John Lines was the first settler of the place in 1824, who came with his family on a sled in April of that year from Hanover township just below Wilkes-Barre. Where he squatted was called "Linesville" many years, just over the hill back of White Haven. He built his log cabin and in time this was destroyed by fire, when he built the first hewed-log house and the first tavern, which in time became the property of the Lehigh Navigation & Coal company.
Its name is in honor of Josiah White, who was the first of the most prominent men here in the early days of canal building. He was the builder of the old "bear trap" locks in the Lehigh river that made it navigable and started the wonderful developments that have gone on above Mauch Chunk and up to old Stoddardsville, and this mode of transportation and this style of locks in the river continued in active use until 1860. The first business here being lumbering, of which this became a noted point and that in time was divided and when the forests were gone, was swallowed up by the coal business that is now a part of the famed Upper Lehigh region. The old Lehigh & Navigation Coal company is the essence of the history [p.660] of the developments of this part of the State. The canal was built to White Haven. The Lehigh Valley canal was built from Easton to Mauch Chunk and opened in July, 1829.
In 1835 the canal was commenced at White Haven. A basin was constructed along the bank of the river at the upper end of the town, with a lock and a dam across the river at the upper end of the basin. This basin, lock and dam still remain intact, as a monument to the indomitable perseverance and enterprise of Mr. White and the Lehigh Navigation & Coal company. This dam and lock were designated as dam No. 1, the numbers increasing down stream.
At that time the hills on either side of the river at this place were thickly covered with pine timber, that would now be considered very valuable. The company as soon as possible, and even before the canal was finished, built a sawmill near the upper end of the basin, on the river side, and cut out the lumber necessary in building the original dam across the river a little above where the Lehigh Valley railroad crosses. Other sawmills were soon built, and in a short time White Haven was one of the busiest lumber depots in the State. It continued so long as plenty of logs were within a reasonable distance, and as late as 1860 there were ten large sawmills at this place, cutting out annually an aggregate of 20,000,000 feet of lumber. White Haven at that time was an interesting place, both on account of the gigantic series of dams and locks and the magnificent wildness of the natural scenery. This also became the great depot for the sale of the immense amount of lumber manufactured at the then numerous mills on the river above, between here and Stoddartsville, as the navigation company ran their boats up through the old bear-trap locks to that place. The second sawmill at White Haven was built in 1836 by Stenson Crouse, a little further down the river.
The old canal locks and dams were swept away by the great freshet of 1862. The fast canal packet, "Washington," commanded in l835 by Capt. Hillman, is superseded by two first-class lines of railroad. The little old schoolhouse and church combined has given place to a fine large school building, and five churches of modern size and architecture, and the three or four houses have so multiplied as to contain a population of 1,634. The single old road that lay along the bank of the river has become the main street of a flourishing town, and the little old tavern has been superseded.
In that house Mr. Lines kept the first tavern in White Haven. The next tavern in the borough was where the White Haven house now stands, on the corner of Wilkes-Barre and Railroad streets.
The first plank house in the borough was built by John Fordsman in 1837, on the corner opposite the White Haven house, and it is now owned by James Trimmer.
The first schoolhouse in the borough was built in 1838, of rough logs, and stood in the rear of Kleckner's store on Basin street. The site is occupied by the track of the Lehigh Valley railroad.
The iron foundry and machine shops at White Haven were built in 1859 by the Lehigh Navigation & Coal company, and Miner & Lippincott were the operators. The concern originally stood about half way up the basin, and in 1866 or 1867 was moved to where it now stands, between the lower end of the basin and the river. It is now owned and operated by Samuel Wallace, and is one of the prosperous and important institutions of the place. It is run by water; its output is 100 tons a month, and employs forty men.
The pioneer store was kept by A. O. Chahoon. It was of rough logs, built in 1835, and stood at the lower end of Susquehanna street, near where the Lehigh Hotel formerly stood. The nearest trading points at that time were Wilkes-Barre, Berwick and Mauch Chunk.
The pioneer physician in this place was Dr. Boyd. He came from Wilkes- Barre, and was employed by the Lehigh Navigation company on a salary raised by [p.661] assessment upon the men employed by the company.
The first resident lawyer here was Gaius Halsey, a native of the borough. He commenced practice in 1870.
The postoffice was established in 1835, with William Hoven as postmaster. It was kept in the old log store at the foot of Susquehanna street. The mails were brought on horseback once a week from Wilkes-Barre.
The first sawmill was built by John Lines in 1826 or 1827, on Lines creek, near where he built his house. He had in connection with his mill a turning lathe for making posts and rounds for old-fashioned splint bottom chairs. The market for them was at Wilkes-Barre, Berwick and Allentown. They had to be hauled to those places with an ox team, and the boy John, who lived here to be an old man, was the teamster on those long trips. The journey to Wilkes-Barre and back took three days, to and from Berwick four, and to Allentown and return, six days, provided the roads were passable, and the "chair stuff" found a brisk market in exchange for such things as were necessary for the sustenance of the family.
The first brick building in the borough was built in 1851, by the Odd Fellows' Hall association.
The Lehigh Boom Company was organized May 7, 1868; John Brown, president and Charles L. Keck, secretary and treasurer. Their "booms" were on the river in the immediate vicinity of White Haven.
This was then the rising point in the lumber trade and the town was a necessary outgrowth thereof. The rapid rise, the vast importance and the passing away of the lumber trade are a part and parcel of White Haven, commencing away back in the early part of the century and only closing its books in the year of our Lord 1892. A recent issue of the Wilkes-Barre Record gives the following as the closing scene in the eventful story:
"A view of what is claimed will never be seen again on the Lehigh river was presented on Saturday last at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon as a long raft of logs, manned by two stalwart lumbermen, gracefully swept from the lock at White Haven dam and floated down stream toward Tannery, where the last of the lumber-mills in this once flourishing lumber country are situated.
"A Record man stood looking upon the scene when he was approached by an old resident, who was armed with a pikepole and evidently an authority. A commonplace remark opened a reminiscent vein of thought in him and he said: 'You behold there the last raft that will ever float down the Lehigh river, for the logs that compose it are the gleanings of the lumber-camps along the Tobyhanna. The men have loosened all the dams between here and Tobyhanna to float these logs into the Lehigh, and now nothing remains for us to do but remove the boom logs and the chains that hold them in place and wait for decay and dryrot to wipe out all evidence of what was once a great industry. I remember the time when White Haven was the headquarters for over a thousand hardy lumbermen. Many of their descendants live here still, but the old stock is rapidly passing away. How much lumber did we handle on this river every year? No two years were alike, so near as I can remember, and varied in amounts from 20,000,000 to 35,000,000 feet. You ought to go up and take a look at that dam and lock if you have never seen them. The ruins of the old mills and their wheels will soon be torn down and removed,' said our informant, Mr. Albertson, as he moved onward toward the town."
The busy banquet hall of White Haven's lumbering business has departed— put out the lights.
White Haven Savings Bank was organized under the State law January 2, 1872, with a capital of $25,000 and authority to increase this to $50,000. Officers: President, A. F. Peters; vice-president, C. L. Keck; cashier, S. Maguire. Directors: A. F. Peters, C. L. Keck, Samuel Wallace, Charles Kleckner, G. L. Halsey, R. P. Crellin, Albert Lewis and R. C. Albertson.
[p.662] White Haven Water Works were commenced in 1856 under borough auspices, simply piping from the two springs in the North ward. These gave enough water until 1863, and then a company was organized and stock to the amount of $7,500 subscribed for the purpose of giving better facilities, the stock being increased to $19,000. Pipes were laid to the brook and for two years water was thus obtained. This was in addition to the two springs. Then a pipe line was run to Santee spring, nearly a mile in distance, and afterward terra-cotta pipes were extended 1,600 feet to a spring on Santee farm. All this piping practically failed and most of the water wasted through leaks, and the head was not high enough to supply houses on ground the least elevated. In 1875 the company built a reservoir further up the mountain and thus is enabled to keep any required amount in store and with a head that can throw water to the top of the tallest houses. To meet any emergency the company has a pump connecting the river with their works simply as an additional precaution to meet any possible case. Officers: President, C. L. Keck; treasurer and secretary, S. Maguire; superintendent, H. J. Myers, who has been in charge from the beginning.
Mr. Myers came here in 1848, when the population of the place was about 600. He was conductor that took the first engine that ever went north from this place over the mountains, which occurred the year of his coming. This was the southern terminus of the railroad, where water transportation commenced, until 1862. Mr. Myers commenced merchandising here in 1851 on the spot where is now Joseph Jonas' store, at the corner of Railroad and Northumberland streets. Mr. Taylor then had a store on the corner of Berwick and Railroad streets, and there was a store in the stone building; another was by Lockwood, where is now Widow Kane's saloon. In 1848 coal commenced being run from the head of Plains to White Haven, and was there transferred to canal boats.
Fire Department of White Haven was organized January 2, 1872. Directors: R. I. Westover, Henry Kaiser, John Fisher, Samuel Wallace, Bradley Childs, John Fiel, S. Maguire, Benjamin Jacoby and James Ray. A steam fire-engine was purchased by the borough. The borough built an electric light plant in 1892. Its power is furnished by Mr. Wallace's foundry, and the place is well lighted.
Shoe Factory is an important White Haven industry; established in 1888, and when in full operation employs forty hands.
Grist Mill.—The large and all-modern fixtures and facilities of gristmill, encased in iron on its entire outside, is not operated at present. It has fine water power.
Hosiery Factory was built in 1889; a successful enterprise, and employs sixty persons.
Brickyard.—In the west part of town, by George W. Koons, was established in 1891 on the discovery of a fine deposit of clay, and its product is extensively shipped north and south after filling the home demand. In the borough are 9 general stores, 2 drug stores, 6 grocery stores, 2 furniture stores, 1 livery stable, 3 butchers, 2 millinery, 2 shoe stores, 4 hotels, 3 halls, 5 doctors and 2 lawyers.
Borough of White Haven.—The act of the general assembly of 1843, by which this borough was incorporated, stipulated that the place of holding the borough elections should be "the house of Isaac Ripple," and that the first election for borough purposes should be on the first Monday of September following, and others annually thereafter on the third Friday in March.
The first annual borough election took place March 17, 1843. George W. Butler was elected judge for the occasion, George Straub inspector and Edward P. Tuttle clerk. Offices of the borough: Burgess, Joseph Yardley; councilmen, Abiathar Tuttle, John Shefferstine, Jacob Zink, Samuel Hunter, Jonathan Brock and David Dean; constable, James B. Weller; street commissioner, John Wasser; overseer of the poor, Lucius Blakeslee.
The election held March 17, 1843, having been declared null and void by the [p.663] court, the legislature authorized a special election for the third Monday of May, 1848. An election was accordingly held "at the house of Samuel House," when the following officers were elected: Burgess, Joseph Yardley; councilmen: David H. Taylor, Edward Lockwood, Horatio G. Hoven, David Dean, Daniel Wasser and I. Cowley Past; street commissioner, George Arnold; high constable, Wayne Sprowl; director of the poor, David Dean. I. Cowley Past was appointed clerk of the council for the ensuing year.
The following persons have served since as burgesses, and for the years named: 1849-51, Edward Lockwood; 1852, Frederick H. Bund; 1853, John H. Nace; 1854, David H. Taylor; 1855, Washington Torbert; 1856, Josiah W. Enbody; 1857, Stephen Bolles; 1858, 1860, 1863, Jacob Wirtler; 1859, Samuel Hunter; 1861-2, Robert R. Morgan; 1864, S. W. Trimmer; 1865, George R. Crellin; 1866, Lucius Blakeslee; 1867, 1870, Theodore Smith; 1868-9, 1872, Bradley Childs; 1871, Otto Kaiser; 1873, Edwin Shortz; 1874, Daniel Steele; 1875-7, Henry Kaiser; 1878-9, Charles Kleckner, the present burgess.
Present officers: Burgess, H. J. Laird; treasurer, John J. Baker; secretary, S. Maguire; council: president, A. C. Snyder, Alvin Arnold, Charles H. Hyndman, George W. Moyer, Theodore Ruhnke and George Kneiss; street commissioner, Henry Dandt; chief of fire department, J. N. Gettle.