Punxsutawney is one of the most famous small towns in America thanks to a furry little guy named Punxsutawney Phil.
Every year on Groundhog Day (February 2), thousands of people make the trek to Gobbler's Knob to hear Punxsutawney Phil's prediction for the length of winter. If he sees his shadow when he emerges from his burrow there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow foretells an early spring.
So where exactly is Punxsutawney? To be exact, it’s is a borough in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, 84 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
The actual name "Punxsutawney" derives from a Delaware Indian term, which translates to "town of the sand flies."
Punxsutawney was originally a campsite halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers. It is located on the earliest known trail to the East, the Shamokin path. The area was, at times, occupied by Shawnee or Delaware Indians and, sometimes, by Senecas or Iroquois.
In the 1900's Punxsutawney became the commercial shopping center for many miners, the railroad men, and their families.
An industrial development hike started around 1880 and in 1908 Punsutawney built it's first "sky scraper". It was an eight-story building called the "Spirit Building", which housed one of the two local newspapers of the time. It remains one of the tallest buildings in town.
The history of Punxsutawney has been marred by several floods, the worst of which occurred in 1936. There was upwards of eight feet of water in some downtown buildings, which caused many thousands of dollars worth of damage. The destruction of infrastructure was minimal, however.
In 1949, the threat of flooding was minimized by the construction by the Army Corps of Engineers of a dike along the Mahoning Creek, which runs through town.
Present day Punxsutawney is much quieter and cleaner than it was in the days of steam engines and coke ovens, but Punxsutawney is far from dead. There is a thriving machine shop industry, and coal still mined there.
In 1993, the film, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray put the spotlight on Punxsutawney. While the film was nightmarish for the main character, it shed some light on the charming tradition that draws people from far and wide, year after year.
Learn more about Punxsutawney by visiting the links below: