Cherry Springs State Park - History - Pioneers and Lumber

Pioneers and Lumber

Potter County was formed from part of Lycoming County on March 26, 1804, but the difficult terrain and thick old-growth forest prevented the new county from being settled by European-Americans until 1808. Prior to the arrival of William Penn and his Quaker colonists in 1682, up to 90 percent of what is now Pennsylvania was covered with woods: more than 31,000 square miles (80,000 km2) of Eastern White Pine, Eastern Hemlock, and a mix of hardwoods. The forests in and near the three original counties, Philadelphia, Bucks, and Chester, were the first to be harvested, as the early settlers used the readily available timber and cleared land for agriculture. By the time of the American Revolution, logging had reached the interior and mountainous regions, and became a leading industry in Pennsylvania. Trees furnished fuel to heat homes, tannin for the state's many tanneries, and wood for construction, furniture, and barrel making. Large areas of forest were harvested by colliers to fire iron furnaces. Rifle stocks and shingles were made from Pennsylvania timber, as were a wide variety of household utensils, and the first Conestoga wagons.

The area surrounding Cherry Springs State Park has been a wilderness for much of its history. A bridle path was cut through the woods in 1806–1807, and was widened to accommodate wagons in 1812. (Modern Pennsylvania Route 44, which passes through the park, follows the course of this path between Jersey Shore and Coudersport.) In 1818 the Ceres Land Company, which owned much of the land in Potter County and sought to open the area to settlement, hired an early settler, Jonathan Edgcomb, to build a tavern or hotel for travelers at the site of the park. The hotel was in a very remote location 16 miles (26 km) south of Coudersport, and its visitors were few, occasional wandering travelers or Native Americans.

Edgcomb and his wife received 100 acres (40 ha) of land in exchange for building the hotel and running it for three years. When the contract expired in 1821, they sold their land and left the area, but the hotel and land that Edgcomb had cleared became known as "Edgcomb's Clearing". The Jersey Shore and Coudersport Turnpike was constructed along the wagon path between 1825 and 1834, and tolls were collected for travel on the road until 1860. The park is in West Branch Township, which was incorporated from Eulalia Township in 1856. A post office was opened at Edgcomb's Clearing in 1873; the locals petitioned the United States Post Office to change the name to "Cherryville", for a nearby group of Black Cherry trees. However, since there was already a Cherryville, Pennsylvania, post office in Lehigh Township in Northampton County, the name "Cherry Spring" was chosen as a compromise. In time an "s" was added, hence the name "Cherry Springs". There are also at least two springs in the park.

In 1874 a new, larger hotel was built on the other side of the road from the original tavern. It provided accommodations for wealthy summer visitors from Coudersport. This part of Potter County became known for an abundance of game and fish, and attracted hunters and anglers who also stayed at the Cherry Springs Hotel. This era as a "sportsmen’s paradise" was not to last, as the more profitable lumber industry came to West Branch and surrounding townships, which were home to "some of the tallest, straightest timber left standing" along the East Coast of the United States.

When lumbermen reached the Cherry Springs area in the late 1880s, Eastern White Pine and Eastern Hemlock covered the surrounding mountains. Lumberjacks harvested the trees and sent them down the creeks to the West Branch Susquehanna River to the Susquehanna Boom and sawmills at Williamsport. Clearcutting allowed silt to choke the streams, and nothing was left except the dried-out tree tops, which became a fire hazard. As a result, large swaths of land burned and were left barren, and much of the central part of the state became known as the "Pennsylvania Desert". The Cherry Springs Hotel itself burned in 1897 and the property was abandoned.

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Famous quotes containing the words lumber and/or pioneers:

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    Frances E. Willard 1839–1898, U.S. president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union 1879-1891, author, activist. The Woman’s Magazine, pp. 137-40 (January 1887)

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