Wilkes-Barre to mark 250th anniversary with Founders’ Day celebration

i Jul 9th 2019

BY Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

The City of Wilkes-Barre will celebrate its 250th anniversary with a Founders’ Day celebration on Saturday, Sept. 7 in Kirby Park.

“Wilkes-Barre has a proud heritage and a bright future,” Mayor Tony George said. “I invite all residents to Kirby Park for a free family friendly festival followed by fireworks.”

The City of Wilkes-Barre is partnering with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce and the Diamond City Partnership to host a Founders’ Day Festival in Kirby Park with a spectacular firework display at roughly 9 p.m. The festivities will begin at 11 a.m. and include games, food vendors, hot air balloon rides and live entertainment.

Wilkes-Barre is the oldest city in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The first attempt at settlement was in 1762 by members of the Susquehannah Company of Connecticut. Permanent settlement was in 1769 and by 1770 Sons of Liberty leader Colonel John Durkee laid out 50 town plots and named the Yankee village after John Wilkes and Isaac Barré, two British members of Parliament who supported the colonial America cause in the House of Commons.

Originally, Native American tribes known as the Iroquois Confederacy came to Wilkes-Barre and the Wyoming Valley to fish and hunt. Several smaller tribes would briefly pass through the area at the invitation or subjection of the Iroquois.

The initial Connecticut settlers claimed Northeastern Pennsylvania under a 1662 charter from King Charles II of England. A few years later in 1681, King Charles would also issue a charter to William Penn for the same lands. To complicate the situation further, Iroquois tribes would sell the disputed territory to both “Yankees” and “Pennamites.” After 40 years, the conflict was resolved so that the Connecticut settlers retained title to their lands but swore an oath of allegiance to Pennsylvania.

In 1786, Wilkes-Barre is named the county seat of Luzerne County. In 1806, Wilkes-Barre was incorporated as a Borough and Jesse Fell was elected burgess. In 1871 it was incorporated as a city and Ira Mandeville Kirkendall was elected mayor.

A special cocktail reception will also be held on the rooftop level of the Citizens Bank Building in Downtown Wilkes-Barre featuring food stations and cocktails catered by Jonathans Restaurant. Guests will be able to enjoy the fireworks from the outdoor rooftop with additional entertainment. Tickets will be available soon.

The Founders’ Day Festival is seeking corporate sponsorships. For further information please contact Patty Hughes, Special Events Coordinator at 570-208-4149.