In the spring of 1892, Alfred Truman began to harvest timber in the Bendigo Hollow area. Soon a sawmill and other accessory structures were constructed along with a small community of about a dozen buildings to house the approximately 100 workers and their families. The Jones Township School Board also constructed a one-room school house to serve about 35 to 40 children. Mr. Truman gave the name of “Bendigo” to the town at the suggestion of the immigrant railroad workers. Bendigo was the nickname of Irish tavern owner and prizefighter William Thompson (1811-1880) who fled to America after killing a man in an illegal professional boxing fight.
The Truman sawmill operation lasted a period of about five years, cutting over five-million board feet of lumber. When the timber was cut, the sawmill and it’s operations were dismantled and relocated elsewhere. Once the area was cleared of the structures, the former village was completely abandoned and was quickly reclaimed by nature.
The citizens of Johnsonburg had been exploring the idea of creating a community park to provide a suitable swimming and recreation area for the youth. The waterways near the town were too polluted by the local paper mill to provide a suitable site, so the area of Truman’s former sawmill was considered.
After some negotiations, the owners of the land, the Kaul & Hall Lumber Company from St. Marys, donated 100-acres of land to Elk County for use of a free picnic and swimming grounds for all the people of Elk County to enjoy.
In the early 1930’s, the Elk County Commissioners received approval from the Federal Government, under the Works Progress Administration, to build access roads, a stone breastworks dam (was later removed in 2014) that would create a swimming area, parking areas, fireplaces, and to include picnic tables and benches. Construction began in the spring of 1936. The costs of construction soon surpassed the monies budgeted to the project and the park was never fully completed. However, the new park still offered a great place to enjoy a summer day and local residents flocked to the new recreational area to enjoy the summer holidays and weekends.
Then, in the summer 1942, heavy rains caused a severe flash flood which ruined much of the park area. However, people still continued to visit and enjoy the area, even in it’s eroded condition.
The County then arranged a meeting with the state Dept. of Forests and Waters (now DCNR) to accept the park into the Commonwealth’s expanding state park system. The County Commissioners later transferred the lands to the Commonwealth. In the spring of 1953 construction began of the now “Bendigo State Park”.
The opening of the new park was held on July 4, 1955. Formal dedication of the park was held August 15, 1959. Hundreds of people from all parts of Elk County attended the event.
The State later abandoned the original beach and swimming area and diving platform which was considered too dangerous being along the river. A new concrete swimming pool was then erected in front of the bathhouse.
In 2002, the state again made many improvement to Bendigo State Park. The addition of new restroom facilities, showers and flush toilets were installed in the bathhouse. A new sewage disposal system was installed and the parking areas were re-paved.
Shown below are pictures of some of the construction of Bendigo State Park in 1952-53.