The ABCs of Centre County

An Alphabetical Look at Places and Spaces around Centre County


A

Aaronsburg (Haines) — Philadelphia land speculator Aaron Levy laid out the village of Aaronsburg in 1786. It was the earliest town in what would become Centre County, along its earliest road. Aaronsburg's location near the geographic center of Pennsylvania probably prompted Levy to propose it for the state capital. He laid it out in a grid pattern of alternating streets and alleys with a wide central street, broadening into Aaron Square in its center, to allow room for public buildings. Surrounded by fertile farmland, it developed into a bustling commercial post village. Broadsides circulated by Levy noted that some lots would remain open for churches of all denominations. His early advocacy for religious freedom became the basis of The Aaronsburg Story, a pageant attended by 30,000 people in 1949.


Agricultural College (State College) — The college building is built of limestone, seated on a piece of rising ground. It is beautifully located, and from the cupola one of grandest landscape scenes is presented to view that the imagination of man can picture. (John Blair Linn, 1883)


Antes (Rush) — Located on the Bellefonte-Philipsburg portion of the Philadelphia to Erie Turnpike, or more commonly known as the Rattlesnake Pike, Antes is associated with the lumbering communities of Beaver Mills, Star Mill, and Underwood Mills. A busy tollgate tavern, the Black Bear, was located about five miles north of Antes, serving passenger stage coaches and freight wagons carrying iron east and supplies west.


Axemann/Boiling Springs (Spring) — In 1829 Harvey Mann began an axe-making operation along Logan Branch at Boiling Springs. Iron furnaces and forges were within a mile either way of his factory, and Logan Branch supplied the water needed for trip hammers. In its heyday, the plant at Axemann made single and double billed axes and employed 50 men, turning out 350 axes a day.



B

Baileyville (Ferguson) — The founder of this small community was Richard Bailey of Chester County who came to the area in about 1790. His son John, an energetic businessman, built a large gristmill in the center of town, powered by a stream whose source was Rock Spring, about a mile away. A sawmill, tannery, carpenter shop, and blacksmith shop were all part of the Bailey family operation. In the 1880s Baileyville began to hold annual picnics, traditional family gatherings that have continued for more than one hundred years. The Baileyville schoolhouse, built in the 1890s, was purchased in the 1930s to serve as a community hall.


Bellefonte Borough/Big Spring — Bellefonte's advantageous location on Spring Creek and near the principal water gap leading into the Nittany Valley favored the town's development as a center of industry and commerce. The Big Spring was, according to local legend, the origin of the town's name — Beautiful Fountain — given by exiled French statesman Talleyrand when he visited the area in 1794-95. James Harris and James Dunlop laid Bellefonte out in a Philadelphia-style grid pattern with the main intersection widened into a market diamond. The County Courthouse became the diamond's architectural centerpoint. Early Georgian-style stone houses were built close together and close to the street. When Bellefonte grew in wealth, political prestige, and population, particularly during the 1860s to 1880s, new residential neighborhoods and commercial buildings were designed in a cosmopolitan range of the latest in Victorian architectural styles. Bellefonte was for many years the pivot of central Pennsylvania politics; its prominence is evidenced by its having been the home of five Pennsylvania governors.


Benore (Patton) — The post office name for the village of Scotia.

Blanchard/Eagleville/Quigley's Mills (Liberty) — This community, located on the Centre-Clinton county line, is the largest in Liberty Township. With vast timber stands nearby, lumbering has been its major industry. During its busiest years, the community hosted three hotels, a cigar manufacturer, an undertaker and cabinet shop, a wagonmaker, shoemaker, and a blacksmith. It was originally known as Quigley's Mills, but later was renamed Eagleville. It became Blanchard, named for attorney John Blanchard of Bellefonte, when it was determined that there was another Eagleville post office in Pennsylvania.

Boalsburg/Springfield (Harris) — Originally called Springfield, Boalsburg was renamed for early settler David Boal. It was laid out in 1809 on a grid pattern with a center diamond, surrounded by 60 quarter-acre lots. A post village for crossroads leading to Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, the first tavern was built on Main (Pitt) Street in 1804, the Boalsburg Tavern (Duffy's) was added in 1819, and Wolf Tavern, which served drovers, was built in 1825. The James Logue Coach Factory, now the Harris Township building, also reflects Boalsburg's early transportation history.


Buffalo Run (Patton) — Early survey maps show this village near the intersection of what are now Routes 322 and 550. Its name is reputedly derived from an early buffalo lick located nearby.


C

Centennial (Halfmoon) — George Wilson and his family came to the Centennial area in 1792 from southeastern Pennsylvania, the first Quakers to settle in Halfmoon Valley. He was joined by other members of the Society of Friends. A small log and then a larger frame meeting house were built, as well as a school with membership reaching its peak of between 100 and 150 people in the 1860s.


Centre Hall Borough — It is one of the prettiest villages in Centre County, the private dwelling-houses being tastefully built and very attractive in appearance. (John Blair Linn, 1883)

The Borough of Centre Hall has served as the market center for the farming communities that are located in richly agricultural Brush and Penns Valleys. The Lewisburg and Tyrone Railroad, later acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad system, brought its passenger service into Centre Hall in 1884. The Grange, an organization promoting farming and farm life, formed a local chapter in 1873 under the leadership of Centre Hall area farmer Leonard Rhone. The first Grange Fair started as a basket picnic in Leech Woods, west of town, in 1874. It has evolved into the annually held Grange Fair and Encampment, the oldest of its kind in the country.

Centre Mill (Miles) — Operated by water power from Elk Creek, this substantial mill was built in 1802 to serve area farmers who until that time had traveled as far as Kishacoquillas Valley, across two mountain ridges, for their milling needs. A community developed around the mill, one of the largest structures in the valley. It is the only remaining stone mill in Centre County.


Clarence (Snow Shoe) — Lumber and coal have been the major products of this community on the Appalachian Plateau. In 1871 P.B. Crider and Son of Bellefonte built a sawmill on the north branch of Beech Creek, and a few years later the Weymouth-Byers lumber company built a large steam sawmill. Coal in the region turned the Bellefonte and Snow Shoe Railroad company's mines into a thriving business. In 1881 Berwind White leased forty-eight thousand acres of coal land in the Snow Shoe region and built eighteen houses to accommodate the miners. The first of these miners came from Scotland; a few years later, Slovak immigrants took their place. By 1900 there were 13 mines operating in and around the village of Clarence during the Mountaintop coal boom.


Coburn/The Forks (Penn) — At the confluence of Penns and Pine Creeks and originally called The Forks, early settlers used the creeks to carry farm and lumber products on rafts to markets downstream. The town known as Coburn developed a century later, in 1886, as the result of James Coburn and the Lewisburg, Centre, and Tyrone Railroad connecting this location with Spring Mills. In its heyday, four daily passenger trains and two daily freight trains stopped in Coburn. Flour mills and factories were established, and Coburn became a distribution center for nearby Millheim, Aaronsburg, Madisonburg, and Rebersburg. Surrounded by dense forests, a brisk lumbering trade became the area's core industry. Most of the houses were built between 1880 and 1896; almost every house has gingerbread detailing.


Coleville (Spring) — In the 1860s a rich vein of limestone, called the Valentine vein and named for ironmaster Bond Valentine, began to be mined above Buffalo Run near Bellefonte. John Cole, a Houserville carpenter, bought land nearby, laid out a village to house limestone mine workers, and called the community Coleville. The lime was shipped to local iron furnaces. By the 1880s the Buffalo Run, Bellefonte, and Bald Eagle Railroad was shipping lime and also providing a connection between the nearby Bellefonte Furnace and iron ore mines in Patton and Ferguson Townships.


Colyer (Potter) – William Colyer built a sawmill, and lumbering became the chief industry of this small community at the edge of Tussey Mountain. A post office, general store, and two churches served area residents. In the 1960s the Pennsylvania Fish Commission placed a dam on Sinking Creek to create a recreational area, Colyer Lake.


Curtin/Roland (Boggs) — Roland Curtin first built Eagle Forge, about three-fourths of a mile east of Curtin, in 1810, and in 1817 he built Eagle Furnace. He also built Curtin Forge in 1807 and in 1830 a rolling mill. It is hard to realize the obstacles that these early Bald Eagle makers of iron were obliged to overcome in getting their product to market. They either had to convey it by pack horses, or crude wagons westward over steep and rugged mountains and rough, dangerous trails or roads, or float it in rude arks down the Bald Eagle Creek, to the Susquehanna at Lock Haven, and then to Port Deposit where it would be reloaded in sloops or steamers for Philadelphia or Baltimore. Roland was the post office name for Curtin.


D

Dales Mills (College) — The tiny village of Dales Mills has disappeared; only the Cornelius Dale house and the Dale Cemetery remain as reminders of this early community on the old road between Lemont and Oak Hall. A gristmill and sawmill once were part of this community along Cedar Run.


E

Earleystown (Harris) — Its exact location is not clear, but Earleystown has been described as being on the old road that ran from Sunbury around the end of Nittany Mountain to Bellefonte. William Earley laid out a town site, established a hotel/stagecoach stop, and served as a justice of the peace for several years. Dr. William Irvine Wilson, the first president of the county medical society, also had a home there. Dr. Wilson's farm, identified by the deed as located in 'EarliesTown," was about two miles west of Centre Hall on the Brush Valley Road to Linden Hall, near the Black Hawk trailer park. A new turnpike, built over Nittany Mountain in the early 1820s and slightly east of the old Black Hawk Gap Road, bypassed Earleystown and the community eventually disappeared.


End of the Mountain/Lemont (College) — Lenont, a pretty little village . . . or, as our fathers called it, "the end of the mountain," was an important point in the early days of the county, being on the trail leading from the settlements on the West Branch and Bald Eagle to those in Penns Valley and being at the junction of the two valleys. (John Blair Linn, 1883)


F

Fairbrook/Tadpole (Ferguson) — A station on the old Fairbrook Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, two passenger trains passed daily through this tiny village traveling between Tyrone and Scotia. The post office was established in 1887; the area of nearby school was called Tadpole.


Farmer's Mills (Gregg) — Several mills were built along Penns Creek to serve the needs of area settlers, the first of these in 1815 at Farmer's Mills. Rebuilt in 1864, it still stands along the creek, about two miles northeast of Spring Mills. In the 1890s a store and post office were opened in the mill house, and three blacksmiths, a shoemaker, a tannery, and a schoolhouse became part of this busy community. St. John's Union Church, dedicated in 1853, still has an active congregation; the Bethesda Evangelical Church, built in the 1880s and commonly called the Swamp Church, is a short distance away.


Fillmore (Patton) — Four-horse coaches carried the daily mail first (1833) to the Buffalo Run Inn and later (1851) to the Fillmore post office also along the Bellefonte-Tyrone Road. For many years it was the only post office between Bellefonte and Stormstown. It became a stop on the Bellefonte Central Railroad.


Fountain (Snow Shoe) — This tiny community was named for Fountain Crider, the owner and operator of a large sawmill. It also was the site of a coal mining operation at one time.


G

Gatesburg (Ferguson) — Named for Henry Gates who laid out the village, his land contained iron ore which he mined for Centre Furnace and other local iron furnaces. Central to the village is the Gatesburg Church and cemetery.


Germania/German Settlement (Burnside) —A small German colony came from Cumberland County in 1847, and purchasing a few hundred acres of land in the Gratz tract, lying along the southern line of Burnside Township, began at once to clear the tract, put up improvments and till the soil . There were about six families, all told, . . . Their tract was laid out into lots of fifty acres each, and to each family one lot was apportioned. The locality has been known as Germania, and remains to this day the exclusive abode as it was originally of the Germans. (John Blair Linn, 1883)

By the middle of the 20th century, the last residents had moved away, and only a barn and a few outbuildings remained of the once-flourishing little agricultural village of German Settlement, or Germania.


Glass City (Rush) — This community at the western edge of Centre County was once considered the possible site of a glass manufacturing plant because of the quality of white sand found in the area.


H

Hannah/Hannah Furnace (Taylor) — This charcoal iron furnace was built in 1830 along Bald Eagle Creek and named for Hannah Lloyd, daughter of the senior partner of the firm, Lloyd, Steele and Co. In operation from 1832-1850, wood was charcoaled on lands in the township, limestone was quarried on Muncy Mountain, and the iron ore was hauled over the mountain from Half Moon Valley.


Hecla Furnace/Hecla Park (Walker) — Built in 1820 by Isaac McKinney along the Indian trail Logan's Path, Hecla Furnace used the water of Little Fishing Creek for power before ceasing operation in 1864. In 1893 a new railroad, the Central Railroad of Pennsylvania, was put into operation to connect Bellefonte with the New York Central line in Mill Hall. Using the furnace's name, the railroad established a park to serve as a resort for picnickers with a fine wooded area, a large dam providing water for bathing and boating, and a dance pavilion.

Houserville (College) — Located along the old road that connected Bellefonte and the Rock Iron Works with Centre Furnace, Pine Grove Mills, and Huntingdon County, Houserville was settled by Jacob Houser in 1788. Houser built a saw and gristmill, and later a fulling mill, which he quickly expanded into a highly successful woolen mill and factory — the first of its kind in the county. Local farmers sold raw wool to weave blankets and fabric by the yard. High quality finished products as well as surplus wool were shipped to Harrisburg, Baltimore, and elsewhere. The woolen factory operated until 1912.

Howard Borough — William Tipton, a millwright, keel boat operator, and first settler in the area that would become Howard, built his house along Bald Eagle Creek in 1800. Following his lead, settlement and industrial development began to occur along the creek. It provided power not only for a gristmill, but also for the Howard Iron Works and the Howard Brick Company. It also provided the location and the community's early access to the Bald Eagle and Spring Creek Navigation Company canal system, in operation by 1837; and most recently it provided the water corridor for the John Foster Sayers dam and lake. Howard became an agricultural, commercial, and industrial center and, for a century, was served by the Pennsylvania Railroad.


Hublersburg (Walker) — The site of a mill as early as 1812, Hublersburg became the largest community in Walker Township. In 1830 it was laid out along a main road between Lock Haven and Bellefonte and named by Jacob Hubler. While the highway has bypassed the community in recent years, a hotel that was built for travelers using the early road system is still in operation. In its heyday Hublersburg also had two stores, three churches, a foundry, a machine shop, two blacksmith shops, two shoe shops, and a school.


Hunter's Park (Benner) — A dam was built on Buffalo Run by owners of the Bellefonte Central Railroad to create a small lake for boating and swimming and an area for picnics and baseball. This popular train excursion destination also had a carousel and other rides. It closed in 1911.


I

Ingleby/Fowler (Haines) — Above Coburn and surrounded by mountains, Penns Creek runs through the tiny settlement of Ingleby, once a flag station on the Lewisburg and Tyrone Railroad. Lumber and lumber products were carried out of the mountains and railroad passenger service provided access to this scenic high valley. In the 1880s Dr. Frank Barker, a veterinarian, purchased 500 acres to lumber, establish fruit farms, and breed horses. He built a large home and opened a resort in the mountains, Barker's Resort for Health and Pleasure, and later sold land for cottages and hunting camps. Fowler was the railroad station name for this community.


J

Jacksonville/Walker (Marion) — Located at one time at the intersection of the main road through Howard Gap and a major route between Bellefonte and Lock Haven, the village was named for ex-president Andrew Jackson. The Jacksonville Road, built in 1791, ran directly through this early commercial, industrial, and agricultural center. Iron ore was mined in the immediate vicinity and a large gristmill, several stores, and taverns were located there. The Fairview Female Seminary was once located in the village. It was established in 1845 and operated until 1857 with some 20 boarders a year; in 1859 it expanded to become an academic school for some 70 students; and from 1865-69 it served as a school for orphans of Civil War soldiers.


Julian/Julian Furnace (Huston) — This charcoal iron furnace was built in 1832 at Julian by James Irvin and partner John Adams, one-time foreman of the Valentine and Thomas plant. It was named to honor a daughter, Julia Ann, but when the railway station was completed, the name was changed to Julian. The furnace employed from fifty to one hundred men in the various branches including teamsters hauling ore from Buffalo Run Valley, and those engaged in coaling. Under the ownership of Moses Thompson & Co., it was abandoned in 1858.


K

Kato (Snow Shoe) — Little evidence remains of the once-thriving coal mining center of Kato. Two New York Central Railroad passenger trains traveled each way daily through this little community, but no one has lived there for more than sixty years. In its heyday, a double-tracked inclined railroad took coal down off the mountain. Coal cars on each of parallel tracks were linked together with a cable passing over a pulley at the mountaintop. When one car was loaded at the top and run down the incline, its weight pulled the other one up. The railroad operated without any other power source.