Pennsylvania: Elk County

Elk County (pop. 31,946) is west of Cameron County. The only other Elk counties are in Kansas and Poland.

Elk County in 1895

The county was named for the Eastern elk that have historically inhabited the region. Elk hunting is allowed in Elk County and other nearby counties.

The county seat of Elk County is the borough of Ridgway (pop. 4,078), “The Gateway to Allegheny National Forest.” A century ago, Ridgway was a wealthy center of the lumber industry in Pennsylvania.

Elk County Courthouse (1879)

Ridgway is the home of the annual Ridgway Chainsaw Carver’s Rendezvous, an event dedicated to carving wood with chainsaws. It brings participants from around the world.

The largest community in Elk County is the city of St. Marys (pop. 13,070). Founded by Bavarian Roman Catholics, its name was originally Marienstadt (Mary’s City).

Apollo Theatre (1928)

Straub Brewery (1872), of St. Marys, is the third-oldest brewery in the U.S. It is still owned and operated by its founding family, now in its seventh generation.

The brewery is famous among visitors for the free drinks from its “Eternal Tap.”

St. Marys was the home of St. Joseph Monastery, the first Benedictine convent in the U.S. It was founded in 1852 and closed in 2014.

The 17 nuns dispersed to other monasteries.

Decker’s Chapel (1856) is one of several churches in the U.S. known as “The Smallest Church in the U.S.”

12 feet by 18 feet

The borough of Johnsonburg had a 2010 population of 2,483. In 1920, when its paper mills were at their busiest,  the population was 5,400.

Johnsonburg still has a paper mill.

Johnsonburg’s mills once printed the “Saturday Evening Post.” More recently, paper for the “Harry Potter” books was produced there.

Johnsonburg is the hometown of the record producer and musician Meco (Domenico Monardo), best know for the 1977 space disco version of the “Star Wars” theme.