Exeter Township

The Exeter Township Settlement was one of the oldest in Wyoming Valley. It originally consisted of Franklin Township, Ransom Township, Exeter Township-Wyoming County, West Pittston Borough and Exeter Borough. li has the distinction of having had the earliest business enterprise – a gristmill and sawmill. Lumbering was the first chief occupation followed by farming.

During the last days of June, 1778, most families moved to the nearby forts, block houses and stockades which were scattered throughout the valley. This was due to the impending attack by the Torries (Americans who remained loyal to the king) and their Indian allies. On June 30, twelve men and boys left Jenkings Fort and traveled five miles to the mouth of Sutton Creek. Here they split into three groups to work in the fields and tanyard. Stukely and Benjamin Harding were brutally murdered. Five others were killed that day and the remaining five returned to the fort. A battle cry of ‘Remember the Hardings” went up as men from all over the valley joined forces in what eventually led to the Wyoming Massacre – July 3, 1778.

Upon hearing of the massacre, Gen. George Washington sent Gen. John Sullivan and nearly 5,000 men to rid the whole Susquehanna Valley of the Torries and their Indian allies. On July 24, 1779 they set out from Wyoming Valley along both sides of the river. On August 11, they reached the Tioga River (now the Chemung River), destroying every Indian village along the way. All the orchards, storehouses and fields were burned. (Rt. 92 is often referred to as Sullivan Trail.)

A flood in 1785 caused many setilers to abandon or sell their valley land and move to the hills. One of the first taverns was built in 1806 by Lewis Jones, who also operated a still and a store. The Red Tavern was built in the same year by Peter Sharpe and was a stage house at one time kept by Isaac Harding. There was another tavern kept by the Scovells which was used as a headquarters for raftsmen of the river. The principal stock in trade was salt, (worth $4.00 per bushel) which was carted over the mountains from Philadelphia. The first Post Office was established in 1865, called the Charleston Post Office, after the postmaster – Charles Mantanye. The first school was established in 1819. The last one-room schools were known as the Courtright, Sutton Creek, Upper Harding and Mt. Zion Schools. A School report for 1891 shows the existence of four one-room schools, one male and four female teachers and 145 students. The one-room school houses were eliminated in 1939 when a school was built for the elementary grades and High School students were sent to West Pittston.

There was once a road starting at the flat rocks on Dymond Road across to Sutton Creek. This was considered safer to travel since the Indians used the river and adjoining land for passage. Sutton Creek Road extended to the river where residents would take the Ransom Ferry across and then a train to Pittston. Listed in Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” as the world’s smallest railroad, (owned by PP&L), the West Pittston-Exeter Railroad brought coal to the Stanton Power Plant.

Exeter Township is located on the edge of a geologic province known as the Appalachian Plateau, and just north of the Ridge and Valley province, which includes Wyoming Valley. In Exeter Township, the rock strata called the Catskill Formation, are either flat lying or gently inclined. A few miles to the south the same strata are crumpled into folds and covered by anthracite and more folded rocks. The boundary between the two is located at Campbell’s Ledge, and its continuation is on the west side of the river in the ridge including Mt. Lookout. No amount of excavation in Exeter Township would produce coal, since the ledge exposed over most of the township is older than the coal bearing units in Wyoming Valley.

(This summary is based on excerpts from – Exeter Township Bicentennial Reflections – 1976)