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Community : History

History

John Bell was a sailor who built a log house for his family in 1805 in the vicinity of Bellwood. Edward Bell, a son, settled in what is now Antis Township in the Tuckahoe Valley where the junction of the Juniata and Bells Run meet. Bell established an “iron plantation” focused on an iron furnace and two forges. They built Mary Ann Forge in 1830 and Elizabeth Furnace in 1832. There was also a grist mill, a lumber mill, and a distillery.

The property on which the Bell Mansion now stands was most likely originally settled by the Edington family. (The Edingtons are credited with being the first settlers of the headwaters of the Juniata River during the Revolutionary War.) But by 1829, Edward Bell had accumulated 3,674 acres of land in and around what is now referred to as Bellwood.

Chief Logan was a friend of the white settlers and lived in the vicinity of Bell’s settlement. Logan lived near Big Spring in Tyrone and later at Logan’s Spring on the Watt’s farm. In his old age, Logan was given a cabin by Martin Bell, a son of Edward Bell.

The history of Antis Township and Bellwood are closely parallel. For example, the first log house that Edward Bell built is still standing at the corner of Main and Lowther Streets in Bellwood. The Bell Mansion which is located in Antis Township was built in 1822. It was located near Mr. Bell’s business enterprises, which included a grist mill and a sawmill as well as a distillery. The mansion was acquired by Antis Township in 1989 for an adaptive reuse as a senior activity and community center, and it serves both Antis Township and Bellwood Borough.

The first settlers of Antis Township were Irish, Scotch-Irish, and German. They built a flour mill, a powder mill, a distillery, and a blacksmith shop. Edward Bell and his sons completed an iron furnace and a forge by the year 1832. About 1840, they devised a way of using hot gas from the furnace to create steam, which was used in the furnace production. A special feature of the furnace design allowed the furnace to be banked on Sunday so no one had to work on the Sabbath.

Antis Township was originally a part of Allegheny Township in Huntingdon County. Map 2 illustrates historic Antis Township. Blair County was established from the division of Huntingdon County in 1846. The Township was named for Colonel Antes in honor of his revolutionary service and his personal worth, talents, integrity, and piety. In 1850, Antes Township was split to create Logan Township and in the process the new spelling emerged for Antis Township. At this time, there were thriving villages in the Township including Tipton, Fostoria, Elizabeth Furnace, and Davidsburg. In 1877 Bells.

Mills was laid out and it was later renamed Bellwood. The Bellwood Independent published its first edition May 16, 1882.

The state legislature granted a charter to the Bells Gap Railroad to lay tracks to the top of the Allegheny Mountain to bring coal from Cambria and Clearfield Counties in 1871. The train was operational by 1873, and a large railroad repair shop was built in 1877.

Antis Township experienced a major impact for its future growth in development with the western expansion of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in the late 1840’s. Antis Township is bisected by the former PPR Main Line. The main line of the PRR was constructed on a northeast southwest axis through the relatively level valley floor of Logan Valley to Altoona. In the decades to come, the PRR provided the basis for the growth and expansion of businesses and industries within the Township. It also provided the connection of the Bells Gap narrow gauge railroad west over the Allegheny Front to Blandburg, Cambria County.

The first public school was a one-room affair at Beech Grove in Antis Township. It was followed by a public school built in 1880 in Bellwood. As the Township grew, a larger school, “northside” building, was added in 1914. A consolidated school district was formed in 1938.

In 1903 the first volunteer fire company was organized, and more recently the Pinecroft, Excelsior, and Tipton volunteer companies provide complete fire protection to Antis Township.

Another early facility located within Antis Township was the Altoona Speedway, located immediately south of the Village of Tipton. The speedway operated from September 4th, 1923 until September 7th, 1931 when it was forced to close with the start of the Great Depression. The track was constructed of pine 2 x 4’s laid on edge. It was banked in corners. Many great race drivers raced at the track. Leon Duray set a speed record of 138.62 mph in 1926. Howard Wilcox, Joseph Boyer, and Raymond Keech were killed at the track. The track was destroyed by fire on May 19, 1936. The course fell into disuse and was closed. It is now the site of the Ardie J. Dillen Industrial Park, which accommodates a number of township businesses and industries.

The first electric lights were installed in 1891; and under the Rural Electrification Act, electric lines were gradually extended throughout the Township. An electric trolley connected Antis with Tyrone and Altoona in 1894.

Over time, much of the industry which was the foundation of the community has disappeared, but there are new industries which have arisen (see the section on the economy). The communities of Bellmeade, Bellwood, Tipton, and Pinecroft have continued as bedroom communities for their residents as they commute daily to employment at new centers of industry.

Cultural resources within Antis Township are mainly historical. The Bell Mansion is found near Bells Mills (now Bellwood), an existing trail along the old trolley right-of-way, the Bellwood-Antis Community Park, Bellwood-Antis Farm Show, Bellwood-Antis Community Picnic, Northern Blair Recreation Center, and various athletic fields are all considered to be Cultural Resources throughout the Township.

(The Logan Valley Electric Trolley Trail follows old Route 220 through Antis Township and the Bells Gap Rail Trail runs northwest from Bellwood, following State Route 865 into Cambria County. It has been suggested by members of the community that these two trails be connected and developed into a historical rails-to-trails resource. The former Lloydsville Rhododendron Park could be established as a visitor site along this trail.

Tipton is the home of the former Bland's Park, which is now DelGrosso’s Amusement Park, a family amusement park owned and operated by the DelGrosso family since 1946.