Tamaqua, PA: Geography

Tamaqua is a borough located in the eastern part of Schuylkill County, in the state of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. It is also popularly located in the Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Coal Region. The most recent population count, as of 2010 by the U.S. Census, is at 7,107, although that number is down from the previous 2000 census. The borough is also part of the Pottsville, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area, situated just north of the Lehigh Valley region.

History of the Name

The term “Tamaqua” came from the territories of Schuylkill Townships and West Penn. Specifically, the term is in honor of the Tuscarora king of the Turkey Clan named Chief Tahkamochk, or popularly called as Tam-a-kwah. What’s more interesting is the fact that the name of this borough is the only one in the world. It means no other place on Earth has the same name.

Geographical Profile

The borough is situated in a valley basin within the Pennsylvania Coal Region area of the Appalachian Mountains in the drainage basin of the Schuylkill River. The place boasts a huge valley which is just off the western end of the famous Pocono Mountains and on the edge of the neighboring Lehigh watershed.

Courtesy of the dominant terrain, the town is typical of medium towns in Ridge-and-valley Appalachians, lowlands and flats were afforded to business, transport, and rail industries while dwellings were limited to the slopes.
Based on U.S. Census Bureau, the borough of Tamaqua has a total area of 10 square miles. 9.8 square miles is land while the rest (0.1 miles) is water. By percentage, water only covers 1.31% of the total area. However, there are actually three streams that pass through the borough. The Little Schuylkill River runs through town coming from the north and through a gap that separate the folds of an unbroken ridgeline. But this ridgeline is now separated and currently known as the Sharp Mountain (west) and the Nesquehoning Mountain. The second stream is called Panther Creek, flowing southwest from Lansford and then joins Little Schuylkill located in Tamaqua. The third one is Wabash Creek, which joins the Little Schuylkill coming from the west.

In the area of Tamaqua, coal mining was the most significant economic activity and source of income for many residents all throughout the 20th century. However, the declining dependence and use of coal in power plants as well as the rapid demise of steam powered traction led to the sudden decline of the industry.

After the decline of the coal mining industry, the town eventually transformed into a major railroad center in the Lehigh Valley region; but that to became a thing of the past with the steady improvement and developments in public transportation. Another worthy fact about Tamaqua is that in 1885, the Edison Electric Illuminating Co. of Tamaqua furnished the town with the second incandescent municipal lighting system in the entire United States. It is quite interesting to know that this privilege was actually highlighted by the direct involvement of Thomas Edison himself.