Happy 150th Birthday, Beech Creek!
By LOU BERNARD
For The Express
The citizens of Beech Creek — Beechcreekians… Beechcreekites — are celebrating their 150th anniversary this weekend. But Beech Creek has a history that delves far further back into the past than that.
Michael Quigley seems to have begun the whole thing. He settled on 30 acres in 1812, back when the area was still Centre County. It’s still pretty close to Centre County; Beech Creek is about as far as you can go in Clinton County before crossing the border.
Quigley constructed a grist mill, which he later left to his son. The ruins of the mill still exist near Main Street. Nearby, he built a house with a front room that could be operated as a store. According to Linn’s History, the first person to actually use it as a store was Buck Claflin, who is well worth taking a paragraph to explain.
Buck Claflin was the sort of huckster who always had something in a bottle to cure whatever you were suffering. Arthritis? Rheumatism? Demonic possession? No problem; he had a fix for that. His wife would pray openly in the backyard, asking for God to forgive the sins of their neighbors, which she would list audibly. Their two daughters, Tennessee and Victoria, were part of a traveling psychic show, also managed by Buck. Victoria later became America’s first female presidential candidate, running on the radical position that women deserved to be treated fairly.
A post office was opened in 1828, under the name of Quigley Mills. Back in those days, the post office would often give its name to the community around it. In 1846, a new post office opened, named after the creek and the beech trees in the area.
In 1835, Quigley sold five acres of land to Matthew Leitch, who sold off lots for the exorbitant price of $25 each. They soon sold out, and people began building their homes there. At the same time, Quigley was selling off some of his land, and the community was flourishing.
A mill owner from New York named Solomon Strong added to the territory in 1844, buying up land on the east end of town and selling that off in lots, as well. By this point, they were in Clinton County, which had been established in 1839.
In 1868, the community was incorporated as a borough. The original choice was to name it “Quiggleyton,” but that lasted about half an hour before they changed it, instead taking the name from the Beech Creek post office.
Michael Quigley’s son, Cline Quigley, grew up to become a teacher, own a mill, and act as a Clinton County Associate Judge. He built a house about 1855, and lived there until his death in 1888. Cline was deep in debt, owning $1,200, which is around $10 billion by today’s standards. The place was sold in 1890, and redone as a hotel by 1894. It still stands and in the same business — The Beech Creek Hotel along Main Street.
The Beech Creek Truck and Auto Company was chartered in May of 1915, and created a new advancement in four-wheel drive. They managed to make about two and a half trucks before filing for bankruptcy. Their invention was novel, but nobody was buying it. They drove one of their trucks up the steps of the courthouse in Lock Haven to demonstrate how well it could ride, but the gathered farmers said, essentially,“Cute trick, but I’ll stick with my horse.”
And one of my favorite Beech Creek stories happened on September 19, 1929 — a wild bank robbery. Three men robbed the Beech Creek Bank during the day, and as they escaped, the word went out fast. Local men ran out to intercede, firing at the car as it went past. The car crashed into a bridge, killing the driver, and the other two ran, but were apprehended soon after.
Beech Creek has a long history. What I’ve written here. It’s just a few of the high points. There’s so much more, and I encourage you to get out and learn about it.
Happy anniversary, Beech Creek.
Celebration all day Saturday
Everyone is invited to the 150th birthday party for Beech Creek from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. in the area near the Beech Creek Borough Building.
There will be food and craft vendors, tours of the Beech Creek/Marsh Creek Watershed Museum, a petting zoo, free wellness checks, a helicopter and an old fashioned ice cream social with free ice cream for all.
A group photo of residents will also be taken and items will be placed in a time capsule that will be opened at the 200th birthday party. A band will play from 5-8 p.m. to end the party and allow folks to relax and enjoy the music and time spent with friends and neighbors.