The 11th Congressional District of Pennsylvania is comprised of all of Columbia, Montour, and Wyoming counties and parts of Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Luzerne, Northumberland, and Perry counties. Major locations in the district include Harrisburg, Sunbury, Carlisle, Tunkhannock, Hazleton, Bloomsburg, and Danville.
Carbon County, established on March 13, 1843, features some of the most beautiful land in Pennsylvania. The first settlement of Carbon County was a Moravian mission in 1745 named Gnadenhutten, which is now known as Lehighton.
Located near the center of the county is Jim Thorpe. The borough – which is also the county seat – was originally called Mauch Chunk, but it was renamed in honor of the renowned Olympic medalist after his death. The borough is recognized as the “Gateway to the Poconos.” The picturesque hills and mountains rolling through the area have helped the region become known as the “Switzerland of the United States.”
Much of the land in Carbon County is part of one of three state parks, so there is a wide variety of hunting, swimming, camping, hiking, biking, and winter activity opportunities. Hickory Run State Park includes Boulder Field, a National Natural Landmark that was formed during the Ice Age. Thirty six miles of the D&L Trail are located between Glen Summit and Jim Thorpe within Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Eleven properties in Carbon County are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with the Asa Packer Mansion and St. Mark's Episcopal Church designated as two of nearly 2,500 National Historic Landmarks recognized by the United States government.
Visit Carbon County's Web site to learn more.
On the evening of April 25, 1798, Joseph Hopkinson's song "Hail Columbia" was sung for the first time in the Chestnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, by the popular young actor Gilbert Fox. This song at once attained wide currency as a patriotic tune. As a result, the name “Columbia” – a Latinized version of the last name of explorer Christopher Columbus – became immensely popular as a poetic designation for America. Though this name had become generally current before Hail Columbia was written, there can be no doubt that the famous song helped to popularize it.
The county is most commonly known for Bloomsburg, the county seat and the only incorporated town in Pennsylvania. Every year, Bloomsburg hosts the largest fair in Pennsylvania during the last week of September. The 2010 Bloomsburg Fair attracted more than 400,000 people, who enjoyed 1,500 food stands and a variety of popular musical acts and comedians.
Pennsylvania’s third-largest concentration of covered bridges can be found in Columbia County. There are almost two dozen covered bridges throughout the region. The scenic and languid Susquehanna River flows past Bloomsburg, Berwick, and Catawissa. The river can be accessed at multiple locations for a fun day of fishing, canoeing, swimming, or kayaking. These are all ways to explore hidden treasures located in Columbia County.
Visit Columbia County's Web site to learn more.
Cumberland County was created from Lancaster County in 1750, becoming the sixth county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and only the second county west of the Susquehanna River. At that time, it stretched westward “towards the setting sun,” as far as the Ohio River. Over the next 70 years, so many counties (48) were carved from Cumberland County that it earned the name “Mother Cumberland.” In 1751, the borough of Carlisle was selected as the county seat.
Originally the home of traders and Indians, the county became settled by the Scotch-Irish and the English followed by different sects of Germans. The population grew to the present day 238,000 as the county became more productive and progressive. The agricultural population soon expanded into a thriving mill and industrial center and today the county is a major distribution center for the eastern coast of the United States and the site of many recreational venues such as the auto shows and regional fairs and festivals.
History is evident everywhere in Cumberland County, from the revolutionary Molly Pitcher, to the 1863 Confederate raid, to the Carlisle Industrial Indian School, and the participation in the world wars to the technology of the 21st century. One can drive through rolling green hills dotted with 18th-century farms and next be in a bustling suburban business district or on a pre-revolutionary college campus or surrounded by towering pines along the Appalachian Trail.
The county seat, Carlisle, is home to the U.S. Army War College. Its 500-acre campus is the historic Carlisle Barracks, a military post dating back to the 1770s. The USAWC caters to high-level military personnel and civilians and prepares them for strategic leadership responsibilities. It is the U.S. Army's most senior military educational institution. Carlisle is also home to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, the U.S. Army's preeminent museum and research complex. It is dedicated to educating and preserving the legacy of the men and women who have served as soldiers.
Born in the history of westward expansion, Cumberland County has matured into a wonderful place to live with a bounty offering educational, cultural, and professional character with home-spun charm.
Visit Cumberland County’s Web site to learn more.
Harrisburg, the capitol of Pennsylvania, is in Dauphin County. The county has an old and rich history. The first settlers of Dauphin County were John Harris Sr., late of Yorkshire County, England, and the Chambers brothers, James, Robert, Joseph, and Benjamin, who emigrated from Antrim County, Ireland, who eventually built a mill at the mouth of Fishing Creek. It was Harris, however, who laid the true groundwork for what became Dauphin County.
By 1718, Harris Sr., at a point believed to be between the site of the present John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion at 219 South Front Street, and the Susquehanna River, had opened a trading post for the exchange of furs and supplies by Indians and traders. In 1734, he was also given a grant to establish a ferry service. Before long, “Harris’ Ferry” became the western terminus of a new road from Philadelphia. Settlers, primarily of Scotch-Irish and German descent, began pouring through this western gateway to America.
Following Harris' death in 1748, his eldest son, John Harris Jr., took over Harris' Ferry. Young Harris, aged just 21, doubled the size of the ferry with a second flat and in 1766 erected the mansion. Since 1941, the stone house has been the home of the Historical Society of Dauphin County.
Following the Revolutionary War, John Harris Jr. conveyed deeds for the legal establishment of his town. Commissioners for newly formed Dauphin County, separated from Lancaster County by the Act of March 4, 1785, selected Harrisburg for its county seat. The name of the new county was given in honor of the son of Louis XVI, King of France, for France's help during America’s war for independence from Britain.
With the establishment of Lebanon County in 1813, Dauphin County was reduced to its present limits, an area of 533 square miles.
As the location of the state capitol, Dauphin County is home to many governmental offices and agencies. But it’s also home to “The Sweetest Place on Earth” – Hershey, the headquarters of the world-famous chocolatier and Hersheypark. There are many other recreational and family-friendly opportunities in Dauphin County, including sports teams, parks and hiking trails, shopping, dining, and more.
Visit Dauphin County’s Web site to learn more.
Luzerne County, located in the Anthracite area of “The Coal Region” in Northeastern Pennsylvania, has a rich heritage that dates back to pre-Colonial days of the United States.
Luzerne County was the scene of a fascinating early conflict in early colonial days. In 1662, King Charles II of England granted the northern part of what is now Pennsylvania to the colony of Connecticut. By 1768, the Susquehanna Company devised a plan to settle this new territory. But when Connecticut settlers arrived, they found the land occupied by settlers from the colony of Pennsylvania. It turns out that King Charles II, impaired by very bad maps, granted the same land to both colonies.
This led to armed conflict, the Yankee-Pennamite Wars, which lasted for several decades. After the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress granted the land to Pennsylvania. But poor treatment of Connecticut settlers in the territory and the settlers’ refusal to leave caused more conflict. It wasn’t settled until 1794, six years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified.
Between the conflicts, patriots from the Wyoming Valley of Luzerne County served in the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War.
On September 23, 1786, the Pennsylvania General Assembly created Luzerne County, naming it in honor of the Chevalier de la Luzerne, the French minister to the United States during the end of the war.
Even before significant settlement of the valley began, early explorers had encountered a new form of coal – anthracite – a “stone coal” so hard it wouldn’t burn or maintain a fire. On February 11, 1808, Judge Jesse Fell introduced his invention – an iron grate that would maintain a fire using anthracite coal. This simple device helped anthracite coal spark the American Industrial Revolution – and forever altered the history of Luzerne County. As the anthracite coal industry grew, so did the local population and infrastructure. To explore that history, visit Eckley Miners’ Village, a planned 19th-Century industrial coal mining “company town” now administered by the state’s historical commission. Luzerne County’s nationally significant role in fueling America’s 19th century Industrial Revolution is celebrated as the northern terminus of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. To learn more visit http://www.nps.gov/dele/index.htm.
But Luzerne County is more than its treasured past. It’s preparing for the future, and is the home of nearly half a dozen well-known colleges such as King’s College, Wilkes University, Misericordia University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and Penn State Hazleton.
Wilkes-Barre (the county seat) and Hazleton are two of the largest cities in the county, with a number of sites and shops to explore and create unforgettable memories.
Luzerne County is also home to the second-largest brewery in Pennsylvania and the 15th-largest American-owned brewery in the United States – The Lion Brewery, which is open for tours throughout the year.
Visit Luzerne County's Web site to learn more.
Montour County was created on May 3, 1850, from part of Columbia County. Danville, the county seat, was laid out in 1792 and incorporated as a borough on February 27, 1849. It was the county seat of Columbia County from 1813 to 1846.
The county was named in honor of Madame Montour, a woman who was prominent in Indian affairs. Her identity and much about her background are unknown to this day, but it is believed she was born in French Canada between 1665 and 1685. She was very influential in provincial Pennsylvania life in the early 1700s, often acting as a translator between colonists and Native American tribes.
In the 1800s, Danville was known for its iron-making facilities. In 1845, Danville’s skilled workmen – immigrants from England, Ireland, Germany, and Wales, using ore mined in surrounding hills to forge the first iron “T” rail in America, setting the pattern for the development of the American railroad system.
Today, Danville is home to Geisinger Medical Center, one of the commonwealth’s preeminent medical facilities.
Visit Montour County’s Web site to learn more.
Created in 1772 after the French and Indian War, Northumberland was the 10th county to be organized in Pennsylvania. Centered around Fort Augusta, one of the most important frontier strongholds in the colonies in the 1760s, Northumberland County was created from an 8,000-square-mile tract of land northwest of Lancaster, Cumberland, Berks, Northampton, and Bedford counties. The county eventually grew to 15,000 square miles, covering the Susquehanna Valley, including all the land west of the Lehigh River to the Allegheny River and all of the land south of the New York state border to Juniata County.
As the rural areas of Northumberland County grew and prospered, settlements and small towns sprang up. The Susquehanna River, which had originally dictated the development of the Susquehanna Valley and Northumberland County, dictated the county’s decline by severing towns and settlements from the county seat in Sunbury. Northumberland was deemed to be too large, and over the decades, 29 counties would be carved from Northumberland County. From 1775 until 1813, Northumberland County’s shrunk from 15,000 square miles to its present 470 square miles.
A famous early resident of the county was Joseph Priestley, who “discovered” oxygen. Priestley fled persecution in England to the town of Northumberland in the 1790s. He spent his remaining days in the county, conducting scientific experiments and preaching.
Many of the transportation routes in Northumberland County were established by the original Native American inhabitants, who had an elaborate system of trade routes. As white settlers moved in, old Indian trails were replaced by bridle paths supporting travel on horseback. The bridle paths gave way to the roads and highways that supported travel by wagons and the movement of herds of animals. By 1885, canals and railroads had been constructed, often paralleling the Centre Turnpike (present day Route 61).
Anthracite coal sparked another round of development in the county until the early part of of the 20th Century when, plagued by work strikes and environmental legislation, new energy sources appeared and anthracite began to decline rapidly.
The prosperity of the county meant in 1882, about the same time that the Electric Illuminating Company of New York first lit up Manhattan nights, a group of investors in Shamokin contacted Thomas Edison and offered to finance the construction of a power station. Edison moved to the county, building power stations in Shamokin and Sunbury. On the night of July 4, 1883, Edison switched on a 100-candlepower light over the City Hotel entrance, and Sunbury became the world's first town illuminated by a first three-wire electric light station with overhead conductors (the hotel was renamed the Edison Hotel in his honor). Saint Edwards Catholic Church in Shamokin soon became the first church in the world to be lighted by electricity.
Visit Northumberland County's Web site to learn more.
Originally part of Cumberland County, this became the 51st county in Pennsylvania on March 22, 1820. The county was named for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the battle of Lake Erie in 1813.
While Perry County is sparsely populated, it is the birthplace of notable politicians, including two Pennsylvania governors, a governor of Minnesota, and a governor of California.
Fourteen covered bridges and almost two dozen mills attest to the history of Perry County. It is also home to the oldest private military school east of the Mississippi River, Carson Long Institute, which was founded in 1837.
Perry is the only county in Pennsylvania that has both the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers flowing through it. These waterways, combined with other streams and lakes (along with three state parks), provide excellent fishing and boating opportunities. Perry County is also home to a 32-foot steel water wheel, the largest water wheel east of the Mississippi River. It’s also the location of the last Susquehanna ferryboat crossing, which crosses the river just south of Liverpool.
Perry County is also where one can find a box huckleberry plant, one of the largest, oldest, and rarest plants on Earth.
Visit Perry County’s Web site to learn more.
In 1762 settlers from New England came to what is now Wyoming County, but were driven out by Native Americans. It wasn’t until after the Sullivan expedition in 1779 that families were able to establish a permanent settlement in the Tunkhannock area.
In 1842, Wyoming County was created from part of Luzerne County. The name “Wyoming” is derived from an Indian word meaning “extensive meadows.” With its glistening streams, gently rolling hills and tranquil valleys, Wyoming County is one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic counties.
Wyoming County featured a segment of the North Branch Canal, which ran 169 miles along the North Branch of the Susquehanna River between southern New York and north-central Pennsylvania.
Wyoming County is also home to the Tunkhannock Viaduct, a railroad bridge near the town of Nicholson. This 2,375-foot-long concrete deck arch structure rises 240 feet above Tunkhannock Creek. Built in 1915, it is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and it remains in use today by freight trains and by passenger excursions departing the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton.
Wyoming County sits atop a rich deposit of natural gas locked in Marcellus shale, a rock formation thousands of feet below the ground. Wells are springing up around the county as this valuable natural resource is tapped.
Visit Wyoming County’s Web site to learn more.
The Susquehanna River
One of the defining geographic features of the 11th District is the Susquehanna River. It runs through or forms the boundary of eight of the nine counties of the district (only Carbon County does not touch the Susquehanna River).
Nearly a mile wide in some places, it is actually the longest non-navigable waterway in North America. After its North Branch leaves its origin in Lake Otsego, New York, it drains 448 miles later into the Chesapeake Bay below Havre de Grace, Maryland.
The name of the river comes from two local Native American tribes. The Iroquoian name for the Susquehanna is Ga-wano-wa-na-neh Gehunda, meaning “Great Island River,” while the Algonkian name, Susquehanna, has been interpreted to mean “Long, Winding River.”
In colonial Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River formed the western boundary of the frontier. Estienne Brule, a scout and interpreter for the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, was probably the first white man to pass along its entire length in 1615.
The Susquehanna River provides recreational and economic opportunities along its length. The world’s largest fabric dam is inflated every spring near Sunbury, Northumberland County, to slow the river and create a lake that’s used for powerboating and waterskiing, fishing, canoeing, swimming, and more.
The river also poses challenges to those who live along it. In 2011, Tropical Storm Lee drenched the Susquehanna and many of its tributaries, resulting in epic flooding.
Still, the Susquehanna River imparts a scenic beauty along the 11th District, from Wyoming and Luzerne counties in the north to Dauphin and Cumberland counties in the south.