EAST LACKAWANNOCK TWP., Pa. (WKBN) – In honor of Black History Month, First News anchor Stan Boney takes us back to the time of slavery with how a group of freed slaves from the south ended up in Mercer County.

The historical marker sits elevated along Route 19. It explains the Pandenarium — how, in 1854, 63 slaves from Virginia — freed by their owner — made their way to Mercer County’s East Lackawannock Township and created their own settlement.

The sign though is just a marker letting people know these former slaves did work their way into Mercer County. The actual site is about a mile from that marker on a hundred-acre piece of land.

Boney’s guide was archeologist and Mercer County native Angie Jaillet-Wentling.

“Most of the houses that were built, originally, those would have been up along the hill and back in,” Jaillet-Wentling said.

Pandenarium in Mercer County
WKBN

The hill where some of the Pandenarium houses once stood is now occupied by an Amish home. But at one point, it’s believed that 24 houses — all occupied by the original group of freed slaves and their descendants — stood on this land, fed by water from the nearby Indian Run.

“It was basically a loosely structured farming community from what we can tell,” Jaillet-Wentling said.

Ten years ago, Jaillet-Wentling led an excavation of the property. They discovered the foundations of two houses and numerous artifacts.

“We found like little slate pencils that the children would have used for school. We found children’s toys. There’s a little toy teacup set that came out of the Robert Allen residence,” Jaillet-Wentling said.

“Yeah, that’s just mind-blowing,” said the Reverend Dr. Bryan Crawl.

Rev. Crawl can trace his lineage to John and Rosie Allen and their son Bob Allen, who, according to one map, had houses in the settlement.

“My grandmother told me that we came from Virginia. We were freed and we ended up somehow in Mercer County,” Rev. Crawl said.

Last summer, Rev. Crawl and his relatives toured the site to learn more about their ancestors.

He showed Boney a map of the route the freed slaves took from Virginia, which would have taken them through Rochester, Pennsylvania, where Rev. Crawl is a pastor.

Pandenarium in Mercer County
WKBN

“That’s a cool part of the story to think about. Some of my people actually went through this area as manuminical freed slaves and made their way to Mercer County. Yeah, that’s just mind-blowing,” Rev. Crawl said.

The people who lived there did not call it the Pandenarium. Jaillet-Wentling says the term came from a 20th Century historian, who was also a reverend — Pandenarium being a biblical name for a fertile area. She says a better term would be Indian Run Settlement.