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Our History

The Big Spring


Originally known as Aketown, Williamsburg was founded by German immigrant Jacob Ake in 1795. The location was chosen by Ake for its access to the Juniata River, as well as “The Big Spring'', which provides the area with 5 million gallons of water each day. The town was given its current name in 1810 by its founder in honor of his son, William.


By 1827, the town was incorporated by the state as a borough. The area was home to a grist mill, saw mill, leather tannery, iron furnace, wool mill, and many acres of fertile farm lands. The town also had blacksmiths, barrel makers, distillers, weavers, cobblers, shopkeepers, stable operators, and tavern keepers.

Springfield/Royer Furnace
Pennsylvania Main Line Canal


The Pennsylvania Main Line Canal opened in 1932, following the Juniata River through Williamsburg. It became the major form of transportation for several years and connected the two major metropolises of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The canal remained in use in Williamsburg until 1875. 


The Williamsburg line of the Pennsylvania Railroad opened in 1873. Originally bypassed by the rail line in 1852, this branch soon became the major mode of transportation for the area. This allowed local quarries and mines to supply industries in Johnstown and Pittsburgh with limestone and iron.

Pennsylvania Railroad Station
Williamsburg Paper Manufacturing Company


Construction on the Williamsburg Paper Manufacturing Company was completed in 1905, having begun two years prior. After the West Virginia Pulp & Paper Co. purchased it in 1906, the paper production became Williamsburg’s major industry.


Rails to Trails of Central Pennsylvania Inc. purchased the first eleven miles of the Lower Trail in 1989. The trail followed the rail corridor, which was abandoned in 1979. In 1994, the 5.5 mile trail extension was purchased, completing the 16.5 mile trail.

The Lower Trail
September 11th National Memorial Trail Map


President Biden signed the September 11th National Memorial Trail into law on October 13, 2021. The September 11th National Memorial Trail is a 1,300 mile multi-use route, which includes the Lower Trail, that links the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA.  


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