Is one of the bright and prosperous towns of Luzerne county; rapidly growing in wealth and inhabitants, and has had sufficient population the two years past to entitle it to the paraphernalia and name of city of Plymouth. It is one of the oldest settled places in the county, where men lived in stockades, fought the foreign invaders and were ever on the alert for the stealthy approach of the wily savage. It is near the south end of the proud Wyoming valley. The rich agriculture valley and then the further discovery that the hill sides were also productive lands attracted the hardy New Englanders to this spot to make their homes and defend them with their lives to the end. They knew nothing and cared little for the far richer coal deposits that had lain through the geological eons beneath the surface. Why should they? They were a people to plant and grow the food and clothing of their race of simple wants and real purposes.
Hon. Hendrick B. Wright wrote and published in 1878 Historical Sketches of Plymouth, and in the front gives a very nice engraving of "Plymouth Rock", as being the most appropriate motto for his book. This tells all there is to be said of the name, and who were the first settlers of this place. He next dedicates his book to Hon. Henderson Gaylord, with the opening sentence: "Three of your name and war; another was a lieutenant in Capt. Whittlesey's company, and fell in the battle of Wyoming.
Here Hendrick B. Wright was born, and in writing of it said, that "for more than fifty years have had personal knowledge of the place." (Born 1808).
Of the people he says: "They were a hardy and resolute people as I knew them; and they were, many of them, the same who had erected their residences upon the same places, where the fires had scarcely been abandoned, around which had assembled in council, the Indian braves and sachems. These had gathered up their implements of the chase, wound their blankets around their swarthy shoulders, and with their squaws and papooses, turned their faces and commenced their march toward the setting sun, to give place, under the laws of destiny, to those who were to succeed them. Fifty years ago the town," he says,
"was too insignificant to be called a village - a few scattered residences along the river on the thoroughfare." He dates the birth of the town December, 1768, when this became one of the five townships, as told above. The first wave of settlers reached here in 1769, and located in what is now the borough of Plymouth. The list of this first crowd is wholly lost, and the first, or oldest attainable record, is of Rev. Noah Wadham's preaching in 1772.
The first name given the place was "Shawnee flats," because the Indians of that name had there their wigwams. It was a little oasis in the desert. The Indians were here in 1742 - a tribe decimated by tribal wars, until their numbes and war powers had passed almost into tradition. Stewart Pearce, good authority, insists that Conrad Weiser was the first white man that ever trod the soil of Luzerne county; and, as he visited Plymouth and preached there, it is safe to say he was the first white man that ever looked upon this valley and its surrounding hills.
Mr. Wright refers to the "old Indian burying-ground, near the bank of the little stream, between the railroad and main thoroughfare;" and thinks the "Christian church" building stands directly across the way from where stood Zinzindorf's tent. He locates in the flats, "two miles below the Shawnee village," the beginning of thebattle in the "Grasshopper war," between the Delaware and Shawnees.
Of the first settlers Mr. Wright says: "Most of them were men of strong minds; a few were eccentric characters, and now and then one was addicted to drink, but all were industrious." He marks their bitter hatred of the Indians, and says: "Even in my day, Col. Ransom, Abraham Nesbitt, Jonah Rogers, or Abraham Pike, would have shot down an Indian, if they had not met with him, as unhesitatingly as if he were a wolf or panther." He thinks this anti-Indian feeling was probably more bitter in Plymouth than anywhere else. The story of Jonah Rogers, Abraham Pike and others, who had been carried off captives by the Indians, is told elsewhere. Thirty of the Plymouth men laid down their lives at the battle of Wyoming, and the Revolutionary war many more. The people have passed the ordeal and baptism of fire, and to all this came to them in its heaviest form some of the long struggle with the Pennamites, and here, too, was a battle-ground.
The first directors, under the Susquehanna company, for Plymouth, were Phineas Nash, Capt. David Marvin and J. Gaylord; these formed the first judicial body ever in Plymouth. In 1774 there were seven selectmen appointed and Samuel Ransom was one of the seven collectors, Asaph Whittlesey was one of them,; twenty-two surveyors, and three of these Elisha Swift, Samuel Ranson and Benjamin Harvey; John Baker and Charles Gaylord were two of the fence reviewers; of twelve grand jurors two were Phineas Nash and Thomas Heath; Timothy Hopkins was one of the tythers. Voted: "That ye tree now stands northerly from Capt. Butler's house be ye Town Sign Post." Some bad blood grew out of this "sign-post" question. The people on the east side of the river wanted it placed there, and those on the west side determined to keep it. The "public sign-post" in those days was the public hall, a meeting place of the people to hold elections or transact public business - the center of all public affairs and business. "The town meeting" is a thing of the past, but all the same it was better democracy than our present form. The old settlement or village had a "common field, " certain designated land belonging to the public, on which no person was allowed to reside (in this case "except the Widow Heath"). The parade ground was on "Ant hill." Mr. Wright says: "I have little doubt, the old schoolhouse upon Ant hill and the old elm was the public sign and whipping-post of Plymouth" of (now) 120 years ago. The old elm was still standing.
Nearly every one of the early settlers owned a lot on the flats, and here they toiled - one road led to the flats, and it was entered by the "old swing gate," while their dwellings were scattered along the main road.
After the flood of 1784 the idea of fencing the flats was not renewed until about 1820. Hezekiah Roberts was the ancient "pound-keeper" at one time, an important office, and called the "key-keeper."
A list of the early settlers include the names of Calvin and Noah Wadhams, Benjamin Reynolds, Abraham and James Nesbitt, Samuel and James Pringle, Thomas Davenport, William Currie, George P. Ransom, Mrs. Rosanna Harvey, Abraham, Nicholas and Stephen VanLoon, Hezekiah Roberts, Joshua Pugh, Jonah and Joel Rogers, Charles, Barney, John, and Daniel Turner, Jesse Coleman, Moses Atherton, Jacob and Peter Gould, Philip Andrus. These were all here at the beginning of the century; and without saying, some of them were the first "forty" who gathered to take possession.
The day of the founding the coal industry at Plymouth is that of the founding of the soon-to-be city of Plymouth. In 1865 W.L. Lance sunk a shaft, now No. 11, just at the borough line on the northeast, and for the first time demonstrated that here was a series of veins of the most valuable coal that aggregated over seventy feet of solid coal bed, reached at a depth from 400 to 600 feet. The little struggling hamlet now began to look to the future.
November 2, 1865, a petition was circulated signed by Draper Smith, J.W. Eno, H. Gaylord, John B. Smith, Peter Shupp, and fifty-three others, praying the court establish a borough. April 28, 1866, a charter was duly granted and Plymouth borough incorporated. An election for officers was held, John J. Shonk and Ira Davenport inspectors, and Oliver Davenport judge. Officers first elected: E.C. Wadhams, burgess; council: Samuel Wadhams, Henderson Gaylord, Peter Shupp, Ira Davenport and Frank Turner. The auditor was J.W. Eno, and Theodore Renshaw high constable. The borough commenced with two wards, in 1876 had eight wards, and now eleven wards.
The boundary of the borough starts at the river, near No. 11, "Lance breaker," and passes north nearly one mile, then west, then south to the river, a little over two miles from the starting point. The north boundary line ran back in the hills and more territory was included than the valley part.
The leading families within the borough were the Davenports, Van Loons, Wrights, Reynolds, and Frenches in the lower end, and in the central part the Wadhams and Turners, and in the upper end the Gaylords, Shonks, and Nesbitts.
The first meeting of the first council was held at the house of E.C. Wadhams, burgess, May 16, 1866. Ira Davenport was elected treasurer and Frank Turner secretary.
Present borough officers: Peter C. Roberts, burgess; council: James Snyder, James Sprague, Daniel Long, C.J. Boyle, John H. Case, George R. Conner, R.N. Smith, Henry Samies, Edward Hopwood, Henry Lees, John G. Thomas. Other officers are: J.Q. Creveling, secretary; Asa K. Dewitt, treasurer; Michael Melvin chief of police; E.E. Jones, assistant chief; John Henderson, street commissioner; James Lee, sewer inspector, and John Johns, high constable.
Main street is handsomely paved with vitrified bricks nearly its entire length. Shonk and Harris streets are paved with cobble, and the work of paving Center street with vitrified brick is now (September) in course of construction. There are many elegant three and four-story business houses on Main street, and the hights around have been improved and on them are many elegant residences built in modern style. There are four school buildings, one an elegant and commodious ten-roomed high school. The old academy, so full of history and such a monument to those who have passed before us, was adopted into the free-school system, and has been a schoolhouse these many years.
First National Bank, Plymouth, was organized in September 1865. Capital stock $100,000. First officers: J.B. Smith, president, and Henderson Gaylord, cashier. Present officers are: John B. Smith, president; A.D. De Witt, cashier; directors: J.B. Smith, Draper Smith, R.D. Smith, Peter Shupp, Edwin Davenport, John R. Lee. Capital stock $100,000; deposits $290,000; surplus, $26,000.
The Wren Iron Works were built in 1871, casting mine machinery, iron fences and general ornamental work.
Harvey Brothers & Co., planning-mill, commenced operations in 1871 in the old machine shops. Product, doors, sash, molding, etc.
E.C. Wadhams built the first brick store in 1850. The building became the use and property of the coal company. The next was a two-story hotel by George P. Richards. Then Peter Shupp built the three-story brick block at the corner of Main and Center streets; occupied by his son Charles Shupp's store. J.B. Smith built the opera house in 1871-2. Orange Could, in 1871, put up a two-story brick store building,. G.P. Richards built the Plymouth house and store in 1872. Sol Hirsch built the Duffy block about the same time; James McAlarney built his drugstore in 1873. The many other brick blocks and elegant brick and stone residences were built on the immediate and following years, until to-day Plymouth presents much of the appearance of a prosperous city along Main street.
Plymouth Light, Heat, and Power Company, Oscar M. Lance, superintendent, was chartered December 10, 1886. Corporators: John T. Cowling, W.W. Lance, A.D. Shonk, E.F. Stevens, George W. Shonk, and W.P. Ryman. Present officers: Draper Smith, president; Peter Shupp, secretary; and A.K. De Witt, treasurer.
The old gas company furnishes gas and incandescent electric light.
Water company, Oscar M. Lance, superintendent, was organized in 1875. Officers: Draper Smith, president; Peter Shupp, secretary; A.K. De Witt, treasurer. Commenced by sinking back on the mountain side four artesian wells, ranging in depth from 400 feet to 1,950 feet. The capacity of these is 15,000 gallons a day, These were sunk in 1880; then the company have four large reservoirs, fed by springs and surface water. These have a capacity of 10,000,000 gallons. They are on the mountain side, with a fall the highest of 600 feet; they also are supplied by the Spring Brook Water company from their works above Pittston, and in emergency have pumps at the river that pump directly into the mains; so there can be no such thing as a scarcity of water under any circumstances.
In the borough are 5 attornerys, 1 bank, 2 bottlers, 1 brickyard, 1 dealer building materials, 9 carpenters, 3 carpet weavers, 2 carriage manufacturers, 5 cigar factories, 5 clothing, 10 breakers in borough and immediate vicinity, 2 door and sash factories, 7 drugstores, 5 dry goods, 1 embalmer, 2 stamping, 1 engine and mine ventilator shop, 1 express, 3 fancy goods, 1 feedmill, 1 ferry, 1 flour and grainmill, 4 fruit dealers, 2 undertakers, 3 furnitures stores, 26 general stores, 1 gents furnishing, 39 grocery stores, 3 hardware, 2 harness, 1 hat and cap, 1 hay and feed, 1 hose factory, 5 hotels, 2 laundries, 3 livery stables, 7 meat markets, 2 merchant tailors, 3 milk dealers, 7 milliners, 1 mining and drill factory, 1 newsdealer, 3 newspapers, 1 notions, 1 oil dealer, 1 opera house, 4 paper hangers, 3 paints and oils, 1 photographer, 11 physicians, 1 organ and music store, 1 picture frames, 1 planing-mill, 1 Y.M.C.A. reading room, 1 restaurant, 1 stone quarry, 5 stove and tinware dealers, 2 tailors, 1 telegraph and telephone office - the latter also long-distance, 4 jewelers. For lawyers, doctors, and newspapers see respective chapters.Back to Town Histories
This Town History was donated by Jeff Bevo .
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