Tunkhannock's Founders' Day Well Attended
By D.C. Koviack
Probably only a small percentage of the hundreds of people who attended Tunkhannock’s Founders’ Day last Saturday realized that this year marks the 170th year of Tunkhannock Borough’s official organization. Nor did many know that when the area was first settled back in the 1770's—about 240 years ago—it was part of Northumberland County.
However, that didn’t really matter much: the day was dry with a light breeze and intermittent sunshine, and the streets of downtown Tunkhannock were lined with vendors of everything from food to jewelry to antiques to brooms to the famous “rubber duckies” for the United Way’s major fundraiser. And those same streets were crowded with folks who came from nearby as well as from far away to shop, to visit and to eat.
The Wyoming County Historical Society, just a few blocks off the “main drag,” was open special hours for the day; spokespersons said they had considerable traffic last Saturday from visitors to Founders’ Day. People stopped in to see the special Civil War exhibit or to find out about the origins of the town, or to look up their own ancestors, perhaps. It’s not easy to know exactly who the “founders” of Tunkhannock were.
The area, which is now Tunkhannock Borough and Township started as a refuge for settlers fleeing reprisal from Native Americans. Particularly after the Wyoming Massacre in 1778, many people came to this area and took up farming, smithing, tanning, milling and other colonial and Early American livelihoods. Zebulon Marcy, who had founded the village of Marcy further down the Susquehanna River, ended up surveying most of the plots, which became Tunkhannock Borough; along with Israel Putnam and Elisha Harding they became some of the earliest landowners in the area. Had these three men visited Tunkhannock last Saturday for Founders’ Day, they would probably have recognized little except the layout of the streets: the buildings still standing today survive from the mid to late 1800’s when Tunkhannock burgeoned with the Industrial Revolution and its population grew. But this was a century after Marcy, Putnam and Harding arrived. Still, they would have been pleased, no doubt, if not astounded, at the way the small wilderness settlement has grown and prospered.
Founders’ Day 2011 saw more than 200 vendors from throughout the region celebrating not only traditional handicrafts as valuable today as they were in 1770, like broom making, but also the beauty of the region as seen through the eyes of its resident artists: poets, painters, dramatists. The diversity of the area’s residents was showcased by the variety of items on offer, the strong presence of hometown charities committed to helping the less fortunate, and the multitude of food choices available.
Anchors of the downtown business community like Gay’s True Value Hardware, Fitze’s, Twigs Restaurant and the Dietrich Theater were proud participants on Saturday, and examples of how the area has met the challenges of expansion and progress yet retained its charm and individuality.
Perhaps it was that triumvirate of Marcy, Putnam and Harding, which was honored last Saturday. Perhaps it was the later settlers who were lauded as well, those who brought the community into the age of steel, steam and commerce. But the precise identities of the “Founders” seemed to be less important than the celebration of both the values and traditions, which built Tunkhannock and the vibrant multi-faceted microcosm it has become.