Tionesta is situated on the Allegheny where Big Tionesta Creek joins the River about 15 miles east-northeast of Oil City. Driving from Oil City to Tionesta along the River, you are treated to a dramatic display of thickly forested slopes ascending steeply from the wild and pristine Allegheny. The River, Big Tionesta Creek and the great Pennsylvania forest shaped the destiny of this small nineteenth century village. By the 1850's, rivermen coming down from Warren or New York were accustomed to pulling up and seeking public lodging in this then remote place. Around the village even then, rafts of rough timber cut in the forest covering the hills above Tionesta Creek were being assembled for floating downriver to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville and beyond. By the 1860's, several very prosperous timber companies had saw mills along Tionesta Creek. Tionesta became a main assembly point for both rough cut timber rafts, some as long as 300 feet, and loads of semifinished lumber shipped downriver on shallow draft flatboats. The flatboats were constructed on the site. Eventually, Tionesta became the seat of government for Forest County.
On Elm Street near where the road passes by the mouth of Tionesta Creek stands a Greek Revival structure built when the village was very young, about 1850. This simple rectangular volume would have appeared to the rivermen of the time to be quite the palace, a luxurious structure for this far away wild place.
Beside the Greek Revival structure and looking over the River and the mouth of the Creek is a comfortable and colorful Queen Anne built some forty or more years later. Today, this place at 131 Elm Street is operated as a bed and breakfast and invites the traveler to stop, linger on the broad veranda and stay a bit.
A number of different companies had sawmills and lumbering operations along Tionesta Creek. The largest concerns were Wheeler and Dusenbury and the Collins Lumber Company. Others, though not as big, conducted successful lumber operations in the area. One family, the Cropps, did very well in general agriculture, dairy farming and the lumber industry. Forrest Cropp was a prominent resident of Forest County for many years. He and his wife made their home in this handsome Victorian on Elm Street. Essentially a Stick Style mass, the building shows the early influence of Queen Anne where the flat wall plane is interrupted with a cantilevered second story and the front gable is enclosed in a triangular pediment. A highly stylized sunburst can be seen in both the main gable and the pediment over the front steps. The heavy turned posts are Jacobean and appropriate for the style. The house today is the site of the Forest County Historical Society.
In the 1930's, in an effort to control flooding downriver on the Allegheny, Tionesta Creek was dammed just a mile or so above the village site. The massive earthen dam can easily be reached by driving south out of Tionesta on Route 36, just a short way up the big hill. The site has become a destination for sightseers and recreational boaters.
As the lake behind the dam filled, various old village sites along Tionesta Creek were of necessity abandoned. Nebraska was one of those old sites along the Creek. In the early 1940's, the residents of Nebraska were told to leave by the Federal Government. The village of Nebraska was a nineteenth century lumber town, home to millionaire lumbermen Truemann D. Collins and site of one of his sawmills along Tionesta Creek. Collins built a fine Italianate residence with an impressive tower which allowed him to look over Nebraska and down on his lumber mill.
Truemann D. Collins, better known as Teddy Collins, was somewhat eccentric. He dressed at times in frumpy clothes and rode an old two-wheel cart behind a fat-bellied horse. He was known to have taken several days to personally negotiate the purchase of a thirty-five dollar cow, totally unheard of for a man with his means. It is said because of his manner of dress that day, Teddy was once denied a room at a fine hotel. He bought the place that same day and stayed the night. He and his brother, Joseph, built several fine hotels, some of the very best in Pennsylvania and New York. For example, the Collins brothers built the Collins House in Oil City in 1873, a large and flamboyant commercial Italianate structure known in later years as the Arlington. Both the Arlington in Oil City and the buildings which once constituted the village of Nebraska are now gone. The Nebraska site at the top of Tionesta Lake can be reached today by boat on Tionesta Lake or by driving southeast on Route 36. Turn left off Route 36 at Newmansville onto the old Nebraska Road. Follow the road north and down into the Tionesta Creek valley. Where the bridge crosses the Creek is the site of the old lumber village called Nebraska. This road will take you back to Tionesta.
Kellygreen Bed & Breakfast,131 Elm Street (Route36), Tionesta,(814)755-8808.
Midtown Motel, 201 Elm Street, 814-755-3576
Tionesta Dam and Lake
Forest County Historical Society Museum
(emphasizing the early lumber industry on Hickory and Tionesta Creeks), Elm Street, Tionesta.
For Information on the Tionesta Area
Northwest Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors Vistors Bureau, 175 Main Street, Brookville, PA 15825; (800) 348-9393 Email: pagreatoutdoors.com
From Oil City take Route 62 east and north along the Allegheny River. From Warren come south on Route 62 along the River. From Titusville come east and south on Route 36.