The Borough of Northern Cambria was incorporated on January 1, 2000. It was formed from the merger of two smaller municipalities, Barnesboro and Spangler. The area was first settled by Europeans in the early-to-middle 19th century. The presence of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River allowed loggers to move their harvest down stream. Small farms developed, but the area changed in the 1890s when mining of the extensive bituminous coal fields in the area became the dominant industry. The mining companies required skilled workers and many came from Great Britain and Eastern Europe. Railroads were built to transport the coal out and the town flourished with the influx of money. In the 1980s, the coal industry began a decline and there has been a subsequent decline in the population of the area. In November 1922, the Reilly Shaft No. 1 Mine Explosion occurred, killing 78 coal miners
A pumpkin weighing 1,469 lb (666 kg) was grown by resident Larry Checkon in 2005 (a world record at that time).