LYKENS . The Wicinisco or Lykens Valley is one of the most beautiful, as well as one of
the most historic valleys in the county. It is a pity that the old Indian name of the
valley has, in a measure, been supplanted by that of the first settler, although if the
Indian name was to be given up for some other name, a better one than that of Lykens or
Lycons, could not have been given to it. The Indian name, which is a corruption of the
Delaware Wikenniskeu, signifies "muddy, or swampy, house". Wik, or wiku
meaning "house", is the Delaware word from which wigwam is corrupted, and
"assiskeu", signifies muddy or swampy. Heckewelder says in a note concerning the
origin of the name, "Probably some Indians encamped along the creek, where the bank
was wet or muddy".
The name given to the creek and valley, Lykens, is another corruption of the name of
the first settler which is given correctly in nearly all of the historical sketches as
Lycans. The author, however, has traced this name back in the records to the earliest
form, which is recorded by Richard Peters, in 1750, as Andrew Lycons. The name of this
first settler in the Wicinisco valley occupies an important place in the records relating
to the turning point of the squatters in the Juniata valley, in 1750, in accordance with
the demands o the Iroquois Confederacy. In the report of Richard Peters to Governor James
Hamilton, concerning the work of the commission which was sent to turn the squatters out
of these unpurchased Indian lands west of the Susquehanna, he says, "The next Day,
being the twenty-fourth of May, Mr. Weiser and Mr. Galbreth, with the Under Sheriff and
myself, on our Way to the mouth of Juniata called at Andrew Lycon's, with Intent only to
inform him that his Neighbors were bound for his Appearance and immediate Removal, and to
caution him not to bring himself into Trouble by a Refusal; But he presented a loaded Gun
to the Magistrates and Sheriff, said he would shoot the first man that dar'd to come
nigher. On this he was disarmed, convicted and committed to the Custody of the Sheriff.
This while transaction happened in the Sight of a Tribe of Indians who by Accident had in
the Night-time fix'd their Tent on that Plantation, and Lycons' Behavior giving them great
Offence, the Shickalamie's (Shikellamy's) insisted upon our Burning the Cabin or they
would burn it themselves. Whereupon, when everything was taken out of it (Andrew Lycon all
the while assisting) and Possession being deliver'd to me, the empty Cabbin was set on
Fire by the Under Sheriff and then Lycons was carried to Gaol" (Col. Rec. V. 443).
one of the others whose cabin was burnt on this same trip was that of Simon Girty.
Andrew Lycons was Scotch-Irish, and not Swiss, as both his name and his actions clearly
reveal. Nearly all of the squatters who where turned out of their cabins west of the
Susquehanna at this time were Scotch-Irish. When the commissions first called at the
log cabin of Andrew Lycon, both he and his wife were away from home, the children only
being in possession. William White and others offered to become security for the
appearance of Andrew Lycon at Court, and there probably would have been no trouble
whatever, had not Lycon's presented a loaded gun to the commissioners when they went to
his cabin the next day. The incident was at the foundation of the hatred of Andrew Lycon
for the Indians, and of their hostility to him after he settled in the Wicinisco valley.
Some of these troubles which Lycon, or Lycan, had with the Indians are mentioned in the
History of Lykens-Williams Valley, by J. Allen Barrett.
Andrew Lycon was released from Jail and then removed to the eastern side of the
Susquehanna, taking up two hundred acres on the northerly side of "Whiconescong"
creek. The family here made many improvements, clearly the land and building houses, in
peace and happiness until after the defeat of General Braddock's army in 1755, when the
long yeas of Indian hostility commenced. On March 7, 1756, the Indians mad an attack upon
the settlers in the valley, which ultimately led to the abandonment of the settlement.
Lycon and his family, and others, escaped, going over the mountains into Hanover Township.
Here Andrew died, leaving a wife and one son, John, and five daughters. The exact time of
the return of the wife, Jane, and her children to the old home in the Wicinisco valley is
not known, but it was probably not until the end of the Indian hostility in 1764, A patent
for the land which Andrew Lycon had taken up and improved, was granted to Jane Lycon, his
widow, in 1765. Various historical sketches state that the cabin which Andrew Lycon had
built, stood until about 1863, being situated on the McClure farm, owned in recent times
by Josiah Hoover.
The author regrets that the limitations of this work prevents a complete history of the
early days in this most historic valley. Nothing but a brief outline is possible. The
Ferree family, which later purchased Lycon's property, was the historic family of early
settlers in Lancaster county, of which the late Barr Ferree, Secretary of the Pennsylvania
Society of New York, was an honored descendant. The "Oak Dale Forge" which was
built about 1828, by James Buchanan, was the first forge in the valley.
The real development of the valley commenced in 1825, with the discovery of coal by
Jacob Burd, Sr. and Peter Kimes, who then lived at the lower end of Short Mountain.
Shortly after a wagon load of coal was dug, and he new era for the valley had commenced.
The Wicinisco Coal Company was organized in 1831, mines were opened in drifts at the Bear
Creek gap, and coal was soled in the region about 1832. The Lykens Valley Railroad was
built sixteen miles, from Bear Creek Gap to the Susquehanna, and was in operation in 1834,
transporting the coal by horse-power over the flat strap-rail. The cars were carried
across the Susquehanna on "arks", the coal dumped into chutes on the canal,
loaded on the canal boats and transported to the various markets. This was the fourth
railroad in the country and the first in Dauphin county, to transport anthracite coal.
"The first canal boat load of Lykens Valley coals, now so famous, was sent April 19,
1834, by Boat No. 76, forty-three tons, Captain C. Faunce, cosigned to Thomas Bobridge,
Columbia, Pennsylvania" (Professor Sheaffer, Pottsville. Quoted by Kelker, History of
Dauphin County, p 415).
The Wicinisco Canal, connecting
Millersburg with the
Pennsylvania Canal, was built in 1848. Up to the year 1859 the total shipment of coal from
the Lykens Valley amounted to 848,781 tons, showing how great this industry had become
even at that early date.