Clearfield Heritage Foundation marks 40th year|
Monday, June 25, 2012
By Jane Elling Correspondent
The Clearfield Heritage Foundation celebrated its 40th year and held its annual dinner and Heritage Award Presentation last week. The event was held at the American Legion John Lewis Shade Post No. 6 in the second floor banquet room in downtown Clearfield. CHF president Terry Malloy was the master of ceremonies.
Board member Mike Butler introduced the guest speaker Paul W. Heimel who showed a PowerPoint Presentation of "Echoes from the Past," the story of the Austin flood, the focus of his book "1911 The Austin Flood."
Heimel was assisted by Joseph A. Majot and the two used a variety of head coverings as they spoke as the persons in the photographs would be talking. They explained the pictures being shown of the tragedy and answered questions after the presentation.
Heimel is a third generation Potter County resident who hails from a newspaper family and spent about 20 years as a newspaper reporter and editor in his hometown. He is currently in his second term as a county commissioner.
The Austin Flood story was told from the beginning in the book and along with a large variety of photographs and quotes were included in the book and given by Heimel and Majot.
Paul wrote, "This is the tale of a town that's too tough to die." And it is "Potter County: God's Country."
The county is unique in that water flows from a divide in three direction-southwest to the Gulf of Mexico via the Allegheny, Ohio and Mississippi rivers; southeast to the Chesapeake Bay via the Susquehanna or north to Lake Ontario.
Edward O. Austin, a surveyor and engineer, arrived at the junction of Freeman's Run's two forks in 1856. He built a modest log home and established a small farm, the beginning of a community that would bear his name. One man who came by horse and buggy to the region's trout waters was Grover Cleveland, mayor of Buffalo and later the 27th president of the United States.
In January 1909, the go-ahead was given to design a concrete dam and April 1 was targeted as the groundbreaking date. Austin in 1911 had 2,911 residents and was considered the hub of Potter County.
The large concrete dam was built to supply the large amount of water needed for the lumber industry business. It stretched 534 feet across the valley, stood 43 feet high and nearly 30 feet thick and was considered absolutely impregnable. It was completed at a cost of $86,000.
Damage has been estimated at $5 million but no accurate number of lives lost has been learned.
Heimel had books for sale after the program and they are also for sale at Jim's Sports Center in Clearfield.
Every year, the CHF honors a structure in Clearfield and, this year, the building was the Bigler House at 106 East Pine Street that is thought to be one of Clearfield County's earliest recorded property transactions. Owners have been Abraham Witmer, A.B. Reed, William Bigler and William Dock Bigler.
The current owners are Johnston, Nelson, Shimmel and Thomas LLP, certified public accountants.
The Heritage Award was presented to Denny Nelson by board member Willard Dominic, and the history was given by board member Jane Elling. Secretary/Treasurer David Folmar read the 2011 minutes and the 2012 treasurer's report.
Malloy announced Clearfield Area High School students Trey Jordan and Shawn Lord have agreed to repaint the 11 poles of the CHF historical markers for their senior project.