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History of Prince Gallitzin State Park

Prince Gallitzin

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.

During 1792, young Gallitzin arrived in the United States and became intrigued at the contrast between the terrible social and political state of France and the civil and religious liberty that had become fundamental principles in 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 as one of the earliest people in the United States upon whom the full orders of the priesthood were conferred. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States and was first assigned to the Conewago mission near the Susquehanna River and south of present day Harrisburg.

Prince Gallitzin, the son of Russian nobility, played an important role in the settling of central and northern Cambria County. There were a large number of widely scattered farms throughout the region. Father Gallitzin was responsible for establishing the first Catholic Church between the Susquehanna and the Mississippi (St. Michael’s Parish) and the town of Loretto. He arranged the construction of a gristmill, tannery and sawmill. He taught children and for many settlers was their doctor, lawyer, and banker.

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.”

Park History

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 Pennsylvania Game Commission owned much of the land. The local economy was depressed and the population of the area was declining. It was in this atmosphere that the idea of a park was conceived.

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. There were 26,500 people camped in the fields around Headache Hill. The convention brought national awareness to the park and Pennsylvania.

In April of 1970, Crooked Run Campground opened, the docks at Beaver Valley Marina opened, and the first seasonal park naturalist conducted lectures and walks.

Further improvements like the addition of hiking trails, cabins, and upgrades to facilities continue to make Prince Gallitzin one of the finest recreational facilities in Pennsylvania.

Dam Data

  • Type of Dam -- flood control and recreation
  • Completed -- 1960
  • Length -- 1,964 feet
  • Height -- 60 feet
  • Width at Top -- 25 feet
  • Normal Lake Level -- 8.5 feet below the spillway
  • Largest flood Event -- Hurricane Agnes in 1972 -- the lake rose five feet holding back 10.75 billion gallons of water
  • Unique Fact -- water has never flowed through the spillway