Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Traveling Tuesday: Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

Traveling Tuesday: Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania 

Photo: WikiImages
In honor of Groundhog Day, I thought it would be fun for us to “travel” to Punxsutawney this week. Located in western Pennsylvania eighty-four miles northeast of Pittsburgh, and fifty files northwest of Altoona, the borough is in the southern portion of Jefferson County. The population is just under 6,000 residents making it the largest incorporated municipality in the county. 

According to several sources, the name Punxsutawney derives from a Lenape word Punkwsutenay meaning town of sandflies or mosquitos. Another source claims the word comes from Put’schisk’tey which means poison vine. 

Native Americans of the Shawnee and Lenapi/Delaware tribes lived on the banks of the Mahoning Creek beginning in 1754, having moved there to get away from the increasing number of Europeans in the east. The following year a conference was held with the Delawares, Muncy, Shawnees, Naticokes, Tuscaroras, and Mingoes to protest the sale of their land by the “Six Nations” in Albany. There was dissension among them, attempts at peace failed, and some of the tribes banded with the French during the French and Indian War. 

In October 1755, fed up with the growth of the population of white settlers, the Delawares attacked at Penn’s Creek and captured two 12-year-old girls. The girls escaped five years later, and the tribe soon left the area. Nearly twenty years later, a Moravian Church missionary arrived with a group of Christianized Delaware Indians. By the end of the Revolutionary War, the tribes had left Pennsylvania and settled in Ohio. 

More settlers moved into the area, and the population grew to about one hundred inhabitants. In1849 Punxsutawney incorporated with agriculture and lumbering being the mainstays of the economy. Eventually, coal was discovered and the mining industry and railroads became important parts of the economy. One source says that a person could walk from Punxsutawney to Reynoldsville entirely underground at this time – a distance of fifteen miles. 
Photo: Pixabay/
According to a history of the town: “It {Groundhog day celebrations} all began on February 2, 1886 with a terse paragraph in the local newspaper, The Punxsutawney Spirit, “Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow.” 
The report goes on to say that “in the summer of 1887 a group of local hunters held a groundhog hunt and picnic, celebrating the event by barbequing the game. Inspired by the hunt, the editor of the newspaper, Clymer Freas dubbed the picnickers the ‘Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.’ He recalled the Pennsylvania Dutch legend of the groundhog being a weather prophet and claimed for the Punxsutawney groundhog all weather rights. He then created a home for him on Gobbler’s Knob, a wooded area outside of town.” 
Photo: Pixabay/hangela
In its heyday, the town saw as many as eighty trains come through each day. A trolley car system was put in place in 1892, and in the early 1900s, Punxsutawney became the shopping center for many of the miners. Industrial growth peaked in the 1920s, but the crash of 1929 impacted the town with the rest of the country. Many businesses closed or declined. After the Depression, the town recovered slowly and gained a carbon plant in the process. A machine shop and manufacturing plants helped shore up the economy. Coal is still mined, although not at the levels of its early days. 
An annual event is held on February second, and has grown to thousands of visitors attending the festivities each year. The 1993 movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell created significant interest in the town, although to the residents’ disappointment the film was shot in Illinois. 

Do you pay attention to the groundhog’s prediction?

About Gold Rush Tegan

Tegan Llewellyn has always been different than her adopted family, except Grandmother Hannah, a prospector during the 1829 Georgia gold rush. Now, seventy years later there are reports of gold in Nome, and the opportunity is too good to pass up. But Tegan doesn’t count on the dangers that strike from the moment she steps off the steamer, including the threat of losing her heart. 

Elijah Hunter has prospected for gold all over the US and Canada and likes being on the move. The last thing he expects to find on his latest search is a lady miner who proves to be nothing but trouble. Can he convince her that leaving is for her own good before it’s too late...for both of them?

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