Early History of Bradford Township and surrounding areas.
McKean County was officially incorporated in 1804. The Count remained primarily an unsettled area with large portions of the area covered in forests. The County was named in honor of Governor Thomas McKean. Thomas McKean was previously the president of the Continental Congress and, after Governor, would become Chief Justice of the Commonwealth. At first, the County was divided into two townships: Ceres and Sergeant. The 1820 U.S. Census reported 142 residents in McKean County. In 1826, a courthouse was constructed on 228 acres provided by John Keating. In 1832, the first local judge was appointed to the County.
The first settlers were farmers, operating on small tracts of land cleared from the forests. Later, lumbering became the first important economic activity. In the late 1820's and 1830's, logs were rafted down the Allegheny River toward Pittsburgh. White pines were the most marketable commodity. The lumbering of white pines lasted until after the Civil War.
It was during this period of lumbering activity that Bradford Township was formed (1828). The first indicated settlements were in the Tuna Valley along Kendall Creek to the New York State line in 1825. The first settlement in Lafayette Township occurred in Marshburg in the 1830's. In 1842, Lafayette Township was established. Settlement of the more isolated areas of the County occurred later, by the followers of Thomas Kane (Wetmore and Hamlin Townships). In 1879, the City of Bradford was incorporated. In 1880, Foster Township was divided from Bradford Township.
Little development occurred from the 1840's to 1870's in McKean County. In 1870, the population for the County had grown to 8,825, with most of the population involved in lumbering activities. This would change with the discovery of oil. The greatest population increase occurred with the discovery of oil in marketable quantities in 1871 in Foster Township.
As a result of the discovery of oil, the County's population rose from 8,825 in 1870 to 42,565 in 1880. Services and facilities were provided to meet the increased demands from the population boom Highways and bridges were constructed, newspapers formed, communities expanded, and oil related industries were established.
In 1874, the first large producing well was struck in Foster Township on the Buchanan Farm. It produced 70 barrels per day. By early 1875, several other wells were producing, and the oil boom had begun. In 1880, there were 4,000 producing wells in the Bradford Oil District. by the end of 1881, there were 11,200 producing wells, and they produced 23 million barrels of oil.
After 15 years of high production, oil yield began to decline. Wells were abandoned. by the turn of the century, most wells had been abandoned. However, a new technique in extracting oil (fresh water injection) helped increase yields again. By the early 1920's, producers were systematically injecting well water into old sands in what is known as the "five spot" method. This helped to maintain oil production. A second population increase occurred during this period. New oil fields were discovered in 1929, 1937, and 1945 which bolstered the local economy.