Elk County Historical Society

“Preserving the Past for the Future”

The Robinson Museum

The Center House Museum


The history of Elk County dates back many years before it became a separate entity. The Indians lived here for centuries before the white men came. Near Russell City in Highland Township may be seen evidence of Indian fort ruins which date back to the thirteen hundreds. Elk County is named for that great animal that was in this region in large numbers. The county has an area of 807 square miles. Today, Elk County consists of three boroughs and nine townships. The Allegheny National Forest, State Game Lands and State Forest occupy approximately 47 percent of the land area. The rainwater from one side of the former County Home, Elk Haven, goes to the Susquehanna River and from the other side to the Allegheny River.

RIDGWAY,  the county seat, was incorporated as a borough in 1880.  RIDGWAY TOWNSHIP, the area surrounding Ridgway, also includes Montmorenci area, Whistletown, and German Settlement,  This was a great lumbering industry area.

 JOHNSONBURG, the oldest of the three boroughs, was founded in 1810 and incorporated in 1891. It is well known for its paper making history. Rolfe is now part of Johnsonburg.

CITY OF ST. MARYS, founded in 1842 by the German Union Bond Society, is the largest of the boroughs and was incorporated in 1848. It has recently absorbed Benzinger Township into the borough. The first convent of the Benedictine Order of the United States was established at St. Marys. St. Marys is known as the “Powdered Metal Capital of the World.”

FOX TOWNSHIP was once known as “Sinnemahoning.” Kersey, once called “Irishtown,” was laid out as Centerville. Kyler’s Corners, Coal Hollow, Dagus Mines, and Shelvey are part of the township.

JAY TOWNSHJIP, named for United States Supreme Court Justice John Jay, was settled in the early eighteen hundreds. It consists of Brynedale, Weedville, Force, and Caledonia.

BENEZETTE, an original township and town of the same name, was founded in 1812 by Reuben Winslow. This area can be very crowded during the season of “elk watching.” Grant, Medix Run, and Wilmer are located in this township.

HORTON TOWNSHIP was named for Isaac Horton, who settled on Brandy Camp Creek in 1818. Brockport, Shawmut, Elbon, Challenge, Hyde, Drummond, Helen’s Mills, and Blue Rock are part of Horton Township.

JONES TOWNSHIP, the largest district in Elk County, was settled in 1835. Wilcox was settled in 1858 by pioneer lumbermen and hunters. President Ulysses S. Grant was arrested by Elk County officials for fishing out of season in Straight Creek. Also located in Jones Township are Lamont, Glen Hazel, Ketner, Tambine, Dahoga, Rasselas, and Upland. At present, both Instanter and Straight are under the waters of the East Branch Dam.

SPRING CREEK TOWNSHIP was formed in 1846. Portland Mills was named for Portland, Maine, landowners. Sea scorpion tracks were discovered near Hallton, replicas of which are owned by the Elk County Historical Society. Also in this township are Vineyard Run, Bear Creek, Beech Bottom, Carmen, Arroyo, and Lake City. Several of these are now “ghost towns.”

HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP was settled in 1835 and so named for its high altitude. The American Plate Glass Company was located at James City (Durant City). Chaffee, Highland Corners, Sackett, Russell City, Nansen, and the Owls Nest are located in this township.

MILLSTONE TOWNSHIP was first settled in 1826 by John Wynkoop and added to Elk County in 1870. Belltown and Loleta, with its state park, are in this township.