Though it’s a small borough of 1,600 residents, Saxonburg, Pennsylvania is rich in history. Its story is one that has a lot in common with small towns all over the country. Keep reading to find out more.
The founding of Saxonburg in the 1800s
The roots of Saxonburg are Germanic, and in fact, its first name was “Germania”. When it was founded in 1832, it was a German farming colony. At the time, the United States was still a young country at only around 60 years old. Germania was a frontier community.
The celebrated civil engineer John A. Roebling started the community with his brother Carl. They left what was then called Prussia but is now Germany. Even though they were talented, they found it hard to advance in Prussian society. Like many Europeans, they left their homes and came to America hoping for economic success at a time when the new country was booming.
Some families would later join the brothers and attempt to make a go of the farming life. Roebling himself, however, could not find happiness in being a farmer. He would become famous for his production of cable and his projects. He was responsible for the making of several bridges using this cable. The most famous of all of these would be the Brooklyn Bridge. Approximately 15 years after founding the town, he left for greener pastures up North.
During the 1880s it was common that boom towns would arise and then disappear. Saxonburg experienced this with the “Golden City” town for a brief period. It would remain a quiet place of industry for some years. In 1918, Butler County saw a massive tragedy hit. There was a huge number of influenza deaths that affected recent immigrants to the area. Due to the size of the tragedy and the fact that they had no close relatives, they were buried in a mass grave in Winfield Township. Their employers from the Saxonburg area were responsible for the burial.
Steel, nuclear power and industry
Right around the time of World War II, a nuclear physics research program was started. This nuclear research center was on the border of Saxonburg’s town limits. The project would produce the synchrocyclotron, a type of particle accelerator. By the 1970s the machine was obsolete, and the center closed down. Saxonburg would also have a brush with industry in the 1980s with the U. S. Steel Corporation Saxonburg Sintering Plant. This would also later close down.
Today, the founding of the town is still celebrated, with its 100th and 150th anniversaries a cause for major celebrations. Currently, part of the nuclear research center remains intact, with a corporation occupying the complex. Many of the original houses from the 1800s are still visible on Saxonburg’s Main Street. The town has a very unique air of times gone by and is especially interesting for students of Pennsylvanian and American history. The town’s history is preserved in the museum, where a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge can be seen.