Coal mining, lumbering and have all played a part in the history of LeRoy Township and former Barclay Township (now Barclay Mountain). These industries attracted people to the mountain from many different countries to find work. The southern portion of LeRoy and neighboring Franklin (originally Barclay) Townships are well known throughout Bradford County for its diverse history. Known as Barclay Mountain (after Robert Barclay of England who purchased the land in 1794), this region has been host to coal mining activities dating back to 1812. The first settlement in what later became Barclay Township was in 1856. Semi-bituminous coal from this area was shipped to locations all over the northeastern United States. This was the most northern and eastern location in the United States where semi-bituminous coal was mined. The mining operations brought immigrants from other countries who came to Ellis Island and were sent to the mountain here as needed by the companies. Coal mining operations continued in the Barclay Mountain/LeRoy Township area into the early 1980's. Today, the vast coal lands, the only place where coal mining was successfully carried on in Bradford County, is part of Pennsylvania State Game Lands #12 and #36.
Lumbering in this area dates back to 1808 when Hugh Holcomb built a sawmill in the center of what is now the community of LeRoy. Later, hemlock bark was harvested in the mountains of LeRoy Township to feed the local tanneries. Lewis Brothers Lumber Company later cut much of the timber from the mountains in a portable sawmill. In 1902, the town of Laquin was born in old Barclay Township and by May of the following year, the Laquin Lumber Company, under the leadership of Watson L. Barclay, began to saw lumber under contract with the Union Tanning Company. Union was owned by the United States Leather Company, one of the largest companies in the nation at that time. Laquin included five companies, all of which used wood in one way or another. These were: Laquin Lumber Company (later Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company), Schrader Wood Company, Pennsylvania Hub & Veneer Company, Pennsylvania Stave Company and Barclay Chemical Company. By 1932, all of Laquin's plants had shut down leaving no work and no reason for families to stay in town. The community was quickly deserted and by 1941 no people and few buildings were left in town.
A resort hotel was built at Minnequa Springs, north of Canton, by Peter Herdic of Williamsport in 1869. The mineral springs near the hotel attracted famous residents from major cities across the country including actors, actresses, politicians, and the wealthy. The hotel, which eventually was expanded to the point where it could house 600 guests and their servants, burned in 1878. Prior to the fire, construction began on a courthouse for the new county of Minnequa that Peter Herdic had proposed. After great debate among legislators across the state, the plan was struck down. The uncompleted courthouse became the new hotel in 1884 and was operated for several more seasons until it burned in 1903. During the period that the second hotel was in operation, various people came from New York City and other areas to establish summer cottages. Some of these can still be found at Minnequa, including Rockgirt, Owenheim, and perhaps the most impressive, Mourland Park, located nearby. Rockgirt was built by Rev. Arthur Brooks, Rector of the Church of the Incarnation in New York City. His brother, hymn writer Phillips Brooks, who wrote some of the most well known hymns that are still sung in churches today, was a frequent visitor.
After the industries in Laquin shut down, the mountain was in a terrible condition. Over 100 years of coal mining and lumbering activity by several different companies left acid runoff from abandoned mines, thousands of acres of clearcut trees, wildlife driven out, poor drainage, and many other problems. At about this time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced his New Deal programs to help pull the nation out of the Great Depression. One of these programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps, rolled into Laquin on the railroad in 1933, built a camp, and worked until 1940 to restore the mountain and correct some of the problems left by the coal and lumber boom. Some of their work included: field planting on the game lands resulting in the planting of 214,600 trees and 15,350 shrubs; 3,500 apple trees have been pruned on the hunting grounds; 200 pounds of seeds from hardwood trees have been collected and sent to the various nurseries for propagation of the species; construction and maintenance of 38 miles of truck trails and accompanying bridges; cutting of 15 miles of firebreaks; stream development for fish protection and flood control; the Kellogg steel fire tower, stone cabin at the base and the phone line to Powell; a public park at Sunfish Pond; the development of 22 springs; and much more.
In 1905, the Pennsylvania state legislature allowed the Game Commission to establish game refuges on state forest lands. In 1907, this law was amended to limit the size of these refuges to nine miles in circumference and twenty-five miles apart. With the money from the sale of its hunting licenses, the commission began buying game to restock the state. Elk, deer, snowshoe hare, and other game were purchased to be released on the newly formed refuges. These refuges became the backbone of the commission's attempt to re-establish game within the state. In 1915, the refuge law was again amended, allowing the commission to establish refuges on private land. The commission established Refuge #12 on Barclay Mountain. In 1919, the Pennsylvania Game Commission was granted authority to purchase land. Refuge #25 in Elk County became the first tract of State Game Lands, and on December 14, 1920, Refuge #12 in Bradford County became the second tract purchased by the commission, and it became known as State Game Lands #12. Today, SGL #12 consists of approximately 24,000 acres. SGL #36, which is nearby, was purchased from the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company and is today approximately 19,000 acres.
During the Minnequa Springs Hotel years and for decades thereafter, Canton was the home of the Davenport family of actors including E.L. Davenport, a contemporary of Junius Brutus Booth and John Wilkes Booth. His daughter Fanny was known around the world and his youngest son was Harry Davenport, who was best known for playing Dr. Meade in Gone With The Wind as well as Grandpa in Meet Me in St. Louis. Frank Mayo, who made the role of Davy Crockett popular, lived here; as did circus little people, Casper & Mab Weis; aerialist, Charles Siegrist, who is in the Circus Hall of Fame; and perch pole performers, Butch Brann and Amelia LaPell Brann. This was also the home of Congressman Louis T. McFadden who served from 1914 to 1934 in the United States House of Representatives. He was known nationally for his multiple attempts to impeach U.S. President Herbert Hoover, a member of his own party. He also had two hard-fought elections against the well known Cornelia Pinchot, wife of Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot. Often making antisemitic speeches on the floor of the House prior to World War II, he was described by Adolf Hitler as exhibiting "true Americanism" in a letter to the New York Times.
Canton's Harry Davenport, who first came to the area with his famous parents at the age of five and lived here for many years, was best known as Dr. Meade in Gone With the Wind. Watch this video to learn about some of his most notable roles.
Watch this video titled, "CANTON, PA: Circus Capitol of the East" to learn about Canton's famous circus connections.
Take a tour of LeRoy through this photo slideshow of historical images.