Nature and Industry have created this oasis in southern Indiana County. Saltsburg is located at the confluence of Loyalhanna Creek and the Conemaugh and Kiskiminetas Rivers. What made this town a great hub for the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, now makes it a haven for those who love the water. The rails that once coursed through the heart of town have been transformed by the West Penn and Westmoreland Heritage Trails. Historic buildings have been made new again, housing home-cooked meals, gifts and our local museum.
Easy to find, this river town is the perfect get away from the city! Just a 45-minute, scenic drive will put you at nature's door.
Saltsburg in Pictures
Saltsburg is proud of our part in the industrial history of America. The town is so named for our part in the salt industry. With contributions to the railroad and canals, we also have a history of hard work and dedication. The home to native Indian Tribes, this area gave way to a culture that respects nature and thrives to maintain our rich and diverse heritage. To learn more, please read about our town's history or visit the Stone House Museum while you're in town. Please enjoy these photos of Historic Saltsburg.
Where the Loyalhanna Creek joins the Conemaugh River to form the Kiskiminetas River in southwestern Indiana County, Pennsylvania, the town of Saltsburg grew - and was named for - its role in the salt industry from 1798 to as late as the 1890's. Saltsburg's history as a frontier town was built initially upon its place on the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal during the first half of the 19th Century. Like many communities, Saltsburg has a significant railroad history, reflected today by an exceptional rail-trail. The town also has a legacy associated with surviving the Johnstown Flood of 1889.
Sometime between 1795 and 1798, a woman known only to history as Mrs. Deemer was boiling water from a spring near what is now Saltsburg. As the water evaporated, she noticed a formation of salt crystals in the bottom of her kettle. Mrs. Deemer's discovery led to the birth of an industry that over the next few decades made the Conemaugh-Kiskiminetas Valley one of the leading salt producers in the nation.
Native American Villages
Of course, long before the European settlement of the area, native peoples lived along the rivers and streams. The Monongahela were pre-historic peoples known to have been in the area, and later the Senecas. Senecas invited Shawnee and Delaware into the region and eventually those two tribes became much more prominent as Senecas moved out. Many of these peoples continued to be pushed out of the region with the development and settlement of the frontier by Europeans. Our surrounding mountains, rivers, and creeks were given names by these people, reflecting what they were, rather than names established as a means for personal immortality.
In 1816, Andrew and Jane Boggs purchased land at the confluence of the Loyalhanna Creek, Conemaugh and Kiskiminetas Rivers and immediately began selling lots in the tiny pioneer town. Driven by the salt industry, businesses began springing up - coopers, blacksmiths, wagon makers, stone masons and carpenters. The location had an abundant supply of timber and stone for building and plenty of good water.
Some say the first house was erected in 1819-1820 at the rear of the present Presbyterian Church lot on Salt Street, however, there were many log cabins on the site as early as 1800.
The Canal and Railroad
It may be hard to visualize today, but before there were roads, highways, rail lines, before there was a canal system, it took 3-4 weeks to travel from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh by wagon. Imagine the impact it must have had on moving people and goods when the construction of the canal made that same journey possible in 4 days. The 104-mile Western Division of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal ran through Saltsburg as it connected Johnstown with Pittsburgh. It was the lifeblood of Saltsburg for more than 30 years.
The canal - an artery of water 28 feet wide at the bottom of the prism, 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide at the water level - cut through Saltsburg in a graceful curve, following near the bank of the Conemaugh River and crossing the town's major streets. Saltsburg's interpretive Canal Park traces the authentic path of the canal. As you visit Canal Park, you'll note that homes along the west side of the canal have "original front entrances" facing the canal or "post canal entrances" facing Water Street. Canal channels and tow paths, generally 62 feet wide, ran along the river. Mules were led along the canal path to pull the boats through the waterway. Lock #8, a canal boat basin, and a warehouse fronting the basin were located on the northern end of town. An interpretation of the lock can be found at the actual site at the end of Canal Park, where sign panels explain its form and function.
Eventually, railroad technology enabled the rail system to surpass the transportation efficiency of the canal. Railroad construction began to advance toward Saltsburg between 1845 and 1854. The Pennsylvania Railroad purchased the Saltsburg section of the canal system in 1857. A railroad bridge spanning the Kiskiminetas River - you can still see the piers just north of the Route 286 bridge - and a passenger and freight station were constructed in Saltsburg between 1855 and 1864. The station still stands and functions as the borough offices.
The first rail line through town ran parallel to the canal, as the canal hadn't yet been totally abandoned. In 1882, the decision was made to move the rails to the dried up canal bed. With this accomplished, the tracks were laid and a new station constructed on Washington Street.
Lock #8 was filled in, the gates on the north end of the lock carefully lowered onto the floor of the lock, hoping no doubt that they would be discovered someday. They were - in 1989 by archeologists doing exploratory digs on the canal. The large, fine cut stones were removed and used to build the Soldiers Monument in the Edgewood Cemetery that sits at the top of the hill above Saltsburg.