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Credit: Pennsylvania State Archives

History of Bald Eagle


The valley, creek, mountain and state park are named from the American Indian chief Waopalanne, (wopo lonnie) which means "bald eagle." In the mid-1700s, the Munsee Lenni Lenape chief briefly dwelled at Bald Eagles Nest, near Milesburg. The village was along the Bald Eagle Creek Path, a portion of a warriors path from New York to the Carolinas, which now is PA 150.


As one of the few navigable tributaries of the West Branch Susquehanna River, Bald Eagle Creek became a branch of the Pennsylvania Canal in the mid-1800s. Flooding destroyed the short-lived canal system and newly developed railroads replaced the canal.


These transportation systems and abundant local resources led to the building of the nearby Curtin Ironworks. Loggers cut trees from steep-sided Bald Eagle Mountain and colliers made charcoal from the wood to feed the hungry furnace. When the demand for wood products soared in the 1800s, once plentiful pine, chestnut, oak and hickory were cleared from the valley and plateaus. Farmland replaced the forest. The fertile valley continues to be cultivated. The forests of Bald Eagle Mountain have regenerated.



Ironworkers at Curtain Villiage, c 1915

Foster Joseph Sayers Dam


To reduce flood damage downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the 100-foot high and 1.3-mile long Foster Joseph Sayers Dam in 1969. Bald Eagle State Park opened to the public July 4, 1971.


The dam and reservoir were named in honor of Foster Joseph Sayers, a private 1st class in World War II. Nineteen-year-old Sayers, a resident of Centre County, lost his life while displaying gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in combat November 12, 1944, near Thionville, France.


During the attack on hostile forces entrenched on a hill, Sayers ran up the steep approach and set up his machine gun 20 yards from the enemy. Realizing it was necessary to attract the full attention of the dug-in Germans while his company crossed an open area and flanked the enemy, he picked up his gun and charged through withering gunfire to the very edge of the German encampment and killed 12 German soldiers with devastating close-range fire.


He then engaged the enemy from the flank in a heroic attempt to distract attention from his comrades as they reached the crest of the hill. He was killed by a very heavy concentration of return fire, but his fearless assault enabled his company to sweep the hill with minimum casualties, killing or capturing every enemy soldier. Sayers received the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

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