Danville Heritage Festival

July 14, 15, and 16


Danville PA

Our Past is A Treasure, Our Present is Vibrant, and our future is Bright.


An Open Letter to the Community by Van Wagner

About Danville


Friday July 14

Heritage Parade East Market and Mill Streets. Begins 7pm. Contact Jane Vonblon if interested in participating. (jvonb@ptd.net)

Block party Coles Hardware parking lot. 8-10pm. Live music, games, food, fun!



Saturday July 15

Historical Speaker Schedule (download printable schedule here)

Living History Demonstrations and Artsists (download printable schedule here)

Live Music Schedule (download printable schedule here)

Goodwill Block Party, Class Reunions and Other Events In Danville July 15

Montgomery House Museum Open House July 15 11am-4pm, July 16 2pm-4pm

Quoit Tournament (8am start time) Hess Field

5K Walk and Run (download application here) Race starts 8:30am, July 15

Danville Heritage Festival Tennis Tournament (download application here) July 15

Fireworks over the Susquehanna River! Begin at Dark. (sponsored by Maria Joeseph Community) July 15




During this year’s Danville Heritage event, be sure to head over to the Hess Field Pavilion between 11:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M. for a picnic lunch served by your local elected officials! Members of the Danville Borough Council will be cooking up some hotdogs and hamburgers for your enjoyment and be on hand to discuss any borough issues or concerns you may have. It’s a great chance to grab some food, meet your ward’s representatives, and chat about our wonderful community!


GUN EXHIBIT The 1940's Gunshop and Antique Equipment Exhibit will again
be open on Saturday, July 15 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. This free
exhibit for the public is located on the 2nd floor at 279 1/2 Mill
street via the rear entrance off Rooney Avenue - through the dark red
door under the red and white striped awning.

CAST IRON EXHIBIT. The exhibit is at 279 Mill St. (Wee Home Shoppe) from 9 AM to
4 PM on Saturday, July 15. Dozens of cast iron catches, latches,
locks, hinges, etc., for doors dating back to pre-Civil War times will
make up the exhibit's display. There will be a brief talk and
question and answer session at 3:15 PM using the exhibit's items.
Door Locks from Danville's Beaver Mansion and the former Reading
Railroad Station in Danville are currently on display in the front
window of the Wee Home Shoppe and will remain there until the Festival


FIREWORKS AT THE FESTIVAL! Over the Susquehanna River. 9pm (To be confirmed)



Sunday July 16

Hymn sing by the River. Montgomery Park (Water Street) July 16. 6:30pm.


Essays on Local History

Videos about Local History

Locations of the Festivities

Volunteer and Contact info



Announcing the Danville Heritage Festival to be held in and around Danville July 15th, 2017.  This will be a unique celebration of our regions heritage.  The event will be centered around the Hess Field complex in Danville and will feature living history demonstrations, speakers, and live music throughout the day.  All events will be free and open to all ages. 

In addition to the events taking place at the Hess Field complex will be speakers hosted by the Thomas Beaver Library as well as other locations.     

To see events that are already confirmed, please visit the website:

A Stimulus for Celebration.
This festival is not meant to take the place of the Danville Iron Heritage Festival.  Rather, I am organizing volunteers hoping to preserve the celebration of Danville heritage that has become a July tradition for the town.  It is my hope that the festival will serve as a focal point of other community celebrations, open houses, class reunions, block parties on July 68th. 

A Grass Roots Effort.
Whether you were a part of Iron Heritage Festivals or not, I welcome your participation.  If you would like to offer presentations, music, etc please reach out to me via the website.  If we reach a point were the Hess Field schedule gets filled to capacity, please consider exploring other local venues.  Perhaps local churches and social organizations that have the facilities could consider opening their doors to help host heritage activities on July 15th.  If you do plan an event and would like it added to the listings on the website, just send the details to me via contact info on the website.

A Health and Wellness Focus
After speaking with local historian Sis Hause, I’ve decided to really embrace health and wellness as much as possible along with our heritage celebration.  Considering this is Geisinger Hospitals’ 100th anniversary, I couldn’t imagine a more fitting theme.  The bicycle path around Hess Field is the oldest rail-trail in the United States!   I encourage people to consider walking or biking to Hess Field for the festival.  There are plans to organize a skateboarding and scootering event,, a 5K, tennis, quoits, and more as part of the festival.  Let’s embrace this chance to promote health and wellness while celebrating our heritage. 

An Amazing Heritage.  An Amazing Town
The Danville area has an amazing history. The knowledge and talent of local historians, performers, and musicians is unparalleled.  The community has shown that we want to celebrate this heritage.  Please mark your calendar and be a part of this exciting new chapter in celebrating our amazing story.    On July 15th, Danville is where you belong!









An Informal History of the Danville Area
Van Wagner

People have lived in the Danville area for thousands of years. The area has been known by many names. The Susquehannock, and later the Delaware, Indians lived here for centuries. Unfortunately, we know very little about the people who lived here before that era (about 1,100 AD). By the late 1700's people of European and African American backgrounds began settling here. Some native people stayed and assimilated into the new culture, however many moved west along with thousands of other native people. Many of us living in the region today can trace our ancestry back to these original native inhabitants. 

In the late 1700’s, almost the entire economy of the region revolved around agriculture.  The idea of owning land was something most immigrants had only dreamed of in their homelands.  In America, this dream of owning and farming their own land became reality.  These farmers not only raised crops and animals for trade and sale, they also had to be expert woodsmen, stone masons, and countless other skilled trades.  In many cases, they built their own homes, barns, and churches.  In that era, the Susquehanna River was the main means of travel and export. 

There were four kinds of river rafts. The first was a "spar raft" which was made by lashing tall straight White Pine tree trunks together. Other raft types included: a "timber raft" which was made of squared White Pine logs, a "lumber raft" which consisted of logs that had already been sawed into lumber, and lastly "arks" which had a flat bottom and was constructed in a manner to allow for carrying cargo such as coal, grain, or other goods from the interior. ("The Long Crooked River")
By 1796, rafts from both the North and West branches of the Susquehanna were making the trip downstream, some traveling as far as Norfolk, VA. (S. Stranahan) The industry quickly escalated over the next decades until the river became a super-highway of rafts. Between the 18th and 23rd of May in 1833, 2,688 arks and 3,480 rafts floated past Danville. That averages out to over 1000 rafts and arks per day or between 1 and 2 rafts every minute of the day. Their cargo was mostly grain and lumber. (Intelligencer 6/14/1833)

(photo of Montour log raft 2004 by Cory Poticher)

The name  “Danville” was given by William Montgomery, a revolutionary war veteran and leader in colonial Pennsylvania, in honor of his son Daniel.  For a few years before this, local people referred to the community as Montgomery’s Landing.   
By the late 1820’s and early 30’s a budding iron industry was developing in Danville.  Furnaces were constructed to smelt the local iron ores into cast iron products and pig iron for export.  The earliest furnaces used charcoal.  By the late 1830’s several local furnaces were using anthracite coal.  They were among the 1st furnaces in the country to do this.  At about the same era the Pennsylvania Canal came through the town making the export of local agricultural and industrial goods more efficient.  The canal was also the way anthracite coal was transported to Danville’s iron furnaces from the Wyoming Valley.  A major development came in the 1840’s with the addition of iron rolling mills.  The rolling mills involved heating pig iron into moldable balls that could be fed through a series of squeezes making a product known as wrought iron.  Among the most notable details from this era was the rolling of the 1st T-rail in America on October 8th, 1845 by the Montour Iron Company.  The T-rail revolutionized transportation because it was the 1st rail design able to hold the extreme weight of locomotives in a cost efficient manner.  Danville’s T-rails have been confirmed as being used to build at least some of the transcontinental railroad. 
The iron industry had its ups and downs for decades until it finally declined by the 1930’s.   A combination of a worldwide transition to steel and the onset of the great depression brought to and end the era when iron was king in Danville.  Some metal manufacturing still thrives in the area today, but nothing on the scale of the era when thousands of men and boys labored in the coal fueled furnaces of Danville.

 One of the benefactors of the iron, and coal, boom was George F. Geisinger.  As a major player in the iron and coal trade, he was financially very successful.   After his death, his wife Abigail funded the construction of the Geisinger Hospital, which opened in 1915.  The hospital was and still is among the leading health care facilities in the nation.  2015 marks the 100th anniversary of this amazing hospital and the thousands of people who have worked there for a common good. 

(Founder Abigail Geisinger (center with shovel) leads the official groundbreaking for the George F. Geisinger Memorial Hospital on May 1, 1913.)


I prefer not to view our local history as a series of “starts and stops” but rather a continuum of the human story.  Danville did not begin with a “founding” in the 1790’s.  Rather, it has been home to fellow humans for thousands of years and will likely be so for thousands more.














Historical Speakers July 15:




Van Wagner

Gene Shipe. The Franklin Iron Furnace and Cider Press. 11am July 15th.


Terry Diener

Living history presenter and historian Terry Diener brings Montour County’s Civil War Colonel Charles Eckman to the Thomas Beaver Free Library to share stories and quotes.  Among the stories, Peter Rothermel’s famous portrait of the Battle of Gettysburg is said to contain the figure of a man fighting on the wall at the Bloody Angle, that some believe to be a man from Danville.  A Roman Catholic Priest serving his church in Gettysburg, set up one of the first hospitals as the battle started.  He later served in and help build a church here.
Did you ow that a Limestoneville, Montour County man is considered the father of our nation’s Selective Service System?
A man who in later years pastored in Riverside, was being marched to the gallows by the Confederates in a southern prison to be hanged in retaliation for Union killings.  Come hear what happened.
A Montour County soldier went on to become a deputy sheriff in the Territory of Wyoming following the Civil War, where his  brother, also a Danville native was sheriff. Oscar Sharpless spent the night on “death watch” playing cards, singing songs, and sharing stories with a boy, not yet a teenager, who would swing from the end of a rope the next day for committing two murders.
There are thousands of quotes, famous and not so famous from the Civil War.  Years after the war, after visiting his former commander Robert E. Lee, one of his most famous generals told a friend, “That old man (Lee) had my division massacred.”       
A Montour County soldier serving as a wheelwright, writing to a friend back home, had this to say about the war. “You won’t believe how glad I was to here that you had not come to this Damd army for it is nothing but a damd humbug of a thing it does very well for the officers to drink wiskey and abuse the privates.” 
These are a few of the many stories to be shared by Colonel Charles Eckman on Saturday.  Join him at 10am at the Thomas Beaver Free Library.





Living History Demonstrations at Hess Field July 15 (Cancelled if heavy rain):





Artists from the Danville Arts Council

Iron Heritage BIKE hike with Van Wagne rbring your bike and meet at trail head in Beaver place 10am

Blacksmithing by Doug Firestone









Live Music at Hess Field Complex July 15 (Cancelled if heavy rain):


Van Wagner

Suzanne Walzer / Zing Productions

Students from The Music Box

Megan McGarry





Danville Heritage Day’s Garden Tour
Saturday July 15th, 2016
10 am-4pm

details TBA







Class Reunions and Other Events:



During this year’s Danville Heritage event, be sure to head over to the Hess Field Pavilion between 11:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M. for a picnic lunch served by your local elected officials! Members of the Danville Borough Council will be cooking up some hotdogs and hamburgers for your enjoyment and be on hand to discuss any borough issues or concerns you may have. It’s a great chance to grab some food, meet your ward’s representatives, and chat about our wonderful community!


Class Reunions and other events

Goodwill Hose Co will be holding a Block Party on July 15th - Support local firefighters and see the historic building -- Block Party will start at 11am at the Fire Company 407 Center Street !!








Thomas Beaver Free Library

Hess Field Complex






Hard Coal Navy. Coal Dredging on the Susquehanna

"Fire In The Hole" Black Powder Making in Danville

Liberty Iron Furnace

What Once Was

Interview with Cy Kelly

The Jerseytown Coal Mine

The Story of The Montour Log Raft

The Ore of Montour

Danville Charcoal Making

Buffalo in Pennsylvania by Watershed

Danville Brick-making  








Videos about Local History:

Iron Industry

Logging Heritage

Charcoal Making

River Coal

Anthracite Coal Heritage

Wildlife and Forest Ecology

Brick Making

Ice Houses

Native American Cairn

Bat Biology filmed in local iron ore mine







Volunteer Info:

Contact Van Wagner for information on how you can help make this festival a success.