HARRISBURG, Pa. (WYTV) –- The history of Pennsylvania began today, 340 years ago, when England’s King Charles II wrote the charter to make Pennsylvania a commonwealth in 1681.
Known as the keystone state, Philadelphia was the nation’s capital for 10 years, before it moved to Washington D.C.
Pennsylvania was a gift to William Penn to help pay off debt the King of England owed to the Penn family.
“The king gave William Penn land that would become Pennsylvania,” said Robert Lark, president of Mercer County Historical Society. “Penn did not want his name affiliated with it, but the king disagreed. It has two syllables. Penn, obviously from William Penn, and Sylvania means woods. So it’s Penn’s woods.”
Raisch Cabin is one of the oldest structures in Mercer County and sits along the Erie Extension Canal. It’s a log cabin originally owned by Frederick Raisch now located at the Sharpsville Area Recreation Park.
The log cabin, originally built in Hermitage before the year 1810, was moved here in the 1970s after it was discovered while another house was being demolished.
The house is now owned by the Mercer County Historical Society. It took more than two years to restore this cabin after it was relocated.
“It’s considered the oldest building in Mercer County. It was under a house in Hermitage they were tearing down to build a bank,” Lark said. “And once you walk beyond that cabin, you’ll see there’s a little indentation in the land which is the natural valley for the canal.”
The Erie Extension Canal is largely credited with being the catalyst for western Pennsylvania.
Most of the first settlements took place on the eastern coast of Pennsylvania in and around Philadelphia, reaching as far west as the Susquehanna River.
It took another 100 years for western Pennsylvania to start to develop because the Appalachian Mountains acted like a natural barrier. When the Erie Extension Canal was built, Mercer County shifted into a new gear.
Because of the canal, this part of the commonwealth was able to engage in trade and industry.
“The Erie Extension Canal picked up on the Ohio River and Beaver Falls, before coming up through Beaver, Lawrence, Mercer, Crawford and Erie counties. Then it ended up in Lake Erie,” Lark said. “It was in existence from 1840 to 1871.”