Leadership Centre County | Everyone has a history: Learn about our roots

January 11, 2014 

Everyone has a history.

When you take a moment to think, our history is what develops us to be who we are today. It is not just our history, either. The history of our family, neighbors, co-workers and communities helps us to know one another and helps shape our decisions every day.

Centre County has a rich history. Divided into five regions (Penns Valley, Moshannon-Mountaintop, Upper Bald Eagle Valley, Inter-Valley and the Centre Region), the county settlers found two halves; to the northwest the Appalachian Plateau Province, and to the southeast the Ridge and Valley Province.

The geography consisted of limestone, iron, hardwood forests and streams. All of these components are prime for the iron industry. This quickly became the basis of the economy, soon to be followed by agriculture-based education.

Between 1810 and 1930, the population increases in the five county regions were similar, but after 1930, the Centre Region began growing by leaps and bounds compared to the rest.

By 1850, the agriculture industry needed help, and the State Agricultural Society as well as the state’s General Assembly responded with the approval of the Farmer’s High School.

A final site of 400 acres was selected in Centre County and the building of the Farmer’s High School began in 1854. This is the creation of what is now the Pennsylvania State University.

To put the history into perspective, Leadership Centre County gave us a day to experience for ourselves a journey through history. We started with a brief world tour at the Boal Mansion in Boalsburg, followed by a view of a once simpler life at the Simler House in Philipsburg. While there, we were taken back in history to the Roland Theatre where you, too, can still experience living history.

We continued on State Route 504 between Philipsburg and Aaronsburg. Route 504 marks a portion of the 1799 State Road, which was an important connector during the War of 1812, becoming the primary route for mail, supplies and people traveling between Erie and Philadelphia. Along this drive, original stone mile posts still stand as a reminder of a time when making a journey from one corner of the commonwealth to the other took several days.

After becoming part of history for the second time that day, we made a stop at Curtin Village. Our tour guide, John, entertained us with a very informative tour, taking us to the days when iron ruled and the residents of Curtin Village shopped at the company store.

Just one more stop on our journey was to the Boogersburg School. The minute we walked through the door, the LCC class members were transformed into local pupils straight from the school records of the 1800s. With the smell of woodfire in the stove and seated in front of a piece of soapstone and slateboard, we were guided through a 19th century learning experience.

The land where the school is located was deeded by local ironmaster Moses Thompson, who owned the nearby Centre Furnace, which is where our day concluded with a tour.

These brand new experiences that many of us did not know about are a sample of what shaped Centre County into what we now enjoy.

We drive by these places daily. How often does one stop to remember the history and how decisions made by the early settlers of the county shaped the Centre County that we all know today?

We have a rich culture. Everything that has happened affects the future. Everyone has a history. I encourage you to take time and learn about our roots. It’s who we are. Everyone has a history.

Submitted by Matt Wise, constituent representative for Sen. Jake Corman and member of the Leadership Centre County class of 2014. For more information about Leadership Centre County, go to www.leadershipcentrecounty.org .

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