This year, Blair County is celebrating its 175th Anniversary. Formed on February 26th, 1846, the County was made from portions of Huntingdon and Bedford Counties, and played a major role in the industrialization of the nation. On Monday, the President of the Blair Historical Society narrating the story of the county’s namesake John Blair, the county Ironmaster Elias Baker, and the implementation of a renowned transportation system.
Michael Farrow, Chairman of the Board at Baker History Museum narrates: In 1846, the Pennsylvania Canal had been build in the 1830’s. Hollidaysburg was growing as a canal town and the businessmen here felt that this area needed its own representation in Harrisburg. John Blair, the namesake of Blair County, lived in Blair’s Gap. Blair’s Gap is the part of Blair County now known as Foot of Ten. John Blair was a Merchant. He was an advocate of building up the economy of Western Pennsylvania. He became a State Representative of the area at Harrisburg. It was through all of his efforts at building the economy of western Pennsylvania that in 1846, when he had already passed away, that the County Founders felt that he deserved the honor of being the person for who the County would be named.
After Blair County was formed, the Iron Industry was the major source of income in the County. Over the years, Blair County had at least 17 Iron Furnaces. Elias Baker came to this area in the 1830’s. He bought the Iron Furnace at the time they built the canal and used the canal to get his goods to market. In 1846 and a few years thereafter, talk of a railroad coming through gained speed and the railroad was finally finished here in Altoona in 1854. It was the Pennsylvania Railroad that founded Altoona, and then the Iron Furnaces could get their product to market very quickly. They were able to get the Iron Ore to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. It was a boon for the Furnaces and for the Economy of the County.
The Railroad grew until it became the largest Railroad in the United States which propelled Blair County through the late 1800’s and the first quarter of the 1900’s.
On Wednesday Evening, the President of the Blair County Historical Society will host a presentation focusing on a 400-year Timeline of the Progress of Blair County. It will begin at 7pm at the Railroaders Memorial Museum. Admission is free, but the Historical Society does accept donations.