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?

Posted in Luzerne County, Trip to Pennsylvania 2008 see Pennsylvania Wandering Blog for more info, Wilkes-Barre | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Establishment of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania September 1786

The establishment of Luzerne County in September of 1786 finally brought law and order to the Wyoming Valley.

Luzerne Co. 1845

From Wikipedia establishment of Luzerne Co.

On September 25, 1786, Luzerne County was formed from part of Northumberland County. It was named after Chevalier de la Luzerne, a French soldier and diplomat during the 18th century.

When it was founded, Luzerne County occupied a large portion of Northeastern Pennsylvania. From 1810 to 1878, it was divided into several smaller counties. The counties of BradfordLackawannaSusquehanna, and Wyoming were all formed from parts of Luzerne County.

From 1784 and the end of hostilities several events took place that are interesting.

  1. The Nov. 11, 1783 petition to Congress of Zebulon Butler and the settlers was denied. This was the request to determine the private right of soil under Article IX of the Articles of Confederation. It was denied 21 September 1785.
  2. 2. On 24 December 1785 an act requiring the signing of an Oath of Allegiance was past by the Pennsylvania legislature with a deadline of 15 April 1786. If settlers agreed to follow Pennsylvania laws they thereby had a chance of obtaining title to their land. As a result about 177 settlers signed. At this time there were two groups of Connecticut settlers the moderates who signed this petition and the more radical settlers lead by Col. John Franklin. See page 1497 of The History of Wilkes-Barre Vol. III. I can’t find a list of those who did sign at this time.
  3. An Act for Quieting Disturbances at Wyoming was passed on 24 December 1785 this act pardoned certain offenders and had other purposes.  “No great number of these settlers were in any humor thus to sue for pardon, and the law fell…a dead letter.” History of Luzerne Co., pg. 153 Google Books.
  4. In February of 1786 the Susquehanna Company settlers petitioned PA for a separate county. In May of 1786 Franklin wanted to create a state out of the Susquehanna Purchase so he brought Ethan Allen with him.

The idea of a new state began to form in the minds of the Yankees. In April of 1786 General Ethan Allen showed up in Wyoming in full regimentals. Allen said he had formed one new state and that with one hundred of his Green Mountain Boys and two hundred riflemen he could establish another one.

There is evidence that Oliver Wolcott drafted a constitution for a new state named Westmoreland. William Judd was to be governor, John Franklin lieutenant governor and Ethan Allen was to be in command of the militia.

On September 25, 1786, the county of Luzerne was erected. It embraced the lands settled by the New England emigrants. It gave them representation in the council and the assembly, and proved to be a wise measure. But step by step, as Pennsylvania moved to close up the trouble, the Susquehanna company went forward with its scheme of revolution. page. 158 History of Luzerne County, Google Books. 

I will not go into the Susquehanna Companies moves at this time. John Franklin took over the rains of the company and basically  moved to sell more land and bring in more settlers before Pennsylvania could shut him down.  If a new state had been created the State of Pennsylvania as we know it would have been very different.  Franklin did put effort in to opposing Pennsylvania’s authority and his story is very interesting. Just how much involvement the Goss family was involved with regarding Franklin’s political views is not clear.  The Pennsylvania State Archives at Harrisburg have what they call the John Franklin Papers.  I did not get an opportunity to go through them when I visited that archive.  It might be very interesting and who know what one might find out.

Some other good sources:

  • The History of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania with Illustrations with Biographical Selections, by H.C. Bradsby, Editor, S.B. Nelson & Co., 1893. On Internet Archive for viewing and downloading.
  • The History of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming, Penn, W. W. Munsel & Co. 1880, Also at Internet Archive for viewing and downloading.
Posted in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Another Yankee-Pennamite War 1783 to 1784

If you think that things settled down in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania after the Revolutionary War was over, well, think again. There was another Yankee-Pennamite war that erupted over the land in the area.

The Wyoming Valley in about 1864 still good.

Please understand that the Pennamites refers to the Pennsylvania’s interested in the land in the area. The Yankee’s are the Connecticut settlers in the area.

The Trenton Decree found in favor of Pennsylvania as rightful owner of the land. (See the previous blog post about this Decree). The fighting in the Wyoming Valley was sparked by the harsh terms of capitulation that the Pennsylvanians issued to the occupying Yankee settlers. Alexander Patterson was assigned and given complete power by the State of Pennsylvania to solve the problem in the area. He actually added to them.

He started by renaming various localities. The Yankee town of Wilkes-Barre now became the Pennsylvania town of Londonderry. But Patterson did not come north to the Wyoming Valley by himself. He brought various officials and militia troops to assist him. The militia he quartered in private homes. Patterson was in fact the dictator of the valley acting as sole legal authority. With him there was no separation of law and order.

Patterson also began to round-up the official and un-official leaders of the Yankee settlers through out the valley. He had them held in dungeons with little or no food, blankets or water. One of the prisoners held in squalor appealed the situation to Congress. This infuriated Patterson and he proceeded to remove all the Yankee physical reminders, like fences, markers and monuments, roads and bridges and had them destroyed. He drove out 150 Yankee settler families from their homes and into Fort Dickinson where they were kept without food, shelter, or water.

Those families who lived further out were rounded up and driven cross-country on a trail of tears and death. A total of 800 Yankees of all ages were pushed along by bayonets through poring rains in the wilds of North Eastern Pennsylvania for two weeks. They were given no food, water, or help. The weak that fell along the way, were left to die in the mud. I hope this is not referencing the Huntington Twp. families?

Philadelphia reacted by sending State sheriffs and deputies to the area and they proceeded to round-up Patterson’s men and dismiss militia members and arrest Patterson.
The state even went so far as to encourage those recently evicted to return to their lands. The local Pennsylvanians in the area and those who had moved in on the heels of the departing Yankees began a campaign of squatting. They took over abandoned Yankee farms and hired many of Patterson’s former troops to protect their new acquisitions.

The returning Yankees finding their farms, houses, and shops occupied congregated in a rocky area on the side of a mountain. Though they may have thought of it as a stronghold it soon proved to be a ghetto. Pennsylvanians still loyal to Patterson’s actions put up pickets and a rough cordon around the area. They shot at and chased any Yankees who ventured forth to forage for food or trade.

Eventually enough Yankees were assembled who had both the will and the firearms to try to end the siege. They broke out at night and proceeded to occupy three out buildings on a farm in Kingston Township. The Pennsylvanians informal band of toughs still being directed by Patterson himself attempted to storm the Yankee occupied buildings. On 20 July 1784 they attacked. Their attack managed to kill two of the defenders but the attack met with several heavy retaliation and the Pennsylvanians retreated to rethink their plan.

Seeking to exploit their victory the Yankees soon re-occupied all of Hanover, Kingston, and Plymouth. Following this a column of Pennsylvanians were encountered on the march and the Yankees engaged and gave chase driving the Pennamites back inside the stockade walls of Fort Dickinson. There followed a siege of the fort by the Yankees.

The siege of the Pennamites trapped inside Fort Dickinson continued for several days. The Legislature of Pennsylvania alarmed at the defiance ordered militia troops from Northampton to march into the valley and lift the siege.

The Pennamite relief column advanced steadily until August 2nd when they were ambushed by 40 or so Yankees who managed drive the rest of them back. Fearing that they may not be able to muster enough forces in time the Pennamites sought to negotiate an end to the siege.

On August 6th they managed to convince the Yankees to lift the siege and put down their weapons. The Yankees agreed but then Patterson’s men refused to disarm and the Pennamite negotiator returned the surrendered arms to the Yankees and begged them to leave.

The Pennsylvania Legislature was unhappy with the turn of events an authorized a Col. John Armstrong to march into the valley with 400 militia and rectify the situation. Armstrong sought to negotiate an end to the tensions. He was able to get the Yankees to once again turn in their weapons; however Armstrong double crossed the Yankees.

Once they were all disarmed he had them surrounded and arrested. There followed a period of captivity and grand jury proceedings. The sheriff refused to honor the arrest and released the Yankees from their bondage. Armstrong who had left the area immediately returned with a small force of 40-50 men and proceeded to set up his base of operations in Wilkes-Barre.

The now freed Yankees were reinforced by a group of Green Mountain Boys from Vermont. The Yankees again laid siege to the Pennamite forces. This time Pennamite resistance was up to the task and they managed to drive the Yankees back and end the siege.

Though the Pennsylvania Council of Censors had issued on September 11th a condemnation of the State authorities for their treatment and actions vis-à-vis the Wyoming Valley the legislature was not done trying to assert its rights.

The State Legislature promoted Armstrong to the position of Adjutant General of Pennsylvania and authorized the calling out of the militia from four counties to enforce Pennsylvanian rule and authority in the Wyoming Valley. Though promoted and authorized to raise more forces Armstrong returned to Wilkes-Barre with only 50 men. This small band attempted to carry out their duty. They formed up and launched an assault on a fortified Yankee blockhouse. The assault failed and the small Pennamite force under Armstrong evacuated their own fort in Wilkes-Barre and marched out of the valley.

The Yankees proceeded to burn the evacuated fort to the ground on November 30th (1784). This marked the end of active combat actions in the Wyoming Valley between the Yankees and the Pennsylvanians.

So the State Government of Pennsylvania really messed up and didn’t take proper action till a lot of damage was done. However, by the end of 1784 things started to turn around.


  1. The History of Wilkes-Barre, by Oscar Jewell Harvey 1851-1922 and Ernest Gray Smith who took over for Harvey upon his death, Vol. III, Chapters XXII, XXIII, XXIV referred to as the 2nd Pennamite-Yankee War in this book. Others refer to it as the 3rd and Chapter XXV. This book is online at Internet Archive along with other volumes of this important work.
  2. The State of Westmoreland and the Pennamite-Yankee Wars. by Richard E. Irby Jr. This has some interesting comments and is not bad, unfortunately the background makes it hard to read. You could copy it into Word.docx

3. Yankee-Pennamite Wars: The Connecticut Pennsylvania Conflict 1769 to 1794 at the Warfare Blog. I used this link before in the early discussions and I think it is a nice overview of the fighting in the Wyoming Valley.

4. Wild Yankees: The Struggle for Independence along Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary Frontier, by Paul B. Moyer. This book is being previewed at Google Books. Page is unknown in the preview?  Apparently there was hope by the summer of 1784.

Friction with state- and county-level officials eventually undermined the position of Wyoming’s Pennamites. In the spring and summer of 1784, Northumberland officials gathered evidence against and indicted forty-five Pennsylvania claimants on charges of riot, assault, robbery, and false imprisonment. Among the accused were country magistrates Alexander Patterson and Henry Shoemaker and the officers of Wyoming’s garrison. In November, Northumberland’s county court found forty-two of the accused guilty, punishing them with hefty fines and levying substantial bonds to guarantee their future good behavior. The convictions broke the Pennamite’s hold on power in the Wyoming Valley; Alexander Patteron resigned as a county magistrate and left the valley on his indictment and the state stripped Henry Shoemaker of his post as a justice of the peace. With this loss of leadership and armed force, Wyoming’s Pennamites began to lose ground in the valley.”  

4. Pennsylvania Timeline 1492 to 1899 for a little history of the Colony and State:

5. History of Pennsylvania by Wikipedia. You could probably find other articles that are of interest.

Posted in Huntington Twp., Westmoreland Town & County, Wilkes-Barre, Wyoming Valley | Tagged , , | Leave a comment