The population of this borough in 1870 was 1,045; 1880, 1,068; 1890, 1,448. It is one of the thrifty and beautiful villages along the banks of the Susquehanna river, and is at the lower end of the Wyoming valley coal deposit, the Red Ash vein across the river at Mocanaqua being one of the successful collieries in the county. The mine on the Shickshinny side was worked for some years, but is idle, with only surmises as to whether it will be again opened.
About the borough on every hand evidences of thrift and many elegant houses, residences and storerooms, with others in the process of building, are to be seen. It has none of the forbidding appearances of a mining camp, with streets lined with foreigners who can not speak the English language, or their mangy dogs and universal goats laying waste every green thing as well as tin cans and such light dishes "on the side." It is patronized by farmers, and on circus day the belles and beaux are always on hand to laugh at the clown and drink circus lemonade. After all a good circus town makes a desirable place to rear your children. It indicates a strong, healthy, clean agricultural community, where your children are not so liable to contract the "polink" habit. Such a community is good for camp meetings as well as shows and each in turn is welcome. Such a community does not "rush the growler" on Sunday, nor is it an every-day occurrence at weddings, funerals and baptisings for a general free fight and a murder to follow. A man hunting a home, looking about for "a sweet Auburn of the vale" would pass Shickshinny and fare worse. The most prominent thing against the place is its name; the Chocktaw of it is said to mean the meeting of five mountains—to play shinny probably. Be that as it may, the five great old fat porker looking fellows that have stuck their noses together here are the mountains respectively, Newport, Lee’s, Rocky, Knob and River mountain. There were many reasons why in the days of panthers, bears and Indians this was an early rendezvous for all of them. A sweet little valley nestled here at the foot of the bold and picturesque hills. Then too here is a remarkable gap in the mountain giving an easy and natural outlet to the splendid agricultural country back of it. Mr. Lot Search informs us that over thirty years ago in studying the situation, he computed that Shickshinny was the natural trading, shipping and business point for over 10,000 agriculturists back of the mountain, and for sixteen miles up and down the river there was no "gap" offering to all these people such easy access to the river, the canal and the railroad. Its surroundings were most favorable to build here a great trading and business point. Two creeks cut their way through the mountain and fall into the Susquehanna within the borough limits. The main stream rises in Ross township, runs southeast through Union township, and the branch stream rises in the west side of Salem township and they join within the borough limits. These streams are the open doorway to the people of Salem, Huntington, Union, Ross and Fairmount townships. Here all these people naturally come to export, import, trade and traffic.
The original proprietor of the soil, including all the valley and reaching back on the hills, was Ralph Austin, who was the first permanent settler. His remains rest on the hill overlooking the town. It is said there was a family named Crossley accompanying Austin, who fled back to Connecticut after the massacre. Austin and family returned as soon as it was at all safe to do so and rebuilt their log house, opened a little farm and the situation compelled the keeping of travelers and strangers on their way—a farmer and hotel-keeper. In some way Austin was juggled out of his land in the terrible days of contention between the Connecticut and Pennsylvania people. Much of what is now the wealth of Luzerne county was often purchased and deeds received when they would have to be again and again bought, and sometimes a man would first find out he did not own the place he had paid for and improved by a third party’s sudden appearance with a posse to dispossess him.
Mathias Hollenback in time came into possession of the Austin lands under the Pennsylvania claim, and by descent it became the property of his daughter, Mrs. Cist. Chester Butler married Mrs. Cist, and after her death, 1857, the property was sod to Nathan B. Crary, G.W. Search, Lot Search and Nathan Garrison, who plotted and laid off the village. The members of that firm survive to-day except Garrison, who died in 1862, survived by Mrs. Rachel Garrison and her children.
The opening of the farm by Austin and his little old hotel were simultaneous. The occupants, in their order, were: Austin, William Bellas, George Muchler,--Coates, William Hoyt, Headly and Wilson. In 1850 William Koons, B.D. Koons, Edward Barman, Jacob Laycock, William A. Tubbs and H.J. Yaple. There was but one family in the place when the village was laid out. William Shoemaker was a long time one of the prominent business men of the place.
When the village was laid out there was in it the hotel and store where is now the drug store. The store was Jacob Cist’s, but the manager was Stephen Bond. The beginning of the town was the beginning of the "hard times" of 1857. A colliery and breaker were in operation on the mountain side just below town. This was diagonally across the river from the Mocanaqua mine, where the "red ash" vein has proven so profitable, but it seems that in crossing the river and striking the mountain it had reached its end, or where the geological disturbances had resulted in carrying away the coal deposits. The mine ceased work years ago, and the "plans" built to let coal down the mountain side, not to haul it up as usual, went to ruins. Recently there was considerable work done there for the purpose of reopening the mine, but numerous causes combined to stop it again. In 1859 a bridge was built across to Mockanaqua—still a toll bridge. In 1877 a turnpike was made along the Shickshinny creek gap, six miles, and crossed to Huntington.
An old iron furnace that made at one time considerable very good charcoal iron was operated for years. It was established by Headley & Wilson; then became the property of William Koons, who ran it for some time, but entered into large iron operations elsewhere, bankrupted and the furnace fires here went out in 1857. Years ago there was a sawmill a short distance from the village. Considerable lumbering is still carried on at at this point. A water sawmill three-quarters of a mile, on the creek, stopped running in 1885. The present gristmill of G.W. and Lot Search, water power, was built in 1865—flour, buckwheat and feed—and is a valuable property.
At this point is in operation the old canal which is still in esse up to Nanticoke, thus giving Shickshinny the advantages of a railroad and canal, and across the river is its second railroad. The old Bersick & Elmira turnpike passes through the town, and was the first marked improvement in this section. It was built and on it was the old stage line in 1810.
The water supply for this and the other side of the river is of the fine water from the mountain side of the west branch of Shickshinny creek. The company and works came into existence in 1884. Officers and directors of the company: G. W. Search, president; Dr. M. B. Hughes, secretary; Jesse Beadle, treasurer; Dr. Briggs, John Teasdale, Lot Search and B.D. Koons.
The canal was built through this point in 1828. Mr. Lot Search informs us that when they were building the canal he went to school at a little schoolhouse about a mile below town; William Robinson taught. Other teachers he remembers were Mathias Blocher and Henry Whitaker. He informs us also that in 1858 he built for Union township the schoolhouse that stands opposite the Presbyterian church, and is still in use. H.S. Clark, of Shickshinny, married a great-granddaughter of Ralph Austin. Mr. Clark came here in 1839. His recollection is that Cretty & Bro. were the storekeepers then, and that Lot Search had a small grocery store about three-quarters of a mile above the town on the river and turnpike; his principal trade being with the canal boatmen. The postoffice was first established at Search’s place, and was moved down in the late fifties.
Shickshinny borough was organized November 30, 1861. First officers: Burgess, Jesse P. Enke; council: G. W. Search, B.D. Koons, N.B. Crary, John F. Niceley and Thomas Davenport; secretary, G.W. Search; supervisor, Samuel Slippy; second burgess, W.R. Tubbs; third, Hiram Knor; fourth, G. W. Youlls; fifth, Daniel Baer; sixth, J. Post; seventh, M.B. Hughes; eighth, L.T. Hartman; ninth, J.W. Bulkley. Present officers: Burgess, F. W. Briggs; council, S.B. Adkins, president; M.M. Sutliff, W.B. Poust, B. R. Switcher and James Kester; secretary, L.T. Seward.
The borough is taken from Salem and Union townships; about two-thirds from Union, and the remainder from Salem. In the borough are 3 hotels, 14 general stores, 2 furniture stores, 2 drugs, 2 hardware, 3 confectioners, 1 clothing, 1 novelty, 1 books, 3 livery stables, 1 gristmill, 2 quarries, 3 millinery, 1 undertaker, 1 laundry, 1 planing mill, 1 agricultural implements, 1 cigar factory, 2 harness shops, 1 select and public schools.
The quarries are in the north part of the town; they work about fifty hands each.
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