I spend a lot of time traveling on business. Sometimes I go to large cities such as Los Angeles or Boston, but mostly I go to smaller cities and towns. This week I’m in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, population 13,873 (2005 data). Since many people may never have heard of St. Marys, I thought I’d fill you in while I’m here.
The first but least important note is that I haven’t misspelled the name of the town. There’s no apostrophe. (No one yet has been able to explain that to me.) The town’s original name was Sancta Marienstadt, and it was founded in 1842 on December 8 (the date on which the Feast of the Virgin Mary is celebrated) by a group of German Roman Catholic settlers from Baltimore and Philadelphia. Many of the people who live in St. Marys today are descendents of those original settlers. One of my clients here represents the fifth generation in his family to live on the farm his ancestors started in 1856.
St. Marys sits in a lovely valley surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains. On one of the many routes I’ve traveled to get here, I believe you cross the Eastern Continental Divide (or maybe it’s another famous geographic feature like the Cumberland Plateau– it was late at night when I took this route and I was too preoccupied with driving up the curvy road and watching out for deer and elk stumbling into my headlights to read the roadside marker carefully). The town seems somewhat remote at first but actually it’s only about 30 miles from an airport and interstate highway.
My favorite building in St. Marys is the Elks Lodge. It’s a substantial brick edifice in the heart of town, with two very large elk heads mounted on the front of the building. I have never lived in a place with an Elks Lodge, but it’s fitting in more ways than one because St. Marys is the largest city in Elk County.
It might surprise you to find out that St. Marys historically and currently is somewhat of an industrial town. The factory I visit makes millions of little parts each year for automotive and other industrial uses. The people who work in the factory are some of the nicest I’ve ever met. They certainly are among the hardest working and productive people I’ve come across in my travels. In addition to the factory I visit, the town boasts a light bulb factory and several powder metal companies.
And about those elk: I’ve been told that the largest free roaming elk herd in North America calls Elk County PA home. I’ve yet to see an elk, but I know they’re here.