Blink and you’ll miss it. Located near the eastern fringe of the Allegheny National Forest, the village of Clermont is not on many maps, and falls into a black hole in the GPS navigating system. It sits a few miles south from Pennsylvania’s scenic Route 6 as it intersects county Route 146.
A few clues indicate the existence of a village that once thrived at the turn of the 20th century. Local clay work manufacturing supplied jobs making conduits for underground telephone wires being installed in New York City and Philadelphia in the early 1900s. Many of the small outbuildings that dot the area feature these same conduits used as foundations and even walls.
The Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad once carried steam engine trains transporting passengers as well as coal throughout western Pennsylvania and New York. Shawmut station in Clermont is now the Mountain Inn, the local hangout for gossip, a game of pool, Steeler games, and, of course, beer.
At the curve of Route 146 where it becomes known as Red Mill Road is an abandoned building with cedar shake siding and a sign that says Clermont. This is the old schoolhouse that Neil’s father attended, built in 1914, the year of his birth. After growing up in Clermont and working for various companies, John Wendell Anderson joined the US Navy and was part of the D-Day invasion of WWII. He became a world traveler, and in his mid-80s, visited his childhood home, shaking his head in doubt at Neil’s “folly” even as he helped him with the physical labor during the early stages of restoration. He died in 1999 and is interred just up the road in the Clermont Cemetery. In the years before he died, he was asked to do a listing of the markers in the cemetery. Once completed, he also tackled a comprehensive history of Clermont, which can be found in his autobiography: Before the Colors Fade (1998). There is a copy of this impressive document in the living room of Neil’s barn, as well as Smethport’s Hamlin Library.