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Susquehanna County

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County text and building entries by Richard J. Webster

Susquehanna County is named for the Susquehanna River, which makes its entry from New York State into Pennsylvania along the county's northern border. The county's first settlers were from New England and they laid out their claims along the river in 1787. Stories of Connecticut's colonial claims seem to have drawn some settlers, even though the U.S. Congress in 1787 had ruled that the land was Pennsylvania's. Revolutionary War memories seem to have enticed others. In 1779, General James Clinton moved a force of about 1,500 men through these unconquered lands to join General John Sullivan's campaign against the British and the Iroquois, a campaign from which the Iroquois never recovered. Land that looked inviting in the 1770s was even more attractive in the 1790s with the Indian threat removed. Susquehanna County was carved from Luzerne County in 1810, and a year later Montrose, near the county's geographical center, became its seat. The county grew slowly and has remained largely agricultural with an important dairy industry dating from the Civil War era. The county's northeast, however, followed a different pattern. The Erie Railroad moved into this area in the mid-1840s, and in less than a decade it transformed the farmland along the Susquehanna into the towns of Lanesboro, Oakland, and Susquehanna Depot. By the end of the Civil War the rail shops in Susquehanna Depot ranked among the largest in the nation. Their closing in the 1970s leveled a hard blow to the area's economy. In the county's southeast corner, Forest City sits near the northern tip of Pennsylvania's great anthracite deposits. As a coal town, it is an anomaly in the county.

Despite the early settlers’ cultural affinity for fellow New Englanders to the south in the Wyoming Valley, later generations looked northward toward New York's southern tier. First the river, then the Owego-Milford turnpike, and, finally, the railroad forged strong economic ties that I-81 reinforces today.

Writing Credits

Author: 
George E. Thomas

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