Is one of the comparatively young townships, yet its territory is in point of the trying times of the early settlers as old as the oldest. Each inch of its territory is historical ground, consecrated all by the heroism and the blood of the bravest of the brave who made or helped make American and her institutions. Its entire territory was taken from the townships of Wilkes-Barre and Pittston, lying on the east side of the river, its southwest line commencing just above the north line of the city of Wilkes-Barre and covers an area of fifteen square miles.
It was originally owned and occupied by the Wanami tribe of the Delaware Indians, who’s chief was named Jacob. He lived on the level portion of the township near the borough of Parsons, and the name Jacob’s Plains was given to that locality; but upon the formation of the township the old Indian’s name was left out.
The original Wyoming settlers, who came from Connecticut in the summer of 1762, located in Plains. They arrived, to the number of 200, in August, and settled just above the mouth of Mill Creek, building a village of small cabins. The Delaware Indians, who were familiar and friendly, had been cultivating some small clearings, but except for these the pioneers found the forest prevailing. They sowed a few acres of wheat and in November returned to New England. Early the next spring they returned with their families and others, bringing some livestock and provisions.
During the summer of 1763 a number of the Iroquois came among the Delaware in the garb of friendship, and fired the dwelling of Teedyuscung, which was consumed, and the venerable Delaware chieftain perished in the flames. The culprits charged the crime upon the colonists, and the aggrieved Delaware resolved to avenge themselves. On October 15 they fell upon the unsuspecting pioneers in the fields, killed twenty of thirty of them, took several prisoners, and drove off the livestock. The survivors who were not captured fled to the mountains, while the savages burned their houses. The fugitives, destitute of every preparation for a journey, had no alternative but to strike out into the wilderness for a trip of 250 miles to their old homes in New England, and for several succeeding years the history of Plains is a blank.
In January, 1769, Amos OGDON, John JENNINGS and Charles STEWART leased of the proprietaries 100 acres of land, and came on and took possession of the improvements made by the Connecticut people who were driven away by the Indians in which was called Fort OGDEN. The Connecticut people, learning of the action of the OGDEN party, returned in the spring of 1769, and from that time till the final adjustment of the difficulties between the Susquehanna company and the proprietaries of Pennsylvania there was an almost continuous series of victories and defeats for each claimant.
Thus it will be seen that Plains, in the point of settlement, is the senior township in the valley; and that her soil was the first to be moistened by the tears of affliction and sorrow, and drank the blood and entombed the bodies of the first victims of savage hate in the bloody annals of the Wyoming valley.
Notwithstanding the reverses which the pioneers had suffered, the year 1773 found them in possession of Plains and Mill Creek. Yet in the spring their provisions were so nearly exhausted that five persons were selected to go to the Delaware river, near Stroudsburg for supplies, that being the nearest point at which meal and flour could be obtained. John CAREY, then a lad of sixteen, volunteered as one of the party. On this journey they traveled fifty miles of mountainous forest, intersected by deep ravines and numerous streams, including the rapid and ice-burdened Lehigh, had to be traversed. The destitution relieved by this arduous expedition gave way to plenty when the shad-fishing season arrived, and a permanent supply of breadstuffs was insured by the construction of a gristmill by Nathan CHAPMAN in the uprising of 1773. He was granted the site of the HOLLENBACK stone mill and forty acres around it. "The irons for the mill were brought by Mr. HOLLENBACK, in his boat, from WRIGHT’s ferry, and on the way up the river Lazarus YOUNG was drowned."
Very soon after this, by a vote of the people, "all the privileges of the stream called Mill Creek, below Mr. CHAPMAN’s mill, was granted to Stephen FULLER, Obadiah GORE, Jr., and Mr. Seth MARIN, to be their own property, with full liberty of building mills and flowing a pond-but so as not to obstruct or hinder CHAPMAN’s mills-provided they have a sawmill ready to go by the first day of November, 1773; which gift shall be to them, their heirs and assigns forever." This was the first sawmill built on the upper waters of the Susquehanna River. As soon as the mills were built and in operation, a ferry was established at the mouth of Mill Creek, to Forty Fort, which is still in existence.
The old Indian fortifications, as they are called, were on the river flats, on what is now known as the HANCOCK property, and on a direct line from SWOYER hill to the Susquehanna River, just northwest from the borough’s colliery. The outline of the works are still visible. The form was that of a four-bastion battery, well calculated for defection if properly located.
There are three places in the township that were once known as burying grounds. The GORE burying ground was on the flats, between the old plank road and the canal, northeast of the HENRY colliery. Another was near the Methodist Episcopal church, in the northern part of the township, and the third in WILCOX’s field, near Plains village. These grounds have long since been abandoned, and no stone marks the resting place of the dead.
The pioneer "weaver of the Plains" was James CAMPBELL, a Scotch-Irishman. He was an expert in the art of weaving, and was noted for the fancy work that he turned out from his loom. In 1815, George GORE worked at blacksmithing on the flats, near the GORE burying ground.
The Wilkes-Barre water-works reservoir, on Laurel Hill, a short distance above the borough of Parsons, was built in 1858. Calvin PARSONS of Parson borough, was one of the commission that located it (appointed in 1852), and the only one still living in 1880.
Almost the earliest gathering of coal and its use in the smithy shop commenced in this township. Then the rich plains were highly improved by the farmers, and the day of great collieries, breakers, canals and railroads came, and now the township is fairly covered with railroad tracks, great breakers, culm piles, and here and there as you pass along on one of the many daily trains you can see a little farm almost looking as if it was struggling for its little foothold; to still follow in the ancient lie, and grow food to take to Wilkes-Barre or for its home market. Along the river, and even back some distance, the country is nearly one continuous village or borough.
Plainsville is a postoffice and station on the railroad; has two hotels, one store.
Port Bowkley is a station on the railroad, made and named by great Bowkley breaker; has a couple of small stores and blacksmith shop.
Midvale is about a mile south of Port Bowkley and is made by the coal-breaker; has three hotels and three stores.
Mill Creek, postoffice named Hudson, is quite an important village, a short distance north of Parson. The Delaware & Hudson railroad and the Central railroad of New Jersey touch at this place and both have depots. Here are four hotels, three general stores and one drug store.
Plains is a postoffice and one of the first settled points in the township. For many years this was called Jacob’s Plains and finally the double name was dropped and it became as now, Plains. Among the early settlers were John CORTRIGHT, Elisha BLACKMAN, James STARK, Thomas WILLIAMS and Richardson and Samuel CAREY.
The first tavern we have any account of was kept by John CORTRIGHT in 1815, on the site now occupied by HANCOCK’s & MacKNIGHT’s store, on the south corner of Main and Merritt streets. Elisha BLACKMAN and a Mr. RICHARDSON kept tavern here at an early date. The first blacksmith in Plains village was James CANADY. His shop stood where is now the west side of Jonathan R. WILLIAM’s door-yard, next to Dr. SHIVE’s yard. His house was on the site now occupied by Mr. WILLIAM’s house, on the west corner of Main and Merritt streets.
The pioneer store was kept by James STARK, on the hill above the village. This was in 1812 or 1813. The first frame schoolhouse was built about 1820 and stood near the site of the present schoolhouse. The first school was kept in this house standing north of the present schoolhouse, owned by Crandall WILCOX. There is now a two-story schoolhouse in which a graded school is kept. It was built in 1866 and 1867. The pioneer postmaster was one CORTRIGHT. He kept the office at his residence, about a mile north of the present office. In 1808 Henry STARK, of Plains, succeeded in burning anthracite coal in a grate. This was the second successful attempt and was undertaken soon after Judge FELL’s success. The first resident physician was Dr. P. C. SHIVE, who resides on Main street, nearly opposite the Presbyterian church. He came in 1867. It has four general stores ,two drug stores, two hardware one furniture store and a number of small trading places.This Town History was donated by luzerne-L List Server.
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