It is understandable that locals call our creek, “The Tuna.” Correct pronunciation of “Tunungant” is tough. To make matters worse there is no agreed upon spelling. Official signs at road crossings give “Tunungant,” but Dr. George P. Donehoo, in A History of the Indian Villages and Place Names In Pennsylvania lists “Tuneungwant” and the variations “Tuneungwan,” Unawaumgwa,” “Tschunuangwandt,” and “Tuncangwant.” If you want to be impressive say “Tu-ne-un-gwan,” mention that it means “an eddy, not strong,” (a reference to its appearance as it meanders to the Allegheny River) and quote The Life of Mary Jemison (7th Ed.) as your source. The rest of us will still just call it “The Tuna.”
Except for a few New York miles before it meets the Allegheny, the Tuna’s watershed is entirely in McKean County, PA. Both the east and west branches of the Tuna flow generally south to north and join in Bradford, PA. North of Bradford, the Tuna crosses the PA/NY border and empties into the Allegheny River on the Allegany Indian Reservation of the Seneca Nation upstream from Salamanca, NY.
In the 1830’s a few farmers began plowing the flatlands of the lower Tuna Valley. Attracted by giant white pines in the hills of the Tuna headwaters, lumbermen came in the mid-1800’s and floated their harvest downstream. In the late 1800’s the Tuna Valley exploded (sometimes literally) when oil wells brought fortune and more people to the valley. In 1870 the area population was about 1,400, ten years later 12,000, and in 1900 nearly 20,000 just in the city of Bradford. Through it all, often terribly abused, the Tunungant Creek just keeps flowing along.
The Tuna Valley Trail Association recognizes our area’s historic connection to the Tunungant Creek. TVTA trails along the creek highlight the natural beauty of the Tuna watershed, and its historic role in the area’s development.
Today the homestead of one of the early Tuna Valley farmers is a historic site along the Crook Farm Trail. Information about the Crook Farm and other local sights of historic interest can be found at the Bradford Landmark Society Website.