Freeland, Pennsylvania

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Freeland, originally called Birbeckville after founder Joseph Birkbeck, then South Heberton, is a borough in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, 18 miles (29 km) south of Wilkes-Barre, and 10 miles northeast of Hazleton in an agricultural region. Freeland was officially incorporated as a borough on September 11, 1876. Coal-mining was a chief industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the turn of the century the population numbered 5,254. By 1910 it had increased to 6,197, and in 1940 it peaked at 6,593 residents. At the 2000 census, the population was 3,643. As of 30 September, 2010, the current Mayor of Freeland is Mrs. Tami Martin, the widow of the late Mayor of Freeland Mayor Tim Martin. Freeland is the highest elevated borough in Pennsylvania at 1,943 feet above sea level.




Joseph Birkbeck, the founder of Birbeckville, was born near Brough under Stainmore, in the county of Westmorland, England on May 2, 1802. He and his wife Elizabeth came to America in 1844. After acquiring land from Edward Lynch the same year of his arrival, Birkbeck built a log cabin in the region that is the small valley between Freeland and Upper Lehigh. The next settler, Nathan Howey, purchased land from Birkbeck and built a frame house just west of Birkbecks log cabin.

Developing coal mines in the nearby region created a steep increase in population and a demand for building lots. This led Birkbeck to survey the region for the town of South Heberton. South Heberton has long since lost its identity and is now simply a cluster of houses midway between Freeland and Upper Lehigh. Birkbeck's sawmill is at the turn of the road just east of Upper Lehigh, and what was mainly South Heberton is now known as Upper Lehigh, a small mining town once owned by the Upper Lehigh company.[1]

Between 1845 and 1846, Birkbeck cut the road now known as Buck Mountain Road through the woods from South Heberton through Eckley Miners' Village to Buck Mountain. Eckley was then known as Shingletown, as the chief industry there was the production of shingles.

The first child born at South Heberton was Elizabeth Birkbeck, the daughter of founder Joseph Birkbeck and his wife Elizabeth, in 1845. The first death at this place was that of William, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Birkbeck, which occurred February 11, 1846. He was four years old at the time.[2] The first store at South Heberton was kept by a man named Feist, which was just west of Birkbeck's cabin. Soon afterward another small store was run by a Mr. Mining. The first tavern was founded by N. Howes, the second settler of the region. Previous to the opening of Howes's tavern, Birkbeck accommodated parties who were prospecting in this region for anthracite deposits in his own home. A frame school was built in 1878, and by 1880 the population numbered 500.

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