Hyner View State Park, West Branch Susquehanna River, Clinton County PA
(Photo courtesy of Nicholas T., Flickr Creative Commons, July 2011)
NORTH CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA
The 11 counties in this region include Lycoming, which was formed in 1795 from Northumberland County, followed by Centre County in 1800 from Lycoming, Mifflin, Northumberland, and Huntingdon counties. In 1804, parts of Lycoming County were split off to form four other counties: Clearfield (which also included some of Huntingdon County), McKean, Potter, and Tioga. Then Union County was formed in 1813 from Northumberland. Over 25 years passed before another county was formed: Clinton came from Lycoming and Centre counties in 1839. Elk County was formed from Jefferson, McKean, and Clearfield counties in 1843, and Snyder was carved from Union County in1855. Finally, in 1860, Cameron County was formed from portions of Clinton, Elk, McKean, and Potter counties.
In the western half of this region, Elk and McKean counties lie within the Allegheny National Forest, with its endless woodlands and scenic vistas, a reminder of the thick forests that blanketed almost all of Pennsylvania’s lands when William Penn first arrived in the late 1600s. While eastern lands became dotted with farms, it was lumbering of the native white pine, hemlock, and other hardwoods, that led to the settlement of this region. Lumber companies thrived here, and railroads took coal and timber east as cities developed there.
Much of this region was settled by Scotch-Irish and Quakers, who carved homesteads out of the wilderness, clearing farmlands after treaties were signed with the Indians. Many of these settlers had moved here from the southern part of the states and were soon joined by Germans and others from New York.
The stretches of farmland in this region sweep from the Endless Mountains to the Alleghenies – the Valleys of the Susquehanna. The west branch of the Susquehanna River flows just north of Bald Eagle Mountain (one of the northernmost ridges of the Appalachian Mountains) through Lycoming County, which was the first county formed in this region. Many of the other counties were carved from Lycoming, but even today, it remains the largest county in the state.
Nestled in Happy Valley, a Farmer’s High School was started in Centre County in 1855 with the goal of applying scientific principles to farming. By 1882, the school had evolved into Pennsylvania State University, one of the largest universities in the United States.
Although the earliest iron works in PA were started in Berks and Chester counties, developers soon turned to the land west of the Susquehanna River. After the Revolutionary War, many new iron works were established in Centre and Clinton counties, part of the Juniata Iron Region, which for a time produced more iron than anywhere else in the country. Many of the counties in this region, including Cameron, Elk, McKean, and Potter County, lie in a great bituminous coal basin, and are rich in iron ore, with traces of silver, copper, and lead. Among the other things that Potter County is known for is stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park, an area that’s almost as remote and wild today as it was when the first settlers of European descent made their homes here among the old growth forest.
Such a wealth of forest land of course led to the founding of hundreds of lumber and saw mills in this region of Pennsylvania, so that lumbering and work at the mills has provided employment to thousands over the years.
Today Tioga County is home to three state parks as well as two federal parks. Pine Creek Gorge, commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, is an 800-foot-deep canyon, carved by glaciers and surrounded by over 150,000 acres of the Tioga State Forest.
Pine Creek Gorge, from the West Rim Trail, Tioga County, Pennsylvania
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photographer, Ruhrfisch, taken June 2001)
GSP welcomes your suggestions, knowledge and guidance to genealogical resources within any area of Pennsylvania in which you live and do your own research. If you have information to share about local societies or repository resources, historical knowledge of the local area, or any other relevant genealogical information that could help people find their ancestors, please contact GSP so we can add this information to the County page.Thank You!
(Thank you to Jane Benner for her contribution to this page!
Additional image credits:
North Central Pennsylvania region map courtesy of www.digital-topo-maps.com
Center right: White Deer Hole Valley, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Photographer Ruhrfisch, taken June 2006.
Center Left: Farmer's High School and Old Main, Centre County, 1855. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Pennsylvania State University Archives.
Bottom Middle: Lumber Mill in the village of Asaph, Tioga County, PA. ca. 1908. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Tioga County, PA website [land use].)