THE LAND OF U.S. STEEL… AKA ANDREW CARNEGIE’S LAND

West of Fairview Township along the lake is a section of land that abutts the Ohio border.   The Cosmopolite printed a fun piece in 1982 about this large section of land  that for years appeared to be lying untouched and forgotten.  Except that every once in awhile a rumor would start up again that U.S. Steel was finally going to do something with it.  Folks nearby in Conneaut and the Springfields had heard it all before and even a comprehensive study made of the 5,000+ acres in 1977 did not excite them.  The article suggested that after industrialist Andrew Carnegie had collected a vast fortune of about $500,000,000, he decided he wanted to retire.  He also wanted to increase his philanthropic efforts.  Oh, what to do? “Carnegie grew tired of adding to his fortune and his competition was growing ever stronger.  He ‘knew he would either have to assume more active direction of his great business or sell out.'”  So, he “set out to convince his competitors that he would wage all-out war and put them all out of business.” To do so, in 1899 he merged 13 small companies to become “the world’s largest producer of tubular products, “calling it the National Tube Company.  He also showed an interest in a railroad that ran from the harbor at Conneaut to Pittsburgh.  It could bring in iron ore from the lake to his steel plants in Pittsburgh. In 1900 he formed the  Bessemer & Lake Erie RR then leased it to the Pittsburgh, Shenango and Lake Erie RR for 999 years.  He bought the surrounding land – about 5,000 acres with more than half in Pennsylvania’s Springfield Township.  Next he put out the rumor that he was going to build a $12,000,000 tube plant on the land.   Then, according to the theory presented in biographer John K. Winkler’s book, Incredible Carnegie, he sat back and waited for his competition to work it all out.

It didn’t take J. P. Morgan long to see what was happening.  Morgan had just organized the National Tube Company.  What would it take for Morgan to stop Carnegie?

A buyout, amounting to nearly $500,000,000.  This was the “largest enterprise ever recorded” up to that time -1901.  Soon afterward, the  U.S. Steel Corporation was formed.  And the land along the southern border of Lake Erie? Every so often a story would circulate that U.S. Steel was going to do something with it. The rumors were serious enough that surrounding townships became interested and representatives began to meet regularly to discuss, consult and learn what was going on. Former Supervisor John Klier was Fairview’s representative. But instead of manufacturing plants and jobs, the land laid unused for even more years.  Then in 1989 the Erie County Conservancy acquired the land.  Specifically, it is called the Roderick Wildlife Preserve and is designated an Important Bird Area.  It has been under the management of the PA Game Commission since 1991 and is open to the public.  Hunting is allowed on the property.

So, the mystic about the U.S. Steel Land, aka the Andrew Carnegie Land, is gone. Meanwhile, Carnegie, with his great wealth, gave nearly all of it away to libraries,institutions of higher learning and oh, so much more.  His subterfuge worked and many, many have benefited!   Good plan, Andy!

Tradition: the handing down of information, beliefs, or customs from one generation to another.