Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

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Not to be confused with Luzerne, Pennsylvania.
Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Luzerne County, Pennsylvania USGS Topographical Map.jpg
Topographical map of Luzerne County
Seal of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County
Location in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
Map of the United States highlighting Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's location in the U.S.
Founded September 25, 1786
Named for Chevalier de la Luzerne
Seat Wilkes-Barre
Largest city Wilkes-Barre
 • Total 906 sq mi (2,347 km2)
 • Land 890 sq mi (2,305 km2)
 • Water 16 sq mi (41 km2), 1.8%
Population (est.)
 • (2015) 318,449
 • Density 358/sq mi (138/km²)
Congressional districts 11th, 17th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
 • Type County Council
 • Chairperson Linda Houck (D)
 • Other members

Luzerne County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 320,918.[1] It is the most populous county in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The county seat is Wilkes-Barre.[2]

On September 25, 1786, Luzerne County was formed from part of Northumberland County. It was named after Chevalier de la Luzerne, French ambassador to the United States. The county gained prominence in the 19th and 20th centuries as an active anthracite coal mining region, drawing a large portion of its labor force from European immigrants.

Luzerne County is included in the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Photo taken just before the Lattimer massacre (1897)
Children working in Wilkes-Barre's coal industry (1906)
Child laborers at a Pittston coal mine (1911). The photo was taken by Lewis Hine.

The Luzerne County Historical Society maintains the storehouse for the collective memory of Luzerne County and its environs. It records and interprets the history, traditions, events, people and cultures that have directed and molded life within the region.[3]

18th century[edit]

  • 1769: The Pennamite-Yankee War (or the Yankee-Pennamite Wars) began when settlers from Connecticut and Pennsylvania fought over land claims along the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in the present Wyoming Valley.
  • July 1, 1778: During the Revolutionary War, Fort Jenkins (a patriot stockade in present-day West Pittston) was surrendered to the British (under Major John Butler). It was later burned to the ground. In 1928, a bridge connecting West Pittston and Pittston City was constructed and named in its honor.
  • July 3, 1778: A force of British soldiers, led by John Butler, with the assistance of about 700 Indians, attacked and killed nearly 300 Wyoming Valley settlers. Today in the Borough of Wyoming, a monument marks the gravesite of the victims from the Battle of Wyoming.
  • July 4, 1778: Fort Pittston (located in what is now Pittston City) surrendered to the British and some of it was partially destroyed. It was later restored and used until the end of the Revolutionary War.
  • September 1778: Revenge for the Wyoming defeat was taken by American Colonel Thomas Hartley who, with 200 soldiers, burned nine to twelve Seneca, Delaware and Mingo villages along the Susquehanna River in northeast Pennsylvania, including Tioga and Chemung.
  • September 11, 1780: Reports of Tory activity in the region caused Captain Daniel Klader and a platoon of 40 to 50 men from Northampton County, Pennsylvania, to investigate. Captain Klader's men made it as far north as present-day Conyngham, when they were ambushed by the Seneca nation and by the Tories. 18 of Klader's men were killed in what is known as the Sugarloaf Massacre.
  • September 25, 1786: Luzerne County was formed from part of Northumberland County. It was named after Chevalier de la Luzerne, French ambassador to the United States.

19th century[edit]

20th century[edit]

21st century[edit]

  • May 21, 2000: A plane crash in Bear Creek Township, Pennsylvania, near the intersection of Bear Creek Boulevard (PA-Route 115) and the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike killed the pilot as well as all 19 passengers.
  • December 1, 2006: a tornado left a path of destruction approximately 15 miles (24 km) long (this included parts of Mountain Top).
  • 2008: The Kids for Cash scandal resulted in federal convictions and sentences of juvenile court judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan.
  • 2011: The Borough of Duryea received national attention for its role in the landmark Supreme Court case Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri, in which the court stated that "a government employer's allegedly retaliatory actions against an employee do not give rise to liability under the Petition Clause unless the employee's petition relates to a matter of public concern."
  • September 2011: Luzerne County witnessed historical flooding from Tropical Storm Lee. The Susquehanna River reached a record high of 42.6 feet (13 meters) in Wilkes-Barre. The river topped the 40.9-foot (12.5 meters) level in flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The Greater Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, and Nanticoke areas were hit the hardest.[6][7][8]


West-central Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, from the Mocanaqua Loop Trail in Conyngham Township.
Lehigh Gorge State Park in Luzerne County during the fall
Scenery of Dallas Township
Nuremberg from the south
Boats on Harveys Lake

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 906 square miles (2,350 km2), of which 890 square miles (2,300 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (1.8%) is water.[9] The Wyoming Valley is located in the north and mid part of the county. The valley is flat (at the Susquehanna Basin) and rises from 700 feet (210 m) to 2,000 feet (610 m) in some places. Bear Creek, on the eastern side of the valley, has a mean elevation of about 2,000 feet (610 m), while Pittston City, on the Susquehanna Basin, is about 700 feet (210 m). The Wyoming Valley (in Luzerne County) extends from Exeter Township and Pittston Township to Nanticoke and Shickshinny. Pittston City, West Pittston Borough, Wyoming Borough, Kingston Borough, and Wilkes-Barre City all make up the Susquehanna Basin of the Wyoming Valley. Greater Pittston makes up the northeastern region of the county. The county is crossed by a series of east-to-west mountains. The Susquehanna River drains most of the county while the Lehigh River drains some eastern and southeastern portions. The Lehigh forms part of Luzerne County's southeastern border.

Luzerne County consists of several urban areas. The first is a contiguous quilt-work of former anthracite coal mining communities (consisting of Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, and Nanticoke). It is located in the northeastern and central part of the county. The second is Hazleton and it is located in the southern portion of the county. Other smaller urban areas (such as Dallas) are scattered throughout the region. Small farming communities can be found outside of the urban centers.

Adjacent counties[edit]

Major Highways[edit]



Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 4,892
1800 12,839 162.4%
1810 18,109 41.0%
1820 20,027 10.6%
1830 27,379 36.7%
1840 44,006 60.7%
1850 56,072 27.4%
1860 90,244 60.9%
1870 160,915 78.3%
1880 133,065 −17.3%
1890 201,203 51.2%
1900 257,121 27.8%
1910 343,186 33.5%
1920 390,991 13.9%
1930 445,109 13.8%
1940 441,518 −0.8%
1950 392,241 −11.2%
1960 346,972 −11.5%
1970 342,301 −1.3%
1980 343,079 0.2%
1990 328,149 −4.4%
2000 319,255 −2.7%
2010 320,918 0.5%
Est. 2015 318,449 [10] −0.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
1790-1960[12] 1900-1990[13]
1990-2000[14] 2010-2013[1]

As of the 2010 census, the county was 90.7% White, 3.4% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 1.0% Asian, 3.3% were of some other race, and 1.5% were two or more races. 6.7% of the population was of Hispanic or Latino ancestry.[15]

According to the census of 2000, there were 319,250 people, 130,687 households, and 84,293 families residing in the county. The population density was 358 people per square mile (138/km2). There were 144,686 housing units at an average density of 162 per square mile (63/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 96.63% White, 1.69% Black or African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.43% from other races, and 0.57% from two or more races. 1.16% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 22.2% were of Polish, 15.6% Italian, 13.8% Irish, 12.1% German and 5.3% Slovak ancestry according to the 2000 census.

There were 130,687 households out of which 26.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.80% were married couples living together, 11.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.50% were non-families. 31.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the county, the population was spread out with 21.00% under the age of 18, 8.10% from 18 to 24, 27.20% from 25 to 44, 24.00% from 45 to 64, and 19.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 93.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.50 males.

Luzerne County is the only county in the United States with a plurality of citizens reporting Polish as their primary ancestry;[16] the majority of Pennsylvanians report German or Pennsylvania Dutch.

Politics and Government[edit]

Luzerne County vote[17]
by party in presidential elections
Year Republican Democratic
2016 58.0% 78,303 38.6% 52,092
2012 46.7% 58,325 51.5% 64,307
2008 45.0% 61,127 53.3% 72,492
2004 47.8% 64,953 51.2% 69,573
2000 43.8% 52,328 52.0% 62,199
1996 37.3% 43,577 51.5% 60,174
1992 38.8% 49,285 44.5% 56,623
1988 50.0% 59,059 49.6% 58,553
1984 53.5% 69,169 45.2% 58,482
1980 50.2% 67,822 44.4% 59,976
1976 44.2% 60,058 54.9% 74,655
1972 60.9% 81,358 38.3% 51,128
1968 39.8% 57,044 55.1% 79,040
1964 28.9% 43,895 70.0% 106,397
1960 40.6% 70,711 59.1% 102,998

As of November 2008, there are 187,849 registered voters in Luzerne County.[18]

The county is a bellwether of the state having voted for the presidential candidate who carried Pennsylvania in every election since 1960. While the Democratic Party has been historically dominant in county-level politics, on the statewide and national levels Luzerne County leans toward the Democratic Party only slightly. In 2000 Democrat Al Gore won 52% of the vote and Republican George W. Bush won 44%. In 2004 it was much closer with Democrat John Kerry winning 51% to Republican George Bush's 48%. In 2006 both Democrats Governor Ed Rendell and now Senator Bob Casey Jr. won 67.5% and 60.6% of the vote in Luzerne County, respectively. In 2008 all four statewide winners carried it, with Barack Obama receiving 53% of the county vote to 45% for John McCain.

In 2016 Donald Trump won the county with 58% of the vote, the largest margin since President Nixon in 1972.

County Council[edit]

The County Courthouse
The County Courthouse (in October 2009)

The Luzerne County Council is the governing body of the county. It was established on November 2, 2010, when voters adopted a home rule charter by a margin of 49,343 to 40,394.[19] This move abolished the previous county board of commissioners. The following year (in 2011), the first general election for the new assembly was held. The first council members were sworn in on January 2, 2012.[20]

There are eleven members on the assembly. The chairperson is the highest ranking officer on the council. When the group is not in session, the officer's duties often include acting as its head, its representative to the outside world and its spokesperson. The current chairperson is Linda Houck. The following members have been duly elected to the county council by the voters of Luzerne County.

Council Member Time in Office Party Notes
Chair Linda Houck 2012–present Democratic
Vice Chair Tim McGinley 2012–present Democratic
Jane Walsh Waitkus 2016–present Democratic
Harry Haas 2012–present Republican
Eileen Sorokas 2014–present Democratic
Robert Schnee 2016–present Democratic
Edd Brominski 2012–present Democratic
Kathy Dobash 2014–present Republican
Stephen A. Urban 2012–present Democratic
Eugene Kelleher 2012–present Republican
Rick Williams 2012–present Independent

List of Chairpersons[edit]

List of Chairpersons Time in Office Party Notes
1 Jim Bobeck 1/2012–8/2012 Democratic
2 Tim McGinley 9/2012–2014 Democratic
3 Rick Morelli 2014–2015 Democratic
4 Linda Houck 2015–present Democratic First female chair

Other County Officials[edit]

  • Controller, Michelle Bednar Democrat
  • District Attorney, Stefanie J. Salavantis, Republican

United States Senate[edit]

United States House of Representatives[edit]

State Senate[edit]

State House of Representatives[edit]


Public school districts[edit]

Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania School Districts

Charter schools[edit]

  • Bear Creek Community Charter School

Public vocational technical schools[edit]

Private schools[edit]

Colleges and universities[edit]


The Luzerne County Library System includes the following locations:


Photo of two red canoes on a sandy lake shore lined with trees. There are other canoes, kayaks and boats in the background, with a blue sky above.
Canoes on the shores of Lake Jean (in Ricketts Glen State Park)

There are four Pennsylvania state parks in Luzerne County:

Other recreation[edit]


Wilkes-Barre, the county seat and largest city of Luzerne County
Hazleton, the second largest city in Luzerne County
Nanticoke, the third largest city
Pittston, the fourth largest city
Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania with Municipal Labels showing Cities and Boroughs (red), Townships (white), and Census-designated places (blue).

Luzerne County contains the second highest number of independently governing municipalities in the state of Pennsylvania, with 76; only Allegheny County has more.[23] Under Pennsylvania law, there are four types of incorporated municipalities: cities, boroughs, townships, and, in the case of Bloomsburg, towns. The following cities, boroughs and townships are located in Luzerne County:




Census-designated places[edit]

Census-designated places are geographical areas designated by the U.S. Census Bureau for the purposes of compiling demographic data. They are not actual jurisdictions under Pennsylvania law.

Other places[edit]

Population ranking[edit]

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Luzerne County.[24]

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Wilkes-Barre City 41,498
2 Hazleton City 25,340
3 Kingston Borough 13,182
4 Mountain Top CDP 10,982
5 Nanticoke City 10,465
6 Pittston City 7,739
7 Plymouth Borough 5,951
8 Exeter Borough 5,652
9 Swoyersville Borough 5,062
10 Duryea Borough 4,917
11 West Pittston Borough 4,868
12 Edwardsville Borough 4,816
13 West Hazleton Borough 4,594
14 Larksville Borough 4,480
15 Plains CDP 4,335
16 Forty Fort Borough 4,214
17 Freeland Borough 3,531
18 Wyoming Borough 3,073
19 Luzerne Borough 2,845
20 Dallas Borough 2,804
21 Harveys Lake Borough 2,791
22 Ashley Borough 2,790
23 West Wyoming Borough 2,725
24 Dupont Borough 2,711
25 Avoca Borough 2,661
26 Trucksville CDP 2,152
27 Beech Mountain Lakes CDP 2,022
28 Shavertown CDP 2,019
29 East Berwick CDP 2,007
30 Conyngham Borough 1,914
31 Glen Lyon CDP 1,873
32 Inkerman CDP 1,819
33 Georgetown CDP 1,640
34 Nescopeck Borough 1,583
35 Laflin Borough 1,487
36 Hudson CDP 1,443
37 Browntown CDP 1,418
38 Hughestown Borough 1,392
39 Hilldale CDP 1,246
40 Harleigh CDP 1,104
41 White Haven Borough 1,097
42 Sugar Notch Borough 989
43 Pringle Borough 979
44 Chase CDP 978
45 Shickshinny Borough 838
46 Silkworth CDP 820
47 West Nanticoke CDP 749
48 Courtdale Borough 732
49 Upper Exeter CDP 707
50 Nuangola Borough 679
51 Sheatown CDP 671
52 Mocanaqua CDP 646
53 Wanamie CDP 612
54 Yatesville Borough 607
55 Warrior Run Borough 584
56 Pardeesville CDP 572
57 Hickory Hills CDP 562
58 Lattimer CDP 554
59 Laurel Run Borough 500
60 Nuremberg (partially in Schuylkill County) CDP 434
61 Weston CDP 321
62 Penn Lake Park Borough 308
63 Pikes Creek CDP 269
64 Bear Creek Village Borough 257
65 New Columbus Borough 227
66 Jeddo Borough 98

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 17, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Luzerne County Historical Society
  4. ^ "Twin Shaft Disaster Marker". August 19, 2008. Retrieved July 21, 2009. 
  5. ^ Pittston, PA Twin Shaft Mine Cave In, June 1896
  6. ^ Mandatory Evacuation of Wyoming Valley by 4 p.m., Times-Leader, September 8, 2011
  7. ^ Eckert, Paul (September 9, 2011). "UPDATE 3-Pennsylvania hit by huge flooding, towns submerged". Reuters. 
  8. ^ Luzerne officials issue mandatory evacuation in footprint of Agnes flood, Times Tribune, September 8, 2011
  9. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  10. ^ "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  11. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  13. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 24, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  15. ^ Census data, USA Today
  16. ^ US Census Bureau. "2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates." American FactFinder <>.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Current voter statistics, Website of Pennsylvania Department of State
  19. ^ Voters say 'yes' to home rule - News. Standard Speaker (2010-11-03). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2011). "Licensed, Private Academic Schools in Pennsylvania". 
  22. ^ Susquehanna Warrior Trail, PA - Google Maps. (1970-01-01). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  23. ^ "Pennsylvania Municipalities Information". Retrieved August 16, 2012. 
  24. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°11′N 75°59′W / 41.18°N 75.99°W / 41.18; -75.99