Punxsutawney's Groundhog legend pre-dates the area's first white settlers. The first inhabitants of the area, the Delaware Indians, shared in the Punxsutawney "Groundhog" roots with their own Indian version of "legend and lore."
Punxsutawney was originally a campsite halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers. It is located on the earliest known trail to the East, the Shamokin path. The area was, at times, occupied by Shawnee or Delaware Indians and, sometimes, by Senecas or Iroquois.
According to the original "Creation" Story of the Delaware Indians, the "Lenni Lenape" (or original people), who were their forebears, began life as animals in "mother earth" and emerged centuries later to hunt and live as men. Thus it was that Oijik (Wejak), or Wojak, which was carried over to us as "'Woodchuck", came to be recognized as the "grandfather" of the earliest known inhabitants of this area.
Although the area previously served as a "border" between Indian nations, the displaced Delawares settled in large numbers about 1723 because of the pressures from white men in the East and Iroquois intrigue. The main move toward the west followed between l740 and l760 as the result of further pressure.
It was during this period that an lndian sorcerer first appeared in various forms and attacked travelers from the East. He was hunted and killed in combat by a young chief. His body was burned to destroy the "evil medicine" but miraculously turned to searing sandflies, or "ponksad," which plagued the area and the Indians. From that time the Indians called the location, " Ponksaduteney," which meant the "town of the sandflies." The sandflies are now gone, but the "ghost of the spelling" is with us to stay.
It is said that in 1754 a council of the Delawares, Muncy, Shawnees, Naticokes, Tuscaroras, and Mingoes met at the Punxsutawney lodge to protest the sale of their lands by the "Six Nations" in Albany. At this council, Sheklemos, who was a Christian Deleware Chief, along with other peace- loving chiefs attempted to prevent war. They failed, however, and the tribes joined with the French in the French and Indian War.
On October 16, 1755, the Delawares initiated their first main resistance to the ever increasing white settlers with an attack and three day massacre at Penn's Creek (near Sunbury). They withdrew, but not before they captured two 12-year-old girls. They were travelling on the trail between Clearfield and Kittanning and moved first to a rest area at "Puncksotoney." The young girls later escaped to Fort Pitt in March, 1759. Shortly thereafter, the Delawares pulled out of the area, leaving a more peaceful and placid environment.
In 1772 the Rev. John Ettwein passed thru accompanied by Christian Indians. Remarks in his diary stated that the ground was occupied by a rather large Indian villiage. He wrote, "In the evening all joined me, but we could hold no services as the ponkies were excessively annoying .... in the swamp through which we are now passing their name is legion. Hence the Indians called it Ponksutenick, the town of the Ponkies."
By the late 1790's the first white settlers came to the area now known as Jefferson County. The first white settler in the Punxsutawney area was Jacob Hoover.They found the Indians hospitable. The Indians assisted these settlers in building, planting and harvesting. They shared their knowledge of the game animals, trails, and waterways. Apparently, the area got too crowded for the Indians by the early 1800's, for they moved on to new wilderness areas.
The Delawares left to the residents of Punxsutawney their legends and their grandfather, Wojak, the Groundhog. The early settlers, in turn, quickly adapted their European Candlemas legend to the Pennsylvania Groundhog.
While one American society with a strong belief in the Groundhog had vanished, another - with an equally legendary background had arrived . . . and the story remains intact today.
Jacob Hoover built what was probably the first grist mill and was the first to settle here and build the first log cabin in 1814. The Reverend David Barclay came to Punxsutawney in 1816 and was the founder of Punxsutawney. The original site of Punxsutawney contained 327 acres and was purchased by Reverend Barclay in 1819. The Reverend Barclay built a log cabin in 1818 on what is now the northwest corner of Front and Mahoning Streets. In 1832 he donated a plot of land to the settlement of a marketplace which is now known as Barclay Square. In these early days agriculture was the predominate activity.
Punxsutawney continued to grow to about 100 inhabitants and in 1849 was incorporated as a borough. Agriculture was the initial mainstay followed closely by lumbering. Between the years 1850 and 1883 agriculture and lumbering flourished and prospered. The nearby forests of oak, chestnut, beech, pine, and hickory were cut and the timber was rafted down Mahoning Creek to Pittsburgh. This period was followed by coal mining and railroad activity.
Punxsutawney built up rapidly in the late 1800's with the coal industry "fueling" the economy. Many deep mines existed in the surrounding hills. It is said that at one time you could walk from here to Reynoldsville, about 15 miles to the north, entirely underground! Several towns in the area such as Adrian, Rossiter, Eleanora and Onandaga were "coal towns" that were created by and owned by the coal companies. Rossiter and Adrian still exist today, but Eleanora is entirely gone. When the Eleanora coal mine was closed the town was closed too! Nothing is left. In Rossiter and Adrian you can see the "company houses" that were erected by the coal companies to house the workers. When the Adrian mine was closed, the town was sold to the inhabitants. Mining and railroads were the keys to the economy from the late 1800'S to the 1940's's although mining made a sharp decline in the number of employees between 1920 and 1930.
One of the coal products produced here was coke used in the Pittsburgh steel industry. Coke is made by partially burning crushed high grade coal in an airtight oven. The ovens are shaped like a beehive and are, therefore, known as "beehive ovens". The coal was dumped into the top of the oven from cars known as "dinkeys" which ran on tracks that travelled over the top of the ovens. The ovens were ignited and sealed up to make them airtight. The coal burned inside for three days giving off coal tar and gas which gave off a noxious odor. After three days the fire was quenched with water and the coke was loaded onto rail cars for a journey to the steel plant. 100 railcars of coke were produced daily in the area. The adjacent town of Walston once boasted the world's longest string of coke ovens which stretched over a mile in length filling the valley between Punxsy and Walston with smoke and wiping out the vegetation. At night there was a red glow in the sky from the 700 ovens which existed in this area. Remnants of this line and several other lines in the area can still be seen, though nature has done it's best to camouflage them.
In 1889, the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company erected the first hospital building in the town of Delancey (also known as "Adrian") at the Adrian Mines. The Adrian Hospital was founded by Adrian Iselin, of New York who donated $5000 for the purpose. The purpose of this facility was to serve the needs of the men injured in the mines, but it soon became a general hospital. It not only served Adrian (Delancey) but served neighboring Punxsutawney as well. Due to the demand, the facilty was soon found to be inadequate. A decision was made to move the facility to Punxsutaney at the corner of Jenks and Park Ave.. W.O Smith, who was local representative to the State Legislature, obtained an appropriation of $100,000 and the new building was completed in 1898. Interestingly, in 1902 it cost $5 per week to stay in a hospital ward. A private room cost between $10 to $25 per week. Also of interest, the year 1901 saw the annual expendature for medical supplies at $234.09 and salaries for nurses was $3160.53 (but it doesn't say how many nurses were on staff that divided this sum) This building was used as the hospital until 1975 when a new building was completed out on Rt.36 north. The building was remodelled and is now occupied by Wellington Heights which is a personal care facility.
The Punxsutawney Hospital (also called the "Grube Hospital") was founded in 1900 by Dr. John E. Grube.It was first located in the Dinsmore Building on W. Mahoning St.. After 4 or 5 years, the State Board of Health ordered the evacuation of this site. At that point they purchased the home of J.B. Eberhart at 103 Gilpin St. and the new hospital was completed in 1908. The hospital grew busy and added another addition later which fronts on Pine St. The hospital was closed in 1932 when it merged with the Adrian Hospital. The home of J.B. Eberhart is still attached to the front of the building which is still being used for various offices. Until very recently, the wing that fronts on Pine St. was used as the Unemployment Office but it is now the Older American Social Center.
The Murray Sanitarium which opened in 1911 was located in a home at the corner of E. Mahoning and Dinsmore Ave., the former residence of W.A. Bowers. It was run by Dr. John H. Murray who was a physicain for the R & P Coal Company. It was widely known because of its treatment of diseases of the stomach and operated until 1938. The building is now an apartment house.
The Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad were the first to appear in Punxsutawney in 1883 with regular service instituted in September of that year. This provided passenger and freight transportation to the major cities of the time. In it's heyday, the railroad might see 78 trains pass through here in a day. More recently, the B&O Railroad owned the tracks thru town but was later sold to the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad that runs the line today. At first, the rail yard was centered within the city limits of Punxsutawney, but it soon outgrew that location and it was moved to its present location in Rikers Yard which can be seen just north of Punxsutawney on Rt. 119.
On a separate system was the Pennsylvania & Northwestern Railroad which passed thru Punxsy's East End.The Pennsylvania Railroad was brought to Punxsy in 1886. There was a passenger station on the south side of E. Mahoning St. and a roundhouse down Clearfield St.. These tracks are no longer in existence, but the abandoned right of way may be converted to a hiking trail in the future.
The little known Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad passed near here also. It was constructed in about 1904 and ended with a shipment of 1957 Chevys to the Chevy dealer in Plumville 15 miles south of here, the town at the end of the line.
In 1892, the Jefferson Traction Company started a trolley car system. The line travelled the main street from the west end of W. Mahoning St. to the Pennsylvania Railroad station on E. Mahoning St.. One line branched off in west end and travelled up Foundry St. to end in the town of Walston. Another line branched off at Findley St.. This line first stopped next to the Passenger Station of the B, R, &P Railroad and then went on to Big Run or branched to Anita. The line ended in Big Run, but in Big Run another trolley system came down from Dubois to the north. Eventually these lines were joined together.
In the 1900's Punxsutawney became the commercial shopping center for the many miners, the railroad men, and their families. There was industrial development starting in about 1880 and increasing to it's height in the 1920's. Natural gas came to Punxsutawney in 1884, the water works opened in 1887, electricity came in 1889. Factories moved in. There were iron foundries here. The Punxsutawney Iron Works covered an area, about an acre, that now comprises the Punxsy Plaza. There were breweries and a silk mill and a boiler maker . There was a meat packing plant producing "Groundhog Brand" meats. The were brick making industries also. There was a steel hoop mill, a glass plant and a planing mill as well.
In 1908 Punsutawney built it's first "sky scraper" with the 8 story "Spirit Building" which housed one of the two local newspapers of the time. It remains one of the tallest buildings in town. A golf course was constructed in the West End of town and still exists today.
The Industrial growth of Punxsutawney reached it's zenith in the 1920's and Punxsutawney was a thriving small city. 1929 brought economic disaster to all of America and Punxsutawney suffered along with the rest of the country. Many established businesses closed or declined. During the recovery that followed Punxsutawney gained a carbon plant. The Industrial and Economic power of Punxsutwney never reached the level of the 1920's again.
The history of Punxsutawney has been marred by several floods, the worst of which occured in 1936. There was upwards of 8 feet of water in some downtown buildings which caused many thousands of dollars worth of damage. The destruction of infrastructure was minimal, however. In 1949, the threat of flooding was minimized by the construction by the Army Corps of Engineers of a dike along the Mahoning Creek which runs through town.
The maximum population of Punxsutawney was around 12,000 during the earlier part of the 20th century. As of 1995, the population has dropped to around 6700 as the industries have moved on and coal has been replaced by cleaner fuels. Present day Punxsutawney is much quieter and cleaner than it was in the days of steam engines and coke ovens, but Punxsutawney is far from dead. There is a thriving machine shop industry here and a Jensen speaker plant. Another plant produces storm windows; another produces fiberglass tanks for the natural gas well drilling industry which is active in the area. Coal is still mined here, though not in the amounts earlier in history, as coal is used to generate electricity for home and industry.
It all began on February 2nd, 1886 with a terse Paragraph in The Punxsutawney Spirit (the local newspaper): "Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow." The legendary first trek to Gobbler's Knob was reportedly made the following year, and the rest is a colorful history.
It has been called "one of the greatest ongoing publicity campaigns in history" and certainly, the borough of Punxsutawney would remain unknown to the outside world if not for Punxsutawney Phil. Prior to 1887, groundhogs were more likely to be eaten than revered for their weather forecasting ability; but the groundhog has risen from a food item to the lofty title of "The Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary."
It is said that in the the summer of 1887 a group of local hunters and gourmets held a groundhog hunt and picnic and celebrated the event by barbequing their game and washing it down with locally brewed beer. The city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper was a man named Clymer Freas. Inspired by the hunt, the fellowship or the beer, he dubbed the picnickers the "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club". He recalled the Pennsylvania Dutch legend of the groundhog as a weather prophet and claimed for the Punxsutawney Groundhog all weather rights. He created a home for him on Gobbler's Knob and a fame that is now world wide.
W.O. Smith, a U.S. Congressman and owner of the Punxsutawney Spirit worked hard at keeping the legend alive. His successors followed suit .. until today when network television covers the event and broadcasts it live around the world.
For many years, the Groundhog Club was headed by the rotund country doctor named Frank Lorenzo. He was an orthopedic surgeon who developed a screw used to mend broken hips and joints eroded by arthritis. On Groundhog Day he entertained his friends who included politicians, railroad officials, doctors, lawyers, judges, and newspaper people throughout the state. Chartered trains brought his guests to Punxsutawney for the day's events. Lorenzo promoted and defended the Punxsutawney Groundhog to all comers in ringing tones that defied argument.
When he died in 1952, the mantle and his cane passed to his friend, Sam Light, who infused the legend with his own colorful personality. A coal operator and sportsman, Light created the costume, a tall silk hat and cutaway coat, that is most familiar to followers of the Punxsutawney Groundhog. How did he arrive at this particular outfit: "The top hat and cutaway are the traditional dress for dignitaries greeting Very Important Persons" Light explained, leaving no doubt that he considered the Punxsutawney Groundhog very VIP indeed.
Light, who raised champion English setter dogs for a hobby and is in the Field Trial Hall of Fame, retired as Groundhog Club president in 1976, saying, "I've had a lot of fun, but the Groundhog only confers longevity, not immortality, on its followers."
He was succeeded by Charles Erhard who, as owner of Punxsutawney's first radio station, had worked with Light for many years in promoting the groundhog on radio and television. Erhard served until 1982 when he retired to Florida.
He was succeeded by Jim Means, a prominent local contractor, who had been Phil's handler for many years. The current president is former groundhog-handler Bud Dunkel who runs a local roofing company.
When Punxsutawney built an ultra-modern civic center in 1974, it included an air-conditioned, glass enclosed Groundhog Zoo. Built into a section of the children's library, the zoo has a plastic glass window fronting the town square. The zoo is the home of a pair of groundhogs known as "Phil," a relative and namesake of the famous Seer and his mate "Phyllis."
All Punxsutawney residents bask in the glow of the honors and fame of Punxsutawney Phil. In fact, no matter what degree of fame a Punxsutawneyite achieves, the town's most famous resident will always be the groundhog. The official Groundhog weather proclamation is a wondrous thing, full of dramatic "Hear ye's" and "whereases" and bone-chilling descriptions of the snow and sleet and ice to follow. The Seer's prediction is duly recorded in the Congressional record and routinely gets front page coverage in the nation's newspapers and in English-language newspapers throughout the world.
The Groundhog Day festivities on Feb. 2, 1992 were joined by actor Bill Murray as he was studying up for his then upcoming movie, "Groundhog Day". He and Columbia Pictures set out recreate the Punxsutawney Groundhog Day to the smallest detail. There were, however, changes made, but the result was good and Punxsutawney's famous Weather Groundhog became a movie star. For more on the movie, see the site entitled, " Groundhog Day Movie Page"
Columbia Pictures decided to film the movie in a location more accessable to a major metropolitan center. Punxsutawney lies 80 miles north of Pittsburgh, and the highways in the area are not the best, so Woodstock, Illinois was chosen as the site. Unfortunately, Woodstock's terrain is devoid of western Pennsylvania's senic rolling hills. Never-the-less, Woodstock was "Punxsutawney-ized" for the production to begin. The actual Gobbler's Knob is a wooded hill with a wonderful view; the Gobbler's Knob in the movie is moved to the town square. The Punxsutawney Gobbler's Knob was recreated to scale and detail in Woodstock's town square based on notes and videotape the crew made on it's visit to Punxsutawney on Feb. 2nd.
The movie's script was altered to include the elaborate ceremony of the Inner Circle on Groundhog Day. The original groundhogs cast for the movie turned out to be too small. "He must have weighed 30 pounds!" Bill Murray remarked after having the opportunity to handle Phil following the Feb. 2nd ceremony. A suitable stand-in for Phil had to be located as a result.
Some of the store's names in Punxsutawney were used in the movie ...such asThe Smart Shop and Stewart's Drug Store. The police cruisers of Punxsutawney were recreated for the movie also. They also used the groundhog head garbage cans and Groundhog Festival flags that line the streets of Punxsutawney. Many people travel to Punxsutawney to see the Punxsutawney that they saw in the movie. They wonder why it seems so different but yet looks so similar. It's the magic of Hollywood! They may be disappointed that it is not exactly the same as they thought is was going to be ...but few leave without having an enjoyable visit.
Back to Home Page
History of Jefferson County:
Jefferson County was created by an act of the Legislature on March 26, 1804. The original boundaries included present day Forrest County and part of Elk County. Jefferson County was, of course, named after Thomas Jefferson, who was President of the United States at the time.
The first recorded settler to the county was Joseph Barnett. He settled in what is now known as Port Barnett near Brookville which is Jefferson County's seat. The County Seat was chosen for it's then central location. The site chosen was at the confuence of Sandy Lick Creek and North Fork Creek where they meet to form Redbank Creek. because of the numerous brooks and springs in the area, it was called Brookville. Today, Brookville is located in the northern part of the county since the north part of Jefferson County was split off to form Forest County.
Lumbering was the first industry in Jefferson County because of it's woodlands rich in oak, hickory and other vlaued trees. In conjunction with the lumbering industry, tanneries were established. These tanneries received tons of hand removed bark from fallen timber to process hides into leather. Tanneries were located in Brookville, Reynoldsville, Dogtown (Warsaw township), Ohio Town (West Reynoldsville), Big Run, and Falls Creek in Jefferson County.
During the lumbering days, the waterways of Jefferson county were used extensively for the transportation of timber to the lumber mills. Many projects were initiated to straighten, deepen or dam up the waterways to improve flow to the great mills in Pittsburgh and other places. Red Bank Creek was used by Jefferson County's first settler, Joseph Barnett to raft logs down to the big mills. The Red Bank flows through New Bethlehem into the Allegheny River about 4 miles downstream from East Brady.. In 1806 Barnett built a saw mill in Port Barnett. He invited some of the local Indians to help. He invited them to dinner and they accepted. When dinner was over they said, "Dinner -Indian sleep an hour - then strong." Barnett supposed he would not see them again that day as the disappeared into the woods. One hour later they came out and worked diligently the rest of the day. Iron was transported to Port Barnett via packhorse, wagons, and sleds. Some of it was then shipped on rafts down the Red Bank.
The first railroad in Jefferson County was the Allegheny Low Grade Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. By 1874, passenger and frieght service was available to Summerville, Brookville, Reynoldsville, and Falls Creek.
Trolleys were a major transportation mode around the turn of the century. The Jefferson Traction Company was formed from the merger in 1902 of the Punxsutawney Street Passenger Railway of1892, the Reynoldsville Traction Companyof 1899, and the Jefferson Street Railway Company of 1901. There were 39 miles of track and served the towns of Punxsutawney,Big Run, Reynoldsville, Sykesville, Walston, Adrian, Anita, Florence, Wishaw, Soldier, and Eleanora. The United Traction Company provided routes to Dubois and Falls Creek.
The first roadways in the area were trails blazed by the Indians. The first actual roadway through the area wa constructed from Indiana PA to Port Barnett (near Brookville) in 1810. Later there waas a road constructed to follow the path of the "Chinklacamoose Trail" which runs from Milesburg, PA to Brookville, and on to Tionesta. The first paved road was near Brookville. Two miles of the Ridgeway Road road were paved with bricks in 1909. Concrete roads came in the 1920's.
Adrian Georg Iselin purchased the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Compnay in 1885. In 1886 he opened a mine north of Punxsutawney. Two years later he built a town that he named after his grandson, Adrian Iselin II. Adrian Georg Iselin's wife, Eleanora had the St. Adrian's Catholic Church built. A pipe organ was installed in that church in 1890. Adrian Iselin had a Protestant church built in Adrian. The name Eleanora was given to another coal town a few miles north of Adrian. The name Iselin was given to a mining town in Indiana County. The Adrian Hospital was built to take care of the mine workers and their families. The hospital turned out to be so good that tne people of nearby Punxsutawney kept coming. Soon the building was too small. In 1898, the Adrian Hospital moved to Punxsutawney.
Thoughout the coal years (1886 to the 1930's) Adrian prospered. 36.5 million tons of coal were removed from the hill under the town of Adrian. In 1941 the operation finally became unprofitable and the mine was shut down. The entire town was sold to Nick and Mike Kovalchick of Sykesville. Some 250 home existed at the time, mostly company houses. In 1973, a deal was struck so that the residents of Adrian could buy their homes. The price was $4500 for a single home and $2500 for 1/2 a house and a non-profit organization was set up to provide mortgages without a down payment. By April 1974, everyone had bought their own house. Although the town has always been called Adrian, even to this day, the post office was called Delancey since there was another Adrian in Armstrong County. Delancey was named for Delancey Kane who was a grandson of Adrian Iselin. The state erected an official roadsign that said Delancey. Some resident, however put up a wooden sign below it that said Adrian. It's the town with two names.
Was named after James H. Bell who built the first grist mill in the area in 1833. The first sawmill was built in 1828. The first schoolhouse was built in 1830.
Big Run was settled in the early 1800's. It gets it's name from a creek called Big Run. The lumbering industry was big at the time the town was incorporated in 1867. The 1870 census recorded 206 residents. The highest census was in 1917 when there were 1160 living there.
The Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad was a big factor in Big Run's growth around 1900. Mines as well as the lumbering industry provided work. A large tannery was built in 1889 by Willian Irvin. By 1920 the tannery had burned and the mines were all worked out. Since then there have been small businesses such as a shoe factory, a toy factory and a stove factory.
Big Run Milling Company, which is still operating, was started in 1867 Philip Enterline. It is well known for producing Big Run buckwheat flour.
The bank in Big Run was originally started in 1890 and was located in the tannery. In 1900 it moved to it's present location and has been known by many names in the last few years as different corporations have merged and /or taken it over.
Standard Pennant Company started in 1919 by Mrs. Andrew Shankle.
The B.R. &P. Railroad stopped in Big Run. The trolley system was once divided at Big Run. One company ran the section between Punxsutawney and Big Run. You had to get off that trolley and get on another to go further north towards Sykesville. Three hotels served travellers over the years.
The school in Big Run which was built in 1907 to replace a previous bulding which had burned. The present school used to have grades 1 to 8 and a High School. In 1951 the grades 9 to 12 were moved to the high school in Punxsutawney. In 1957, a new high school was built in Punxsutawney and Punxsy's old high school became a junior high. So, in Big Run, grades 7 and 8 moved to Punxsutawney and the Big Run school became an elementary school. In recent years there has been talk of closing the Big Run School, but so far this historic school is still serving to instruct the youth of Big Run and the surrounding area.
Big Run has survived many disasters in it's history. There was a tornado in 1976. A serious train derailment in 1979 spilled gases and forced the evacuation of town. Floods occurred in 1977 and 1996. The 1996 flood was particularly devastating to many residents in Big Run as the flood waters entered many homes with up to 4 or 5 feet on the first floor.
Originally, this town was named Canoe Creek, named after the creek that flows into the Mahoning where the town was settled. When a post office was established in 1914, the name was changed to Cloe because of a conflict with another town by the same name. The name was chosen because of a student named "Chloe" who was the pupil of Mrs. Thomas L. Fagley, wife of the first postmaster.
The Eleanora Shaft was opened in 1901 and closed in 1919. Eleanora was named after Eleanora Iselin, wife of Adrian Iselin who owned the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company. Eleanora was a small town but there was a trolley that stopped there and there were businesses and churches. For the most part Eleanora was a company town existing because of the mine. When the mine closed, the town disappeared. Almost nothing remains.
Fordham was founded in the 1890's at the end of the Pennsylvania Railroad's extension from Punxsutawney. There was a station and a sheep loading dock. A railyard was planned. There was a post office in Fordham only in the year 1893 under postmaster Joseph B. Means, a member of a pioneer family.
The little town developed on the farm of Charles Morris. Two potters named Swisher and Gahagan located in the town and sold pottery from their store. This is one explaination why the town was first called Pottersville. The other explaination is that somebody named Potter used to live there. One thing they don't say is why the name was changed to Frostburg!
Was named after Hon. Charles C. Gaskill who was an agent for the Holland Land Company. The first settlers were named Winslow who came from Maine in 1818. In 1820 a number of people settled in what was known as Bowers Settlement. The first store in the area was open in Hudson in 1868. Farming is and has always been the way of life in Gaskill township.
Knoxdale is in Knox Township which was named for the Hon. John Knox, president judge at the time, in 1853. The town was established by Michael E. Steiner on land owned by Daniel Freedline. Steiner came to the area in 1851 bringing a large number of friends and relatives to settle in the area. He sold lots, established a store, and soon there was a thriving community. The town was first called Shadagee. Steiner established the United Bretheren Church for people of German descent in the area. The Presbyterians established the first church a few years earlier. Within the next few decades there were Lutheran and Catholic churches in the area also. Soon after Shadagee was established, they changed the name to Knoxville in honor of Judge Knox. As in the case of many other would-be towns in this area, when they established a post office they found that the name Knoxville was already taken. So, the name was changed to Knoxdale in 1863.
Mining was started in the Knoxdale area and that in conjunction with the Shawmut railroad access to the area created a boom in the economy. The boom town was >Ramseytown which was 2 miles west of Knoxdale. In 1865 there were 637 people in Knox Township, by World War 1 the population was over 2000. The mining company imported many workmen, predominantly Catholics of Italian, Slavish, and Polish descent. Ramseytown was the largest town in the area until after WWI when the mines began to shut down. Ramseytown is but a shadow consisting of only a scattering of homes where the thriving town once stood. The population of Knox township diminished to that of the 1890's or so but Knoxdale still thrives as a community since the mining boom did not over-inflate it.
Was named after Jefferson County president judge John S. McCalmont in 1857. Farming served the area until 1900 when the vast deposits of coal were mined. The population jumped from 1000 to 5000 in ten years. When the coal ran out, so did the people and by 1930 the population was back to 1000 again. Entire towns, such as Eleanora, disappeared. Since then, there have been a number of strip mining operations in the area. The town of Anita remains in spite of the mines being gone.
The settlement known as Battle Hollow sounds like it would have an interesting history, perhaps a gun fight with Indians or a family feud, but the story is not what one might think. It seems that the early settlers decided that the area would be a good place for a school. A party of them set out to determine a suitable location. They could not, however, agree which was the best site and a heated arguement ensued. The dispute nearly ended in blows. A committe member related this to his wife who then suggested that they should call it "Battle Hollow"...and so it has ever since!
The first church in McCalmont Township was in the town of Shamoka. It was a Cumberland Prebyterian Church built in 1871. A store was opened by George Morrison in 1882. When it came time to open a post office, it was learned that the name Shamoka was already taken. The townsfolk suddenly had to come up with a new name. As time went on, no one could agree on a suitable name; panic set in. Someone in a stroke of genius suggested that since everyone was in a panic, they should call the place Panic; on that they agreed and it has been known by that name ever since!
Oliver and Perry Townships:
were both named after the great naval hero Oliver H. Perry. Oliver township was formed in 1857 from part of Perry Township. Perry Township was formed in 1817.
In Oliver Township, the first settler was Reuben Hickox who came from Connecticut in 1822. In 1833, Frederick Sprankle of Indiana, PA opened a grist mill at the junction of Kellar's Run and Big Run. This was later to become the town of Sprankle Mills. A general store opened in Sprankle Mills in 1846. The first tannery in Oliver Township was located in Oliveburg. In 1846 a carding machine was erected in Coolspring and a general store opened.
Perrysville was a prominant town within Perry Township; which later became known as Hamilton. Settlement of Perry Township started there in about 1809. A school was built in 1820 and a church was opened in 1835. A sawmill was opened also. There was a "pioneer hotel" and a general store. Was the post office was established in 1852, the town was renamed Hamilton after Robert Hamilton, the first postmaster. In 1886, the town's name was changed to Hay because of Malcom Hay who was an assistant postmaster appointed by President Grover Cleveland. Then in 1889, the name was changed back to Hamilton.
Porter lies in Porter Township which was named after Commodore David Porter in 1840. Porter was a naval hero in the War of 1812. His son, also David Porter, became famous in the naval battles of the Civil War. A grocery store and a post office once operated in Porter. Mail was brought in on the Railroad to a station in Loop, PA. Nearby towns included Windy Whiz and Corbett-town which were coal boom towns in the early 1900's but closed and disappeared by 1930.
in Bell Township of Jefferson County lies between Punxsutawney and Big Run. The place is formerly the site of the Onandaga Mine, and was once called that on the maps of the area.
is in Ringgold Township which was once known as Hastings. Ringgold was named in honor of Major Ringgold who lost his life in the Mexican war at Palo Alto in 1846. The area was settled in about 1818. A grist mill was opened in 1840 by Henry Freas and Isaac Cherry built the first sawmill in 1844. The first school house came in 1836.
Was originally called Kramer, because this town was built on what was originally the farm of George Kramer which he purchased in 1862. Mr. Kramer was also a lumberman who rafted logs down the Mahoning Creek and then onto Pittsburgh via the Allegheny River. At the time of his death, he was the school director and the township supervisor. In 1899 his widow sold the land to a mining company and a mining town was built. The mine shaft was dug at the current site of Gruda Metals who now operates a very large scrap metals operation. The company store was on Rt.119 where a tavern now sits. Many company houses were built in the 1920's. When the post office was established (date not given) the name was changed to Stump Creek after the little stream that runs through the lands of the George Kramer farm.
Sykesville was first settled by Henry Shaffer in 1858. Therefore, the town was originally named Shaffer Town. The Sykes family moved into the area in 1864. Their son Jacob built a lumber mill which was the first industry. In the early 1900's the name changed from Shaffer Town to Sykesville. Legend gives two reasons for the name change. 1) passengers on the trolley would state, "We're staying at Sykes tonight" refering to the Sykes Hotel or 2) Jacoab Sykes agreed to donate land for the railroad if they would name the station Sykesville in honor of him.
The discovery of coal in Sykesville caused the town to prosper. Mining operations began in 1903. There were coke ovens and a processing plant on the southern edge of town. By1920, the population had reached a high point at 2507, consisting of many nationalities including Lithuanians, Polish, Greeks, Slavs, Russians, and Italians.
Transportation to the area was provided by the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad as well as the Union Traction Company Trolleys. Several businesses thrived including a brick works, the Sykesville Post-Dispatch newspaper, the Hotel Sykes, a Nickelodian, a glass plant, and the Ideal Shirt Company which manufactures hunting clothing. Rt. 119 thru Sykesville was paved in about 1928 providing excellent access to the comunity. Sykesville was the site of the Jefferson County Fair for many years until it recently moved up near Brookville (and closer to Interstate 80). There is still a fair held in the fairgrounds every year.
John Y. Timblin was the first settler in what is now Timblin. The settlement was first known as Walnut Grove. About 1865, a peddler named Peter Wardian moved to the area and opened a distillery to make whiskey. In 1869, a post office was established and the town was named New Petersburg in honor of Peter Wardian. This post office was discontinued in 1883. John Timblin's son later opened a store and tried to re-establish the post office. By that time, the name New Petersburg was already given to another post office somewhere else in Pennsylvania. Therefore, the post office was established as Timblin in honor of the first settler.
Timblin remaned small until 1910 when the Shawmut Railroad was built through town. 7 coal companies opened mines in the area about the same time. Timblin grew as a result. Snyder's feed mill opened in 1912 and the Timblin Bank was opened in 1918. A hotel was built which included a pool room. Timblin Creamery produced butter and doverspikes opened a lumber business which is still in operation as the Brocious Lumber Company. There was a bowling alley and a theater and 6 general stores. In 1924 Timblin had a newspaper called the Timblin Plain Dealer. It was last published in 1929. The mines started running out. The bank closed in 1934 and the population dwindled. Most of the businesses are gone now.
Valier was first named Whitesville in 1841. The land was first purchased from the Holland Land Company by Jacob Sprankle and his brother-in-law Jonathan Weaver. The attorney who handled the transaction was named White, and the village was named after him. In 1882, the name was changed to Valier when the post office was established. The name was suggested by Mrs. Sadie Sprankle Means in honor of her son Verne Valier Means
was named after Walston H. Brown, the president of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company. This tells you about the origins of the town. The mine was the reason Walston existed. Coke ovens and a washery were constructed. The 432 coke ovens formed a line 1.25 miles long and were the longest string of coke ovens in the world in 1889. A total of 700 coke ovens existed in Walston. Is is said that the night sky glowed orange over Walston due to the coke ovens. The air was filled with smoke and all vegetation was wiped out on the surrounding hills. These coke ovens are still visible to this day although many have collasped or have been destroyed. The town has restored two of them to original condition for historic interest. In 1888, the population of Walston was over 2000, today it is only a few hundred. The coal operation boasted some very large building including the washery and tipple as well as large building for the mining operations. These are all gone now. Being of rather shoddy construction, most of the coal company houses are gone now too. Yet, a few hardy souls remained in the community, and Walston still exists today. It still has a post office, and there is a nice park for a ballgame or a picnic.
Worthville was incorporated in 1878. Originally, the town was named Geistown, named for Daniel Geist (1809 - 1890). When he was 16, Geist left his origianl home in the east and boarded a train for Illinois. There was a train wreck on the line, and he landed in Indiana, PA. There he got a horse and rode to Mayport over an Indian trail. He settled in Mayport and built a grist mill. At the time he bought a large tract of land from the Holland Land Company. After a few years he returned east to visit his family. His talk of the beautiful pine forests of the area persuaded some of his family and friends to move to Mayport with him. Later, he sold his land in Mayport and moved 7 miles east into the land he had purchased from the Holland Land Company. There he established a new grist mill and named the settlement Geistown. Later, when it was time to establish a post office, it was discovered that there was already a Geistown near Philadelphia. Therefore, the town was named Worthville in honor of General Worth who was often a guest at the Geist Hotel run by Elias Geist.
At one time, there were 2 churches, a school, a blacksmith shop, a grist mill, a shoe repair shop, three stores, an undertaker, and a tannery. The first person buried at the Worthville Cemetery was Andrew Falk, who drowned in a vat at the tannery in 1872.
was known as Kellysville because of it's first land owner, John Kelly. Around 1840 he erected a log cabin which served as a store and a tavern for many years. John Covode was a farmer, blacksmith, and woolen manufacturer ...plus a member of the U.S. Congress from the district. The Covode Academy was a landmark established in 1862 in the village of Kellysville. It is thought that Mr. Covode donated the bell to the school on condition that the school be named after him. I haven't discoverd when the name was changed from Kellysville to Covode. Local graffiti artists have been further changing the name of Covode for years by changing the "v" to and "m". Juneau:
Juneau was formed in 1899 to 1900. It was a station on the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad. It was named after the capitol city of Alaska because at the time there was a gold rush to that area. The Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad split off toward Plumville in Juneau.
the first resident was Archibald Smeaton (who later changed his name to Smitten) in 1822. Archibald was the leading spirit of the settlement because he was in contact with the outside world; being a teamster who ran the road between Pittsburgh and Phillipsburg. In 1840, the "Big Road" was opened between Indiana, PA and Punxsutawney leading to a period of trade and prosperity. The town was named Marchand in honor of Congressman Marchand who secured the first post office. Between 1850 and 1875 Marchand became a local industrial and manufacturing center. Wagons, sleds, buggies, sleighs, farming implements, harness, leather, boots, shoes, furniture, and clothing were all manufactured in Marchand. With the coming of the industrial age in the late 1800's, small industrial centers, such as Marchand, could no longer compete with the big factories in the cities. Local industries declined. Marchand just a little farming community now.
was incorporated in 1869, then known as "Marion". Back in 1856 the post office was opened in Marion but it was named "Brady". These two different names caused a great deal of confusion. In 1891 both the town and the post office were renamed to Marion Center. There was a large steam grist mill in Marion Center. It had a capacity of 75 barrels a day of flour and 100 barrels a day of buckwheat.
was originally known as Sellersville, supposedly because every house in the community had a cellar under it. The first house was erected by Phillip Enterline in 1849. There was a mill, a store, a shoemaker and a blacksmith shop as well as the Sellersville Hotel built in 1873. At some point, a post office was opened with the name North Point because it was in the northern-most part of town, the name by which name the town is known today. Other sources say that the town is named North Point because it is the northern most point of Indiana County.
It was in the 20th century that the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad cut through the town of North Point. North Point Park, which is across the Mahoning from the town, was a popular swimming and recreation spot. Many people, including people from Punxsutawney, came on the railroad and got off at the train station in town to go to the park. The old maple trees which were next to the station are still standing today. Sometime in the early 20th century, there was a bottling company called the "Granny Koon Bottling Company" that bottled soda pop. It was wiped out in the 1936 flood and extensive damage was done all along Mahoning Creek. After the flood, some of the houses were moved to higher ground. Some of the old foundations are still visible. The post office in North Point was once also a general store and a gas station. The post office was closed in the early 1990's.
Robertsville: I thought I had found the history of the present day Robertsville, but it turned out that I was reading the history of a Robertsville in Canoe Township of Indiana County. Robert Roberts owned 3000 acres and endeavored to start a village so he erected a sawmill. In 1841 there were two dwellings, one a small cabin and the other an 8 room, two story dwelling. 7 families and two single men who were immigrants from Ireland and England who had come to seek their fortunes moved into the 8 room house. One was a London tailor, one was a city painter, one was a city shoe maker, etc.. Soon they got disgusted with frontier life and returned to eastern cities. By 1915 there was only one house in Robertsville. In the present day, this Robertsville is not listed on any map I have. There is a Robertsville that exists today in Bell Township, Jefferson County.
the first land owners were John Tozier and David Simpson. Simpson built the first dwelling and also built a mill in 1862. The town was then known as Simpson's Mill. During the Civil War the town was called Richmond during the Civil War because of the excitement against "Confederate Richmond" in Virginia. J.C. Rochester moved to the area and established the first store in 1866. Rochester was the first postmaster, and opened a post office named Rochester Mills. There was a small school in what is now known as Rochester Mills, right on the main street. The school was called the Richmond School and is still standing. The train station to Rochester Mills was called Savan which is north of Rochester Mills.
was started in 1901 by the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Corp. on one of the richest coal deposits in the area. The name Rossiter comes from William Rossiter who was one of the chief stockholders in the coal company. The Brandon Hotel, which still exists, was one of two hotels in Rossiter. Rossiter is located in Canoe Township which was named for Canoe Creek which flows through it. Canoe Creek was so named because it was known that the Mahoning Creek was navigable by canoe from the Allegheny River to Canoe Creek which joins the Mahoning in the village of Cloe.
was laid out in 1827 on twelve acres of land; part of a tract owned by Reverend J. George Schmick, a Lutheran minister from Huntington County. From the history I read, I gather that a Lutheran Church was the first building constructed. The first dwelling was a log cabin which was to be a gun shop. The fourth bulding built was a Robinson's wheelwright shop, who made spinning wheels as early as 1829. The fifth cabin was the first hotel. The sixth building was a house and tavern. The town grew and grew. There were four churches, and many businesses, there was a hotel also.
When the Mahoning flood control Dam was built, the town had to be moved from it's original site to the location where it presently stands. Recently, Smicksburg has become a tourist attraction with many little shops selling crafts, quilts, baking supplies, cheese and chocolate in the heart of Amish country. Some of these stores, notably the "Chocolate Shop", were started by Amish businessmen and have become widely known in the area. The Windgate Winery grows grapes and produces award winning wines.
was formerly known as Davidsville, named after David Mutersbaugh who laid out the town in the fall of 1852. After he did that, he moved to Virginia. Peter Dilts built the Davidsville Hotel that same year, as a dwelling, a storehouse, and a store. The hotel opened for business in 1853. The second building, a dwelling and a wagon shop, was out up by Frederick Sprankle who went on the start the village of Sprankle Mills. This building was later a carriage and wagon factory.
The history book I got this information out of does not record when the name Trade City was adopted, or why. One story I heard was that this intersection was a good central location for farmers of the area to trade their goods, hence the name. Presently, Trade City is nothing more than a rural intersection, looking nothing like a city ....or harboring much trade for that matter!
The site of Mahaffey was originally owned by Robert Mahaffey. He moved to the area with his parents in 1828 from Lycoming County and resided in Burnside. In 1841, he married built a cabin near Mahaffey. He built a saw mill in 1878. He called his settlement, "Franklin". The town's growth was not stimulated until 1886 when the Bell's Gap Railroad was built through the area. A large tannery was built that year.
the first settler was Rev. James McGee of Centre County in 1826. One of his daughters married Robert Mahaffey, who the town of Mahaffey is named after. Originally, the settlement was known as "Chest" and was the site of a station on the mail route between Curwensville and Indiana, PA.. One of Rev. James Mcgee's grandchildren, Henry Holmes Mcgee operated a grist mill in Chest. Later, because of the mill, the town became known as McGee's Mills. The town has always been small. The Bell's Gap Railroad extended it's line from Mahaffey thru McGee's Mills.
was established as a post office in 1857, named for the remarkable echo from the hills at this point. The Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad had a station in Echo and there was a terminal of the Rural Valley railroad branch which carried coal and passengers to Rural Valley. The book I read said that quite a business was done by the passenger railroad, but the the service was very unsatisfactory.
was laid out in 1850. In 1849, a group of people got together to decide what to call the village they were sure would arise from the little hamlet that existed at the time. They had to pick some name that was not already taken by some other town in Pennsylvania. Somebody suggested Dayton, presumably because of some mental association with Dayton Ohio. John Dayton was from New Jersey and served as speaker of the house of representatives of the United States from 1795 to 1799. In 1913, there were 13 stores, 2 liverymen, 2 jewelers, 1 tailor, 2 butchers, 1 druggist, 2 barbers, 1 undertaker, 2 physicians, 1 dentist, and 2 hotels. There was also a large flour mill. Another large company was the Dayton Coal Company. Presently, Dayton is probably just a little smaller than it was in 1913. The Dayton Fair late in the summer attacts big crowds to the area.
Iron ore was discovered in eastern Armstrong County in the 1850's. The Phoenix Furnace existed somewhere near Milton and the McCrea Furnace was in what is now McCrea, which these days is nothing more than an intersection. There were other little towns like Eddyville that had a saw mill, a grist mill, a distillery, a store, a boatyard, a black smith shop and a dozen houses. McWilliams, once known as Charleston, was about the same. The industries were going well in 1873, but one hundred years later there is little there. There were towns of Presque Isle, Independence, and Mudlick that have no indications on any of our modern maps, having disappeared completely. Some like North Freedom are still the site of commerce. A sawmill was built in North Freedom in 1833, and the town was named by Jonathan Yount in 1871.
I am currently (Jan. 1997) working on obtaining the histories of the towns in the Punxsutawney area. If you'd like to see something here and know where I can get the information, please let me know. I wish to maintain accuracy here in these pages, so if I have something wrong here, let me know that also. I am relying on various sources for my information and I can only hope that they are accurate! - Marc Weimer
You can reach me by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to Home Page