As early as 1730, efforts were being made to develop what is now northwestern Pennsylvania. Prior to becoming the second President of the United States, John Adams served as an Ambassador to England, France, the Netherlands and Russia. Part of his duties as Ambassador was to promote investment in the American Colonies. In 1780, Adams urged Holland’s bankers to invest in the United States, including the purchase of land. An impediment to this investment was law that prohibited the acquisition of land by foreigners.
In 1789, the Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania removed this impediment by passing an act that allowed aliens to purchase and hold land in the State. This act resulted in purchase of one million acres east of the Allegheny River by Dutch investors. An additional half million acres were purchased “between French Creek and the River Allegheny” for the princely sum of 40.5 cents per acre. The actual boundary of this purchase was one mile west of the Conewango Creek. For some reason, Pennsylvania reserved land within one mile of water features to the State. In 1790, Dutch bankers also bought 3.3 million acres of land in adjacent New York State. The Holland Land Company, with offices in Meadville PA, was organized in 1795 to handle these land investments. As mentioned previously, John Russell purchased his plot of land from this office of the Holland Land Company. The company continued to sell land in Pennsylvania until 1855 when the office was closed.
Native Americans living in the area were of course unhappy with these land sales, resulting in slow settlement of the area. Negotiation of a treaty with the Iroquois Nation in November 1794 paved the way for settlement of the area. The last Native Americans living in what is now Pine Grove Township were members of the Iroquois and Seneca Nations. Prior to 1788, there were several villages along the Conewango Creek.
The rivers, lakes and streams used by the Native Americans were the “first roads” in the area. Foot paths usually accompanied these bodies of water. State Line Road in Pine Grove Township, for example, was the “Forbidden Path” of the Seneca Nation. This route was heavily protected by the Seneca Nation because it linked their eastern lands with the mid-western Great Lakes. By the mid-1800s, this route had become a stage line between New York City, Cleveland and Chicago. State Line Road was a small portion of this route.
Locally, there are other examples of Native American trails that have become the backbone of roads in Pine Grove Township and the surrounding area today (See the attached map). For example, this includes Old US Route 62 along the Conewango Creek, Akeley Run, Priest Hollow Road and Hatch Run Rd. Thus, the structure of travel routes in our township was laid out by Native Americans many years before settlers came to this area.
The township supervisors continue to meet quarterly with officials from the Russell Volunteer Fire Department (RVFD) in an effort to maintain open communications between the two groups and to ensure the Supervisors are providing support to the department. A critical issue is the status of the department’s fire siren. It has finally reached the point where it is no longer working and needs to be replaced. The siren is not only critical for fire and emergency medical notifications, but also for severe weather alerts for the community, e.g. severe thunderstorms, tornado warnings, etc. Because of the siren’s role in providing emergency notifications, at their April meeting, the Supervisors voted to allocate $7000 to assist the fire department in purchasing a new electronic fire siren. A new siren will cost between $14,000 and $15,000.
It is important for our community to know that the RVFD responds to numerous emergency medical and fire services calls, as well as several calls for assistance with such things as downed trees and wires, water rescues and gas leak investigations. During the quarter ending March 31, the department responded to 70 calls (January 30, February 23 and March 17) for emergency services of one type or another. The volume of calls is a major reason that it is important to have a sufficient number of trained volunteers who are willing to give of their time and energy to protect our community. If you might be interested in becoming a volunteer fire fighter or emergency medical technician, please call the RVFD.
The supervisors completed their survey of township roads on March 30. From this survey, the Supervisors will prioritize road upgrades and maintenance needs for the summer/fall season. They will also order the materials necessary for completion of the scheduled work. As it stands now, the township will be able to do a complete upgrade to State Street and will try to finish upgrades to the remaining section of East Street. Repairs also will be made to Woodland Drive and several roads will receive oiling and chipping. Supervisors Morrison and Smith, along with road foreman Ken Porter, recently attended training on road maintenance. They learned of an improved method for preparing roads for oiling, which will be used this summer and evaluated for effectiveness.
Spring Clean-Up Day for the township will be Saturday, May 19. Refuse will be accepted at the township maintenance building from 8 a.m. to noon. Cost will be $10 for cars and $20 for pickups and trailers. Tires, hazardous materials or liquids and electronics can not be accepted. If individuals bringing refuse are unknown to officials overseeing the dumping of material, proof of township residency will be required.
The capital equipment expenditure for this fiscal year will be for replacement of the township’s smaller plow/dump truck. The current one is over 20 years old and has reached the end of its useful life as a plow truck. However, it will be retired to back-up plow service and use as a utility truck.
The supervisors are concerned about a few properties in the township that meet or nearly meet the criteria for blighted property. They are beginning to take action against some of these properties for which the first step is asking the owner to begin cleaning up the property and bringing it into a reasonable state of repair. The supervisors also are reviewing and revising the township’s nuisance ordinance, since it has not been updated for many years.
The township is actively supporting the Revitalization of Akeley – Russell’s (ROAR) efforts to hold Pine Grove Days during the Memorial Day weekend. It is assisting with getting the necessary permits to close the roads during the parade, 5K run and street dance. It is also working with the Russell United Methodist Church and a nearby property owner to develop a parking lot for public use.
Township residents are reminded that minutes from all supervisor’s meetings are posted on the township’s website after the minutes are officially accepted. Also, the website contains other useful information for residents. The website is pinegrovetownship.org and the e-mail address is email@example.com.
Pine Grove Lions Club
The Pine Grove Lions Club will begin its annual spring sale of brooms, garbage bags, batteries and Dan Smith candies on Monday, April 23. Members of the club will be selling door to door throughout the township. Money generated from these sales is used for community vision needs, holiday dinners for families in need and for individuals or families experiencing extreme hardships.
Larimer Park soon will be open for the season. The Lions’ Club will be cleaning up the pavilions, ball fields and playground. Also, a portable toilet will be installed. For rental information on the two pavilions, please contact Fred or Gloria Stanton at 757-4525.
The next club meeting will be at 8 a.m. Sunday, April 22 at New Beginnings Restaurant in Sugar Grove. Anyone interested in joining the club is welcome to attend.
As the 1st annual Pine Grove Days becomes a reality for ROAR, we are continuing to focus on our main objective, Revitalization of Akeley/Russell. Current projects on the agenda include, helping with paint for the Trading Post Antiques in downtown Russell, providing help with paint for an old barn belonging to the Russell United Methodist Church, refurbishing benches and adding refuse containers for downtown Russell. Also, it has been suggested that the walking path leading from downtown Russell along South Main St. be cleaned up and maintained. These are all viable projects.
ROAR has officers in place: Linda L. Farnsworth, President; Carmen Ferranto, Secretary; Linda Nelson, Treasurer; Mark and Faye Schwanke. Special events; Steve Horsley, Correspondent / Historian.
Our Mission Statement is: Work to make and keep Downtown Akeley/Russell a unique place through historic preservation, promotion, economic development and enhancement of the physical, natural and cultural heritage of the community.
Our strategic plan has included securing an Employee Identification Number, opening a bank account and Post Office box, so we can begin to receive donations and other sources of funding and correspondence. ROAR has an official letterhead and is in the process of working on by-laws to apply for 501c3 status. We have accomplished a few small projects; additional financial backing will help us to take on larger projects. Since our initial gathering in 2015, ROAR has made great strides, thanks in part to input from the community and those who offer unselfishly of their time and energy to make this vision a reality.
ROAR is bringing Memorial Day celebrations back to Pine Grove Township
The Revitalization Committee of Akeley and Russell (ROAR) is excited to announce their first annual “Pine Grove Days Event”. The event will be held on May 26 and 27 at various locations in downtown Russell. The two day event will be celebrating the community in which so many of us love to call home.
ROAR was founded in 2015 with the mission of revitalizing and bringing awareness to the areas of Akeley, Russell and Pine Grove Township as a whole. Over the last three years, ROAR has been able to begin the process of putting the Akeley and Russell communities back on the map.
With the hard work and dedication of volunteers, ROAR is now able to bring back a favorite celebration to the community. Now titled “Pine Grove Days” this celebration will be held the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
The festivities will kick off with a Run for ROAR 5K Run / Walk. The race registration will begin at 8 a.m. in the Russell United Methodist Church parking lot with the race stepping off at 9 a.m. The race will follow Main St. to Woodland Dr., turn left onto Williams St. then into Greenbriar Circle before turning around and heading back to the Church parking lot. The course is fast and flat making it good for runners of any age and ability. The top three overall finishers and the top three finishers in each age bracket will be awarded prizes. Anyone interested in running for ROAR can contact Antoinetta Lindell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also beginning at 9 a.m≥ Saturday morning will be a vendor fair located on Main St. Several craft vendors and merchants will be available for browsing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Food vendors also will be available throughout the day. The Russell Volunteer Fire Department will be providing a chicken barbeque and the Russell Antiques and Treasures Trading Post will be hosting a flea market, as well. Spaces still are available for the vendor fair! If you or your organization is interested in participating, please contact Mark Schwanke at 757-9469.
At 11 a.m., the ROAR committee will be hosting a dedication ceremony for the new Liberty St. Bridge, which replaced the old steel bridge that had been at that location since 1937. The new bridge plays a significant part in the history of Pine Grove Township. Since the township’s founding in 1795 there have been three different bridges that have spanned the Conewango Creek, connecting one side of the township with the other. This new state-of-the-art bridge has brought much excitement to the Township over the last year, and it is the pleasure of ROAR to dedicate a new piece of history to our community.
Following the bridge dedication ceremony a parade will be held beginning at 11:30 a.m. The parade will cross the Liberty St. Bridge and follow a route from there to Main and State Streets before ending on Perrigo Lane. Full of fire trucks, community organizations, businesses and school groups, it’s sure to bring a smile to the faces of those young and old. Any organization wishing to participate in the parade may contact Katie Walker at email@example.com.
Throughout the day, there will be a Kids Zone providing fun for the kids in the Russell United Methodist Church parking lot on Main St. Sponsored by the Eisenhower Elementary PTC and Girl Scout Troop 36655, there will be loads of activities for kids of all ages.
The afternoon also will bring a Corn Hole tournament to the Pine Grove Days celebration. Teams will be able to show off their Corn Hole skills all afternoon. Watch the ROAR Facebook page for further information on how to register your team.
Beginning at 7 p.m., the streets of downtown Russell will be filled with music, as a street dance takes place on Main St. We invite everyone to put on their dancing shoes and join in the fun.
To cap off Saturday’s celebration fireworks will return to Russell. Beginning at dusk the sky will be lit up by a fireworks display by Gibson Fireworks. The ROAR Committee would like to thank some very generous sponsors for their contributions that are making it possible to bring an amazing fireworks display back to our community.
On Sunday May 27, the churches of the Russell and Akeley area will sponsor a community worship service and tureen dinner. This will take place beginning at 5 p.m. at Larimer Park. Guests are asked to bring a dish to pass along with lawn chairs for the last event of what we hope will be a wonderful celebration!
Those interested in donating to the “Pine Grove Days Celebration” or to the revitalization efforts of Akeley and Russell can mail their donations to ROAR, P.O. Box 303, Russell, PA 16345.
Russell Fire Department Auxiliary Rummage Sale April 27-28
The Russell Fire Department Auxiliary will hold a Rummage Sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, April 27, and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 28, at the Russell Fire Hall. Donation of items will be accepted Thursday, April 26, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Proceeds of the sale support the Russell Fire Department and its activities in the Russell – Pine Grove Township Community. The Russell Fire Department Auxiliary holds rummage sales in April and September each year.
If you have questions, contact Marilyn English at (814) 757-8106.