Historical Markers
Fort Durkee Historical Marker
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Fort Durkee

Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
River St. near South St., Wilkes-Barre

Dedication Date:
October 13, 1947

Behind the Marker

Named after Maj. John Durkee, a Connecticut militia officer, Fort Durkee was built by New England settlers, in the spring of 1769, on the site of present-day Wilkes-Barre. Having settled along the east branch of the Susquehanna River since the 1750s, these Connecticut Yankees had already encountered fierce resistance from Delaware Indians who lived there and from Iroquois to the north. The settlers built Fort Durkee not only provide them with a formidable defense against Indian attack, but also to protect them from Pennsylvania settlers, who challenged their title to the Wyoming Valley.

Connecticut had long claimed the northern half of Pennsylvania under the terms of its 1662 "sea to sea"charter from King Charles II. The colony's so-called "Yankees," moved into Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley because of land shortages and economic pressures created by the thinness of the Connecticut soil, the shortness of its growing seasons, a tremendous growth in population, a general sense of mission and entitlement embedded in the Puritan ethic, and to ensure land for their large and growing families.

An intense animosity soon developed between Connecticut's "Yankees" and their Pennsylvania neighbors. The New Englanders saw themselves as God's industrious people, swarming or "hiving" into vacant or thinly settled areas to push out "drones" and frontiersmen. Pennsylvanians, on the other hand, who earned their living by the sweat of their brow, believed that they deserved to reap the benefits of the land that they had cleared, settled, and farmed. They did not appreciate the encroachment of other colonists onto their lands. Even the name "Yankee" had a derisive connotation, originally used by Dutch settlers to condemn interloping Englishmen. Therefore, conflict between the two groups over title to the land was inevitable.

In November 1769, local settlers and agents of Pennsylvania's proprietary government, called "Pennamites" captured the fort, then razed or burned most of the Yankee settlement in its vicinity. They then took a large number of the Connecticut claimants first to markerEaston and then to Philadelphia for trial. With the destruction of Fort Durkee, Pennsylvanians had won the first battle of what became known as the "Yankee-Pennamite Wars." But the larger conflict was just beginning, and in a few years the Wyoming Valley became the scene of the some of the most savage warfare of the American Revolution.

The "Yankees" named their new settlement at Fort Durkee "Wilkes-Barre," in honor of two members of the British Parliament, John Wilkes and Isaac Barre, who had sympathized with the American cause. In their eyes, resistance to British tyranny and western expansion were part of a larger struggle for liberty.
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