Tamaqua is a borough in eastern Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, United States. The borough, located in Northeastern Pennsylvania's Coal Region, had a population of 7,107 as of the 2010 U.S. Census, a drop of less than 1% from 2000. Tamaqua is part of the Pottsville, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area, and is located just north of the Lehigh Valley.
Tamaqua (pronounced tuh-MAH-qwah) was taken from the territory of West Penn and Schuylkill Townships, named for the Tuscarora king of the Turkey Clan, Chief Tahkamochk, or Tam-a-kwah. The name is unique in that Tamaqua is the only community in the world with this name.
Tamaqua was founded in 1799 by German immigrant Burkhardt Moser. Originally to be named Tuscarora, the name Tamaqua was chosen after it was realized that there already was a community named Tuscarora about four miles (6 km) to the west. Roughly half of Moser's original log cabin is still intact and visible behind a house on the east side of Broad Street. The discovery of anthracite coal in the region in the early 19th century led to the town's rise as a coal producing community. The town was incorporated as a borough in 1832. German, Irish, and Welsh immigrants came to the borough in the 1840s and 1850s, followed by a large influx of Italians, Lithuanians, Slovaks, and Poles in the 1890s and early 20th century. During the 1860s and 1870s, Tamaqua was the geographic center hub for the Molly Maguires. One murder commonly attributed to the Mollies was that of town policeman Benjamin Yost, who was shot to death early one morning while extinguishing a gas lamp at the corner of West Broad and Lehigh Streets.
The Tamaqua Railroad Station was constructed in 1874. Arguably Tamaqua's most famous landmark, it stood idle from the mid 1880s through the late 1890s after passenger railroad service to the town was discontinued. Initially planned to be demolished in the late 1980s, the non-profit group Save Our Station (S.O.S.) eventually managed to raise enough money to have it refurbished at a cost of $1.5 million. The station reopened in August 2004, now home to a full-service restaurant and gift shop. Rail excursions leave from there during the Tamaqua Historical Society's annual Heritage Festival on the second Sunday in October.
Tamaqua remained a thriving community throughout the heyday of coal production in the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Certain sections of the borough, such as Dutch Hill and the South Ward, had a reputation for "toughness"; those sections were also densely populated by immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. However, it began declining, along with many other anthracite communities, in the 1950s as coal mines began tapering off. Hurricane Diane caused tremendous damage to Tamaqua's railroad yards to the extent that they never fully recovered. In 1971 the borough annexed neighboring Rahn Township and its Owl Creek section, home to the world's first fish hatchery.
In 1945 John E. Morgan established a knitwear manufacturing industry in Tamaqua. The company, Morgan Knitting Mills, Inc, grew into one of the largest employers in the area, second only to the Atlas Powder Company. In the mid 1950s, Morgan, working from a design developed by his wife (Anna Hoban Morgan) patented the widely known Thermal Underwear product lines. Since Morgan's death in 2000, the Morgan Trust has donated money to various worthwhile causes in Tamaqua. The Morgan Trust also established the John & Dorothy Morgan Cancer Center at the Lehigh Valley Hospital.
Dial telephone service arrived in Tamaqua in 1961. The new exchange (668) still exists. Operators who worked the switchboards on the top floor of the Tamaqua National Bank at West Broad and Berwick Streets were transferred to Bell Telephone's Hazleton and Pottsville Toll Centers.
The borough of Tamaqua passed an unprecedented law giving ecosystems legal rights. The ordinance establishes that the municipal government or any Tamaqua resident can file a lawsuit on behalf of the local ecosystem. Other townships, such as Rush, followed suit and passed their own laws.