1806 - 1871

Pioneer Settlement

After the creation of Luzerne County, land in the region was sold by the Pennsylvania state government. Much of the new county's wilderness land came under the control of Matthias Hollenback, a successful Wilkes-Barre merchant and land speculator. Substantial lands at Harvey's Lake were also under the control of Hollenback, purchased from original owners John King and Simon Harmon (shown in the patents above) in 1797.

An early water-powered mill at Outlet.

The earliest resident at the Lake was Matthew Scouten who was a caretaker for the Hollenback lands at the Lake in the early 1790s. During the same period, a number of families from northwestern New Jersey carved out farmlands in nearby Back Mountain (Dallas, Trucksville, Lehman). The earliest true settler was Joseph Worthington, from Connecticut, who settled near Sunset in 1806.

In the late 1830s the Hollenback family began to harness the outlet stream, Harvey's Creek, to power sawmills. As the virgin timber around the Lake was cleared, new settlers relocated to farm or to work in the lumber and mill trades. These pioneer families include names still prevalent in the area: Anderson, Kocher, Kitchen, Perrego and Sorber.

Lumbering at Outlet Mills was substantial through the 1850s and the area prospered. Lake Township was created in 1841 and schools were formed. A post office at Outlet was opened in November 1850. Roads and churches were built. The earliest hotel at Inlet (now Sunset) was opened in 1855.

By 1870 the lake had become a resort attraction for the Wyoming Valley. Valley residents took a 2 to 3 hour stage coach ride to reach the resort. A local judge, Warren J. Woodward, had 300 acres (later the Barnum homestead) near the Picnic Grounds site as early as 1853.

In 1870 the population of Lake Township was 597. Principal settlements were at Outlet, West Corner (now Sandy Beach) and North Corner (now Alderson). The first lake-side cottage was built by J.C. Paine in 1871 at Sunset.

An enterprising local congressman, H.B. Wright, and Charles T. Barnum received patents from the State for ownership of the Lake bottom in 1871. They stocked the Lake with black bass in August of that year.

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© 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo