NAMED FROM OLD LUTHERAN CHURCH-PIONEERS-FIRST INDUSTRIES-LATER IMPROVEMENTS-CHURCHES-SCHOOLS-POPULATION-GEOLOGICAL
This division of Armstrong county takes its name from one of the oldest Lutheran churches in this part of Pennsylvania, situated on an eminence overlooking Crooked creek, and commanding a lovely view of the entire surrounding territory. Bethel was formed at the same time with the townships of Parks and Gilpin, out of the old Allegheny township, in 1878. It is a rich farming community and has no large towns within its bounds.
When the three townships were included in that of Allegheny the real settlement of Bethel began, so it will be necessary to give the names of the early land owners and settlers who took up the territory included at that time. In the list below will be found names of those who obtained warrants for the land as well as those who occupied it and improved it:
John Elder, John Collier, David McKee, Peter Shaeffer, J. Heckman, P. Heckman, John Barrickman, James Beatty, Matthew Maris, Hugh Glenn, John Wigton, William Highfield, James Glenn, John Morrison, Jacob Williams, Nicholas Bray, William Kelly, George Wolf, Samuel Cochran, Alexander Craig, John Pinkerton, George Bartram, Robert Alexander and Samuel Walker, Alexander Clark, Thomas Burd, Enoch Westcott, Samuel Waugh, Samuel Stitt, Charles Vanderen, Henry Girt, John Steele, Joseph Parker, Francis Bailey, William Stitt, George Risler, Griffith Jones, Henry Klingensmith, James Campbell, William Campbell, Jeremiah Pratt, John Hawk, Sebastian Fisher, John Vanderen, George Ingram, Philip Klingensmith, Thomas Campbell, John Hill, George Isebuster, James and John Jack, Charles Campbell, James Anderson, Hugh Cunningham, Archibald McKatten, Michael Barrackman, James Crosby, James Fitzgerald, John Montgomery, Isaac Vanhorn, John Klingensmith, John Conrad, Samuel Stitt, Robert Caldwell, Thomas York, George Elliott, John Brown, Jacob Beck, Bernard Macho, William Smith, Thomas Hood, William McAllister, Jacob Reese, Lambert Cadwallader, James Mease, George Clymer, Samuel Meredith, William Jack, Thomas Cadwallader, Robert Hanna, John Montgomery, Robert Parks, Samuel Crosby, Assemus Boyer, Adam Moyer, John and James Waltenbaugh, Thomas Barclay, Samuel Printz, Philip Schutt, John Scholl.
Most of the settlers in this township came between 1792 and 1806, the earliest ones being Alexander and Samuel Walker, on the south side of Crooked creek; James Cunningham, at the junction of that creek and the Allegeny; William Beatty on land joining the Manor; and Thomas Gallagher, who kept a distillery in the northeastern part.
The first mill in the township was that of Alexander Walker, on the second bend of Crooked creek, built in 1805. As the current of this creek is exceedingly swift, the mill could be operated all the year round, without freezing up, so the settlers from many miles came here for their grist. His successor was John Walker, in 1830.
The increasing trade at this mill by 1836 induced Robert Walker to build a mill at the sharp turn of the creek, about a mile and a half east of the first one. This mill was a most remarkable one from the manner in which it was built. The stream here almost doubles on itself, and in the center of the loop is a steep hill. With great originality of concept the builders tunneled through the hill, putting the mill on the lower side and the dam on the upper. By this means they obtained not only a great head of water, but located the mill upon the slope of the hill, far above high water. This plan was probably the first actual adoption of the tunnel headrace for mill purposes in this country, and was a forerunner of the vast power tunnels of thepresent day. The contractors who blasted the tunnel were two enterprising Englishmen named Allison and Porter, who "just happened along." They occupied six months in the work and received $1600 for the job. So well did they do their task that the old headrace and the mill foundations are plainly to be seen at the present time.
S. B. Wolf opened his blacksmith shop in Center Valley in 1849 and after his death, in 1872, his son D. E. Wolf continued the business. He has, however, now retired from this strenuous vocation.
Kelly station, established in 1860, for many years a noted shipping point on the old Allegheny Valley railroad, was named agter Sheriff Hamilton Kelly, an old steamboatman, who was for years station agent and postmaster here. His sons were also famous on the Allegheny as boatmen. Near this place was formerly located the "Old Pickles Tavern" near the banks of the river at Pickle's Eddy, when in old rafting days it was not unusual for them to feet two hundred raftsmen and store them away as best as they could while they united their rafts into fleets. One mile east of Kelly's were situated the old Beatty flouring mills, built in 1855, which for many years were a source of great convenience to the surrounding country. The place was named "Neale" a few years ago in honor of the late Judge Neal, and it has long been noted for its ideal country store, which has been handed down from one owner to another for more than fifty years and is now owned by Mr. S. S. Blyholder, who is a prominent officer in the State Grange, and was postmaster till 1900. The Gormans formerly owned astore near this place, which aside from the postoffice name, has been known as Center Valley.
There are a large number of fraternal societies in this township, but the only one that has built and owns its own hall, a fine frame structure, is the Odd Fellows, who for years have had quite an organization at Center Valley.
This section, like the others, in the southern townships of the county, has the Freeport and other veins of coal, the former having been opended by a drift bank over thirty years ago to furnish coal for engines on the old Alleghey Valley Railroad. With the exceptions of some mines in and near Center Valley, this was the only works in operation until in 1902, when a large company was organized by John Achison and chartered as the "Provident Coal Company." After shipping coal and burning coke for a time, owing to financial and other reasons arising from the condition of trade the miners suspended operation until 1912, when, with other business operations in a moset flourishing condition, operatiosn were resumed, there being about $100,000 new capital, contributed. A prosperous period set in for the country in the neighborhood of Kelly Station and Neale, and in fact the whold of Center Valley and surrounding country. A brisk mining town sprang up which, in 1913, promises to add greatly to the importance of Bethel township on the map and the interests of this part of the State, as it opens up a coal field of almost unlimited extent, which affords opportunity for a score of good sites for openings and tipples and siding facilities. T. G. Kelly is the storekeeper and postmaster now.
An important point in this township is Logansport, on the Allegheny river. For many years this was only a railroad station, but within the last ten years a large distillery has been erected there and created quite an industrial impetus, giving work to a large number of people. The distillery is owned by Pittsburgh capitalists, who located here largely on account of the fine quality of water which is so essential in their business. The place was named after the late Squire Thomas Logan, who died in 1909, and occupied the famous old brick dwelling that for so long marked the landing for steamboats here. John W. Miller is the postmaster and storekeeper at Logansport.
Most of the names we have designated as early settlers of Gilpin township would apply to this and many other nearby localities, as their descendants have intermarried until they form one great family, reminding one of a composite picture where a hundren of more faces are blended into one.
A store is kept by T. A. Fiscus near the schoolhouse, between Center Valley and Kelly Station.
The resident physician is Dr. Thomas L. Aye, who has his home at Kelly Station, but is almost always traveling over the township on healing missions or in the course of his duties as school
commissioner. He is one of the busiest and most popular citizens of the township.
Crooked Creek (St. Paul's) Presbyterian church is located on that stream, not far from the site of the old Robert Walker mill, and its history is lost in the obscurity of the early times. In 1825 Alexander Walker started to construct a meeting house, but did not complete it, for in the summer of 1834 Dr. Joseph Painter came through that part of the county and noticed that the structure was simply a wall, and cattle used it for shelter from the winds. He took steps to render it habitable, giving the congregation, which was formed some years previously, half of his time until 1838. Then it was supplied by Rev. John Kerr until 1840. The pastors following him were Revs. Levi M. Graves, William College, G. K. Scott and Perrin Baker. Rev. J. P. Calhoun was pastor in 1884. From that date supplies have been the rule. A second log house followed the first and was replaced by a frame in 1869. It still remains in a good state of preservation. The present pastor is Rev. J. Ash.
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1846, under the pastorate of Rev. David Earhart of Leechburg. The first church officers were: Joseph Snyder and Samuel Mansfield, elders; Peter Wareham and Jacob Keiffer, deacons. At a later meeting it was decided to build and the following chosen as a building committee: Solomon King, Samuel Mansfield, Jacob Wolf, Samuel Bruner, Lewis Orner, Mathias Wolf and P. Stewart. Samuel Mansfield sold the ground to the committee and they awarded the contract to P. Stewart for $400, the church to build the stone work and furnish all the heavy timbers, as well as the furnishings. The cornerstone was laid in 1847 and the building dedicated in 1850. May different customs were adopted at times in this church's history. The second charter of 1848 did not permit the women of this congregation to vote, so in 1894 this clause was amended in their favor. In 1851 the custom of renting pews was adopted, and in 1852 a choir of eleven men was elected.
Rev. David Earhart closed his pastorate in 1859 and Rev. Jacob H. Wright was called. After his departure in 1867 the following pastors served here: Revs. Michael Colver, 1867068; John A. Ernest, 1869; G. F. Ehrenfeld, 1870; J. B. Miller, 1871; A. S. Miller, 1872-77; G. W. Leisher, 1877-85; J. W. Tressler, 1886-89; J. E. F. Hassinger, 1899-1903; E. F. Dickey, 1903. The present pastor is Rev. Elmer Kahl. Membership, 100; Sunday school, 115.
In 1877, after being in use for thirty years, the old church was razed and a new one, costing $2,127, replaced it, being dedicated in 1879. The building committee as : S. B. Wolf, James Beatty, William Hileman, John Wareham and A. R. Wolf. At the time the burial ground was enlarged and laid out in walks and drives. In the summer of 1901 extensive repairs were made to the church at a cost of $1,000, making it almost new. The women of the congregation were given the credit of these improvements to a great extent. The church is financially strong and the membership is larger than most country charges.
Homewood Baptist Church, at Kelly Station, is under the charge of Rev. J. W. Schumaker, who is in the Clarion Baptist Association.
This township furnished several teachers who have attained eminence, and one county superintendent-J. D. Wolf.
The first schoolhouse in this township was that of Henry Girt, not far from Kelly Station, erected about 1821. Statistics of the schools previous to 1878 can be found in the sketch of Gilpin township.
Number of schools in 1913, 7; average months taught, 7; male teachers, 5; female teachers, 2; average salaries, male, $44; females, $40; male scholars, 114; female scholars, 113; average attendance, 125; cost per month, $1.95; tax levied, $1,998.21; received from State, $1,072.86; other sources, $2,501.49; value of schoolhouses, $7000; teachers' wages, $2,104; fuel, fees, etc., $1,007.83.
The school directors are: L. P. Dunmire, president; Dr. Thomas L. Aye, secretary; S. S. Blyholder, treasurer; W. R. Miller, David Wareham.
The population of Bethel in 1880 was 871; in 1890 ti was 788; in 1900, 839; in 1910, 952.
In 1913, the assessment returns were: Number of acres, 9,357, valued at, $149,895; houses and lots, 94, valued at $16,335, average, $173.77; horses, 172, value, $6,655, average, $38.69; cows, 163, value, $2,090, average, $12.20; taxables, 345; amount, $8.735; total valuation, $264,399. Money at interest, $68,233.15.
At the mouth of Kiskiminetas, the slaty cannel coal is separated from the bright bituminous bed by from six to eight feet of slate. The cannel stratum averages five feet in thickness. The Freeport sandstone beneath forms massive ledges along the railroad. On the east side of the Allegheny the coals are at a much higher level than on Buffalo creek, owing to a local rise in the strata, but there can be no difficulty in identification. A proximate analysis of Dodd's cannel coal by Dr. Alter, developed thirty-four per cent of volatile matter. From twenty-two pounds of the coal he obtained thirty-three ounces of crude oil, a gallon of which yielded one ounce of paraffine, besides coal tar, lighter oils, benzole, etc.
Source: Page(s) 200-203, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed October 1998 by Donna E. Mohney for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Donna E. Mohney for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)
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