Pike County
By William Westfall, Rowlands

Pike county was taken from Wayne by the act of March 26th, 1814. One or more terms of court was held at a little hamlet called Willsonville, on the east bank of the Waullenpaupack, at the extreme western boundary of the county. From there the county seat was removed to Milford, on the bank of the Delaware river, having crossed the entire county and gained the most extreme eastern point. The courts were held in a hotel kept by George Bowhannan, until the court house could be erected.

One, and perhaps the most valuable resource of the county, has nearly disappeared from its borders. At an early day the whole county was Covered with a dense forest of white and yellow pine, oak, ash, and hickory, while three or four of the western townships could boast of having the best hemlock land in the State; in fact, one was named Green, from the circumstance that the foliage of the forest never changed. A few years ago, saw mills dotted every mountain stream; lumber manufactured, and in the log, covered the banks wherever an eddy could be found suitable for rafting, and in the spring and fall a majority of the male population were floating their hard-earned products down the Delaware in search for a market. Agriculture so thrived in the Valleys and along the streams. Perhaps there is no better land in the world than the flats along the Delaware. Wheat, rye, and corn grow exuberantly, and the husbandman's reward can be seen in the neat buildings and the well-kept herds. Although lumbering for a livelihood is among the things of the past, yet the mountain land which a few years ago was nearly valueless, Is now sought after by capitalists and skilled quarrymen. Flag and worked stone are extensively shipped by the Delaware and Hudson canal, and over the Erie road and its branches, from Lackawaxen and Shohola townships, to the Value of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

The earliest settlements made by Europeans in what is now Pike county was along the Delaware river, below Milford, by a party of Hollanders who came from Esopus (now Kingston), on the Hudson river. The precise date when these settlements were made is not known, but it was at a period previous to the arrival of Penn. In the year 1730 the Proprietaries appointed Nicholas Scull, the famous surveyor, to proceed on a tour of investigation up the Delaware river and find out by observation whether there were any white settlements north and west of the great mountain. John Lukens, afterwards surveyor-general of Pennsylvania, accompanied Scull on this expedition. From a letter of Samuel Preston, of Stock Port, in Wayne county, who was a deputy-surveyor under John Lukens, published in 1787, we learn that Messrs. Scull and Lukens were "much surprised by seeing large groves of apple trees far beyond the size of any near Philadelphia." The next settlement, if it could be called one, was made at Mast Hope, a little hamlet now on the Erie railroad, in Lackawaxen township. Here a cabin was built by a party of hunters and trappers, a clearing made, and a number of apple trees set out. It was afterwards claimed as Manor land, and the present owners of the property have the deed in their possession bearing the Proprietary seal. About 1760, a family by the name of Cox left the settlement below Milford, for a new location. Arriving at Mast Hope, they were struck with astonishment to find a large and thrifty orchard of apple trees superior in size to those in the settlement which they had left. No vestige of a habitation was found, and the family as a consequence considered themselves masters. Several tracts of land were afterwards taken up and patented by them In the vicinity. After enduring innumerable hardships from hunger and cold, and eking out a miserable existence for a number of years, they became tired of their isolation and returned to the haunts of civilization. Upon visiting the old grave-yards of the county, the last resting-place of many of the old settlers, can be found the record of such names as Walker, Kimble, Roberts, Holbert, Dlmmick, Mott, Bowhannan, Biddis, McCarty, Dingman, Drake, Yan Etten, Quick, Brodhead, Nyce, Westbrook, and many others.

On the 22d day of July, 1779, near what is now the little town of Lackawaxen, was fought one of the fiercest Indian battles on record. Although this massacre took place in the State of New York, nothing but the pure waters of the Delaware separate the battle-ground from Pike county, and a brief history of that dreadful day's proceedings may not be ought of place In this sketch. Early In July, Captain Brant, the half-breed Indian chief, left the Susquehanna with some four hundred warriors, to make an incursion into the Delaware valley. The settlers received timely warning, and threw out scouts to watch the approach of the invaders. The wily Indians turned a short corner, struck for the upper Delaware, crossed near Mast Hope, at a place known as Grassy Brook, clambered over the mountains, and by forced marches reached the little town of Minisink, where the thriving village of Port Jervis now stands. The inhabitants saved themselves by flight, but the town was sacked, the horses and cattle driven away, and the buildings reduced to a mass of smoking ruins. Flushed with success, the invaders moved slowly up the Delaware with their plunder, keeping the York State side. While these scenes were transpiring, the people of Orange county raised about one hundred and fifty men, and put them on the trail of the savages. On the night of the 21st the Indians encamped at the mouth of Beaver brook. The pursuing party lay four or five miles further down the river. On the fatal morning of the 22d, both parties were early in motion. Brant had reached the ford at the mouth of the Lackawaxen, and a good part of his plunder was safe in Pike county. The whites held a short consultation at the Indian encampment, and the more prudent urged a return. The deliberations were cut short by a Captain Meeker, who boldly stepped to the front, exclaiming, "Let brave men follow me." This had the desired effect, and nearly the whole party were once more in hot pursuit. Two short miles brought them to the ford. A large body of the enemy could be seen upon the opposite shore. A few shots were fired, and one Indian was seen to roll down the bank towards the river. About this time a heavy volley was fired Into the whites from the high hills in the rear, which awakened them to a sense of their danger and the fatal mistake they had committed of leaving the only avenue of escape in the hands of the enemy. The officers in command ordered a rush to be made for the high ground. The Indians fell back, and chose their own position ; the pursued recrossed the river, and this brave but doomed band of patriotic whites were cut off from water, and surrounded by their merciless enemies. The sun poured out its fierce heat, and all through that long sweltering July day the battle raged with unmitigated fury. When night closed around the combatants, some twenty-five or thirty made a dash for the river, headed by Major Wood, who, through mistake, made the grand masonic hailing sign of distress as he approached the spot where Brant was standing. The Indian, true to his obligations, allowed the party to pass. They swam the river and made their escape into the wilds of Pike county. A few more escaped under the cover of darkness, and the rest lay upon the hillside cold in the arms of death. In the year 1822, the bones of friend and foe were picked up, put in boxes, taken to Goshen, in Orange county, given decent burial, and a beautiful monument, erected by a public-spirited citizen of the place, marks the spot where the bones of the heroes lay who fought what is known as the Battle of the Minisink. The details of this terrible disaster to the early settlers of this region have been gathered from the descendants of those who were living at that day.

The Delaware and Hudson canal crosses the Delaware river at Lackawaxen by a fine suspension aqueduct, and passes along the west bank of the Lackawaxen river to Honesdale. The Honesdale and Hawley branch of the Erie railroad is located upon the eastern bank, and over these two works a large portion of the coal mined in the Wyoming valley finds its way to a market. In this part of the county are a number of beautiful lakes, where the disciples of Isaac Walton spend many a pleasant hour. The famous Indian fighter, Tom Quick, was well acquainted with this part of the country in his day, and skulked around the ponds or lakes to slay what he called one of the accursed race. Like the Wandering Jew, he had no abiding place, but was continually on the move to fulfill the oath he had made when a young man to kill one hundred Indians during his lifetime. It is stated that before his mission was accomplished he was taken seriously ill, and was supposed would not recover. He prayed continually for life and health to carry out his project. He eventually recovered, the number of Indians were slain, when his old and trusty friend, the rifle, was oiled up and laid away never more to be handled by its owner. He left his old haunts, and died shortly after. He is sleeping his last sleep on the banks of the Delaware, between Shohola and Milford.

The first settlement made at MILLPORD was about the year 1779, by a Hollander named Vandermark, who gave the name to the creek north of the town. He also took up and patented a tract of land, which is still outside of the corporate limits of the village. In the year 1800 there were but two houses and a blacksmith shop on the site. The whole plain at that time was thickly grown over with pine, stunted oak, and bushes, with dense forests of hemlock skirting the mountain streams. The plateau, upon which the town is built, rises some three or four hundred feet above the waters of the Delaware river, which is the eastern boundary of the town. In the year 1814 it became the county seat, and was laid out with broad streets, crossing at right angles. In 1870, a new court-house was erected, at an expense of some forty-five thousand dollars. In 1874, the act of incorporation was passed.

DINGMAN, eight miles down the Delaware river, is a small hamlet noted as a favorite summer resort. BUSHKILL, still further down the river, is a quiet village. MATAMOBAS, eight miles above Milford, lies on the bank of the Delaware river; it is a thriving, growing town. LACKAWAXEN, twenty miles further up the river, derives its name from the stream which here empties into the Delaware; it is a busy, bustling place. MAST HOPE, flve miles above on the river, is built upon the bank of the stream from which it derives its name. ROWLANDS, MILLVILLE, and KIMBLES, are post towns on the Hawley and Honesdale branch of the Erie railway. At each place there is a thriving, industrious population, the principal occupations being lumbering and stone quarrying.

ORGANIZATION OP TOWNSHIPS.-Blooming Grove was erected December 17, 1860, from parts of Lackawaxen and Palmyra; Dingman, April 17, 1832, from Upper Smithfield; Green, April 24, 1839, from Palmyra; Lehman, August 19, 1829, from Delaware; Milford, April 17, 1832, from Upper Smithfield; Porter, December 16, 1851, from parts of Delaware and Lehman; Shohola, September 25, 1852, from parts of Lackawaxen, Westfall, and Milford; Westfall, January 31, 1839, from Milford. Pike county, at its organization, comprised the townships of Middle Smithfield, Delaware, Upper Smithfield, Lackawaxen, and Palmyra.

SOURCE: Page(s) 1049-1052, An Illustrated History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, civil, Political, and Military, From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Including Historical Descriptions of Each County in the the State, Their Towns, and Industrial Resources; William H. Egle M.D., Harrisburg; 1876.