Wilkes Barre History of Wilkes-Barre

Coal played a major role in shaping Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
The History of Wilkes-Barre, PA

For those interested in rich history, the city of Wilkes-Barre offers a plethora of different options. The city has seen human activity since prehistoric times, endured numerous changes and has overcome significant hurdles to reach its present state.

Wilkes-Barre history is vast and varied, dating back long before the arrival of European settlers. In fact, the history of Wilkes-Barre dates back into prehistoric times. For visitors, there is a wealth of different options for exploring this history, ranging from guided tours to hands on experiences.

Early Wilkes-Barre, PA, History

The earliest history of Wilkes-Barre involves two different Indian tribes – the Shawnee and the Delaware Indians. They called the Wyoming Valley home for thousands of years before the arrival of white settlers.

In 1769, the first Europeans arrived in the area, settling near the Susquehanna River and naming their community Wilkes-Barre, after two members of the British Parliament who were pro colonist. Initially, the town was considered part of Connecticut, but after the Pennamite Wars, it became a part of Pennsylvania, instead.

The Industrial Revolution and Its Effects on Wilkes-Barre

Wilkes-Barre was affected enormously by the Industrial Revolution. Or, rather, it played a central role in the American Industrial Revolution, thanks to the discover of anthracite coal in the region, earning the city the name of “The Diamond City.” The discovery of coal also signaled the beginning of a vast influx of new settlers, from all around the US and the world, as well.

The coal industry remained the backbone of the city’s economy for a very long time. However, during the 20th century, the role of coal lessened considerably, as mines played out and the country shifted its energy focus.

This led to a downturn in the city’s economy, which lasted for a full decade. The devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Agnes in the early 1970s also affected the city. The downtown area was flooded with 9 feet of water, creating havoc and incredible damage.

Modern Times and Wilkes-Barre

Today, the damage from Agnes is gone, and the city has rebuilt its economy. Wilkes-Barre is home to a thriving business sector today, as well as home to some of the state’s best schools. Of course, the city is technically a “college town,” so you will also find a number of entertainment options, nightlife spots, watering holes and more to tempt your fancy during a stay.

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