Pennsylvania was home to the first commercially drilled oil well in the world, which was drilled in 1859 near Titusville.
McKean County, located in northwestern Pennsylvania, has a rich history rooted in Native American settlements and interaction with European explorers. The region was originally inhabited by the Seneca Nation, a member of the Iroquois Confederacy. The first European expedition to the area took place in the 17th century when French explorer, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, claimed the territory for France. However, it wasn't until the late 18th century that settlers began to establish permanent communities.

In the early 1800s, McKean County saw a wave of pioneers settling in the area, primarily attracted by the region's vast natural resources. Its abundant forests attracted loggers, while the discovery of petroleum in the mid-19th century brought significant wealth and population growth. Bradford, the county seat, became known as the "Oil Capital of the World" during the oil boom. The petroleum industry fueled economic prosperity and rapid industrialization in the area, leading to the establishment of numerous oil refineries and pipelines.

The county's history is also marked by its role in the lumber industry. The vast forests of McKean County provided timber for shipbuilding, construction, and fuel. Logging camps and sawmills dotted the landscape, and the timber industry remained a significant part of the local economy until the early 20th century. Today, remnants of this era can be seen in the many historical structures, abandoned towns, and preserved forests.

Besides its economic activities, McKean County has played a role in several notable events over the years. During the American Civil War, the county formed the famed "Bucktails," a regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers known for their distinctive deer badge. Additionally, the county has witnessed natural disasters, including catastrophic floods caused by the bursting of the Kinzua Dam in 1965.

Throughout its history, McKean County has transitioned from its Native American roots to become a vital area in Pennsylvania's development. Its diverse industries, rich heritage, and natural resources continue to shape the county's identity today.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of McKean County, Pennsylvania.

  • 1804 - Formation of McKean County
  • 1826 - The discovery of oil leads to the development of the oil industry
  • 1856 - Smethport becomes the county seat
  • 1864 - The Texas Oil Company is formed in Bradford
  • 1881 - The first oil pipeline in the United States is built in the county
  • 1897 - The Bradford Era newspaper is established
  • 1902 - Lumber industry becomes prominent
  • 1905 - The first natural gas well in Pennsylvania is drilled in McKean County
  • 1932 - The Kinzua Dam is completed, leading to the creation of the Allegheny Reservoir
  • 1959 - Zippo Manufacturing Company moves its headquarters to Bradford
  • 1965 - Kane becomes the second largest borough in McKean County
  • 1980 - Decline of the oil industry in the county
  • 2002 - The Zippo/Case Visitors Center opens in Bradford