Elk County History

Elk County was created on April 18, 1843, from parts of Jefferson, Clearfield, and McKean Counties and named for the elk that roamed the county. Ridgway, the county seat, was settled in 1824 and named for Jacob Ridgway, a local landowner. It was incorporated as a borough on February 15, 1881.

Land speculation companies owned this area after it was acquired by Pennsylvania at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix of 1784—the “Last Purchase.” In 1825, a Smethport to Milesburg Turnpike was incorporated, and a sawmill opened in Ridgway the next year. Lumber was the basis of the early economy, logs being floated to cities by the natural waterways. Railroads began to appear in 1864, and by 1890 the county produced coal and oil. Today, powdered metal, paper, and carbon are produced. Elk is one of the four counties that have large areas lying within the Allegheny National Forest. The farming area is only 3½ percent of the county. Although the indigenous elk population was hunted to extinction, a herd introduced from strains found in the western states now flourishes. Elk was the first county to have land designated for state game. The original settlers were from upper New York State and New England. Northern European immigrants then appeared, and around 1900 immigrants from southern and eastern Europe arrived.

Elk County Historical Society

Mt Zion Historical Society- Bennett's Valley

Historical Society of St Marys and Benzinger Township

Elk County National Register of Historical Places

Elk County History from the Elk County Historical Society

A Brief History of Elk County ©Written by: Alice Wessman

A Pioneer Outline History of Northwestern Pennsylvania by McKnight from Google Books

History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania(J.H. Beers & Co in 1890) from Google Books

Elk County Poorhouse

Elk County History From "The Making of America"

History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania

Original History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania published by J.H. Beers & Co in 1890. This transcription by Nathan Zipfel for the Elk County Genealogy Project

Explore PA History (An interesting site)

The History of North Central PA

Past Pennsylvania Railroad Stations- Elk County

Western PA Coal Mining Towns
Shawmut Field Coal Mines
Bennett's Branch Coal Fields
Mining began around 1760 (near Pittsburgh)with the peak year about 1917. PA was the No. 1 coal mining state until West Virginia surpassed it in 1930. A coal patch is a town where everything was built and owned by a coal company, including schools, churches, stores, theatres,and residential structures. Coal patches in Western Pennsylvania generally date from the 1870s through the 1920s. Although the coal seams around the patches are mined out and the coke ovens are crumbling ruins, people still live in these towns in homes built by the coal companies a century or more ago.

The Political Graveyard Elk County

Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania
Historical Society of Pennsylvania

MapsUSGS Elk Townships Map

Click for Penna County Map
USGS Elk Townships Map
Map: 1912 Elk County
Penna County Formation Map