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Blakely Borough


The following is quoted from Thomas Murphy's 1928 History of Lackawanna County . 1 (Remember that references to now or today refer to 1928 and do not necessarily reflect life in 2003.)

 

Blakely Borough territorially represents only a small part of what was once Blakely Township and which took in all the Lackawanna Valley north of Scranton up to and including Carbondale. Out of Blakely Township was carved Blakely, Archbald, Dickson City, Throop, Winton, and Olyphant boroughs. Carbondale Township was formed from Blakely and Greenfield Townships. Carbondale City and Mayfield Borough were taken out of Carbondale Township, Jermyn Borough from Blakely. The township is now non-existent. The jurisdiction of the Blakely poor district conforms to the original township boundaries. Commissioners appointed in 1880 apportioned the floating indebtedness among the boroughs. Blakely is now generally refer to as Peckville.

Blakely Township was formed in 1818 from Providence and Greenfield Townships. The lines of the certified township of Providence originally ran to about the present day Olyphant. Blakely Borough was created August 27, 1867. It was the first subdivision carved out of Blakely Township if we except the parcel taken in 1831, which with a section from Greenfield constituted what became Carbondale Township. Blakely was named after Captain Jonathan Blakely, who commanded the American sloop "Wasp" in the battle with the British sloop "Avon" in 1814.

Little did the early settlers in Blakely, who directed their industry to clearing the timber and farming, realize the wealth in coal that was theirs. That they should have sold the mineral rights or leased them at a ridiculously low figure, as many did, is not surprising when it is understood that up to 1825 or 1830 or even later a majority of the inhabitants of the township had never seen a coal fire or grate. Out of the bosom of Blakely hundreds of millions of tons of the finest anthracite has been taken, enriching great railroads, mining company stockholders and individuals -- absentee owners for the most part. Mining has been carried on in one part or another of the old township for a full 100 years and there is still as much if not more coal unmined than has been taken out. Nature's face has been scarred by many mining operations and in some parts caves and settlings have done much damage to surface properties. That old Blakely is still a great anthracite industrial center is due to nature's lavish gifts, not to any particular effort by those who profited most from the taking of these gifts.

Earliest settlers in the Lackawanna Valley located in what is now Scranton, Taylor and Old Forge. Timothy Stevens, a Revolutionary soldier from Westchester, NY, was first to make a clearing in Blakely. He brought his family with him. When Stevens built a rude hut near the present day Dickson City in 1786, that section was in Providence Township. In 1795 Nicholas F Leuchens, an eccentric German, threw up a log cabin where Peckville now stands. Captain John Vaughn made a pitch in the township in 1797 and Moses Dolph in 1798. In 1814 Stevens built a grist mill on the Lackawanna above Priceburg which later became known as Mott's Mill. This was the first mill of its kind north of Providence. Of the eight mills in old Providence Township in 1800, two were located in that part which afterward was taken to help form Blakely. These were operated by Captain John Vaughn and Stevens.

Of Nicholas Leuchens, second settler in Blakely, an interesting account is given by Dr Hollister in his History of Lackawanna . Leuchens had been a merchant in Hamburg. He fled his native land to escape conscription, landing in Philadelphia in 1795. Leuchens was cultured, fond of display, a clever linguist. From Wilkes-Barre, whither he repaired shortly after reaching Philadelphia, Leuchens wandered up the Lackawanna Valley to the present location of Peckville. Where he elected to build himself a home in the woods was two miles or so north of Timothy Stevens' clearing. He took possession of some 500 acres of land. Hollister says that this eccentric character, who had a special dread of ghosts, taught school in Wilkes-Barre in 1806. Leuchens with the years heavy upon him appears to have lost his farm and sometime later, returned to Philadelphia, where he died.

Elder John Miller, of the Abingtons, in 1856 gave to Dr Hollister his recollection of the Lackawanna Valley in 1804 as he remembered it. Of what later became of Blakely he said: "The Vaughan farm was occupied by John Tripp. The orchard spread over the meadow on the western bank of the Lackawanna at Priceburg. Upon the Luke and Michael Decker farm, (later purchased by Price and Pancoast), lived William McDaniel. Priceburg stands on the Decker farm. Above Leuchens the axe had rung only to mark the course of the trapper or trader coming from Pleasant Mount and but a single cabin stood in between. Blakely, Carbondale, Rushdale (Jermyn), Archbald and Jessup, had no impulse even toward a settlement, nor was there a township formed in the valley north of Providence. Upon the farm known as Dolph's, in Olyphant, lived Moses Dolph, father of Alexander and grandfather to Edward Dolph; immediately below, Samuel Ferris won by hard toil a resting place for his young family. From Ferris's to John Secor's it was nothing but woods." Secor's was in what is now Throop, about two miles from Dunmore corners.

An idea of the primitive life in Blakely in early days is gained by remembering that no bridge spanned the Lackawanna above what is now the gas house bridge in Scranton; there were no schools or churches, nor mills. "Slocum's" at Slocum Hollow was the nearest mill. Wolves were numerous and bold so much so that cattle and sheep had to be kept in a strong enclosure; the nearest store was in Wilkes-Barre, pine knots were used for lightning; sweet fern substituted for tea; markings upon trees through the woods directed the path of a pioneer.

Blakely was without a real highway until about 1826 when the Luzerne and Wayne County road was authorized. In 1824 a post office was established in Blakely and N Cottrell was appointed postmaster. Mail was received once a week or so. The D & H gravity railroad built from Honesdale to Carbondale in the latter part of the 1820-1830 decade, was not extended down the valley to Archbald until the middle forties following. Some years later the gravity was further extended to Olyphant and eventually the D & H reached into Scranton. Up to 1845 only one mine -- White Oak, at Archbald -- had been opened in the whole valley between Carbondale and Scranton. In 1840 the population of the all Blakely Township was but 570. Elisha Potter was the first justice of the peace in the township. Prior to the D & H extending its system from Carbondale to Scranton a line of stages carried passengers from Scranton to Carbondale. For many years, "10 Mile Tavern," north of Priceburg, was the only house of public entertainment in the township. The earliest church denomination in the township was the Baptist, which from 1820 to 1843 was a branch of the Baptist society of Greenfield, The first industry, aside from mining and lumbering, was the sash and door factory of Samuel Peck & Bro, at Peckville, established in 1831. The town was named after the Pecks. Harper Lodge of Odd Fellows was instituted April 25, 1870.

Blakely Borough's first election was held at the house of L Lillibridge, October 8, 1867. J B Keynon was elected burgess; W H Hull, Jr, C D Barber, J W Peck, Alexander Berry and William Bell, councilmen; G M Hull, George Newton, W H Hughes, William C McCormack, Theron Ferris and Thomas Kelley, school directors; L L Lyons and A C Wise, overseers of the poor; David Lewis, constable; L Littlebridge, J H Fisher, D Aylesworth, assessors; William Page, Ebenezer Davis and C Gray, auditors; Edward Jones, justice of the peace. The borough ordinances were adopted in 1868. The land within the borough comprises the C Weaver, J Randall, D Sherrard, J Angle, E London and B McLean warrantee tracts.

As previously mentioned the First Baptist Church was formed as a branch of the Greenfield Church in 1820 and supplied by Elders John Finn, John Miller, J B Chase, and W K Mott. In 1843 it was formed into a separate church with 27 members. Elders W K Mott, Silas Finn, D E Bowen and Henry Curtis officiating at the institution. The first meeting house, built in 1832, but left unfinished many years, is still standing. A new church was erected in 1873 and in 1880 a mission chapel was erected at Peckville. Itinerant Methodist clergymen had preached in Blakely previous to 1857 when the Methodist Episcopal Church, at Peckville, was organized as a mission. Rev Davis Williams, of Providence, was the first pastor. Services were held in the old school house. In 1860 the Blakely mission was organized as the Blakely charge and included members in Olyphant, Archbald and Jermyn. The pastor, Rev J C Woodruff, resided in Archbald. Rev I T Walker, who became pastor in 1862, was the first to reside in Peckville on a lot donated by J W Peck. A church was built in 1868 during the pastorate of Rev S F Wright. The church was dedicated July 4, with Rev Dr R Nelson, of Wyoming Seminary, officiating. The first parsonage was built in 1877 on a lot donated by the New York & Erie Coal Company. The Sunday school was organized in 1868 with G W Thomas as superintendent. The original trustees were: C D Barber, G W Thomas, William Purdy, A Berry, J W Peck, G W Thomas (sic), S F White, James Hurd and William Williams.

With the opening of the mines in Carbondale about 1828 communication with Wilkes-Barre became more frequent. Naturally that was through and by way of Blakely. A weekly stage ran through Blakely beginning about 1836 and in 1845 this service was increased to stage service three times a week. The "10 Mile Tavern" was one of the stopping places. In 1833 the Carbondale & Blakely turnpike was formed. An express service was extended to Blakely about 1870. The toll gates on the Carbondale & Providence turnpike were torn down by citizens December 7, 1889. The New York Ontario & Western railroad was extended through Blakely in 1889 or 1890. Peckville has two fire companies. The Peckville National Bank was opened July 5, 1905. The Peckville Journal , a weekly, was established in 1900 by Harlan P Woodward. The Mid-Valley Hospital is located in Blakely.

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Notes

  1. Murphy, Thomas, Jubilee History Commemorative of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Creation of Lackawanna County Pennsylvania, Volume I , Topeka, Indianapolis: Historical Publishing Company, 1928, pp488-90.
Modified Sunday, 15-Aug-2004 22:48:25 MDT