Unionville

Unionville was founded as a Quaker settlement and for decades was one of the lumber-producing centers of the Bald Eagle Valley.  Located five miles west of Milesburg, the town is on the State Road from Philadelphia where it climbs the Allegheny Front to Philipsburg and eventually to Erie.

The community initially was the home of temporary lumber camps. In 1848, Zephaniah Underwood, a Quaker born in York County, laid out the town with the help of his son William and named it Unionville.   In 1859, it was incorporated as a borough, only the third community in Centre County to do so.

Thanks to the thriving lumber business, Unionville grew. A tavern, livery stable, grist mill, tannery, and school were built. Underwood operated a lumber mill and managed a store.

Unionville was the third community in Centre County to be incorporated as a borough. (Joan Brower Collection)

Many early residents were members of the Society of Friends. They established a meeting house and cemetery.  Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations had also formed in the 1860s and ‘70s.

By 1864, an early route of the Bald Eagle Valley Railroad with tracks parallel to the current U.S. Route 220 ran through Unionville. Passengers could embark and disembark from the small station.

Thanks to the nearby lumber mills, many of the early homes had a wood plank design. Later homes followed the Victorian design popular in the late 1800s.

The area’s timber resources were largely depleted by the 1870s and trade suffered. Today, there are few commercial businesses and Unionville has become a bedroom community. Bald Eagle Creek and Dewitt Run, popular fishing spots, flow through the borough. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the population was 323.

When the post office was established in Unionville, the name was already taken in Pennsylvania. Therefore, the post office was named Fleming.

The Unionville Pike, which connects with the Buffalo Run Valley was finally paved in the mid-1980s, after being gravel-topped for many years. A well-worn bridge connecting the mountain road with the town was replaced in 1986. These improvements made travel from the Bald Eagle Valley to points east, such as Bellefonte, State College and surrounding townships, more convenient.

Unionville was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Of the 105 principal structures in the historic district, fifty are considered to have major significance, including the Borough Building, which was once the Union Church. Revolutionary and Civil War veterans are buried in the Union Cemetery, which is maintained by the borough.

An archaeological site that was active in the late 1970s is on fields of the Fisher Farm, on the northern side of Bald Eagle Creek. The late James W. Hatch (1948-1999), an associate professor of anthropology at Penn State, directed the archaeological dig, which turned up artifacts from the Late Woodland period (AD 400 to 1000). The 3.5-acre site is considered one of the leading Native American archeological sites in central Pennsylvania.

Herman Fisher (1898-1975), one of the founders of the Fisher-Price toy and game corporation, was born in Unionville. Fisher graduated from State College High School and was a Distinguished Alumnus of Penn State. Fisher Plaza in front of the Chambers Building at Penn State is named for him.

The 2010 film Unstoppable, about an unmanned freight train barreling dangerously toward a city, was shot on the Norfolk-Southern tracks in Bald Eagle Valley. Unionville can be seen in some scenes of the movie, which stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.  

Sally Heffentreyer


Sources:

Hatch, James W., ed. The Fisher Farm Site: A Late Woodland Hamlet in Context. Department of Anthropology, Penn State, 1980.  

Linn, John Blair.  History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania.  Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883.

Historic Buildings of Centre County Pennsylvania. The Historic Registration Project of Centre County Library. Gregory Ramsey, Coordinator. University Park: Keystone Books, 1980.

Unionville Borough, https://unionvilleborough.com/ (Accessed November 12, 2022).

Unionville Borough, Census Reporter https://censusreporter.org/profiles/06000US4202778616-unionville-borough-centre-county-pa/ (Accessed November 12, 2022).

Unionville (Fleming) Historic District, National Register of Historic Places, 1979


First Published: November 22, 2022

Last Modified: December 1, 2022