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Little Buffalo Historic District


The Little Buffalo Historic District lies partly in Juniata and partly in Centre Townships. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document: Berman, David M., Little Buffalo Historic District, nomination document, 1976, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C. Adaptation copyright © 2007, The Gombach Group.

Little Buffalo Historic District

Little Buffalo Historic District is comprised of a number of sites and structures which date from the iron-making era prior to 1850 when the settlement was known as Juniata Furnace. In addition, the district also has several structures and features which date from a later period. These properties combined form a district which extends in a north-south direction along Route 34076 on either side of Little Buffalo Creek.

The northernmost feature is a cemetery with numerous gravestones, many of which date to the 1840-1850 period. The graveyard was once the burial ground for the Sulpher Springs Church, also known later as both Rodenbaugh's Church and Kough's Church. The church, which dated to at least 1844, was recently demolished but the cemetery remains virtually intact. The cemetery and church appear to have serviced the iron community as evidenced by many of the names which appear on the grave markers.

Located across Route 50035 and just to the south, on the west side of Route 34076, is the Blue Ball Tavern. The tavern presently dates to the c. 1860 period. From the road, the tavern appears as a 2 1/2 story, frame structure with a full-length, one-story, open porch. Five bays in width, the building features double hung sash windows with louvered shutters and a central doorway with recessed transom and side panels. The gable roof features single chimneys on either side and boxed cornice with return. The interior features a central hallway with stairwell and is two rooms deep. The four rooms measure 15'6" square while the inn's exterior measurements are 40'8" by 32'8".

The west facade; however, indicates that the structure rests on a banked fieldstone foundation which features grapevine pointing. Three windows and a doorway are located on the ground level. The doorway features rectangular double panels with lintel while the windows are 6 over 6 double-hung sash with sills and lintels. One window opening retains its shutter but all window openings still retain pintels driven into the window frame. The interior features joists running east-west with those in the center connected by beams running north-south which are mortised and pegged. It appears that the later frame portion of the tavern rests upon a late 18th or early 19th century structure. The tavern appears to have been in operation by 1811 and the road which existed when the tavern was originally built probably was located to the west rather than the east side of the structure.

Near the northeast corner of the tavern is a small springhouse which covers a sulpher spring. Located just to the southwest is a larger springhouse with 2 levels also built on a sulpher spring. Adjacent to it is a frame structure on a stone foundation also with two levels, which features a fireplace on the second level and large stone chimney on the exterior.

Further to the south, where a new park access road joins the main road, appears to have been the site of an early sawmill. Excavations for the road uncovered an extensive quantity of lumber and Koch's sawmill is mentioned several times in the documentary record.

Description:

To the south of the access road and spanning Little Buffalo Creek is Wahneta's of Clay's Bridge, a covered bridge which features the Burr Arch Truss. The bridge has 2 1/2" by 14" planking with 6" by 10" timber supports, 9" by 12" truss supports, and 6" by 14" arches. The bridge was originally located at a site called Wahneta just upstream but was moved with the construction of the park lake downstream to its present location.

Running through the district along Little Buffalo Creek is the bed for the old Newport & Sherman's Valley Railroad, once quite significant to the industry and commerce of the region. Constructed in 1890, the narrow gauge line ran 29.1 miles from Newport to New Germantown. It ceased operation in 1929 and the rails were sold in 1933-1935. The railroad bed is presently maintained as a hiking trail.

Tax records indicate that construction began on Shoaff's Mill c. 1832 and was completed and began operation by 1840. The mill is a 3 1/2 story banked structure, of frame construction on a fieldstone foundation. The east facade which faces the road features loading doors at all levels with double-hung windows, 6 over 6 lights, on either side. The south facade has one entranceway while the north facade has a doorway at the ground level. Double-hung windows, 6 over 6 lights, are located on both first and second floors on the south side while the north facade has similar windows at the ground level, as well as first and second.

The dimensions of the mill are approximately 40' in length and 37' in width. Located on the west side of the mill is a large overshot Fitz wheel approximately 31' in diameter which appears to have been installed in 1906 replacing an overshot wooden wheel some 27' feet in diameter. The wheel pit is approximately 23' wide and 29' deep. The shaft rests on a thick oak block but a face wheel is presently lacking. Attached to the vertical shaft is a small level wheel and above it a larger spur wheel on a horizontal plane. The shaft extends up to the second level and two smaller gear wheels. Remnants of the original milling equipment include a wooden hoist at the second level, a conveyor system on the first floor, and a crankshaft on the third floor.

A stone pier, approximately 8' high, which once supported the flume box, is located up the bank to the south. Sluice gates are located further up the head race, one across the race and the other across a fork in the race which runs to the creek. The head race extends approximately 1/4 mile south where it branches off from Limestone Run. Located here across the run are remnants of a log dam and spillway, also used to control water flow.

Located across the road to the east is the Superintendent's House, a 2 1/2 story banked brick house which rests on a coursed fieldstone foundation. The structure is 3 bays in width, 2 rooms deep, with a one-story full-length porch to the rear and a small one-bay, one-story porch on the north facade. Windows are 6 over 6 double-hung sash and feature louvered shutters, sills, and lintels. Those at ground level are of similar style but are much smaller in size. The gable roof features chimneys on either end and boxed cornice. A datestone is located in the west gable end which reads, WKS 1861.

Little Buffalo Historic District is located within Little Buffalo State Park, Perry County, Pennsylvania, in the valley bounded by Middle Ridge on the north and by Buffalo Ridge on the south. Little Buffalo Creek runs through the valley and, near its fork with Limestone Run, a settlement developed around the beginning of the 19th century.

The settlement developed as an iron community known as Juniata Furnace, c. 1808, chen William Power and David Watts built a small furnace on Limestone Run. This appears to have been the first iron in Perry County. The intersection of several important roads nearby, including the Carlisle-Sunbury Pike, was another significant factor in the location of the furnace.

Located adjacent to the furnace property, the Blue Ball Tavern, which may have originally been constructed during the late 18th century, had already become an area landmark. Records indicate that was regularly used as a meeting place with John Koch, the proprietor.

By 1824, the furnace property was leased to John Everhart of Chester County who erected a forge and put the furnace in blast. In 1833, Charles Postley & Son of Philadelphia purchased the furnace along with another 3500 acres. Title passed eventually to John McKeehan and James McGowan who completed by 1840 the construction of Shoaff's Mill, begun c. 1832 by Captain William Powers, Sr., and originally known as Power's Mill.

By this time, the area had all the appearance of an iron plantation. In addition to the furnace, forge, tavern, sawmill, and grist mill, the community also included the various other structures associated with an iron furnace complex including charcoal house, storehouses, several mansion houses, and at least eleven workers' houses. By 1849, however, the furnace had been abandoned for unknown reasons, and, in 1855, many of the structures were destroyed by a cyclone. At the present time, much of the complex has been destroyed but several features and structures from the era remain. These include Shoaff's Mill and its races, presently being restored, the ground-level section of the Blue Ball Tavern with several outbuildings, and the cemetery which includes the graves of various members of the Gantt and Kough (Koch) families.

To the remains of the iron complex, several additional features and structures have been added. These include the Superintendent's house, 1861, the first and second levels of the Blue Ball Tavern, the covered bridge known as Wahneta's of Clay's Bridge, and the hiking trail which was once the bed of the Newport & Sherman's Valley Railroad.

Little Buffalo Historic District, then, is primarily a 19th century site. The combination of both early and late features and structures with no modern intrusions other than a road gives a certain degree of integrity and makes it unique to the area.

Little Buffalo Historic District Map

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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