Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
|Luzerne County, Pennsylvania|
Topographical map of Luzerne County
Location in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
|Country||United States of America|
|Metro area||Wyoming Valley|
|Formed||September 25, 1786|
|Named for||Chevalier de la Luzerne|
|• County Council|
|• Council Chair||Linda McClosky Houck (D)|
|• County Manager||C. David Pedri|
|• Total||906 sq mi (2,350 km2)|
|• Land||890 sq mi (2,300 km2)|
|• Water||16 sq mi (40 km2)|
|Highest elevation||2,460 ft (750 m)|
|Lowest elevation||512 ft (156 m)|
|• Estimate (2015)||318,449|
|• Density||350/sq mi (140/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern Time Zone|
Luzerne County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 320,918. It is the most populous county in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The county seat is Wilkes-Barre.
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. At its peak (in 1930), the county’s population was 445,109. By the early 21st century, many factories and coal mines were closed. Like most counties in the Rust Belt, Luzerne witnessed population loss and urban decay.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Government
- 5 Politics
- 6 Education
- 7 Recreation
- 8 Local attractions
- 9 Communities
- 10 Notable people
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
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.
- 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.
- September 6, 1869: A mine fire killed 110 people in Avondale, an unincorporated community in Plymouth Township.
- June 28, 1896: The Newton Coal Company's Twin Shaft Mine in Pittston City caved-in and killed 58 miners.
- September 10, 1897: Sheriff James Martin formed a posse and fired on a group of unarmed miners in what is known today as the Lattimer massacre. Luzerne is infamous for being the last county whose sheriff legally formed a posse to restore order in a time of civil unrest.
- 1908 – 1912: The anthracite coal mining industry, and its extensive use of child labor in the early part of the 20th century, was one of the industries targeted by the National Child Labor Committee and its hired photographer, Lewis Hine. Many of Hine's subjects were photographed in the mines and coal fields in and around Pittston during this time. The impact of the Hine photographs led to the enactment of child labor laws across the country.
- 1915: A mine fire in Laurel Run, Pennsylvania, caused a section of the town to be relocated.
- June 5, 1919: An explosion at the Baltimore Colliery in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, killed 92 miners.
- 1930s – 1980s: Pittston City emerged as a national center for clothing manufacturing. Thousands of workers, mainly women, labored in many factories throughout the Greater Pittston area. One such woman was Susan Sebastianelli of Pittston Township. Most were members of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) that gained higher wages, workplace health & safety improvements, and employee rights. The ILGWU was active in civic and political life throughout Pennsylvania.
- 1934: The right arm of Hughestown, Pennsylvania, resident, Harry Tompkins, was crushed by an Erie Railroad train. This resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, which laid the foundation for a large part of modern American civil procedure.
- January 22, 1959: The Knox Mine disaster in Port Griffith, Jenkins Township, claimed the lives of 12 people and essentially shut down the mining industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
- June 1972: Hurricane Agnes was responsible for massive flooding in and around Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
- 1974–1989: Alleged ghost hauntings took place in the home of Jack and Janet Smurl in West Pittston. This resulted in the 1991 film The Haunted.
- September 25, 1982: George Banks kills 13 people in a shooting rampage in Wilkes-Barre and Jenkins Township.
- 1992: The opening scenes from the movie School Ties was filmed in West Pittston; it shows David Green, the hero of the movie (played by Brendan Fraser), hanging out with friends in the streets of the tiny town.
- 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.
- January 2, 2012: A new county government was formed. The first members of the Luzerne County Council were sworn in. The first chairperson was Jim Bobeck.
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. The highest point in the county is Cherry Ridge in Fairmount Township. The ridge is 2,460 feet (750 m) above sea level. The lowest point, of about 512 feet (156 m), can be found near Shickshinny.
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 512 feet (156 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 Shickshinny, on the Susquehanna Basin, is about 512 feet (156 m). The Wyoming Valley (in Luzerne County) extends from Exeter Township and Pittston Township to Shickshinny and Salem Township. 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 (including the cities 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 the Back Mountain and Mountain Top) are scattered throughout the region. Small farming communities can be found outside of the urban centers.
- Wyoming County (north)
- Lackawanna County (northeast)
- Monroe County (east)
- Carbon County (southeast)
- Schuylkill County (south)
- Columbia County (west)
- Sullivan County (northwest)
- Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport
- Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport
- Hazleton Municipal Airport
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% other race, and 1.5% were of two or more races. 6.7% of the population were of Hispanic or Latino ancestry.
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% other race, and 0.57% from two or more races. 1.16% of the population were Hispanic or Latino. 22.2% were of Polish ancestry, 15.6% of Italian ancestry, 13.8% of Irish ancestry, 12.1% of German ancestry, and 5.3% of Slovak ancestry according to the 2000 census. Luzerne County is the only county in the United States with a plurality of citizens reporting Polish as their primary ancestry; the majority of Pennsylvanians report German or Pennsylvania Dutch.
There were 130,687 households, out of which 48.80% were married couples living together. 11.50% had a female householder with no husband present. 35.50% were non-families. 31.30% of all households were made up of individuals. 16% of those age 65 years and older lived alone. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the county, the population consisted of 21% under the age of 18, 8.10% from 18 to 24, 27.20% from 25 to 44, 24% 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 males. For every 100 females (age 18 and over), there were 89.50 males.
The median household income (in 2015 dollars) was $45,897. 15.1% of the population lives in poverty. 60.4% of those 16 years of age or older are in the civilian labor force. There are more white collar jobs in Luzerne County than blue collar jobs. In total, there are 91,801 white collar jobs and 62,813 blue collar jobs. The mean travel time to work (for those 16 years of age or older) was 22.1 minutes. In terms of education, 88.9% (of those 25 years of age or older) are high school graduates or higher. 21.4% (of those 25 years of age or older) have a bachelor's degree or higher. In terms of healthcare, 10.8% (for those under the age of 65) are living with a disability. As of 2015, 25,317 veterans are living in Luzerne County.
The two major languages spoken in Luzerne County are English and Spanish. 5.8% of the population speaks Spanish at home. Most of the Spanish speaking population can be found in and around the City of Hazleton.
59.27% of the people in Luzerne County are religious, meaning they affiliate with a religion. 43.77% are Catholic; 0.28% are LDS (or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints); 0.51% are Baptist; 0.55% are Episcopalian; 1.05% are Pentecostal; 3.11% are Lutheran; 4.40% are Methodist; 1.95% are Presbyterian; 2.33% are of some other Christian faith; 0.78% are Jewish; 0.00% are of an eastern faith; and 0.51% practice Islam.
Luzerne County voters rejected home rule proposals in the past (once in 1974 and again in 2003). However, prior to 2010, corruption plagued the county government. Three county judges, a county commissioner, a clerk of courts, a deputy chief clerk, and a director of human resources faced criminal charges. These events persuaded the voters of Luzerne County to adopt a new form of government. On Tuesday, November 2, 2010, a home rule charter was adopted by a margin of 49,343 to 40,394.
The following year (in 2011), the first election for the new government was held. On Monday, January 2, 2012, the previous government (the board of county commissioners) was abolished and replaced with the new form of government (council–manager government). The first members of the Luzerne County Council were sworn in that same day. The first council chairperson was Jim Bobeck. The board consists of eleven elected members. They appoint and work with a full-time manager. The manager runs an executive branch of county government.
The Luzerne County Council is the governing body of the county. The council meets at the Luzerne County Courthouse. There are eleven members on the assembly. The Democrats control a majority of seats (with seven members). The Republicans control three seats on the council. There is one Independent politician serving 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 chairperson is appointed by his or her fellow council members. He or she sets the agenda for the council and administers the meetings. The current chairperson is Linda McClosky 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|
|Linda McClosky Houck||2012–present||Democratic||Chairperson|
|Tim McGinley||2012–present||Democratic||Vice Chairperson|
|Jane Walsh Waitkus||2016–present||Democratic|
|Stephen A. Urban||2012–present||Democratic|
The following is a list of former and current chairpersons.
|List of chairpersons||Time in office||Party||Notes|
|4||Linda McClosky Houck||2015–present||Democratic||First female chair|
The executive branch is headed by the Luzerne County Manager. He or she is appointed by the Luzerne County Council. The manager directs the county's organizational, operational, management, budget, and administrative operations and activities. The current manager is C. David Pedri.
Other county officials
- Controller: Michelle Bednar
- Director of Human Resources: Angela Gavlick
- District Attorney: Stefanie J. Salavantis
- Chief Public Defender: Steven M. Greenwald
- Sheriff: Brian M. Szumski
|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.
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. In 2008, Barack Obama received 53% of the county vote to 45% for John McCain. Four years later, in 2012, Obama carried the county again.
United States Senate
United States House of Representatives
- Lou Barletta, R, Pennsylvania's 11th congressional district
- Matthew Cartwright, D, Pennsylvania's 17th congressional district
- John Yudichak, D, Pennsylvania's 14th Senatorial District
- Lisa Baker, R, Pennsylvania's 20th Senatorial District
- John Blake, D, Pennsylvania's 22nd Senatorial District
- John Gordner, R, Pennsylvania's 27th Senatorial District
State House of Representatives
- Tarah Toohil, R, Pennsylvania's 116th Representative District
- Karen Boback, R, Pennsylvania's 117th Representative District
- Michael B. Carroll, D, Pennsylvania's 118th Representative District
- Gerald Mullery, D, Pennsylvania's 119th Representative District
- Aaron Kaufer, R, Pennsylvania's 120th Representative District
- Eddie Day Pashinski, D, Pennsylvania's 121st Representative District
Public school districts
- Berwick Area School District (also in Columbia County)
- Crestwood School District
- Dallas School District
- Greater Nanticoke Area School District
- Hanover Area School District
- Hazleton Area School District (also in Carbon and Schuylkill Counties)
- Lake-Lehman School District (also in Wyoming County)
- Northwest Area School District
- Pittston Area School District
- Wilkes-Barre Area School District
- Wyoming Area School District (also in Wyoming County)
- Wyoming Valley West School District
- Bear Creek Community Charter School
Public vocational technical schools
Colleges and universities
The Luzerne County Library System includes the following locations:
- Back Mountain Memorial Library, Back Mountain, Pennsylvania
- Hazleton Area Public Library, Hazleton, Pennsylvania
- Hoyt Library, Kingston, Pennsylvania
- Marian Sutherland Kirby Library, Mountaintop, Pennsylvania
- Mill Memorial Library, Nanticoke, Pennsylvania
- Osterhout Free Library, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
- Pittston Memorial Library, Pittston, Pennsylvania
- Plymouth Public Library, Plymouth, Pennsylvania
- West Pittston Library, West Pittston, Pennsylvania
- Wyoming Free Library, Wyoming, Pennsylvania
There are four Pennsylvania state parks in Luzerne County:
- Frances Slocum State Park (northern Luzerne County)
- Lehigh Gorge State Park (eastern Luzerne County)
- Nescopeck State Park (southern Luzerne County)
- Ricketts Glen State Park (western Luzerne County)
- Bittenbender Covered Bridge
- Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts, located on the campus of Wilkes University
- Eckley Miners' Village
- F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts
- Frederick Stegmaier Mansion
- Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre
- Luzerne County Museum
- Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, home of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
- Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Pennsylvania's first slots casino
- Swetland Homestead
- Wyoming Monument
- Wyoming Valley Mall
Luzerne County contains the second highest number of independently governing municipalities in the state of Pennsylvania, with 76; only Allegheny County has more. 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:
- Bear Creek Village
- Forty Fort
- Harveys Lake
- Laurel Run
- New Columbus
- Penn Lake Park
- Sugar Notch
- Warrior Run
- West Hazleton
- West Pittston
- West Wyoming
- White Haven
† county seat
|Rank||City/Town/etc.||Municipal type||Population (2010 Census)|
|27||Beech Mountain Lakes||CDP||2,022|
|60||Nuremberg (partially in Schuylkill County)||CDP||434|
|62||Penn Lake Park||Borough||308|
|64||Bear Creek Village||Borough||257|
- Luzerne County Transportation Authority
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
- Pennamite-Yankee War
- USS Luzerne County (LST-902)
- "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 17, 2013.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- Luzerne County Historical Society
- "Twin Shaft Disaster Marker". Hmdb.org. August 19, 2008. Retrieved July 21, 2009.
- Pittston, PA Twin Shaft Mine Cave In, June 1896
- Mandatory Evacuation of Wyoming Valley by 4 p.m., Times-Leader, September 8, 2011
- Eckert, Paul (September 9, 2011). "UPDATE 3-Pennsylvania hit by huge flooding, towns submerged". Reuters.
- Luzerne officials issue mandatory evacuation in footprint of Agnes flood, Times Tribune, September 8, 2011
- "Luzerne County Council members sworn in - The Times Leader reports". YouTube. 2012-01-02. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
- "Pennsylvania County High Points". Peakbagger.com. 2004-11-01. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
- "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
- "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
- Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 24, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
- "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
- Census data, USA Today
- US Census Bureau. "2011 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates." American FactFinder <http://factfinder2.census.gov>.
- "Luzerne County Demographics & Statistics â€" Employment, Education, Income Averages, Crime in Luzerne County â€" Point2 Homes". Point2homes.com. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "Luzerne County Pennsylvania QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau". Census.gov. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "Languages in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (County)". Statistical Atlas. 2015-04-17. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Religion". Bestplaces.net. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- Voters say 'yes' to home rule - News. Standard Speaker (2010-11-03). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
- By Michael P. Buffer (Staff Writer) (2012-07-31). "Luzerne County Council divided over next chairperson - News". Standard Speaker. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "Council". Luzerne County. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "County Manager Open Position". Luzerne County. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "County Manager". Luzerne County. 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- David Leip. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- Current voter statistics, Website of Pennsylvania Department of State
- Pennsylvania Department of Education (2011). "Licensed, Private Academic Schools in Pennsylvania".
- Susquehanna Warrior Trail, PA - Google Maps. Maps.google.com (1970-01-01). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
- "Wilkes Division of Performing Arts". Wilkes University. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
- "The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts". Kirbycenter.org. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
- "The Frederick Stegmaier Mansion". Stegmaiermansion.com. 2011-05-26. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
- "Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre". Ltwb.org. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
- Luzerne County Historical Society. "Welcome to the Luzerne County Historical Society website | NEPA Luzerne County Pennsylvania history". Luzernehistory.org. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
- "Pennsylvania Municipalities Information". Pamunicipalitiesinfo.com. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- "2010 Census". Census.gov. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.|
- Official Luzerne County website
- "Luzerne County Library System.". Archived from the original on February 12, 2008.
- Tournepa.com: Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau
- The Luzerne Foundation — the county's Community Foundation.
- Luzerne County Community College website
||Sullivan County||Wyoming County||Lackawanna County|
|Columbia County||Monroe County|
|Schuylkill County||Carbon County|