“All human accomplishments begin with a dream.” These words were spoken by the Honorable Gifford Pinchot, then Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, during his address at the dedication of Pymatuning Dam on August 17, 1934. The Pymatuning dream began over a century ago. In 1868, the General Assembly provided for a survey and an estimate of the cost to reclaim the Pymatuning swamp lands. The project began in 1913 when the Pennsylvania Legislature passed “The Pymatuning Act”, and appropriated $100,000. In 1921 the first land purchases were made and ground breaking ceremonies for the dam were held on October 6, 1931. When the first scoop of earth was turned the dream started to become a reality.
The “Pymatuning Act” states that the primary purpose of Pymatuning Lake shall be for the conservation of waters entering the Pymatuning Swamp and for regulating the flow of water in the Shenango and Beaver rivers. A secondary purpose is to use the dam and lake as a reservoir to impound flood water during periods of excessive runoff from the 158 square miles of drainage area above the dam.
In the distant past, beyond the period of legend and history, the area in and around Pymatuning Lake was occupied by the “Mound Builders.” Whether these people were in any way related to Native Americans found by early European settlers is a question open to considerable doubt and discussion. The name “Pymatuning” is derived from the Iroquois, probably from the Seneca tribe of the great native American confederacy. It means “The Crooked-Mouthed Man’s Dwelling Place”, with “crooked-mouthed” referring to deceit rather than facial disfigurement. Previous to the Iroquois occupation, it was home to the Erie tribe who were then ruled by a Queen noted for her cunning strategy and crooked dealings.
Many settlers from Connecticut and New York moved into the area secured by Pennsylvania in the Native American Treaty of 1785. The treaty was signed at Fort Stanwix by the Iroquois and Wyandot deeded the area north of the Ohio River to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The area is now one of the most important recreational centers in the Commonwealth. Although many modern facilities exist, primitive areas are maintained to provide a rustic setting for outdoor recreational activities.
OH History of the Area
Settlement of the area by white immigrants from the east was slow to occur. The vast Pymatuning swamp and nearly impenetrable forest made travel difficult. The earliest Europeans to reside here were trappers in search of valuable beaver pelts. Later, the lush forest attracted lumbermen who especially prized the strong, straight trunks of the white pines that were used to construct masts for sailing ships. As more and more settlers came into northern Ohio, much of the wilderness character of the Pymatuning region was lost. Remnants of the original swamp still remain today, coaxing the modern day naturalist to explore this unique habitat.