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Beaver River History

Canoe and Kayak into the History of  

 Beaver River / Shenango River / Connoquenessing Creek

Origin of the Schenango River

The 75 mile long Shenango river begins in the marshes that are now part of Pymatuning Reservoir near Hartstown in Crawford County and eventually meets the Mahoning River near New Castle in Lawrence County.

Ice Age  River

The topography and soils in Pennsylvania and Ohio were shaped during the Ice Age that ended about 10, 000 years ago. Prior to this glacial epoch, the Shenango River flowed in a northerly direction to Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River.

Native Americans
Prior to European settlement, the land area of the Shenango was inhabited by many indian tribes including the Seneca and the Delaware (Lenape) . The name of the river Shenango comes from the Iroquoian word Shaningo meaning “beautiful one”.

Coal Industry
Beginning in the mid 1830s, coal mines were opening in the valley. The initial mines were dug into hillsides and called drift mines. Shaft mining began in the 1850s. The mines produced Sharon Block Coal that contained no sulphur and burned without leaving ashes, the perfect fuel for melting iron ore. The coal brought industries  and was responsible for prosperous mine villages. Narrow gauge railroads  carried coal from the mines to the Beaver and Lake Erie Canal.  By the 1870s major railways were transporting coal  to the east and Midwest.


Pymatuning Dam

An important factor in the development  of Shenango River Valley industry, is the Pymatuning Dam project, an undertaking jointly sponsored by the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, for the purpose of conserving the surplus waters of the Shenango River to provide sufficient water for domestic and sanitary uses, and to maintain a constant flow of water for industrial use in times of drought. Its construction was started on September 8, 1931, and was completed on January 23, 1934, at a total cost of $3,750,000.

Sharon Steel and World War II
With the attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of World War II, the Sharon Steel Corporation, already actively engaged in the production of high carbon steel, became one of the leading producers of helmet steel, flak curtain and aircraft armor steels, bullet core steel, and other steel products used in almost every branch of the service. •

Erie Extenson Canal boat

Beaver & Erie Canal

Around 1838, the building of the Erie Extension Canal was commenced at the old town of Beaver on the Ohio River; it was completed for shipping to the Port of Erie in 1844. The total length of this man-made waterway was 136 miles. Winding through five northwestern Pennsylvania counties, it connected the Ohio River with Lake Erie.

This important route of trade and travel from Pittsburgh to the Great Lakes was responsible for the emergence of many towns along its banks, some long forgotten and was vital to the rise of the Western Pennsylvania iron industry before the introduction of railroads. 

Boats that could carry up to 80 tons of goods over the canal greatly improved travel and opened new markets for local products. Its brief existence helped grow industrial centers like Erie and Meadville, and it played a major role in the development of Girard, Albion, Conneautville, and Conneaut Lake.


Canal Remnants
Canal sections exist near Shenango River Lake near Hermitage. . Well-preserved remains of Lock Number 10 are found in Sharpsville, about 0.5 miles south of the Shenango Dam.


Erie Extension Canal Map

About The Beaver River

The Beaver River is a tributary of the   Ohio River with a length of approximately 21 mi. It flows through a historically important coal-producing region. 

The Beaver River is formed in Lawrence County by the confluence of the Mahoning and Shenango rivers in the Mahoningtown  neighborhood of New Castle . It flows generally south. It receives Connoquenessing Creek  west of Ellwood City and flows past Beaver Falls  and New Brighton  where it joins the Ohio River at Bridgewater and Rochester  (flowing between these two towns).

King Beaver

The river  was named for King Beaver (Tamaqua) of the Delaware (Lenape)  nation that migrated in the late 1740's or for the animal itself.

 Tamaqua, also known as The Beaver or King Beaver, served as spokes-person for the Delaware nation, and a key peacemaker and ally of the British during the French and Indian War.

Beaver -  Erie Canal

The Beaver River was part of the  Beaver and Erie Canal, also known as the Erie Extension Canal which  ran 136 miles north–south  from the Ohio River  up the Beaver River to Lake Erie. The canal needed a total of 137 locks  to overcome a change in elevation of 977 feet.

The Beaver Division, begun in 1831, extended 31 miles from Beaver  along the Beaver River and the  Shenango River  to  town of Pulaski. 

The Erie Canal Company finished construction in 1844, when the entire length of the three divisions became open to traffic.•

Tamaque Chief of Lnap Indians

Connoquenessing Creek

The Connoquenessing Creek is a tributary of the Beaver River which flows into the Ohio River at Beaver Falls. It is  approximately 52 miles long. The source originates in eastern Butler County and flows southwest, through the Lake Oneida reservoir and past Butler, then West Northwest in a meandering course past Eidenau where Breakneck Creek enters, then continuing past Harmony and Zelienople. Slippery Rock Creek enters  from the northwest near Ellwood City, then joins the Beaver River  west of Ellwood City, approximately 3 miles further downstream.

The Original People along Connoquenessing Creek

Archaeological evidence  confirms that more than 12,000 years ago  ancient hunters arrived here in pursuit of large game animals such as the mammoth.  Their artifacts can be found in the freshly plowed fields of many local farms.  These prehistoric peoples were  eventually replaced by historic tribal societies that entered the region to escape the pressure  of European settlements  along the Atlantic seaboard.

The Seneca Indians of the Iroquois Nation were the major occupants of this part of the State so far as history speaks. Other important Indian groups to emigrate into the area

were the Delawares (Lenape), Shawnees, and Muncee.  The Iroquois people were made up of five confederated tribes who spoke a similar language.  These included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas.  The Indians established hunting camps and villages throughout  the area.  During the American Revolution they were allies of the British.


Major George Washington
George Washington, in a journal that he kept while on a 1753 expedition through Western Pennsylvania, mentions passing one of these important villages, known as Murdering Town, located near present-day Harmony.  In 1758, the missionary Christian Frederick Post recounted his visit to another Indian town called Connoquenessing – a Delaware (Lenape) word which means “for a long way straight.”

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