John Patton was a Revolutionary War veteran and prosperous Philadelphia merchant and civic leader, who moved to Centre County in 1789 to build the region’s first charcoal-fired iron furnace, Centre Furnace. The operation’s success sparked the founding of additional furnaces and forges in what would become Centre County.
Before European colonists arrived, Pennsylvania was an estimated 97 percent forested. Centre County is in an ecological region in which the aboriginal forest was dominated by white pine and hemlock, both of which had lucrative industrial applications that attracted colonists and entrepreneurs.
When slavery is mentioned in the history of Centre County, it is usually in the context of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad in the decades before the Civil War. However, the county also has its own local history of slavery and slave ownership.
General James Potter was a Pennsylvania military and political leader and frontier land developer, who is best known in Centre County for the exploratory trek that led him to the crest of Mount Nittany, overlooking Penns Valley, and his declaration that he had discovered an empire.
The presence and impact of Native Americans in what is today Centre County is a matter of both history and popular imagination. Evidence indicates that the region between the West Branch of the Susquehanna and the Juniata Rivers was primarily an area of hunting and transit for Native Americans.
Mount Nittany is probably Centre County’s most famous geographical feature. Thanks to the Penn State football team fans across the country are familiar with the name and image of the iconic ridge. As a result, Mount Nittany has become an integral part of the lore and identity of the school and region since the mid-nineteenth century.
Militias played a central role in antebellum Centre County, teaching men military discipline and arms skills to ensure their readiness for war. The volunteer companies also served as fraternal organizations that linked members to the communities.
The Potter-Allison Farm is an agricultural complex built by General James Potter, one of the first settlers of Penns Valley, and expanded by a 19th century owner, William Allison. The complex, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, comprises the Potter-Allison House, a barn, a springhouse, and six other buildings.
Penn’s Cave near Centre Hall is a natural limestone cave that has been a popular tourist attraction for more than 130 years. Visitors tour the 1,300-foot-long, water-filled cave by flat-bottom boats. Some of the stalactites and stalagmites appear to resemble sculptures such as the Statue of Liberty and natural landmarks like the Rock of Gibraltar […]
Philip Benner was an early business leader in Centre County who established the Rock Ironworks, one of the first iron forges in the county. Benner was born in Chester County in 1762 and served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. After the war, he operated an iron forge in Chester County. He married […]