ABCs of Centre County
Centennial (Halfmoon) – George Wilson and his family came to the Centennial area in 1792 from southeastern Pennsylvania. Wilson was among the first Quakers to settle in Halfmoon Valley, and he was soon joined by other members of the Society of Friends. A small log building 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. The fair 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. Until that time, the farmers 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. 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, early settlers used the creeks to carry farm and lumber products on rafts to markets downstream. The town known as Coburn, originally called The Forks, 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 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 a small community at the edge of Tussey Mountain. A post office, general store, and two churches served Colyer 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 makers of iron overcame to get 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. From there it moved along 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.