Union Township of Luzerne County, formed in July 1813, originally was part of Huntington Township. It borders on the Susquehanna River and two creeks from River Mountain. Sawmills were established in 1790 in the northwest corner by brothers-in-law Peter Gregory and George Fink from Delaware. Soon after, Stephen Arnold and Moses Derby, also brothers-in-law, settled in Muhlenburg and established successful farms. In 1793 the rich farmland attracted many others, mostly from Connecticut, who arrived on sleds, and formed a Dutch settlement.
The river provided transportation before the canals. Between 1794 and 1830 flat-bottomed arks were loaded with coal, lumber and farm goods and taken downstream to Philadelphia and Baltimore. One out of three crashed on rocks on the way. It was a one way trip so upon arrival the arks were broken up and sold for lumber. The Pennsylvania legislature declared the Susquehanna River a highway in 1771. Money was appropriated to make it navigable, and the first boat, the "Experiment," was built at Nescopeck and pulled by horses. Three steamboats were constructed in 1825. The second, "Susquehanna," was involved in the worst accident in the upper Susquehanna. When the boat was crossing the Nescopeck Falls rapids, its boiler exploded, causing the deaths of many passengers and crew. Because of delays and accidents
on the river, constructing a network of canals became a necessity.
On July 4, 1828, ground was broken in Berwick and work began on this section of the North Branch Canal, which was completed to Nanicoke in less than two years. The canals were 40 feet wide at the top and 28 feet wide at the bottom with a 4 foot depth of water. A 10 foot wide towpath was adjacent on the riverside. Canal boats could carry 25 passengers and 30 tons of freight. The canal was closed from Thanksgiving to April 1. High water in the spring often washed away the canal banks, and flooding from the river usually submerged them. The canal boat was the main means of transportation for the fifteen year period between 1830 to 1845. It provided commercial growth to the Wyoming Valley. On April 11, 1901, because of the cheaper and more efficient railroad, the canal ceased operating.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission maintains a boat launch at Union Access. It is also a stop for the "Susquehanna River Trail - North Branch," a 181 mile water trail from Oakland, New York to Sunbury.
A Story Runs through It - Wyoming Valley Levee System by Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority
History of Union Township Luzerne County, Pa donated by Robin Linn
From the Land of 5 Mountains 974.832P931F
In 1813 James Search bought the land near the river known as Jessup Farm from Phillip and Margaret Hann. Here he raised his family. His son Lot, one of the founders of Shickshinny, along with brother George Washington Search, built a successful grist mill in 1865. George was on the first Shickshinny Borough Council and served as supervisor of the town. Traveling south on the Susquehanna Warrior Trail at mile 6.5 is the location of the Search family cemetery.
[The balance of the marker is natural history related, and not transcribed]