Prince Gallitzin State Park is named for Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin. Born in Holland (Netherlands) on December 22, 1770, he was the only son of Prince Dimitri Alexievitch Gallitzin, Russian Ambassador to Holland, and his wife Amalia Von Schmettau Gallitzin.
In 1792, young Gallitzin arrived in the United States. Intrigued by the terrible social and political state of France compared to the civil and religious liberty that was fundamental to the social structure of the new country, he determined to devote his life to being a Catholic priest and entered the Sulpician Seminary in Baltimore.
On March 18, 1795, Gallitzin was ordained, becoming one of the earliest people in the United States to receive full orders of the priesthood. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States and was first assigned to the Conewago mission near the Susquehanna river, south of present day Harrisburg.
Father Gallitzin played an important role in the settling of central and northern Cambria County, an area of widely scattered farms. Father Gallitzin established the first Catholic church between the Susquehanna and the Mississippi rivers (St. Michael’s Parish) and founded the town of Loretto. He arranged for the construction of a gristmill, tannery, and sawmill. He was the settler’s doctor, lawyer, banker, and school teacher.
Father Gallitzin never returned to his homeland and died in Loretto on May 6, 1840. His contributions are remembered in several place names in Cambria County, including the town of Gallitzin, Gallitzin Springs, as well as Prince Gallitzin State Park.
Father Gallitzin, for all his great deeds and hard work helping the settlers of the region, will forever be known as the “Apostle of the Alleghenies.”
During the 1930s, much of the area that is now Prince Gallitzin State Park was forested and laced with trout streams and beaver dams. The depressed local economy led to a decline in population.
During 1935, during the Great Depression, the National Park Service proposed to establish Recreation Demonstration Areas in Pennsylvania. A project was proposed and approved for this area, but was never implemented. The project proposal map is on file in the park office and has an uncanny resemblance to Prince Gallitzin State Park.
During 1955, the Patton Chamber of Commerce and the Patton Sportsmen proposed a 30-acre dam in the Killbuck Area. During March of that same year, Dr. Maurice K. Goddard -- Secretary of the Department of Forests and Waters -- met with the Patton Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Goddard approved of the idea and from that beginning, the original concept rapidly expanded.
On April 4, 1957, Governor George M. Leader announced plans for “Pennsylvania’s largest and most complete state park” and land acquisition began. The park was to have a 1,760-acre lake and “provide the people of this State with the finest recreation facilities.”
Money derived from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, recently authorized by the state legislature, was to pay for the proposed two million dollar project. Secretary Goddard said, “No other areas that I have seen in the Commonwealth has this unique combination of characteristics. I predict we will be able to fulfill the desires of the Legislature much beyond their expectations in the development of this outstanding park.”
The park was one of Pennsylvania’s largest parks at the time. From July 8 to July 15, 1967, the park hosted the National Campers and Hikers Association convention, bringing national awareness to the park and Pennsylvania.
Approximately 26,500 people camped in the area surrounding Long Road, the Water Tower, and Killbuck Boat Launch Area. The coordination of the event and cleanup afterward was said to be a headache, and then after the area was referred to as Headache Hill.
In April of 1970, Crooked Run Campground opened, the docks at Beaver Valley Marina opened, and the first seasonal park naturalist conducted programs and walks.
Further improvements like the addition of hiking trails, cabins, and facility upgrades continue to make Prince Gallitzin one of the finest recreational facilities in Pennsylvania.