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Nestled in Luzerne County, Plymouth Township (18651) is a historical gem with roots tracing back to the 18th century. Its significance in the coal mining boom of the 1800s has left an indelible mark on its character. From remnants of coal mines to iconic architecture, the township’s history is etched in its landscape.

Plymouth Township’s allure extends beyond history. Enveloped by rolling hills and serene streams, it offers a retreat from modern life. Its lush landscapes and scenic beauty beckon those seeking a connection with nature. The Susquehanna River adds to this charm, providing opportunities for outdoor adventures.

First Settlers

The history of the Native American presence in the Plymouth Township area is deeply intertwined with the settlement of the region by European colonists. Prior to European contact, the land was inhabited by indigenous tribes, most notably the Susquehannock people. These Native Americans had established their communities along the Susquehanna River and its surrounding areas, including what would later become Plymouth Township. The Susquehannock were a part of the Iroquoian language group and had a complex social and cultural structure. They engaged in agriculture, hunting, and trading, and they had established a network of settlements throughout the region. However, the arrival of European settlers, disease, and conflicts disrupted their way of life. As European colonists expanded their presence and established settlements, tensions and conflicts between the Native Americans and the settlers increased. The Susquehannock and other native tribes in the region experienced significant challenges as the European settlers encroached upon their lands and resources. With the establishment of settlements like Plymouth Township, the Native American populations were gradually displaced from their traditional territories. Tensions escalated into conflicts, often involving land disputes and competition for resources. The Susquehannock, along with other native tribes, were eventually pushed out of the region or assimilated into European-American society.

Plymouth Township's history dates back to December 28, 1768, when the Susquehanna Company in Hartford established five townships, including Plymouth, each measuring five square miles. Over time, the township expanded, encompassing present-day Plymouth and Jackson townships. It was one of the original eleven townships in the county. However, through boundary adjustments, Plymouth's size reduced to its present 21 square miles. Early settlement efforts began in 1769, with land allotments and settlers arriving along the river where the current borough of Plymouth stands. The township played a significant role in agriculture and mining. Notably, in 1865, W. L. Lance's drilling confirmed substantial coal deposits. Prior to this, coal mining had primarily been "drift" mining from surface veins. Rich coal deposits extended from the mountains to the valley, while the hilly lands were suitable for farming. During its early years, Plymouth Township faced challenges, including conflicts with Native Americans and disruptions caused by the Revolutionary War. The battle of Plunkett's battle in 1785 marked a significant event in this regard. The hardships endured by the settlers were formidable, with periods of Indian attacks and forced removals. Trade and transportation evolved as the township developed. Early stores emerged, such as one opened by Benjamin Harvey in 1807. By 1830, the opening of the canal further enhanced trade, and the first mills were established around 1780.

The township is also the site of the tragic event of the Avondale mine disaster in 1869. About 1806, Abijah Smith came to Plymouth from Derby, Connecticut, intending to mine, ship, and sell coal. Smith and his business partner, Lewis Hepburn, bought a 75-acre plot (called Lots 45 and 46) on the east side of Coal Creek. In the fall of 1807, Smith floated an ark down the Susquehanna River loaded with about fifty tons of anthracite coal; it was shipped to Columbia in Lancaster County.[11] As time progressed, additional coal mines and collieries were constructed throughout the township. Railroads and canals were also constructed to aid in the transportation of coal. Coal mining remained the chief industry in Plymouth Township well into the 20th century.

The Avondale Mine disaster was a massive fire in Avondale, an unincorporated community in Plymouth Township, on September 6, 1869. It caused the death of 110 workers. It started when the wooden lining of the mine shaft caught fire and ignited the coal breaker built directly overhead. The shaft was the only entrance and exit to the mine, and the fire trapped and suffocated 108 of the workers (the other two fatalities were rescuers).

It was the greatest mine disaster at that point in Pennsylvania history.

Plymouth Township’s history is characterized by a complex interplay of settlement challenges, economic growth, and changing governance structures.

Its significance in agriculture, coal mining, and trade has left an enduring legacy in the region.