Easton

Oral History

The Lenape Indians originally referred to the area as “Lechauwitank,” or “The Place at the Forks.” The site of the future city of Easton was part of the land obtained from the Delawares by the 1737 Walking Purchase.  Thomas Penn set aside 1,000 acres at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers for a town. Easton was settled by Europeans in 1739 and founded in 1752, and was so named at the request of Penn, whose wife’s family owned an estate called Easton Neston, near TowcesterNorthamptonshire, England. Northampton County was being formed at this time, and Easton was selected as its seat.

During the French and Indian War, the Treaty of Easton was signed here by the British colonial government of the Province of Pennsylvania and the Native American tribes in the Ohio Country, including the Lenape and Shawnee.

Easton was an important military center during the American Revolutionary War. Easton was one of the first three places the Declaration of Independence was publicly read, along with Philadelphia and Trenton. It is claimed that the Easton flag was flown during that reading, making it one of the first “Stars and Stripes” to fly over the colonies. This flag, which is known to date to the War of 1812, serves as Easton’s municipal flag.

Easton was a major commercial center during the canal and railroad periods of the 1800s, when it was a transportation hub for the steel industry. Three canals, the Delaware, the Lehigh, and the Morris, served to connect the coal regions to the north and west, the iron works to the west, the commercial port of Philadelphia to the south, and the New York City area to the east via a connection with the Morris Canal across the Delaware River in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. When canal transportation was largely replaced by railroads, Easton was served by five railroads, and only lost its prominence in transportation with the rise of the automobile in the mid 20th century.

Like the Pennsylvania Dutch region to the southwest, Easton has a strong German heritage. The Pennsylvania Argus, a German-language newspaper, was published in Easton until 1917.