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History of Tuscarora State Park

The Park

Before European Settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, a deep forest of hemlock, white pine, ash, hickory, elm, oak, cherry, and American chestnut covered the Locust Valley.

The Lenni Lenape claimed the land, then it was conquered by the Susquehannocks, and finally controlled by the New York Iroquois League of Five Nations.

When settlers discovered anthracite coal in Schuylkill County, immigrants swiftly arrived for the mining jobs reaching the Locust Valley in the mid-1800s. It was not economically feasible to mine the coal in the Locust Valley, but the area did not escape the American Industrial Revolution.

The forests fell to the logger’s ax as sawmills turned the trees into lumber, shingles, tool handles, and other wood products. Tanneries crushed hemlock and white pine bark for tanning leather. Colliers burned chestnuts and oaks into charcoal. Strong timbers supported the roofs of mines. The forests were gone by the early 1900s, replaced by shrubby land prone to seasonal floods and forest fires. Some farmers tilled the cleared land.

Tuscarora State Park was purchased during the early 1960s. The U.S. Soil Conservation Service and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania constructed the dam for flood control and recreation.

Tuscarora State Park officially opened on June 26, 1971.

The Tuscarora Indians

The Tuscarora Tribe of American Indians dwelled in small villages along several major rivers in the coastal plains of North Carolina. After contact with European traders, the Tuscarora became avid fur traders. Land-hungry settlers dealt unfairly with the Tuscarora. Years of unequal trade, mistrust, and even kidnapping of Tuscarora children for slaves finally escalated into the Tuscarora War from 1711 to 1713.

The Tuscarora were defeated and asked for help from their powerful New York relatives, the League of Five Nations. The League sent this message to Governor Robert Hunter of New York:

"Tuscarore Indians are come to shelter themselves among the five nations they were of us and went from us long ago and are now returned. . .we desire you to look upon the Tuscarores that are come to live among us as our Children who shall obey our commands & live peaceably and orderly." -- O'Callaghan and Fernow (eds.), Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, V, 387.

Beginning in 1714 and continuing for 90 years, bands of Tuscarora migrated from North Carolina to southern New York. Most of the families followed the Tuscarora Path up the valleys of the Susquehanna River to New York, but many also made their own paths. All along the routes, many mountains, streams, valleys, and towns bear the name Tuscarora, evidence of this 500-mile migration.

Local tradition holds that sometime between 1715 and 1722 the Tuscarora briefly dwelled in the Locust Valley.

The League of Five Nations welcomed the Tuscarora and made them the sixth nation in the League. Although not equal with the other five tribes, the Tuscarora voiced their opinions through one of the other tribes.

Today, 700 Tuscarora Indians are still part of the League of Six Nations and now have equality with the other tribes. Tuscarora State Park was named to honor these transient residents of Pennsylvania.