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St Petersburg Borough

St Petersburg Borough Hall is located on the Chestnut Street Extension, St. Petersburg PA 16054; phone: 724-659-3906.

Beginnings [1]

St. Petersburg, a boom town of the oil excitement days in the early "seventies," is situated in the western part of Clarion County, on a ridge rising between the Allegheny and the Clarion Rivers, about three miles from Foxburg. The earliest settlers in the community came about the year 1808.

The most prominent of these pioneers were the Ashbaugh, Collner, Dittman, Foust, Fink, Ritts, Shoup and Vensel families. The land which St. Petersburg now occupies originally belonged to a tract of land owned by Richard Peters, a noted jurist residing in Philadelphia.

For this reason and the fact that Judge Peters donated five acres to the village for church and cemetery purposes, the town was named in his honor. When the village was incorporated as a borough, February 23, 1872, Barney Vensel was chosen the first burgess of the town, and a council comprised of G. C. Fink, Joel Fink, D. S. Herron, Nelson Vensel, C. H. Wilton, and Daniel Whitling were elected. To assist in keeping law and order, a twenty-four hour police force of eight to ten were employed.

When Markus Hulling, drilled the first oil well in this territory on the Ashbaugh farm at the east end of the town in 1871-72, St. Petersburg became historically important. Almost over night the population rose from less than 100 to nearly 10,000, making it the largest town in the county. Of the noted personalities who then visited and transacted business in the town, probably the most important was John D. Rockefeller who organized among the local oil men the Antwerp Pipe Line Company.

Business kept steady pace with the growth of the population. Four hotels and three large boarding houses were frequently unable to accommodate all the transients, and people were often forced to seek shelter for the night under board walks or in barns.

No less than fifty business places existed, which included not only food and clothing stores, but the various enterprises necessary to the development of the oil industry. For a time, four oil companies had offices in the town, and an oil exchange was located here. The St. Petersburg Savings Bank was established at this time with J. V. Ritts, President and C. H. Martin, Cashier.

The social, educational, and spiritual interests grew in accordance with the industrial progress. Four lodges, Masonic, Workman, Odd Fellows, and Knights of Pythias, had charters in the town. An opera house with a seating capacity of 800 to 1,000 was built, which staged the best shows of the day.

Three newspapers were published, the earliest being the "Crude Local," first edited by F. H. Tozer in June 1872. Seven school buildings were necessary to accommodate those of school age. Six churches existed in town, the oldest of which were the Reformed and the Lutheran, the former having been built in 1834, and used jointly, by both congregations until 1854. Besides these were the Presbyterian, the Methodist and the Catholic Churches, and a Jewish Synagogue.

St. Petersburg, now is essentially a residential community, with a population slightly over 500. The marked period of industrial activity which began to show considerable decline by the end of the "seventies," now belongs to the past and most of the buildings have been destroyed by fire, the most destructive occurring in 1892, and burning the opera house and twenty-eight other buildings.

Today, the community has but four churches and a business section limited to the needs of the population. Nevertheless it boasts of having one of the most modern ten room schools in the county, erected jointly with Richland Township in 1930. Besides this, it is gaining popularity as a summer settlement.

  1. Fillman, Mrs. Della and Bostaph, Mabel, Clarion County Centennial, 1840-1940: August 26 to September 2, Clarion County Centennial Association, 1940.
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