Shenandoah is a borough located in the lower part of the anthracite Coal Region, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. It is 105 miles (169 km) northwest of Philadelphia. The Greater Shenandoah area includes Shenandoah Heights, which is part of West Mahanoy Township and is located just north of Shenandoah. The United Greek Catholic Church (Ruthenian rite) was the first of that denomination in the United States. St. George Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church is the oldest Lithuanian parish in the United States. In 1900, 20,321 people lived here; in 1910, 25,774 people lived here; in 1920, 24,726 people lived here; and in 1940, 19,790 people lived here. The population was 5,624 at the 2000 census.
Shenandoah was settled between 1820 and 1835. The earliest settler was a farmer named Peter Kehley, who would later discover anthracite coal in a nearby stream. Booming growth occurred during the Civil War
years caused by the development and opening of several anthracite coal mines
. The area was incorporated as a borough in 1866 and was a famous hotbed of activity during the era of the Molly Maguires
in the 1870s. After the original influx of English, Welsh, Irish and German immigrants a large influx of peoples from the eastern and southern European countries occurred in the decades before and after the turn of the 20th century and by 1920 a population of nearly 30,000 residents was attained with the city taking on a cosmopolitan appearance. The community was hard hit by the decline of the anthracite coal
industry after World War II
and heavy emigration by coal miners occurred in order to find work elsewhere.
Origins of the name Shenandoah
The origin of the name Shenandoah is much debated. One theory holds that Shenandoah is an Indian word meaning "sprucy stream
" or "river flowing alongside high hills and mountains." The word Shenandoah does come from Algonquian
-Wakashian American Indians
which does mean (Beautiful star daughter; maybe spruce-lined stream or vast prairie.
Another theory is the origin of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, Indian, of course, and also means "daughter of the skies." Jacob Oliver Roads named Shenandoah after the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia where he had coal interests. Other claims are that Shenandoah is Iroquois for "great plains" and less likely, that it is derived from the Schind-han-dom or "spruce stream."
Notable natives and residents
- Shenandoah was the birthplace of jazz musicians and bandleaders Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey.
- Francis Brennan (7 May 1894–2 July 1968) was a cardinal of the Catholic Church, Dean of the Sacra Rota Romana 1959-1968, and prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments 1968. Francis Brennan was the first American to receive an appointment to the Roman Curia, or church court, the highest honor in the Roman Catholic Church.
- Shenandoah was also the birthplace of writer Darryl Ponicsan, whose novel, Andoshen, PA is set in "a fictional town fourteen real miles from John O'Hara's fictional Gibbsville." (Shenandoah is fourteen miles north of Pottsville. Mr. Ponicsan has written two novels that were made into motion pictures ("Cinderella Liberty" and "The Last Detail"). Mr Ponicsan has also written or co-written many screenplays for Hollywood movies, including Vision Quest, Taps, Nuts and Random Hearts. Mr. Ponicsan has been nominated for a number of awards, such as; the Golden Globe and the Writer's Guild Award.
- Shenandoah was also the birthplace of Mary Twardzik. In 1952, her son Ted, using Mary's original recipe for a potato-stuffed pasta pocket, or pierogi, launched the Shenandoah-based, brand Mrs. T's Pierogies ', which today is run with the help of Ateeco Corp.
- Roman-Catholic priest, best selling author, and GULAG survivor Walter Ciszek was born to a Polish-American family in Shenandoah. He is currently under investigation for possible Sainthood. His current title is Servant of God.
- Anthony P. Damato, Shenandoah native, United States Marine and Medal of Honor recipient. A Gearing-class destroyer of the United States Navy (USS Damato), was named in honor of Corporal Damato.
- Shenandoah is also the birthplace of Jerry Wolman, former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles Football Club of the National Football League. He was also a founding owner of the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club of the National Hockey League.
- Peter Wisher (Wiskersky), born in Shenandoah, later employed by Gallaudet University (a university for the deaf and hard-of-hearing). He created an acclaimed dance genre for the deaf.
Shenandoah is located at (40.819753, -76.202883).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 1.6 square miles (4.1 km²), of which, 1.5 square miles (3.9 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it (3.80%) is water.
As of the census
of 2000, there were 5,624 people, 2,649 households, and 1,380 families residing in the borough. The population density
was 3,710.7 people per square mile (1,428.6/km²). There were 3,339 housing units at an average density of 2,203.1/sq mi (848.2/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 97.40% White
, 0.34% African American
, 0.25% Native American
, 0.36% Asian
, 0.04% Pacific Islander
, 1.01% from other races
, and 0.60% from two or more races. Hispanic
of any race were 2.76% of the population.
There were 2,649 households out of which 20.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.5% were married couples living together, 13.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.9% were non-families. 42.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 26.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.07 and the average family size was 2.84.
In the borough the population was spread out with 19.0% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 23.3% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 28.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 84.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.6 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $18,714, and the median income for a family was $26,910. Males had a median income of $24,289 versus $19,783 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $12,562. About 16.2% of families and 20.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.3% of those under age 18 and 16.1% of those age 65 or over.
- In Schuylkill County Court, January 1902, those interested filed their petition for retail, wholesale, bottling or brewing licenses at the Office of the Clerk of the Court. Shenandoah was represented with over 165 bars and 2 breweries. This coal town offered more bars per thousand people than any other location in the world.
- Ripley's Believe it or Not once stated that Shenandoah was the most congested square mile in the United States, not excluding Chinatown in New York or San Francisco.
- On November 21, 1886, the first Ruthenian (present-day Ukrainian) Catholic Church in the United States, dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, was blessed by its pastor. The new parish got its start four years earlier when a group of seventy Galician and Subcarpathian Ruthenian families gathered together and agreed to petition the Ruthenian Catholic Metropolitan of Galicia. That meeting took place under the guidance of Carl Reiss, a Lithuanian immigrant.
- Over the years Shenandoah has been described in many different ways. During the town's heyday it was called "the only Wild West town in the East" for the rough-and-tumble attitude of its residents, "the city of churches" for the many houses of worship located within its borders, "the Vilnius of North America" for the large Lithuanian community, and "little New York" for the town's diverse population.
- The Lehigh Valley Railroad Station served as the main passenger terminal in Shenandoah, but the Lehigh Valley Railroad was not the only railroad to service Shenandoah. The town was also served by the Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Railroad, making Shenandoah the only borough in Pennsylvania to be serviced by three railroad companies.
- St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church is listed as the oldest Polish parish in the Eastern United States. This historic parish was founded in 1872, mostly by Lithuanian immigrants.
- During the Great Coal Strike of 1902 the Pennsylvania National Guard was called into Shenandoah to keep the peace and curb rioting by angry miners. The strike would only be resolved after President Theodore Roosevelt intervened.
- Shenadoah residents are often referred to by their three number telephone exchange "462." and a popular cheer used by opponents of the Blue Devils for over twenty years is "Chendo, Chendo, four, six two!"
- Shenandoah is the home of the the only Polish American Fire Company in the United States.