Pennsylvania Wanderings: A Visit to Wilkes-Barre in 2008, The County Seat of Luzerne Co.

Back in 2008, I attended the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Philadelphia. I had won the conference registration fee. So of course I needed to attend.

It was an opportunity for me to travel around Pennsylvania and seek out Goss Family history sites. I blogged that trip on Blogspot and later moved it to WordPress. It is old with problems and it will be time to retire it.  At some point I will remove it from the internet and turn it into a PDF focusing only on the Goss Family history and not the extra stuff that is on the blog. It won’t go away complete but will be preserved on a PAGE at the top of this blog.  Here is the link:

I have shared some of that trip on this blog in past posts, and will continue to do so as I write about the family and hopefully it will help to make more sense out of the Goss Family History.

In my last post, I shared the formation of Luzerne County.  Wilkes-Barre became the county seat.  I think that a revisit to Wilkes-Barre back in September of 2008 is a nice idea at this time.

Wilkes-Barre area where I concentrated on in 2008

Here is what I wrote back in September of 2008, oh I think I will play and add a few more photos:

Wilkes-Barre’s City Sign

The Bridge Entrance in Wilkes-Barre, PA

A lot has been happening since I arrived in Wilkes-Barre on Thursday, September 11th. I have been to the Luzerne Historical Society several times, visited the Northeastern Pennsylvania Genealogical Society in Shavertown (they have moved) traveled up through Kingston and Forty Fort to view the historical sights. I will take each one individually in later blogs.

Saturday evening I toured Wilkes-Barre and here are some of the photos. I have been using the Market Street Bridge to travel to Kingston and Plymouth and it is real easy because it just means going around the Public Square in Wilkes-Barre and getting on Market and one block down is the Best Western Genetti on the right as you go west were I park as a guest. In Kingston and Plymouth Hiway 11 runs through them and it is called Wyoming Avenue. Once on that avenue you can find your way along very easily.

One of several Eagles on the Bridge at Wilkes-Barre

Market Street Bridge – this picture is a bit odd with the lamp post in the middle but it does give an idea of the bridge…

Susquehanna River at Wilkes-Barre

This Market Street Bridge is old, stately and beautiful. There was a couple walking over the bridge holding hands and later joggers. I walked the length into Kingston and then crossed over and went back to Wilkes-Barre.

I headed to the right after crossing the bridge and went along River Street and came upon the Wilkes University which covers the block of Franklin Ave and River Street and probably a lot more. The houses are labeled with the halls name and are all very grand. You can walk the campus if you like.

Wilkes University

Stately houses

Watch out some of the streets are one-way and others are two way, so you have to pay attention in the downtown area of Wilkes-Barre and other towns in the area.

Fort Wyoming Heritage Marker

Reads: Fort Wyoming: Built by Pennsylvania, 1771; seized by Connecticut settlers. Rebuilt in 1778. Mobilization camp for Sullivan’s army 1779. Destroyed 1784, after withdrawal of the Continental and Pennsylvania garrisons.

Fort Wyoming Heritage marker is near the river

Along River Street and by the South Street corner to the east are the historic markers for Fort Durkee and Fort Wyoming two very important forts in the history of the area and during the Revolution. The actual forts are long gone now but they are commemorated here.

Fort Durkee Heritage Marker

Reads:  Fort Durkee – First fort built by the Connecticut settlers; begun in April 1769. Used during the first Pennamite War against Pennsylvania authorities, 1769-71. It stood 1000 feet from Fort Wyoming.

Wilkes-Barre Fort Marker

Reads: Wilkes-Barre Fort – Completed 1778. Inclosing the courthouse of the Connecticut county of Westmoreland. Surrender with Forty Fort to the British in 1778. Located on Public Square.

Update: This link will be helpful in finding Historical markers, more about them and where they are located.

Unfortunately they are ripping up the River Front Park and reconstructing it. So it is all blocked off at this time. There is another park on the other side of the Susquehanna which is Kirby Park and as far as I can tell it is on both sides of the bridge. A truck with a boat was getting ready to launch into the water on the east side of the Market Street Bridge

I headed down South Street for Franklin and passed by the Osterhout Free Library (71 South Franklin St.) which is undergoing renovation and then the Luzerne County Museum is tucked back behind it on a long walkway on the east side of the library.

I then passed by the Bishop Memorial Library for the Luzerne County Historical Society (49 South Franklin St.). This library is east a few houses down and has a turret.

Bishop Library – Luzerne Co. Historical Society Archives

There isn’t a sign out front on the street so you do have to pay attention. The sign is on the building and rather dark to read. There is a grassy area between that was filled with a big tent for they were having a wedding. There are several churches that lined the street and were interspersed along the same block which is Franklin Street between Northhampton and Market Street. My exploration was at an end.

A views of Wilkes-Barre

If you want to do more exploring the Luzerne Historical Society has a brochure featuring the Walking Tour of Wilkes-Barre. It is quite detailed about the Public Square area history and architecture. I found my copy at the Luzerne Historical Society.  UPDATE: Here is a pamphlet I found as of 2018 that might also be of value:

Susquehanna River at Wilkes-Barre

I wrote another post about Genealogical research possibilities while in Wilkes-Barre in 2008. It was titled: Other Genealogical Possibilities in Wilkes-Barre, dated September 19, 2008. Be careful some of this might be out of date in 2018.  The Luzerne County Historical Society Research Library will be discussed in detail in a later post.

Historical Society

Luzerne County Historical Museum: I was unable to visit the Luzerne County Historical Museum because it had the same hours of the Bishop Library. I did go inside for a brief moment. I like to visit the historical society museums in the areas that I am studying because it gives me an overview of the areas history and it might point to something I did not give thought to, but I could not manage including it this trip.

Farley Library

The Farley Library: The Wilkes University is located approximately South St. to Northhampton and from River St. several blocks over from the river. I decided to take a quick tour of the Farley Library to see what they might have. It is on Franklin St. almost to South. I discovered that you have to enter the library from the campus side, not the street. They have a reference desk on the 1st floor with the reference materials behind that desk. I was told that the Pennsylvania books were on the 2nd floor. There is an elevator tucked in the back.

What I saw in 2008, might be different now

On the Second floor I found the Pennsylvania books in the F section. I took a quick look and found a complete set of the Pennsylvania Archives Volumes and the Susquehanna Company Papers. There were other titles for Luzerne County history. They had a copy of the Zebulon Butler book (I do have that book in my personal library now, it is very good). I did not check the catalog for any other items of interest and did not look for any thesis written on historical subjects. Universities are set up to serve the students and faculty. You have to dig for the information. Who knows what treasures might be at this library and it is only two blocks from the Luzerne County Bishop’s Library. The Farley Library has very long hours. So if you want to study a Luzerne County history book that they have. You can do it at this library and not have to struggle with the strick policies of the Luzernce Co. Historial Society archive. 

Osterhout Free Library, it was being renovated when I was there, see photo below.

The Osterhout Free Library was about 3 buildings west of LC Bishop’s Library. Their hours are longer. They have newspapers for the area and city directories back to 1881 or about. Again you might have to do some digging to find the genealogical gems in this library. I just went inside to get a look at the interior and see how it was organized. They do have a print out of what they have genealogically but it is a little vague. I would check the online catalog and see what might be there. I did take their listing of the Library of Congress subjects to use for searching a catalog from home. Update: Apparently they have a webpage and it has summary of what they have in their collection and where to go for other records but make sure I am not sure if this is correct:

Update: The Osterhout library is part of the Luzerne County wide library system: 

I was told there were at least 4 libraries within walking distance along Franklin Street. That could be interesting! I will have to investigate when I get home on Sunday.  Update: Well this might be worth pursuing just Google “Libraries in Wilkes-Barre” and you may find something interesting.

The Courthouse

The Dome of the Courthouse

The Luzerne County Courthouse is located on River St. right on the Susquehanna River. You cannot miss it for it is a large stately building. I understand that the records however are divided among several other buildings and not all at the Courthouse. So you need to do some research to determine where you want to go. I decided not to go to the Courthouse. Go to their website and do searches for information and give them a call to make sure. It is a little far to be walking all around the area trying to locate records.

Update:  This trip was done in 2008 and since then a lot of records have come online for Pennsylvania and Luzerne County, PA so check out Ancestry and FamilySearch.

Records Center—Maybe?

This is the Records center that is right across from the Best Western Genetti. They have the marriages, deaths, probates and wills. (Doublecheck this) I was also told that if the records are very old regarding the probates they might have to be ordered. They do this twice a day and retrieve the documents. If you are lucky it comes the same day, otherwise you have to wait till the next day. I looked through the window glass of the door to see if there was a directory and there is one right inside the door. I could not read it for it was too far away. There is also a security check down the hall. They were closed by the time I got there.

Update: Go here and check this first before you head out to find records:

The Luzerne County PAGenWeb has a much more complete listing of libraries, archives and societies with links.

Try the Family Search wiki for Luzerne for ideas as well:,_Pennsylvania_Genealogy

Happy Hunting!

More pictures of Wilkes-Barre taken in 2008. Some I recognize but others I am not sure. I may have just liked the look of the building. Well it was 10 years ago. Wilkes-Barre was very interesting. They did have a drug issue back then with do not loiter signs about. I did feel safe walking around but I kept my eyes open. It also seemed a little depressed to me, lots of empty buildings?

About BJ MacDonald

Interested in travel, really into genealogy and researching my family history, classic novels and movies, fantasy and science fiction, photography, history and more... Here is a tip. Make sure you are commenting on the blog you were visiting and the post you were interested in. My blogs are listed by hovering over my pictures and clicking. Clicking one of them will take you back to the correct blog. You can try me here:
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