Substantial houses on ample lots characterize Tunkhannock, whose name comes from the Indian word “tankhanne,” referring to the smaller of two converging streams. Here that stream is Tunkhannock Creek converging with the Susquehanna River at the borough's south end. Near that spot the area's first settler, Zebulon Marcy, staked a claim. Initially, Connecticut-born residents called the settlement Putnam, in honor of Israel Putnam, a Revolutionary War general from Connecticut who briefly owned land in the township. In the 1770s, Germans, sent by the Penns to establish the family's proprietary claims, and Connecticut Yankees lived more or less side by side in an uneasy relationship. Because Tunkhannock was the county's most central settlement, it became the county seat when the county was formed in 1842. Its economy has been based primarily on its role as a county seat and as a modest trading center. Early industries included a forge in 1840 and a rare witch hazel factory until 1936. Tunkhannock's thoroughfare, Tioga Street, coincides with the path of old U.S. 6, and leading from it on both sides the tree-lined streets follow a rough grid plan. Most of the town's two-block commercial district on E. Tioga Street dates after 1870, rebuilt after a fire.
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