Corry ~ Oil Boomtown
Present-day Corry was but wilderness in 1859, with a solitary rail line cutting through the Hemlocks. Then a second line crossed the first, a few sheds were built to facilitate the transfer of goods between the lines, and the crossing became known as Junction.
It likely would have been a footnote in history, except for the discovery of oil in “The Valley That Changed the World” near Titusville 25 miles to the south. Access to two rail lines made it the closest point for supplies and fortune-seekers to get into the oil fields, and for oil to get out to the world. Almost overnight, a town sprang up around the railroad crossing. It was named for the man who owned much of the local land and sold it to allow the town to be established, Hiram Cory, and was misspelled as “Corry” in the process.
Homes, shops, banks and manufacturers of all types quickly followed. The “Downer Oil Works,” considered the largest and most sophisticated oil refinery in the oil region, was built here, and witnessed amazing scientific breakthroughs in the use of oil under chemist Joshua Merrill.
Inventor and entrepreneur George Washington Newton Yost invented and manufactured the world’s second typewriter model in Corry. Called the “Caligraph,” it was the first typewriter to feature capital letters. But Corry is best known for the Climax locomotive. More than 1,000 Climax’s were manufactured in Corry between 1888 and 1928, and were known for their ability to traverse rough, steep tracks. Ideal for lumbering and other commercial uses, they were shipped all over the world.
Corry features five state-issued historical markers, a remarkable number for any community, much less one of our relatively small size. The “Joshua Merrill” and “Oil Creek Railroad” markers point to our oil history, while the “Climax Locomotive” marker speaks to that piece of rail history. The “Pennsylvania Game Commission” marker notes the Game Commission’s origins in Corry, while the “Corry Fish Hatchery” marker tells of the longest continuously operated hatchery in the Commonwealth.
Additional historic sidewalk panels facilitated by Impact Corry are being installed in downtown Corry that speak to other remarkable facets of Corry’s history … including Corryite Charles Keating, who helped select the “Unknown Soldier” from World War I to be interred in Washington, D.C.; world-renowned operatic singer Inez Mecusker; newspaper cartoonist Ferdinand Johnson, who inked the Moon Mullins strip for decades, and Major General Clarence Shoop, a renowned World War II aviator and confidante of billionaire entrepreneur Howard Hughes.
Meanwhile, the volunteers of the Corry Area Historical and Museum Commission keep Corry’s history alive at their museum on Mead Avenue within Mead Park, including one of the few Climax Locomotives still in existence.
A remarkable and rich history, and an equally bright future … that’s the story of Corry!
One of the best places to learn more about Corry’s rich history is the Corry Historical Museum. Or visit the historical society website. Summer hours: Thursday 10 AM-2 PM and Sunday 2 PM-4 PM. Other times by appointment.