Bellefonte, Centre County ~ Gateway to the Lumber Heritage Region
Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage Region
Welcome to Bellefonte, the county seat of Centre County and one of the "Gateways" into the Lumber Heritage Region of Pennsylvania. The history of lumbering in Centre County can be divided into four phases. The earliest lumbering operations were small, family operated, water-powered sawmills. During this period, trees were cut to clear the land for farming and were processed for use as building materials to fuel the area's early ironworks. These early sawmills were slow, and production was limited to hundreds of board feet per day. Almost every small community had at least one sawmill, which was constructed shortly after an area was settled. William Lamb operated the earliest known sawmill in Bellefonte at Lamb's Crossing (the location of the Gamble Mill) prior to 1800.
Later, water was used to float logs to larger sawmills and to transport lumber to market. Large lumbering operations developed during this period in areas near substantial waterways, including portions of northern Centre County and neighboring counties. However, this area did not have streams of sufficient size to float logs to market. Therefore, the logging industry
Several factors led to changes in the lumbering industry in Centre County during the second half of the nineteenth century: the mountains along the central valleys had been almost completely deforested to supply charcoal to the area's iron furnaces and forest, while the forests of the Seven Mountains in the southern part of the county had barely been touched; the area's population increased dramatically; and new machines were developed and made available for use by the lumber industry. Logging railroads were constructed to allow lumbering to occur in more remote places and without regard for seasons, which had been limiting factors when lumber was transported by water. Logging railroads made it possible to haul lumber out of the gaps and deliver logs to existing railroads for shipment to market. Although some companies transported logs to established mills for processing, since transportation was the major expense in the industry, it was quite common for sawmills, which were generally temporary structures that could be dismantled and moved when timber supplies were depleted in a given area, to be erected at the site of the timber, and the lumber to be sawn on site.
One of the primary contributions of Bellefonte was the production of several lumber products, including paper, building materials (windows, sash, doors, stair railings, and decorative porch elements), skewers, sucker sticks, and matches, among others. Probably the most well-known and largest wood products manufacturing facility in Bellefonte is that of the Pennsylvania Match Company. W.F. Reynolds, J.L. Montgomery, P.B. Crider, and F.W. Crider organized the Pennsylvania Match Company in 1899. The men immediately began construction of their new facility, which opened in 1900 with 75 employees. Matches were produced from second growth white pine blocks measuring four inches wide, two feet long, and the thickness of a match stick, which were supplied locally (by the McNitt-Huyett Lumber Company and others).
A substantial portion of the lumber cut in Centre County occurred in association with the iron industry, which required wood (charcoal) or coal for fuel, and mine props to support the ceilings of mines where iron ore and charcoal were obtained. Smaller trees, including both pines and hard woods, were often used as mine props. Lumber was also used to construct many of the buildings and structures associated with the mines, railroads, furnaces and forges. From 1792 to approximately 1921 there were a total of 19 ironworks through Centre County operating at various times.
During the second half of the twentieth century, small, family owned saw mills powered by electric motors became the norm. For financial reasons, during the period when railroads were used to transport logs and lumber, the railroads rarely extended over 15 miles or remained more than ten years at the same location. However, as automobiles (and trucks) became widely used and road networks were improved, it became more economical to haul the timber to mills that existed in permanent locations, even if the timber source was 75-100 miles from the mill.
During the logging railroad era, which marked the boom in Centre County lumbering, approximately fifteen logging railroads were present in Centre County, including five on the northwest side of the county, two on the northeast side (extending into Clinton County), five in the southeastern portion of Centre County (Poe Valley) and extending into Mifflin County, and two in the central part of Centre County. The two logging railroads located in this area were belonged to the the McNitt-Huyett Lumber Company, which was based near Hecla Furnace (now Mingoville) until about 1902, when they moved their base of operations to Waddle. Aerial tramways carried pole timber across waterways to connect to existing railroad operations.
Thirty-seven days after Roosevelt's inauguration, the first enrollee signed into the Emergency Conservation Work, later re-named the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Unmarried, unemployed men age 18-25 were the first enrollees.
The CCC men (about 200 at each camp) fought forest fires, planted trees, built roads, buildings, picnic areas, swimming areas, campgrounds and created many state parks. When not working, the men socialized and had opportunities to learn crafts and skills.
Erected by Lumber Heritage Region of PA, PA DCNR, and PA Wilds.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1800.
Location. 40° 54.563′ N, 77° 46.9′ W. Marker is in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, in Centre County. Marker can be reached from South Water Street (Pennsylvania Route 550) south of West High Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 181 South Water Street, Bellefonte PA 16823, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Gateway & Destination Locations (here, next to this marker); Pennsylvania Match Factory (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); U.S. Airmail Pioneers (about 700 feet away); Lucinda Hall (about 800 feet away); Bellefonte Governors Memorial (about 800 feet away); Veterans' Bridge (about 800 feet away); a different marker also named Bellefonte Governors Memorial (about 800 feet away); a different marker also named Bellefonte (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bellefonte.
Also see . . . Lumber Heritage Region of PA. (Submitted on June 1, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 1, 2019. It was originally submitted on June 1, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 204 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 1, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.