Clarion County, erected on March 11, 1839, from parts of Venango and Armstrong counties, is named for the Clarion River, as it is the County Seat (the town of Clarion).
The Clarion River was the dividing line between Armstrong and Venango counties. In early times, this river was known at Stump Creek and Toby’s Creek. These names were retained until an act of Assembly was passed declaring it a Public Highway under the name of the Clarion River. When surveying for a road, the surveyors camped by the river. They heard ripples of the water made by the wall of timber on both sides of the river. One man said it sounded like a distant clarion (trumpet). From then on, the river was known as the Clarion River.
Clarion County was the 54th county in the state to be formed. The following townships were made from Armstrong County: Clarion, Madison, Monroe, Perry, Redbank and Toby. The following townships were made from Venango County: Beaver, Elk, Farmington, Paint and Richland.
Application was made to the Legislature and the Governor by act of March 14, 1983 to authorize the appointment of three citizens; namely, James Thompson, John Gilmore and Samuel L. carpenter, who were empowered to take deeds of trust from persons donating land, to lay out the town in lots, to see the same, and to make contracts for the public buildings. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Thompson resigned, and by the act of June 25, John P. Davis, of Crawford County was appointed to fill the vacancy.
When the site for the seat of Justice was selected the lands belonged to General Levi G. Clover, James P. Hoover, Peter Clover Jr. (heirs of Phillips Clover) and Hon C. Myers, who donated the town’s site to the county, on condition of receiving half the proceeds from the sale of lots.
Sometime in the fall of 1839, John Sloan Jr. surveyed the town plot containing 200 acres. There were 275 in-lots and 50 out-lots. The Public Sale of the lots began October 30, 1839 and continued for three days. The highest price for a lot was $757.50 and the next in value was sold for $560.00. On April 6, 1841, the village of Clarion was incorporated into a borough.
Grounds for the County Buildings and Public Square were reserved from sale. At this time a dispute arose about a strip of land lying between these tracts, and which would be the central part of the future town. This ground being needed for lots before law could settle the question of ownership. The parties agreed in writing to release their claims to the title of lands, reserving the privilege of testing the right to the purchase money.
Application was made to the legislature and the Governor, by act of June 25 1839, was embowered to take deeds of trust from persons donating lands, to the public buildings.
Accordingly, the Governor appointed George B. Hamilton, Lindsey C. Printner and Robert Potter as Commissioners, who proceeded to the discharge of the duties of their appointment. It was a short time before 1839 that any part of the chosen site had been cleared out, and even then only a small portion. There was only one house in all that is now included in the borough limits. The greater part of the site was still covered with large pine and dense under brush. It was previously esteemed good hunting grounds, where wild game had been frequently caught. As the Commissioners entered upon their work, they laid out the town in lots, employing Mr. John Sloan as surveyor who for a series of years before and afterwards, was identified with the interest of the county. The first sale of lots was in October 1839, and a second sale was made in the following spring.
The first settlement was made in 1801. Pioneer settlers were predominately Scotch-Irish and German from the older counties of the State.
Growth of the country in population and enterprise was due mainly to the rise of iron, lumber and oil industries. The iron business declined after the civil war with the emergence of the new Steel Industry.
The large stand of virgin timber in the county attracted the lumbermen. The earliest means of livelihood, other than farming, were the use of sawmills to produce lumber, which could be floated to market at Pittsburgh. The sawmill operations of Pioneer days were replaced with larger scale operations and the Clarion River again helped provide a way to market.
Clarion County was within the oil-producing region of the state and shared in the development of this natural resource after the drilling of “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake’s well at Titusville in 1859. The county was at one time a leading oil producer. In addition to an oil belt, the county has extensive gas fields, sand for glass making good fire clay and bituminous coal reserves.
Cook Forest Park, a tract of 6,000 acres with a frontage of eight miles on the Clarion River, lies mostly in Clarion River and contains the largest stand of virgin white pine east of the Mississippi River. The Clarion River provides an attractive scenic and recreational area.
For more historical information on Clarion County, visit the Clarion County Historical Society.