Welcome to Coolspring, Pennsylvania!

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coolspring store
The first store in Cool Spring was opened by James Gray in 1836, and it had the first post office in Oliver Township. This is a photo of the store in 1904. Paul Harvey's grandfather, Dr. P. P. Horner, is seen with the straw hat, leaning against the center porch post. (Paul Harvey family photo)

In my first two columns, I introduced myself and then introduced Coolspring Power Museum. I now wish to do a little sketch on my hometown of Coolspring, Pennsylvania.

Living in the same home for 80 years has given me a good feeling of the village. So let’s take a little jaunt around town and time travel back a bit to see the beginnings. It will be a pleasant trip so keep reading.

Today, Coolspring is a quiet little village located just off State Route 36, about halfway between Brookville and Punxsutawney, in rural Oliver Township. Nestled among hills on all sides, the village is in a wide, fertile valley of Little Sandy Creek with the smaller Lick Run converging from the north.

Becoming a town

coolspring schoolhouse
The first school was built in 1836, followed by this one in 1888. No longer a school, it has been remodeled to serve as a Community Center. (Submitted photo)

Kate Scott, in her “History of Jefferson County,” published in 1888, tells us that Oliver Township was created from Perry Township and organized in 1851. Both were named from the great naval hero of the Battle of Lake Erie, Oliver Hazard Perry. The nearby village of Oliveburg also acquired its name this way.

The first settler to the area was Reuben Hickok, who arrived in 1822. By 1833, Alexander McKinstry moved to Cool Spring. He bought a very large tract of land from the Holland Land Company, and sold farms to later arrivals. Indeed, my home was built by the McKinstrys. Alexander built his large home at the southern end of town, and it is still in the family.

In about 1868, Thompson A. McKinstry, Alexander’s son, built a modern steam and or water-powered mill on Little Sandy Creek, just east of the present bridge. It was both a saw mill and a grist mill, and was extremely profitable with the new landowners clearing the timber on their land, and growing crops. Sadly, this mill burned in 1913 and my mother, as a child of 8 years, recalled the fear of flaming shingles, driven by strong winds, being blown across the entire village. The mill was lost, but the fire did not spread. Some of the huge foundation stones of the mill are still evident in the area near the creek.

The first store in Cool Spring was opened by James Gray in 1836, and it had the first post office in Oliver Township. Gray also opened a sawmill on Kellar’s Run, about 2 miles distant. There, he found an exceptionally cool spring and used that name for his post office. Sadly, modern construction has destroyed the spring.

Naming Coolspring

The two-word name, “Cool Spring” continued until 1896 when the village legally changed it to the present, “Coolspring.” However, the Caldwell Atlas of 1878 refers to the town as McKinstryville. As a young child, I recall older residents using that name.

The first school was built in 1836, followed by another in 1888. No longer a school, the latter has been remodeled to serve as our Community Center.

I can just barely recall when the village had four active stores. Travel was not as fast as it is today, and a trip to either Punxsutawney to the south or Brookville to the north was a big venture. One could buy gasoline from each store, and it included Araco, Sterling, Atlantic and Gulf.

The face of the village continued changing over the ensuing years with some structures disappearing and new ones replacing them. The vibrant town of a century ago has survived with its own unique personality to become the quiet village it is today.

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