A Short History of Forest City
Susquehanna County, PA

 

In 1864, William Pentecost brought his wife, Elizabeth, and children to live in a densely wooded forest in the wilds of Susquehanna County to conduct an extensive lumbering business. He and his family traveled from their former home in Prompton, Wayne County, by way of White's Crossing at Simpson, in an oxen-drawn wagon, cutting a road through the gigantic forests to "Forest Mills", as it was to be called for a short period of time. He purchased the standing hemlock on the Delaware and Hudson Company land and contracted with the company to supply its lumber needs. He also harvested the hemlock bark, used in the process of tanning hides for leather goods.

Laborers to assist in the harvesting of the hemlock bark were brought in from Wayne County. Soon lumbermen and other bark "peelers" found their way to Forest Mills. By the end of 1865 about 50 people, all connected with the lumber industry, lived there.

One of the first of the settlers was James Barrett, who purchased 97 acres of land from the estate of Samuel Meredith of Pleasant Mount. Mr. Barrett built the first house in Forest Mills.

When the post office in the town was established in 1879, the official designation of the town was Pentecost. It remained so until 1886, when the post office began using the name Forest City.

Between 1866 and 1871, the Jefferson Branch, a railroad spur of the D & H Canal Co., was built in Forest Mills. It ran between Susquehanna and Carbondale, transporting the harvested lumber. Lumbering was the only industry of this area, with the exception of a small mining operation run by William Pentecost, which supplied only sufficient coal to neighboring farmers for winter fuel.

In 1871, an outcropping of coal was discovered in a cut of the Jefferson Branch. The Hillside Coal and Iron Company bought large tracts of land in the area, and by 1872 the first commercially profitable coal mining enterprise was established at North Railroad Street. A small breaker erected on Railroad Street processed the 75 ton daily output from this operation until 1883.

After a fire in 1885 destroyed the first breaker, a new one was built. In the fall of 1886, near what is now the Franceski Lumber Yard, the foundation for the Clifford breaker was laid. This breaker, using the most advanced tools and techniques in coal preparation, was a model for the whole coal industry in the Anthracite region.

Lumber continued to be the major industry of the town until the sinking of Mine Shaft No. 1, in 1884. This shaft, along with the erection of a breaker which used steam power in its applications, allowed great quantities of coal to be mined. In 1886, another shaft, Shaft No. 2, was opened. This brought an influx of miners, mostly Welsh, into the area. There were now 300 men and boys employed in the production of coal.

The driving of another shaft near the Clifford Breaker in 1889 created a demand for additional mine workers. Miners from Eastern and Southern Europe began arriving in Forest City to fill that demand.

In 1888, grievances against the Clifford Township civil government, of which they were a part, and buoyed by pride in the City's rapid expansion, determined the next step in the growth of Forest City. Citizens petitioned the Grand Jury for the creation of a borough. On August 8, 1888, the Borough of Forest City was incorporated. This incorporation was the first step in the process which turned this rural lumbering-mining settlement into the town it is today. Lights and water mains were installed, the first town hall, located at the intersection of Railroad Street and Mill (now Grand) Street was built. Fire Companies were formed; Hillside Fire Company on May 2, 1889, and Enterprise Hose Company on September 18, 1889. More stores began to appear. Forest City was a growing town.

Shortly after the turn of the century, the population reached 5000 with an additional 2000 residing in Richmondale and Vandling. Forest City boasted a Board of Trade, Board of Health, Adams and Wells Fargo Express Company, two schools employing 15 teachers, and an enrollment of 1000 students. In 1890, the population of Forest City was 2,319. By 1900, the population had expanded to 4,279, and in 1910, the town had grown to 5,749 residents. In 1920, the population reached 6,004; it would continue to grow until 1930.

The Depression hit Forest City with the same effects felt by the rest of the country. The population declined to 5,210 residents. Coal mining, the economic mainstay of the town, came to a complete halt. People left to seek employment elsewhere. By 1940, the population had dropped to 4,261. The census of 1950 records a drop to 3, 122 residents. In 1960, the population was approximately 2651 people.

 

 

Forest City Time Frame

1864
The Arrival of William Pentecost and his family.
1865
Lumbering operations increase the town population to 50. Settlement called Forest Mills.
1866
D & H Canal Co. begin construction of the Jefferson Branch railroad spur.
1871
Coal discovered in a cut of the Jefferson Branch spur.
1872
Hillside Coal & Iron begins profitable, commercial coal mining on North Railroad St.
1875
Martin Barrett opens the first store in Forest Mills.
1879
"Official" designation of the town as Pentecost.
1880
W. H.Bates opens general merchandise store; W. J.Davis opens first clothing store.
1884
No. 1 Shaft sunk.
 
1885
J. J. Janswick starts first drug store; W. H. Bates opens first furniture store.
1886
No. 2 Shaft sunk. Population increases with the influx of 300 miners to work the new shafts. Post Office and railroad station begin the use of Forest City as the town name. H. F. Aldrich opens first hardware store. Fleming House, the first hotel, is built. Centennial Methodist Episcopal Church erected.
1887
The Forest City News, a weekly newspaper, started by J. M. Brown.
1888
Forest City Borough incorporated. D & H starts Jefferson Branch breaker in what is now Vandling. St. Agnes Catholic Church built.
1889
Clifford slope opens. Arrival of mine workers from Eastern and Southern Europe. Hillside Fire Company and Enterprise Hose company formed. Baptist Church of Forest City cornerstone laid.
1890
Construction of No. 1 school at Dundaff and Hudson Sts. Enrollment: 400 pupils.
1891
Christ Episcopal Church built.
1892
Richmondale Colliery of the Pearl Coal Company breaker built. Welsh Bethel Congregational Church ercted.
1894
St. Anthony's Catholic Church built.
1895
Baptist Church dedicated.
1896
Forest City Electric Light, Heat & Power Company build power plant on south Hudson Street. First Presbyterian Church of Forest City built.
1897
St. John's Byzantine Catholic Church built.
 
1898
Carbondale Traction Company provides streetcar service from Carbondale to south Street.
1899
Fire destroys 13 buildings; telephone service begins; Vandling incorporated as a borough.
1900
Construction of No. 2 school.
1904
St. Joseph's Church built. Sacred Heart Church built. No. 2 School expanded.
1908
Farmers & Miners National Bank formed.
1909
Klots Co. starts silk mill.
1914
Baptist Church converted to St. Michael the Archangel Church.
1917
284 men from Forest City enlist to fight in WWI. These men give their lives.
1918
High School converted to emergency hospital for those stricken with flu.
1920
Charles and Martin Skubic Post No. 524 of the American Legion organized.
1925
Coal mine Strike. Even when the collieries reopened, Forest City continued to feel the economic consequences of the protracted shutdown of the mines. The coal mines never again reached their full production capacity.
1926
Hudson Coal Company opens Stillwater mine. Lincoln School built.
1930's
Coal mining stops completely. A great portion of the population of Forest City leave to find jobs in other areas of the state or country.
1941-1945
806 men and 14 women from Forest City serve in the Armed Forces. 23 men killed in action.
Late 1940's
Forest City Greater Industries, Inc. formed. Structure erected to house Keystone Shoe Factory, subsidiary of Endicott Johnson Shoe Company. Jobs created for 225 people.
1956
Forest City Joint School District forms, Herrick Center, Uniondale, and Forest City combine.
1957
Vandling joins school district.
1961
Junior-Senior High School built.
1961
Pleasant Mount joins school district.
1962
Browndale joins school district.
1964
Forest City celebrates Centennial

 

Please Note: This article was compiled from the booklet published for the Forest City Centennial in 1964. Obviously, any current data on Forest City is not in this booklet and will have to be gathered from other sources. That data will be in Part II - 1964 to 1997
The information for this article was taken from the Forest City Centennial Association, Inc. program published in 1964. The historical contents were edited by Fred E. Garm.