History & Heritage
Pike County was named for General Zebulon Pike. (Yes, the same Zebulon Pike for which “Pike’s Peak” in Colorado is named!) The county was created on March 26, 1814 from part of Wayne County, Pennsylvania.
The original inhabitants were the Lenape, later known as the Delaware Indians. In 1694 Governor Benjamin Fletcher of the colony of New York sent Captain Arent Schuyler to investigate claims that the French were recruiting Indian allies for use against the English. In 1696, Governor Fletcher authorized purchases of Indian land near the New York border by a number of citizens of Ulster County; their descendants became the first European settlers of Pike County.
Nicholas Depui was the first to settle in the area, in 1725. Thomas Quick moved to the area that would become Milford in 1733. Andrew Dingman, settled on the Delaware River at the future site of Dingmans Ferry in 1735. The early settlers got along well with the Indians; however, as settlement increased, land disputes arose. The infamous Walking Purchase of 1737 swindled the Indians out of more than half of present-day Pike County, leading to violence.
Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct
Early in the next century, coal was discovered nearby in the area that would become Carbondale. This became especially significant when the British restricted export of British coal after the War of 1812, creating a fuel shortage in rapidly expanding New York City. To get the coal to New York, a gravity railroad from Carbondale to Honesdale was proposed, along with a canal from Honesdale to the Hudson River at Kingston. The canal proposal was approved by the state of New York in 1823. Work on the 108-mile (174 km) Delaware and Hudson Canal began in 1825 and was completed in 1828. The canal system which, terminated at the Hudson River near present day Kingston, New York, proved profitable. However, the barges had to cross the Delaware via a rope ferry across a "slackwater dam" that created bottlenecks in the canal traffic and added greatly to the cost of transportation. John Roebling proposed continuing the canal over the river on a suspension bridge/aqueduct. Built in 1848, his innovative design required only three piers, where five would ordinarily have been required; this allowed ice floes and timber rafts to pass under with less damage to the bridge. Three other suspension aqueducts would subsequently be built for the canal. Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct is still standing, possibly the oldest suspension bridge in America; it has been named a National Historic Landmark.
For fifty-one years, coal flowed to New York City via the canal. But the development of railroads, which were faster, cheaper, and operated even when the canals were frozen, brought the end of the canal era. The New York and Erie Railroad supplanted the canal, and in 1898 it was abandoned.
In 1926, a hydroelectric plant was built by the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company on Wallenpaupack creek at the former village of Wilsonville, which now lies under Lake Wallenpaupack. A crew of 2,700 men worked for two years to complete the dam for the project at a cost of $1,026,000. This required the acquisition of nearly a hundred properties, and a number of farms, barns, and homes were razed or moved; 17 miles (27 km) of roads and telephone lines were relocated, and a cemetery was moved to make way for the project.
Most of Milford is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with over 300 structures of historical and architectural significance. Self-guided walking tours are available.
Between 1990 and 2000, Pike County was the fastest-growing county in Pennsylvania, growing by 65.2%. It grew an additional 23.9% between 2000 and 2010. The area has relatively low state and county taxes, affordable housing, and Interstate 80 and Interstate 84 provides rapid transportation to New York City's northern suburbs.
Almost half of Pike County is state or federal forest, park or game lands. This is due partly to the fact that Milford was the home to Gifford Pinchot—first head of the U.S. Forest Service and now known as the father of the American Conservation Movement. Tours are offered in season at Grey Towers National Historic Site, the Pinchot family estate.
Pinchot is most well-known for reforming the management and development of forests in the United States as well as his advocacy for the conservation of the nation’s resources by planned use and renewal. The north gate of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is the town of Milford, the county seat. Visitors and residents alike have access to the 70,000-acre National Park. Many environmental organizations are active within Pike County, including the Pocono Environmental Education Center, the Pinchot Institute, the Audubon Society and others.
Arts & Culture
Pike County is home to a vibrant arts community. From various establishments to the many festivals, Pike County has something for everyone, whether art, film, music or theatre. Each year, the Black Bear Film Festival is held in Milford and boasts of prominent guests from the world of scrips, movies and actors.
Pike County has a long relationship with the art community from the famous architects that designed some of the more visible buildings including Calvert Vaux (the co-designer of Central Park) and Richard Morris Hunt (the architect of Biltmore) — to silent movie stars that once graced the area- including Sarah Bernhardt and Mae West. The recently renovated historic Milford Theatre is carrying on this legacy with the Black Bear Film Festival which is held every year in October (2021 was the 22nd year of this event!) and live performances.
The Columns Museum on the outer edge of downtown Milford is home to the famous "Lincoln Flag" which cushioned President Lincoln's head on the night he was assassinated as well as a myriad of other historical artifacts.
The Zane Grey Museum in Lackawaxen features the burial site and former home of Grey, best known as "father of the Western Novel". In addition to the permanent establishments of architectural creativity and beauty, Milford is also home to “Opera in the Park” and a “Readers & Writers” festival.
The Milford Music Festival, Festival of Wood, Winter Lights Festival, Wally Lake Fest and Pike County Arts & Crafts Festivals are other events that occur annually in Pike County.
For a listing of area events, please visit https://www.poconomountains.com/ .
The dining options in Pike County are plentiful whether you want casual or formal dining. Featuring James Beard recognized Chefs, Culinary Institute of America graduates, and self-taught chefs, many of the eateries are family owned and operated.
You can “whet your appetite” anywhere in the county at one of the many diners, cafes, coffee shops, delis, bistros, or restaurants.
With three school districts as well as Keystone College and nearby Northampton, Sussex and Orange County Community College, Pike County has excellent options for education at all levels. All three of Pike County’s school districts — Delaware Valley School District, East Stroudsburg Area School District, and Wallenpaupack Area School District — have excellent reputations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and provide educational environments that promote excellence. There are plenty of options for anyone looking to further their education.
Regardless of your family size — single or 2+ kids — or your housing preference, there are options for every budget and with lower taxes in Pike County compared to just across the river in New Jersey or New York, it’s very affordable.
Pike County also has five major hospitals close by – Bon Secours Community Hospital in Port Jervis, NY, Garnet Medical Center in Middletown, NY, Newton Memorial Hospital in Newton, NJ, Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg and Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale, PA. Each is a fine comprehensive medical facility that welcomes Pike County residents and visitors.
Sports & Recreation
With access to over 70,000 acres of National Park land, the largest network of waterfalls in the Northeast U.S. as well as the Delaware and Lackawaxen Rivers, and Lake Wallenpaupack, Pike is perfect for outdoor activities. Residents and visitors can enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities in every season including golfing hiking, fishing, canoeing, and biking, and in the colder months, skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing. Eagle watching is also a common pastime. In addition, Pike County's vast natural areas make it a haven for hunting all year, but particularly when deer and bear are in season.
Aside from all our recreation activities, you can join many of the various sports leagues that exist all around the county and are tailored for various age groups – children through adults.