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Plainfield Township


Plainfield Township is a township in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Plainfield Township is located in the Lehigh Valley region of the state. It is part of Pennsylvania's Slate Belt.



The population of Plainfield Township was 5,668 at the 2000 census.


Plainfield Township is one of the northern tier townships in Northampton County. It is located east of the midpoint in the tier. The township extends from the crest of the Blue Mountain (Kittitanny Ridge) south a distance of about eight miles. The township’s width near the mountain is approximately four miles and the width decreases to the south. The township is approximately three miles wide near the southern extremity. The southern slope of the Wind Gap in the Blue Mountain is located in the northwest portion of the township and partly in the borough of Wind Gap. Of the “dry” gaps in the Blue Mountain the most acceptable road grades can be constructed through the Wind Gap. The only other mountain passes in this region with greater potential for satisfactory highway grades are the “water gaps” of the Lehigh River and the Delaware River. The water gaps are located approximately twenty-five miles apart with the Wind Gap located in a central position between the two.

Plainfield Township essentially surrounds the borough of Wind Gap in the northwest, as well as Pen Argyl Borough which is located toward the northeast corner of the township. To the east are the townships of Washington and Lower Mount Bethel; Stockertown Borough and Forks Township is to the west; and Monroe County bounds the township on the north. The township is located in the Slate Belt on the northern fringe of the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton Metropolitan Area. The city of Easton is approximately ten miles south of the center of the township. With the relocation of Route 611, highway access to the densely developed ABE metropolitan core will be among the best of any area in the Slate Belt.

There are three existing highways of a general north-south orientation which are of major importance to the township: Routes 115, 191 and 512. Route 512 and the northern segment of 115 serve inter-regional traffic between the Bethlehem-Allentown Metropolitan Area and the Pocono Mountains region. Route 191 which cuts diagonally across the southern portion of the township links the same general areas as noted above, but is less important from a regional transportation viewpoint. This route crosses the Blue Mountain to the east of the township at Fox Gap and contains sharp turns and steep grades due to unfavorable topography of this gap. The regional importance of the two lane portion of Route 115, extending from Wind Gap Borough south to Easton, is intermediate relative to the other two routes. Relocated 611 is west of and generally parallel to this segment of 115 just beyond the western township boundary for much of its length. When completed, Relocated 611 will serve as the major north-south highway in the eastern half of the Lehigh Valley. Highways of regional importance for east-west travel do not exist in the township. Legislative Route 165 between Wind Gap and Bangor is currently the most heavily used east-west link in the regional highway system. This expressway would pass through the township somewhat north of center, and connect Interstate 80 with Relocated 611.

Numerous spoil piles serve as monuments to the slate industry which once flourished within the township. Many of the spoil piles in the agricultural areas have vegetation covering their base and are beginning to blend into the landscape. Elsewhere, especially in the northern more densely developed areas of less productive soils, the piles remain as steep slopes of haphazardly scattered or stacked rock slabs which block the landscape beyond from view. The most densely developed portion of the township is an east-west strip near the northern boundary, containing the boroughs of Pen Argyl and Wind Gap. Another narrow strip of development occurs along Route 115 and widens at the village of Belfast. The remainder of the Township is largely rural in character. In this rural portion there are occasional crossroad villages, but agricultural uses predominate. The northern quarter of the Township has less productive soils, consequently much of the undeveloped land in this area if forested. Part time and hobby farms are scattered through the built up districts and the wooded areas in this northern section.

The first white settlers to locate in what is now Plainfield Township were probably Holland Dutch. The Dutch came down the Delaware River from New York State and may have penetrated this deeply into the interior by 1740. Scotch-Irish were also known to be in the region at this date. A little later settlers of German origin began filtering into the area. Most of them did not follow the procedure required to legally obtain a piece of land upon which to settle, but merely pre-empted acreage which was to their liking and set about clearing it for cultivation. A 1750 land warrant deeded acreage to the Plainfield Church Congregation. This congregation was largely German but also contained some French Huguenots and Swiss.

This first house known to have been erected in the area was a log dwelling located upon the site where the brick house of George Hahn was later built, just north of Rasley town. As the county of Northampton was defined and established in 1752, it included virtually all of eastern Pennsylvania north and northwest of Bucks County. It has been estimated that there may have been as many as five or six thousand white inhabitants within this large land area at that time. This land area was subsequently divided and subdivided into numerous counties. Lenape raids associated with the French and Indian War took place during the mid 1750’s. To cut off the Indians’ access to the mountain passes, a chain of forts north of the Blue Mountain was planned under the direction of Benjamin Franklin. The last forts in the chain were completed in 1756 securing the safety of the area for permanent settlement. The portion of Northampton County which is now Bushkill Township and Plainfield Township was organized as a single township in 1762. The name Plainfield was given to the newly established township. The general area had been called Plainfield by the early settlers because it was largely devoid of trees. The Indians had periodically burned the area to drive game through the Wind Gap for burned the area to drive game through the Wind Gap for harvesting. Fire resistant pines survived on the uplands, hardwoods remained along the watercourses and scrub oak was quite plentiful.

The township contained about three hundred in------ when it was formed. Eleven years later sixty-four families lived within its boundaries and the total population exceeded 500. There was a grist mill and a saw mill in existence at that time. Belfast was the first concentration of buildings which came to be regarded as a village. Hellerville (now the northern portion of Wind Gap Borough) was laid out in village lots in 1796. Other early villages were Pen Argyl, Blue Mountain and Wind Gap (the southern portion of the current borough). The Easton-Wilkes Barre Turnpike called by some the stagecoach road was the oldest laid-out road in the Township. It passed through the Wind Gap as had the Indian path before it. The oldest public house in the Township was built along this turnpike at Hellersville in 1779.
In 1813 the Township was divided into two parts. The western portion was named Bushkill Township while the eastern portion became Plainfield Township as we know it today. A population in excess of one thousand is recorded as existing in the Township at about that time. However, this figure probably includes the inhabitants of both townships, as is likely the case with the prior population figures. By 1850 there was a population of 1,753 distributed among 319 families within the boundaries of Plainfield Township. Approximately 300 students received instruction in that year by nine teachers in nine schools throughout the Township. Public houses had increased to seven in number, also seven stores, four grist mills, three saw mills, two distilleries, one oil mill and more than 200 farms existed within the Township’s boundaries.
About this time the slate industry began developing numerous quarries primarily in the northern half of the Township. As the economy expanded, railroads were built through the quarry areas to facilitate transporting the slate products to distant markets. The slate industry reached a place of importance second only to agriculture. The employment opportunities created by the slate industry attracted additional people during the period from 1870-1900. Most of the people attracted were recent immigrants from Europe. Many were of Welsh origin; others came from Italy, Ireland, England and Germany. The new arrivals located in the vicinity of the operating quarries, often in an existing village. Thus a period of rapid growth occurred for the villages in the northern portion of the Township. The population in Pen Argyl increased to about 500 by 1882 at which time it was incorporated as a borough. Hellerville and Wind Gap grew toward one another and incorporated as the borough of Wind Gap in 1893. The population of the remaining portion of the Township was approximately 2,000. Around the turn of the century the slate industry began declining as other materials replaced slate. The decline was gradual but erratic-causing hardship and unemployment to some.

As the slate industry declined, the manufacturing of textiles and apparel developed in the area. Although the percentage of jobs for male workers associated with these industries was relatively low, a source of family income was available if the wife or daughter was able to work. By 1920 a trolley line linking the eastern part of the Slate Belt to Nazareth, Easton and Bethlehem had been cities where more diverse industrialization had taken place. Commuting to work outside of the Township has increased; the automobile provides greater flexibility than the former trolley. The Slate Belt has become more closely linked with the economy of the remainder of the Lehigh Valley. This trend will be accentuated when expressway service is available upon the completion of Relocated 611. This improved highway network may also attract a greater diversity of industry to the Slate Belt. Residential development and also some commercial and industrial expansion has pushed across borough lines into Plainfield Township. However, agriculture continues to dominate the Township based economy.


As of the census2 of 2000, there were 5,668 people, 2,130 households, and 1,637 families residing in the township. The population density was 88.5/km² (229.2/mi²). There were 2,191 housing units at an average density of 34.2/km² (88.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the township was 98.85% White, 0.37% African American, 0.02% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.14% from other races, and 0.34% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.67% of the population.

There were 2,130 households out of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 68.0% were married couples living together, 5.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.1% were non-families. 18.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the township the population was spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 6.1% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 27.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 96.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.2 males.

The median income for a household in the township was $49,019, and the median income for a family was $54,856. Males had a median income of $39,334 versus $25,145 for females. The per capita income for the township was $20,639. About 1.7% of families and 3.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.9% of those under age 18 and 4.9% of those age 65 or over.

Public education

The township is served by the Pen Argyl Area School District.

Sources: Wikipedia, Plainfield Township Website


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