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History of Ryerson Station State Park

Kingdoms, nations, and states have fought for the lands in and around Ryerson Station State Park.

The earliest known landholders were the Adena Culture, better known as the Mound Builders because of their burial mounds and earthwork structures. These American Indians disappeared right after European Colonists arrived in North America, leaving a huge territory that many fought to fill.

France and Great Britain fought for the Ohio River Valley in the French and Indian War, from 1754 to 1763. Unsatisfied with the peace treaty made with the victorious British, American Indian tribes fought Pontiac’s Rebellion, which lasted three years.

To settle a land dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland, Mason and Dixon surveyed the border between the states. In 1767, the surveyors were halted in Southwestern Pennsylvania by the Mingo Tribe who rightly feared that the white men were trying to steal their land.

Because European Settlers were invading Indian lands, angering the Indians, the British bought what became Southwestern Pennsylvania from the Iroquois League of Nations in 1768. The Iroquois claimed the lands, but never lived there. The Mingo, Shawnee, and Lenni Lenape tribes that inhabited the land were not at the parley and did not give up their claims. The American Indians fought for their lands, killing settlers.

The colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania claimed the land. During 1774, Virginia built a fort at the confluence of the North and South forks of Dunkard Fork of Wheeling Creek. A shelter from Indian raids, Ryerson’s Fort was used until at least 1784, maybe even 1793.

It is unknown when Ryerson’s Fort came to be called Ryerson’s Station. The fort was one of many stations used by rangers who patrolled for raiding Indians.

The U.S. courts settled the land dispute between the states in 1784, making the land part of Pennsylvania.

The fighting between the settlers and Indians continued. During 1787, seven members of the Davis Family were killed at their home, which was near the current park office.

The American Indians moved west, but the fighting in Southwestern Pennsylvania did not end. During 1794, U.S. citizens took up arms against the government and its new tax in the Whiskey Rebellion. President George Washington brought the army to quell the insurrection, finally bringing peace.

The Park

As part of its plan to have a state park within 25 miles of every resident of Pennsylvania, the former Department of Forests and Waters began acquiring land for a park in 1958. The dam and lake were completed in 1960. The lake was later name Duke Lake for Ronald J. Duke, a former park manager.

During 1967, the campground was completed and Ryerson Station State Park opened to the public. The park was named for nearby Ryerson’s Fort.

For 45 years, Duke Lake was the central feature of the park; however during 2005, Duke Lake was drawn down for safety reasons after inspections revealed increased seepage and dam foundation movement.

During April 2013, DCNR and CONSOL Energy, Inc., settled a lawsuit related to the impact of longwall mining in the area on the dam. The settlement award will enable the commonwealth to make improvements and add 506 acres to the park.

During 2015, DCNR withdrew the permit to rebuild the dam due to continued ground movement and launched the Re-Vision Ryerson Station State Park as a public input effort to determine what features are possible at the park to restore opportunities for local residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors.