HARVEY'S LAKE THROUGH THE AGES
1790s

An Accidental Discovery

Aerial view of Harvey's Lake from the south showing the ridge line from which Benjamin Harvey likely first saw the lake.


Harvey's Lake was discovered during the Revolutionary War by Benjamin Harvey, who was among the early settlers of the Wyoming Valley from Connecticut. At that time, the Wyoming Valley area was claimed by both the Connecticut and Pennsylvania colonies because it inadvertently was included in two separate land grants made by King Charles II of England.

In November 1780 Harvey was among a group of Valley settlers captured as prisoners of war by Butler's Rangers, a British militia division made up of American loyalists and Seneca warriors. The prisoners were taken through the Endless Mountains to British-held Fort Niagara near Niagara Falls, NY.

In May 1781 Harvey was released, but he had to find his way alone through the wilderness to his Pennsylvania home--more than 300 miles away. He travelled south east from Fort Niagra, down the Chemung River and then down the Susquehanna River until he was forced off the river near Tunckhannock for fear of recapture. He wandered west following what is now Bowman's Creek for three days. On the morning of the fourth day, he spotted water in the distance from atop a ridge. At first he thought he had walked in a circle and was seeing the Susquehanna. But it was a large lake previously unknown to American settlers.

Knowing he wanted to go roughly downstream, Harvey followed the shore of the lake until he found an outlet creek. This he followed until, to his surprise, he ended up again at the Susquehanna near West Nanticoke, where he had already built a house and a mill. The creek is now known as Harvey's Creek. The mill had been burnt by the British, but he soon found family members living in the relative protection of nearby Wilkes-Barre, then a fortified outpost on the western American frontier.

Harvey settled with his family in Wilkes-Barre during the remainder of the War, which ended in October 1781. Eventually he rebuilt his mill and a new home at West Nanticoke. He died in November 1795. He never owned land at the lake named after him. He was originally buried in Plymouth. Later his remains were reinterred in Hollenback Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre.

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Benjamin Harvey's gravestone in Hollenback Cemetary,
Willkes-Barre, PA

© 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo