Brief history of Tunkhannock and Barrett townships

Part 9 of a series of articles commemorating the 175th anniversary of Monroe County

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

Tunkhannock Township

Tunkhannock Township is located in the northwestern portion of Monroe County and was formed in 1856 from lands taken from Coolbaugh Township. Tunkhannock is translated from the Native American word “tank-hanne” meaning “small stream.”

The Tunkhannock Creek runs through the center of the township, where it widens to form Long Pond, which is roughly three miles long and only a quarter-mile wide. This waterway empties into the Lehigh River to the west. A large portion of Tunkhannock Township is swampland and is heavily wooded. The main industry for the area was timbering, and many sawmills were established in this region to accommodate the harvesting of the trees. It is believed that the first sawmill was built in 1820 by Jasper VanVliet at Long Pond. Interestingly, the northwestern border of the infamous Walking Purchase of 1737 runs through Long Pond.

The early population in Tunkhannock was very sparse. The first permanent settlers in Tunkhannock Township were Peter Merwine and George Altemose. Merwine moved from Chestnuthill Township to the area now known as Tunkhannock Township in 1804. He married Susanna Denton and had ten children. Altemose also came from Chestnuthill Township in 1830; he and his wife raised 14 children. These early families survived off of the resources of the land. According to Mathew’s book, The History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, “game and fish were in abundance, and an hour spent at either of these sports would provide meat for several days.”

Tunkhannock’s first official post office opened on July 1, 1883 with Daniel Klase serving as the first postmaster. There were two early boarding houses located in Tunkhannock Township; one was run by S.F.Larzalere of Long Pond, and one was owned by Frank Meckes.

Just as in the past, the natural and rustic beauty of the woodlands remains an important characteristic of Tunkhannock Township. The untouched land offered a natural place for vast amounts of ground pine to thrive. Ground pine is a short plant that is essentially a transition between mosses and ferns which grows in large patches. Patches of ground pines resemble miniature Christmas tree farms. In the 1890s, Long Pond residents harvested ground pine and used the plants to create thousands of yards of garland rope. In 1896, there were reports that Tunkhannock Township citizens created 80,000 yards of the pine garland which was sold at Philadelphia markets for the holiday season.

Because of the cooler temperatures and moist environment found in this northern Monroe County township, Tunkhannock Township also sustains Rhodora, a small wild azalea with magenta flowers that bloom in the late spring. This is the southernmost place in North American to find this unique plant.

Tunkhannock Township may best be known to some as home of the Pocono Raceway which was built in Long Pond in the 1960s. The first race occurred in 1968, the first Indy 500 was in 1971, and the first NASCAR race was held in 1974.

In the 1880 census, only 292 people lived in the township. By 2010, 6,789 individuals called Tunkhannock Township home.

Early settlements in Tunkhannock Township:

  • Fern Ridge (Soxville)
    Long Pond

Barrett Township

Barrett Township is located in the northern portion of Monroe County and was officially created from parts of Price and Paradise townships on December 31, 1859, although the area had been settled much earlier.

John and Mary Price of Bucks County, Pennsylvania settled in present-day Barrett Township in 1756. Their first visit did not last long. Ill feelings between European settlers and the native Americans persisted in the region as a result of the infamous Walking Purchase that had occurred less than 20 years prior. The Price family was forced to leave when hostile relations became overwhelming. The Prices would return in 1764, where they remained and raised 12 children; many of their descendants are still in the area.

Other early settlers included the Albert, Bender, Boyer, Deubler, Gravel, Ink, Leek, Long, Seese, Smith, Sommers, Stright, and Utt families. The three largest villages in the township are Canadensis (named for the scientific name for the hemlock tree,
Tsugas canadensis), Cresco (once known as Oakland), and Mountainhome (once known as White’s Tannery).

Barrett Township was named for George Rodden Barrett. Barrett was a lawyer in Clearfield County, Pa., and was appointed judge in April of 1853 to fill a vacancy left open by the resignation of the Honorable Nathaniel P. Eldred. Barrett’s appointment was unpopular as he was neither from nor a resident of the judicial district. Six months later, Barrett, who had only been temporary, refused to run as a candidate.

Over the next two years, the office of President Judge would pass from James Madison Porter (who resigned following an “attack of paralysis”) to Thomas S. Bell of Chester County, Pa. Bell’s appointment was less popular than Barrett’s had been a year earlier. By 1855, Barrett declared his candidacy for the position and was elected without opposition. He presided as President Judge of Monroe County from 1855 to 1869. It was Judge Barrett who signed the documents creating Barrett Township.

Barrett Township is recognized for its dense forests and clean steams. The early industries of the township reflected the abundance of these natural resources. Bark from Barrett Township trees was used in the tanneries to process leather and pelts. Numerous lumber mills produced not only timber to be floated down the Delaware River to Philadelphia markets, but created items such as clothes pins, roof shingles, shoe pegs, barrels and spragues (used for breaking cars in coal mines).

Mountainhome General Store

The first school in the township was built in 1845 with Anthony Ramer serving as the first schoolteacher. The first post office was built in 1846 and was located in Coveville with Simon Stright as the first postmaster. Coveville no longer exists but was located roughly two miles north of present-day Canadensis. Area parishioners with the Methodist faith began services in 1853 while residents who followed the Moravian faith began worshiping in John Deubler’s home before a frame-structure church was built in 1859.

In 1856, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad created its only stop in Barrett Township in Cresco. In addition to businesses benefiting from the rail line, the resort industry also flourished and promoted the beauty of the area. Vacationers traveled from New York, Philadelphia, and beyond to experience the outdoors and to breathe the clean mountain air. Early owners of area boarding houses and resorts entertained their guests by exploiting the outdoors: picnicking and fishing in the summer; tobogganing and skiing in the winter.

When the township was formed in 1859, the population was 701 residents. By the 1880s, the population had increased to 1,149. In 2010, Barrett Township housed 4,225 residents.

Early settlements in Barrett Township:

  • Buck Hill Falls