McKean County: Where the Gold is Green

The great gold and silver rushes of the late nineteenth century to places such as the Black Hills, Colorado, Arizona, California and Alaska have long been hailed in story and song for their excite­ment, riches and heartbreak. But, the rush for “green gold” to McKean County during the same century was equally or more exciting. First, there were the forests – immense forests of...
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The Last Frontier: Venango County Indians, Oil, Ghost Towns

Venango County. Its name is derivation of a the Seneca Indian word earliest for explorers “French and Creek.” Its earliest explorers and settlers were the French, shortly followed by the English. At one time, the territory was claimed simultaneously by France, and the colonies of Virginia and Pennsyl­vania. But Venango County’s rich history bespeaks vigorous pioneering a spirit...
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Pithole City: Boom Town Turned Ghost Town, An Interview with James B. Stevenson

One hundred and twenty-five years ago this summer, the placid calm of northwestern Pennsylvania’s sparsely populated but panoramic vista was ruptured when “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake’s well coughed up rich, black crude oil on August 28, 1859. The following boom years of the oil industry gave rise to numerous towns and cities, some of which were short-lived ghost towns. The...
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The Call of the Clarion

To the eighteenth century French explorers, the river the Indians called Tobeco was Riviere au Fiel – the “River of Hate.” Pioneers know it as Toby or Stump Creek. In 1817 it was christened Clarion by road surveyors Daniel Stanard and David Lawson as they camped along its shores because the river’s clear, shrill sound reminded them of the medieval trumpet. The name of the...
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Almost on the Right Track: The Densmore Tank Car

The successful drilling for petroleum in northwestern Pennsyl­vania exploded a speculative excitement on a national level not seen since the California Gold Rush a decade earlier. “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake’s modest well at Titusville stirred an oil fever that attracted shrewd fortune seekers, sharp traders and adventurers from all areas of the country. They began to assemble not...
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Bryn Athyn Cathedral: Where Man May Forget the World

Bryn Athyn Cathedral, tucked well back from Second Street Pike in Montgomery County, is not immediately visible to the passerby. One is intro­duced to the finely chiseled spires, granite towers and sparkling glass in rapid, stop­-frame glimpses through a dense stand of trees. As the full view unfolds, one is at once compelled by the loom­ing one hundred and fifty foot central tower and beckoned...
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Forest County: What Better Name?

Never a promised land, flowing with milk and honey, Northwestern Pennsylvania – a part of which later became Forest County­ – seemed to repel early settle­ment. Moravian missionary David Zeisberger, whose diary ac­count reveals the first intimate knowledge of the terrain and the Indian inhabitants, did not extol the area nor its original residents locals to any high degree. Like all...
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Cameron County: Where Legends are Legion

Tucked high away in Pennsylvania’s once foreboding northern tier, the little county called Cameron was a segment of the vast wilderness known for many years as the Com­monwealth’s last frontier. In fact, the county was not for­mally established until 1860, the sixty-sixth of the sixty­-seven counties apportioned and organized by the state legislature. Actual settlement of Ca­meron...
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Crawford County: Welcoming the 21st Century

We passed over some good land since we eft Venango, and through several extensive and very rich meadows, one of which, I believe, was nearly four miles in length, and consid­erably wide in some places. Twenty-one year old George Washington, who would in time become a major landholder and land specula­tor, described Crawford County in 1753 as he carried a dispatch demanding the com­mander of the...
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Armstrong County

Editor’s Note: With this article, this magazine begins a series to highlight historical events and persons within various counties. Focus will also be directed at the counties’ historical societies.   Kittanning, the seat of Armstrong County, is the oldest identified Indian town in Western Pennsylvania. While the state is planning celebrations to commemorate the Revolutionary...
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