Historical Markers
Luzerne County Historical Marker
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Luzerne County

Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
Courthouse, North River Street, Wilkes-Barre

Dedication Date:
September 24, 1982

Behind the Marker

Luzerne County was the scene of great discoveries and surprisingly bitter conflicts. Because of the unusually rich deposits of anthracite coal in a region known as the Wyoming Valley, Luzerne's history is, in many ways, the history of coal's rise as a commercial fuel source.
This map shows the anthracite coalfields, in gray, at the center of Luzerne County. This map was created in 1856, before Lackawanna County was created from the northeast area of Luzerne County.
This map shows the anthracite coalfields, in gray, at the center of Luzerne...

Reports of "black stone" began appearing in colonial letters as early as the 1760s. Daniel and Obadiah Gore, two Luzerne County blacksmiths, began using anthracite in forges in the 1770s. They spread the word about their discoveries, but others found anthracite too difficult to burn. Its potential as a fuel source remained untapped until the early nineteenth century. In 1808, a prominent Wilkes-Barre businessman named Jesse Fell developed an open-air grate that made igniting anthracite more convenient for household use. Local coal operators Abijah and John Smith subsequently popularized Fell's discovery as they attempted to expand the marketplace for anthracite. The coal boom had finally begun.

Towns like Minersville, Drifton, and Coalville suggest the dominance of colliery operations. Patch towns like Eckley (near Hazleton) or the "model" company town of markerConcrete City (near Nanticoke) dotted the landscape. Places like Shickshinny, close to the "red ash" vein mined so profitably at the Mocanaqua Mine, or Pittston, tracing its history to an anthracite pioneer Col. James W. Johnson, came to be operated by the Pennsylvania Coal Company. Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre became the centers of great wealth and interconnections of elite families' mining and railroad interests.

As in other anthracite counties, Luzerne County's history includes unforgettable mining episodes: the Twin Shaft Disaster of 1896, the Lattimer Massacre of 1897, struggles for the union in 1902 during the five month long strike, and the markerKnox Mine Disaster of 1959.
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