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Revised 27 December 2010


It is known that in 1609 Henry Hudson explored Delaware Bay.  Settlement started as early as 1643 when a group of Swedish emigrants established a settlement on Tinicum Island in the Delaware River.  In 1543, the Dutch landed on our shores and conquered the Swedish Colony only to have it taken away from them in 1664 by the English.    In 1681, King Charles ** granted Dutch leader, William Penn the area of Pennsylvania to establish a colony as a "holy experiment".  Pennsylvania was unique in that it was one of the first settlements to extend an invitation to the religiously persecuted and exiled.  Under the leadership of William Penn, Pennsylvania became a haven of religious freedom and liberty.

Pennsylvania drew such religious groups as the Society of Friends aka the Quakers who came from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  The Palatines of Germany came from the Rhine area.  The Anabaptists aka Mennonites, came here from Germany and Switzerland.  The Church of the Brethren aka Dunkards came from Germany in 1721.  The Roman Catholics came in 1732 from England. The Moravians, followers of he Czech leader John Huss, came from Moravia and Bohemia via Georgia in 1740.  There were also a group of Germans who were mistakenly identified as Dutch..  

In 1744, Benjamin Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.  and by 1754 the French and Indian War had begun in Western Pennsylvania.  

In 1778 the area of Wilkes-Barre area was noted for its anthracite coal mines.  This section was incorporated in the colony of Connecticut.  A war ensued between Pennsylvania colonists and the colonists of Connecticut known as the Pennamite-Yankee War in which over 200 settlers were killed.  Congress finally settled the dispute in 1782 by the Decree of Trenton.  Anyone searching in this area needs to know that part of their records may lie in Hartford, Connecticut rather than in Pennsylvania if the record predates 1782.

In 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted in Philadelphia and the first steps were taken to create us into the union we were to become.  As of 1780, the state passed its first abolition law, providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves within its borders. Pennsylvania was the second state to ratify the Constitution and achieved statehood in 1787.  In the ten year period between 1780 to 1800, Philadelphia was declared to be the capital of the United States, and in 1792, the Shoemakers of Philadelphia established the first labor union in the country.  Pennsylvania also holds the distinction of having the first stone-paved toll road or turnpike in America.  This road connected Philadelphia to Lancaster and opened for business in 1794.  (The name turnpike is descriptive of the process.  One would give the toll taker your fare, then the toll taker would turn a pike, or gate, to let the travelers pass.)  Also in 1794, the Whiskey Rebellion, a protest over taxation on whiskey, broke out and was squelched by federal troops.

By the early 1800s, the ethnic make-up of Pennsylvania consisted of Italians, Poles, Russians, Austrians, Germans, Czechs, English, Irish, Hungarians, Swedes, Greeks, French, Norwegians, Danes and Finns.  The first Republican National Convention was held in Pennsylvania in 1856.  In 1859, the first commercial oil well was put into service in Titusville.  

The Civil War brought battle once again into the regions of Pennsylvania.  In the summer of 1863, the state was the battle of one of the most bloody battles of the war.  After a three-day bloody battle at Gettysburg, some 7,000 men lay dead and more than 44,000 were left wounded or missing in action.  Lee's hopes of winning a strong southern stronghold on Union soil had been shattered.  The Gettysburg National Military Park draws thousands of visitors each year and it is said that the ghosts of war are still heard on a still, quiet night.

Name Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Adams 1800 York Gettysburg
Allegheny 1788 Westmoreland, Washington Pittsburgh
Armstrong 1800 Allegheny, Indiana, Clarion, Butler, Jefferson, Westmoreland Kittanning
Beaver 1800 Allegheny, Washington Beaver
Bedford 1771 Cumberland Bedford
Berks 1752 Bucks, Chester, Lancaster, Philadelphia Reading
Blair 1846 Huntingdon, Bedford Hollidaysburg
Bradford 1810 Luzerne, Lycoming (Originally named Ontario.  Name changed to Bradford in 1812) Towanda
Bucks 1682 Original County Doylestown
butler 1800 Allegheny Butler
Cambria 1804 Somerset, Bedford, Huntingdon Ebensburg
Cameron 1860 Clinton, Elk, McKean, Potter Emporium
Carbon 1843 Northampton, Monroe Jim Thorpe
Centre 1800 Lycoming, Mifflin, Northumberland, Huntingdon Bellefonte
Chester 1682 Original County West Chester
Clarion 1839 Venango, Armstrong Clarion
Clearfield 1804 Huntingdon, Lycoming Clearfield
Clinton 1839 Lycoming, Centre Lock Haven
Columbia 1813 Northumberland Bloomsburg
Crawford 1800 Allegheny Meadville
Cumberland 1750 Lancaster Carlisle
Dauphin 1785 Lancaster Harrisburg
Delaware 1789 Chester Media
Elk 1843 Jefferson, McKean, Clearfield Ridgway
Erie 1800 Allegheny Erie
Fayette 1783 Westmoreland Uniontown
Forrest 1848 Jefferson, Venango Tionesta
Franklin 1784 Cumberland Chambersburg
Fulton 1859 Bedford McConnelsburg
Greene 1795 Washington Waynesburg
Huntingdon 1787 Bedford Huntingdon
Indiana 1803 Westmoreland, Lycoming Indiana
Jefferson 1804 Lycoming Brookville
Juniata 1831 Mifflin Mifflintown
Lackawanna 1878 Luzerne Scranton
Lancaster 1729 Chester Lancaster
Lawrence 184 Beaver, Mercer New Castle
Lebanon 1813 Dauphin, Lancaster Lebanon
Lehigh 1812 Northampton Allentown
Luzerne 1786 Northumberland Wilkes-Barre
Lycoming 1795 Northumberland Williamsport
McKean 1784 Lycoming Smethport
Mercer 1800 Allegheny Mercer
Mifflin 1789 Cumberland, Northumberland Lewistown
Monroe 1836 Pike, Northampton Stroudsburg
Montgomery 1784 Philadelphia Norristown
Montour 1850 Columbia Danville
Northampton 1752 Bucks Easton
Northumberland 1772 Lancaster, Bedford, Berks, Northampton Sunbury
Ontario 1812 Renamed Bradford the same year  
Perry 1820 Cumberland New Bloomfield
Philadelphia 1682 Original County Philadelphia
Pike 1814 Northampton Milford
Potter 1804 Lycoming Coudersport
Schuylkill 1811 Berks, Northampton Pottsville
Snyder 1855 Union Middleburg
Somerset 1795 Bedford Somerset
Sullivan 1847 Lycoming Laporte
Susquehanna 1810 Luzerne Montrose
Tioga 1804 Lycoming Wellsboro
Union 1813 Northumberland Lewisburg
Venango 1800 Allegheny, Lycoming Franklin
Warren 1800 Allegheny, Lycoming Warren
Washington 1781 Westmoreland Washington
Wayne 1798 Northampton Honesdale
Westmoreland 1773 Bedford Greensburg
Wyoming 1742 Luzerne Tunkhannock
York 1749 Lancaster York