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Monroe County celebrates 175th anniversary

  • The Monroe County Historical Association museum is housed in this 1795 building at Ninth and Main St., Stroudsburg
    The Monroe County Historical Association museum is housed in this 1795 building at Ninth and Main St., Stroudsburg
Published May 13. 2011 05:00PM


The Monroe County Historical Association museum is located at 900 Main St., Stroudsburg. It is open 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., the 1st and 3rd Saturdays. There are one-hour guided tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Talk of separating Monroe County from Pike and Northampton counties began in 1828. It was 1836 until the new county became a reality. There were 10,000 people in the area at that time, said Amy Leiser, curator of the Monroe County Historical Association. In addition to MCHA, the county has 14 local historical societies or preservation entities.

Governor Joseph Ritner agreed that "the area north of the Blue Mountains of Northampton County" was settled enough to be considered an independent county.

The first European settler was Nicolas DePue who came in 1725 and bought 3,000 acres in Shawnee. Others followed. Holland Dutch moved south from New York. There was a large Quaker settlement, but principally the settlers were Pennsylvania Dutch farmers who were German Protestants.

The Jacob Stroud house was originally a fort about four blocks down Main Street from the museum. Stroud would sell land only to those who planned to build on it.

There was debate about the name of the new county. Choices were Fulton County from the steamboat inventor, Jackson after Andrew Jackson, Monroe after James Monroe and Evergreen because of the number of trees in the area. Monroe was chosen.

Stroudsburg became the county seat. A new government would be needed including a county court system, commissioners and a jail. The first court cases were held on the second floor of what is now the Saimsa Irish Pub.

Again there was a dispute. Would the county seat be Stroudsburg, Delaware Water Gap, or Kellersville, which was in the Snydersville area.

The Stroud family said it would donate the jail and courthouse, and Kellersville followed suit, both wanting to be the county seat. Leiser thought at the time Kellersville would have been the better choice because it was easy to reach Easton from there and most official business still had to be transacted in Northampton.

Northampton used the expense of setting up the new government as a reason the county should remain as it was. It would lose a "big chunk of taxable land" and opposed the new county.

Leiser said Pike did not mind losing the land, but that may be because it had a much smaller area to lose.

Jacob Stroud received an invitation to dine with President George Washington in Philadelphia, the capital at that time.

East Stroudsburg was originally Dansbury named after Daniel Brodhead. The name was changed when the borough became independent, possibly because it was the area that people said was east of Stroudsburg, said Leiser. Brodhead Creek is the border between the two boroughs.

The earliest map of Stroudsburg is from 1858 and shows a lot of industry based on natural resources such as ice and lumbering.

Tourism became important in the early 20th century when wives and children came to the mountains for the summer, with the husband and father joining them weekends.

Trains were very important both for tourism and for shipping products. The most important was the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western.

With the trains, Irish and Catholics began to diversity the population.

An African American presence was in the county from the beginning. Daniel Stroud had paid black servants. Leiser does not know if there were slaves.

"Our community became quite diverse," she said. Each town had its own general store, blacksmith and woodworking shops, but journal entries show that people still came to Stroudsburg for their major supplies.

Monroe County now has 170,000 people, four school districts and a hospital. Businesses have taken the place of farming as farms were sold for development.

Stroudsburg proper is very small, surrounded by Stroud Township, said Leiser.

The museum tried to focus an exhibit with items from before the 1840s. The oldest piece is a waistcoat from Daniel Brodhead in 1770.

Some of the better-known personalities of Monroe County are Mitchell Palmer who was attorney general under President Woodrow Wilson, Edward Marshall who helped cheat the Indians during the Walking Purchase, Clara Adams who was the first paying passenger on the Graf Zeppelin in 1928, Private William Christman who was the first veteran buried in Arlington Cemetery in 1864, and Sebastian Kresge of Kresgeville who founded Kmart.

The MCHA is renovating its third floor bedroom "pulling out what is perfect to exhibit," said Leiser. The basement houses a colonial kitchen to match the 1795 age of the building. A textile exhibit is also downstairs - that is where the servants would have been. The anniversary exhibit will be in place until May 27.

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