Chapter 40
Washington Township

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FORMATION-FIRST LANDOWNERS-"OLD MARTIN JOHN HOUSE"-INDUSTRIES OF OTHER DAYS-"VAN BUREN"-WATTERSONVILLE-WEST MAHONING-CHURCHES-NATURAL GAS-SCHOOLS-POPULATION AND OCCUPATIONS

In the formation of this township in 1858 Sugar Creek was deprived of a considerable amount of territory. The first petition to divide the townships failed and another one substituted the same year was passed.

The first election held in Washington township in February, 1859, resulted thus: Leonard Fair and David Wolf were elected justices of the peace; George W. Cousins, constable; Samuel H. Dickey, treasurer; George L. Davis, Jacob Woods and David Wolf, auditors; James F. Cowan and David Yerty, supervisors; John A. Foster, town clerk; William S. Campbell and George Claypoole, overseers of the poor; George C. Claypoole, James F. Cowan, John A. Foster, Philip Templeton, David Wolf and Jacob Woods, school directors; George W. Cousins, assessor; Jacob Woods, judge; and John A. Foster and Absalom Wolf, inspectors of election. Place of holding elections, home of Henry Helzel.

EARLY SETTLERS AND LANDOWNERS

The following were original owners or settlers of the lands in the territory now included in this township: Michael Red, David Henry, John McGarvey, Charles McClatchey, Alexander Denniston, Archibald Dickey, Peter Mobley, John Sutton, Christopher Foster, John McGarvey, James B. Morrison, John Kerr, Paul Morrow, Nathaniel Stewart, Joseph Taylor, Matthias Bulheimer, Alexander Colwell, Michael Fair, Simon Fair, William McClatchey, Nicholas Clark, James Cowan, John W. Littey, James F. Cowan, David Hays, John Donnell, William Donnell, James Nichols, David Graham, James Mateer, William Gibson, John Green, John Remer, Allen McGregor, Jacob Helm, William Dickey, James Porterfield, Philip Templeton, Jacob Steelsmith, John Leard, Anderson Truitt, Elijah Mounts, John Beatty, Robert Beatty, David Rankin, Oliver Leard, George H. Foster, Allen McCard, John Mounts, Leonard Hearley, Christian Ruffner, Daniel Ruffner, Solomon Ruffner, Martin John, John Crisman, Arthur Denniston, William Freeman, Henry Heltzel, Valentine Bowser, John Ellenberger, Emanuel Roudabush, William F. Johnston, Gideon Morrow, Alexander Chilcott, Dr. Simeon Hovey, James Sloan, William Neville, William Grover, Samuel Kinkaide, Jacob Frick, Adam Wyant, Henry Isaman, Bartholomew Boucher, Benjamin Leasure, James Trimble, Robert Colgan, John Wolf, Robert Fish, William Hooks, John Paxton, William T. Richardson, Matthew S. Adams, George Elliott, William Trimble, William McAnninch, John McNickle, William Wylie, David Cooper, Caleb Paull, Archibald Dickey, Rev. John Dickey, Charles Morrall, Simon Torney, Thomas Thompson, George Best, John L. Gaughegan, Peninch Hooks, Peter Miller, Daniel Dahle, Nicholas Cloak, John D. Mhelly, Walter Litley, James Watterson, Rev. John Sherrett, Amos N. Mylert, John E. Barnaby, George J. Bert, Michael Guyer, Robert Stephens, Marcus Hulings, Henry Crum.

"OLD MARTIN JOHN HOUSE"

Although not the earliest settler, Martin John had the distinction of being the builder of the log house, the oldest in the county, which now stands on the road near Limestone run, in the southern part of this township. He settled here in 1771 and in that year put up this home, and such was the thoroughness of his work and the care given it by his descendants that up to 1912 it was quite habitable. A view of it is given on another page. Subsequent owners have been Henry Frick, Jonas and Solomon Bowser. It was last occupied by Jonathan Bowser, who was at that date (1912) seventy-three years of age. A present direct descendant of Martin John is Mrs. W.C. Marshall, wife of the well known editor of the Dayton News.

PIONEER INDUSTRIES

The earliest record of this township shows that the first settler to erect the necessary sawmill, which always followed the building of the primitive log houses of the pioneers, was William Holder, who with the help of James Watterson erected a log mill on Huling�s (now Holder�s) run, on the present site of the village of "Sherrett," in 1815. His mill, much enlarged, was known in 1832 as McClatchey�s mill. It was rebuilt in 1864 by David Shields, and still more enlarged in 1875 by the then owners, McKee & Foster. A store was added at this point at that date by the same firm. From this settlement developed the little village of "Sherrett," named from a Baptist clergyman, Rev. John Sherrett, who settled here in 1857. Thomas Foster was postmaster here in 1861. There is no office here now, the rural routes taking its place.

John Fair came here in 1817 and started the first blacksmith shop in this section. He moved to Adrian, East Franklin township, in 1872. Ellenberger Brothers are the storekeepers here now. The pastor of the Methodist Church at this point is Rev. O.L. Wingar. The Phillips Gas Company have a pumping station here to supply the upper part of the county.

On the run now known as Denniston�s Marcus Hulings built a sawmill and gristmill in 1845, near the mouth of the stream. On the Allegheny, opposite the present town of Rimer, Michael Fair, in 1855, built a sawmill to supply the American furnace and surrounding settlers. The remains of Fair'� mill are still visible. A distillery was operated in 1865 by Gideon Morrow at the point on Limestone run now known as "Morrow�s." He later added a store.

"VAN BUREN"

Named from President Martin Van Buren, this little settlement was laid out by Hugh Gillespie in 1837. Hulings grist and saw mills were here as a foundation and much was expected of the advantage of location and prospects. A large cooperage was established there in 1853 by Dr. A.M. Barnaby (the first resident physician), William Geddes and John Meyer. The place, however, never attained any importance, and is now only a suburb of the small town of Wattersonville.

WATTERSONVILLE

This place was laid out in 1842 by Henry Watterson, and a number of lots were sold that year. John Donnell opened a store here in 1865. There were 39 taxables in the town in 1876, most of whom, as at present, were employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. William Hileman and Lee Kirkwood are the merchants here in 1913.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized here in 1871. The church edifice, frame, one story, was erected on ground that belonged to James Watterson, who conveyed 41 square perches to Alexander N. Chilcott, George W. Cousins, F.A. Dietrich, John Donnell, John M. Perkins, Andrew Schall and George Steen, trustees, for church purposes, May 30, 1872, for $100. A public schoolhouse is situated at the upper part of the town.

WEST MAHONING

Benjamin McElroy opened a store at this point on the Allegheny, opposite the Mahoning, in 1876, and soon thereafter the "Union" church was built near there. A ferry had been operated here since 1834, so in a short time quite a settlement grew up around the store. Since the completion of the Pittsburgh & Shawmut there is every indication that this spot will be occupied by a thriving town.

CHURCHES

The settlers of this part of old Sugar Creek township were mostly German and adhered generally to the Lutheran faith. Their first religious organization was made in 1824, under the charge of Rev. M.C. Zielfels, who had little to recommend him as a pastor but this creation of a church. His stay with the congregation was only for two years, after which he left in disgrace. The name adopted by the people was the Limestone Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sugar Creek. After that date it was variously called "Christman�s," and "Fair�s," from the homes of those of the congregation where the occasional services were held. John Christman and Michael Fair were the first elders. They and their wives, Frederick Christman, John Ellenberger, Peter Fair, Peter and William Toy, David and John Wolf, and their wives, and Jacob Wolf were the original members. The religious services were held at the house of John "Crissman" from 1824 until 1844, and at the house of Leonard Fair thereafter until 1855. The name of this church was changed in 1844 to Bethlehem, and in 1855 to St. Mark�s its present one.

The pastors after Rev. Mr. Zielfels were: Rev. G.A. Reichert, 1828-37; Henry D. Keyl, 1838-42; John Esensee, 1842-43; Gottlieb Kranz, 1844-47; John A. Neuner, 1849-51; Thomas Steck, 1851-54; Augustus C. Ehrenfeld, 1854-58; Frederick Rauthrauff, 1859-60; Charles Witmer, 1860-62; Jacob Singer and Lewis M. Kuhns, supplies, 1863-64; H.J.H. Lemcke, 1864-66; and Rev. J.W. Schwartz, the present pastor, from 1867 to 1913.

The first church edifice was erected on a lot donated by Philip Christman and Leonard Fair in 1849, and was afterward added to by the purchase of an acre from Joseph Cristman. The building was dedicated in 1856 and served as a home for the congregation for forty-four years. The present church was built in 1900 at a cost of $3,600. It is located on the right bank of Limestone run, almost directly on the line between Washington and East Franklin townships.

The membership in 1876 was 150 and Sabbath school, 50. The present membership is 226, but the Sabbath school still remains at the old figure.

The Brush Valley Brethren in Christ Church was organized in 1842 by Rev. George Shoemaker, and thence was often called the "Shoemakerian Church." The building, located some distance east of the Lutheran church, was put up in 1858, on land given the congregation by Abraham Leasure. It was for some years jointly used by the Brethren and the Church of God. No services are held here now, but there is a thriving Sunday school, under the charge of J.H. Johns.

The German Baptists, or "Dunkards," had a church building, built in 1865, which stands east of the Lutherans and near the settlement now called "French�s," on the bank of a run that empties into the Allegheny opposite Hooks station. Rev. J.B. Wampler was pastor in 1876.

A frame church, called "Union," was erected in 1876 on the Allegheny opposite Gray�s Eddy, and used by several denominations for years past.

GAS WELLS IN 1913

One of the biggest gas wells struck in Armstrong county in a long time has just been brought in on the John W. Foster farm, near Sherrett, by the Cummings Company, of East Brady.

When the drilling reached the fifth sand at a depth of 1,700 feet such a heavy flow of gas was struck that it was handled with difficulty. Drilling stopped, the boiler was moved back and then the well was connected with the mains of the company. The flow is said to have registered 100 pounds pressure in a six-inch casing.

The strike opens up what in a way is new territory. There has been some drilling in that section at times but the field has never been fully developed. Several companies are already taking up leases and more drilling will be done.

SCHOOLS

Very little can be ascertained regarding the schools of this township from the old records. John John, son of Martin John, gave half an acre in 1838 to the school directors of the township of Sugar Creek, on which they built the usual log structure. This was located in the southern part of the present limits of Washington township. Another schoolhouse was located in the bend of the Allegheny near the present station of West Mosgrove. It was probably erected after 1848, as that year David Wolf donated the land on which it stood.

1860 - Number of school, 6; average number of months taught, 4; male teachers, 6; average salaries per month, $18.50; male scholars, 175; female scholars, 135; average number attending school, 168; cost of teaching each per month, 61 cents. Levied for school purposes, $597.58; received from collectors, $380.33; cost of instruction, $444; cost of fuel, etc., $84.55.

1876 - Schools, 8; average number of months taught, 5; male teachers, 7; female teacher, 1; average salaries of male and female per month, $33; male scholars, 220; female scholars, 170; average number attending school, 240; cost per month, 61 cents; levied for school and building purposes, $2,531.32; received from State appropriation, $272.49; from taxes and other sources, $2,419.25; paid for teachers� wages, $1,122; fuel and other expenses, $1,569.74.

The number of schools in 1913 was 9; average months taught, 7; male teachers, 5; female teachers, 4; average salaries, male, $48, female, $43.33; male scholars, 169, female scholars, 147; average attendance, 182; cost per month, $1.55; tax levied, $1,980.13; received from State, $1,621.54; other sources, $1,802.23; value of schoolhouses, $9,500; teachers� wages, $2,710; fuel, fees, etc., $719.77.

The school directors were: H.H. Adams, president; David Booher, secretary; M.C. Bowser, treasurer; Thomas Templeton, Martin Bowser.

POPULATION AND OCCUPATIONS

Occupations of the inhabitants of Washington township other than agricultural, and exclusive of Van Buren and Wattersonville, in 1876: Laborers, 56, carpenters, 4; blacksmiths, 3; plasterer, 1; merchant, 1; wagonmaker, 1. According to the mercantile appraiser�s list for the same year there were then 2 merchants in the thirteenth and 3 in the fourteenth class.

The tax list of 1913 shows only 3 merchants, 1 miller, 1 blacksmith and 1 carpenter in the township.

The population in 1860 was 988; in 1870, 1,180; in 1880, 1,489; in 1890, 1,232; in 1900, 1,207; in 1910, 1,135.

The assessment returns for 1913 show: Number of acres, 13,638 3/4, valued at, $126,969.75; houses and lots, 102, value, $7,642, average, $74.03; horses, 151, value, $5,689, average, $37.65; cows, 168, value, $2,642, average, $15.75; taxable occupations, 420, amount, $8,770; total valuation, $180,476.75. Money at interest, $6,722.57.

Washington divides the honors of altitude with Sugar Creek township, the highest hill being in the southwestern part on the boundary line; it is 1,570 feet above the sea.

Source: Page(s) 276-279, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed July 1998 by Michael S. Caldwell for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed by Michael S. Caldwell for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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