History of Raccoon Creek State Park
The creation and development of Raccoon Creek State Park is directly linked to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal plan to stimulate the economy in the 1930s and to start the nation on a sound conservation program.
Raccoon Creek was chosen as one of five Recreational Demonstration Areas (RDA) in Pennsylvania developed under the federal Emergency Conservation Work act. RDA sites were developed on primarily deforested, non-sustainable, and over-used agricultural lands with the goal of reclaiming the area to a natural state.
Another goal was to provide outdoor recreation for large urban populations. Only 25 miles from Pittsburgh, the area that is now Raccoon Creek State Park was an ideal choice.
Civilian Conservation Corps
Land acquisitions began during 1934 and by 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), along with local men under the Works Progress Administration, began developing the area for the National Park Service. Projects included:
Three organized group camps
Dam for the upper lake
Establishment of nurseries for reforestation
Quarrying of stone for bridges and culverts
Between 1935 and 1941, more than 700 men from the CCC worked at Raccoon Creek. The men were housed in two camps, SP-6 and SP-16. Local experienced men, commonly referred to as LEMs, provided day labor and training in trades such as carpentry and masonry for the younger men.
The park remained with the National Park Service until September 1945, when it was transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The history of this RDA is appreciated today in the forests, group camps, stone work, roads, and stories of the men who built Raccoon Creek State Park.
Before the footsteps of early settlers, herds of elk, white-tailed deer, and even woodland bison roamed the forests and meadows. Streams teemed with fish and fur-bearing animals, such as mink, fox, and beaver. In the rock crevices, cougars and wolves made their dens and hunted beneath old growth stands of hemlock, white pine, and oak.
During the early to mid-1700s, the Shawnee inhabited villages along the banks of the Ohio River. The Delaware, also known as Lenape, moved into western Pennsylvania after being pushed westward by settlers in the expanding east. An American Indian trail became today’s PA 168 following the western boundary of the park.
During exploration of the Ohio Valley, the French contended that the explorer of a river was entitled to all lands watered by its tributaries. They defended their claim to the Ohio River region by their discovery of the Mississippi River in the late 1680s. The English insisted that the various independent American Indian nations owned the lands.
The English had strong alliances with the American Indians and these tribes and lands were under the protection of the British Crown. The rivalry between the two countries eventually sparked the French and Indian War from 1754-1763.
With defeat of the French and later defeat of the American Indians during Pontiac’s Rebellion of 1763, the lands south of the Ohio River became relatively free of conflict. Settlers began homesteading in this area during the early 1770s. Levi Dungan became the first settler in what became Beaver County. He claimed 1,000 acres within present day Raccoon Creek State Park and established his homestead at the head of Kings Creek in 1772.
Hostilities between the American Indians and the settlers led to many tragedies in the region. Most attacks occurred at the settlements of Levi Dungan and Matthew Dillow, located in modern-day Hillman State Park.
King's Creek Cemetery
The cemetery on the park’s southwestern boundary, off of PA 168, is the final resting place of many of the first settlers of the area. There are 142 tombstones. The first tombstone is that of James Leeper, who died in 1810, and the last is that of James Cameron, who died in 1906. Some of the men buried in this cemetery served in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Some common pioneer family names include: Cameron, Gibson, Harper, Leeper, Martin, Miller, Ralston, Ramsey, and Standish.
Frankfort Mineral Springs
The springs are located at the upper end of a wooded ravine with a U-shaped shale and sandstone grotto. The stream carved the small grotto from solid rock over thousands of years, forming a picturesque waterfall spilling over the rim of the ravine.
The springs are located opposite the falls, emerging directly from the shale and sandstone. The water in the stream originates from surface drainage, while the spring water comes from an underground reservoir. The stream water may dry completely, whereas the spring water flows year round.
During 1827, land, including the springs, was sold to Edward McGinnis. He found the mineral waters “healing to his ailments,” which led to the development of a health spa and resort.
The nearby small village of Frankfort saw rapid growth after development of the springs and adopted the name Frankfort Springs. The springs later became known as the Frankfort Mineral Springs.
Hike the short Mineral Springs Trail from the parking lot on PA 18 or from the park office. A detailed brochure is available at the park office.