There’s something mysterious about ghost towns. They are a fascinating part of history. In essence they are a chronicle of what was in the past and what remains now. This story is common with many ghost towns. It starts with a discovery that triggers a get rich quick dream which creates a boom.
This story begins at the site of the first commercial oil well in the U.S. along banks of the Oil Creek outside Titusville, PA. Prior to this time the land was ceded from the Iroquois Indians to Pennsylvania in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in October 1784.
Five hundred oil wells sprung up on Oil Creek within six months, along a16-mile distance from Titusville down to the Allegheny River. After a sudden influx of people drawn by the oil strikes the town of Pithole was incorporated as a borough in 1865. The population increased at an amazing rate. The town was divided into 500 lots on May 1865, in July population was over 2,000, 15,000 in September with a peak population of 20,000 in December.
Yet Pithole’s downfall was equally rapid. With oil strikes occurring throughout the county people left Pithole in 1867. They took along their business, homes or abandoned their property. The Catholic Church was dismantled and moved to the nearby town of Tionesta in 1886. The population dropped to 2,000 by December 1866.
Pithole received its name from nearby Pithole Creek flowing north/south into the Allegheny River at its south. The origin of the name Pithole is unknown. One possibility is the presence of “pit-holes’ in the area of Pithole Creek emitting sulfurous fumes.
At its peak Pithole had 54 hotels for the large number of temporary residents. Pithole had the Pithole Daily Record newspaper, the states 3rd largest post office, and a railroad. The three churches were Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian. The 1,100 seat Murphy’s Theater was Pithole’s largest building, and a red light district.
Today all that remains are a few foundations with mowed paths indicating the early streets of Pithole and its buildings. In 1961 the site was donated to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. A visitor’s center was built in 1970 with exhibits documenting Pithole’s history. It contains a scale model of the city, an oil transport wagon, and a small theater. Pithole was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Pithole City is 60 miles south of Erie PA, and 94 miles north of Pittsburgh. Pithole is 6 miles east of Oil Creek State Park on Pithole Road (route 1006). It is southwest of route 36 and east of route 227. City is a 3.5 hour, 200 mile drive from Rochester NY. Many ghost towns are far out west developing from the discovery of precious metals.
Here is a ghost town within driving distance of Rochester. Why not take a drive to visit part of history instead of merely reading about it.