The major tracts which now comprise the Moshannon State Forest were once held by large lumber companies, land holding companies, and private individuals. The first purchase was 353 acres along Montgomery Run north of Clearfield in 1898, for $65.45 in delinquent taxes. White pine and hemlock stands occupied the shady slopes and moist plateaus in the earliest recorded forests of the area. Many areas were covered with a mixture of beech, yellow poplar, birches, maples, oaks, cherry, hickory and chestnut. Some of the best white pine areas in the United States were located here and contained upwards of 100,000 board feet per acre. "...the wood is so thick, that for a mile at a time we could not find a place the size of a hand where the sunshine could penetrate, even in the clearest day...," said Conrad Weiser in 1737. All this "virgin" timber was removed between 1860 and 1921. The high pine stumps, logging railroad tie marks, logslides and remnants of splash dams are all that remain to remind us of this earlier time.
Human-caused fires following these cuttings destroyed the humus and organic matter that nature took centuries to build. Some areas, even today, are open fields of bracken ferns and huckleberries between giant stumps of the previous forest. The resultant oak-chestnut timber type took another blow when the chestnut blight wiped out the chestnut prior to 1925. Today, work continues to establish natural chestnut on the Moshannon State Forest.
The now-retired Dague Nursery was established in 1911 on 1/10 acre to provide pine seedlings for reforestation work. Peak production reached 35 million seedlings annually. Most of the pine plantations evident today on the Moshannon are the result of this nursery and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) projects. Ten CCC camps on the Moshannon constructed and maintained roads, trails, bridges, tree plantations and recreational areas, including S.B. Elliott, Parker Dam, and Black Moshannon State Parks. The nursery site is currently being used as an orchard to supply tree seeds for the Bureau’s only remaining facility—Penn Nursery near Potters Mills.