The first settlement in the Brookville area dates from 1796, when Joseph and Andrew Barnett and Samuel Scott arrived at the confluence of Sandy Lick and Mill Creeks, in the area east of town known as Port Barnett. For the next thirty years, settlement was slow, due primarily to the rugged and heavily-timbered terrain. In 1830 the town of Brookville was established and designated the County Seat. The original plan of the town was bounded on the north by Butler Street and on the west by an alley just east of the present Presbyterian Church. To the south and east, lots were laid out east of Pickering Street, near the Memorial Park, and on the east side of town between North Fork Creek and Taylor Street.
Brookville’s early growth can be attributed to its location along the Susquehanna and Waterford Pike, a toll road completed in 1822 between the Susquehanna River in Clearfield County and Waterford, in Erie County. By 1832, just two years after the town was planned, there were forty dwellings, a brick Courthouse, four stores, and four taverns.
Without a doubt, Brookville’s greatest nineteenth-century growth was the result of the lumber industry. In the 1830s the areas rich timber tracts were identified and mills were erected up and down the watersheds. By the 1850s, there were twenty-two mills on the North Fork and twenty each on Sandy Lick and Redbank. Large rafts were made of timber or sawn boards, and the high water seasons of the fall and spring in Brookville saw raftsmen plying the waters between the growing town and the lumber markets of Pittsburgh.
During the Civil War, Brookville was well represented in the Union Army. Local militia companies were called into service and new military units were formed. The most famous of these was the 105th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, popularly known as the “Wildcat Regiment.” The 105th was recruited in September, 1861, under the command of a Brookville attorney-soldier, Annor A. McKnight, who was killed in battle at Chancellorville. At the time of his death, President Lincoln had agreed to promote the 31-year-old Brookville soldier to brigadier general.
In 1873 the railroad came to Brookville, and prospects soared for industrial and commercial development. During the late 19th and early 20th century, Brookville had a number of diverse industries most of which faded from the scene as new technologies developed. There was an ax factory with the capacity of 250 axes per day, two breweries, furniture and glass factories, carriage manufacturers, foundries, a woolen mill and ladder factory, and the Twyford Motor Car Co., which operated from 1905 to 1907 and produced the world’s first 4-wheel drive automobile.
Development has spread from the center core of the town to include new residential developments and expanded commercial and industrial development at the periphery. The town’s ongoing downtown revitalization program has become an award-winning national model for such activity and has been featured in state and national media coverage.