DISCOVER THE STORY OF IMMIGRANTS ACROSS PA ROUTE 6
At the tip of Cape Cod on US Route 6 stands a monument for the first landing spot of the Pilgrims as they came to America, indicating that the story of US Route 6 is the story of people coming to this country to escape persecution, exercise their freedoms and explore their opportunities.
Throughout the PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor, there are stories of how immigrants, whether as individuals or groups, made their mark in their new home country. Here are six examples:
1. Meadville (Crawford County): Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-American electrical engineer commonly credited with the development of the zipper, worked for companies that evolved into Talon, Inc. located in Meadville PA. The high demand for “hookless fasteners” created favorable conditions for the Talon Company, and so became Meadville’s most crucial industry. At the height of the zipper’s popularity, the Meadville zipper factories employed 5,000 workers—out of a town with fewer than 19,000 people. The Company suffered financial difficulties after it was sold in 1978, and eventually ended up bankrupt. Gideon Sundback is buried in Meadville at Greendale Cemetery and was honored in 2006 by inclusion in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
2. Mount Jewett (McKean County): This small village in the Pennsylvania Wilds has a distinct Swedish heritage: even their park bench says “Välkommen”. First settled by Swedish immigrants, today’s residents celebrate their Swedish heritage with a town-wide event featuring authentic Swedish food, dance and music every August. The historic Nebo Chapel built in 1887 is an octagonal shaped church, patterned after Ersta Kyrka at Danviken near Stockholm Sweden. www.mtjewettpa.com
3. Oleona (Potter County): Named for Ole Bornemann Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist who toured the United States in the 1850s, Oleona is part of the large tract of land purchased by Ole Bull in an attempt to develop a series of Norwegian settlements. He began construction of a “home” at what now is called Ole Bull Vista in Ole Bull State Park. He never finished this large, wooden cabin. After a year of severe hardships, the majority of the colony disbanded and moved west into Michigan and Wisconsin. More history and interpretation is available at the Ole Bull State Park website: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/olebull/index.htm?tab=Maps
4. French Azilum (Bradford County): Located on a bend in the Susquehanna River near Towanda, Pennsylvania, Azilum provided refuge for a group of French exiles in the autumn of 1793. Some of the refugees, loyal to the King, left France to escape the horrors of the Revolution; others fled the colony of Santo Domingo (Haiti) to escape the carnage wrought by the mulatto and slave uprisings inspired by the radical French Assembly. The French refugees even believed that it was possible that the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette and her two children may also use the Azilum as their new home. In the plans of the old town there was even a house built for the queen. Today, the site provides interpretation of its history and the farming life. http://www.frenchazilum.com/history.php
5. Olyphant (Lackawanna County): Originally established by Welsh, Irish and English immigrants who came to work in industries supporting the production or transportation of coal; this town became the destination for Eastern Europeans hoping to earn an American wage. Today, a walking tour of the town’s nine places of worship reflect the ideals and traditions of those workers.
6. White Mills (Wayne County): Christian Dorflinger, a French immigrant, moved his glass making factory to the town of White Mills including the plant and homes for the workers. Dorflinger’s cut glass is known worldwide. Today, tours of the Dorflinger Glass Museum and the worker’s cabins are available and work continues on interpreting the rich history and heritage of the glassmaking industry. www.dorflinger.org
The PA Route 6 Alliance encourages travelers to explore the rich history of the Route 6 Heritage Corridor, one of Pennsylvania’s twelve designated Heritage Areas. For more information, visit their website at www.paroute6.com.