2 hours ago
Sunday, October 09, 2005
There is some great info on local history at the Wilkes University website.
The naming of Wilkes-Barre was meant as an insult to King George III although other towns in the area were named in his honor.
A little background:
The Stamp Act was introduced in the House of Commons in February 1765. Barre was the single most vocal opponent of the tax in the House; he predicted rebellion in the Colonies. In a famous speech in opposition to the Stamp which stunned the House, Barre called the British Colonists in America the "Sons of Liberty," a catch-word which ignited passion in the New England settlements, but did not stay passage of the Stamp Act by Parliament.
When the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766, the town of Boston had a portrait of Barre hung in Faneuil Hall. The portrait was later destroyed by British troops during the Boston siege of 1775.
John Wilkes was a vocal opponent of the King's ministers. Whether he was a dedicated reformer, or an opportunist with unusual wit, can be debated. Nevertheless, Wilkes became a symbol of British and Colonial national rights and liberties which an oppressive government sought to suppress. His confrontations (or antics) were closely followed in Massachusetts and Connecticut newspapers, and Colonial assemblies would periodically meet in local taverns to cheer Wilkes' legal victories over Parliament.
Major John Durkee, President of the Settlers, began to use the name "Wilkesbarre" for the region near the Connecticut fort in his official correspondence. Durkee's designation of the critical center of the settlement as Wilkesbarre, of course, honored John Wilkes and Isaac Barre. The name Wilkesbarre assuaged Durkee's patriotic ardor, and was a shot across the Atlantic in the direction of the King's ministers.
OK, maybe I'm getting carried away with the history lesson. What set me off was I was listening to the Kings College radio station yesterday and the person doing the station ID said Wilkes-Bahhrrrr. Get the name of the town right. What do they teach in college? I grew up here and its always been Wilkes-Berry. That's berry, not bear or bahrr. Our town was named after a great man at least pronounce his name right.