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Some Early History of Wilkes-Barre

In 1753 an association called the Susquehanna Company was formed in Connecticut for the purpose of settling the lands in the Wyoming Valley. They sent agents to explore the region. These agents met with an Indian council at Albany in 1754 to extinguish the Indian title to these lands. At this time the governor of Pennsylvania, James Hamilton contacted Sir William Johnson to use his influence with the Six Nations and prevent the sale. Nonetheless, the Connecticut agents succeeded and purchaed the land, including the Wyoming Valley. The proprietary government of Pennsylvania claimed the valley through a purchase made in 1736; but the claim was disputed by Connecticut settlers. In 1762 about two hundred settlers established themselves near what is now Mill Creek. They cleared fields, sowed wheat and built log homes. They then returned to Connecticut for the winter to prepare to bring their families to the Wyoming Valley the following spring. The people of Pennsylvania were displeased with these actions by the Connecticut settlers. The Governor again asked Sir William Johnson for influence with the Iroquois to repudiate the sale of 1754 with the Susquehanna Co. Protests against occupancy were made to the government at Hartford. In England both sides presented their case, and opinions favorable to both sides were obtained.

Despite warning from the Connecticut governor against doing so, the following spring the Connecticut settlers with their families returned to the area. That summer they extended their settlement to the west side of the river. In the fall a party of Iroquois visited the area. Is is reported that they had a dual purpose: to incite the Delaware and to get rid of Teedyuscung, a chief who held great influence. On April 19, 1763 the dwelling of Teedyuscung and twenty others around it were set on fire. The "chief, under the influence of liquor, perished in the flames." This was an act of revenge for the death of an Iroquois warrior killed by the chief in 1758. The Iroquois let the others believe this act was committed by the settlers. As a result the Delaware attacked the settlers, killing thirty and causing the others to flee. They then burned the settlement. The following are names of settlers taken from "History of Luzerne Lackawanna and Wyoming counties, Pa." by W.W. Munsell & Co. 1880.

Benjamin Ashley, James Atherton, Daniel Baldwin, Isaac Bennett, Thomas Bennett, William Buck, Nathaniel Chapman, John Comstock, Benjamin Davis, Ezra Dean, John Dorrance, Simon Draper, Benjamin Follett, Elkanah Fuller, Stephen Gardiner, Daniel Gore, Obadiah Gore, Isaac Hollister, Jr., Timothy Hollister, Timothy Hollister, Jr., Nathaniel Hollister, David Honeywell, August Hunt, Nathaniel Hurlbut, John Jenkins, Moses Kimball, Gideon Lawrence, Stephen Lee, Thomas Marsh, Rev. W.M. Marsh, David Martin, George Miner, Silas Parker, Ezekiel Pierce, Samuel Richards, Ebenezer Searles, Ephraim Seely, Benjamin Shoemaker, Jonathan Slocum, John Smith, Matthew Smith, Oliver Jewell Smith, Timothy Smith, Wright Smith, Eliphalet Stevens, William Stevens, Wright Stevens, Nathaniel Terry, Paschall Terry, Ephraim Tyler, Ephriam Tyler, Jr., Isaac Underwood, Jonathan Weeks, Jr., Philip Weeks. "Killed by the Indians October 15th, 1763: Rev. William Marsh, Thomas Marsh, Timothy Hollister, Timothy Hollister, Jr., Nathan Terry, Wright Smith, Daniel Baldwin and wife, Jesse Wiffins, Zeruah Whitney, Isaac Hollister. Prisoners: Shepherd and Daniel Baldwin's son."

"In 1768, at the general Indian council which assembled at Fort Stanwix, the proprietaries purchsed from the Indians the territory which was in dispute, and some of the chiefs executed to them a deed for it. The Indians were ready to sell their land as many times as the whites were willing to pay them for it."

In early 1769 the Connecticut settlers returned to these lands. Five townships were established, Each were five miles square and divided into forty shares, to be given to the first forty settlers in each of these townships. In addition two hundred pounds sterling were appropriated for the purchase of agricultural implements. Wilkes-Barre was one of five townships allotted by the Susquehanna Compnay to the Connecticut settlers. It was named in honor of John Wilkes and Colonel Isaac Barre, members of Parliment who were advocates the the rights of the colonists before they were won by the Revolution. In February, forty settlers were sent to the valley, to be followed by two hundred in the spring. When they arrived they discovered that the Pennsylvanians had taken over they land the Connecticut men had previously improved and had built a block house for their defense. They had also divided the valley into the manors of Stoke (on the eastern) and Sunbury (on the western side of the river). Three of the Yankee leaders were arrested and taken to Easton; but they were released on bail and returned. In the spring when the other settlers arrived, they constructed a fort on the east bank of the river below Wilkes-Barre. This was named Fort Durkee, in honor of their leader, Colonel Durkee. The Yankees now outnumbered the Pennamites and had a relatively uneventful summer. In September the Pennamites came in large force led by the sheriff of Northampton county. They took Colonel Durkee and several others prisoners, expelling the Yankees. Disregarding a promise to respect the property rights, they plundered the settlement. At the end of 1769 the Pennsylvanians were in possession of the valley.

In early 1771 the Yankees again came to the valley. For several days they fired on the block house, the Pennsylvanians surrendered and once again the Yankees possessed the valley. During this same time frame, "difficulties" began to arise between the colonies and England. The power of colonial governors was on the wane. Governor Penn raised his own forces, which were sent to the valley and again took possession of the valley. In July of 1771 Captain Zebulon Butler and Lazarus Stewart, with seventy Connecticut men, took steps to again take back the Wyoming valley. They were successful and Wyoming became relatively peaceful. Churchs and schools were established. Settlers attempted to reconcile with the proprietary government, but were rejected. The Connecticut General Assembly sent representatives to Philadelphia to try and work out a settlement but Governor Penn refused to consider such an option. The General Assembly then submitted the case to England and an opinion in favor of the Susquehanna company was given.

In 1773 the Legislature of Connecticut adopted a resolution asserting jurisdiction of the colony and determination to maintain it. The territory was declared to be part of the colony of Connecticut, erected into the town of Westmoreland and attached to the county of Litchfield. The following list of settlers who enrolled prior to 1773 was found in "History of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties, Pa.", those who settled in Kingston in 1769 are marked by an astrisk:

Captain Prince Alden, Noah Allen, Daniel Angel, Benjamin Ashley, James Atherton, Jr.*, Christopher Avery, Elisha Avery, Peter Ayers, Elisha Babcock, Samuel Badget, John Baker, Roland Barton, Nathan Beach, Isaac Bennett, Thomas Bennett*, Benjamin Budd, Abisha Bingham, Peris Bradford, Peris Briggs, Daniel Brown, Elijah Buck*, Jonathan Buck, Ezra Buel, Eleazer Carey, Jonathan Carrington, Morgan Carvan, Daniel Case, Sylvester Cheesebrough, John Clark, Naniad Coleman, Abraham Colt, John Comstock*, Peter Comstock, Jabez Cooke, Jacob Corah, Ezra Dean, Josiah Dean, John Delong, Joacb Dingman, Benjamin Dorchester, John Dorrance*, Samuel Dorrance, Simeon Draper, Thomas Draper, William Draper, Andrew Durkee, John Durkee, James Dunkin, James Evans, Thomas Ferlin, Zebulon Fisbee, Jabez Fisk, James Forseythe, John Franklin, Stephen Fuller, William Gallop, Christopher Gardner, Thomas Gaylord, Duty Gerold, Daniel Gore, Silas Gore, Philip Goss, Thomas Gray, Job Green, Job Green, Jr., Obadiah Gore, Jr., Comfort Goss, Peter Harris, Asher Harrot, Zebulon Hawksey, Daniel Hayes, Ebenezer Hebbard, Moses Hebbard, Benjamin Hewit, Jr., Gersham Hewit, Stephen Hinsdale, John Hopkins, Timothy Hopkins, Gurdon Hopson, Samuel Hotchkiss, Diah Hull, Stephen Hull, Stephen Hungerford, Robert Hunter, Stephen Hurlbut, Reuben Hurlburt, Robert Jackson, Zerubabel Jeorum*, Stephen Jenkins, Eliphalet Jewel, Edward Johnson, Solomon Johnson, John Jollee, Cyrus Kenney, John Kenyon, Hezekiah Knap, Thomas Knight, Joshua Lampher, Cyprian Lathrop*, Asa Lawrence, Gideon Lawrence, Asa Lee, John Lee, Joseph Lee, Noah Lee, Stephen Lee, Jesse Leonard, William Leonard, Elijah Lewis, Thomas McClure, Nicholas Manvil, Daniel Marvin, Samuel Marvin, Uriah Marvin, Benjamin Matthews, James May, Andrew Medcalf, David Mead, Stephen Miles, Samuel Millington, John Mitchell, Samuel Morgan, Joseph Morse, Daniel Murdock, John Murphy, James Nesbitt, Ebenezer Norton, Ebenezer Northrop, Thomas Olcott, Jonathan Orms, Samuel Orton, Silas Park, Elias Parks, John Perkins, Abel Pierce, Oliver Post, Noah Read, Jabez Roberts, Benedict Saterlee, Abraham Savage, John Shaw, Benjamin Shoemaker, Jabez Sill, Joseph Slocum, Jr., Abel Smith, James Smith, Oliver Smith*, Lemuel Smith, Zachariah Squier, Ebenezer Stearns, John Sterling, Phineas Stevens, Ebenezer Stone, Samuel Story, Henry Strong, Samuel Sweet, Preserved Taylor, Zophur Teed, Caleb Tennant, Parshall Terry, Sylvester Thayer, Isaac Tracy, Timothy Vorce, William Wadsworth, Aaron Walker, Henry Wall*, John Wallsworth, Nathaniel Watson, Joseph Webster, Philip Weeks, Thomas Weeks, Theophilus Westover*, Caleb White, Zerubabel Wightman, William White, Joshua Whitney, David Whittlesey, Frederick Wise, Henry Wise, Elijah Post, John Wyley, Enos Yale, Ozias Yale.

The Connecticut colonists enjoyed a few years of "repose and prosperity". In 1775 the Revolution had commenced. During this time the rivalry for possession of the valley was suspended. It began anew after the surrender of Cornwallis. The Supreme Executive council petitioned Congress to address the question of jurisdiction. A panel was appointed and after a long session at Trenton decided, in December 1782 that the jurisdiction belonged to Pennsylvania, and the Connecticut residents had "no right to the land in controversy". Soon after troops were sent to the valley. Again the Yankees tried to maintain their lands. They claimed that only jurisdiction of the territory was decided by the decree of Trenton, and that the titles of individuals to the soil was affected. The magistrates and soldiers were arrogannt and oppressive in their behavior. The people resolved to resist, thus they were regarded as insurgents. On May 12, 1784 their property was plundered and one hundred and fifty families fled the valley. The behavior was so cruel that many throughout the state looked down upon these actions. Many grew tired of the bullying and gradually began to support the residents. By October the commader could not find a man to recruit, nor supplies. He discharged his men and abandoned the valley. This was the last military invasion of the Wyoming valley. The area began to flourish with an influx of immigrants to the area.

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