Chapter 39
Sugar Creek Township


Greatly reduced in area - Numerous Pioneers - Many Mills of Olden Time - Franklin Village -"Orrsville"- Religious - Midway Church - St. Patrick's, The Oldest Catholic Church in Western Pennsylvania - Schools - Population - Geology

Sugar Creek Township at the present time is but a small remnant of what it formerly was in size, having been the parent of five townships, two boroughs and one city. It is to be hoped that no further division of its territory will be made in the future.

In the following list of names of early settlers and landowners will be found only those who settled or acquired land in the present limits of the township. They were: 

Robert Beatty David Henry Samuel Kincaide Michael Red
Thomas R. McMillen James Hutchinson John E. Gilchrist Joseph Sutton
John Crawford Robert G. Crawford,  Joseph Thomas Andrew Shriver
Sylvanus S. White Solomon Wolf    John Blain  Ezekiel Lewis
William Ayres George Byers William Byers Adam A. Byers
Joseph Thomas John Moore Richard Meldrun Peter Pence
James Witherow Samuel Caldwell    Cyrus Kilgore John Craig
Philip Templeton John Johnston Patrick Graham Rev. John Dickey
John P. Quigley  James C. Porterfield   Samuel Swartzlander  Edward McKinney
Nathan Williams Joseph Irwin William Blain Edward McKee
John Davis  Thomas Collins  Nicholas Day   James Fulton
Nicholas Snow  John Denniston   Charles Campbell  Elisha Wick
John Baron   Adam Moyer  James Hutchenson Harmon Vasbinder
Matthew Brown Elijah Davis Thomas Barr Thomas H. Foster
George Pence   D.C. Mobley John Bell  James C. Burford
Daniel Morrison Abraham Lennington,   Jacob Schloss   George Elsor
Benjamin Shaffer  George Forster  Christian Yockey  Abraham Yockey
Samuel Dinsmore Matthew Wilson John Gillespie Reuben Burford
Adam Gallagher William F. Johnston Michael Maley,  John Griffith
William B. Clymer William Robbett Francis Miller James Rankin
Peter Cardan,  Patrick Boyle  Andrew Bullman Philip Lowe
Daniel Boyle Stephen McCue Michael Maloney Jacob Hepler
 Hugh Milligan Anthony Cravenor Francis O'Neal Nathaniel Patterson
Thomas Hindman  Owen Quinn William Robbitt John Boyers
Hosiah White  Daniel B. Heiner John Mechling James Wilson
 John McLaughlin  Robert Cathcart  Leonard Trees  Charles Ellenberger 
Peter Hummon,  Charley Seckler William Devinney Samuel S. Wallace
Joseph Wiles,  Soloman Rumbaugh Jabez Griffith,  John Wiles
 Benjamin Swaim  John Crawford Jonathan Mutimore Samuel Sanderson
Thomas F. Toule,  William D. Watkins John Pontius Thomas Buchanan
 James A. Adams William Varnum William Hart Jacob Ellenberger
 Henry Moore  William Cowan Andrew Rogers Jacob Hershey
Frederick Howard  David Snyder William Blaney  Archibald Thompson
Abraham Swartzlander

The first gristmill established in the township was erected in 1800 by Abraham Yockey, and was located on the Little Buffalo (now called Patterson Creek), in the south-central part of the township.

The second gristmill was that of Ebenezer Davis in 1809, located on the northern tributary of Patterson creek. Ebenezer Davis was the next comer, building a sawmill in 1815, and finding trade increasing built another gristmill in 1817, all at the same place. All of these mills were acquired in 1849 by Christopher James and Thomas H. Foster. "Foster's Mills" postoffice was established here in 1862, with James Y. Foster as postmaster. A store and several houses are located here, making a thriving little settlement.

The same year that Davis' Mill was built Abraham Lennington put up a gristmill on Patterson Creek, southwest of the former, but trade went to Davis and this mill was later abandoned.

A sawmill, gristmill and tannery were established on Patterson creek near the center of the township in 1824 by John Patton (or Patterson). The third schoolhouse in the township was erected near Patton's house in 1821. The first blacksmith shop in the present limits of the township was that of Nicholas Snow, who opened for trade in 1810, in the southeastern corner, near the present line of Washington Township.

James Adams was first assessed in this township as a single man, with one horse in 1815, at $20, and the next year as "storekeeper" (the first one in this township) and one horse, at $50. His store, it is said, was at first kept in the loft of a springhouse on an adjoining tract, but was afterward removed to the southern part of the Moore-Adams tract, which point has been for many years known as "Adams." Hay scales, not common in rural districts, were erected here soon after the Great Western or Brady's Bend iron works went into operation, and proved to be very convenient to the farmers of this section, who sold their hay and other products at these works. The postoffice was established here September 23, 1853, James Adams, postmaster. This property still belongs to the Adams estate.


In the extreme northeastern corner of the township at the only place where it touches the Allegheny, is located the thriving little town of Franklin. Archibald Thompson settled here in 1801, remaining until 1806, after which the property came into the hands of Philip Templeton, who, in 1843, erected a sawmill at the mouth of Snyder's run, and by 1854, with the assistance of his sons, had established another mill, a factory, a furnace and a distillery at this point.

By this period quite a settlement had grown up here, a schoolhouse had been erected on land donated by Templeton, a ferry established and the embryo town acquired the name of "Ferryton." Later on the present name, a much more historic and dignified one, was adopted.

The present owner of the sawmill is W.J. James, who has supplied most of the timber used in the construction of the Pennsylvania railroad tunnel through the famous Brady's Bend hill, just opposite in Clarion county.


Robert Orr, Sr., whose history is related elsewhere was a resident of the tract of 300 acres located near the center of the present limits of Sugar Creek township, from 1805 to 1824, after which he removed to Kittanning. In 1819 he laid out north of his residence and west of the Brady's Bend road the town of "Orrsville." It was separately assessed in 1819, but the nearby settlement of "Adams," with its mills and other industries diverted prospective lot buyers, and the site of the town was finally divided and sold. It bears the name of "Brown's" at the present date.


About 1835 Rev. Mr. Sweitzerbort of Butler county commenced holding religious services among the Lutherans, who had settled here and hereabout, and were members of the White church in that county, preaching at first to congregations in private houses, barns and the grove. This resulted in the organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sugar Creek Township. In the course of about four years the congregation erected a church edifice, frame, about 40 by 50 feet, the roof of which before it had been completed and furnished was broken down by the weight of the heavy snow on New Year's night, 1840.

Its site was on the old "Campbelltown" tract, in the extreme northwestern part of the township, on the Kittanning turnpike, the legal title to which being in Henry Wiles and Peter Kemerer, they conveyed it to John Ellenberger, Joseph Kin, John Marchand, David Snyder and Barnhart Vensel, trustees of the Evangelical Lutheran church, and John Boyers, Adam and Daniel Kemerer, John Millicon and Frederick Wiles, Jr., trustees of the St. Paul's Reformed Church of Sugar Creek township, and their successors, April 20, 1841, for $40, the St. Paul's having been organized about that time with the Rev. Mr. Dale as pastor. The two congregations soon after erected their first church edifice, frame, 34 by 50 feet, substantially built and painted white and neatly furnished. The next Lutheran pastor was Rev. J.W. Alspach.

The combined membership of this church in 1876 was 150, with a Sabbath school of 100, but after that date the church languished until 1888, when Rev. Eli Miller reorganized the Lutherans under the title of Mount Pleasant Evangelical Lutheran church. Much of the credit of the second organization is due to Amos Steel, who donated the ground on which the present Lutheran church is located. The church property, including the parsonage, is valued at $3,500. The charter members of the second organization in 1888 were: Amos Steel, Allen Steel, Sidney Steel, Maggie Steel, Mrs. A. Steel, Mr. and Mrs. Lyman Steel, Mr. and Mrs. Geo. W. Kepple, Mr. and Mrs. William Kepple, Mr. and Mrs. J. D. King, S. S. King, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pontius, W. J. Myers, C. F. Myers, J. G. Myers, M. Myers, D. I. Myers, Henry Myers, Minnie Myers, Ada Myers, Margaret Myers, Maria Myers, Chambers Foringer, Mary A. Foringer, Frank Foringer, Jedediah Wiles, S. M. Wiles.

The pastors after Rev. Mr. Miller were: Revs. J. R. Williams, J. C. Nicholas, W. O. Ibach, A. J. B. Kast, G. W. McSherry. The present pastor is Rev. J. A. Law who also serves the people of Chicora, Butler County. Membership in 1913, 88; Sunday school, 75.


This church gained its name from its location midway between Union and Brady's Bend churches and was organized in September, 1875, with forty-six members. Christopher Foster, John Adams and Daniel Rankin were elected elders. On the following Sabbath the first communion was held, Rev. A. S. Thompson officiating. Rev. W. J. Wilson was the first pastor, remaining until 1879, when the pulpit became vacant, the church relying upon supplies until the appointment of Rev. H. Magill in 1881. After the departure of Rev. Mr. Magill the church depended entirely on supplies.

At first the services were held in the schoolhouse which had been erected with the view of adapting it to church purposes. In 1880, under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Magill, the membership had increased to 114 and a church building was built at the cost of $2,500 and dedicated free of debt in November.


On one of the highest hills in Armstrong county, in a restful rural district, stands a Norman-Gothic church edifice, surmounted with a tall Norman tower. This beautiful structure is the most prominent feature of the landscape and can be seen for miles around. A visitor would at first wonder how so pretentious a structure could be placed so far away from a city or town, yet after reading the history of this temple of piety the wonder ceases and admiration for the energy, loyalty and unswerving religious faith of the early founders takes place.

This faraway church is the parent of all the Catholic churches west of the Allegheny River, and its history is the history of the Catholic Church in Armstrong county. As an introductory to the history of the church a brief resume is given of the causes which led to its organization.

In 1795 an important Irish colony which came by way of Connellsville and Freeport settled in Donegal Township, Butler County. This little band was increased from time to time by emigrants from Ireland and was the nucleus of the congregation of St. Patrick's.

The first priest to visit this settlement was Rev. Patrick Lonergan, O. S. F. who administered the sacrament of baptism in 1801. The next visit was made by Rev. P. Heilbron, who performed the necessary services for a short period, but as he could not speak English and most of the congregation were Irish, he did not remain.

The most authentic date of the arrival of Father Lawrence Sylvester Phelan is given as 1805. As he was the first resident priest, the parish, with the usual Irish energy, undertook to supply the pressing need of a house of God. Money was scarce and five dollars was a small fortune, so the settlement, which covered twenty miles, was divided into districts and volunteers appointed to make collections. Casper W. Easly took the southern district, James Sheridan the southwestern in Clearfield township, Neil Sweeny took Butler and the surrounding territory and Connell Rodgers the northwestern, or Donegal township. In a short time the necessary amount was collected, none of the subscriptions exceeding $2.00.

The present farm, consisting of nearly three hundred acres was purchased and a small log cabin was built for the pastor. Then, upon a certain day, each of the four who had solicited subscriptions was required to meet at the farm bringing with him as many men as would be required to cut and hew logs enough for one side of the church. To Patrick McElroy was assigned the work of making shingles and obtaining and driving the nails. The building was erected the autumn after Father Phelan's arrival, but as nails could not be secured, it was not roofed until the next spring. It was then placed under the invocation of the Apostle of Ireland.

The date of the erection of this church was 1806. It is still standing, and is being restored to its original condition by the contributions of devout members of the present congregation. This is in great contrast to the fate of the first Episcopal church at Brady's Bend, which was used as a dance hall after the congregation relinquished it, and is now converted into a hay barn by the present proprietor.

The old log church of St. Patrick was built of oak and roofed with split shingles, the crevices of the logs were filled with clay and straw, and the interior whitewashed and papered near the altar with a thin gilt paper of odd design. The windows and doors were wide but low, to avoid cutting too many logs, the floor was puncheon and a stairway led to a low gallery. The stations of the cross were marked by rude crosses burned into the logs.

This is the oldest Catholic church now standing in the entire western part of the State. It was attended by people from all the surrounding country for ten miles or more. People often walked from Freeport, fasting, to be present at the services. The stations, which the priest was obliged to visit, were so numerous and so far apart, that Mass was not celebrated more than once a month and in some instances, once in two months. There was then but one priest in the whole district west of the Allegheny River from Erie to Beaver.

Father Phelan withdrew in 1810. From 1810 to 1820 the congregation was visited occasionally by Fathers O'Brien and McGuire, from Pittsburgh and by Father McGirr from Sportsman's Hill. In 1821 Rev. Charles Ferry came to the church and resided there. He visited all the surrounding district, a territory at least thirty miles square, which was then estimated to contain about 140 families. He remained until 1827, when he was succeeded by Rev. Patrick O'Neil who also performed missionary work in Butler, Armstrong and adjacent counties. He remained until 1834, and subsequently was engaged in missionary labors in the West. He died in 1879, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, and the fifty-eighth of his ministry.

In the summer of 1834 Rev. Patrick Rafferty was placed in charge of the mission and resided at Freeport, visiting St. Patrick's one Sunday in a month. He remained in charge about two years. He was afterward pastor of St. Francis Church, Fairmount, Philadelphia and died in that position in 1863. He was a man of great learning and ability.

St. Patrick's remained without a pastor until the summer of 1837, when Rev. Joseph Cody was appointed to the pastorate and took up his residence at the church. Mass was celebrated here two Sundays in the month, the remainder of the pastor's time being given to Freeport and Butler. By 1840 the congregation had become so large that a larger church was needed. A Brick edifice, 45 by 80 feet, with a sacristy (a separate building against the rear of the church), was erected. It was dedicated July 29, 1842, by Very Rev. M. O'Connor, V. G. In 1844 the pastor's field of labor was rendered somewhat smaller by the appointment of a priest at Butler, who also had charge of Murrinsville and Mercer. Father Cody, however, visited Brady's Bend occasionally, and a little later officiated at the newly established church at Donegal (now North Oakland), in Clearfield township, Butler County. In 1847 Freeport and Brady's Bend were assigned to another priest, and thenceforth Father Cody gave three-fourths of his time to St. Patrick's and the remainder to North Oakland. In 1854 the log parsonage was replaced by a brick residence. After the year 1861 Father Cody, on account of age and failing health, ministered only to St. Patrick's congregation. At length he was obliged to cease from the labor of the parish and at the end of the year 1865, Rev. John O'G. Scanlon was transferred from Kittanning to St. Patrick's. Father Cody soon afterward went to the Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh, where he died August 7, 1871, in the seventieth year of his age. He was buried from St. Patrick's and his remains repose in front of the church at Sugar Creek.

Father Scanlon started to improve the interior of the church, but before the work could be done he was transferred to another congregation, and the Rev. James P. Tanany took up the work in 1868. He succeeded in making the church one of the most beautiful in the diocese. In November, 1871, he was succeeded by Rev. S. P. Herman, and the following year, on New Year's night, the church was destroyed by a fire believed to be incendiary. The congregation then returned to the old log church where they worshiped during the pastorates of Father Thomas Fitzgerald and P. M. Doyle, until 1876, when Rev. P. J. Quilter became pastor.

Father Quilter at once took steps to replace the second church, and on August 5, 1876, the cornerstone of the present edifice was laid by Bishop Domenec of Pittsburgh. The church was finished the next year and dedicated by Very Rev. R. Phelan of Allegheny.

During the charge of Father Quilter oil was struck on the farm belonging to the church, and this together with the renovation of the old buildings and the care of the large farm engaged his attention until 1889, when he was transferred to Carnegie. Fathers John Burns, John O'Callaghan, F. McKenna and Rev. O'Connell succeeded Father Quilter.

Rev. William D. Fries, brother of Frank T. Fries, editor of the Kittanning Times, came in 1902 and remained until 1905, when he went to Charleroi, Pa., where he is still stationed. During his term of service a severe windstorm blew out the rear end of the church, raised the roof and twisted the steeple partially around. The damages were repaired the same year at the expense of $2,000, the amount being raised by the sale of timber from lands belonging to the church.

Father Patrick Diskin is the present pastor, coming here in 1905, and under his care the church is still thriving, and will uphold the proud position she has held in the past 109 years. It was during the second year of his pastorate that the centennial anniversary of the church was celebrated with appropriate ceremonies.

A list of the old heads of families of the first church is of interest as an historical record. It is as follows: Patrick Boyle, John Coyle, Charles Duffy, James Denny, Thomas Dugan, John Durneigh, John Enipich, John Gillespie, Peter Gallagher, Patrick McBride, Neil Murray, Jeremiah Callihan, Archibald Black, Matthias Cyper, Michael Carven, Hugh Dugan, Neil Dugan, George Dougherty, Edward Ferry, Hugh Gillespie, Robert Hanlin, Charles McCue, Hugh McElroy, David Boyle, Elanor Coyle, Mary Ann Cypher, Peter Croosils, Michael Dugan, Andrew Dugan, John Duffy, John Forquer, John Gallagher, Charles Hunter, Daniel McCue, Connell Rodgers, Philip Hartman.


The first schoolhouse, a simple log structure, was located near Foster's Mills in 1812, and its first teacher was Hugh Rogers of Kittanning. Dr. Samuel Wallace, who was the first physician to locate in this section in 1827, resided in the southeastern part of the township, on Long run. He was interested in erecting the schoolhouse here, which was named after him, and which was probably built at or before the date of the one above mentioned.

Another schoolhouse stood a little lower down the run, at the intersection of the Watterson Ferry Road and that to Brady's Bend. It was built before 1829, and the earliest teachers were Matthew Brown and Cyrus Kilgore. 1860-Number of schools, 9; average number months taught, 4; male teachers, 9: average salaries per month, $20; male scholars, 196; female scholars, 163; average number attending school, 204; amount levied for school purposes, $884.88; cost of teaching each scholar per month, 56 cents; receive from State ap

propriation, $146.35; from collectors, $520; cost of instruction, $720; fuel, etc., $90; cost of schoolhouses, $20. 1876-Number of schools, 9; average number months taught, 5; male teachers, 5; female teachers, 4; average number of salaries per month, both male and female, $30; male scholars, 143, female scholars, 129; average number attending school, 200; cost per month, $1.06; tax levied, $1,860; received from State appropriation, $227.85; from taxes, etc., $2,327.90; paid teachers, $1,350; fuel, etc., $771.75.

The number of schools in 1913 was 9; average months taught, 7; male teachers, 4, female teachers, 5; average salaries, male, $45, female, $40; male scholars, 80, female scholars, 75; average attendance, 101; cost per month, $2.80; tax levied, $1,672.24; received from State, $1,500.96; other sources, $2,018.46; value of schoolhouses, $5,400; teachers' wages, $2,660; fuel, fees, etc., $811.95.

The school directors were: D. O. Kamerer, president; Samuel Shearer, secretary; H. A. Hedrick, treasurer; M. W. Foster, Thomas R. Steele.


The first census taken after Sugar Creek was reduced to its present area was that of 1860, when its population was 1,101. In 1870 it was: Native, 969; foreign, 54. Its number of taxables in 1876 was 287. The assessment list made in the last-mentioned year shows the occupations of inhabitants, exclusive of the agricultural portion, to have been: Laborers, 25; carpenters, 6; blacksmiths, 3; merchants, 3; miller, 1; shoemakers, 2.

The population according to the census of 1880 was 1,018; of 1890, 1070; of 1900, 885; of 1910, 790.

The assessment returns for 1913 show: Number of acres, 16,633, valued at $161,231; houses and lots, 25, value, $2,290, average, $91.60; horses, 235, value, $10,650, average, $45.31; cows, 242, value, $4,770, average $19.71; taxable occupations, 334, total amount, $4,160. Total valuation, $341,849. Money at interest, $44,581.14.


The surface rocks in this township consist largely of the lower barrens. This is evident from the smooth conditions of its upland farms. The lower productive rocks skirt the eastern edge of the township, and in the northeast corner where the river touches the ferriferous limestone are above water level; also for a short distance on Little Buffalo Creek near Foster's Mills. The upper Freeport coal is small and unimportant in this section. Further west, below the Catholic Church, it expands to four feet thick, and has its limestone underneath it.

The Kellersburg anticlinal axis extends across the southeast corner of the township, so that, westward from this, past Adams, the dip is to the northwest which explains the absence of coal and the presence here of the lower barrens.

The most elevated portion of this township above sea level is at the line of Washington Township, in the southeastern part, and its altitude is 1,570 feet. It is located directly on the crest of the Kellersburg anticlinal.

Source: Page(s) 271-275, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed August 2001 by Helen Miller for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed by Helen Miller for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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