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Research had been done since the early 1920’s for a dam. It had
been talked about so much that in one of the grade schools the
teacher asked what the students were going to do over summer
break and the one eight-year-old boy said the family was going to go
to the dam. This was in the 1940’s.
After so many years of talk of a dam the people in Kinzua considered
it an Urban Legend and went on with life.
It was not until 1959 when final plans were made for the dam. My
parents were building onto a house they owned in Kinzua. One day,
with no advanced warning, a man showed up at the door.
He handed my father papers to halt building onto the house and said
the government would be in touch to start talks on buying the house
Many people in the area fought leaving the town. There were families
that had lived in Kinzua for five and six generations.
For my family it had been three generations. My relatives had
businesses that would have to be shut down or moved. A few of my
relatives actually had their houses moved three and four miles away
onto Route 59 which lead from the town of Kinzua to Warren Pa.
My one Uncle was one who fought moving as long as possible. With
rumors flying about abandoned houses people from other areas
thought all the houses were empty and would walk into houses to
see what they could take. If you locked the doors they tried to break
It was finally so bad at the end those who stayed had to leave
one person at home at all times and keep a shotgun at the doors to
keep people out of the house.
One other sad outcome of the dam was that the flooding would reach
into the Cornplanter tract, otherwise known as the Seneca Indian
Reservation. This treaty and tract of land was given to Chief
Cornplanter in 1796 for his assistance in trying to find peace for the
new Americans and the American Indian.
The land comprising of 1500 acres was located in the lower part of
New York state on the western shore of the Allegheny River. It was
given to him and his heirs “forever.” This was the breaking of the
oldest Indian treaty in American history.
It took until 1965 for all the people to be relocated and the dam to be
built. The reservation was moved to lower New York State and is
known as the Allegheny Reservation.
Much history and natural beauty was lost when the dam was built. As
with all events there have been positive results.
The area is a beautiful recreational site with great fishing. The dam
paid for its entire building costs in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes hit
the United States' east coast with such fury that flooding took a
devastating toll in many states.
The Kinzua Dam is one of my favorite places. It’s beautiful and has
such history. I never visit the place without remembering stories of
my familiy's past and remembering Cornplanter and his people.
|Kinzua, Pennsylvania was a
unique small town nestled in
between the foothills of the
Allegheny Mountains in a
hunting and recreation area.
by Denise Grant
|The former site of Kinzua, Pennsylvania. James Morrison moved from
Warren PA to become the first "permanent" resident of Kinzua. Source:
Schenck's "History of Warren County Pennsylvania," 1887, D. Mason & Co.,
Syracuse, NY. Photo Copyright by AlleghenyAlmanac.com
What's in a name? Road marker for the
former town of Kinzua PA, which is now
The roadside marker shows that "Kinzua"
originally was pronounced using three
"Fish up there" was
the translation of
"genzo waa" (English
spelling of Kinzua)
from the Seneca
English. It referred to
catching fish with a
spear and holding it
up in the air.
member holds up
19th Century fishing
spear that was
manufactured in the
Warren Pa area for
Photo taken at an
annual outdoor show
in Warren PA.
Warren County Historical member holds up
19th Century fishing spear made in Warren
PA. Note the lanyard attached to the device
so that the angler could easily retrieve it after
throwing. The spear is held with gloves to
preserve it from tarnishing. Photo is from a
recent Warren Outdoor Show.