The picturesque and historic town of Northumberland is located at the juncture of the North and West branches of the Susquehanna River. Geographically, it is located in the center of Pennsylvania in the area now called the Susquehanna Valley. At the time it was settled, Northumberland County was the western frontier, not only of Pennsylvania, but of the English colonies.
Before European settlement, these were important lands for the native Americans. Their village of Shamokin, now Sunbury, was a meeting ground for the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy. In 1768, this was the last tract of land to be relinquished to the European settlers in Pennsylvania. After the Penn’s Purchase of 1768, land claims by European settlers increased, and land speculation was big business.
In 1772, John Lowden and William Patterson, having received four tracts of land from Thomas Penn, one of the heirs of William Penn, laid out the town of Northumberland. By 1774, there was an extensive tax list of newly arrived landholders, and Reuben Haines, a wealthy Quaker from Germantown, secured a patent to develop the land surrounding that of Lowden and Patterson. Eventually, Haines purchased all the landholdings.
He developed the town around a common green, in the manner of an English village. As the eighteenth century drew to a close, the population center of Pennsylvania had shifted west, and, in 1809, Northumberland was considered as a site for the state capital. Instead, in 1812, Harrisburg was chosen, and Northumberland never became the urban, English community envisioned by Haines, Lowden, and Patterson.
After the War of 1812, land prices deflated, and the American frontier moved farther west. Because of its location, Northumberland was a convenient center for trade and retained its status as a transportation and banking center through the nineteenth century. It was an important canal and later railroad center. Northumberland is home to close to four thousand people. Its civic pride and downtown revitalization have created an attractive and comfortable community.
King Street Park
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