Portage Township was formed on March 4, 1878. It was comprised of land that was formerly Summerhill and Washington Township. Many of the settlements within the Township were founded as mining communities and Lumber company mills.
The community of Sonman was named for the family of Arent Sonman, whose father was given 5,000 acres of land by the King of England for a debt that was owed him. Arent Sonman had to reclaim this parcel when Pennsylvania became a Commonwealth. This was granted to Arent Sonman’s legal representative in 1794. “German Settlement” is known today as Dutch Settlement. It acquired its name from the Germans mistakenly called Pennsylvania Dutch that settled this area. An elderly gentleman would go out into the green pastures of a section of the township to play his violin. This community soon became known as “Fiddler’s Green”.
Martindale was named after the pioneer coal man, J.C. Martin. Martindale was first settled by Belgian, German, English, French, and Lithuanian immigrants that worked in the many local coal mines. Moudy Hill, Chappell’s Hill, Jamestown, and Timmerman Hill were all named for early families that resided in that area.
Puritan was named after the Puritan Coal Company. The following areas were also named for various companies: Redbird, Miller Shaft, Blue Bird, Jail Bird, and Shoemaker.
Guiguetown was named for the pioneering Guigue family that settled in Portage Township. Mrs. Florentine Castel, the former Florentine Guigue, traveling here from France in 1883, met a French sailor named John Castel. They married in Lilly and settled in Portage Township. Eventually her family also settled to the area.
It was practice of farmers in a small community of the Township to set out salt blocks to attract deer to the area. The venison was used with pork in the making of the farmer’s sausage. Salts Blocks was the name of this community comprised of a sawmill, a school, a store, and post office, as well as, at least 18 houses.
Benscreek was named for Benjamin Earnest. This area was purchased from the Earnest family in 1868 by the Big Survey and later became property of Cambria Mining and Manufacturing Company.
As of 2009, Portage township (Cambria county)’s population is 3,763 people. Since 2000, it has had a population growth of -1.95 percent. The unemployment rate in Portage Township is 8.90 percent(U.S. avg. is 8.50%). 48.66% of the people in Portage Township are registered as Democrats. 50.83% are registered Republican. Remaining are independent: 0.51%.