"You have the airport named backwards."
- from the NBC series "The Office"
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The Lingo of Northeast PA
Most of the towns listed here are located in northeastern Pennsylvania. If warranted and/or interesting, some of the towns, counties and regions listed are from outside of the immediate area. If you notice any inaccuracies, please e-mail the correct information. Also note that this is a 'beta' version of this site. It remains unedited in parts.
Around 1794, one Colonel Ebbings, a land agent from New England, granted land titles to settlers arriving from Connecticut and Rhode Island. The titles encompassed an area known informally as Beechwoods, and as these settlers arrived they named the area Ebbington, in honor of the colonel and out of gratitude for the opportunity to own better farmlands. (It's quite possible the region was named Ebbington also to help cement the land-grab that was underway; should any land disputes come to trial with the locals, the area would already sound "New Englandish.")
Over the next few years however, as Pennsylvania authorities increasingly challenged any Connecticut claims, the value of the Yankees' titles diminished, as did Colonel Ebbings' popularity. So in 1806, Ebbington became Abington, the similar-sounding name taken from a small Connecticut settlement. (The Abingtons of northeast Pennsylvania bear no direct relationship to the Abington north of Philadelphia, which was named by settlers from Abington, Massachusetts.) These land conflicts were hardly limited to the Abington region, and eventually led to a series of land showdowns between Pennsylvania and Connecticut settlers. Remember that much of current-day Pennsylvania was deeded to William Penn by King Charles II, who was probably oblivious to much of New World geography, let alone land claims by Connecticut expansionists. A contributing factor to the dicey situation was that following the Revolutionary War, Congress had little or no money. In order to "pay" veterans, authorities would grant them land to settle, land that in some cases was already claimed by someone else. (For instance, Congress granted land in the Carbondale area to the Wurts Brothers of Philadelphia as payment for providing army uniforms in the War of 1812, though this particular land tract appears to have spawned no conflict.) Apparently, Connecticut authorities aggravated matters by believing some divine hand gave them ownership over the entire northern third of Pennsylvania, part of an imaginary swath of ownership that extended clear to the Pacific.
(See more at Clarks Summit, below.)
Meaning "white" and inspired by the pure and clear stream of water flowing through this locality in north-central Pennsylvania.
The word comes from the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. Its meaning is not definitively known but is usually translated as "fine river." There is a Lenape legend of an ancient tribe called the "Allegewi" who lived on the river and were defeated by the Lenape. Allegheny is the French spelling, as in the Allegheny River which was once part of New France. Allegany is the English spelling, as in Allegany County in the former British colony of Maryland.
A township in the Reading area. Some of the first settlers in southeastern Pennsylvania were French Huguenots from the Alsace region, particularly its cathedral city of Strasburg, the local version of which is pronounced STRAZZ'-burg. As with England's Berwick area (see below), Alsace suffered from a type of schizophrenia induced by alternate claims of ownership either at the hands of Germany or France over the centuries, an ordeal that included a fair amount of religious persecution. In the late 1700s some of these folks struck a deal in London with William Penn, and it wasn't long before yet another batch of settlers was heading across the Atlantic, making a beeline for the port of Philadelphia. Home to several taverns, a type of establishment that often attracted lowlifes no matter where they were located, Strassburg for a short time was known to the locals as "Hell's Hole," though it never developed a reputation as a good place to catch Spinal Tap live in concert.
From the Latin altus, meaning 'high,' located high in the Allegheny mountains. Another explanation is that the name comes from the Cherokee word allatoona, meaning "high lands of great worth." What's even more fascinating is the apparent similarity between the Latin and Cherokee words for "high." Another possibility is that the name comes from the German city of Altona, located near Hamburg.
This name is not an example of mere feel-good comradeship. It denotes something a bit more concrete, namely the friendship established between local Indians and the Swedish settlers introduced into this Berks County township by William Penn. Such Amity among diverse cultures was not a sure deal in colonial times, and when it occurred it deserved to be acknowledged.
Analomink (Monroe county)
Taken from an Indian word meaning "tumbling water."
Apolacon Township (Susquehanna county)
Apparently means "from where the messenger returned." Apalachin, New York is not all that far away, and this word has been translated as "from where the messenger comes."
The word Appalachia derives from Apalachee, the name of a tribe historically associated with northern Florida. After the de Soto expedition around 1540, Spanish cartographers began applying the name of the tribe to the mountains themselves. The name was not commonly applied to the entire mountain range until the late 19th century. A more popular name was the "Allegheny Mountains" and even "Alleghania." In the early 19th century, Washington Irving proposed renaming the United States either Appalachia or Alleghania. Irving may have also played a role in the naming of Carbondale, but fortunately stopped short of proposing 'Carbondale' as a flashy name for the entire country.
Aquashicola (Carbon County)
The community name derives from the Indian term for "where we fish with bush net." (Making the explanation rife with possibilities for those with active imaginations, thank you.)
Ararat Township (Susquehanna county)
The name origin was influenced in an intermediary way, it is said, by Mt. Ararat in Monroe County. Ultimately the name commemorates the final resting place of Noah's Ark.
Linking regional coal mines to the New York area, the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company played a prominent role in the development of the Lackawanna Valley and in the naming of its towns. Archbald was named in 1846 for James Archbald, a senior mechanical engineer on the D&H and apparently the first mayor of Carbondale. He's widely credited with upgrading the standards of the rail lines between here and the greater New York area. Prior to this time, Archbald was known as White Oak Run. ('Run' refers to any body of water with a current, as in running water.) At some 18 square miles Archbald is the seventh largest borough in Pennsylvania, making it about 72% the size of Scranton in terms of area. One legend holds that a group of Indians, paid by the British to torment local settlers, hid their British gold in an Archbald cave, the location of which is still a matter of question. Side note: it was not uncommon for British authorities to pay Indians to antagonize and terrorize settlers who sought independence. Archbald was also the site of an anti-draft demonstration in 1862. In 1866, the town's Young Men's Institute helped display the true colors of northeast PA by staging a play called "The Drunkard."
This township in Bradford county on the New York state line supposedly signifies "heavenly mountain." It was named around 1803.
At times known as Coalville and Scrabbletown (a nod to the "scrabbling" -- clutching and clawing -- needed to survive in this coal town). Over the years Ashley also went by the names of Peestown, Nanticoke Junction, and worse, Skunktown. In the later 1800s Ashley took its name in honor in the wealthy Herbert Henry Ashley of Wilkes-Borough.
Located near Wyalusing, Asylum (alternately referred to on some maps as French Asylum or even Azilum) was established in 1794 as an asylum for French aristocracy and royalty at the time of the French revolution. Reputedly the several members of the French advance team had a tough go of the harsher climate of northeast PA and eventually high-tailed it back to Paris. The original structures from their visit are apparently gone, although a few artifacts do remain, making for a minor tourist attraction. The spot was once visited by Louis Phillipe, later to become king. Another famed visitor was the diplomat -- not to mention land speculator -- Talleyrand, who found a natural spring near what is now State College and appropriately named the spot Bellefonte, where a Talleyrand Park exists today. The French colonists eventually spread outwards from Asylum, leaving behind their influence upon towns that include Laporte and Dushore (see below), as well as Frenchtown and Roulette.
Named for the famous ornithologist and great painter of birds, John James Audubon, who lived here as a young adult. Snubbed by the scientific community in Philadelphia, Audubon earned his first fame in Britain. His parentage was not certain, leading some to claim he was the "Lost Dauphin" of France. The town is located in Montgomery county, north of Philly.
Once known as Pleasant Valley, Avoca took -- or shall we say received its name, in winding-road fashion, possibly from the valley town of the same name on the southeast coast of Ireland. Further, it's been suggested there was a deliberate irony to the choice. In the 1800s there was a popular poem entitled "Meeting of the Waters" by Thomas Moore. It contained the line "the sweet vale of Avoca" and discussed the wretched lives beneath a facade of happiness in this Irish town. When you consider the role of a disastrous 1888 train wreck (the Mud Run Disaster) that killed 29 Pleasant Valley residents, the appropriate nature of the irony becomes clear. During that year, local temperance societies ran an excursion train to an event in Hazleton. The train wrecked on the return trip, at Mud Run near White Haven. However, it was a couple years earlier, sometime between 1885 and 1887, when the post office picked the name Avoca to reduce the confusion of having four Pleasant Valleys in eastern Pennsylvania alone. At the time, the local volunteer fire crew went by the name Avoca Hose Company, so they're the ones to point the finger at. Regardless, Avoca is one of several Pennsylvania towns whose name came from Europe. These days Avoca carries the dubious distinction of being the home to the only airport in the world named backwards (the so-called "Wilkes-Barre"/Scranton Airport), which may be the reason we lost the local bureau of the National Weather Service because of the loss of credibility involved. Although the "Vale of Tears" story has circulated for years, there are some informed folks who believe the whole thing is a myth, so take it with a grain of salt. Also, Avoca in Gaelic/Irish apparently means "where the waters meet."
Oh what a clever bunch the Mann Clan was. If you read further down you'll see how some Manns were instrumental in the naming of Mansfield. But the fun didn't stop there, as in 1828 this place in Centre County was named to commemorate the axe factory of Harvey and William Mann. The Manns had the presence of mind not to get into the donkey business, or else we'd have an early version of the memorable Seinfeld "Ass-man" dialogue in praise of Kramer's favorite proctologist.
Curious names in this part of the state are not limited to towns. Take Bald Mountain, for instance. The summit of Bald Mountain, to the west of Scranton, is known for occasional high winds that supposedly have prevented the full growth of trees. As a result, the top of the mountain has a distinct "bald spot."
Named by Quakers from the lake region of northern Wales who brought over the names of two nearby towns, Bala and Cynwyd.
Not to be confused with Blue Ball, and certainly not to be confused with the occasional derogatory word for Scranton: Scrotum. Located in the Williamsport area, Balls Mills celebrates the initiative and ingenuity of the Ball family, who actually did have a nerve or two, thank you. It was the unfortunate John Ball who arrived from England in the 1790s and opened up a saw mill, only to drown while getting washed up one day in a nearby stream. Fortunately, his son Bill Ball had the cajones to open up a wool mill. Being rightfully proud of his operation and seeing it as part of the family jewels, so to speak, Bill Ball soon named the operation Balls Mills, though it's not sure if the locals felt he had the nads to pull the venture off successfully. Bill must have replied "nuts to you," because he eventually opened up a couple other mills and attracted clients from across the United States.
Balltown (Forest county)
Nothing terribly exciting about this name origin: A saw mill was built here in 1823 by three gentlemen, including one Isaac Ball. In case the workers at the mill ever worked up an appetite, it's been said the place was always stocked with one barrel of flour -- and two barrels of whiskey.
Founded in 1831 by Colonel Joseph Barton who opened a hotel and post office here. A former businessman in East Stroudsburg, Barton eventually moved again, this time ending up in Waymart, which he helped found.
Bath, in the Lehigh Valley, was laid out by the Scotch-Irish prior to the Revolution. It takes its name from Bath, England, birthplace of a Margaret DeLancey who sold tracts of land here to early settlers. Mrs. DeLancey was the daughter of William Allen, for whom Allentown is named. Bath is also known as the "home" of American homeopathy, a distinction that dates to 1824.
Located in Wayne County, this community probably takes its name from the abundance of nearby beech trees and an overabundance of poor spellers.
Located in western Pennsylvania, this region reflects our early settlers' fascination with all things beaver (and, quite frankly, who can blame them). Home to Beaver College since the 1850s (the small, all-women's state treasure moved to the Philly area in 1925), Beaver County has held steadfast to its heritage and resisted all attempts to "upgrade" its image by choosing a new name. You see, Beaver College over the years got sick and tired of all the "beaver jokes" flung around at its expense. For instance, comedian David Letterman once suggested that Beaver College would make a fine home for the Clinton presidential library. (Howard Stern and Conan O'Brien got in on the act too.) So in 2001, Beaver College became the supposedly satire-proof Arcadia University. Part of the problem had been that when graduates would hang Beaver College diplomas on their walls, people would say "Is that a joke?," according to the college president. He decried the (to him, at least) "vulgar" connection between the old name and a strategic part of the female anatomy. The college's research showed that the school appealed to 30 percent fewer prospective students solely because of the name. And the problems worsened with the rise of the Internet, since some Web filters intended to screen out sexually explicit material blocked access to the Beaver College web site. The word 'beaver' itself has held such lofty connotations at least since the early part of the 20th century, by the way. A collection of limericks and witty poems entitled Immortalia (1927) once contained the playful line "She took off her clothes from her head to her toes and the voice at the keyhole yelled beaver!" Despite the problems of Beaver College, our healthy fascination with this pesky rodent will carry on seemingly forever in towns like New Beaver, North Beaver, Beaver Falls, Beaverdale, and even Tamaqua, an Indian name meaning, what else, "beaver." Someday this site may even discuss the mother of all beaver towns, located in Kentucky and known as Big Beaver Lick (no comment). In literature, the glories of Beaver County have been described by no less than Rudyard Kipling who visited in the 1890s, well after locals stopped calling the town of Beaver simply "The Beaver Reservation," something that Bill Clinton never needed with Monica Lewinsky.
One of several unofficial sectional nicknames in Scranton such as Bull's Head and Bunker Hill, the Bellevue section of West Side is simply a derivative of the French phrase meaning "beautiful view." Indeed, on a clear day one can get a beautiful view of such elegant landmarks as the Sun Hotel, the Hilltop housing project and the Salvation Army building.
Benton, in Columbia County, was named in 1838 for Thomas Benton, a nationally popular senator from Missouri. Sen. Benton almost killed Andrew Jackson in an 1813 duel but eventually patched things up to the point where he supported Jackson in his successful 1828 presidential campaign. Benton himself was occasionally encouraged by other politicians and newspapers to run for president, but he never expressed any interest. He served in the Senate for 30 years but was eventually driven out of office in 1850 over the slavery question and the rifts this created within the Democratic party. Note: Benton Township, in Lackawanna County, appears to have the same name origin. Also, note that another Benton is located in Lancaster County.
Here's an obvious example of a German influence upon Wayne County.
Religious persecution in the 18th century did not confine itself to Europe. The Quakers in particular suffered persecution both in England and in the New World (with the notable exception of Rhode Island). "Quaker" itself was once a derogatory word, referring to expressive mannerisms seen during services of the Society of Friends, as they are formally known.
Founded in 1786 as a place of religious refuge, Berwick takes its name from Berwick-upon-Tweed, a coastal town on the northeast corner of England. Home to many Quakers, Berwick's location on the English/Scottish border made it the target of frequent border disputes; over the past few hundred years claims to Berwick-upon-Tweed have bounced back and forth between England and Scotland more than a dozen times. Add this to the religious intolerance and you find conditions ripe for a new Berwick, this time on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.
In 1741, a group of Moravians (priests/missionaries) came to this area near the Lehigh River. Part of the oldest organized Protestant denomination in the world, the Unitas Fratrum, these followers gathered at their Lehigh Valley settlement on Christmas Eve that year for special ceremonies. The occasion was heightened by a visit from the Moravians' patron, Count von Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany, who was paying an extended visit. During a rousing ceremony filled with emotion, the Count reportedly laid great emphasis on the legend of the original Bethlehem. His followers were so struck by the moment that it appeared more than appropriate to call this settlement Bethlehem as well. Note that Moravian College still exists in this city today. The Moravians can also take credit for naming nearby Nazareth and Emmaus, taken straight from the time of Christ. One of the great chroniclers of town-name origins in our commonwealth was a Penn State professor named Abraham Howry Espenshade. Writing in 1925 in his classic work Pennsylvania Place Names, Espenshade remarked, "It is noteworthy that Bethlehem, whose name commemorates the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, has become famous throughout the world as one of the most important American centers for the manufacture of munitions of war."
Here is one of several towns named after the many taverns and inns that sprung up along well-travelled routes, in this case the Old Philadelphia Pike as it winded its way toward Lancaster. Since many of the horsemen were either illiterate or unfamiliar with English, taverns needed signs rich in visual content. The "Bird in Hand" tavern supposedly featured a painting of a man holding a bird in his hand, pondering whether the one he already had was worth ditching for the two that were perched in the nearby bush. Other tavern signs in olden days were even more simplistic, featuring images of ships, hats, plows, horses, wagons, and maybe even a beaver or two. The legend behind the bird-in-hand story contends that two surveyors along the future pike from Philly to Lancaster were wondering whether to pack it in for the night at the isolated spot they were at, or whether they should head in toward Lancaster for the evening. This prompted the wiser (and more annoying) one to utter the proverbial "bird in hand" phrase, much to the dismay of his partner who may have expressed a distinct preference for bush over bird.
Nearby rivers and creeks have often lent their names to towns. Black Walnut, for example, near Meshoppen on Route 6, was once a settlement called Black Walnut Bottom, referring to the black walnut often found covering the bottom of the nearby creek.
Named to honor Captain Johnston Blakely, a naval hero in the War of 1812 and a man who probably never stepped foot in the borough. Blakely, an Irishman and the commanding officer of the American sloop Wasp (at least one source refers to it as the Hornet), was lost at sea off the Azores in 1815, probably in a storm. At Lake Erie, Blakely successfully engaged the British ships Avon and Reindeer. (Lake Ariel, below, may also have a War of 1812 connection.) At Blakely Corners today we see the massive anchor from the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, the ninth Wasp commissioned by the U.S. Navy. One of the earliest settlers here was a German from Hamburg named Nicholas Leuchens, who arrived in 1795 (to avoid the German draft) and it's said had a tremendous fear of ghosts. Murphy's History of Lackawanna County (1928) says Leuchens was cultured, "fond of display" (let's not go there!), and a clever linguist. This final point was contested by Mrs. Leuchens, who insisted 'til her dying day that Nick was none less than a cunning linguist, one of the finest that Blakely has ever known.
Originally known as Eyersburg, then Eyertown, for Ludwig Eyer who laid out the town in 1802. The town was incorporated in 1870 as Bloomsburg by Samuel Bloom, a county commissioner. Quick question: How many towns are there in Pennsylvania? Just one: Bloomsburg, the only municipality that is classified technically as a "town." Everything else is a city, township, borough, or an embarrassment. Even today, the community of Eyer's Grove still exists near Bloomsburg. Note: As of 1975, the Township of McCandless, located near Pittsburgh, officially became the "town" of McCandless. However, since the boundaries of the town coincide with the boundaries of the township, Bloomsburg still takes the gold medal in a photo finish. If we can put the Samuel Bloom story aside for a moment, there's a belief the name came from bloomeries, or iron furnaces, one of which was located on Bloom Street, which still exists today and took its name before the arrival of Sam Bloom. There's yet one more story that travelers and/or settlers upon reaching the site saw stands of laurel trees in bloom.
Located in the Lancaster area and dating possibly to the 1750s, owners of the famed Blue Ball Inn would place a large blue ball outside to indicate a full house. Apparently "blue ball" was a common inn name in England as well.
Blue Bell (Montgomery county)
At one time large flocks of passenger pigeons would gather here. (See 'Pigeon,' below.) The pigeons are now extinct, as is the old name, Pigeontown. In 1840 the town took its name from the famed Blue Bell Inn which reportedly included pigeon on the menu, a delicacy popular over the years in Europe. Whether or not George Washington enjoyed pigeon sandwiches is undocumented, but he did spend more than a few nights at the joint. For the sake of illiterates, the inn featured a huge blue bell for all to see.
Located in the greater Pittsburgh area and honoring Simon Bolivar,
the famed statesman and soldier of South America who also spearheaded several independence movements in the early 1800s.
Originally known as Ontario County and later named for a chief justice of the Pennsylvania supreme court, William Bradford. His chief legacy there was to limit the use of the death penalty to only the most heinous of crimes. At the ripe old age of 39 Bradford became the second attorney general of the United States, only to die a year later. Bradford's father-in-law was Elias Boudinout of New Jersey, who some historians consider the de facto first president of the United States.
Braintrim (Laceyville area)
This name marks the influence of settlers from Braintrim, Connecticut. Laceyville by 1893 had its own newspaper called The Braintrim Messenger.
Settlers from the eastern coastal region often brought their city's name westward. Brooklyn, near Montrose, is named not for the New York borough, however, but for Brooklyn, Connecticut. Fortunately it seems no one in those days ever travelled from Yonkers or Flushing. As an alternate explanation, local historian E.A. Weston, who wrote his History of Brooklyn in 1889, suggests the name comes from the multitude of brooks, perhaps "dry" brooks formed by glaciers. (Some 22% of Pennsylvania soil is glacial in nature.)
Located in the Philadelphia area, the name is Welsh for "big hill." Bryn Mawr is also one of the lineup of streets in West Scranton that features the names of exclusive colleges. They include Dartmouth, Cornell, and Amherst. English majors at these colleges have most likely read each of the authors whose names appear next to one another on the other end of West Scranton, in Tripp's Park: Hawthorne, Thackerey, and Dickens. Theology majors are not neglected; they can head over to "Apostles Hill" in the Bunker Hill section and check out the streets of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (not to mention Paul and James), which of course bear no special relation to the tribal street names of Mohawk, Capouse, Monsey, Delaware, Pawnee, Cayuga, and Winona, which certainly bear no relation to the German generals on East Mountain such as Blucher, Moltke, and possibly Froud. The names of these military men were proudly commemorated by the large German community of Dutch Hollow, which straddles the Meadow Avenue area and whose viability as a neighborhood was severely strained by the construction of Intersate 81, which runs right through it.
It's been said that the antlers of a deer were gorged into an oak tree along an Indian trail near this Columbia county town. The antlers remained stuck in place for years, becoming an encouraging landmark to travelers, signifying that civilization was now within easy walking distance.
This Scranton neighborhood was once known as Church's Corners, after an early settler named Joseph Church. Church Avenue still exists one block west of Main and can be considered part of today's Bulls Head, as of course can adjacent Bullshead Court. Church, a cattle dealer, owned a large red barn with a picture of a bull's head painted on one side. The bull's head was visible at least through the early 1890s, attested to in 1952 by attorney Leigh Morse who grew up in the neighborhood. Church also owned a mine as well as the Bull's Head Hotel, located at 1339 North Main Ave. At least one town in the United States has a similar name that can be traced to bullshead the fish, though a similar tack in Scranton's case leaves little but dead ends.
A section of North Rome in Bradford county, this pristine name honors the illustrious memory of Reuben Bumpus, a noted hunter and Revolutionary soldier, who settled there in 1806 and was never once bumped from a flight from Chicago to Avoca.
Named not after a water well but after an oil field in McKean County, northwest Pennsylvania.
Burnt Cabins (Centre County)
In order to keep peace with the natives (literally), William Penn agreed upon zones or limits to where non-Indian settlers could locate. Some Scotch-Irish settlers, however, began to push the envelope a little too much, in effect squatting upon rugged Indian terrain. To help remedy the situation, Pennsylvania burned some cabins of illegal settlers in 1750, here as well as in a few other parts of the commonwealth.
One sometimes does a double-take when they read about "California University of Pennsylvania," one of the former state teachers' colleges that pushed the envelope of word usage when they morphed into so-called "universities." Be that as it may, this town in the Pittsburgh area was laid out around 1849, during the height of the gold rush in what's now the state of California.
A derivation of the historic Celtic word for Wales, known as the "land of compatriots."
This is the Latin word for hemlock.
Located in Bradford county and takes its name from settlers from Canton, Connecticut. Note that Bradford county, in north-central Pennsylvania, felt a much stronger Connecticut influence than some of the more southern parts of our region. Canton was the site of the famous -- and huge -- Minnequa Springs Hotel, a health spa opened in 1869 that drew clients from hundreds of miles away seeking to cure rheumatism or whatever else ailed them. According to legend, Minnequa was an Indian maiden who was near death until she drank of the healing waters at the spring that later bore her name (others say she met a tragic death and was simply buried near the springs).
In the early 1800s Carbondale was the remote site of several rather unsuccessful mining attempts. By 1820, however, officials of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company took a new interest in the abandoned shafts, and apparently an internal memo directed workers to carry tools and supplies to the "dale (valley) where carbon was found." (Washington Irving, the famous author, and his buddy Philip Hone, a founder of Honesdale, have also been credited by many with choosing the name Carbondale, hence the old Irving Theatre where comedian Milton Berle once performed. He was asked to leave when the management found his routine a bit too risque.) This area was first known as "Ragged Island," later as Barrendale, and finally as the name we use today. Carbondale is Pennsylvania's fourth-oldest city, preceded only by Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York. It was also in contention once for county seat of Lackawanna. One of the most exciting moments in Carbondale history, possibly topping the Milton Berle Affair, was the 1974 crash of a supposed UFO into a silt pond. A local cop apparently shot at it (perhaps enamored by anything shaped like a donut), and federal authorities possibly planted a railroad lantern at the spot so as to throw cold water on the matter and stifle the imaginations of the curious and open-minded. Based on personal interviews at the hands of this humble town-names detective, yes, a "saucer" did light up the sky and crash into a pond, as was seen by several people on Salem Mountain. The saucer, pulsating with light, was sticking partly out of the small pond after it landed. City police arrived first, who called in state police, who called in the FBI, who called in higher authorities who worked without identifying themselves but spoke to each other by walkie-talkie. The area was eventually cordoned off from the public, and a large item -- covered with a tarp -- was transported out on a flatbed truck. At least one of the trucks in the convoy was marked "U.S. Air Force."
Formed in 1854 in Lehigh county, the name is taken from a Delaware Indian word meaning "dry ground" or "thirsty ground."
Catawissa (Columbia County)
The word 'catawese' occurs in different dialects of
the Shawanese and Delaware Indians, and always with the same meaning: "pure water."
Located in Columbia county, God-forsaken Centralia is now the least populous borough in the state. It was known as Centreville before it took its current name in 1865. At one time home to some 2000 residents, including some Molly Maguires who murdered the town's founding father, the population is now about 4, except if you also include the cemeteries. The underground mine fire that forced the town's evacuation is predicted to burn for another two centuries if left unattended.
Once known as East Macungie in the Lehigh Valley, this village later became Cedarville because of the preponderance of trees, as pointed out by nearby Cedar Creek. But back in 1888 the Post Office once again pointed the Fickle Finger of Fate, saying another Cedarville already existed in Pennsylvania. One of the old wise men of Cedarville saved the day, apparently, possibly remembering his Latin vocabulary drills from high school. You see, the Latin word for cedar is cedrus, from which it's a hop, skip and a jump to Cedronia and hence Cetronia.
This one had nothing to do with George Washington and much to do with the Penn family. The west branch of the Susquehanna River meanders further than many of us would realize, remaining navigable in colonial times well into the western third of Pennsylvania. At the point where canoes could no longer travel, they would be carried over land to water routes connected with the Ohio valleys. For this reason the spot was known for many years as Canoe Place, though the locals later called it Cherry Tree prior to its official designation in 1907. At or near this spot was a huge cherry tree that helped set an important boundary -- called the "purchase line" between Iroquois land and territy acquired by the Penns. The tree was also used to help set the boundaries of three local counties.
Once known as Leach's Flats, this town was originally named for Ephraim Leach who settled here around the year 1801. Sometime between 1880 and 1890, however, the female postmaster of Leach's Flats felt the need to rename the joint. She chose the name Chinchilla, ostensibly proud of her fashionable chinchilla shawl. To this day you can still find Leach Street in Chinchilla and Leach Creek in North Scranton. Some people say it was the wife of Chinchilla's first postmaster, George Tanner, who came up with the name, but the heart of the matter stays the same. A variation on the story says someone opened a dictionary at random with the intention of naming Leach's Flats after the first suitable name that appeared. During World War I, Chinchilla endured a brief stint as the town of Pershing in honor of the hero general. But by war's end the popularity of the squirrel-like rodent proved stronger than the good general's, and our furry friend reclaimed his post as the namesake of this village between Scranton and the Abingtons.
Choconut (Susquehanna county)
Some say this word comes from the Nanticoke Indian tschochnot, which local settlers pronounced "chugnut." One translation is given as "place of tamaracks" (a type of larch tree). Others say Chugnut was the name of a small tribe. In 1927 the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh landed here.
Around 1817, surveyors remarked that the sound of the local river resembled the notes from a distant clarion, and so the name of the river and town were thus born.
In 1799, deacon William Clark(s) cleared a triangular piece of land at the now familiar summit. The cleared parcel was referred to as a "green," hence Clarks Summit and Clarks Green.
One of the first of the settler/soldiers in the Abington area, Clark(s) had fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and served under George Washington at the Battle of Trenton. In payment for his service in the war, Clark was probably handed the deed to the land scot-free (this point needs verification).
However, when Clarks went to verify his deed at the land grant office in Luzerne County, he was told that his claim was worthless, and if he wanted to settle on the land he'd have to pay for it. One could speculate that if Clarks visited the land office on another day, he would have received a different answer, given the possible divided loyalties at the time between those officials leaning toward the Pennsylvania side of the case and those more loyal to Connecticut. (Much of Luzerne County was originally considered a "county" of Connecticut, named Westmoreland. Ben Franklin once suggested forming a state of Westmoreland that would take in much of the land we now know as northeast Pennsylvania. On maps we still see Centermoreland and Northmoreland in Wyoming County, as well as the Westmoreland Club in Wilkes-Borough.)
Historical records show that William Clark and his three sons built their log cabin on the hill where the Clarks Green Cemetery is now located.
Clearfield (west-central Pennsylvania)
This area of the state is known for rugged and dense timberlands, so imagine the surprised looks on the faces of settlers to the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s as they found a substantial tract of land -- fully cleared, with soft and workable soil -- amidst the forest. Apparently this led the settlers to conclude that the cleared field was of fairly recent origin and was used by local Indians primarily to grow corn. Another explanation is that buffaloes had trampled down and cleared large tracts of undergrowth, giving the topography the appearance of cleared fields.
This was formed from Covington township in 1875 and was named for Clifton Drinker, son of the prominent landowner Henry Drinker (see other citations on this page for Henry Drinker). Another suggestion that's been floated is that the area's name was influenced by the presence of several cliffs in the region, but this explanation doesn't hold up as well.
Found in Wayne County and named for Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York, one of the instrumental forces behind the construction of the Erie Canal, a catalyst for development in upstate New York.
Located in North Whitehall Township in the Lehigh Valley, the name appears to be derived from a slang, derogatory word applied to residents of darker skin, whether they were black or Caribbean or from Latin America. A tone of derision was also applied to the "undesirable" inhabitants of the Lehigh Valley's Hawktown. In the Scranton area, Providence was once known as "Razorville," apparently because outsiders thought the locals would slit your throat, at least when it came to business, if you gave them half a chance.
The county was first organized in 1813 and its name was taken from Joseph Hopkinson's song, Hail Columbia, popular during the War of 1812. The song has been referred to as America's first unofficial national anthem and was first performed at Philadelphia's New Theatre in 1798. Ticket sales for a show at the time were poor, and management needed a showstopper. They got it with Hail Columbia, which was a thinly-veiled "screw you" to a French envoy named Citizen Adet who some felt cast aside all propriety in his criticisms of the Washington Administration. In fact, the song went over so well at its debut that the audience called for twelve encores and started singing themselves. The buzz around town was so great that President Adams had to catch the show a few nights later (the federal capital was located in Philadelphia at the time). A few decades later, Abraham Lincoln commented that he had to stand up and remove his hat when Hail Columbia was sung. Across Europe, many people thought it actually was America's national anthem, and they would play it when American dignitaries made official appearances. In 1889, Thomas Edison visited the Paris Opera House, and you can guess what song the orchestra revved up.
Located in western Pennsylvania and formed around 1909, the name is a hybrid of two business partners in the mining business: Coleman and Weaver. Not to be outdone by their own word-tinkering, the two gentlemen later formed a town a few miles away spelled Revloc, which is simply Colver spelled backwards. They must have thought, "When it comes to naming things backwards, we're not going to let that redneck slimeball Dan Flood have all the fun!"
The name comes from a difficult-to-pronounce Leni-Lenape (Delaware) Indian word meaning "Pleasant Valley." It's located north of Philadelphia, which is not a Lenape word meaning "almost as exciting as Camden."
Here's an instance where the location in question was possibly named not just for an individual but for an entire family, the Conynghams, who were mainly from Philadelphia, at least originally. The most noteworthy of the bunch was navy Captain Gustavus Conyngham, born in Ireland, who helped defend Philly in the War of 1812. Conyngham was technically a privateer (a hired hand or mercenary) whose freewheeling ways at sea earned him the reputation of somewhat of a renegade. During Revolutionary times he was the first to sail the English Channel under the banner of the United States flag, and it was off the coast of Britain where he cemented his reputation as a captain who would taunt and capture ships of other countries just for the sport of it. Such was his success that back in London, insurance rates for shipping began to skyrocket, perhaps causing the behind-the-scenes power mongers on both sides of the Atlantic to reevaluate how privateers were to be deployed in the future. In the wake of his legacy, three Navy ships have been named the USS Conyngham.
Apparently this is the tiniest of villages located near Middleburg in the central region of the state, and if you're a raccoon, this is one place you don't want to live.
Chief Kolapechka would probably have a conniption fit as his name was gradually anglicized to Kolapecha then Copelin then Coplay, but he probably wouldn't mind the honor of having this town in the northern Lehigh Valley named for him.
Located northwest of Pittsburgh, the name probably comes from the Greek for "maiden city." Others say it is named for Cora Watson, daughter of a settler/developer, a suggestion that appears stronger.
A township in northwest Pennsylvania. Indian chief Cornplanter (1740-1836) helped bring peace to the then-frontier of the colonies. Son of a Seneca mother and a Dutch father, Cornplanter played a role in the slaughter at the Wyoming Massacre. The larger picture remembers Cornplanter as an intermediary between Indians and the government bigwigs in Philadelphia, particular the Quakers who, like him, had strong reservations regarding the use of alcohol.
Covington was once part of the vast stretch of beech trees, extending eastward from the Scranton/Dunmore area, known as Drinker's Beeches. It takes its name from Brigadier General Leonard Covington of Maryland, a distinguished cavalry officer who fought and died in the War of 1812. If you take Dunmore's East Drinker street all the way to the end, you'd end up right at the edge of the old Drinker's Beeches. (Once again we see a War of 1812 connection, supporting the suggestion made below that despite printed claims otherwise, Lake Ariel's name stems from that war as well.)
Was a large supply of crackers once stolen from a old tavern in this Lehigh Valley village? So says the story behind this name.
The cleverness behind this town name continues to astonish wordsmiths the world over. What happens if you establish a creamery in a township named Clinton (Wayne County)? You get a Cream-ton, of course.
Whether intended or not, Cresco in the Poconos is Latin for "I am growing." It was a stop on the old rail line from Scranton to New York, and more than one confused passenger thought the train was stopping in "Crisco." Once known as Frogtown, a Frog Town Inn still exists in Canadensis, located a few hops away from Cresco.
Cumbola (Schuylkill county)
Take this one with a big grain of salt: Apparently a foreign-born woman was once searching for her stray cow named Bola. Logically she searched high and low, yelling, "Come, Bola." Rest assured that another explanation says Cumbola is taken from Cumburla county in Wales.
Cumru (Reading area)
Probably from Cymru, the welsh name for Wales.
Through the end of the Revolutionary War, thousands of pristine acres of beech trees stood to the east of the Moosic Mountains. One early landowner here was Henry Drinker, a major figure in the development of the Lackawanna valley. Daleville (as well as the above-mentioned Covington Township) is part of this stretch known as Drinker's Beeches, a name that originated around 1805. It takes its name from David Dale who came from England in 1819 and bought land from Drinker at $5 per acre.
Named after a popular Philadelphia lawyer (apparently the last one), Alexander James Dallas, secretary of the treasury under James Madison and also a magazine editor in Philadelphia. Prior to his stint in Washington, Dallas was the federal district attorney for eastern Pennsylvania. Dallas also once served as the de facto governor of Pennsylvania for a time, since the actually governor (Thomas Mifflin) was an alcoholic. Mifflin was the first governor of the state, and Mifflin Avenue is the "first street" in downtown Scranton, for whatever that's worth. Dallas' son later served as vice president under James Polk (which is one of the few presidential last names not featured as a Scranton street name). Dallas is widely credited with putting the nation back on a firm financial footing after the near bankruptcy brought upon by the War of 1812. In perhaps one of the more accurate assessments of politicians ever publicly made, Dallas once referred in writing to Pennsylvania House members as "rats," and perhaps that's the true source of his popularity :-)
Dallas is home to College Misericordia, which some students affectionately call "Misery."
The Bailey family settled in this part of Abington township around 1801, and the area took on the name Bailey Hollow. (Hollow means "small valley.") In their book Clarks Summit: A Narrative, Helen and John Villaume recall the story behind the name change:
In the late 1860s, Dr. J.C. Miles of Bailey Hollow, among other locals, felt the Bailey Hollow name sounded a bit unbecoming for a town of increasing prominence. The railroad would soon choose whether to run through Bailey Hollow or Waverly, and the town fathers felt the "hollow" name might chase the rail line away.
Dr. Miles chose the new name in 1871 after a visit from Dr. Edward Dalton, superintendent of the New York City board of health and a Civil War surgeon. The Scranton press praised the name change, taking the opportunity to encourage Tunkhannock to consider a similar move.
Once called Dan's Town and/or Dan's Village, Danville originally sprung up as a settlement around General Dan Montgomery's store and his father's grist mill (for grinding grain) in the early 1800s.
'Dauphin' was the hereditary title of the oldest son of the French king (thus making him heir to the throne, which is hopefully not where you're reading this page). During the Revolutionary War, the dauphin of the time helped arrange French assistance for the American colonies. For similar reasons, Harrisburg was once called Louisburg.
When one drives south on Interstate 81 through the Schuylkill county area and sees the roadsign for this town, you can't help but think of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and whether there's any connection. And yes, there is. The town is named for Warren Delano, a New York investor drawn to the coal region in search of lining his pockets, much as he had once done in China. It turns out that Delano was FDR's grandfather and made a killing by importing opium into Chinese ports, producing thousands of addicts and becoming a thorn in China's side for many years, as evidenced by the Opium Wars.
The river and state take their name from Lord de la Warre, governor of the English colony of Virginia. The Delaware Indians, originally the Leni or Leni-Lenape, were first met along the Delaware River, and thus the name. The influence of the Delaware Indian language is still felt today. Its word hanna, meaning "river," is seen when you break down the words Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Tobyhanna, Tunkhannock, and even Pocono (pocohanna), but not the Wilkes-Barre word "hayna."
Here's the name of a rock formation located in Washington Township in the northern Lehigh Valley, on the west side of the Lehigh River. It's said the high sandstone rocks resemble a pulpit, but how the devil figures into the equation is anyone's guess. An even more famous rock formation of course is the spooky Indian head at the Delaware Water Gap.
Once known as Priceburg and the site of some Molly Maguire activities in the 1870s, the town is named for the wealthy and popular Thomas Dickson, president of the D&H from 1869 to 1884. He was also the dude who nominated the name for the town of Olyphant. A Scotsman, Dickson started out his career as a mule driver in Carbondale. The town started out as simply Dickson, with no pretensions of being a city. However it was the postal service that tacked on 'city' in order to differentiate the local Dickson from several other post offices. Many locals still call their town 'Dickson,' not out of any throwback to the past but simply as a type of verbal shorthand. To this day, Scranton features street names of Dickson
as well as other midvalley locations such as Throop, Archbald and Olyphant.
You'll still see this tiny place, a former miners' patch, listed on modern maps of northeastern Pennsylvania. Like the town of Swoyerville/Swoyersville that it's near, Dickville can't make up its mind whether to insert an 's' in the middle. Given the illustrious nature of the name, the missing 's' is the least of its problems. And despite an extensive search of town-name records, Dickville bears no connection to the Elk County town of Johnsonburg.
Named for an early judge in Susquehanna county, Davis Dimock Jr. He was the first Baptist minister in the region and developed a reputation as a powerful preacher. Dimock was also a U.S. congressman who died in office in 1842 at the age of 40.
Named for Colonel George Dorrance, who fell in the Wyoming Massacre of 1778.
Several Pennsylvania towns take their names from taverns, which in their day served more as full-fledged restaurants with sleeping accommodations and thus were the focal point of local activity, legitimate or otherwise. Drums today sits near the site of Abram Drum's tavern, which opened north of Hazleton in 1790. For its first few years the town was spelled Drum's. Another tavern town is Bird-in-Hand, between Philadelphia and Lancaster. A swinging wooden sign on an old tavern there reminded patrons that "A bird in hand is worth two in the bush." An early tavern near what is now King of Prussia originally was run by a Prussian settler, and its wooden sign featured the image of King Frederick I. Frederick ruled Prussia from 1701 to 1713, taking it from a province into a kingdom. Other "tavern towns" include Red Lion and Blue Ball (whose name origin shall remain under wraps, considering the family nature of this web page). Note: some taverns of the day were called "ordinaries," where one could purchase a simple (ordinary) meal, usually a mid-afternoon dinner, for a standard price.
Located north of Carbondale in Susquehanna county. An early settler claimed his ancestors once lived in Dundaff/Dunduff Castle in Scotland. A Dundaff street still exists in Carbondale, Forest City, Dickson City, Clifford, and Fell Township.
This is the story of a bribe run amok. The year was 1838, and Dunmore was then known as Bucktown, named for its abundant herds of deer. (The high school teams are still called the Bucks.) A young Englishman, Charles Augustus Murray, had spent several weeks that year fishing and hunting around old Bucktown. During this time, several local railroad men befriended Murray and learned of his father, a wealthy English nobleman -- the Fifth Earl of Dunmore. The railmen, one of whom was Henry Drinker, persuaded Charles to return home to borrow $1.5 million from dear old dad; the money would finance a rail link from here to New York. Every pure in their motives, the railmen discarded the name Bucktown in favor of Dunmore, out of deference, no doubt, to the earl's undisputed munificence. Unfortunately it appears the Earl was less than impressed, for Charles never returned. He was sent off instead to diplomatic chores in Persia while the name Bucktown slowly faded from memory. Charles later wrote a popular book entitled Travels in North America, and he helped arrange the transfer of a hippopotamus from Egypt to the London Zoo. This epic feat earned him the enviable nickname of "Hippopotamus Murray."
One story goes that the wealthy du Pont family of Wilmington, Delaware owned a gunpowder plant here toward the end of the 1800s. This is the same family whose company grew into today's giant Du Pont Chemical interests and whose descendants include former presidential candidate Pierre du Pont. Another story says a local prominent resident named Dupont lent his name. Whatever the case,
the Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania once told an amazing little tale of one semi-famous Dupont resident, Faustin Wirkus, who joined the Marines in 1915 so he could quit his job as a breaker boy. He was first sent to Haiti and later to the neighboring island of La Gonave. Toward the island's interior lived some 10,000 natives who practiced voodoo and polygamy (though not necessarily in that order). Years earlier, a deposed tribal ruler named Faustin predicted the future coming of a second Faustin who would someday rule the land. Young Faustin Wirkus soon became king, and the loyal natives now honored this breaker boy from Dupont. The Marines, however, failed to share the same degree of enthusiasm and quickly yanked young Faustin out of there.
Home to immigrants from a mixture of European countries, Duryea was at times referred to as Babylon, for its "babel" of languages. It was named in 1902 for Abram Duryea, a mine speculator from New York. (Other sources list Duryea's first name as Hiram.) Prior to this time the town was known as Marcy, for Zebulon Marcy who arrived around 1790. Even today, Marcy Street still exists right off of Main Avenue. (It is said that Larksville was also once referred to as Babylon for similar reasons.)
Named around 1859 for an original settler from the 1790s, a Frenchman named Aristide Dupetit-Thouars (last name pronounced 'Twors'). The locals modified his name to "Dushore" so the older German settlers could pronounce it better. A French navy captain, Thouars had walked from Philadelphia to Asylum (see above) and built a farmstead of his own, though he was only one-handed. In 1798 Thouars was shot and killed by the British in the Battle of the Nile. Today Dushore is reportedly the home to the only traffic light in Sullivan County, located between Lycoming and Wyoming counties.
A mere is merely a small pond of standing water, so here we have an Eagles Lake in miniature. The town is located about midway as the crow flies from Scranton to Williamsport.
Named by Thomas Penn in honor of his father-in-law, Lord Pomfret, whose estate in England was called Easton-Neston, which was located in Northamptonshire, which resolves any mystery regarding the name of Northampton County. Easton was chosen as the county seat partly so the Penns could establish a buffer zone between their Quaker settlement and the community of Moravians over in Bethlehem.
Eaton township (Wyoming county)
Named for General William Eaton who gained fame for his victories over and diplomatic tactfulness toward city-states of the Barbary Coast of northern Africa, which had been demanding "tributes" (protection money and kickbacks) from American ships passing through that area of the Mediterranean. Eaton later enhanced his stature (and probably his bank account) by going on the lecture circuit in the northeast. As a result of the Barbary connection, Eaton township thus boasts a similar name-heritage as New Tripoli.
Located in west-central PA and not to be confused with eclair, the town name is French for "clear water."
Now a state museum called Eckley Miners' Village, the place was once referred to as Shingletown, for that was one of the prime means of earning of living here -- taking advantage of the adequate nearby lumber to make shingles for more developed areas. By 1854 the settlement was known as Fillmore, in honor of the president who some people claim was about as exciting as Calvin Coolidge. Once the post office objected because Pennsylvania already had a Fillmore (apparently we couldn't handle the double excitement of two such joints), a Philadelphia judge and landowner named Charles Coxe took advantage of the situation and called the place after his teenage son, Eckley Coxe. Whether young Eckley was dashing and suave is a matter for professional historians to determine, but that hasn't stopped the locals from calling Eckley "the ugliest town in America," an expression that probably alludes to the shady dealings of the Molly Maguires, whose namesake film was shot right here near Hazleton. The legacy of the Mollies will always be framed around the question of how a group of oppressed people can resolve their issues without resorting to murder and intimidation themselves.
Named after Daniel Edwards, a superintendent with the Kingston Coal Company. Until 1884 the town was known as Edwardsdale.
The banks of the Nile River are known for fertile soil, as were the banks of Egypt along the Lehigh River north of Allentown. And just as Jacob's sons once traveled to Egypt to buy corn, Lehigh Valley residents in olden times would likewise travel to this village to buy provisions.
Located in west-central Pennsylvania, the name is German for "garden of eden." If you travel to the other end of the state you'll find a little eidenau in Allentown, site of Adam's Island in the Lehigh River, practically a stone's throw from Eve's Island.
The story goes that 84 refers to the number of residents living there at one point in time, another that the name was chosen in the year 1884. There is some dispute even among local residents regarding the origin, though one plausible explanation is that Eighty Four commemorates the election of Grover Cleveland as president in 1884. (Though this seems hardly a sufficient reason to generate universal excitement. Even today, Cleveland is about as exciting as Detroit, minus the glitter.) The state historical marker near the 84 post office offers this explanation, by the way. Another plausible story is that Eighty Four was mail drop #84 on the Railway Mail Service, or that its post office opened in 1884.
Gilbert Dunning bought land here from Henry Drinker in 1847 and the area became known as Dunning through the 1880s. Its name was then changed to the pastoral sounding Elmhurst in hopes of stimulating land sales. "Hurst" comes from the German for forest, so Elmhurst simply means "Elm Forest." Elmhurst must confuse mapmakers because it forms a municipal rarity: a township completely enclosed within another township, Roaring Brook.
One source says the name is an example of prophecy, but reality says it was more the product of wishful thinking or else a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Well before anyone lived here, a surveyor (who may have functioned like the member of an advance team or a baseball scout) was camping here in north-central Pennsylvania. The year was 1785, and it appears our scout's work ended up on maps by 1790, well before the first settlers arrived some 20 years later. On a tree at his encampment it's said the surveyor carved the word "Emporium." His reasoning may have been that since four streams converged here, and possibly an Indian path or two near this westernmost point of the Susquehanna River, the future looked pretty bright for this isolated spot on the map. Whether the surveyor's prophecy has ever come true is really a matter for residents of Cameron County to decide.
The community was founded by members of the Christian Endeavor Society, formed in Portland, Maine in 1881 with an emphasis on encouraging youth to participate in church activities. Located in northwest PA in Forest County, Pennsylvania's smallest in terms of populaton. It's so rural, in fact, at last report there was not a single traffic light within its boundaries. The original inhabitants of Endeavor would probably be aghast to learn their settlement would someday sit on the edge of state route 666.
This name may trace its roots to the mid 1700s as explorers realized these mountains extended much further than they ever imagined.
Enola sprang into existence as a result of the rail lines that run through this town near Harrisburg. The name comes from a farm owner's 4-year-old daughter, Enola Frances Miller, who died in 1962. The inspiration for her first name came from a character in the popular novel from the mid-1800s entitled The Dangers of Darkness. The farmer, Wesley Miller, sold land to the Pennsylvania Railroad around 1888 and in return was given the honor of naming the train station. A few old-timers insist that Enola was chosen because it's the backwards spelling of "alone," but this appears not to be the case. The only thing that's backwards, and pathetically so, is the name of the so-called Wilkes-Borough/Scranton Airport, a massive blotch upon our region's integrity.
Located in the Lancaster area, the German settlers who formed this town took the name from the Biblical city of Ephrath (the ancient name for Bethlehem), which some have translated as "fruitful." Once known as Dunkertown, the town fathers were part of a religious group known as the Seventh-Day Dunkers, a reference to the practice of water-immersion during baptism. Also known as the German Baptist Brethren, their austere, mystic-oriented lifestyles included life in cloisters, hence other early town names of Cloister and Kloster, and the Ephrata Cloisters now come under the auspices of the state Historical and Museum Commission. One of the early leaders of the group, Peter Miller, translated the Declaration of Independence into seven languages, at the request of Congress.
Found in Wayne County, the name supposedly means "place where clothing is distributed." An alternate translation is "trout stream."
Erie basically means "raccoon." The Erie tribe is sometimes referred to as the "Cat Nation," the raccoon being a wild cat, appearing as the main figure on the Erie totem pole. Early French maps of North America describe Lake Erie as Lac du Chat -- the Lake of the Cat.
Early residents here arrived from the area of Exeter, Rhode Island. Earlier residents there had arrived from Exeter, England, which sits on the mouth of the river Exe.
So named because it was the first town in the greater Pittsburgh area to produce coal for outlying markets.
Named for a Welshman, Thomas Eynon (1821-1911), which partly explains why the town was once known as Welsh Hill. Eynon developed mines in the mid-valley, became a prominent Scranton resident, helped found the Welsh Philosophical Society (for whatever that's worth), and is not in Eynon anymore. His gravestone can be found in the Washburn Street Cemetery in Scranton, not all that far from Eynon Street.
In the 1820s, people came from miles around to have their wool woven into cloth at the factory there. Supposedly Keystone College is technically in Factoryville but prefers to say it's located in La Plume, for obvious aesthetic reasons.
Due to laziness on the part of the humble town-names detective whose page you are reading at the moment, the exact locations of Smithfield and Uniontown, Pennsylvania will remain under wraps for the moment. But apparently the two towns saw their share of back-and-forth traffic in olden days, and the word on the street was that if you made it to the halfway point of the two towns by noon, that point being the town in question at the moment, located about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, you stood a "fair chance" of completing your trip before it got dark.
Here's a good example of how various towns took their names from nearby geographical features. Formed in 1824, this Wyoming County township, halfway between Tunkhannock and Pittston, takes its name from nearby Buttermilk Falls, near the mouth of Falls Creek.
Located south of Pittsburgh, we see here a remembrance of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who became a general in the Revolutionary War. He is one of but a handful of foreigners ever made an honorary citizen of the United States, a distinction not bestowed until 2002. Lafayette College is also named after this statesman who became a lifelong busom-buddy of George Washington. Several municipalities in northeast PA feature a Lafayette street or avenue.
Fiddle Lake (Susquehanna county)
This is not a town but a lake shaped, supposedly, just like a fiddle and located near the source of the Lackawanna River.
This spot is located in Greenfield township, Lackawanna county. It's the final resting place of Isaac Finch who began serving in the Revolutionary army at the tender age of 13. His gravestone can still be found in a small cemetery along Route 247. See 'Kingsley' for another 13-year-old soldier who fought during the war for independence.
Fishing Creek Twp.
The origin of the name itself is hardly a mystery, but what stands out here in Columbia county is how the stream garnered a name for itself. During the Civil War, a fair amount of young local men preferred not to get worked up by the hoopla of fighting for the Union. Hardly a large or organized resistance, they were a loose-knit bunch content to hang tight in the woods, maintaining a low profile until hostilities were over. They essentially hid out in Fishing Creek Valley, earning for themselves the slightly sarcastic title "Fishing Creek Confederacy."