Crawford County, Pennsylvania's largest county on its Ohio border, was formed out of Allegheny County in 1800. It was named for Colonel William Crawford, Indian fighter and business agent of George Washington, who was tortured to death during an Ohio expedition in 1782. Settlers came from eastern and southwestern Pennsylvania as well as New York and New England, attracted by the fact that Crawford County was well watered by two of the largest natural lakes in Pennsylvania, the Conneaut and Canadohta, and was fertile agricultural land.
Three turnpikes built between 1806 and 1824 made the county easily accessible. But the turnpikes were expensive to maintain and run, and by 1845, they were supplanted by the Beaver and Erie Canal, joining Meadville to Beaver. To reach its ultimate destination, Lake Erie, the canal required seventy-two locks to overcome the topography. The canal took nearly twenty years to complete and it operated fully only from 1845 to 1871, when it was succeeded by the railroads. During the canal era, wooden houses with Greek Revival elements were favored, but their vulnerability to fire and decay have made these buildings relatively scarce and, therefore, candidates for preservation.
Three railroad lines in Crawford were completed during the Civil War, facilitating the transport of soldiers, oil, and goods from the northwestern territories. The lines linked Pittsburgh with Cleveland and with Lake Erie. Smaller dedicated rail lines built to ship raw materials and finished products also provided transportation to Conneaut Lake Park (initially called Exposition Park) in 1892 through a branch of the Pittsburgh, Shenango and Lake Erie Railroad.
In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the character of the county has remained primarily rural with agricultural support industries. Crawford also became a favored vacation destination after 1935, when the 17,088-acre Pymatuning Reservoir (Seneca meaning “the crooked-mouthed man's dwelling place”) used water impounded from the Shenango River to create a reservoir providing marinas, campsites, and fishing and swimming opportunities, as well as a haven for migratory birds. It also provided water for the industrialized Shenango Valley. Channellock, a tool manufacturer; Lord Corporation, which makes specialty plastics; and Wal-Mart are all dependent on such important highway links as I-79 and U.S. 6 and U.S. 322 to access markets.
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