The Borough of Stoneboro, named after Amasa Stone, was incorporated on August 25, 1866. This was in response to a petition filed by the major landowner, the Mercer Iron & Coal Company, along with the signatures of 103 local residents.
Prior to incorporation, this area had a very diverse and magnificent history. We proudly have within our borders Sandy Lake, a landmark formed by the last Ice Age. Sandy Lake has provided a wealth of resources to our area throughout the years and is still enjoyed by our residents and visitors alike. This area was also used as a passage in the “Underground Railroad” during the very early 1800’s. Ultimately, it was the creation of coal burning locomotives and our coal seams that put us on the map.
Going back a few years, records on file at the Mercer County Courthouse show that 1200 acres of this immediate area including Sandy Lake and the land under the lake was originally granted to three veterans of the Revolutionary War as a reward for faithful service in the Continental Army: William Ewing and Joseph Greenleaf were each granted 400 acres by deed dated 1794. H. Baldwin was granted 400 acres by deed dated 1797.
Richard Travis, a black “free-man”, paid two dollars to Baldwin for 150 acres along the shores of Sandy Lake in 1818. Over the next several years, escaped slaves and Native American families migrated to the forest along the lake shore. According to the 1840 Census there were over two dozen non-whites as residents in the area. It is reported that this location became known as “Liberia” and continued to exist until the enactment of the revised Fugitive Slave Law in 1850. At that time, virtually all of the residents of Liberia fled north to Canada to assure their continued freedom. An official Commonwealth historic marker is located along SR62 identifying the cemetery that contains the grave sites of both the slaves who had died while fleeing the South and the ones who had established residence here. There are still a few grave sites that remain identified.
Coal and Railroads
Ownership of this area changed a few times over the next several years and during that process geological surveys of the higher elevations were completed and revealed the presence of three coal seams. In 1859 Amasa Stone, who served as an advisor on railroads to President Lincoln and also as president of the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad, authorized the conversion of one steam locomotive to burn coal. It was reported that a cost savings of at least 20% was achieved by burning coal in place of wood.
On August 1, 1863 the Mercer Iron & Coal Company, headed by Amasa Stone, had been incorporated and authorized to hold 5,000 acres of mineral lands in Mercer and Venango Counties, and were to establish rail connections with Jamestown and Franklin. The Mercer Iron & Coal Company along with Jeremiah Bonner took possession of this area. This tract consisted of 2,183 acres of land in Lake Township and Sandy Lake Township along with the underlying mineral rights. An adjacent 1,364 acres of subsurface rights only was also included in this tract. The present day Stoneboro encompasses the surface tract of the Mercer Iron & Coal Company property along with the original property along the shores of Sandy Lake owned by Bonner.
The Mercer Iron & Coal Company opened the first coal mine (Mine No. 1) near the top of what is presently known as Franklin Street. Mine No. 1 was opened under the supervision of P. H. Watson. Watson had served as the assistant secretary of the war until July 1864 when ill health forced him to seek an outdoor occupation away from the turmoil of wartime Washington. He was named General Manager of the Mercer Iron & Coal Company and moved to the new town site, remaining for over a year until Mine No. 1 was approaching full production. Watson left his post to carry out other assignments for Amasa Stone and had been replaced by Colonel Henry Blood, Amasa Stone’s nephew and recently demobilized veteran. Col. Blood was but one of many Civil War veterans who came to reside in Stoneboro as a merchant, manager or miner.
Due to wartime shortages of manpower and materials along with the severe winter of 1864/1865 the railroad that was to connect with Jamestown and Franklin was only being built from Jamestown to the Mercer Iron & Coal Company mine. The coal that was removed in the early stages had been hauled by teamsters to Oil City and beyond where it could be sold for up to $15 per ton during the winter of 1864/1865. The Civil War had come to an end by the time the new track reached the new mine on May 17, 1865. Five days later the first five carloads of coal moved out by rail, destined to Cleveland. The Mercer Iron & Coal Company shipped 15,000 tons of coal during the next year and had produced 650,000 tons over the next ten years. Since the mining operation had produced favorable results, the Mercer Iron & Coal Company began to explore the other two thousand acres of land in its possession.
In 1865 the surveyor, J. M. Goodman, had laid out the site for a new community. Because Amasa Stone was president of both the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula railroad and the Mercer Iron & Coal Company, the new community would be named for him. At this time, the Mercer County Court ordered that the Borough of Stoneboro be incorporated “in accordance with the prayer of the petitioners” on August 25, 1866.
The first election was held on the third Friday of March 1867. The election resulted with Col. Blood named the first Burgess (Mayor). The Council members were: Seth Kennedy, J. C. Cornwall, Samuel Hines, Samuel Custer, A. S. Throop, and F. N. Finney. Justice of the peace: A. S. Throop. Constable: John F. Butler. Judge of Elections: A. S. Throop. Inspectors of Elections: H. B. Blood and Samuel Custer.
Jeremiah Bonner built the first house in 1866 and another was soon after completed. The Mercer Iron & Coal Company built the “Lake House”, a fine hotel. The first store was kept by William S. Bonner and remained the only store for a long time. J. M. Goodwin prepared the initial street plan after surveying all the properties of Mercer Iron & Coal Company. The first post office opened April 4, 1868 with Robert P. Cann serving as Postmaster, and the first municipal project was a two-room school house that was also built that year.
During the 1870’s Mercer Iron & Coal Company opened its No. 2 Mine along Fredonia Road. The original No. 1 Mine was soon phased out, but by the 1880’s Mine No. 3 was operating in the southeastern corner of the Borough. The 1887 report of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Internal Affairs shows that Stoneboro No. 2 Mine produced 66,536 tons of coal with 125 miners and the No. 3 Mine’s output was 20,402 tons with 48 miners. By 1906 the No. 2 Mine had been closed and the No. 3 Mine that year produced 88, 011 tons with 130 miners.
In 1924, because of labor and financial problems, the operation of the large Mercer Iron & Coal Company mines were abruptly terminated. Within a few years Mercer Iron & Coal Company liquidated. The stripping operations over much of the area where Mercer Iron & Coal Company had held the mineral rights concluded by the 1970’s. The coal era had ended for Stoneboro.
From its earliest years Stoneboro was a popular stop for tourists and visitors. The Stoneboro Fair, organized in 1868 by the Mercer County Agricultural and Manufacturing Society of Stoneboro then reorganizing in 1876 changing the corporation to the Mercer County Agricultural Society, had brought and continues to bring people from near and far to enjoy the variety of displays and activities. Another major attraction was the Lake Side Park which opened on June 2, 1890 by George P. Griffith. The Park was located on the northwest corner of Sandy Lake with prominent entertainers at the pavilion and boat races on the lake. Griffith purchased a steam launch to bring patrons from the south shore near the railroad station to the new amusement park. Soon the Jamestown & Franklin track was extended around the head of the lake so excursion trains could deliver their passengers directly to the Park. Amazingly, it is remembered that one Tuesday evening in July that year, with the Park only being a month old, a “Moonlight Party” attracted 800 people. Most of the patrons visiting in Stoneboro arrived on special trains. Unfortunately, Griffith and the Lake Side Park fell on hard times and disappeared by the turn of the century. The second Lakeside Park Company was organized in 1906 and includes both sides of the Lake. This Company still remains in operation.
The clear waters of Sandy Lake created the industry of ice harvesting that flourished from the 1880’s into the 1920’s. Two companies shared the business, and, at the peak of the season there were more than 500 people employed. The companies were Stoneboro-Chautauqua Lake Ice Co. based in Venango County, and the Consolidated Ice Co. based in Pittsburgh. The work was done by hand for many years, with horses being used to haul the ice to the ice-houses located along the lake shores. One of the large ice-houses was destroyed by fire and the other was eventually torn down.
Religious Institutions & Businesses
Through the years Stoneboro has hosted a large variety stores and shops. There have also been several religious organizations located within the limits. The first was the Catholic Church which became active before incorporation. Services were held in private homes until a barn had been remodeled in 1868 serving as Stoneboro’s first church building. In 1874 a new frame church was constructed on Franklin Street. St. Columbkille congregation ceased to be a mission and was established as a parish in 1887. The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1869. The land for the church site, the corner of Chestnut Street and Lake Street, was purchased from the Mercer Iron and Coal Company on September 20, 1873 for one dollar and the building was constructed in 1875. The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1878 in the Methodist Church. The present day location, the corner of Linden and Franklin streets, had been given by Jeremiah Bonner to construct a church building. The dedication of that building took place in 1883. Sadly that structure burned to the ground on November 29, 1923. The new church was rebuilt on that site and dedicated on October 31, 1926. In 1901 the Allegheny Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church purchased land on Fredonia Road to be used for a camp meeting ground. Attendants continue to come from a multi-state area each summer to join the session and conferences. Also located on the grounds is the Stoneboro Wesleyan Methodist School which was built in 1965.
The longest standing business in the Borough has been the local bank, opening on February 9, 1904 as the First National Bank of Stoneboro. This business has never moved from its original location, the corner of Lake and Walnut Streets, although the building has undergone extensive alterations more than once. In 1990 the First National became the Stoneboro Bank division of the Mercer County State Bank. Located across Lake Street is the Municipal Building, built in 1939. This structure was constructed of brick and concrete, modern fireproof materials, and cost approximately $50,000 to erect. The top floor was used for the Municipal offices and the ground floor housed the Stone Theater. The theater had 400+ seats and was open from 1939 until 1977. After the theater closed, the Municipal offices moved to the ground level where they remain.