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Pymatuning Lake History
"All human accomplishments begin with a dream." These words were spoken by the Honorable Gifford Pinchot, then Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, during his address at the dedication of Pymatuning Dam on August 17, 1934. The Pymatuning dream began over a century ago. In 1868, the General Assembly provided for a survey and an estimate of the cost to reclaim the Pymatuning swamp lands. The project began in 1913 when the Pennsylvania Legislature passed "The Pymatuning Act", and appropriated $100,000. In 1921 the first land purchases were made and ground breaking ceremonies for the dam were held on October 6, 1931. When the first scoop of earth was turned the dream started to become a reality.
The "Pymatuning Act" states that the primary purpose of Pymatuning Lake shall be for the conservation of waters entering the Pymatuning Swamp and for regulating the flow of water in the Shenango and Beaver rivers. A secondary purpose is to use the dam and lake as a reservoir to impound flood water during periods of excessive runoff from the 158 square miles of drainage area above the dam.
In the distant past, beyond the period of legend and history, the area in and around Pymatuning Lake was occupied by the "Mound Builders." Whether these people were in any way related to Native Americans found by early European settlers is a question open to considerable doubt and discussion. The name "Pymatuning" is derived from the Iroquois, probably from the Seneca tribe of the great native American confederacy. It means "The Crooked-Mouthed Man's Dwelling Place", with "crooked-mouthed" referring to deceit rather than facial disfigurement. Previous to the Iroquois occupation, it was home to the Erie tribe who were then ruled by a Queen noted for her cunning strategy and crooked dealings.
Many settlers from Connecticut and New York moved into the area secured by Pennsylvania in the Native American Treaty of 1785. The treaty was signed at Fort Stanwix by the Iroquois and Wyandot deeded the area north of the Ohio River to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The area is now one of the most important recreational centers in the Commonwealth. Although many modern facilities exist, primitive areas are maintained to provide a rustic setting for outdoor recreational activities.
OH History of the Area
Settlement of the area by white immigrants from the east was slow to occur. The vast Pymatuning swamp and nearly impenetrable forest made travel difficult. The earliest Europeans to reside here were trappers in search of valuable beaver pelts. Later, the lush forest attracted lumbermen who especially prized the strong, straight trunks of the white pines that were used to construct masts for sailing ships. As more and more settlers came into northern Ohio, much of the wilderness character of the Pymatuning region was lost. Remnants of the original swamp still remain today, coaxing the modern day naturalist to explore this unique habitat.
History of the Old Swamp . . .
The Pymatuning Story
By Nick Sisley
BEFORE THE GLACIERS swept across northwestern Pennsylvania, the Pymatuning was what it is today a lake. But the great ice movements gouged out the hills of the area, filled in the valleys, and left the almost level contours of land evident in that section today. The lake was reduced to a swamp. Paradoxically, man has reversed the works of the Ice Age and, to the joy of hunters, sportsmen, and naturalists, created a lake from this once great bog.
Just north of Hartstown, Pa., the Shenango River originates. It flows northward to the present upper lake (the refuge area), across the spillway into the main lake, turning sharply south in both Ohio and Pennsylvania toward Espyville, Pa., and Andover, Ohio, then southeast to Jamestown, Pa., and the current dam. Crooked Creek originates just north of Hartstown also, yet it flows south. The dividing line between it and the source of the Shenango River is almost imperceptible.
In 1913, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Pymatuning Dam Act, which authorized the present lake.
After years of delay and land acquisition, the upper lake was impounded in December 1933. The lower lake was closed some weeks later. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has since leased the upper reservoir from the Department of Forests and Waters. This tract was set aside as a game refuge in 1935.
The Pymatuning was dammed primarily for water conservation and flood control in the Shenango and Ohio River valleys. It comprises 25,000 acres, of which 17,000 acres are water and 8000 acres are land. The lake is 16 miles long with 70 miles of shoreline and is the largest body of water in the state. It lies partly in Ohio, has a capacity of 67,275,000,000 gallons and a maximum depth of 35 feet.