It all started when Daniel Ogden and his son, Matthew, wandered up river in 1797 carrying a few sacks of seed potatoes. The pair built a gristmill along Moose Creek about a mile and half from their home and planted an orchard. Prior to their arrival Native Americans, who referred to the area as Chincleclamousche (known today as Chinklacamoose), visited the area.
Clearfield was a heavily wooded, mountainous area, which lead to a thriving lumbering industry through the 1890’s. By the 1880’s the discovery of a rich vein of coal drew more people to the area and continues to be an active industry in the area. Fine clay also found in the area supported the growth of the brick industry and eventually led to the production of firebricks used in blast furnaces in the Pittsburgh area steel industry.
The community was first built on land owned by Abraham Witmer from Lancaster County, who sold lots for between thirty and fifty dollars, but when the economic bottom fell out of this market, lots were sold for a dollar fifty to two dollars each. Mr. Witmer’s donation of two parks that follow the West Branch of the Susquehanna River as it passes through the Borough’s core continue to be maintained and used by area residents.
By 1840, when the town was incorporated, the community offered a brick courthouse, an academy, a flouring mill, six churches, and a lumber mill. With the construction of a bridge across the west Branch of the Susquehanna River, the town was connected to both Bellefonte and Erie. The roughly three thousand people living in Clearfield, the area found employment in the coal mines, lumber industry, and in farming.
As the community became more crowded and more commercial, large Victorian homes were built along Front Street. These homes belonged to Governor William Bigler, U.S. Senator William Wallace, Attorney Thomas Murray, and the Lee family, who had extensive coal and lumber interests. The majority of these homes were constructed during Clearfield’s economic height, while the community was a political powerhouse in state politics, between 1860 and 1890.
Throughout the next hundred years, the coal industry flourished and downtown Clearfield bustled. In 1966, the National Civic League recognized Clearfield as an All-America City. The National Civic League recognizes ten communities each year for outstanding civic accomplishments. An All-America City must demonstrate innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement, and cross sector collaboration by describing successful efforts to address pressing local challenges. Clearfield was the smallest Pennsylvania Municipality to receive the All-America City award with a population of 9,550. Above is a Photo taken of the All-America City parade through downtown’s Market Street. Notice the All-America City sign on the post. Today, you can find one of the original signs on display at the Main Street Manager’s office.