Our History

The towns of Barnesboro and Spangler have consolidated, effective January 1, 2000, into one borough. The new borough is called Northern Cambria.


The Borough of Barnesboro evolved from a tract of land which was rich in timber and coal resources. The tract of land, located in Susquehanna Township, was originally granted to Edward C. Fisher in 1835 when it was a dense forest. Two early settlers David Ralston and Peter Garman cleared the land and sold the lumber. Three-fourths of the timber was carried on the Susquehanna River. Logging was a major industry for many years. Later, Daniel Stannard bought Peter Garman’s 420 acres for farming. Years later the development of railroad facilities opened the area to the coal mining industry. Principal contributors to the coal mining boom were Thomas Barnes and Alfred Tucker, who opened mines in the area. Other mining companies who were prominent in the early growth of the town were Delta, Empire, and Maderia, who opened mines in 1893. The rapid growth of the coal industry lured many miners from Houtzdale, Philipsburg and other parts of the state to settle in the area. As the community grew due to the job opportunities, the need for housing was met by the construction of company houses in a part of town now known as North Barnesboro.

The town was incorporated as a borough on May 5, 1894, and was named Barnesboro after Thomas Barnes. By this time Mr. Barnes had joined with Alfred Tucker to form the Barnes and Tucker Company. In 1898 the Barnes and Tucker Company built the first power plant which supplied electricity to both the community and the mining property. An adequate water supply was not provided until 1907 after several very disasterous fires. A reservoir was constructed in the western section of town. The growth of the business district kept pace with the coal industry to provide the needed services for the increasing population. The borough soon became the shopping center of Northern Cambria County. One of the major attractions in the borough in the early 1900’s was the opera house. The Opera house provided many evenings of entertainment as traveling troupes visited the town regularly to give performances. The major attraction was the annual local talent ministrel shows directed by Michael Durkin. The town counted mining and lumbering as virtually its only industries until 1930 when Phillips-Jones Corp., opened a shirt factory.


Originally the land which is now Spangler was a great forest. The Delawares and Shawnees hunted and lived in this area. Occasionally an Iroquis Indian tribe would raid this area. Then men such as Joseph Hart, the pioneer trader, and Demetrius Gallitzin, the Russian missionary began to explore the region which is now Spangler. After the early explorers, came the lumbermen. They cleared hundreds of acres of forest land. The logs were cut and floated down the nearby Susquehanna River. Almost immediately after the land was cleared, a few farmers moved into the area. Before the Civil War the valley in which Spangler is located was known as “Hidden Valley” because it was a secluded spot for the underground railroad to use as a stop in their journey from the South to freedom in Canada. Many former slaves had used this route in their flight to freedom. In 1886 a group of men, all from Bellefonte, except B. K. Martin of Lancaster, became interested in the rich coal lands of northwestern Cambria County. This group was composed of James Beaver, Daniel Hastings, Col. J. L. Spangler, J. A. McClain, and B. K. Martin. In a few months the Bluebaker Coal Company was formed, with the largest number of shares going to the Lancaster millionaire Robert Coleman, Adjutant General Hastings, and J. L. Spangler, each 1550 shares of stock. Plans were made by these men and in 1890 a large parcel of land was purchased from Joseph Gray. Shortly after this, the Spangler Land and Improvement Company was formed and James A. McClain was made Trustee.

On June 14,1892 the first of the 250 lots were sold for $200 to $250. Buildings soon began to spring up and by 1893 the town had a large enough population to become a borough. This new borough was named after Col. J. L. Spangler. The rapid influx of miners caused a housing shortage, but this was soon alleviated. Spangler quickly developed into a boom-town. Many houses were built and a large number of businesses were established. The Pennsylvania Railroad built an extension of the Cambria & Clearfield Railroad to Spangler to haul coal, freight, and to carry passengers. The first coal shipment was made on December 12, 1892. The First National Bank of Spangler was organized in 1904. In 1906 the Spangler post office became a third class post office with Mrs. Eliza Kirkpatrick as the first postmaster. This post office was considered one of the most efficient and best managed of all the post offices in Cambria County. The Barnesboro “Star” served as the Spangler newspaper. Spangler was founded as a coal center but most people hoped it would also develop into a coke center. Unfortunately the coke industry did not develop in this area. Spangler became the center for several coal companies. These are the Duncan & Spangler Coal Company, which employed 225 men, Susquehanna Coal Company, Maderia Hill Coal Company, Derringer Brothers Coal Company and the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company. Today these mines are either worked out or run by the Barnesboro based Barnes and Tucker Mines. In 1904 another rather large indusiry began in Spangler. This was the Spangler Brewing Company. The brewery was the largest and best equipped in Northern Cambria County. Joseph Mathias was the president of this company. The brewery produced 60,000 barrels of beer yearly. The water was supplied by a 50 foot deep well near the brewery. The brewery also maintained an icehouse and “ageing” room. The Spangler Water Company supplied water for both Barnesboro and Spangler. The water was obtained from the Susquehanna River, a short distance below St. Benedict. The water was not very pure but another water supply was to be found in the future. Today Spangler receives its water from freshlets located between Bakertown and Nicktown.

By 1907 Spangler had a population of three thousand people. The town had an adequate school system and already many churches, including Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Greek and Roman Catholic. Two railroads served the community at this time. Both the New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroads made regular stops in Spangler. The town provided hotels, the most illustrious being the Brandon Hotel and street car accomodations for the resident and traveler. Today the street cars and the New York Central no longer serve the community. About this time a hospital was built and a few years later, a training school for nurses, which was discontinued. However the history of the hospital is a story in itself. Over the years, mines have closed and the brewery has ceased operations. Modern mine machinery has created a problem of unemployment. Most of the businesses have either moved from Spangler or closed. Even with this, the borough of Spangler is a very friendly and pleasant place in which to live.

“Facts & History of Northern Cambria, PA.” www.northerncambria.com/history.html Feb. 17, 2016.