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Monroe County

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Monroe County's development is the result of its mountainous setting, its multiple streams, and its proximity to the Delaware River. Glacial activity and the upheaval of the Appalachians left a landscape that is hilly, but with good soils in the bottom lands that attracted German farmers. It was the erosive force of the Delaware and the lesser streams that cut Blue Mountain and provided a means of transporting lumber and, later, ice. After the region's timber was harvested, the Delaware River offered the potential for recreation that continues today in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The area's first permanent settlers were Dutch, who were already sufficiently numerous by 1737 to require a minister to serve a circuit of small, log churches along the river. In that same year, William Penn's sons’ infamous “Walking Purchase,” which added 1,200 square miles to Pennsylvania, brought the region into the commonwealth's orbit but unleashed a generation of warfare that continued through the French and Indian War, destroying most of the villages. In 1756 Benjamin Franklin was authorized by the Pennsylvania Assembly to lay out a line of forts along the threatened frontier, one of which, Fort Hamilton, grew into the county seat of Stroudsburg. It was one of three contenders for that distinction; Dutotsburg and Kellersville were as qualified, but Stroudsburg's offer of a free site for a county building carried the day. One inadvertent consequence of this was that Dutotsburg rebranded itself after the Civil War with the name of its great attraction, Delaware Water Gap, and became one of the nation's largest inland resorts.

Monroe County's resorts are a connection to the historical forces of the mid-nineteenth century, but what is most telling about the area is its lack of outside clients and as a result, of outside architects. New York expanded its sphere of influence into Pennsylvania's northern counties first along canals and, at midcentury, along railroads. Philadelphians made similar forays. But Monroe County was scarcely touched by these forces and as a result remains remarkable for the wealth of its early architecture. When historian Janet Wetzel and her team of intrepid historians surveyed Monroe County for the Pennsylvania Historic Sites Survey in 1980, there were hundreds of vernacular and mid-nineteenth-century buildings that described the continuing Pennsylvania trio of German, English, and Scots-Irish settlements. Most still remain. The pattern of German stone houses along the southern portion of the county and the frame houses of New Englanders to the north is obvious. Monroe is also a county that still connects to its frontier roots with popular culture sites from Pocono International Raceway at Long Pond near Blakeslee to modern resorts built by many of the western casino operators in the hope that Pennsylvanians would legalize gaming. This finally occurred in 2004 but with casinos limited to slot parlors. As the twenty-first century began, Monroe County had the second highest growth rate of the state's counties.

Writing Credits

Author: 
George E. Thomas

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