Photo Copyright The Blair House by Robert J. Blair
Wellsboro, a town of beauty and culture rich in natural resources and the County Seat of Tioga County, might be set down in any section of New England and find itself in familiar surroundings. Founded in 1806 by settlers from Delaware, Maryland and Philadelphia, it was incorporated in 1830. The town was named in honor of Mary Wells, wife of one of the original settlers, Benjamin Wister Morris.
Mary Wells Morris
Mary Wells (1761-1819) was a Philadelphia Quaker who came with her husband, Benjamin Wister Morris, to this part of Tioga County in about 1805 with their son Samuel and daughter Rebecca. Benjamin was an agent of the Pine Creek Land Company, one of whose leaders was William Wells, Mary's brother. They settled on the site now occupied by the Shared Home at the intersection of Morris Lane and Bacon Street. At that time, their log house was the only dwelling in what is now the borough of Wellsboro.
Traditionally, the name, Wellsboro, has been associated with Mary Wells. However, some historians suggest the name might have been in honor of Mary's brother, or even of the Wells family. "We're not really positive about the origin of the name, Wellsboro," says Scott Gitchell, director of the Tioga County Historical Society, "but certainly Mary was one of our founding residents, and after coming here, stayed the rest of her life." Mary and her husband, Benjamin, are buried in the Wellsboro cemetery.
A life sized bronze sculpture of Mary Wells Morris, a founder of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, is located at the historic Robinson House, home of the Tioga County Historical Society, on 120 Main Street, part of the land deeded by Benjamin and Mary Wells Morris to Tioga county in 1806. Frank and Mary Herzel of Harrisburg, PA, and Rita Bocher of Wynnewood, PA, commissioned the 5'7" figure.
The sculpture of Mary was created and cast by the A.R.T. Design Group of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. President and head designer, Becky Ault, and her associates based the figure of Mary on historical sources. While no paintings or prints of Mary herself are known, Ault consulted a photograph of a print of Mary's mother to capture the family facial likeness. Mary's costume, researched by Rita Bocher, was based upon original prints and paintings of Philadelphia Quaker dress at the turn of the 19th century. Her bonnet was modeled after an actual early 19th century bonnet preserved in the archives of the Swarthmore College Friends Library, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. "We wanted to make the sculpture of Mary as historically accurate as possible," explained Ault. "In other words, we wanted to capture Mary's qualities as a Quaker woman of her time who carried herself with dignity and determination to her new and unknown life."
It is a matter of historical record that this section of the state was part of the Connecticut Grant; consequently it was settled by many of the early New England colonists. The large houses set well back from the streets on spacious well-kept lawns are truly indicative of the planning of New England towns. Noted for beautiful elms, maple trees and wide boulevards with gas lights, this is a village of pleasant homes and hospitable people.
History of Tioga County
Between 1628 and 1762, three kings of England issued four separate charters giving all or part of the land in today's Tioga County to three different states - Massachusetts, twice to Connecticut, and to William Penn who founded Pennsylvania. State ownership was finally resolved 20 years later when the Continental Congress awarded Pennsylvania the land in the 1782 Decree of Trenton.
Seneca Indian lands, including Tioga County, remained closed until the 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix when holdings were sold to Pennsylvania. Settlement was slow due to the county's rugged terrain, dense virgin forests, and its lack of roads and navigable waterways. In 1787, a New Yorker named Samuel Baker was the first white man to settle the area when he constructed a cabin on the Tioga River at Lawrenceville.
In 1796, work was completed on the "Williamson Road", which extended from Williamsport, Pennsylvania to Painted Post, New York. It is now known as Route 15 and designated the Northern Sector of the "Appalachian Thruway." Construction of other major roads - the Morris State Road , today called Route 287, and the East and West State Road, now known as Route 6 - were completed in the early 1800's.
The area that is now Tioga County was part of Lycoming County - founded on April 13, 1795 and before that both were part of Northumberland County. In 1797, Lycoming County created a new township - Tioga - that included all lands of the present day Tioga County.
It was through the efforts of the Pine Creek Land Company, a group of Philadelphia citizens who bought and sold property in Lycoming County, including Tioga land, that Tioga County was formed. To induce more people to come to the area, the land company was able to get the state to pass an "Omnibus Bill" on March 26, 1804. The bill broke the 12,000 square mile Lycoming County into five additional counties; they included Clearfield, Jefferson, McKean, Potter and Tioga Counties.
When formed, Tioga County had one township - Tioga - and 500 - 600 residents. The county's population peaked in 1890 at about 54,000 before declining along with the coal and lumber industries. Now, Tioga County includes 30 townships and 10 boroughs.
Today, the county is populated with the descendants of early settlers - English descendants of the the New England immigrants, the Welsh and Polish who worked the coal mines and some Pennsylvania Germans.
On March 21, 1806, two years after influencing the legislature to create Tioga County, the Pine Creek Land Company was able to get Wellsboro designated as its county seat. The only family living there was that of Benjamin Wistar Morris, the company's agent, who named the 150-acre town for his wife, Mary Wells. In 1830, the town became the first in Tioga County to be incorporated as a borough. Its population then numbered 250.
The Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce is made up of over 300 businesses and individuals who together help create and maintain the high standard of living that we enjoy.
The Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce is involved in business and tourism. We host many events and activities throughout the year including the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally and the PA State Laurel Festival in June, and Dickens of a Christmas in December.
The Chamber is also involved in bringing and keeping business and industry in the area, is involved in Wellsboro's Enhancement Program and has been successful in their efforts to create a historic district. The Historic Walking Tour Brochure, which contains information on several historic buildings within the community, is available at the Chamber office.
Brochures provided by many of our members are also available at the Chamber office located on the 1st floor of the Tioga County Development Corporation Building (pictured above) at 114 Main Street.
The Board of Directors for the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce is made up of representatives from local business and industry. They meet on the 4th Tuesday of each month at the Penn Wells Hotel; the location changes and is announced at least one month in advance.
Lauren Morral, Administrative Assistant
Monday - Friday: 8:30 AM - 4:30PM
Hours may vary during special events.
Photo Copyright John Vogt
- Things To Do
- Calendar of Events
- Art & Culture
- Recreation/Area Attractions
- Food & Beverage
- Guided Tours
- PA Grand Canyon
- Driving Distances
- Enjoy! Brochure [Page 1] [Page 2]
- Walking Tour of Wellsboro Guide
- Shopping & Dining Guide
Wellsboro – A "Wonder-full" Place to Come
Located along scenic Route 6 in North Central Pennsylvania, Wellsboro, and the surrounding area, offers a unique vacation beginning with a natural wonder over six-million-years-old. Known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the beautiful terrain is the result of melting prehistoric ice glaciers. The area is also packed full of other vacation opportunities, thus making Wellsboro a "wonder-full" place to come.
And, it's no wonder the canyon, also known as Pine Creek Gorge, has drawn a great deal of national attention in recent years. National Geographic selected this Grand Canyon as a "must do" location to visit. Likewise, Sports Illustrated spot lighted the area for two consecutive years.
Most recently New York Times travel writer, Dave Caldwell noted that the "Main Street has held tight to its charm" with "a long row of tall, black gaslights, standing as ramrod straight as soldiers on a parade ground." It's a charm that will take one back 50 years as "a quaint town with quiet things to do."
With Mother Nature serving as organic architect molding the canyon's gorge, a myriad of stunning vistas serve as a backdrop for hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding or fishing along the 60 miles of trail that comprises the canyon floor.
Visitors to Leonard Harrison State park are provided an opportunity to enjoy the pristine beauty from atop the canyon's east rim. There one can find modern facilities; a visitor's center with educational materials and developed lookout locations that offer a hawk eye view of the over 1,400 foot drop. Meanwhile, Colton Point State Park provides a more primitive look from the west rim, as well as easy access to the canyon’s floor.
Venture 10 miles into the borough and take a step back in time. Wellsboro provides a glimpse of an era reminiscent of bygone Americana life portrayed in Norman Rockwell illustrations. Original Victorian gas lights line the boulevards, adding to Main Street’s charm. A stroll through the heart of the community provides an opportunity to go back several decades stopping in and out of stores, or, even window shopping. Both serve as a reminder of the pre-mall days.
The town boasts the last family-owned department store in the country with each department located on different levels. A restored circa 1930's movie theatre provides modern cinema entertainment with art deco flair. Many quaint gift and specialty shops, and even an old fashion dining car, contribute to the town’s overall character.
Tioga County's historical society runs the Robinson House Museum, which provides many visual chapters of the county’s progress the past 200 years. Additionally, it hosts a large geological library. Meanwhile, neighboring Gmeiner Art Center features new art exhibits every month. And, the Hamilton-Gibson community theater troupe provides yet another cultural opportunity for visitors.
After working up an appetite, one can find Greek, Italian, French, Southern and classic Pennsylvania dishes offered in the many eateries that call Wellsboro home. Similarly, there is a wide menu of overnight accommodations with motels, Bed and Breakfasts, vacation rentals and camping facilities.
For Everything There Is A Season
Photo Copyright The Blair House
by Robert J. Blair
The area's lush forests, including pine groves, frequently look as though Jack Frost himself took a powder-sugar-filled sifter and lightly dusted them. The soft, shimmering crystals provide a picture-perfect day for snowmobiling and skiing the area’s many trails all winter long.
But, it is the first weekend in December that finds Wellsboro all decked out in Victorian garb as the town celebrates the annual "A Dickens of A Christmas." Main Street transforms itself to an "Olde English" market place as hundreds of vendors peddle their wares. A visitor can purchase anything from fresh pine wreaths to homemade bread pudding.
Impromptu street theater provides entertainment all day long for shoppers. Choirs break into holiday songs. Small bands play seasonal favorites. Smells of hot cocoa and homemade soup waft throughout town. Even Scrooge and Tiny Tim have been known to meet up and greet visitors. The entire community takes part in the event with many churches and civic groups rounding out the activities by offering their own individual holiday exhibits and refreshments.
Sun-kissed snow winds its way to rushing mountain streams providing great whitewater rafting down Pine Creek. The creek also provides ample opportunities to fish, as does neighboring Kettle Creek, Cedar Run and Slate Run.
The region is known for its maple products. Local Native American folklore says the early group discovered the sweet treat quite by accident. Warmer spring weather caused dripping maple sap to form icicles during the colder nights. Snapped from a branch, an icicle provided a delightful treat to the surprise of the original taste tester. Today, the area is home to many state award-winning sugar shacks. The maple producers offer the public an opportunity to learn more about the process and sample their delicious wares.
Birdwatchers will delight in the many varieties of feathered friends that return home each spring. There are a number of spots around the area which are ideal for this activity. Ospreys have been known to take flight and perform a ballet over any number of lakes in the county. The Bald Eagle is making a strong come back.
Both the Tyoga and Corey Creek Country Clubs provide panoramic mountain views as golfers tee-off on perfectly groomed 18-hole public courses. Golf packages are available all season long.
Photo Copyright The Blair House
by Robert J. Blair
Nothing is more delightful than floating in the cool, relaxing water of a natural lake or stream. The area provides a number of recreational outlets for swimming and boating, as well as camping. Among those outlets are: Hills Creek State Park, Tioga-Hammond and Cowanesque lake and dam projects. The latter two are federally maintained. All provide many amenities.
Meanwhile, motor sport enthusiasts gather the first weekend in June for the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR). The event has grown each year with international racers now coming to Wellsboro to compete with their American counterparts on a 125-mile rugged, mountain course. The one-day race affords the public an opportunity to view the race from various staged areas throughout Pennsylvania game land and forest.
By the second week in June the pale pink blossoms of the state flower, the Mountain Laurel, begin to bud. This marks the commencement of the week-long Pennsylvania Laurel Festival. The event has been a Wellsboro tradition since 1938. The week contains many family-oriented activities such as a pet parade, bicycle race, and firemen’s carnival, to name but a few. Concerts are slated throughout the week. The third weekend of the month concludes the festival with a juried outdoor art show focused on the region’s best craftsman and the Laurel Festival parade and pageant. Approximately 50 young women from area high schools compete with poise and intelligence. The top two receive scholarship checks.
Star gazing is another favorite pastime. The area was honored with the designation of the "darkest skies" in the nation at nearby Cherry Springs State Park. Lack of artificial light aids in the tracking of a shooting star or the hunting of one’s favorite constellation.
Endless Mountain Music Festival will delight classical musical buffs with a week-long series of concerts performed around the county.
The second week of August begins the county’s fair. Just six miles east of Wellsboro is Whitneyville fair grounds. Here one will find an opportunity to view the flowers, vegetables, and live stock that embroider the countryside called "Tioga County." Wednesday is typically family day with a host of child-oriented activities planned. A family can find itself running a three-legged race, hopping in potato sacks or even participating in a scavenger hunt.
As blissful summer days make way for cooler autumn nights, Mother Nature is busy with a paint box full of watercolors, first lightly washing mountain tops with a hint of what’s to come. Tioga's countryside is dotted with wild purple Asters and Queen Anne’s lace against a mass of Golden Rod. All is typically snuggled against a field of tan corn stalks with roadside stands beckoning to come purchase a gourd or pumpkin. Vivid color next washes across the landscape making the mountains a perfect destination for fall foliage.
Lenni Lenape folklore notes the sudden appearance of color is due to an on-going hunt that’s spanned the ages and reappears every year during the "hunting moon." The Native American tribe details the events of three of their greatest hunters, who left one day to stalk a mighty bear that ate their crops and killed their squaws. The trio vowed that they wouldn’t rest until the bear was dead.
Each hunter had a specific job. One carried the primitive weapon to kill the bear. Another carried a cooking pot to roast the bear meat and the third brought wood to build a fire. The hunters eventually located the animal by tracking it, only to find the bear quickly eluding the trio. The hunters chased him up into the mountains and followed him right up into the sky. Legend says the hunters grabbed the stars to hoist themselves higher and moonlight to guide them. To this day they remain in the northern sky pursuing the bear. The bear dies once each year with its blood falling to earth and changing some leaves red. Similarly, hot cooking water seeps from the pot and changes other leaves yellow. No matter the reason for colorful leaves, mid-October offers the best time for "leaf peeping." Many activities celebrate autumn's joy as area state parks offer exhibits such as apple pressing with sweet cider the byproduct. Visitors find corn stalks adorning Wellsboro's boulevards as they soak up "Indian Summer," saying hello to the autumnal sun.
Hunters can create their own yarns to spin as they seek deer, turkey, grouse, and other small game. The many acres of state game land and forests provide ample opportunity for hunters to stalk the elusive game. Area motels are hunter-friendly.
Wellsboro as a Hub
While visiting the borough, one can spoke out in any of the four directions and find additional opportunities to explore within an hour’s reach.
North: Visit historic Corning, N.Y. and view glass blowing experts or trek through the Finger Lakes wine trail region.
South: Williamsport boasts of “Millionaire’s Row” where the former lumber barons built the finest Victorian homes. The Hiawatha paddle boat provides guests a look of the area from the water side. Meanwhile, sports enthusiasts will find the Little League Museum quite interesting.
East: A short drive along Route 6 will bring one to Bradford County and the area where Stephen Foster was inspired to write many of his songs, including the one for the county’s own “Camptown.
West: Again, the Route 6 corridor will take the traveler to the Lumber Heritage Museum in Potter County. The museum provides a detail history of the lumbering craft, as well as a life size replica of a lumbering camp.
Still have questions?
Please feel free to contact the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce at 570-724-1926.
Text authored by Maryellen Hill
* No part of this text may be copied or reproduced for use in another media outlet without expressed written permission from both the author and Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce.
Whether you are planning a return visit or your first trip, we welcome you to our community! Located in Tioga County in the north central mountains of Pennsylvania, Wellsboro is an outdoor-lovers paradise. The area also offers a variety of shopping, ranging from a department store to boutiques, antique shops, clothing stores and outfitters. The Gmeiner Art & Cultural Center’s monthly exhibits showcase beautifully handcrafted items from local artists. The Green Free Library and the Tioga County Historical Society are also interesting places to visit. The Gmeiner, Library and Historical Society are located on Main Street in Wellsboro.
Another form of entertainment is our local movie theatre, The Arcadia Theatre, which shows first-run movies and hosts dinner-and-a-movie events. Hamilton-Gibson Productions, our local community theatre, is well known for its talented musicians and performers.
The Great Outdoors
Pennsylvania is home to 2.1 million acres of certified forest land, the largest tract of certified forest in North America. Click here for state forest maps. Several state parks are located in the Wellsboro area. A source of natural beauty is the 50-mile long Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, located 10 miles west of Wellsboro. The Grand Canyon is made up of approximately 300,000 acres of mostly state-owned land. Two state parks are located here. On the west rim of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, the 368-acre Colton Point State Park resonates with the rustic charm of the Civilian Conservation Corps era of the 1930s. The rugged overlooks offer great views of the canyon. On the other side of the canyon is Leonard Harrison State Park.
The best way to see the Grand Canyon is on foot. Leonard Harrison offers 4.6 miles of hiking trails including the popular 2-mile Turkey Path. There is also a scenic overlook and a modest waterfall. Colton Point is more rustic and wild. It also has a 3-mile Turkey Path which descends 1.5 miles to the base of the Canyon. The highlight of this trail is the 70-foot waterfall ½ mile down the path.
Photo Copyright The Blair House by Robert J. Blair
Another popular way to see the Canyon is on horseback and on a covered wagon. Click here for a list of all recreation members including those that offer these activities.
Also located in the area is Hills Creek State Park, covering 396 acres located midway between Wellsboro and Mansfield. State Game Lands #37, which is made up of approximately 13,000 acres, is located within walking distance of the park’s campgrounds.
Running through the base of the Grand Canyon 1,000 feet below is Pine Creek. Well known and regarded for its fishing and native trout streams, Pine Creek is also home to a variety of wildlife including deer, bear, grouse and turkey. Each year, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Snowmobile Club hosts its annual Upper Pine Creek Trout Tournament. Click here for more information about this event.
For additional information about fishing in the area, click here.
For additional information about fishing in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, click here.
For general information about licenses, regulations, stocking, and the variety of fish in area stream and lakes, click here.
The Pine Creek Rail Trail (also called Rails to Trails) was constructed on an abandoned railroad line. Currently 60.5 miles in length, the trail is made up of crushed limestone. Since motor vehicles and horseback riding are prohibited from the trail, it is a popular form of recreation for bicyclists, joggers, and casual walkers. Bikes are available for rent. Click here to link to our recreation members including outfitters.
Winter sports such as skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing are also popular. Since these are weather-dependent, click here for weather and snow conditions.
The Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce hosts several events through-out the year. In addition, other local communities, churches, schools and civic organizations host a multitude of events. Many of these are held every year and generally speaking, are held at approximately the same time each year. Refer to our Community Calendar for a list of upcoming events.
The annual events sponsored by the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce are listed below. Please refer to the Community Calendar for this year’s dates. Please note that these activities are very popular and can draw thousands of visitors to our area. You may wish to plan ahead and make reservations for lodging.
State Laurel Festival - June
Every year in mid-June, the community of Wellsboro celebrates the blooming of our state flower with the annual PA State Laurel Festival. This week-long series of events includes a variety of musical concerts, a pet parade, bike race, firemen's carnival, a 10-K footrace, a juried arts & craft fair, queens pageant, and the traditional two-hour Laurel Parade.
The Festival was first held in 1938 and was the brainchild of a local businessman named Larry Woodin, who was hoping to boost a sagging economy by promoting the beautiful Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. The festival was originally organized by the Lions Club, but today's festival is sponsored by the Wellsboro Foundation Inc., administered by the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce, and is organized by a committee of volunteers who work year ‘round to ensure its success. Various activities have been added throughout the years, making it a week of fun for the entire family. Whether your preferences are for classical, gospel or country music, arts and crafts or sporting events, you're sure to find something to please everyone.
Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally – June
STPR is a form of auto racing in which the cars race against the clock, one at-a-time, on closed public roads of the Pennsylvania State Forest, at times bordering on the famous "Grand Canyon of the East" near Wellsboro. Each car has a driver, plus a co-driver, or navigator, who reads from a route book and barks out instructions while the driver is negotiating the course at high speed. The teams compete on ten different roads - or stages - covering 125 miles of racing over a 14 hour period, with the team having the fastest time over the whole course winning the event. The excitement of two and four-wheel-drive cars traveling on gravel roads at more than 100 miles-per-hour - especially on a blind course where no practice has been allowed - is exciting both for spectators and competitors.
The drivers meet their crew every couple of stages for service on the cars, and drivers must obey all local traffic regulations when their cars are not actually driving on the closed stage road. Unlike traditional racetrack driving, where repetition on the same course can lead to the "best line" or "best setup" for each corner, rally drivers must react to blind conditions at racetrack speed.
For more information about STPR’s Wellsboro event, click here.
Dickens of a Christmas - December
Join us in Wellsboro on the first Saturday of December as we take a step back in time and celebrate the community's annual "Dickens of A Christmas." Wellsboro’s Main Street and the surrounding side streets will be closed to traffic and will become an early Victorian marketplace featuring all types of delectable wares for eating and drinking, as well as delightful gift items.
Beginning at 9:00 a.m., the food and craft vendors, strolling musicians and singers, dancers, and street-corner thespians will spread up and down Main Street, extending onto Waln and Crafton Street, and a portion of Central Avenue. Performers and vendors will be appropriately costumed and decorated to create a Victorian atmosphere that fits so well with our gas-lighted Main Street.
It’s not uncommon to stumble upon a little match girl, or even old Scrooge himself! The Dickens Players, "a diverse-but-talented assortment of amateur strolling performers," will be on hand to entertain and delight shoppers with their renditions of Christmas readings and carols. The Wellsboro Men’s and Women’s Choruses will perform in front of the Arcadia Theatre, and several other local musical groups will offer strolling performances.
Many local businesses host open houses with entertainment and refreshments. In addition, many of our local churches will host luncheons, concerts, tours or special services throughout the day. Hamilton Gibson Productions will present “A Christmas Carol” at the Arcadia Theater, and The Hamilton Gibson Choirs will also perform.
Each year, more than 175 craft and food vendors line the streets dressed in Victorian garb to present many unique gift-giving options which included hand-crafted Christmas ornaments, wooden toys, jewelry, quilted items, furniture, wrought iron, homemade cheese & meats, pet treats, heirloom Santas, stuffed animals and dolls for the children on your list. In addition, several indoor craft shows are held at the United Methodist Church, the Wellsboro Senior Center, and the Firemen’s Annex. Numerous food vendors are always on hand with delectable delights such as hot chocolate, homemade soups and chowders, bread pudding, hot beef sandwiches, fresh roasted peanuts, hot cider and coffee, kettle corn, baked potatoes, and apple dumplings...just to name a few.
Bring a candle and join us for the Peace Walk from Packer Park to the Green for the annual community Christmas tree lighting and carol sing. Santa always visits with special treats for the youngsters.
Parking will be available at several lots throughout the town, along with a shuttle which will be operated continuously.
Our area has a wide variety of accommodations to meet every lifestyle and budget, from hotels and motels to bed & breakfasts and vacation rentals. Some lodgings allow pets, while others restrict children and smoking. Please click here for a list of our lodging members.
From continental dining to fast food, the Wellsboro area offers many dining choices. Several restaurants in the area are smoke-free, and many offer legal beverages. Some also offer brunch and smorgasbords in addition to their regular menu. Please click here for a list of our member restaurants and taverns.