“Hidden Gems, Regional Riches.” This is the title of the plan that the members of the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Downtown Affiliates Committee launched in mid-2015. This committee is made up of the Main Street/Elm Street managers in Bloomsburg, Danville, Lewisburg, Mifflinburg, Selinsgrove and Sunbury. The committee is staffed by employees of the Susquehanna River Valley Visitor’s Bureau and our Chamber.
What the “Hidden Gems, Regional Riches” plan does is pull together our entire valley as a group of dynamic, interesting and fun main streets as a single necklace of rich gems. As the song goes, “… you can always go downtown.” Here in the Greater Susquehanna Valley, we’re truly blessed with wonderful communities that, when considered together, make up a fabulous destination to visit, live, work and play.
Montour County is the rural heart of the state, offering serene natural landscapes perfect for a relaxing retreat. Created on May 3, 1850, from part of Columbia County and named for Madame Montour, a woman of Indian and French descent. The area, with a population of more than 18,000, includes almost 20,000 acres of state game land widely used for hunting, fishing, boating, hiking and bird watching.
Montour County may be one of the smallest of Pennsylvania counties in geographical size but certainly not in things to do. Danville is Montour County’s main town and county seat, which was laid out in the late 1700s and is also known as a “river town” due to its close proximity to the Susquehanna River. Each year, the Danville community celebrates its distinct history with the Iron Heritage Festival. Through a series of exhibits and interactive demonstrations, guests to the event learn about the first T-rail, which was manufactured in 1845 at the Montour Iron Works in Danville. The T-rail helped Pennsylvania become leaders in the Industrial Revolution. Danville provides an array of quaint gift shops, antique shops, art galleries and has several outstanding inns for the visitor to stay awhile.
Northumberland County is distinguished as the “Mother of Counties” due to the fact that the 29 counties in Pennsylvania stem from the 15,000 square miles that once constituted it. Northumberland was the 10th county to be organized in Pennsylvania, which was established in 1772. The demand for anthracite was the cause of the construction of nearly every rail line; the Shamokin district located in this county covers a 50-square-mile area that represents about one-tenth of the entire anthracite region.
Sunbury, originally the Indian town of Shamokin, is the location of Northumberland’s county seat. This resulted in the demand for the designation of a new county seat because of the city’s distance and settlers’ inability to cross the Susquehanna River. The barriers generated the move to create new counties from Northumberland; the role of the county seat was fought for among the newly created towns because of the guarantee it offered – prestige and prosperity. However, Sunbury remains the county seat since it is located at the forks of the Susquehanna River. By the beginning of the 19th century, it was the hub of Northumberland County.
Snyder County became an independent political until on March 2, 1855 when it was formed from part of Union County. It took its name from its most famous citizen and political figure, Simon Snyder. Snyder was the only three-term Governor in the state’s history. Snyder County is famous for its Pennsylvania German language and culture, its agriculture heritage, and is known for the Beaver Furnace, Susquehanna University and its many fairs and festivals. Many historical markers are found in Snyder County, including the Pennsylvania Canal, the Simon Snyder Mansion and the Albany Purchase.
Selinsgrove, a major borough of Snyder County, offers a friendly and relaxed pace of life. Attend a few of the borough’s annual events or drop in downtown to explore its collection of quaint shops, restaurants, businesses and historic colonial and early American architecture. The community is also home to Susquehanna University, one of the best liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. Middleburg lies to the east, serving as the county seat and home to a historical courthouse, Snyder County Courthouse.
Union County was formed in 1813 when land west of the Susquehanna River was separated from Northumberland County; the area was divided into Union and Snyder Counties in 1855.
It was originally home to American Indian nations, who had developed extensive trails throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states. The trails were later used by new settlers to move into Union County and were used to form the basis of many modern-day roads. New Berlin was the original county seat from 1813 to 1855, but later named Lewisburg as the county seat.
Lewisburg, located on the Susquehanna River, became a market town with the building of the Pennsylvania Canal in 1830. It is well known for its 19th century downtown, which offers a variety of dining options, plus the Campus Theatre, several museums and over 40 retail shops. Downtown Lewisburg is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mifflinburg, another major borough in Union County, was recognized as the “Buggy Town” because its buggy makers produced more horse-drawn vehicles per capita than any other town in the state. Mifflinburg is a charming and historical town with a rich German heritage and is home to unique shops, restaurants and a busy calendar of events. Some of the most popular downtown Mifflinburg events are the Christkindl Market, Oktoberfest and the Blueberries and Bluegrass Festival. For more information, visit the Mifflinburg Heritage and Revitalization Association at www.mifflinburgpa.com.
The Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau in Lewisburg and the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau in Bloomsburg are a great guide to the Valley. From information about history, heritage, arts and culture to outdoor activities and charming towns, the visitors bureaus provides guests all the resources needed for discovering all the ways to enjoy the Greater Susquehanna River Valley. For more information, visit www.visitcentralpa.org and www.itourcolumbiamontour.com.