During the early years of what would become Pine Grove Township, the land was covered with White Pine forest. Much of this area was cut over by Central Pennsylvania Lumber Co. in the early years of the Twentieth Century. Bill Hale is said to have remarked that, as a child, he remembered looking out over the land and seeing only tree stumps on all of the hills. Much of the land in the bottoms was cultivated for crops.
The town of “Akeley” didn’t receive its name until 1871, when the Dunkirk Allegheny Valley and Pittsburgh Railroad (DAV&P) came to town on its way to Warren and Titusville. Even then, official documents of the DAV&P referred to the station stop as “Ackleys” as late as May 1901. Later that year the official town name became “Akeley”. Akeley is located along the Conewango Creek, several miles north of Russell on old US Route 62. Older residents remember that the Conewango Creek often flooded just north of the Akeley Rd. bridge and during winter often froze, providing skating opportunities south to Warren and north into New York.
Until construction of new US Route 62 in the 1960s, the road went through the center of Akeley, turning north at the center of town, and proceeding to Falconer and Frewsburg NY along the east side of the railroad. The center of Akeley was at the junction of Akeley Rd., Cable Hollow Rd. and Cider Mill Hill Rd. Over time, businesses developed at this junction point.
From 1905 until 1929, the Warren and Jamestown Street Railway crossed the Conewango Creek on the Akeley Rd. bridge, then curved to the north behind the downtown Akeley buildings, and passing the Akeley school house and the Hale cemetery, on its way north to Falconer, Frewsburg and Jamestown NY. As the Warren and Jamestown trolley approached Martin Road, it traveled up an earthwork of increasing height to gain altitude. Just before Martin Road, the trolley crossed over the DAV&P on a bridge, then descended to ground level, crossed Martin Rd. and ran north on what is now Pennsylvania State Game lands. A sharp-eyed visitor still can find the earthwork and the roadbed today.
Back in town, Grange Hall #180 was located at the road junction at the bottom of Cable Hollow Rd. The Grange was an important organization in the life of farm families in Pennsylvania. During the late 1800s and 1900s the Grange Hall provided social activities for local residents, as well as loans and insurance.
About 1886, the Hale family built a store in the center of town at the road junction. The store provided many household needs. It was the “super market” of the day and sold all sorts of vegetables and meats and there was always a large wheel of cheese and a coffee grinder. Over the decades of Hale family management, the store became an institution in Akeley. On Friday evenings, local farmers gathered to talk and tell stories. Besides food, the Hale store carried hardware and farm supplies, as well as hunting and fishing supplies and licenses. The store had a Post Office on the back corner from 1878 – 1963, when the Post Office moved to the nearby Post Master’s home. In 1966, with the opening of the new Post Office in Russell, the Akeley Post Office closed.
Steve and Nancy Arnold purchased the Hale store in 1993 and operated it as “The Akeley Mall” until it was purchased by Steve and Lori Fox. At that time, the name of the store changed to the “Fox Mart”. The store closed several years ago. I still remember the hand-dipped ice cream, subs, home-made soups, sandwiches and pizza at the Fox Mart.
The Ackley Creamery, later Lakeshore Ice Cream Co. occupied a wood structure on the east side of the railroad. Local farmers delivered milk cans to the creamery at least through 1950. The creamery building expanded several times during its existence.
At the foot of Cider Mill Hill Rd. where it joined Cable Hollow Rd. There was a ball field. About 1963, Eisenhower High School teacher, Lucille Leathers suggested creation of a local girl’s softball league. Clarence Brewster and Herb Putnam coached the home town team, which was known as the “Akeley Angels”. The field is still there today, but it is overgrown with weeds.
In 1900, there were two liveries in town; one was between the creamery and the corner of Cider Mill Hill Rd. on the east side of the tracks. The other was located on the north side of Akeley Rd., where the garage now stands.
The garage on the northwest side of Akeley Rd. belonged to Algot Lundgren who operated one of the earliest Chevrolet dealerships in the area. When Algot retired, it became an automobile garage operated by Dick Gage. The building later was purchased by Rick and Lynn Caufman, who made injection-molded electronic parts. The building is used for storage now.
It probably was Irv Norton and Dan Larimer who put Akeley on the map! Irv Norton worked for bat maker, Adirondack, in the 1940s. During the war years, Irv Norton made small bats in his basement on Cider Mill Hill Rd. In 1946, he and Dan Larimer, who at the time was a country store owner, decided to make regulation size bats to take advantage of increasing interest in baseball at the time. By 1950, they had outgrown the physical plant for their business, so they built a new mill at the present location on Cable Hollow Rd. By this time, the Larimer and Norton mill had become the chief supplier of white ash bat blanks for Hillerick and Bradsby in Louisville Kentucky, maker of Louisville slugger bats. The mill is still turning out bats today.
Marilla Norton, Linda Farnsworth, and Art Sager contributed to this column.
May 18, 2020
ROAR — Revitalization of Akeley & Russell… remember us? We are alive and well In Pine Grove Township. Unfortunately, the alien visitor from “out there” caused havoc with our Pine Grove Days Celebration for 2020, forcing a reluctant cancellation. Fortunately, the alien visitor did not dampen our spirits.
While practicing social distancing and adorned with face masks and a smile you could not see, ROAR met at Larimer Park to conduct a business meeting.
Fourteen members were present to discuss business at hand.
On Saturday, September 5, 2020, those noisy, smokey, colorful bombardments in the sky, better known as fireworks, enjoyed by young and old alike, will light up the night sky at Larimer Park. The display will be contingent upon the state of the State, due to our sneaky, alien visitor, the Corona virus, and weather permitting. No other plans are in place at this time for a fireworks rain date. If we are unable to move forward, we will postpone the event until the Pine Grove Days Celebration in 2021. Watch for updates.
ROAR members approved another year of a Small Games of Chance license. This allows us to conduct ticket sales, raffles, 50-50s, etc.
A reminder, ROAR is a 501c3 organization. Donations are our main source of funding. The cancellation of two of our biggest fund raisers, Breakfast with the Easter Bunny and Pine Grove Days earlier this year has made a huge dent in our operating budget. We are always accepting donations by mail at, ROAR, Revitalization of Akeley & Russell, P O Box 303 Russell, PA 16345. If your gift is for fireworks only, please designate it on your check.
Discussion of a proposed boat launch at Larimer Park was held. A grant that would fund this project is available and is being considered. A community garden is in the works. The garden will be constructed near the Russell United Methodist Church, using a grant from Penn State. Freda Pyles, from Master Gardeners’, is in charge of this project.
ROAR has taken over maintenance of the “Welcome to Pine Grove Township” area south of Russell at the junction of US Route 62 and South Main St. Planting of perennials and mulching will be done, weather permitting. Pat Black has volunteered to keep the grass mowed, since he lives nearby.
May 13, 2020
The annual Pine Grove Township spring clean-up day for township residents will be held Saturday, June 6, from 8 a.m. to noon at the township garage. No oil, paint, or liquid hazardous waste, propane tanks, yard waste, household garbage, tires, batteries, or recyclable items will be accepted.
Driver’s licenses may be checked to verify township residency.
The cost will be $10 for cars and vans and $20 for pick-up trucks and trailers.
The township office remains closed to public access, but township staff can be reached by phone Monday through Friday during normal business hours. The office number is 757-8112 and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Township residents also are encouraged to check the website (www.pinegrovetownship.org) for relevant announcements and information. Larimer Park remains open and pavilions are available for rental during the summer season. However, park users are asked to adhere to the accepted protocols for Covid-19 prevention. Reservations for pavilion rentals can be made by calling 757-4525.
Seasonal road work is well underway. The road crew has completed sweeping of streets and intersections and has been patching potholes, as well as spot grading some roads that had severe winter damage. Much overdue work also is being done to the Reynolds Run Road. This includes ditching, replacement of damaged drainage pipes, and graveling of severely damaged spots. Work on this road should be completed this week, weather permitting. We anticipate applying for a grant to do more extensive reconstruction of the Reynolds Run Road next year. The road crew likely will move to the Egypt Hollow Road after completing work on Reynolds Run. Plans for the remainder of the summer include oiling and sealing of selected trouble spots, the sealing of Cider Mill Hill Road and State Street. Additional ditching work and grading will be done throughout the township. Work also will be completed on the reconstruction of the Hultberg Road. In addition, the township has approved paving contracts for Woodland Drive, North and South Terrace, Pine Street and lower East Street. The contractor for the water improvement project in the village of Russell is completing restoration of streets, driveways and lawns that were disturbed during the waterline replacement. The work should be completed this week, weather permitting.
The Russell Volunteer Fire Department provided the supervisors with a quarterly report which included their EMS and general alarm responses. For the first quarter of 2020, the department responded to 28 general alarms and 63 EMS calls. Their average EMS response rate for the quarter was 93% with 100% achieved in April. Only four EMS calls were dropped, meaning these were handled by another EMS provider. The Department also responded to three suspected Covid-19 cases. All three individuals tested negative. After each call, all EMS equipment used and the ambulances are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. At this point, the Department has an adequate supply of all PPE needed for responder safety. Also, the Department’s EMS personnel are well-trained in Covid-19 protocols. It is noteworthy that the addition to the Fire Department building has been completed. This provides much-needed space for equipment, as well as providing for a “crew room” for the volunteers.
The supervisors are concerned about the possible loss of revenue during the 2021 budget year; therefore, some of the projects and initiatives the supervisors were planning are being shelved until a clearer picture emerges on funding the township receives from taxes and the state. At this point, the sentiment is that these losses may be quite significant. Because of budgetary issues, the City of Warren gave the township notice that it will no longer be able to provide building code enforcement. As a result, the supervisors are contracting with a private company to provide code enforcement for the township.