REDUCED IN AREA - SLOWLY SETTLED - FIRST INDUSTRIES - OIL DEVELOPMENT - QUEENSTOWN - SCHOOLS - POPULATION - GEOLOGY
Perry Township was formerly a part of Sugar Creek Township, and was organized in 1845. In 1870, that portion lying north of Bear creek was removed and formed into Hovey Township. Owing to their rugged and hilly character, the lands lying west of the Allegheny in the northern part of Armstrong county were little sought by the pioneers of western Pennsylvania; consequently few settlements were made in the limits of Perry until the other townships had been pretty well filled up.
A few courageous spirits located here in 1796, subsisting largely upon game at first, and as their sharp axes, wielded by stout arms, made a perceptible impression upon the primeval forests, here and there small fields appeared to brighten the gloomy aspect of the mountain sides and valleys.
Four Campbell brothers, Charles, James, Robert and Samuel, each located 400 acres, which were settled by William Love and others. Love sold out to John Binkerd, who came with his father and mother from the eastern part of the State. His son, Dr. A.H. Binkerd, of Cincinnati, afterward became a prominent physician of Parker.
Land values were rather low in those days, for Christophel Truby, or "Stophel", as he was generally known, tried to sell "Dogwood Flat", which contained over 200 acres, to John Binkerd for a small black horse, but the deal fell through. He finally sold out, moved to Catfish and there died, leaving no children.
Jacob Truby was likewise an early settler, but unlike his brother, Stophel, had a large family. Four of his daughters, Mrs. Rumbaugh, Mrs. Sybert, Mrs. Barger and Mrs. Walley, resided for many years in the neighborhood and have left sons and daughters who are among the most prominent citizens of the county.
William Parker built the first gristmill in this part of the county on Bear Creek, nearly a mile from its mouth. William Love built a log mill for Stophel Truby on Binkerd's run and it was afterward conducted by Barnet Fletcher. These mills saved the settlers long horseback rides to Westmoreland County and were a great convenience.
About 1797, Isaac Steele came from Westmoreland and took up a tract in the woods, bringing his wife and two children on horseback by means of packsaddles. He had made a bargain with Michael Shakeley for a house and land, but after being refused admittance and breaking in the door with a mallet, they finally settled the matter, and Steele entered another tract. Mr. Steele resided in this township all of his life, and left a family of eighth children, two of whom were living in 1880.
George Knox, whose descendants are very numerous in Armstrong and Butler counties, was one of the earliest pioneers of old Sugar Creek Township. He had one of the first orchards in the new settlement and visitors came many miles to test the quality of his fruit. Not infrequently were these visits made without the knowledge or consent of the proprietor of the orchard. He manufactured apple and peach brandy, which articles were in great demand.
Thomas Miller and Jacob Edinburg were the first settlers at Miller's Eddy. Dr. Simeon Hovey was also the proprietor of considerable land in tat neighborhood.
About 1808, Jonathan Hyle came from Westmoreland County with his family and located on land adjoining the Steele tract. The family lived seven weeks in a wagon while a cabin was being erected.
John Beatty, Daniel Revere, Gideon Gibson, Henry Byeres, Samuel and William Crawford and David Hutchison were also early settlers. A man named Foster was the first settler on a farm afterward owned by David White, who is noted as the first to erect a frame house. Previous to then everyone lived in log houses.
The oil developments in this township from 1870 produced many changes. Many old residents disposed of their farms and moved away. Others remained, and received in one year such incomes, as the results of scores of years of labor in tilling the soil had not produced. The little oil village of Criswell sprang up on the farm of James A. Parker and Sidney Crawford. All the wells in that vicinity are fourth-sand wells, and two of them were very large. A few in this township are still producing, though the yield is small.
This little borough was named after John Queen, who located there in 1848. He had been preceded by Daniel Day and Abraham Teegard and their families. Teegard was a farmer. Day worked for the Brady's Bend Iron Company, building houses for their employees at that point.
The first houses built in the place were the log buildings of Day and Teegard. Day's cabin stood on a six-acre lot, afterward owned by Rev. David R. Davis. Teegard's house stood where Richard Jennings lived in 1880. NO regular survey of lots was ever made, but pieces of land were sold to purchasers, as they were wanted, by J. Queen, R. Jennings and Daniel Day, who owned the land now comprised in the borough. These lots were taken up by employees of the Brady's Bend Iron Works, and in a few years Queenstown became a small but flourishing village.
The first store was opened by Richard Jennings, who was interested in the Brady's Bend Iron Works, and came from Cornwall, England, in 1851. The next store was started by John Queen, who followed carpentry for a time after his arrival here. The third store was established in that year (1866) by M. H. J. Mildron, and after his death, in 1867, was conducted by his brother, William J. Mildron. Hall these stores did a thriving business in those days, before the failure of iron works.
The first hotel, opened in 1852 by James Morley, was later conducted by Richard Mildron and Thomas Jennings. Jennings' daughter, Mrs. Mitchell, afterward ran it till the late eighties.
Here, in 1853, a steam gristmill was erected by Queen, Jennings and Daniel Evans, being operated by them until 1866. J.L. Mildron was the last owner.
The first blacksmith, Giles Morgan, came to Queenstown during the first days of its settlement, and spent the rest of his life there.
Oil production, while it did not greatly increase the population of Queenstown, materially aided its business interests. The Armstrong well, on the Mildron farm, was the first producing well struck in the neighborhood. This well began flowing April 17, 1870. It caught fire and burned three or four days. Good judges estimated the first day's flow at one thousand barrels. Other wells were soon completed in the vicinity of Queenstown, some of which are still producing. In 1872, Charles Phillips began manufacturing all kinds of oil producers' implements at Queenstown. He employed from eight to ten men, and carried on a very successful business until 1881, when he moved away.
The first schoolhouse in Queenstown was erected soon after the borough was incorporated, and continued to be used until 1876, when a better one took its place. The new schoolhouse was erected partly by subscription and partly by taxation. It was two stories in height, the lower story used for school purposes, and the upper part as a place for public worship, free to all religious denominations. There are no churches in the place. A Catholic church, erected in 1845, was occupied until 1864, when its congregation united with other churches more conveniently situated.
The last report of the schools here in 1910, the year the charter was revoked, gives a logical reason for the submersion of the town. There were but fifteen scholars in attendance, yet the monthly expense of imparting the necessary knowledge to each of them was the highest in the county - $4.45.
In 1910, the number of schools was 1; average months taught, 7; male teacher, 1; salary, $40; male scholars, 6; female scholars, 9; average attendance, 11; cost per month, $4.45; tax levied, $211.83; received from State, $156.19; other sources, $248.74; value of schoolhouse, $1,400; teachers' wages, $280; fuel, fees, etc., $77.78.
The school directors for that year were: E. D. Jennings, president; E. M. Queen, secretary; W. J. Mildron, treasurer; Joseph Blatt, J L. Mildron, R. J. Mildron.
Queenstown is situated on Whisky run, a tributary of Sugar creek, in the extreme southeastern part of the township. In 1860 the population was 119; in 1870, 201; in 1880, 217; in 1890, 123; in 1900, 69; in 1910, when it was deprived of its charter, the inhabitants numbered but 72.
The assessment returns for 1910 show: Number of acres, 349, valued at $8,185; houses and lots, 18, value $3,130, average, $173.88; horses 11, value $335, average, $30.45; cows, 12, value $180, average, $15; taxable occupations, 38, amount, $785; total valuation, $12,615.
Before the free school system was adopted the schoolhouses of this township were few and far apart. Many of the children walked many miles daily to attend the schools of Butler County. One of the first schools was started by James Hunter on his farm near Queenstown. He was well patronized, as he was jovial and kindly. Edward Jennings was also a teacher, at the old Peters schoolhouse.
In 1870 a combination building was built at Miller's Eddy for the use of religious denominations and also for school purposes.
Most of the buildings in use at present are located at or near the sites of the old ones, as the custom of going to certain points has become fixed in the minds of the population, and the school property is usually retained through all vicissitudes of the time.
Reports of the old schools are not available, so that of the present year is the only one supplied.
In 1913 the number of schools was 5; average months taught, 7; female teachers, 5; average salaries, female, $42.00; male scholars 65, female scholars, 47; average attendance, 80; cost per month, $2.32; tax levied, $1,374.68; received from State, $705.18; other sources, $1,960.63; value of schoolhouses, $6,165; teachers' wages, $1,470; fuel, fees, etc., $773.23.
The school directors are: Reuben Hagerson, president; Oliver Hilles, secretary; J. H. Binkerd, treasurer; John Fisher, George Wagner.
"Hillville" is a settlement in the southeastern part, in a deep bend of the Allegheny, and Fredericksburg is located on Binkerd's run in the southwester part of the township.
The population of Perry Township in 1850 was 709; in 1860, 991; in 1870, 3,877; in 1880, 1,309; in 1890, 938; in 1900, 656; in 1910, 594.
These statistics of population form a remarkable barometer of the state of existence of the township in various periods. The rise and decline of the oil industry can be readily traced.
The assessment returns for 1913 show: Number of acres, 8,827 �, valued at $138,575; houses and lots, 55, value, $6,059, average $110.16; horses, 139, value, $3,175, average, $22.84; cows, 127, value, $1,515, average, $11.92; taxable occupations, 311; amount, $4,885; total valuation $171,801. Money at interest, $17,371.32.
GEOLOGYThe geological formation of this township is practically similar to that of Madison. The highest point is located between the headwaters of Pine creek and Binkerd's run, in the extreme southeastern portion of the township, and is 1,545 feet about the sea.
Source: Page(s) 264-267, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed September 2001 by Donna Rae Smith for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed by Donna Rae Smith for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)
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