lower side of Main street. Under the large antlers that surmounted the bar, Miner Searle, Jacob Bedford, John Sax, and Calvin T. Richardson have tended the needs of thirsty travelers. The Baltimore house was the next; it stood on the east side of Main street. Beginning in 1805 the landlords were Peter Decker, Eleazer Cary, Asaph Pratt and William Hart. The Bull's Head was built by John Benedict, Sr., near Edward Morgan's stone quarry. Thomas Benedict's father kept it for several years and finally John C. Doty used it as a dwelling. The Stockbridge hotel was built in 1830 by Calvin Stockbridge. The Butler Coal co. Became the owners, and Judge Mallory, a partner in the company, named the hotel Port Mallory. Later a large swan was displayed as the sign and it became known as the Swan hotel. George Lazarus kept it until 1848, when he built the Eagle hotel, now kept by G. Snyder. James D. Fonsman next kept the Swan and subsequently Mr. Ehert the Farmer's hotel. Mr. Fonsman in 1849 built the Butler house. The main hotel in 1892 were the Eagle, the Sinclair, by Le Bar Bros. : Wyoming Valley house, by J. Curt; St. Charles, Windsor and Valley house, with a number of restaurants and eating houses.

When a weekly mail route was established in 1799, between Wilkes-Barre and Owego, the mail for Pittston was distributed from the houses of William Slocum & Dr. Giddings. This arrangement continued until 1810. In 1811 a post office was established and Eleazer Cary was appointed postmaster. Deodat Smith & Zephaniah Knapp were the mail carriers on this route until 1821.

In 1892 there were but three banks in the town of Pittston. Their average deposits were nearly $2,000,000. This tells part of the story of the immense wealth the county has produced here. The First National Bank of Pittston was organized in June 1864. In 1893 Theo Strong was president; Thomas Ford, vice president; William L. Watson, cashier; directors were Theo Strong, Thomas Ford, C. D. Foster, John Howell, Evan J. Evans, V.M. Carpenter, S.M. Parke, Joseph L. Cake, John A. Law and John B. Law.

Miners Saving Bank, Pittston was organized in 1869 Officers were A.A. Bryden, president; J.L. McMillan, vice-president; C.M. Hileman, cashier. Trustees were R.D. Lacoe, Andrew Bryden, George Johnson, A.A. Bryden, J.L. McMillan, Thomas Mangan, Thomas Maloney, M.W. Morris and Alexander Craig.

People's Savings Bank was organized in 1871. J.B. Shiffer was president; J.H. Mosier vice-president and J.L. Polen was cashier. January 5, 1853, the grand jury of Luzerne county was petitioned by a majority of the freeholders to incorporate a portion of Pittston township as a borough. Although several of the earliest settlers of the township were within the present borough lines, in 1828 there were but 14 heads of families living within the present limits of the borough. They were John Alment, Adam Belcher, Frank Belcher, John Benedict, Ishmael Bennett (a blacksmith), Solomon Brown (a blacksmith), Amos Fell, Nathaniel Giddings, Jacob Lance (who came from New Jersey in 1820), Samuel Miller, Calvin T. Richardson, John Stewart (who kept a hotel) and Calvin Stockbridge.

In 1853 John Hosie was elected burgess; George Daman, J.V.L. Dewitt, James McFarlane, H.P. Mesenger and Theodore Strong were elected councilmen; John Kelchner , constable; Ralph D. Lacoe, D.P. Richards, John Sax for assessors; Valentine Rowe and Smith Sutherland were overseers of the poor. School directors were Levi Barnes, James M. Brown, Nathaniel Giddings, J.A. Hann, John Love and Alvah Tompkins. C.R. Gorman, H.S. Phillips and Jesse Williams were auditors. Inspectors of election were Nathaniel Giddings, Joseph Knapp and Michael Reap.

The following is a list of early burgesses in the borough: E.B. Evans--1854, William Furgeson--1855, Charles R. Gorman--1856-7, J. B. Fisher, Abraham Price, M. Reap--1861-5, James Brown, P. Sheridan--1867, John B. Smith--1868, James Walsh--1869, Andrew Law--1870, J.P. Schooley--1871, James L. McMillan--1872, James McKane--1873, Michael Reap--1874-76, James Cool--1877, Patrick Henery--1878, James O'Donnell and L.B. Ensign. Population of the area in 1892 was given as 13, 714. One of the important enterprises of that time was the completion and extending of the Wilkes-Barre Traction company's electric railway. The industry of 1893 was described as 1 general iron-working establishment, 1 silkmill, 2 underwear factories, 1 stove works, 3 machine shops, 3 planning-mills, 1 paper mill, 2 breweries, 1 terra cotta works, 1 pottery, 2 flour mills and 1 large packing establishment. There were 9 miners and shippers of coal, each operating from 1 to 8 breakers.

Manufacturers--Pittston Stove Company began operation in 1864, the works were destroyed by fire. In 1869 it was rebuilt and in 1882 name was changed. Officers were: Lewis Pugh, president; Thomas Malone, vice-president; John D. Green, treasurer and general manager; Alexander Sloan, superintendent. Wyoming Paper Mill founded by G.B. Rommell in 1874. Alpine Knitting company moved from Carbondale in 1892. It employed about 150. Officers were John Coleman, president; M.W. O'Boyle, treasurer and John H. Foy, secretary. Pittston Iron Roofing Co. Began in 1885. Thomas R. Coward was president; G.M. Start served as secretary & treasurer. Twelve people were employed by Ross & Co.--they were lard refiners. Forest Castle Brewery was established in 1880 and located directly across from Campbell's ledge. Box factory, by Notman & Howitz, successors to R.A. Lacoe & Co. Moved from Wilkes-Barre in 1888. They employed about fifty people. Luzerne Knitting mills established in 1874 E.L. Ellighorp was general manager until 1886 then M.R. House & George P. Steele. The factory made men's underwear and employed about 125 people. Pittston Fire Brick & Terra Cotta Works was owned by William Gee. Merchant Mills by A.S. Davenport furnished flour. Pittston mill used roller presses and was run by Charles A. Miner & Asher Miner Pennsylvania Coal Company was one of the largest in the region. It was incorporated in 1849 and had eight breakers in Pittston. The superintendents in 1893 were Andrew Bryden & William Law.

Citizens Electric Illuminating Co. Was started in October 1888 and furnished incandescent lights to Pittston and West Pittston. K.J. Ross was president. Board of directors were: J. Howell, Thomas Mangan, B.J. Durkin, J. Langford, A.B. Brown, J.L. Cake and K.J. Ross.

Most of this information can be found in H.C. Bradsby's "History of Luzerne County Pennsylvania 1893"

If you research the Silsby or Silsbee family, click on the name to send E-mail to Donna,
a fellow researcher who directed me to an apparent spelling error in Bradsby's work.

Back to Pat's Town History Page

No page connected with this site shall be copied without prior written approval of the author.
Copyright © 1998 Pat Krivak