Freeland, originally called Birbeckville after founder Joseph Birkbeck, then South Heberton, is a borough in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, 18 miles (29 km) south of Wilkes-Barre, and 10 miles northeast of Hazleton in an agricultural region. Freeland was officially incorporated as a borough on September 11, 1876. Coal-mining was a chief industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the turn of the century the population numbered 5,254. By 1910 it had increased to 6,197, and in 1940 it peaked at 6,593 residents. At the 2000 census, the population was 3,643. As of 30 September 2010, the current Mayor of Freeland is Mrs. Tami Martin, the widow of the late Mayor of Freeland Mayor Tim Martin. Freeland is the highest elevated borough in Pennsylvania at 1,943 feet above sea level.
Joseph Birkbeck, the founder of Birbeckville, was born near Brough under Stainmore, in the county of Westmorland, England on May 2, 1802. He and his wife Elizabeth came to America in 1844. After acquiring land from Edward Lynch the same year of his arrival, Birkbeck built a log cabin in the region that is the small valley between Freeland and Upper Lehigh. The next settler, Nathan Howey, purchased land from Birkbeck and built a frame house just west of Birkbecks log cabin.
Developing coal mines in the nearby region created a steep increase in population and a demand for building lots. This led Birkbeck to survey the region for the town of South Heberton. South Heberton has long since lost its identity and is now simply a cluster of houses midway between Freeland and Upper Lehigh. Birkbeck's sawmill is at the turn of the road just east of Upper Lehigh, and what was mainly South Heberton is now known as Upper Lehigh, a small mining town once owned by the Upper Lehigh company.