Tamaqua, Pennsylvania

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Borough of Tamaqua
West Broad Street, Tamaqua, July 2013.
West Broad Street, Tamaqua, July 2013.
Etymology: Corruption of Native American word "Tankamochkhanna" meaning "Little Beaver Stream"[1]
Location of Tamaqua in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
Location of Tamaqua in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
Tamaqua is located in Pennsylvania
Location in Pennsylvania
Tamaqua is located in the United States
Tamaqua (the United States)
Coordinates: 40°47′55″N 75°57′59″W / 40.79861°N 75.96639°W / 40.79861; -75.96639Coordinates: 40°47′55″N 75°57′59″W / 40.79861°N 75.96639°W / 40.79861; -75.96639
CountryUnited States
 • MayorNathan Gerace
 • Total9.72 sq mi (25.17 km2)
 • Land9.56 sq mi (24.77 km2)
 • Water0.16 sq mi (0.40 km2)
870 ft (270 m)
 • Total7,107
 • Estimate 
 • Density696.93/sq mi (269.07/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)570 and 272
FIPS code42-76032
School DistrictTamaqua Area School District
USGS Map showing Tamaqua, the confluence of the Schuylkill Rivers, showing Tamaqua Gap separating Nesquehoning Mountain to the east and Sharp Mountain across the gap to the west.

Tamaqua (pronounced tuh-MAH-qwah, Delaware: tëmakwe)[4] is a borough in eastern Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, United States. The borough is located in Central Eastern Pennsylvania's Southern Coal Region. It had a population of 7,107 as of the 2010 U.S. census.[5]

Tamaqua was established from territory from West Penn and Schuylkill Townships. The borough is part of the Pottsville, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area.


The Benjamin F. Yost Memorial in Tamaqua, 2013
The Flat Iron Building in Tamaqua, 2014

18th and 19th centuries[edit]

Tamaqua was settled in 1799 by Burkhardt (alternatively Berkhard) Moser, his son Jacob (born 1790) and John Kershner, who built shelters and a sawmill at the confluence of the Little Schuylkill River and Panther Creek,[6] which is downtown Tamaqua today. According to property records, Moser had a partner named Houser, and together they owned 2,000 acres which Moser homesteaded. Moser built a log house at the base of Dutch Hill in 1801 for Mrs. Catherine Moser, who was the first adult to die and receive burial there on February 15, 1822 followed later in April that year by John Kershner.

The borough was originally to be named Tuscarora, but the name Tamaqua was chosen after it was realized that there already was a community named Tuscarora about four miles (6 km) to the west. The editor of The History of Schuylkill County wrote in 1881:

The town was laid out from parts of West Penn and Schuylkill townships in 1829, at which time the population was about 150. The design was to name it Tuscarora, but some enterprising person arose too early in the morning for the pioneers and gave that Indian name to the village four miles west. As the waters of the Tamaqua, rechristened Wabash, the west branch of the Little Schuylkill, passed through the tract, it was decided to name the infant with the name of the creek, Tamaqua, which is Indian for "running water".

— R.Steffy (editor), History of Schuylkill County, Pa., (USGenWeb project digital reprint)

That editor writes about the founding:

Mr. Moser was an industrious man, clearing the forest around his mill and laying out a farm, never dreaming that beneath his fields lay the great seams of coal, the mining of which was in future years to open employment to tens of thousands. February 15th, 1822, Catherine Moser died. This was the first death of an adult person in the place. In April of the same year John Kershner passed away.

The first business relied upon to support the infant town was agriculture, which, with the manufacture of lumber, was the principal industry for twenty years. For this purpose the elevated sloping land east of the borough, as well as that upon the immediate north, was chosen by Moser.

In 1817 anthracite coal was discovered by Berkhard Moser and his son Jacob. For a number of years the quantity mined, consumed and marketed was very inconsiderable; first sales being made to blacksmiths, and some was taken over the Blue mountains in sacks and sold at seven to twelve cents per bushel. Sales increased until in 1832, when the record first begins, they amounted to 14,000 tons.

Greenwood was the spot of the first discovery, and the last coal mined at Tamaqua was there, in 1874, when the extensive breakers were burned and the mines ruined, at a loss of $1,500,000. Up to 1874 Tamaqua alone had given to the markets 23,000 tons.

— R.Steffy (editor), History of Schuylkill County, Pa., (USGenWeb project digital reprint)

Roughly half of Moser's original log cabin is still intact and visible behind a house on the north side of East Broad Street. The discovery of anthracite coal in the region in the early 19th century led to Tamaqua's rise as a coal-producing community. The town was incorporated as a borough in 1832.[7] The first coal breaker, called "The Greenwood" was built as noted in the quotation, at the site of the first mine at the lower end of the Panther Creek Valley. However, details about construction and development in Rahn Township and Coaldale on the county-line with sister-town Lansford from the same source history illustrate it was definitely not the first breaker in the valley. Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, with 10,000 acres located between Mauch Chunk and Tamaqua, was known to have mine tailings in their lands in Coaldale.[8] The Greenwood breaker in 1874, as noted in the above quote, was burned by the Molly Maguires in the labor troubles of that era.

Irish, Welsh, and German immigrants came to the borough in the 1840s and 1850s followed by a large influx of Italians, Lithuanians, Russians, Ukrainians, Slovaks, and Poles in the 1890s and early 20th century. During the 1860s and 1870s, Tamaqua also was the geographic center hub for the Molly Maguires. One murder commonly attributed to the Mollies was that of town policeman Benjamin Yost, who was shot to death early one morning while extinguishing a gas lamp at the corner of West Broad and Lehigh Streets.[9]

The Tamaqua Railroad Station was constructed in 1874. It stood idle from the mid 1980s through the late 1990s after passenger railroad service to the town was discontinued. Initially planned to be demolished in the late 1980s, the non-profit group Save Our Station (S.O.S.) eventually managed to raise enough money to have it refurbished at a cost of $1.5 million. The station reopened in August 2004 and is now home to a full-service restaurant and gift shop. Rail excursions leave from there during the Tamaqua Historical Society's annual Heritage Festival on the second Sunday in October.


The first tavern in Tamaqua was opened around 1807 in Berkhard Moser's house by the widow of John Kershner and her son-in-law, Isaac Bennett. In 1827, the Little Schuylkill Company, aspiring to draw the center of population to Dutch Hill, built the first stone building and hotel in Tamaqua. The house was converted into a dwelling thirty years afterward.

In 1832, James Taggart, one of the pioneers in Panther Creek Valley, came to Tamaqua and opened a hotel. Michael Beard took possession in 1846. Between 1845 and 1847, the United States Hotel was built by the Little Schuylkill Company and was first kept by Joseph Haughawout. In 1850, the Washington House, on Pine Street, was built, and the American and Mansion on Centre Street at a later period.

Literary societies and lyceums[edit]

In 1853, Tamaqua had a public library and debating clubs discussed current events in the first town hall or schoolhouse as early as 1845. About 1856 the Tamaqua Lyceum was organized; it held weekly sessions in the south ward school building. To this lyceum Matthew Newkirk, of Philadelphia, made a gift of 1,500 books, which passed into the hands of the Perseverance Fire Company when the society disbanded. No records of the first organization remain. The principal citizens were members.

On November 26, 1876, a group of men formed the Presbyterian Social and Literary Institute.


The first graveyard was laid out in 1831 on Dutch Hill. The Catholic and Methodist burying grounds were laid out about 1837. The 30-acre Odd Fellows' cemetery is located at the western end of Broad Street. It is one of only two elaborate Victorian garden cemeteries in Schuylkill County. It is overseen by trustees appointed by Harmony Lodge of Odd Fellows, and it was first opened in 1865. Zion's cemetery was opened in 1876.

20th century[edit]

Tamaqua remained a thriving community throughout the heyday of coal production in the United States through the early 20th century. Certain sections of the borough, such as Dutch Hill and the South Ward, had a reputation for "toughness." Those sections were also densely populated by immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. However, in the 1950s, as coal mines began tapering off, Tamaqua began declining, along with many other anthracite communities. Hurricane Diane in 1955 caused tremendous damage to Tamaqua's railroad yards, and they never fully recovered. In 1971, the borough annexed neighboring Rahn Township[10] and its Owl Creek section, home to the world's first fish hatchery.

In 1945, John E. Morgan established a knitwear manufacturing industry in Hometown, two miles north of Tamaqua. The company, Morgan Knitting Mills, Inc., grew into one of the largest employers in the area, second only to the Atlas Powder Company. In the mid 1950s, Morgan, working from a design developed by his wife (Anna Hoban Morgan), patented the widely known thermal underwear product lines. Since Morgan's death in 2000, the Morgan Trust has donated money to various causes in the Tamaqua area and established the John & Dorothy Morgan Cancer Center at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown.

Dial telephone service arrived in Tamaqua on August 6, 1961. The new exchange (668) still exists. Operators who worked the 12-position switchboard on the top floor of the Tamaqua National Bank at West Broad and Berwick Streets were transferred to Bell Telephone's Hazleton and Pottsville Toll Centers.

The 55-block Tamaqua Historic District, Anthracite Bank Building, George Ormrod House, and Tamaqua Railroad Station are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[11]

21st century[edit]

In 2007, the borough of Tamaqua passed an unprecedented law giving ecosystems legal rights. The ordinance establishes that the municipal government or any Tamaqua resident can file a lawsuit on behalf of the local ecosystem.[12] Other townships, such as Rush, followed suit and passed their own laws.[13]


Tamaqua is located in a valley basin at 40°47′55″N 75°57′59″W / 40.79861°N 75.96639°W / 40.79861; -75.96639 (40.798600, −75.966498)[14] situated within the Pennsylvania Southern Coal Region section of the Appalachian Mountains in the Schuylkill River drainage basin. Tamaqua's valley is located at the western end of the Pocono Mountains on the edge of the neighboring Lehigh River watershed. Because of the dominant terrain, the town is typical of many mid-size Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians—low lands and flats towns with business, rail transport, and industries in its lower valley locations and residential dwellings on the higher elevated slopes above.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 10.0 square miles (26 km2), of which, 9.8 square miles (25 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (1.31%) is water. Three streams pass through Tamaqua: The Little Schuylkill River runs through Tamaqua from the north through the gap separating the folds of Sharp Mountain on the west and Nesquehoning Mountain. Panther Creek flows southwest from Lansford, 5 miles away, and joins the Little Schuylkill River in Tamaqua. Wabash Creek joins the Little Schuylkill from the west.

In the Tamaqua area, coal mining was a vital economic activity throughout the 20th century. But more recent diminished use of coal as a power plant fuel and the demise of steam powered traction, coal has since experienced a decline. Tamaqua also gained recognition as a railroad center. In addition, the 1885 Edison Electric Illuminating Co. of Tamaqua once furnished the town with the nation's second incandescent municipal lighting system, a feat accomplished through the involvement of Thomas Edison.

The nearest city to Tamaqua is Hazleton, just 12.5 miles north. Tamaqua is 15 miles (24 km) east of Pottsville, 14 miles (23 km) southwest of Jim Thorpe, approximately 60 miles (97 km) south of Scranton, approximately 95 miles (153 km) northwest of Philadelphia, and approximately 100 miles (160 km) southwest of New York City.

Tamaqua's average elevation is 870 feet (270 m) above sea level, but elevations can reach up to 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level.

The borough has a warm-summer humid continental climate (Dfb) and the hardiness zone is 6a. Average monthly temperatures range from 26.0 °F in January to 71.0 °F in July.[15]


Until the late 1960s, Tamaqua was a hub for two major railroads, the Reading Railroad (RDG) and Lehigh and New England Railroad (LNE). A large rail yard existed in the southern part of town that extended through downtown with, at one point, eight tracks passing by the passenger station. An engine house, turntable, and car shop were located across the street from the passenger station in what is now the St. Luke's Medical Center parking lot. The collapse of the anthracite coal industry in the early 1960s, the Penn Central merger, and Hurricane Agnes in 1972 all led to the railroad's demise. Today, all that remains is a single track line through town operated by the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad.


The main highway in the borough, Pennsylvania Route 309, connects Tamaqua with Allentown and Philadelphia to the south and Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre to the north, continuing past there as PA Route 29 to the New York state line. Route 309 serves as a truck bypass for Interstate 476 since many placarded trucks are not allowed in the Lehigh Tunnel and as a route of choice for access to the region's operating coal mines and industrial parks. A second highway in the borough, U.S. Route 209, runs along Panther Creek and intersects with Route 309 in the borough. Route 209 runs for approximately 212 miles from Millersburg in Dauphin County to Ulster in Ulster County, New York. U.S. 209 also connects Tamaqua to nearby municipalities, including the Schuylkill County seat at Pottsville in the west and both Jim Thorpe and Lehighton to the east.

Tamaqua has a small rail yard, but its switching and geography makes it an important junction with tracks along both the Little Schuylkill River and others penetrating near the west-flowing Panther Creek and north into Hazleton. The town once hosted trackage of the Reading Railroad and the Lehigh Valley and New England Railroad.

Other highways near Tamaqua include Pennsylvania Route 54, Pennsylvania Route 443, Pennsylvania Route 895 and Pennsylvania Route 902, most of which connect the Tamaqua area to the Poconos, the Lehigh Valley, and South Central Pennsylvania. In addition, Interstates 81, 80, 476, and 78 are not far from the town.

Bus service is provided by Schuylkill Transportation System, Route 45 (Pottsville-McAdoo), and Fullington Trailways (intercity).


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)6,664[3]−6.2%

As of the census[18] of 2000, there were 7,174 people, 3,179 households, and 1,901 families residing in the borough. The population density was 729.9 people per square mile (281.8/km2). There were 3,602 housing units at an average density of 366.5 per square mile (141.5/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 98.69% White, 0.18% African American, 0.08% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.25% from other races, and 0.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.30% of the population.

There were 3,179 households, out of which 24.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.9% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 19.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.93.

The borough's population consisted of 21.8% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 21.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $27,899, and the median income for a family was $36,406. Males had a median income of $29,970 versus $20,637 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $15,752. About 11.1% of families and 14.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.1% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those aged 65 or over.


Since June 14, 1965, Tamaqua has had an FM station, beginning as WSVB, later WZTA and WCRN, now WMGH Magic 105.5. The Bill Angst Little League Field in Thomas Walsh Park is adjacent to the original studios and transmitting tower in the Dutch Hill section of the borough. The studios are now with co-owned WLSH (AM 1410), seven miles east of Tamaqua on Route 209 in Nesquehoning. The station's tower is in Tuscarora, 4.5 miles west of Tamaqua on Locust Mountain.

Tamaqua is located in the Scranton DMA and receives television signals primarily from that area. Depending on cable providers, it is possible to receive signals from Philadelphia and New York City, as Tamaqua lies on the boundary line of the two markets. The main television stations broadcasting to Tamaqua are:

Tamaqua receives broadcasts of The CW from New York City (WPIX-TV) and Wilkes-Barre (WSWB-TV).



Students in Tamaqua attend schools in the Tamaqua Area School District. There are seven schools, five public and two private, located within the geographic area of the district:

  • Tamaqua Area (Senior) High School – Grades 9–12
  • Tamaqua Area Middle School – Grades 6–8
  • Tamaqua Area Elementary School – Grades K–5
  • Rush Elementary School – Grades K-2
  • West Penn Elementary School – Grades K-5
  • St. Jerome Regional School – Grades PreK – 8
  • Marian Catholic High School – Grades 9–12

Tamaqua is also home to the Morgan Center branch of the Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), a community college based in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania.

Notable people[edit]

  • Frank M. Allen (February 15, 1923 – January 9, 1999) a former Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • Henry Aurand (November 16, 1894 – June 18, 1980), Lt. General, a Commanding General, United States Army, Pacific (CG USArPac), a position he held until his retirement in 1952
  • Charles Justin Bailey (June 21, 1859 – September 21, 1946), a Major-General in the United States Army who commanded the 81st Infantry Division during World War I
  • Kimberly Bergalis (January 19, 1968 – December 8, 1991), infected by her dentist in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Brought national attention for HIV testing for health care workers
  • Henry L. Cake (October 6, 1827 – August 26, 1899), commander of the Ninety-sixth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers (1861–1863), a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania
  • Christopher Fulmer (July 4, 1858 – November 9, 1931), was a Major League Baseball catcher. He played for the Washington Nationals of the Union Association in 1884 and for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association from 1886 to 1889
  • William K. Klingaman, Sr. (December 14, 1916 – August 13, 1991) a former Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • Paul H. Knepper (1917 – March 1, 1989), aircraft engineer and designer who built the Crusader in 1939–41, a two-seat airplane with many innovations such as tricycle landing gear, a shock absorber and a skylight above the pilot's seat
  • Jerry Knowles (July 30, 1948–) is a Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 124th legislative district
  • Jacob Kulick (April 11, 1992) an American recording artist, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and audio engineer.
  • Sean Love (September 6, 1968–), professional offensive guard in the National Football League for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers from 1993 to 1996
  • G. Raymond Nye (April 13, 1889 – July 23, 1965) was an American actor of the silent era. He appeared in 111 films between 1912 and 1952
  • Megan Valentine, American engineer
  • Paul L. Wagner (September 19, 1897 – September 10, 1991), Republican Pennsylvania State Senator for the 29th District from 1944 to 1964

In popular culture[edit]

In the fiction writings of John O'Hara, Tamaqua appears as "Taqua."



Author Varies by chapter (1881). George Macnamara (ed.). HISTORY OF SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, PA (PDF). with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, Contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by R. Steffey; Typing and editing by Jo Garzelloni and Carole Carr. New York: W. W. Munsell & Co., 36 Vesey Street (USGenWeb project digital reprint). {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)


  1. ^ "Schuylkill County History: Indian Names". Archived from the original on May 4, 2010. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  4. ^ Online Lenape Talking Dictionary, "https://www.talk-lenape.org/detail?id=10044", Link
  5. ^ "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-04-05.[dead link]
  6. ^ George Macnamara, ed. (1881). "TAMAQUA BOROUGH" (PDF). HISTORY OF SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, PA. New York: W. W. Munsell & Co., 36 Vesey Street (USGenWeb project digital reprint). p. 327. Together with one Houser he took up a track of 2,000 acres, which was partially brought under cultivation. The first discovery of coal was made where Greenwood slope is now located.
  7. ^ "Pennsylvania state government web site" (PDF).
  8. ^ Macnamara (ed.), History of Schuylkill County as cited and linked, supported elsewhere in text.
  10. ^ Kuchta, David.The History of Coaldale, PA.
  11. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  12. ^ Eaves, Elisabeth (24 May 2007). "Tree Rights". Forbes.
  13. ^ "CELDF.org".
  14. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  15. ^ "PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University".
  16. ^ "Number of Inhabitants: Pennsylvania" (PDF). 18th Census of the United States. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  17. ^ "Pennsylvania: Population and Housing Unit Counts" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  18. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  19. ^ "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 11 June 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.

 This article incorporates text from History Of Schuylkill County, Pa, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, a publication from 1881, now in the public domain in the United States.

External links[edit]

Official website