One of the first resources to be harvested was the vast stands of trees which and originally covered nearly 90% of the state, including a combination of white pine, eastern hemlock and assorted hardwoods. As settlers moved inland from the east coast and the need for lumber grew, more and more of Pennsylvania’s old-growth forests were harvested. Water-powered saw mills dotted the hills, producing lumber for all types of construction. Pennsylvania’s white pine and hemlock trees, known for being tall and straight, were in high demand for ships masts. Williamsport, located 50 miles south of Wellsboro, was once a hub of the lumber industry.
This rapid and largely unregulated deforestation, however, meant that by the 1920s, the trees were gone and the land bare. Hoping to revitalize the landscape, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania bought thousands of acres of the denuded land from the lumber companies and began to reforest the landscape in the 1930s and 40s, giving rise to a new conservation movement, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and a widespread system of state parks. The creation of the CCC was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s proposed flurry of government programs designed to lift the country out of the Great Depression and get American men out of the bread lines and back to work. The young men of the CCC fought forest fires, planted trees, built roads, buildings, picnic areas, swimming areas, and campgrounds, and created many state parks. Most of the state parks around Wellsboro, including Leonard Harrison State Park at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, bear witness to the great work completed by these men as they returned Pennsylvania to a state of natural beauty that would be enjoyed by generations to come.
Today we celebrate this history as a part of the Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage Region, which includes 15 counties to the west and south of Tioga County. As a visitor to the region, you can spend time enjoying the beautiful forests year round: hiking, taking driving tours, hunting, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, and so much more. Also located nearby in Ulysses, PA, about 40 minutes west of the Penn Wells, is the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. This family-friendly attraction offers information about the Lumber Heritage Region and the ongoing care, management, and recreational use of its forests. A working historic saw mill, recreated lumber camp, exhibits, public programs, and collections are available for viewing year-round. Every summer they host the Bark Peelers’ Festival, featuring woodhick skill, log skidding, and chainsaw carving demonstrations; cross-cut saw, log rolling, greased pole, and birling contests open to the public; live music, food vendors, and kids activities.