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Market Street Bridge – Wilkes-Barre, PA

Through an Act of the Pennsylvania Legislature, the Wilkes-Barre Bridge company was tasked to solicit shares for the construction of the first Market Street Bridge crossing the Susquehanna River. Shareholders of the company met on May 15, 1816 at the courthouse and then later on Public Square.They elected Matthias Hollenback president and Jacob Cist treasurer. The Wilkes-Barre Bridge Company’s first board of managers consisted of James Barnes, Henry Buckingham, George Chahoon, Elias Hoyt, Joseph Sinton and Stephen Tuttle. Serving as Secretary was Benjamin Perry.

The original plans for the bridge were made in 1816 and the project was completed in 1820. The Market Street Bridge was replaced three times to accommodate the changes in transportation and growing population. The second bridge was completed around 1855 and was later replaced by a steel bridge in 1892. It wasn’t until 1928 that the latest bridge would be constructed and open to the public. The 1928 bridge has gone through several major floods and levee projects but is still in good condition and in use today.

The monumental fourth bridge was designed by the prestigious architectural firm, Carrere and Hastings. The design is attributed to Wilkes-Barre native, Colonel Thomas Henry Atherton who worked for the firm. Atherton also designed the New York Public Library in 1911 and is responsible for the Frick Collection, both located on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Colonel Atherton would go on to design the 109th Armory and the Kirby Health Center in Wilkes-Barre.

The most prominent feature of the Market Street Bridge has to be it’s towers, topped by finely detailed eagles. Inscribed on each tower are short dedications to the values of the region. They Read:

PROGRESS
to the CULTURE, begot by splendid schools and teachers, we owe rise in higher realm of mind and spirit.

PROSPERITY
in the INDUSTRY builded by human hand and brain, on our mineral resources, we owe growth, influence and welfare.

PATRIOTISM
to the SERVICE of our heroes sacrificial on land and sea in every war, glorious and forever, unforgot we pay homage.

PERSEVERANCE
to the FORTITUDE of early settlers facing hardship, fearless and unflinching, we owe the origins of what we are.

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The Birth of Anthracite Coal in America

The first known use of anthracite coal dates back 1750 when a native american brought some to a gunsmith in Nazareth, PA whose supply of charcoal had run out.

Sometime between 1750 and 1755, anthracite coal was being used in the Wyoming Valley and during the Revolutionary War it was sent down the Susquehanna River to be used by the arsenal at Carlisle.

Obadiah Gore of Nazareth used anthracite coal in his blacksmith forge as early as 1769.

There is also record of soldiers stationed at Fort Augusta using it at a source of heat according to the fort’s garrison Ensign Holler. He said in a letter dated the winter of 1758 that a wagon load of stone coal, brought in some six leagues from Fort Augusta, was shipped down river from around Nanticoke.

Three discoverers of anthracite in Pennsylvania were made by Nicho Allen in Pottsville, Philip Ginter near Mauch Chunk and Isaac Tomlinson at Shamokin. What is more remarkable, all these discoveries were made about the same time. and yet it is a fact that coal was mined in the Wyoming Valley nearly a quarter century before these “discoveries.”

The use of anthracite for domestic purposes appears to have been discovered by Judge Jesse Fell, of Wilkes-Barre. Fell wrote on February 11, 1808 that he had “made the experiment of burning the common stone coal of the valley in a grate, in a common fireplace in my house, and found it will answer the purpose of fuel, making a clearer and better fire, at less expense, than burning wood in the common way.”

News of this successful experiment soon spread through the town and country, and people were going to witness the discovery. Grates like the one Judge Fell used were soon in use by his neighbors, and in a short time were in being used throughout the valley.

In the spring of that same year, John and Abijah Smith loaded two arks with anthracite coal at Ransoms Creek, in Plymouth, and took it down the Susquehanna River to Columbia; but on offering it for sale, noone could be persuaded to purchase any. They left the black stones behind them unsold, and returned to their homes.
 
The next year the Smiths, not least bit discouraged, took two arks of coal and a grate back to Columbia. The grate was put up, and the coals were burned in it, thus proving the practicability of using coal as a fuel. They sold their coal, and thus began the initiative of the immense anthracite coal trade of Pennsylvania.
Today, the original grate Judge Jesse Fell used is on display at the Luzerne county Historical Society museum in downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA.
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The Story of Frances Slocum

Frances Slocum was the daughter of Jonathan and Ruth Slocum of Wilkes-Barre, PA in the Wyoming Valley. She was taken from her families home in broad daylight in front of her mother on Nov 2, 1778 at the age of 5. She was never heard from again. Her two brothers always tried to search for her any time they heard of a white woman living with an Indian tribe, even offered rewards for her return.

More than sixty years had passed before she was found. She was found living on the banks of the Mississenawa River near Peru, Indiana. Then the widow of an Miami Indian Chief.

James Miller of Peru, Ind and Col. Ewing of Logansport, Ind who had interacted with the Miami Indians in the past went and talked with Frances. She being old and knowing she would die soon decided it time to talk about her history.

She remembered she lived on the Susquehanna River as a child, near a fort and told how she was taken by the Delaware Indians. She mentioned her father, a quaker, who wore a broad-brimmed hat with the last name of Slocum. She remembered how other children were taken as well but because they wouldn’t stop crying the Indians killed them. She told them about how she moved around from time to time from Niagara, down around Detroit, then onto Fort Wayne and finally ending up on the banks of the Mississenewa.

After hearing this tale Col. Ewing wanted to make an effort to relay the infomation to her family who he suspected may still be alive. Upon his return to Logansport he wrote down what he had been told and sent it to the Postmaster of Lancaster, PA to be published. The Postmaster thought it to be a prank and tossed it aside. After his death the postmasters wife had found the letter and sent it to the editor in Lancaster who published it in his newspaper. A copy of that paper was read by Joseph Slocum who was living in the Wyoming Valley, Joseph instantly knew this story to be of his sister.

Isaac Slocum, Frances’ other brother, who had moved near Sandusky, Oh traveled to Peru in May of 1838. Upon arriving he sent for Mr. Miller who ran a store there. Mr Miller, leaving two Indian girls to tend the store, went to meet this stranger who had summoned him. Upon arriving at the hotel Mr. Miller recognized the stranger as a brother to Frances due to a very strong family resemblance.

After 60 years Isaac was reunited with his sister. Joseph Slocum also traveled to visit his long lost sister.