Long Life & Happiness for All its Residents #49

Wednesday Mar 17th, 2021

I grew up in Greene Township, south of the city of Erie, not too far from Lake Pleasant on a dirt road. I don’t have a ton of childhood memories, but I do remember the heavy truck traffic from a gravel pit that was on our road.  I would bicycle in that direction on occasion, finding that huge hill of rocks slowly diminishing over the years.  Helping work in the family vegetable and flower gardens I would find fossils on occasion.   I did not realize there was a connection between gravel and fossils until doing further investigation as an adult.  This blog series is based on the 1888 Erie Pennsylvania Illustrated book but even back then people understood Erie’s pre-history and the factors that developed the land many of us call home.


Beginning two-hundred million years ago, at various times Pennsylvania was literally covered by an ocean! The land would rise and fall over the millennia.  When it rose, lush vegetation would cover the land only to be covered by water when it fell. Each time, sand and water would compact the vegetation forming layers of coal such as what is found south of Pittsburgh near the Scranton area and into West Virginia.

Sand and marine life eventually turned into limestone, shale oil and natural gas.  Bubbles of natural gas once came up on the south side of the bay. I read an account of someone lighting the bubbles and watching the flame bounce along the water burning the small amount of gas before being extinguished.

A sample of Favosites and Cup Coral found in Summit Township, Erie County.
From the Hagen History Center Collection, donated in 1903 by Mr. D.W. Nichols.
Lot of 5 fossils found in Erie County.

Before the glaciers arrived, the land in Erie County was mainly level, draining northward.  The moving ice formed the high rocky hills south of the city and the escarpment “south of I-90”, which affects our weather patterns in the area.  The deep gorges that exist today once carried powerful streams of melted ice water north to fill the hole left to become Lake Erie. 

“Devil’s Backbone” gorge in West Erie County

The gravel pit on the road where I grew up was mined out years ago.  The fossils I found as a child are back in the family vegetable garden to be discovered again by future generations of children.  My hope is that those children will wonder how they got there and begin their own life-long love and study of our region’s history.  It certainly has brought me a lot of happiness as I am sure it has for you.  Never stop learning!