Saturday, April 16, 2016


On April 22, 2016, several events will be held at the McKean County Poor Farm Property along Route 6 in Smethport. 

The McKean County Good Growing Gardens Program (3G) will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony behind the Domestic Relations Building at 10:00 AM for the opening of the Orchard Trail System.  The Orchard Trial System is approximately 1 ½ miles long and it connects to the Shawmut Trail System, which provides an addition approximately a mile and a half of trails and leads to the Hamlin Lake.  The 3G Program is overseen by the Court and Adult Probation.  It provides an opportunity for defendants in the criminal justice system to complete community service.  A crew of numerous participants has worked very hard for over 2 years to complete this trail.  The new trail provides an opportunity for the public to walk and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Old County Poor Farm property including abundant wildlife along Marvin Creek.   

Walkers have viewed deer, bear, pheasants, songbirds, numerous waterfowl species, osprey, recently an eagle and many more species of birds.  The trail system was proposed by the court and 3G / Adult Probation, but could not have been completed without the approval, cooperation and support of the McKean County Commissioners, the McKean County Maintenance Department and the McKean County Conservation Department.   President Judge John H. Pavlock, Commissioner Clifford Lane, Chief Adult Probation Officer Gary Seefeldt and 3G Coordinator Mike Barnard will be making brief comments at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

A Bridge Dedication Ceremony will be held at 10:30 AM at the Marvin Creek Bridge that the Orchard Trail leads to.  Individuals at the trail ribbon ceremony can, if they choose, walk the trail to the Bridge.  For those that chose not to walk the trial, there is limited handicap parking beside the bridge and additional parking in the 911 and CYS parking lot areas (roughly 200 yard walk to the bridge from the parking lot).  The Bridge is behind the 3G Barn on Route 6 and behind McKean 911 and CYS Buildings.

Attached below is an outline of the history of the Marvin Creek Bridge on the County’s Poor Farm Property as well as an outline of the renovation work that was undertaken in 2015 in order to save it.  A plaque will be unveiled at the ceremony on April 22nd.  The individual(s) whom will be honored by the dedication of the bridge have been chosen, but will not be revealed until the bridge dedication ceremony.  Commissioner Clifford Lane, Judge John Pavlock and Mike Barnard (3G Coordinator) will make brief statements at the time of the ceremony.  If there is inclement weather the Trail Opening Ceremony and Bridge Dedication will be re-scheduled to April 29, 2016, at 11:30 AM. (As of time of this press release, Historical Society has indicated “Rain or shine, their event described below will proceed”).  

Any additional questions regarding the Trail Opening and the Bridge Dedication can be forwarded to Mike Barnard, 3G Coordinator, at  (814) 598-1126 OR  Mike will make the call prior to 9:30 AM on the 22nd regarding any change due to weather. 
Following the Bridge Dedication Ceremony and at 11:00 AM, the McKean County Historical Society, in cooperation with the Potato Creek Trail Association,  will hold a “Walk to the Poor Farm Cemetery” Event at the Poor Farm Cemetery on the hill across from the Poor Farm Complex. There is a trail leading from the Marvin Creek Bridge to the cemetery.  Program participants will assume the role of some of the County Poor Farm residents who were laid to rest at the cemetery. This will be an interactive program.  Further details regarding the “Walk to the Poor Farm” program can be obtained by contacting the McKean County Historical 
Society, (814) 887-5412 (Website:  

Bridge Renovation Project

In the late half of the 19th Century a shift was underway regarding bridge construction in the United States.  Timber bridges were giving way to the use of Iron truss bridges.  With its growing economy and many streams and rivers, Pennsylvania was one of several States at the forefront of this development.  Numerous patents were issued for bridge designs and hundreds of bridge manufacturers sprung up across the nation – many in Pennsylvania.

There were 17 different types of metal truss bridges.  This Bridge is an example of a “Warren Truss Bridge” (patent was issued to James Warren and Willoughby Monzani in 1848). The Warren truss employs only diagonal members that were set in opposite directions, forming a series of diagonals. The Warren truss was widely used in Pennsylvania and other Eastern States. 
Based on its style and the stone utilized in the abutments that support the bridge, it is assumed that this bridge was placed at approximately the same time that the “McKean County Poor Farm” was built (dedication for the Poor Farm complex was held Tuesday, July 9, 1895 at 2:00 p.m.).  This bridge was used to gain entrance to the Shawmut Grade Railroad facilities and to the County owned fields that were operated by the Poor Farm.

In 2014 this Bridge was in a substantial and unsafe state of disrepair.  A portion of one of the abutment walls had given way and several of the large cut stone had fallen into Marvin Creek.  The steel on the bridge, and in particular the vertical supports for the decking, were heavily corroded an unstable.  An initial estimate to repair the bridge was over $150,000.00 and, therefore, it was likely that the bridge would be removed, sold for scrap and not replaced.  At that point the Good Growing Garden’s Program (3G), administered through the court and McKean County Adult Probation, offered to work to find a way to keep the bridge open at a reasonable cost. 

Due to engineer concerns it was regrettably determined that it could not be utilized for vehicular traffic.  However, Mike “Buck” Barnard, the Administrator of the 3G Program, found a way to refurbish the bridge at a cost of less than $20,000.  Beams from a bridge that was being dismantled were purchased at scrap metal prices and used to span the river (the green beams on bridge).  Local contractors agreed to work with the program at volunteer or reduced rates to rebuild the abutment walls and install massive footers on each side of the bridge for the new beams to sit on and to keep the weight of the structure off of the old abutment walls. 

The old bridge, through the use of heavy threaded steel rods, was bolted to the new beams to keep the old bridge in place but not rely on it for any structural support.  New 2x4 decking was installed, the access areas brought up to grade and the entire area landscaped.  The bridge is now here to be enjoyed by County residents and visitors for, hopefully, for the next 100+ years. Visitors will continue to be able to walk over Marvin Creek on this structure and see what was - the old structure of the bridge - and what it is now- a beautiful walking bridge that the County can be proud of!

Picture above shows poor condition of old steel beams of original bridge.  During renovation the old section of the bridge was attached to new sound beams so that the appearance of the old structure remains but no longer provides structural or weight bearing support. 

Bridge in late summer 2015.  New wooden decking sits on added beams for substantial support.  Bridge abutments on each side of Marvin Creek rebuilt and reinforced.  Railings added for safety and appearance.  Benches built by 3G participants added.  Bridge is ready for first wedding ceremony that was held there in August of 2015. 


Anonymous said...

what happened to the cemetery that was up there

Anonymous said...

It's still there!!!