Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania

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Huntingdon County Courthouse is located at 223 Penn Street, Huntingdon PA 16652; phone: 814‑643‑3091.


Beginnings [1]

Huntingdon County, which lies in the Ridge and Valley region of the state, occupies a large area in Central Pennsylvania encompassing 895 square miles. Centre, Mifflin, Juniata, Franklin, Fulton, Bedford and Blair counties adjoin Huntingdon County's irregular boundary. The county's physiography is marked by a series of northeast trending ridges that extend across the county. Ridges consist of resistant sandstones or quartzite with alternating beds of shale and limestone underlying the valleys. In the southern part of the county where Huntingdon, Bedford and Fulton Counties join, is Broad Top Mountain, a level upland surface covering approximately 80 square miles and consisting of geological strata which are relatively younger than the surrounding terrain. This land form contains five beds of semi- bituminous coal.

Drainage is contained within the upper Juniata River system which is comprised of three branches: the Frankstown Branch flowing from the northwest, the Raystown Branch stemming from southern sources, and the Little Juniata and Bald Eagle Creek branches from the north. The Juniata River, generally flowing in a southeasterly direction, provides the only natural pass through rugged mountains. The chief mineral resources of the county are sandstone, limestone, clay, and coal, as well as some thin beds of iron ore which are associated with some of these formations.

This nomination will address some of the major industries of Huntingdon County most of which are related to the processing of natural resources. With the exception of agriculture and agriculturally based products, industry in Huntingdon County began with the erection of the first charcoal iron furnaces during the 1780's. The next large industry to experience economic development was coal and related coke production after the 1850's. The glass sand industry evolved at the same time as coal and coke although in a different location. Refractory brick, which used the same mineral resource as the glass sand industry, developed in the late 1890's. The commercial development of each of these and other industries depended upon market demand for the product and the available transportation to markets for goods produced in Huntingdon County.

Settlement Period --1754-1799

In 1754 a treaty was negotiated in Albany, New York between the Crown and the Six Nations for the purchase of the Indian title of that section of Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna River. Prior to that, European settlement in the lands west of the Susquehanna River was restricted due to the uncertain nature of the land claims by the Indians and provincial authorities. The dissatisfaction of the Indians with the treaty and the commencement of the French and Indian War resulted in the constant threat of attack. Therefore, settlement did not expand greatly until the late 1770's. Huntingdon County was created from Bedford County in 1787 by Act of Assembly, and itself divided in 1800, 1804, and 1846 for the subsequent formation of Blair, Cambria, Centre and Clearfield Counties.

The movement of people or goods through the Ridge and Valley Region in Pennsylvania, of which Huntingdon County is a part, was influenced by topography as well. It was less than favorable for the development of transportation systems in the county, particularly during the settlement period. Early pioneers were attracted by the productive agricultural land, its high quality due in part to the underlying limestone bedrock. Water was also plentiful as well as mineral and other natural resources.

The location of grist mills necessary for agricultural progress was a prime factor in the settlement of towns and villages in the developing region. The site of a mill might develop, and attract additional residents and trades to form a town. Or for other reasons a settlement such as an iron plantation might form as the economic potential of the locally abundant iron ore and limestone was realized. The locations of settlements and towns were also influenced by proximity to transportation routes.

In 1767, the town of Huntingdon was established on the site of the old Indian village of Standing Stone. It was located on the banks of the Juniata River and Standing Stone Creek, near the confluence of Raystown Branch with the Juniata River. With the creation of the county in 1787, the centrally located town was recognized as the county seat. Five or six houses were located within the town of Huntingdon in 1776. By 1782, 23 dwellings were occupied increasing to 54 by 1788. As the threat of Indian attack decreased the population rose. In 1790 Huntingdon County reported a total population of 7,565.

  1. Text selected and transcribed from: Suciu, Deborah H., The Industrial Resources of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, between 1780 and 1939, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places.

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