Located 27 miles Southeast of Erie, the borough of Union City was founded in 1796 by William Miles as Miles’ Mills. Miles was born in Ireland and came to the United States as a child. As a young man he volunteered in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, along with his father. As a way of keeping men involved in the war and to pay veterans, donation districts were established in Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, and Warren Counties due to a lack of money in the new American government. Over 550,000 acres of land was set aside in Pennsylvania and William Miles was hired to survey lands in Erie County. After the job was complete, he decided to stay here.
Miles first established a fur and mercantile business. Later, he purchased land in Girard, along with land in the Union City area for a mill. The rolling hills around the area were covered with trees with little flat land for farming. The first mill was established in 1800 as a combination saw and grist mill and at one point in time, there were 15 sawmills in the area. The number of trees in the area provided the raw materials for the major industries that would soon develop.
In 1862, the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad laid track through town. It was a combination of the Erie & New York City Railroad based in Jamestown, NY; the Meadville Railroad based in Meadville, PA; and the Franklin & Warren Railroad based in Franklin Mills, OH.
The railroad opened Union City up to the world. Lines ran between Boston, New York City, Chicago, and Cincinnati. In 1871, the Union & Titusville Railroad connected those two towns. Unfortunately, by the time the road was complete, the producing oil fields were no longer in Titusville. Due to the wood-based manufacturing that was being established, North America’s largest producer of barrels, the Woods & Johnson Company in Union City, was enormous until pipelines and tank cars began being used in the oil industry.
The Philadelphia & Erie Railroad travelled between those two cities with a stop in Union City. James Miles, son of town founder William was a director of the road, encouraging the stop in that town instead of nearby Wattsburg.
Two floods (1882, 1892) and a major fire (1879) threatened to put an end Union City, yet it continued to grow. In 1893, a water system was built up to handle an increasing population, manufacturing, and fire suppression. By 1901, electric lighting was available for streets, homes, and businesses.
Union City became the furniture production center of Pennsylvania. Many of these businesses endured fires and were rebuilt, until production centers moved. Companies such as Standard Chair, Shreve Chair, Novelty Wood Works, Universal Chair, Lewis P. Hanson, and Union City Chair provided employment to thousands of area families. In 2019, 25-percent of the population was still employed in manufacturing.
If you would like additional information about the history of Union City and the area, I HIGHLY recommend a visit to the Union City Area Historical Museum. They have a fantastic collection of EVERYTHING Union City and is a visual feast for the eyes. The committed group of volunteers who run the museum are so enthusiastic in sharing their rich history. Please look up current operating hours at unioncitypa.us/museum. I wish them and the community of Union City, happiness, and long life.