Before the incorporation of Etna, and after the canal boom began, the Pine Creek area, as it was known, became the village of Centerville in 1826, and Stewartstown in 1838.
The earliest settlers in Centreville were Scotch-Irish, they were followed by Swiss, Germans, Croatians, Austrians and Hungarians. Stewartstown and Etna had Italians, Poles, Ukranians and Mexicans as their settlers.
These people all arrived in the area for the same reason. The Etna area had jobs, a good climate, decent lifestyles, and a lot of opportunity. By September 16, 1868 when the borough was incorporated, Etna was thriving.
Etna from 1885 to 1915 was a major player in the entire Pittsburgh area. The Pittsburgh Post said Etna could be the hub of a city that would rival Pittsburgh!
Charles Spang, Charles Herron and John Chalfont controlled both the Spang Chalfant Company and pipe mill (the oldest in the U.S. starting in 1840), and the Isabella furnaces.
These men were founders of the Duquesne Club, and met with J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie at Etna's Union Hotel. They controlled railroads, steel, and more. They had the power to control vast enterprises.
Etna flourished! Its mills and furnaces were some of the heaviest producers in the U.S. The commerce district and entertainment facilities, and theatres flouished. People enjoyed leisurely picnics along the trolley lines, and Spang and the Carnegie company that bought out Isabella ran company stores, sports and recreational teams.
Etna was a proud town with a lot to offer its citizens. It was a hub of water, railroad, highway and trolley transportation which played an important role in its growth.
Its sports teams carried on the winning traditions, and competitive spirit of the town. Its schools were ranked top in the state, and its churches and civic organizations played leading roles in families' lives. These years ended with the Depression.
Spang and Chalfant were forced to sell their mill to National Supply during the Depression. Almost half of the other businesses in town also were lost during that period.
In 1936, the worst flood to ever hit on the Allegheny River struck Etna with a destructive blow. Waters rose 40 feet above flood stage, meaning that in lower Etna the water reached second story windows. Many lost their homes and businesses forever during that flood.
A few years later, the first recruits left for World War II, some brave sons never to return alive, and others just not to return. It was the beginning of major changes in Etna.
In 1953, the Isabella Furnaces closed, and remained abandoned for over ten years before they were finally torn down to make way for the Etna-By-Pass.
In the mid-fifties, Etna became more of a suburban neighborhood than a center of activity. In 1959, the Etna-By-Pass project was begun. That expressway separated Etna into different communities, and civic life changed forever. In 1960, the Spang Mill closed its doors forever.
After Spang Chalfant closed, it seemed like Etna was doomed. But, it survived, and has actually found new employers to replace Spang. The largest is Tippins Inc. a designer and builder of rolling mills.
Duquesne Electric, Reyna Foods, Preston Trucking, Extech, W.P. Voegele Co. and many others have also replaced Spang. Winchell's Hardware is the oldest surviving retailer in Etna, but the downtown itself has continued to see decent sales in many of its stores.
The Etna By-Pass has been improved since it was finished. The railroads which peaked in business around 1956, are making a comeback. Etna has also become home to movie-makers with films such as "Used People." After several years of devastating floods, the Pine Creek flood control project was initiated, and is now close to complete. Etna also received funds to beautify its downtown because of these floods.
NOTE: Genealogical information on some deceased residents of The Borough
of Etna, PA can be found on the Etna Cemetery Tombstone Inscriptions.
Anyone with additional "history/recollections" of Etna is invited to
forward it to me via E-Mail and I will include it within these pages
and name YOU as a contributor.
Send any/all E-Mail to address on my Home Page (link below)
Norm Meinert, Webmaster, O'Hara Twp., PA