Tyrone Area Historical Society

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Q ~ What is the origin of the borough’s name, Tyrone?

  A ~ A story, passed down through the years, never fails to elicit good-natured groans from those who hear it. Ralph Wolfgang related that story in his book, A Short History of Tyrone Borough [1850–1950]:

“A curious and fantastic story, long current and widely believed, has it in the days when they were seeking a name for the town, a farmer drove into the village driving a spirited roan horse. As he drew up in front of a store, he shouted to a bystander, ‘Hey there, tie Roan!’ The phrase ‘tie Roan’ caught the fancy of another bystander, who suggested it as a possible name for the new town. The name caught on, and some ingenious citizen devised the present spelling.”

    In reality, it’s named after the county of Tyrone in Ireland. It was brought to America by Irish settlers who made their home in Sinking Valley during the 18th century. In fact, the name of Tyrone Township appears in county records (at the time it was part of Bedford County) that date back to 1887. John Glonninger named his iron forges in the Birmingham and Ironville area after Tyrone Township. The Borough of Tyrone derived its name from these forges. In Ireland, the name means “Land of Owen.” 
    Before Tyrone was incorporated, it was known by a number of names. First, it was called Eagleville; however, the citizens wisely decided another name would be better. It was then called Shorbsville in honor of the Lyon, Shorb and Company, which originally owned the land where the town stands. In 1852, the name Tyrone City was adopted, but when the petition was sent to court, it was shortened to Tyrone. 
    Tyrone, in 1857, had a population of around 700 people. Concerned that being part of Snyder Township would hinder the town’s ability to grow and make improvements to the streets, the citizens incorporated as a borough that same year. 
    At that time, Tyrone was one of four boroughs in Blair County, which had split with Huntingdon County. The other boroughs were Hollidaysburg, Altoona, and Martinsburg. 
    Those first seven years saw Tyrone grow by leaps and bounds. There were many houses built; streets were laid out; and several stores were doing a brisk business. 
    The Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line had a stop in town. There were two hotels to service the travelers, three churches to tend to the souls of the town, and one doctor to take care of what ailed the body. 
    There was a drug store, no doubt specializing in the potions of the day; a school taught the youngsters; there was a pokey; and two firemen directed the buckets of the brigade. 
    As 1857, the year Tyrone was born as a borough, came to a close, the citizens undoubtedly were optimistic about the future of their little town.

— Adapted from an article by Greg Bock, staff writer for The Daily Herald

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