Lewistown, Pennsylvania

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Lewistown, Pennsylvania
Lewistown Post Office.jpg
The post office in Lewistown
Mifflin County Pennsylvania Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Lewistown Highlighted.svg
Location of Lewistown in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania.
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Location of Lewistown in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania.
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Lewistown (the United States)
Coordinates: 40°35′51″N77°34′24″W / 40.59750°N 77.57333°W / 40.59750; -77.57333 Coordinates: 40°35′51″N77°34′24″W / 40.59750°N 77.57333°W / 40.59750; -77.57333
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Mifflin
  TypeBorough Council
  MayorDeborah Bargo
  Total2.05 sq mi (5.31 km2)
  Land2.03 sq mi (5.26 km2)
  Water0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)
520 ft (160 m)
(2018) [2]
  Density4,041.87/sq mi (1,560.32/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
  Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 717 and 223
FIPS code 42-43000
School district Mifflin County School District

Lewistown is a borough in and the county seat of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, United States. [3] It is the principal city of the Lewistown, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area , which encompasses all of Mifflin County. [4] It lies along the Juniata River, 61 miles (98 km) northwest of Harrisburg. The number of people living in the borough in 1900 was 4,451; in 1910, 8,166; in 1940, 13,017; and in 2000, 8,998. The population was 8,338 at the 2010 census. Of the four communities in the United States named "Lewistown", this borough is the largest.



Monument Square in Lewistown, 1913 Monument Square, Lewistown, Pennsylvania (1913).jpg
Monument Square in Lewistown, 1913

Early history

The borough was incorporated in 1795 and was named for William "Bill" Lewis, a Quaker and a member of the legislature, who was responsible for the designation of the borough, which was then known as the Village of Ohesson, as the county seat of Mifflin County.

During the late 19th century Mifflin County became the crossroads of the Commonwealth. Located near the geographic center of the state, the area became a hub for traffic moving in every direction.

Early roads crisscrossed the region, but it was the eventual construction of the Pennsylvania Canal and the railroads that followed that truly positioned Mifflin County as an economic force in the state.

Lewistown, as the major city in Mifflin County, saw its economy expand dramatically as entrepreneurs launched companies to construct canal boats or build inns offering lodging for travelers and workers.

At its zenith, Mifflin County was one of the busiest centers for cargo and passenger traffic in the United States. But with the demise of the canal system, Mifflin County eventually lost its place as a major transportation hub.

American Civil War

On April 16, 1861, Lewistown sent its Logan Guards, a militia group originally formed in 1858, to Washington, D.C. for its defense. They were one of only five companies, all recruited in Pennsylvania, to share the honor of being the first U.S. troops sent to the capital. Monument Square, situated at the intersection of Main and Market Streets in Lewistown, serves as a memorial to these men.

Tropical Storm Agnes

Lewistown lost its role as a major transportation hub, but still boasted a strong industrial economy until the early 1970s when the county's industries began a slow decline. Hurricane Agnes June 1972 crippled the local economy.

On June 19, Hurricane Agnes made initial landfall along the Florida Panhandle as a weak Category 1 Hurricane. Agnes then proceeded through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina before she moved back over the Atlantic off the North Carolina coast on June 21.

After regaining strength over the Atlantic, she made landfall again over southeastern New York on June 22 and moved westward in an arc over southern New York into north-central Pennsylvania. She became nearly stationary over Pennsylvania by morning of June 23, but was soon absorbed by a low-pressure system that slowly drifted northeastward from Pennsylvania into New York.

Rainfall from storm over the Mid-Atlantic region ranged from 2 to 3 inches (51 to 76 mm) in the extreme upper basins of the Potomac and North Branch Susquehanna Rivers to 18 inches (460 mm) near Shamokin, Pennsylvania, in the Main Stem Susquehanna River basin. An average of 6 to 10 inches (150 to 250 mm) of rain fell over the Mid-Atlantic region. The soil, already well watered by spring rains, could not absorb so much water so quickly.

While flooding from the Juniata River was somewhat controlled due to a dam at Raystown Lake, 44 miles (71 km) west of Lewistown, the county experienced extensive flooding from the river and major streams which resulted in the permanent closure of many businesses along the river. Most notably, the flood submerged much of the American Viscose Corporation plant, then a division of FMC Corporation. The facility, located on the banks of the Juniata River across from Lewistown proper, manufactured rayon fiber (primarily for rayon-belted automobile tires), polyester and Avistrap.

FMC was one of two major employers in the area at the time, the other being the Standard Steel Works. The "Viscose" plant was only marginally profitable before the storm and the cost to reopen was prohibitive. (Ironically, the demand for rayon fabric for trendy clothing shot upward only a few years later.) Rayon production, and with it, thousands of good-paying jobs, moved to another FMC plant in Front Royal, Virginia. The Lewistown polyester plant reopened, but it rehired only a fraction of the previous workforce. The site eventually became the Mifflin County Industrial Plaza and a variety of businesses have come and gone since then.

In the wake of the failure of Lewistown's industry, a long period of decline began that continues to this day. The 1990s saw the loss of several plants, including Masland and Lear, as well as Standard Steel filing for reorganization bankruptcy. In its place, like so many other towns throughout the USA, was a dark period of rampant drug usage by significant portions of the population. In 2001, MSNBC ran a documentary called 'Along Comes the Horse,' which used Lewistown as the rural focus of the ongoing heroin epidemic in the USA.

Economic Downturn

The 2000s saw the loss of Scottys Fashions, Mann Edge Tool, Overhead Door shuttering its Sectional division, Ford New Holland shuttered its Belleville plant which also led to the closing of the Belleville Foundry, and the shrinking Lewistown Hospital was purchased by Geisinger Health, which expanded services, such as helicopter transfers to other Geisinger facilities who were more capable of taking in specialized care.

Present day

While Lewistown did receive the prestigious All-American City award in 1973 for its rebuilding process following the disaster, many of the blue collar workforce left the area to head south, along with the companies which chose not to rebuild in Lewistown.

Two positives in the years since Agnes was the 2011 purchase of Standard Steel by the Japanese company Sumitomo Industries, who merged with and is now known as Nippon Steel, which effectively saved the jobs of 500 union laborers as well as many others, and the opening of First Quality, an adult incontinence products manufacturing facility that employees approximately 400 people.Lewistown is home to the Pennsylvania State Fire School, which is the only such facility in the state. Firefighting in Lewistown is very important, as volunteer firefighters have strong allegiance to the multiple independent fire companies in the borough to which they devote their time.

Today, Lewistown is still looking to rebuild, but is now overshadowed by nearby State College. Due to the growth of Penn State and the construction of a new highway system, Lewistown is now struggling to avoid becoming the last rest stop for travelers coming from the east on their way to State College.

The Embassy Theatre, McCoy House, Mifflin County Courthouse, Montgomery Ward Building, and Wollner Building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [5]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 2.0 square miles (5.2 km2), all of it land.

Water source

The source of the borough's city water comes from the Laurel Creek Reservoir, which is located in Seven Mountains going towards State College.


Historical population
1800 523
1810 474−9.4%
1820 77363.1%
1830 1,47991.3%
1840 2,05839.1%
1850 2,73332.8%
1860 2,638−3.5%
1870 2,7373.8%
1880 3,22217.7%
1890 3,2731.6%
1900 4,45136.0%
1910 8,16683.5%
1920 9,84920.6%
1930 13,35735.6%
1940 13,017−2.5%
1950 13,8946.7%
1960 12,640−9.0%
1970 11,098−12.2%
1980 9,830−11.4%
1990 9,341−5.0%
2000 8,998−3.7%
2010 8,338−7.3%
Est. 20188,156 [2] −2.2%
Sources: [6] [7] [8] [9]

As of the census [8] of 2010, there were 8,338 people, 3,742 households, and 2,030 families residing in the borough. The population density was 4,138.7 people per square mile (1,598.0/km2). There were 4,345 housing units at an average density of 2,156.7 per square mile (832.7/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 95.2% White, 1.5% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.9% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.1% of the population.

There were 3,742 households, out of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.8% were married couples living together, 4.8% had a male householder with no wife present, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.8% were non-families. 39.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21, and the average family size was 2.93.

In the borough, the population was spread out, with 23.3% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 26.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.3 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $26,584, and the median income for a family was $38,356. The per capita income for the borough was $16,447. About 22.8% of families and 27.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 47.0% of those under age 18 and 13.6% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people

Historical buildings in the Lewistown Borough


Lewistown has a passion for sports. Though geographically closer to the Maryland city of Baltimore, the residents are almost equally divided in supporting the Pennsylvania professional sports teams from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. At the college level, with State College being located about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Lewistown, a good percentage of the town support the Penn State Nittany Lions. People of Lewistown also support youth sports. The area hosts a youth soccer tournament called Clash of the Cleats. The tournament attracts youth soccer clubs throughout Pennsylvania, and now is starting to attract teams from neighboring states. The Little League, Babe Ruth, and American Legion baseball teams grace the front pages of the local newspaper throughout the summer. And in the fall, the youth football programs spark rivalries between the smaller communities that surround Lewistown.

High school sports

The 2005 "Iron Kettle Game" between Lewistown (blue) and Indian Valley (white). Photo by Frank DiGiorgino Iron Kettle 2005.jpg
The 2005 "Iron Kettle Game" between Lewistown (blue) and Indian Valley (white). Photo by Frank DiGiorgino

Mifflin County Huskies

As of June 2011, the Mifflin County School District voted to merge its two high schools, Lewistown Area High School and neighboring Indian Valley High School (itself a merger of Chief Logan and Kishacoquillas high schools) to form Mifflin County High School due to increasing costs, declining enrollment, and lack of revenues from the state level. This is the second time the school district chose to create a single high school for the county. The first attempt at a combined high school only lasted for three years in the 1970s before district officials broke up the school due to public pressure. Mifflin County will compete at the PIAA District 6, Class AAAA level but compete in the Mid-Penn Conference due to a lack of AAAA schools in District 6. The newly created school will bear the nickname of "Huskies" and sport purple, silver and black as its colors.

Lewistown Panthers

From September 1976 to June 2011, Lewistown Area High School, nicknamed the Panthers, competed in PIAA District 6, at the Class AAA level. The Panthers won PIAA Championships in Baseball in 2002 and Girls’ Basketball in 1997 and 1998. In fact, in 1997 Lewistown Area High joined a very small list of Pennsylvania schools to have both their Girls’ and Boys’ basketball teams reach the state championship game in the same season. The Lady Panther basketball was consistently ranked among the Top 10 teams in the state. Lewistown had an excellent wrestling program, with the 2006 squad finishing 8th in the state.

In the 2007 baseball season, the Panthers finished the regular season with a 9–9 record. The Panthers went on to win three straight district playoff games to earn the 2007 district championship while defeating cross town rival Indian Valley in the process. The team went on to lose in the state quarterfinals to eventual AAA State Champion Punxsutawny.

Old Iron Kettle

The "Old Iron Kettle" is a black Kettle trophy that was awarded to the winner of the annual football game between Lewistown and its rival school Chief Logan until its closing in 1989 at which time the rivalry shifted to Indian Valley. Played for the final time on October 22, 2010, the game was won by Indian Valley for the fifth consecutive year. The schools subsequently merged to become the Mifflin County High School Huskies.

Other sports

Auto racing, sprint car racing along with wrestling are popular as well as outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing.




Television stations

Radio stations

FM stations
Call lettersFrequencyFormatLocationOwner
WRYV88.7Christian ContemporaryMilroyInvisible Allies
WTLR89.9ReligiousState CollegeCentral Pennsylvania Christian Institute
WJRC90.9Christian ContemporaryLewistownSalt and Light Media Ministries, Inc.
WIBF92.5CountryMexicoSeven Mountains Media (Kristin Cantrell)
WBUS93.7Classic RockBoalsburgForever Broadcasting
WQKX94.1CHRSunburySunbury Broadcasting Corporation
WMRF95.7Hot ACLewistownSeven Mountains Media (Kristin Cantrell)
WVNW96.7CountryBurnhamWVNW, Inc.
WFGY98.1CountryAltoonaForever Broadcasting
WMAJ99.5Hot ACCentre HallSeven Mountains Media (Kristin Cantrell)
W262DO100.3Oldies/SportsLewistownWVNW, Inc.
WFGE101.1CountryTyroneForever Broadcasting
WCHX105.5Classic RockBurnhamMifflin County Communications, Inc.
WQCK105.9RockState CollegeMagnum Broadcasting
WDBF106.3CountryMount UnionSeven Mountains Media (Kristin Cantrell)
WQJU107.1ReligiousMifflintownCentral Pennsylvania Christian Institute
AM stations
Call lettersFrequencyFormatLocationOwner
WLUI670News/TalkLewistownSeven Mountains Media (Kristin Cantrell)
WKVA920Oldies/SportsBurnhamWVNW, Inc.
WHUN1150News/TalkHuntingdonSeven Mountains Media (Kristin Cantrell)
WJUN1220SportsMexicoSeven Mountains Media (Kristin Cantrell)

Cable television

Lewistown was one of the first three communities that formed the cable company later known as Cox Communications


The Borough of Lewistown is served by the Mifflin County School District. It is also home to the only local Catholic Elementary school, Sacred Heart of Jesus , which educates children of any religion in grades K–5.

The Lewistown branch of the South Hills School of Business and Technology offers associate degrees and other certifications in various areas of business and technology.

The Penn State Learning Center in Lewistown offered credit and non-credit courses through Continuing Education and personal enrichment classes through Cooperative Extension. Continuing Education pulled out of the Learning Center following the Spring 2017 semester, with the goal converting CE students to Penn State World Campus students. Harrisburg Area Community College(HACC)has taken over the former Penn State CE health and science lab and other classroom space to offer face-to-face for-credit courses, capturing many former Penn State CE students.

See also

Related Research Articles

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