Deerfield, Limestone & Triumph Townships

               Deerfield Township was organized in 1821, Limestone Township was organized in 1829, and Triumph Township was organized in 1878. These three townships border the Allegheny River and are situated in the southwestern part of the county, above Forest County. The borough of Tidioute, which lies at the juncture of these three townships and to the west of the Allegheny River, is the largest community in the area.

               This area of the county was heavily forested when European-Americans first arrived. For settlers, the Allegheny River was the most important means of transportation into and out of the area. The first settlers were involved in both lumbering and tanning. They harvested the forests, and in the spring, rafted the lumber downriver in order to sell it in places like Pittsburgh. Some men became expert river pilots from their many trips down the Allegheny River. Settlers built mills along rivers and streams to cut the wood into boards and shingles.

               The first settlement in the area, now known as Tidioute, came in 1806. At first, the town was called Deerfield, a name which was later changed to Tidioute in 1862. The word Tidioute appears to be a Seneca word meaning “the burial place." The Seneca who hunted and lived in the area believed that a great Seneca man was buried in the area, but the man's name and deeds have been lost.

               Tidioute was transformed from a quiet farming and lumbering community into a lively oil boom town in 1860. Both the Indians who lived in the area and the early settlers had noticed the crude oil which bubbled up from some area springs. Before 1860, it was gathered and used for medicine and lubricants by people in the area. However, when people realized it could be used as a lighting fuel, it became more valuable than anyone had suspected.

               In 1859, “Colonel” Drake successfully drilled for oil in nearby Titusville. Soon people began hunting for oil throughout the area. Just like the California Gold Rush ten years before, people came from all parts of the country. In 1860, oil was struck near Tidioute on the mouth of Gordon Run, and Tidioute had its own oil boom. At first, the oil was saved in barrels and shipped down the river on boats or overland to Garland by teamsters. In 1867, the Oil Creek and Allegheny River Railroad was completed, allowing oil to be taken out on the rails.

               As people came to join the oil excitement, the population of Tidioute grew swiftly, and it became a borough in 1862. “All classes of men, from the speculator and honest workman, to the blackleg and knave, came with this great rush,” stated the History of Warren County Pennsylvania. Towns like Babylon, Bucktown, New London, Triumph, and Fagundus grew up seemingly overnight to accommodate the new populations. Communities quickly faded, however, when the oil excitement moved elsewhere.

               In the 1860s and 1870s, gas works, water works, and a suspension bridge gave Tidioute the conveniences its population demanded. Refineries, sawmills, planing mills, shingle mills, grist mills, oil well tool manufacturers, and machine shops were the main employers within the community. Other businesses, including dairies, a wagon-works, a brick works, furniture factories, and a cutlery company at times employed many citizens.

               Today, Tidioute appears as a largely residential community. Oil and lumber are no longer at the center of its economy. Some residents work in the community, but many travel to work in nearby cities and towns. The river remains important to the economy of Tidioute, no longer as transportation, but as recreation. Hunters, campers, and fishermen now take advantage of the scenic beauty and recreational opportunities in the area.


Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society