Local History

The Greater Carbondale Area has a rich and distinguished history and a lot going for it today.


Carbondale, which was recently designated a Route 6 Heritage Community, is located at the northern end of the Northern Coal Field, which extends 53 miles from Forest City to Nanticoke. It encompasses 176 square miles, and is the deepest of the four coal fields in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where three-fourths of the anthracite coal in the world is found, in 18 workable seams, some as deep as 2,100 feet. The four coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania together encompass 484 square miles.


First Commercially Successful Railroad System in America

The Delaware & Hudson Canal Company's Gravity Railroad from Carbondale to Honesdale began operations here on October 9, 1829. This was the first commercially successful railroad to operate in America. The industrial revolution in America, it can be argued, was born in Carbondale, on October 9, 1829, when the first cut of Delaware & Hudson Gravity Railroad coal cars, loaded with mass produced anthracite coal, headed up Plane No. 1 out of Carbondale for Honesdale and to market in New York City. The Carbondale D&H Transportation Museum, located on the third floor of Carbondale City Hall, focuses on recording and preserving the history of this astonishing mining, transportation, and marketing system.


First Million Dollar Company in American Private Sector

Maurice and William Wurts, dry goods merchants from Philadelphia, together with the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, created a mining, transportation, and marketing system, the D&H, that became the first million-dollar enterprise in the private sector in America.


First Anthracite Shaft Mine in America in Carbondale

The first anthracite shaft mine in America was opened in Carbondale, in June 1831, under the direction of Archibald Law, the Chief Mining Engineer of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. A monument marking the site of this mine is located just west of the Seventh Avenue crossing on the former Delaware & Hudson tracks through Carbondale.


Two Welsh "Firsts" for Carbondale

Carbondale has very deep Welsh roots which were established in the early years of the nineteenth century when anthracite mining in America began here. To secure the expertise needed to establish shaft mines and to conduct deep underground mining, the D&H recruited, in 1830 and 1832, 90 Welsh miners and their families to come to Carbondale. The legacy of those pioneer Welsh settlers here is commemorated today with an annual Saint David’s Day dinner in Carbondale on March 1st. Not surprisingly, these early Welsh pioneers in Carbondale conducted, on Christmas Day, 1850, the first eisteddfod (a Welsh musical and literary festival) in America. In addition, they established in Carbondale, in the fall of 1853, the first lodge in America of the ancient Welsh fraternal order of Ivorites.


Carbondale is the fourth oldest incorporated city in Pennsylvania

The village of Carbondale was incorporated as a city on March 15, 1851, making it the oldest city (the "Pioneer" city) in Lackawanna County, and the fourth oldest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (after Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York). Philo Callender Gritman, together with Townsend Poore and Thomas Hurley, laid out the original city lines on New Year's day, 1851.


Rich Architectural Legacy

There are many substantial late-nineteenth century houses and several high style Victorian houses in Carbondale today, including the Eli E. Hendrick House and Park, which were designed by the celebrated American architect Andrew Jackson Downing.


Ethnic Diversity

One of Carbondale’s great strengths is its ethnic diversity. Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century, people from all over Western and Eastern Europe came to Carbondale and the Lackawanna Valley to work in the mines and on the railroads here and to begin new lives for themselves and their children. Life then was not easy, but it was good, and the quality of the lives of those ancestors of ours was good, very good. We owe them a lot.


First Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Lackawanna County

The first Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Lackawanna County was held in Carbondale in 1843. There were three feet of snow on the ground at the time, but the parade took place. In 2013, Saint Patrick Day parades will begin again in Carbondale.


Renewed Interest in Local History

There are today historical societies in many of the communities in the Greater Carbondale Area who are working very hard to record, gather, and preserve our rich history.


The following communities now have active historical societies: Carbondale, Jermyn, Waymart, Clifford, Archbald, Dunmore, Forest City, Fell Township/Simpson.


The Carbondale Historical Society and Museum is the oldest of the historical societies in the Greater Carbondale Area. It is an educational and historical membership organization whose mission is to record, gather, and preserve the history of the city of Carbondale and the surrounding area. Through its genealogical and local history research center and exhibition galleries on the third floor of Carbondale City hall (listed in the National Register of Historic Places on January 6, 1983) and through an annual series of public lectures, programs, exhibitions, and commemorative ceremonies, in the community and in the public schools, the Society, at the same time, interprets and makes accessible to the public the City's rich, diverse, and unique history and heritage.


Distinguished Carbondale Natives

Among the many celebrated Carbondale natives are the following:


  • ·       Gwynn Murray, Broadway actress


    ·       Joseph R. Sarnoski, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (World War II)


    ·       Patrick DeLacey, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (Civil War)


    ·       General Jerome F. O'Malley


    ·       Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey (family from Carbondale Township)

    ·       Pennsylvania State Auditor General Robert Casey, Jr.  (family from Carbondale Township)


    ·       The founders of the pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson  were from Carbondale


    ·       Eli E. Hendrick, industrialist


    ·       Mary B. McAndrew, educator


    ·       Jack Race, author and pilot


    ·       General Alvin Ungerleider



We’ve Got a Lot Going for Us Today

The City of Carbondale has a lot going for it these days. It has good schools, affordable housing, an active Shade Tree Commission (Carbondale was recently designated a Tree City USA), excellent recreational facilities in an around the community, among which is the Homestead Golf Course (celebrating this year its 50th season in operation), a world-class YMCA, a Chamber of Commerce and a Historical Society that never stop working on behalf of Carbondale, a multi-million dollar hotel now under construction on Main Street, a state-of-the-art Public Library (the oldest public library in the county), enlightened community leaders who are committed to building a future for the city—and much more. At the same time there is a concerted effort being made to develop heritage tourism in our community, based on our rich railroad and mining history.


Our Town Carbondale Is the Best

There are ten communities/cities in the United States with the name Carbondale, located in

·       Amador County, California

·       Garfield County, Colorado

·       Jackson County, Illinois  

·       Warren County, Indiana  

·       Polk County, Iowa 

·       Osage County, Kansas 

·       Menominee County, Michigan  

·       Athens County, Ohio

·       Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania   

·       Fayette County, West Virginia

but our town Carbondale, we're convinced, is surely the best of them all.