Saturday, October 21st, 2017
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History & Culture Of The
Endless Mountains

Geologic Origins

Most of the region is part of the Appalachian Uplands, located on the Allegheny Plateau. Glacial action and erosion created its broad rolling hills, valleys and streams.

Following the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier 15,000 years ago, the Endless Mountains were gradually inhabited by nomadic bands of hunters and gatherers. The region was largely forested, supporting diverse wildlife and small agricultural villages.

The North Branch of the Susquehanna River meanders through Susquehanna, Bradford and Wyoming Counties. This river valley became a major transportation corridor. Although steep terrain restricted travel through much of the region, valley floors supported scattered agricultural communities.

Vanishing Resources

We don't often think of our heritage, culture and past vanishing, but without conscious preservation efforts buildings collapse, stone walls are torn down or sold to landscapers and scenic vistas are cleared for development. The emergence of exploration of Marcellus Shale natural gas throughout our region presents new challenges and opportunities for preservation and conservation.

One of Endless Mountains Heritage Regions goals is to preserve these irreplaceable resources.

Native American Settlement

Friedenshutten Monument
Friedenshutten Monument commemorating the Moravian Mission at the Native American village near Wyalusing

By 1000 BC the Susquehannock people lived in villages along the Susquehanna River, cultivating the floodplains and hunting the dense forests.  The Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee, (People of the Long House), controlled the region during the 1600's.

By the 1700's the Native population included refugees from southern tribes fleeing rising colonial settlement.  After the French and Indian War, colonial settlers came into the region in ever-increasing numbers. During the Revolutionary War era, a campaign to eradicate Native Americans in the region lead by General Sullivan forced most out of the region or into hiding.

European Colonization

During the early colonial period European settlers established a foothold in the region. After the Revolutionary War thousands of people came to the region from New England States such as Vermont and Connecticut, in search of inexpensive land. These settlers practiced subsistence agriculture and struggled for survival in an area then considered wilderness, lacking even gristmills and sawmills.

Agriculture and Artisans

By the 1800s productive farms were established and exporting surplus crops. Proceeds from sales of grain and lumber provided the base for barter which developed into a regional cash economy.

As populations levels grew communities with stores, artisans, mills and industries emerged and thrived. The development of rich agricultural landscape and network of small towns is still largely intact today.

Transportation and the Advent of Industry

The North Branch Canal extended into the region during the 1840s and 1850s, reducing shipping costs for  coal and other products to distant markets. The canal was fraught with construction problems and ultimately short-lived, but it paved the way for construction of the Lehigh Valley Railroad several decades later.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s the Endless Mountains experienced an era of industrial expansion fueled by regional transportation improvements. Railroads lowered shipping costs and permitted business owners to import a more extensive array of retail products.

Environmental Renewal

Before the onset of the Great Depression, the economy of the Endless Mountains was already in decline. Some natural resources were already exhausted in many areas. Dairy farming became the mainstay of the regional economy. The government made significant investments in the region, purchasing  large tracts of cutover land. The Civilian Conservation Corps replanted denuded mountains, producing today's prized recreational areas. The tourism industry, which began in the late 19th century, expanded to include numerous lakes throughout the region. As the century progressed the quality of rural life improved considerably due to electrification, road and communications improvements.

Living Traditions

Cultural traditions and contributions by many ethnic groups enriched the otherwise 'Yankee' character of the region. Eighteenth century French settlers at Azilum, nineteenth century Irish and Welsh canal workers and miners and their Italian and Eastern European counterparts at the turn of the twentieth century all left distinctive marks on the region's place names, foods, architecture and events.

Artistic Expression

Numerous arts and civics groups regularly sponsor special events highlighting the vital culture of the Endless Mountains. Fine Art Studios are scattered throughout the region, artists drawing inspiration from its rich history and scenery. The Endless Mountains provides raw materials such as stone, wood, natural fibers, plants, and even old saw blades for craftspeople. Crafts and skills associated with nineteenth century life, such as quilting, blacksmithing, and weaving are passed from generation to generation.