Beers Historical Record
Volume I
Chapter 16
Freeport Borough



From undoubted evidences in the shape of mounds, clearings, fortifications and other prehistoric remains there is no doubt that the site of Freeport was once as densely populated as at present, although by strange and unknown races, whose history we can only conjecture. But of the history of the present population and their immediate ancestors we have very definite information of most interesting character.


Some time prior to the establishment of permanent peace by Wayne's victory over and treaty with the Indians, a blockhouse was erected on the Allegheny, about 120 rods above the mouth of Buffalo creek, which is now on Water, below Fifth street, Freeport. Its commandant was Capt. John Craig, whose command consisted of forty or fifty men, most of whom were inexperienced soldiers, "raw recruits," and were addicted, before they had been tried, to boasting how easily they could defeat the Indians. They were "brave in words," and continued to be until they were tried. Gordon and Mehaffey, two old rangers, determined to test their pluck. With the consent of the commandant, they were marched one day to the spring on the hillside north of the blockhouse. Gordon and Mehaffey, disguised as Indians, having posted themselves among some rank ironweeds just below the spring, yelled and whooped and shook those weeds, which so frightened those raw soldiers that they hastily threw their guns down in the road and rushed pell-mell into the blockhouse, to which Gordon and Mehaffey returned in the evening by the way of the "eddy" and over the river bank, and were refused admittance by those soldiers because they feared the presence of Indians below the bank, who would rush into the blockhouse if it were opened. The commandant finally ordered Gordon and Mehaffey to be admitted. When those soldiers learned from them that they were the only Indians in those ironweeds near the spring---when they realized how readily they had allowed themselves to be alarmed by that piece of "bushwhacking"---that they had so needlessly proved themselves "cowards in the field," they hurriedly left the blockhouse. Craig said a regiment couldn't have kept them there after they saw how easily they had been scared.

In those early war times there was a place of refuge on John Reed's farm on the left bank of the Allegheny, about two and a half miles below the mouth of the Kiskiminetas, called "Reed's Station," which was named after "Uncle Johnny Reed," as the owner of the ground on which it was situated was called.


James McCormick, the second sheriff of this county, settled here in 1797, and opened a hotel and established a ferry. By the act of April 4, 1798, such parts of Allegheny county as were then within Elder's district, being part of Deer township, were made an election district, and the place fixed for holding the elections was "at the house of James McCormick, in the town of Freeport," which was the first house built on Water street.' Some time during that year Charles Duffy and his family arrived here from Ireland and stopped at McCormick's, where his daughter Barbara, then in her eleventh year, remained several months. Her father located on the headwaters of one of the western tributaries of Buffalo creek, then in the wilderness. The town was laid out in 1796 by William and David Todd, and was at first called "Toddstown," but from the fact that David Todd insisted that it should always remain a free port for water craft, the name was later changed to its present one.

The first house in Freeport was built beside the old blockhouse by Andrew Patterson. Among other later arrivals at this place were Jacob Mechling, formerly of Greensburg, and afterward of Butler, and his co-commissioners, Hamilton, Lane, Morton and Weaver. Mechling, in his "journal of proceedings to fix the seats of justice in the counties of Armstrong," etc., notes their arrival at the mouth of Puckety, June 3, 1802, and then "eleven miles to Freeport, where we lodged that night," which is all he noted in his journal respecting this town, in which there were then but a very few log houses, besides McCormick's tavern, where he and the other commissioners probably lodged.

In 1805 there were only eight indifferent houses of hewn logs. The first one was McCormick's tavern; the second one, built by Thomas Johnston, adjoined McCormick's; the third, by one of the Thornburghs on or near Water, above Fifth street; the fourth by Henry A. Weaver, on the north side of Market street; the fifth on the second lot above the last-mentioned one; the sixth, by Alexander Hunter, on Water, between Second and Third streets; the seventh, by David Porterfield, on Water, between Third and Fourth streets; the eighth, on Water, near Fifth street.

The assessment list of Buffalo township for 1805 shows the valuation of lots, personal property and occupations in Freeport to have then been: Alexander Hunter, one house, one lot and four cattle, $102; the next year, $96; Thomas Johnston, one house, one lot, two horses, two cattle and 400 acres elsewhere in the township, $262; the next year $150; James McCormick, one house, five lots, one horse, one cow and one ferry, $216; the next year, $222. Jacob Weaver, who was the first postmaster, was the first assessed here in 1806, with one house, one lot, one horse, one cow, and as storekeeper, at $111. Henry A. Weaver settled here before Jacob Weaver did; he had a Frenchman as a partner in trade, who was an interpreter to the Indians; Peter Clawson, who was raised near Greensburg, lived for years on his father's farm at Rumbaugh's ferry on the Kiskimenetas, and was well versed in early events, used to relate that about 1806 a considerable quantity of wheat and flour was transported from Greensburg or Hannastown to Rumbaugh's ferry, thence to Freeport, and shipped thence by Weaver and his partner to Blennerhasset's island for the use of the expedition fitted out by Aaron Burr, and that Weaver in consequence of being engaged in that shipment was obliged to be absent for a while.

The first separate assessment list of Freeport, in 1826, bears the names of Philip Bohlen, Hugh Gillespie, John Drum, John Fullerton, Matthias Folcake, William Gibson, George Helterbrand, William Painter, Andrew Sterrett, Thomas Regan, John Dougherty, James Cain, Patrick Pree, Hugh Carson, Jacob Weaver, Henry S. Weaver, John Wodison. The building of the Pennsylvania canal and the construction of the aqueducts across the Allegheny and Buffalo creek, in addition to the boring of several salt wells, gave an impetus to the growth of the town in the years 1827-28. The work on the canal commenced here in the summer of 1827, and boats made their first trips on it in 1828-29. The ""Benjamin Franklin"" was the first packet-boat, said to have been a very neat one, that plied regularly between Freeport and Pittsburgh. Her first trip was on Feb. 6, 1829, with about thirty passengers. Her speed was five miles an hour.

While the canal was being made there were two settlements of Irish laborers, called "Garry Owen" and "Mullengar," one above and the other below Freeport. The inhabitants thereof occasionally came to patronize, at least they did patronize, the three taverns which then flourished here, and seldom failed to enliven the town with their boisterous hilarity. There was a racecourse on the lower flat on which some of the best blooded horses from Kentucky and Virginia evinced their wonderful speed. Jumping and foot races were common. Betting was brisk, and large sums were won and lost on the quadruped and biped races. John Karns on a certain occasion jumped from one side of the canal lock to the other, a distance of sixteen feet. It is related that Simon Shields won $50 by jumping three "stand-and jumps." Other noted jumpers were Elliott and Samuel D. Karns and Henry Gass. On St. Patrick's day, in 1828, the Irish from "Garry Owen" and "Mulllengar" had a large procession. They were decked with pine and laurel to represent the shamrock. After marching through town regaled by strains of music, they closed their celebration with real Irish joviality at Neil Gillespie's tavern. There were then about thirty houses in Freeport.

Freeport was incorporated as a borough in 1833, and the first election of that year resulted as follows: Jacob Weaver, burgess; James McCall, assistant burgess; Andrew Easley, James Milligan, William Moorehead, William Painter, David Putney and Henry Weaver, town councilmen; David McCall, high constable; John Drum, street commissioner; James Ralston and Joseph Shoop, overseers of the poor; Jacob Alter, assessor; William Painter and James Ralston, assistant assessors.

The first meeting of the burgess and town council was held May 10th, when William W. Gibson was appointed clerk. The assessment list for 1833 shows that the borough contained the year its charter was granted 107 taxables. The only occupations given in that list were: Merchants, 4; carpenters, 3; blacksmiths, 2; tailor, 1; laborers, 2; hatters, 2; shoemakers, 4; innkeepers, 3;; tanner, 1; mason, 1; limner, 1; teacher, 1; joiner, 1; wagonmaker, 1.


Benjamin King's sawmill was the pioneer industry of the town, in 1843. J. N. Nesbitt operated a fulling mill in 1835. Several sawmills were also in operation in that year. David Scott was a tanner in 1836, Henry Hellerich ran a pottery in 1838, Robert Martin was assessed as a weaver in that year, George McCain's gristmill was operated in 1839, and in 1840 T.P. & S. C. Williamson started a foundry, the remains of which still stand as an eyesore near the railroad depot. Hope Woolen Mills were started in 1841 by Samuel and William P. Fullerton. The same year Jacob K. Rupp made windmills. David Putney was the father of the brick business in the town in 1832. J. P. Stuebgen started his brewery in 1866, running it until 1889. The first photographer was Dr. David Alter, who took pictures not as a business but for his own amusement. J. H. Douglas had a room here and took pictures before the war, and Charles Tuxford was also engaged in the business about the same time. J. D. Stewart and a man named Kelly were in the business during the late sixties and in 1870.

The Freeport Planing Mill was incorporated in 1875, with a capital of $20,000. The firm is still in a thriving condition. A. King & Sons also operate a large planing mill, near the center of the town.

The Freeport Clay Products Company was organized in 1910 with a capital of $200,000. The plant consists of two brick machines and twelve kilns, and the daily product is 50,000 faced building brick, made from the fireclay mined on the company's extensive landholdings. Although a new company, the firm is thriving and is considered the most important in the township. About fifty men are employed the year round. The officers are: T. O. James, president; James DeWitt, vice-president; A. L. Chapman, secretary-treasurer. The dirctors are: J. H. Openheimer, James A. Grant, A. J. Fulton, G. L. Rutherford, Francis Laube and T. G. Hill.

The Buffalo Milling Company was incorporated in 1881 and commenced business in the next year. It was operated until 1900. The owners were the same as those of the planing mill, of which it was a part.

Guckenheimer Brothers' distillery, which was started in 1855, by Williamson & Rhey, was begun to be operated by the present owners in August, 1866. In 1912 the firm of A. Guckenheimer & Bros. Was formed into a corporation, and they now operate the largest distillery of rye whiskey in the United States, consuming 2,100 bushels of grain per day. They operate their own cooperage and employ 125 men. A 310,000-bushel grain elevator, a malthouse, a stillhouse, and nine bonded warehouses, with capacity for 150,000 barrels, constitute their complete plant. Part of the plant is located in Laneville.


The merchants of Freeport are: Merchant tailors-J. O. Ralston & Son, J. H. Shoop & Sons, and Frank Maxler. Dry goods-H. Brenneman and J. H. Moss. Jewelers-H. Rumbaugh, R. V. Marshall. Druggists-E. N. Gillespie, Louis N. Berube. Shoes-G. W. Benevitz, Jos. Gianotti. Hardware-E. H. Wallace, Fred Sarver. Newsdealer-H. W. Rowley. Furniture__S. Turner & Son. Baker and confectioner-F. A. Seitz. Flour, grain and feed-Smith & Zahniser, W. A. Noble. Livery-Joseph Thomas, Ewing Bros.

Freeport has seven grocery stores, one 5 and 10 cent store, three milliners, four meat markets, two liverymen, and four barbers.


The hotels of Freeport are well known in the county as models of comfort and good living. They are:Central, T. G. Hill; Zone; Commercial, M. C. Mohr.


The Freeport Bank was organized in 1868, with a capital stock of $50,000. It has weathered all the financial storms of the past without springing a leak, and is established firmly in the financial life of the town. The present officers are: Isaac Guckenheimer, president; Beynard Way, vice president; A. M. Johnston, cashier; C. E. Hild, assistant cashier; Hugh G. Ralston, teller.

The Farmers' National Bank of Freeport was chartered in 1904, with a capital of $50,000. The present officers are T. G. Cornell, president; W. A. Jack, vice president; W. F. Turner, second vice president; F. K. Weaver, cashier; W. E. Phillips, assistant cashier.


The first resident clergyman appears to have been Rev. Hugh Kirkland, who, as is elsewhere noticed, engaged extensively in buying and selling town lots, and who was first assessed here in 1830, and was the first pastor of the Associate Church. Rev. William Galbreath was first assessed here in 1843 for the next year, though not as a clergyman until a year or two later. He was pastor of what is now the First United Presbyterian Church from then until 1845.

Following on the assessment list of 1846 was Rev. Mr. McKee, who occupied lot No. 2, Rev. Mr. Hawkins in 1849, and others at subsequent times, as mentioned in connection with their respective churches.

Dr. Charles G. Snowden was the earliest resident physician, who was first assessed as such for 1832. Dr. J. B. Williamson was first assessed here the next year; Dr. D. M. Borland in 1841; Dr. David Alter in 1843; Dr. Henry Weeks in 1844; Drs. Thomas Galbreath and Samuel T. Redick in 1849; Dr. James A. Donaldson in 1850; Dr. N. E. McDonnell in 1851; Dr. William P. McCulloch in 1859; Drs. Charles B. Gillespie and Thomas Magill in 1860; Dr. Robert L. McCurdy in 1862; Dr. Christopher Krunpe in 1867; Dr. A.G. Thomas in 1868; Dr William Plank in 1871; Dr. W. L. Morrow in 1872; Dr. A.M. Hoover in 1876.

Dr. Alter's scientific discoveries deserve in this connection a special notice, for it was here in Freeport that they were made. In the latter part of the summer or in the early part of the autumn of 1847 he invented the method of manufacturing bromine in large quantities. He obtained a patent for his apparatus used in making it July 5, 1848, and soon afterward commenced its manufacture in company with Edward and James Gillespie, whose works were situated on the right bank of Buffalo creek opposite the upper part of the island, or about 120 rods above the mouth of the creek. In the latter part of 1853 and the beginning of 1854, he discovered the bands in the spectrum of the elementary bodies, which was the foundation of spectrum analysis, and published some of his observations in the numbers for July, 1854, and 1855, of Silliman's American Journal of Science.

A signal service station was established here April 16, 1873, under the charge of Dr. Alter, which was afterward in charge of his son, Dr. Myron H. Alter. The present mode of making monthly reports, showing the relation between the quantity of rain and the rise in the river, is the work of the latter. High water here, March 17, 1865, reads 31.42 feet. Ice, Feb. 28, 1875, was 17 1/2 inches thick in the river.

The resident physicians in 1913 are: Drs. William H. McCafferty, James R. McDowell, Charles H. McLaughlin, Charles A. Rogers, Lewis W. Schnatterly and John L. M. Halstead.

The earliest resident lawyer assessed here was James Stewart, United States commissioner in bankruptcy, in 1843. The next were James Donnelly and J. Noble Nesbitt, in 1846; Lawrence S. Cantwell, in 1848; James B. Fullerton, in 1849; James A. McCulloch, in 1850; J. G. D. Findley, in 1869; Thomas N. Hathaway and George G. Ingersoll, in 1871. The resident lawyers are S. F. Clark and D. R. Nulton. Drs. J. W. Held and Harry McCulloch are the local dentists. The real estate dealers are Barrett & Llewellyn, Findley & Taylor.


The first newspaper published in Freeport was the Olive Branch, of which William Badger was the proprietor and editor, who had previously published and edited the Armstrong Advertiser and Antimasonic Free Press at Kittanning, the type and material of which he transferred thither in August or September, 1833. Its publication continued for about two years. The Freeport Columbian and Leechburg and Warren Advertiser was established here by A.J. Foster in 1839, and was transferred in April, 1842, to John and Samuel McCulloch, by whom it was published as a Democratic paper until about 1845. The Visitor, after making divers visits to the domiciles of its patrons here and round about, departed. The Freeport Ledger was published by A. J. Gibson from 1853 until 1855-56. The New Era was established by Simon Shoop in the spring of 1872, who, in a few years afterward, transferred it to James A. McCulloch, and its name was changed to that of the Valley Times, which, in the early part of 1876, was transferred to Oswald & Simpson, and removed to Kittanning.

The Freeport Journal was published first by a company organized in 1876, the original members being Rev. J. J. Francis, W. J. Murphy and Thomas C. Nicholson. The first number was issued May 18th of that year. In 1877 R. B. McKee, at that time in the grocery business, took hold of the plant, formed a stock company and in a few days raised $1,200. After trying several managers until 1878, Mr. McKee Took up the task himself, and from that time to the present the paper has been a decided success. "Bob" McKee has become one of the institutions of Freeport, his name and influence being used to further every matter of importance in the social or industrial life of the town. So well is he thought of in the town that not a single rival publication has been able to knock him out. In 1902 C. H. McKee was taken into partnership by his father.


The only Young Men's Christian Association in the county is that of Freeport, organized in 1907. The membership is gradually increasing and they hope in the near future to build a home of their own. The secretary is P. A. Brenneman.


The Freeport Building and Loan Association was organized and incorporated in January, 1887, and went out of business in 1913. It helped a number of people to secure homes, made money for the non-borrowers, never distressed a borrower, never lost a dollar by bad loans, and closed up business to the satisfaction of all concerned.



Unfortunately there is no complete history of the beginning of Methodism In Freeport. All the official records of the church previous to 1867 are lost. In October, 1833, Freeport was taken into the Butler Circuit, which then took in parts of Butler, Armstrong and Allegheny counties. The first preachers were Revs. William Carroll and H. Bradshaw. In November of the same year a class was formed composed of Joseph Ford and wife, John Atkinson and wife, and John A. Sterns. Worship was held in a frame house on Third street, afterward in a schoolhouse on High street, between Second and Third streets. Then a currier's shop, which was somewhere near the Intersection of Market street and the old Pennsylvania canal, was used for church purposes. Still later, near where the Pennsylvania railroad station now stands, the Baptist congregation kindly granted the use of their church at communion seasons, and other special occasions. A church edifice was erected in 1840 on lot No. 1 on the corner Of Fourth street and Mulberry alley, where the present church stands. Especial honor is due to Wesley Bowman and Peter Ford for the Energy and self sacrifice with which they pushed the enterprise to success. These were days of struggles and sacrifices, and right nobly were they made by All those who laid the foundation of Methodism in Freeport. The church organization was incorporated Dec. 26, 1846, the trustees provided for and named in the charter being Jacob Alter, John Atkinson, Wesley Bowman, Peter Ford, Leonard Leidy, Daniel Richards, John A. Sterns and Robert C. Williamson.

In 1877, the old building gave place to the present highly Artistic example of religious architecture. The enterprise was carried to Completion under the pastorate of Rev. M. McKendree Garrett, being dedicated in 1879. It is of red brick, with a lofty tower, and is a creditable monument of old-time church construction. So well was the work done that few repairs and no alterations have been necessary in later years. The cost at the time of building was $13,257. A substantial parsonage is located near the church, having been built in 1899 at a cost of $3,500. The church has been blessed during its history by having two honored superannuated ministers reside in the town. For some years Rev. Richard Armstrong, a Methodist minister of the old school, resided in Freeport, and frequently occupied the pulpit of the church with great acceptability. He died Aug. 19, 1859, aged eighty-four years, and was buried in the old cemetery on Fourth street. In 1899 Rev. J.W. Kessler, having served forty-two years in the active ranks of the Pittsburgh Conference, took up his abode in Freeport. He was ever ready to render any help to the church that he possibly could and was a blessing to the whole community. He died Feb. 15, 1903, aged seventy-four years, and was buried in the Freeport cemetery.

The pastors have been: with Butler Circuit-W. Carrol and H. Bradshaw, 1833. A. Jackson and L. Janney, 1834. A. Jackson and E.J. Kinney, 1835. W.C. Henderson and L. Whipple, 1836. J. McLean, 1837-38. P.M. McGowan, 1839. P.M. McGowan and W. Cooper, 1840. J. Ray and J.S. Patterson, 1841. P.M. McGowan and J. Phillips, 1842. C.C. Best and W.C. Morris, 1843. J. White and J.L. Williams, 1844. J.L. Williams and W. Cooper, 1845. R.J. White, 1846-47. With Tarentum Circuit-J. Murray, 1848. B.F. Sawhill, 1849. E.B. Griffin, 1850-51. M.L. Weekly, 1852. A.G. Williams, 1853. D. Hess And A.W. Butz, 1854. D. Hess and I. Aiken, 1855. Freeport Station-W. Cooper, 1856-57. A.G. Williams, 1858-59. A.H. Thomas, 1860-61. J.W. Shirer, 1862-63. R. Morrow, 1864-66. E.M. Wood, 1867-68. E.B. Griffin, 1869. J.B. Uber, 1870-72. N.P. Kerr, 1873-75. M. McK. Garrett, 1876-77. S.T. Mitchell, 1878. M.M. Sweeney, 1879-81. C.W. Miller, 1882-83. A.P. Leonard, 1884-86. J.E. Wright, 1887-88. D.L. Johnston, 1889-91. D.J. Davis, 1892-94. Solomon Keebler, 1895-97. John Connor, 1898. M.M. Hildebrand, 1899-1901. F.A. Richards, 1902-07. A.H. Davies, 1911. S. Elmer Rodkey, 1911-13. The trustees are: Wilson Daugherty, John Atkinson, J.E. Myers, S.P. Dixon, Newton Cuthbert, William Bowden, Joseph Beaumont, Joseph Todd and E.M. Keebler. The membership is 300, and of the Sunday School, 350.


The first Presbyterian services in Freeport were conducted occasionally from 1827 to 1830 by Rev. John Redick, and afterward by Rev. John Wilson. In 1833 the formal organization was made, and we Fortunately can present the complete list of original members: James Bole and wife, Isaac Bole and wife, James Ralston and wife, William Hill and wife, Nancy Hill, Maria Hill, Margaret Hill, Andrew Ralston and wife, Jane Weir, Elizabeth Weir, Mary Weir, Mary Woods, James McCall and wife, Mary Murray, Elizabeth Roeny, Margaret Stewart, William Laughery and wife, Margaret Girt, Betsy Girt, Mary Girt, James Bole, Mary Ann Bole, Michael Moorhead and wife. In 1838 Mr. Johnston resigned in favor of Rev. Samuel Caldwell, who remained until 1845. During the period from 1846 to 1849 Revs. John K. Cornyn and D.D. McKee supplied the pulpit and in 1849 Rev. William F. Kean became pastor. After nineteen years of faithful service he resigned, in 1868. After a vacancy of one year, Rev. J. J. Francis became pastor, resigning In 1879. Then came another vacancy of three years, after which Rev. T.M. Thompson took charge, severing his connection in 1890. The succeeding pastors were Revs. William L. McClure and A.B. Elliott. The present pastor, Rev. H.W. Hanna, came in 1912. The first house of worship was a communistic one, erected on a lot donated by James Armstrong for the use of the Presbyterians, Seceders and Episcopalians, which afterward became the property of the Presbyterians. It was a frame edifice, erected in 1833. In 1850 a brick church was put up and in 1885 replaced by a modern brick structure, costing $12,500. The ruling elders are: H.S. Smith, Dr. W.H. McCafferty, Capt. H.P. Hudson, S.H. Crawford and W.B. Alter. The membership of the church is 325, and of the Sunday School, 225.


The Associate Presbyterian-commonly called Seceder-Church was organized about 1826. The original families of the congregation were the Brewers, Colmers, W.W. Gibsons, Millers, Pattersons and Painters. Rev. Mr. Dickey, pastor of the Rich Hill and Slate Lick Churches, preached here occasionally, before the labors of the first pastor, Rev. Hugh Kirkland, began. His successors were Revs. William Galbraith and R.B. Robertson. The church was located on the south side of Fourth street, where the present parsonage stands. The congregation was incorporated in 1866, The trustees being: John S. Dimmitt, Robert A. Hill, Thomas Magill, Joseph B. Miller, William Moorehead and James Ralston.

The Associate Reformed Presbyterians organized about 1850. Their first pastor was Rev. John Jamison, his successor being Rev. E.N. McElree. During the latter's pastorate the union of the Associate and Reformed Churches was accomplished. The first services of the latter were held in a hall above Peter S. Weaver's store, on Market and Fifth streets. In 1858 the title of the congregation was made United Presbyterian, and in 1865-66 a brick church was built on the corner of Market and Fourth streets, the same now occupied by F.A. Seitz as a store and meeting hall. The present church was built in 1902 at a cost of $13,500. After 1878 the pastors have in succession been Revs. A.E. Linn, A.F. Kirkpatrick, W.E. Purvis, J.R. McFarland and T.C. McKelvey, the latter being the present pastor, having been installed in 1912. The ruling elders are: H.N. Miller, George Ralston, I. Linn Miller, W.M. Dougal and N.M. McIntyre.


The Protestant Episcopal Church of Freeport was organized about 1833. Rev. Moses P. Bennett had preached to the people here in 1823, and Rev. William Hilton in the years following, Rev. B.B. Killikelly served the congregation as missionary from 1833 to 1838. That year the present building was erected near the Catholic Church. Rev. William White and Rev. William Hilton were his successors.

Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church was established in Freeport between 1834 and 1845, by Rev. B.B. Killikelly, from Kittanning. The present church was erected in 1868, and has lately been extensively repaired. Many of the interior furnishings were donated by friends from Kittanning and Pittsburgh. There is no rector resident here now, but services are held by pastors from Pittsburgh. The congregation is small.


A few persons of the Lutheran faith were residents of the Vicinity of Freeport before 1800, but they had no regular organization, attending services in the old Eisaman settlement, several miles distant. No attempt was made to establish a Lutheran Church in the town until 1834, when Rev. John H. Hohnholz, of the Ohio Synod, began to hold occasional services In the schoolhouse. He was followed by Rev. G.A. Reichert in 1836. The Last sermon preached by Rev. Mr. Reichert in western Pennsylvania was in the Freeport schoolhouse in 1837. His successor, Rev. John H. Bernheim, entered the field in 1838 and soon organized a regular congregation, by 1841. He was very popular. His successors, up to the time of the Lutheran controversy, were Revs. George B. Holmes, 1844-48; George F. Ehrenfeld, 1848-51; Lewis M. Kuhns, 1851-56; Jacob H. Wright, 1856-61; Jeremiah H. Brown, 1861-65; J.K. Melhorn, 1865-68. In 1848 St. John's purchased the old Baptist church for $400, but it soon proved inadequate to hold the rapidly growing congregation, and in 1862 a substantial frame church was erected at a cost of $2,100. In 1868 the great controversy separated the congregation into two parts, Rev. J.K. Melhorn adhering to the General Council, the courts later giving him possession of the building. Subsequent pastors of St. John's have been Revs. J.H.A. Kitzmiller, 1871-81; H.K. Shanor, 1882-90; William A. Laub, 1891-1900. The present pastor is Rev. Herbert Martens.

Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran congregation was formed from 69 of the members of St. John's who adhered to the General Synod in 1868. The first pastor after the separation was Rev. H.H. Hall, who remained until 1870, being succeeded by Rev. D.R.P. Barry in 1875. The following year the courts decided against the congregation using the old name of St. Paul's and the name Emmanuel was selected. A lot was then purchased on Buffalo street, and a church was built at a cost of $4,000. The pastors from that date were: Revs. Max Lentz, 1881; A.C. Felker, 1881-82; Isaiah Irvine, 1882-85; Luther M. Kuhns, 1886-87; J.W. Breitenbach, 1887-88; J.E.F. Hassinger, 1889-93; H.C. Reller, 1893-1901; John H. Diehl, 1901-02; H.C. Erdman, 1902. The present pastor is Rev. J. Walter Shearer. The church membership is 145, and the Sabbath school, 131. The church property is valued at $7,000.

Zion's German Lutheran Church was incorporated by the proper Court April 23, 1862, as the German Evangelical Lutheran Zion's Church of the borough of Freeport. Its charter officers were Rev. Gabriel A. Reichert, pastor; George Eppler, and David Kraft, elders; John Mangold and George Pfaff, deacons. The charter requires "the German language to be used forever in preaching the doctrines of the church among this association." The congregation is small in numbers, and is served by Rev. Johannes E. Burgdorf of Ford City. They occupy a small old-fashioned church, built In 1860.


The Baptist Church was organized Dec. 11, 1830, by Revs. William Shadrack and George I. Miles, with the following members: Samuel Logan, Robert Lowry, Rhoda Lowry, William Critchlow, David Robinson, George Montgomery, John Robinson, Silas Ramsy, Benjamin Harbison, Daniel Howe, James Harbison, James McWilliams, Jacob Robinson, Elizabeth Bowser, Hannah Longwell, Margaret Given, Sarah Evans, Harriet Critchlow, Julian Hickenlooper, Rachel Myler, Martha J. Leonard, C.G. Snowden, Sarah C. Snowden, John Congliton, Samuel Foreman, John Haney, Andrew Wilson, Elizabeth Ulam, Abigail Howe, Adaline Rowley. The house of worship of this congregation was built in 1849. The succession of pastors has been as follows: Revs. William Shadrack, George I. Miles, William Penny, John Thomas, W. Rockafellow, Benoni Allen, J.A. Davis, Edward M. Miles, William A. Barnes, Peter M. Weddell, Thomas J. Penny, L.L. Still, D.W.C. Herbey, J.G. Penny, David Williams, J.E. Dean, J.P. Jones, F.H. Jones, J.W. Ewing and S. Drummond.

Within the last ten years the congregation has gradually reduced In numbers and at present there is no regular pastor occupying the pulpit. Supplies are had from other towns.


St. Mary's Catholic Church was organized about 1826. The original families of this congregation were Philip Bohlen's, Patrick Blacke's, Donnelly's, Andrew Farley's, Neil Gillespie's, Magrand's, McKenna's, O'Reiley's, Patrick Shara's, and others. The first pastor was Rev. Patrick O'Neil, who was educated in France and came to this country as a missionary.

The succession of priests after Father O'Neil included Revs. Patrick Rafferty, Joseph Cody (neither of whom were resident pastors), M.J. Mitchell, R. Phelan, J. Hackett, James Holland, A.A. Lambing, W.A. Nolan, G.S. Grace, Frederick Eberth, C. McDermott, James Canivan, P.M. Garvey and James McTighe.

The church edifice or chapel, situated on in-lots Nos. 132 and 133, southwestern corner of High and Sixth streets, was among the first brick structures built by David Putney, after his removal to Freeport in 1832. A portion of the ground on which this chapel stood was devoted to burial purposes until a new cemetery was elsewhere laid out. This structure was replaced in 1849 by a neat brick building, now located west of the site of the old church, on High street, the cost of which was $25,000. It has recently been repointed and repaired by the congregation, under the present pastor, Rev. James A. Garrigan, at an expense of over $4,000. A convent building, occupied as a school by the Sisters of St. Joseph, stands across the street from the church. It has also recently received extensive repairs.


The Freeport Blues were organized in 1818, John Drum, captain; James Patterson and Benjamin F. King, first and second lieutenants. They were reorganized in 1831.

The Freeport and Leechburg Dragoons were organized in 1832, with James T. McKaig, captain; Alexander Scott and Alexander Sharp, first and second lieutenants.

The Freeport Artillery Company was organized in 1850, William F. Logan, captain; Samuel Lane and James D. Torbett, first and second lieutenants.

The Washington Guards were organized in 1849, Alexander Anderson, captain; John J. Long and William S. Ralston, first and second lieutenants. They were reorganized in 1854.

The Freeport Zouaves were organized in 1860, Charles B. Gillespie, captain; William B. McCue and Henry Torbett, first and second lieutenants. The name was later changed to Freeport Cadets.

The Duncan Karns Rifles were organized after the war, being uniformed and equipped by S.D. Karns.

Most of the members of the companies existing at the opening of the war enlisted in the 78th Pa. Vols. The Soldiers Aid Society was organized Jan. 31, 1863, and its officers were: President, Mrs. Mary Galbraith; secretary, Miss Mary Kennedy; treasurer, Mrs. Anna B. Weaver; committee on work and expenditures, Mrs. Mary Murphy, Misses Selima Gibson, Hannah McClelland and Nannie Woods, and seventy-three members, besides eighty-four "gentlemen who were always at hand in any emergency."

H.S. Weaver Post No. 32, Grand Army of the Republic, is composed Of most of the local survivors of the Civil war, and the officers are: R.B. McKee, commander; A.H. Clawson, adjutant; H.H. Schwietering, quartermaster. This post built the only monument to the soldier dead in the county, at A cost of $1,800. The stone was contributed from his farm near Freeport, By L.W. Patterson.


The first white person buried within the limits of Freeport was Miss Fails, who was drowned in crossing Buffalo creek in 1794. The old cemetery is located opposite the present Presbyterian church, next to the schoolhouse, and many of the pioneers of the town are laid in its narrow confines. Here lie the bodies of Massey Harbison and her relatives, as well as many of the prominent citizens of later days. Most of the bodies have been removed to the new cemetery, and the rest will soon be taken away to permit the extension of the school building.

The Freeport Cemetery Company was incorporated in 1864, the trustees being Robert Morris, John Ralston, David Alter, Samuel Fullerton and John Turner. The property is ample in size to accommodate the interments for many years to come, and is owned on the communistic plan, every lot purchased being a shareholder in the company.


The Armstrong Lodge of Ancient York Masons, No., 239, was constituted here in 1852, when its charter officers were William F. Logan, W.M.; Alexander Anderson, S.W.; Charles G. Snowden, J.W.; George W. Syphax, treasurer; Reuben Michel, secretary. This lodge met in Anderson's hall on the fourth Monday of each month, and numbered about seventy-five members.

Freeport Lodge, I.O.O.F., No. 379, was organized Oct. 1, 1849, at Freeport. The charter members were the following, who were also officers: Samuel Shafer, N.G.; J.D. Torbett, V.G.; J.W. Redpath, secretary; J. Welshans, assistant secretary; Henry White, treasurer. Members in 1880, 34; present enrollment, 160.

There are also in Freeport lodges of the Knights of Pythias, Royal Arcanum, Eagles and Loyal Order of Moose.


There was no school within the limits of Freeport for nearly a quarter of a century after it was laid out. The most accessible educational facilities to its inhabitants were then afforded at the Hall school, about half a mile distant. P.R. Bohlen is said to have taught the first school here, in a log dwelling house on Water street. According to Peter E. Weaver's recollection the first one was taught by a man of the name of Woodford in a house on Market street, above Fifth. The next teacher was of the name of Lee, who taught but one quarter. Those were what used to be termed "pay schools," in which some of the common English branches were taught-arithmetic, reading in the Testament, spelling and writing.

In 1832-33 James Pneuman, reputed to be a good mathematician, taught a pay school on High street, between Fourth and Fifth. Such schools were more or less liberally patronized until the adoption of the common or free school system a few years later. Dr. Thomas Galbraith was the first teacher here under this system. A frame schoolhouse was erected soon after its adoption on in-lot No. 101, the southwest corner of Fourth and High streets.

Rev. Hugh Kirkland, soon after his advent here in 1830, erected An academy at the corner of High and Fourth streets, in which the classics And the common and higher English branches were taught by him and Samuel Wallace.

Some time between 1843 and 1850 Rev. William Galbraith, of the United Presbterian Church, started a classical school in Freeport, which he conducted with encouraging success for several years. Other teachers were M.H. Ryerson and Thomas Magill. It has not been in operation for many years past.

1860-Schools, 4; average number of months taught, 4; male teacher, 1; female teachers, 3; monthly salary of male, $30; monthly salary of female, $18; male scholars, 170; female scholars, 168; average number attending school, 267; cost of teaching each scholar per month, 28 cents; levied for school purposes, $674; levied for building purposes, $674.60; received from State appropriation, $108.10; received from collectors, $1,136; cost of instruction, $336; fuel, etc., $40; cost of schoolhouse, etc., $1,100.

1876-Schools, 6; average number of months taught, 7; male teacher, 1; female teachers, 5; average salaries per month-male, $80; female, $40; male scholars, 201; female scholars, 173; average number attending school, 322; cost per month, 85 cents; levied for school and building purposes, $2,318.28; received from State appropriation, $418.50; received from taxes, etc., $1,900.25; cost of schoolhouse, etc., $35.52; paid for teachers wages, $1,680; paid for fuel, etc., $691.48.

In 1913 the number of schools was 11; months taught, 9; male teacher, 1; female teachers, 12; average salaries, male, $177.77; female, $60.42; male scholars, 245; female scholars, 266; average attendance,408;cost of each scholar per month, $1.92; tax levied, $8,409.18; received from State, $2,514.56; from other sources, $10,883.43; value of schoolhouses,$23,000; teachers' wages, $8,071.43; other expenditures, $5,088.11.

The school directors were: A.L. Strause, president; F.K. Weaver, secretary; J.J. Daniels, treasurer; E.M. Keebler, T.A. Taylor.


The inhabitants of Freeport numbered 1,073 in 1850; in 1860, 1,691; in 1870, 1,640; in 1880, 1,614; in 1890, 1,637; in 1900, 1,754; in 1910, 2,258. The assessment returns for 1913 show: Number of acres, 20; valued at $4,225; houses and lots, 593, value $518,175, average $873.80; horses 66, value $2,800, average $42.42; cows 19, value $285, average $15; taxable occupations, 798; amount $35,985; total valuation, $670,270. Money at interest, $142,207.91. The present burgess is C.A.Rogers; J.H.W. Miller is justice of the peace; Charles Mardorf, tax collector and assessor.

FIRE PROTECTION A contract was made, Aug. 12, 1842, to purchase a fire engine, which was then here, for $250; the council, Aug. 30th, directed an engine house to be erected on the south side of Market, at the intersection of Fourth street, and that not less than twenty yards of rope or cable, with requisite crossbars, be attached to the engine. It was determined, Sept. 10th, that the engine house should be frame, 12 feet square and 12 feet high. A resolution was adopted by the council, March 3, 1843, turning over the fire engine, engine house, ladders, fire-hooks and other equipment to the Allegheny Fire Company in consideration of their organization and the services rendered and to be rendered, which in the course of time vanished, so that in 1880 there was no fire compnay, no engine, no means of extinguishing fires, except water buckets, and what may be called a water brigade, improvished as fires occurred.

Freeport is still rather deficient in the way of fire protection, there being no volunteer company, and only two small hose carts. The water supply is obtained from the Allegheny, after all the large towns have sent into its waters their filth and sewage. The local water company within late years have sold their plant to an outside corporation, who have applied for permission to increase the capital stock to $100,000. It is to be hoped that the town will secure through the new company an ample and pure water supply.


This village adjoins Freeport on the southwest, and is located just Across Buffalo creek. It has a population of 130 and the principal industries Are the Kerr Coal Company and the distillery of the Guckenheimer Distilling Co. There are about sixty-eight dwelling houses there and but a few small stores. The town was laid out in 1871 by John Boyd and named after Abner W. Lane, the former owner. The first separate assessment for the town was in 1871, when it contained about a dozen taxables, one tannery, one miller and four laborers. The number of taxables in 1876 was nearly 40; laborers, 26; tanners, 2; carpenter, 1; cooper, 1; miller, 1; old man, 1; tinner, 1. Michael Coward was this year first assessed with his brickyard on what Was known as the brickkiln lot, about forty rods above the Freeport flouring mill. This mill, with sixty-three acres of circumjacent land, became vested in C.M. Bird, after Lane's sale to Milnes and Kurtz, from whom it passed by sheriff's sale, March 5, 1873, to Joseph B. Way, for $5,300, who conveyed it the same day to Adolph Fisher for $5,500. It was then a three-story frame steam and water mill, with three runs of stone. The mill is still running and doing a good business.

Just north of Laneville was the gristmill of John Harbison, the husband of the famous "Massey" Harbison, who often tended the mill in husband's absence.

The bridge over Big Buffalo creek, which separates Freeport and Laneville, was erected in 1878 by the county commissioners, W. Buffington, B. Henderson and C. Handcock. It is an iron one, the two preceding wooden ones Having been swept away in different freshets of the past. The first one was Built in 1840 at a cost of $500.

Four counties, Armstrong, Westmoreland, Allegheny, and Butler, corner at The junction of Buffalo creek and the Allegheny river.

The bridge across the Allegheny at the lower end of the town was erected jointly in 1890 by the counties of Westmoreland and Armstrong.


Todd's Island was at one time separated from the mainland by a small by-pass of the Allegheny, but the Guckenheimer Distillery has filled in most of the channel and attached the former island to the mainland. From 1830 to 1855 this island was the home of the Bohlen brothers, Philip and Edward, who cut and shipped ice by means of flatboats to the South. So great was their trade at one time that they established an agency at Memphis, Tenn., where they removed after the invention of artificial ice machines, and in that city established a large wholesale business under the name of Bohlen-Huse Ice & Coal Company.

On this island was also the home of Jacob Williams, an Indian, who for Years acted as the town grave digger of Freeport. His two sons have since Become the proprietors of the well known Williams Piano Co., of Chicago, Ill., where they have amassed a fortune.

Source: Page(s) 155-165, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed June 1998 by Pat Godesky for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Pat Godesky for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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