Big Shoes and a Big Hat. Some people leave behind big shoes to fill. Their accomplishments and their influence go beyond our local community. We have a saying here, “No matter where you go, you’ll meet someone from DuBois.”
John DuBois. The city is named for John DuBois who settled here in 1871, bringing with him a lifetime of experience in the lumber business. In addition to building the lumber mill, he built several other factories, invented equipment and methods to streamline production and improved worker safety. His mechanical inventions were adopted by other industries in the country. Mr. DuBois was known for his honesty, integrity and fairness. Through the Depression of 1893-1898, he kept his employees working and paid them with company scrip backed by gold when inflation caused the U.S. dollar to be nearly worthless. In 1938, his nephew, John E. DuBois, donated the mansion and estate as a permanent home for the DuBois Campus of Penn State University.
Fire of 1888. Due to the abundance of lumber, most of the buildings were made of wood—even the roads were paved with lumber. On June 18, 1888, a fire destroyed 160 out of the 166 businesses in downtown DuBois and left 500 people homeless. The people rebuilt the town as well as a dedicated volunteer fire department whose strong community support continues to this day. The fire of 1888 is remembered each June with Community Days and the Fireman’s Parade, one of the largest fireman’s parades in Western PA. As a matter of fact, the DuBois Volunteer Fire Department is the only fire department, career or volunteer, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to achieve the highest Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating of 1.
Civil War. You may not expect a connection to the Civil War in Northwestern Pennsylvania, but the war did have an impact here. The woodsmen from our region used their hunting skills to become sharpshooters in the Pennsylvania Bucktail Regiment, also known as the 13th PA Reserves, Kane's Rifle Regiment, 1st PA Rifles, and the 42nd PA Voluntary Infantry. Union Army troops came to Knox to arrest Union Army deserters and draft dodgers in an incident that became known as Bloody Knox.
Wigwams in DuBois? At the age of 20, Major Israel McCreight headed West, riding the train to the railroad's end in the North Dakota Territories. He worked as a bookkeeper in the buffalo bone trade and forged lifelong friendships with Native Americans. His friend Chief Flying Hawk fought in the Battle of Little Big Horn and his friend Chief Iron Tail's portrait is on the Indian Head nickel. In 1908, Major McCreight was adopted into the Lakota Sioux tribe and given the name Chief Tchanta Tanka. Another friend, Buffalo Bill Cody, also attended the ceremony. Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West Show to DuBois a few times and always stopped by when he was passing through. Chiefs Flying Hawk and Iron Tail were regular visitors at Major McCreight's summer home, the "Wigwam." At times the backyard was dotted with teepees from his many Native American friends. As a conservationist, Mr. McCreight helped to author President Theodore Roosevelt's Great Conservation Policy. As a member of the Cook's Forest Association, he helped to preserve the last stand of "Penn's Woods" and founded Cook Forest State Park--Pennsylvania's first State Park.
Tom Mix. Born in Mix Run, PA, Tom's family moved to DuBois after his father began working for John DuBois. When he was just a teenager, Tom Mix headed West to learn the cowboy trade. He got his start in the movies by appearing in a documentary film on cowboys. Wearing his big, ten gallon Stetson hat and riding his horse, Tony, he was a star of movies, radio and the circus. Tom Mix created the Western movie genre and the legend of the cowboy. Westerns starring Gene Autry, John wayne, Roy Rogers and even films today are influenced by Tom Mix riding across the Silver Screen.
Secret Agent Man. Floyd M. Boring grew up in DuBois and began his law enforcement career as a Pennsylvania State Trooper. He joined the Secret Service where he guarded five U. S. Presidents. On November 1, 1950, he helped to prevent two men from assassinating President Harry S. Truman.