After coming to America, James and Henry Philips were engaged in the exporting business with their base being Philadelphia. Their record books include accounts in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore Alexandria Norfolk, New York and Charleston. Business was also transacted in the West Indies. Imports included cocoa, ginger, molasses, rum, pimento, and tea. The main exports were timber and furs.
In later years Hardman Philips wrote the following account. “The property was a complete wilderness without a road, and my brother expended considerable sums making the first improvements such as roads, a saw mill and grist mill, etc., having to be carried by pack horse from thirty to fifty miles.”
Then land was unsettled virgin woods. Its only inhabitants were a few native Cornplanter Indians, who being friendly gave no resistance to the changes that were about to take place.
The date of Philipsburg’s founding is well documented in the Day Books and ledgers kept by Henry Philips who located at Milesburg in 1796, a village laid out, only three years before. It was here that Philips kept a store making supplies available to all of those pushing westward.
The original survey of the area was done by a Polish ex-baron, Charles Truziyulny and his associate, Mr. Behe. Truziyulny is credited with deciding the location and layout of the new town of Mushannon (Moshannon), meaning “Black Water,” renamed Philipsburg.
In the years of 1775 – 96 Mr. Henry Philips, John Leigh Philips and Brothers, purchased for the sum of $173,000, a large tract of land consisting of approximately on the western slope of the Allegheny mountain. Several reports have stated that this land was purchased at auction on the streets of Philadelphia at two cents per acre.
Late in 1776 Philips came into the area in order to supervise the development of his holdings. The first settlers and their families who were willing to come and settle in Moshannon were promised a town lot and four additional acres of land outside of the village. By the means of less than honest and down right unscrupulous advertising. Philips told of a town already developed. However, the promise of free land to the first twelve men who would come with the intention of staying helped Philips reach his goal.
The location of the town was considered suitable for several reasons. A: It was close to Moshannon Creek which served as a major supply of water and a method of transporting logs to the lumber mill. B: The general area was elevated enough to offer protection from any possible flooding of the Moshannon, but not so steep allowing for home and street construction. C: A state highway completed in 1796 offered easier access to nearby towns.
John Henry Simler arrived in America in 1780 having volunteered in Armand's Corps seeing active duty in the American Revolution. It is believed that most of these men came to Philipsburg from Standing Stone (Huntingdon), Huntingdon County.
“Settlement of Philipsburg, on the Mushanon”
“Whereas several persons have left the above Settlement, and are now supposed to be in Huntingdon or the Neighborhood. This is to give notice that unless they return on or before the first of January next, their improvements will be considered as forfeited to the Company and disposed of conformably with the agreements.”
The Philips ledger reveals that a portion, if not all of the original twelve settlers of Philipsburg had arrived in the spring of 1797. The Day-Book of the Milesborough (Milesburg) store shows additional entries showing that the first of these men arrived as early as February 7, of that year.
What they found upon their arrival in (Moshannon) Philipsburg was a total wilderness. The land was covered with a heavy forest inhabited by wild animals. The only sign of anyone being there before were axe markings showing the location of future streets and home lots. The dense forest was of hemlock, spruce, and pine trees with great thickets of laurel under brush. Some of the pine trees were reported to have been from one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet in height.
As stated in the ad, some soon became discouraged and returned to settlements and towns to the East. Each of them forfeited the lots given to them by the Philips brothers. Some stayed longer, but in the end John G. Shultz was the only one of the original twelve to stay for the remainder of his life.
An early report states “There was some terrible cursing and swearing done by some of the pioneers when they arrived; they cursed the place, the Philips brothers and their agents for their deception.” The agent for the Philips Company had told them the Moshannon “River” was a navigable stream large enough for sloops to sail right up to their town, and provisions were cheap and plentiful. Provided that any provisions could be had at all. So much for truth in advertising.
The nearest neighbor was the town of Bellefonte some twenty-eight miles away. There was a small number of Native American camps with a few of the Cornplanter tribe still remaining. The “Indians” were friendly giving the settlers little or no problems.
In 1796 the State road was completed through the area. In 1797 both Henry and James Philips came to their new town. With them came a number of willing men who began the work of clearing the land. Along with these general improvements was the building of a large log home for the Philips brothers located at what was at the time the lower end of town (In the general area of Dick’s Homecare.) Additional improvements included a grist mill and a small sawmill located on the Cold Stream then about half a mile east of the town.
Although there are no remaining records to show the exact extent of improvements made in 1797 and in turn how much land was cleared or how many cabins were built. It is known that the settlers were successful in putting up and making habitable several buildings in which they resided during the first, spring, summer, and following winter.
Henry Philips due to poor health returned to Philadelphia in 1799 where he died a year later. Upon his death his brothers James and Nathaniel became the executors of the estate.
Upon the death of James in 1809, the youngest of the Philips brothers, Hardman, came to Philipsburg to carry on and continue the development of the estate. Through family agreement and an act of the Pennsylvania State Senate, Hardman became the sole owner.
During the time of Hardman Philips, he initiated an intensive effort to populate and industrialize the area. One of his first projects was the building of a manor house in 1813. This house is still standing and is presently known as Halehurst.
A map dated 1813 show less than thirty buildings in the small town. In 1817 a forge and saw mill were constructed. In 1820 the turnpike leading from Philipsburg through Clearfield to Curwensville was completed. The first screw factory in the United States and a bridge over the Moshannon Creek were built in 1821 along with the completion of the turnpike between Philipsburg and Bellefonte.
From 1814 to 1834 the town of Philipsburg saw continued growth, and as long as Hardman Philips continued to spend money on the development of the area the population grew.
With the bypassing of the railroad and canal system Philipsburg entered a temporary period of little to no growth until 1864 when a rail line from Tyrone to Clearfield was finally completed. That same year the first bank was established and the town of Philipsburg was incorporated.
A house built by on of the settlers has been renewed and stands today near Front street in downtown on 2nd street.
It should also be noted that according to his own journals, and surviving letters and documents, Hardman Philips, as early as 1832, had attempted to build a railroad that would connect Philipsburg to the Pennsyvania Canal. While it would be a far-fetched idea to claim the railroad would have caused the town to develop into a bustling city. The railroad could have helped create a "steel and iron city" some 50 years before Pittsburgh truly took off.
However, despite Philips' repeated attempts to secure both funding and public support for the project, the railroad never got off the drawing board. This was due in large part to political maneuvering by local Democrats who held a disdain for Philips' aristocratic Whig tendencies. Interestingly enough when the railroad was put in to Philipsburg, it used the exact plans and coordinates that Philips had laid some 60 years prior.
Because of this and other economic hardships Philipsburg has experienced many booms and busts over the years. Including the most recent depression in the 1980s. Two local groups, the Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership and the Philipsburg Revitalization Corporation have and continue to put forth a valiant effort to bring back Philipsburg's economy. To learn more go to www.mvedp.org or www.philipsburgpa.org
There were 1,375 households out of which 24.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.7% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.5% were non-families. 37.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.89.
In the borough the population was spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 20.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 82.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.5 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $28,356, and the median income for a family was $36,667. Males had a median income of $28,537 versus $21,382 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $16,002. 14.5% of the population and 9.7% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 19.3% are under the age of 18 and 13.8% are 65 or older.