How Stroudsburg Became County Seat
Early view of Main Street, Stroudsburg
By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association
Although settled during colonization, Monroe County was not one of the earliest official counties in Pennsylvania; it was the 53rd recognized county out of 67 statewide. It was formed from pieces of Northampton and Pike Counties on April 1, 1836.
Pennsylvania Gov. Joseph Ritner, with an Act by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, acknowledged that the area known as “north of the Blue Mountains of Northampton County” had been settled for years and that the population was rapidly growing.
The early townships of Chestnuthill, Hamilton, Pocono, Ross, Smithfield, Stroud, and Tobyhanna of Northampton County along with townships Coolbaugh, Middle Smithfield, and Price of Pike County were to be made into a single county known as Monroe. In order for Monroe County to exist, however, a county seat needed to be chosen by a vote at a special election to be held in July of 1836.
Immediately, three towns were suggested to serve as the new county’s seat: Dutotsburg (now Delaware Water Gap), Kellersville in Hamilton Township, and Stroudsburg. They were all considered and placed on the ballot for a vote by the men of the area. Each town had its merits.
Dutotsburg, near the Delaware River at the entrance of the Water Gap, was a small village with 10 to 12 houses, one tavern, and one store. It was situated along what is now Route 611 and the main industry for Dutotsburg was lumbering.
Kellersville was ideally located on the Easton-Belmont Turnpike which connected directly to Easton, the county seat of Northampton County, and eventually to Philadelphia. John George Keller was a large landowner and businessman in Kellersville who built a well-placed grist mill along the highly-traveled turnpike. Kellersville also boasted a church, a tavern, a school house, a store and many residential dwellings. Because Kellersville was so centrally located in the county and had a large road into Easton, many citizens believed Kellersville would serve as a natural seat for the newly-formed county.
Daniel Stroud, son of town-founder Jacob Stroud, was responsible for the general development of Stroudsburg. Stroudsburg was nestled within three natural water boundaries: Brodhead Creek to the east; McMichaels Creek to the south, and Pocono Creek to the west. Daniel was inspired by the well-planned small towns and communities of New England. He was responsible not only for laying out wide and shaded downtown streets, but for obtaining a charter to designate Stroudsburg as a borough in 1815, separating it from Smithfield Township.
The special election to choose a county seat was held on July 2. ellersville and Stroudsburg emerged as the top two choices. Dutotsburg received the fewest votes and was quickly eliminated. A second election between Kellersville and Stroudsburg was held on July 26, 1836. A total of 2,194 votes were tallied, and Stroudsburg was declared the winner with only 70 votes separating the two communities.
Interestingly, both elections were filled with deception, fraud and misrepresentation. It was well-known that 14-year-old boys, too young to vote, had cast ballots. It was also discovered that names on the elections lists were fictitious and that many of the voters resided in the cemetery, their names taken from moss-covered tombstones. The total number of votes for both towns was 2,194 — 402 more adult men than were living in Monroe County at that time.
Following the fraudulent election, two Middle Smithfield men from the Board of Elections were charged with fraud and malpractice. The trial took place in Pike County (the Monroe County courts were not yet organized) with Judge Scott presiding over the case. His two associate judges were Judge Dingman and Judge Coolbaugh. Judge Scott threw out one of the counts against the defendants then abruptly left the bench, leaving Judge Dingman to fill in. According to the court’s written records, Judge Dingman declared he new nothing of the common law, but knew the Legislature and that he would “quash the other indictment on grounds of the Legislature.” The ruling by Judges Scott and Dingman ended the legal proceedings, but not the debate regarding which town should have been chosen the seat for the newly-formed Monroe County.