Aldrich History Project

Chapter I

General Geographical View

The Subject--Formation--Geographical and Topographical--Mountains--Rivers--Natural Characteristics.

The history of Clearfield county properly begins at the time of its organization, and a narrative of the events of the territory within its boundaries, prior to such organization, must be associated with the events of the older counties from which it was erected.

Previous to the early part of the present century, Clearfield, as a county, was unknown—not even contemplated. In the year 1804, by the act of the State Legislature creating this county, the older counties of Lycoming and Huntingdon surrendered portions of their territory to the formation of the new. The county of Lycoming was formed from a part of the still older county of Northumberland, in the year 1795, while Huntingdon county was taken from Bedford in 1787, so that, in order to narrate the events of Clearfield county, or the territory embraced by it, prior to its civil organization, a much larger area must be included within the scope of its Indian and early occupation, that the connection of events may be kept perfect; in fact the aboriginal occupation of this region is inseparably connected with the whole West Branch valley of the Susquehanna river—it is auxiliary to, though not co-extensive with it.

But, before going thoroughly into the subject of the Indian occupation, a geographical and topographical description of the county in general will serve to prepare the mind of the reader for such events as shall follow thereafter; and, as the configuration of the surface has not materially changed since its earliest occupancy, hundreds of years ago, this description may be given in the present tense.

Geographically, Clearfield county lies on parallel 41º 4’ north latitude, and longitude 1º 30’ west from Washington, D. C., according to the reckoning of Darby. The point of intersection of these imaginary lines is near Clearfield borough, as now located.

The county is bounded north by Elk and Cameron counties; east by Centre and Clinton counties; south by Cambria county, and west by Jefferson and Indiana counties. The average length from north to south is about thirty-six and eighty-five hundredths miles, with an average breadth of about forty and five-tenths miles, containing an area of about fourteen hundred eighty-two and forty-two hundredths square miles, or its equivalent in acres of nearly nine hundred and fifty thousand. It lies rather to the west of the main ridge of the Allegheny mountains, which enter the State from Allegheny county, Maryland, separate Bedford and Somerset counties, and extending in a northerly direction also separate the northwest part of Bedford from the southeast part of Cambria county. At the extreme northern angle of Bedford, the mountains turn to the northeast, and are thence drained on either side by the tributaries of the Susquehanna, discharging the waters of the West Branch to the north-west and those of the Juniata and Bald Eagle Rivers to the southeast. The Alleghenies reach the West Branch of the Susquehanna River near the mouth of the river Bald Eagle.

The surface in the western part of the county is considerably broken by the great secondary formation of the main chain—by some writers of note called the Stony Mountains. It is between these mountain formations that the greater portion of the county is situated. The surface is irregular, hilly, and in some localities quite mountainous; but the mountains, with a general inclination northeast and southwest, form no distinct chains, but are entirely broken.

The height of the summit lands bordering on the Susquehanna River and Moshannon Creek, average from sixteen hundred to eighteen hundred feet above tide-water. The ridges in various localities often reach nineteen hundred, and in a few instances exceeding twenty-two hundred feet in height. As instance, in Girard township the elevation known as Big Knob is in the highest point twenty-two hundred and thirty feet.

In the northern and northwestern portions of the county, in the localities generally included by the townships of Sandy, Houston, Union, Pine, the extreme northerly part of Lawrence, and some portions of Goshen, Girard, and Karthaus, a large area is found averaging in many places in excess of two thousand feet, and in general ranging from seventeen to nineteen hundred feet altitude.

At the extreme southwest corner of the county, in the township of Burnside, the West Branch of the Susquehanna River enters and flows in a generally northeast direction, maintaining through Burnside and into Bell township a course nearly direct north. At Chest post-office it bears to the east, with an inclination to the north, and holds this direction generally, but excessively devious and irregular, until it leaves the county, forming the southerly boundary of Karthaus township. Here it enters the counties on the east, and gradually finds its way to the confluence with the North Branch of Sunbury. On its general course through the county, the chief tributaries of the West Branch are Chest Creek, Clearfield Creek, and Moshannon Creek.

Chest Creek rises near Ebensburg, Cambria county, and flows in a northerly course through Chest township, and discharges its waters into the West Branch in Bell township, just north of Ostend.

Clearfield Creek has its source mainly in Beccaria township, and flows northeasterly into Bigler township to Madera; thence on through Bigler, north forming the boundary between Knox and Woodward townships, penetrates Boggs, and empties into the West Branch in Lawrence township, east of Clearfield borough. Clearfield Creek has two small tributaries, called Muddy Run and Little Clearfield Creek respectively. Muddy Run divides the townships of Beccaria from Gulich, and Knox from Woodward. Little Clearfield Creek rises in Ferguson and Jordan townships and flows northeasterly, dividing Pike from Knox, and Lawrence from Boggs townships, and discharges into Clearfield Creek, near Stoneville.

The Moshannon forms the eastern boundary of Clearfield county, and separates it from Centre county. Its head waters are near the Cambria county line, and from thence it flows in a northeasterly direction to a point east of Morrisdale, where it turns and runs in an easterly, though very tortuous, course for several miles; thence in a generally north direction to its mouth at a very sharp bend in the West Branch. The Moshannon receives the drainage or surface waters from the west slope of the Alleghenies in Centre county, and of the eastern slope of the irregular and broken hilly districts of the townships on the east boundary of Clearfield county. The tributaries of the West Branch thus described, all discharge their waters into the main stream from the south.

The streams auxiliary to the West Branch, which flow from the north or the northwest portion of the county, are Anderson Creek, Moose Creek, Lick Run, Trout Run, Deer Creek, Sandy Creek, Musquito Creek, and Upper Three Run.

Anderson Creek rises in Huston and Union townships, thence runs south through Union and southeasterly through Bloom and Pike townships, and empties into the Susquehanna near and south of Curwensville.

Moose, or more properly named "Chincleclamousche" Creek, has its source in Pine township; from thence it flows through Lawrence township and into the river a short distance north from Clearfield. The name originally given this stream is not its only prominent feature. It has, within the past few years, been utilized as the water supply for Clearfield borough, concerning which further mention will be found in another chapter.

The headwaters of Lick Run are found in Pine and Lawrence townships. The stream crosses Lawrence entire, and enters Goshen in the extreme south part, where it reaches the river.

Trout Run rises in the extreme north part of Lawrence and Goshen townships, and is formed from several small mountain streams. Its main course lies in Goshen, and its waters discharge into the West Branch at Shawsville.

Deer Creek lies almost wholly within the township of Girard, and flows into the river in the Southeast corner of the township.

Sandy Creek rises in the north part of Girard, and flows southeasterly into Covington township, and enters the river there.

Musquito Creek has its source in Girard and Covington townships, from whence it crosses into Karthaus, where it empties at a sharp bend of the river.

Upper Three Run rises and runs through Karthaus township only, and discharges into the West Branch near the Clinton county line.

Bennet’s Branch of the Sinnemahoning has its source in the south part of Huston township, whence it takes a northeasterly course into Elk and Cameron counties, and gradually finds an outlet into the main stream which empties into the West Branch near Keating, Clinton county.

Laurel Run, a small tributary of Bennet’s Branch, rises in the eastern part of Huston township, and flows thence north into the Branch in Elk county.

Sandy Lick Creek has its source in Huston and Sandy townships, and takes a westerly course into Jefferson county, which it crosses, and mingles its waters with those of the Allegheny River at Redbank.

As an evidence of the excessively tortuous course of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, as it traverses the county, its waters flowing from southwest to northeast, the fact appears that a direct line from the point of entrance to the county, to a point where the stream enters the counties bordering on the east, is fifty miles in length, while by the course of the stream, as a log would float, the distance is nearly one hundred miles.


Source: Pages 13-16, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.

Transcribed April, 1999 by Connie L. Robinson for the Clearfield County Aldrich Project
Contributed for use by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project (

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