White Haven

Oral History

John Lines became the first settler of the area when he brought his family on sled from Hanover Township just south of Wilkes-Barre in April 1824. The one-home settlement was called Linesville for many years until it was officially incorporated as White Haven in 1843.

The town was named in honor of Josiah White, who, as co-owner of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, was a prominent man in the early days of canal building. White also was the builder of the “bear trap” locks in the Lehigh River that preceded the Lehigh Canal and made the river navigable for the transportation of coal from White’s mines near Summit Hill. The canal opened in White Haven in 1835. The town was the northern terminus for a new, 26-mile addition that began in Mauch Chunk and followed the narrow gorge cut by the Lehigh River through the Pocono Mountains. The addition of this “Upper Grand” section of the Lehigh Canal offered a direct connection between the great forests and coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania and the saltwater ports of the Delaware River around Bristol in Lower Bucks County.

White Haven’s primary business was lumber. The hills on either side of the Lehigh River were thickly covered with white pine and hemlock trees. John Lines built the first sawmill in the area but the second was built by Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, which needed an enormous amount of logs and lumber to build the locks and dams of the Upper Grand section of the Lehigh Canal. Other sawmills were built, and in a short time White Haven became one of the busiest lumber depots in Pennsylvania. In 1860 there were 10 large sawmills in White Haven, cutting more than 20 million feet of lumber annually.

The 26 miles of the Upper Grand sustained much damage during a severe flood in 1841, but were rebuilt. A second, worse flood in 1862 put the Upper Grand out of business forever. Canal locks and dams were swept away and never rebuilt.