Chapter 44
South Buffalo Township



The division of the old township of Buffalo into two parts left but a small portion of the territory to South Buffalo in 1847. However, the portion left is of considerable historical interest, and includes the thriving borough of Freeport.

The settlers who first made their homes in this section of Armstrong county were few, most of them locating along the streams. One of the first was John Harbison, whose wife, "Massey," was the heroine of an Indian raid, an account of which will be found elsewhere. Harbison must have arrived some time before 1804, as he was assessed in that year with a sawmill, located on Buffalo creek, above the present site of Freeport. Near here was the distillery of William Hazlitt, built in 1807.

John Craig and Charles Sipes settled about 1795 near the present village of McIntyre. Craig combined the harmonious occupations of distiller and justice of the peace. A store was kept here in 1792 by James Mehaffey, at the point later called "Murphy�s Bend."

Samuel Murphy, after whom the above point was named, came here in 1795. He was a "Wild Irishman," and a noted soldier and scout, being one of the members of the earl of Dunmore�s expedition in 1774.

Other settlers of the time previous to 1800 were James Kincaid, Stephen Mehaffey, James Penney, Jacob White, Robert Fleming, Wendel Stoup, Frederick Razer, Aaron Wor, Jacob Everhart, Nicholas Best.

Many of the owners of the lands in this township merely held them for speculation, and in several cases the property was repeatedly sold at different periods before actual settlement was made. Perhaps the most interesting of the early landowners was the illustrious Benjamin Franklin, who purchased in 1787, at the Merchants� Coffee House in Philadelphia, ten depreciation lots, all in the northern part of this township, adjoining Butler county. With his usual business instinct, he seems to have afterward sold them at a good profit.


Besides the mills above mentioned there were others erected at different dates in other parts of the township. Robert McCormish had a gristmill near the site of Boggsville in 1803, Jacob Cristman�s was located on Nicholson�s run in 1811, Andrew McCaslin built his in 1849 on the run near McVill, Eli Myers located in 1811 on Buffalo creek, and James Bole was the owner in 1819 of the mill near the site of Freeport.

Sawmills were built by William Girt in 1815, near Freeport; John Atkinson in 1842, on Big run; John Hill, in 1840, on the run named after him; John A. Patterson, on Pine run, in 1850; Nicholas Bricker, in 1830, near Boggsville; and Martin Wackerlie, in 1870, on Buffalo creek.

Near Slate Lick Nicholas Best had a pottery from 1843 to 1845. One of the pioneers, James Dougherty, was quite an enterprising man for his time. He brought the first wagon into this part of the county, built the first windmill and made hatchets and nails for his neighbors. His home was near the old blockhouse south of McVill, on the Allegheny.


This attractive site was settled soon after 1800, and the town of Clinton was laid out in 1830 by Enos McBride. For a number of years this town has been about the same size as at first, the population being of the retired farmer class. At one time hopes were held that the country buildings would be located here.

A little group of eleven members formed the first congregation of Clinton Presbyterian Church in 1852. They were Robert G. Mahaffey and wife, Margaret, Daniel Fry and wife, Elizabeth, Samuel Mahaffey and wife, Lydia Ann, Robert Patterson and wife, Martha, Francis Stuart, David G. Stuart and wife, Elizabeth.

Previous to this organization they had made an agreement with the few Lutherans in the village to erect a union house of worship, so in the year before Rev. David Earhart laid the cornerstone of the small frame building in which they met to form a corporate body.

The Lutherans had preceded them by a year in organization. Until 1860 this harmonious agreement was carried out, each congregation taking alternate Sundays for its own, but finally the Lutherans became so few in numbers as to find it impossible to secure a ministerial supply. By 1875 the building had fallen into a state of disrepair and a new one was proposed by the Presbyterians. The Lutherans, with Christian amity, agreed to abandon their share in the property and the old church was replaced with the present neat frame structure.

The first Presbyterian pastor was Rev. George Cairns, from 1853 to 1856. For four years there was a vacancy and then supplies were made by Revs. S.A. Hughes, D.W. Townsend, D.H. Sloan, John H. Aughey, J.J. Francis, from 1867 to 1872. Rev. D.H. Sloan then returned and assumed charge, remaining until 1896. Following came Revs. W.L. Oliver, 1896-99; D.T. Scott, 1901-06; A.B. Elliot, 1908-12. Rev. Walter Kennedy, of Johnetta Memorial Church, is the stated supply at present.

The ruling elders are Joseph Hudson, F.M. Campbell, S.L. Redick and C.J. Bush. The trustees are James Arner, Edward Wolfe and Elmer Stepp.

The Lutheran Church was organized by Rev. David Earhart, Aug. 13, 1851, and had only occasional services after 1860, while the members connected themselves with other churches. The present church edifice is a neat frame structure 36 by 56 feet including a vestibule 9 feet wide.

It was begun in the fall of 1875 and completed in the spring of 1876, and is tastefully finished and furnished. The house and furniture cost about $2,500. The congregation is served by Rev. Herbert Martins, of the Freeport Church.

In 1843 this town contained five taxables, with the corresponding population, including three mechanics, viz.: Robert Graham, carpenter; Samuel Patterson, wagonmaker, and David Whitehead, cooper, and twelve seated lots. There appear to have been about 28 taxables here in 1858, including 3 carpenters, 1 cooper, 1 shoemaker, and 1 stonemason.

According to the assessment list for 1876, the number of taxables appears to be 44: Laborers, 19; boatmen, 2; old man, 1; farmer, 1; storekeeper, 1; stonemason, 1.

The storekeepers in 1913 are W.K. Hudson and James H. Truby.


The McVill post office was established May 5, 1864, Robert McCaslin postmaster. The same year John Boyd opened his store about thirty-five rods northwest of the steam mill on the west side of Nicholson�s run. The first and only resident clergyman at McVill was Rev. Jacob F. Dean, Baptist, who settled here in 1868. The present storekeeper and postmaster is J.V. Shaffer.


At the junction of Cornplanter�s run and Buffalo creek was located the sawmill and gristmill of Jacob Bricker in 1800. Here a number of other settlers came after that date, the town of Boggsville being the result. Barnes & Sloan were the owners of the mills in 1875. In 1880 David C. Boggs bought them and added steam power, putting in new machinery. He was the first postmaster here in 1890, the town being named after him.

The first church here was the "Blue Slate Church," used by both the Lutheran and Reformed congregations, in 1807. The services were at first in German, but later St. Matthew�s Church was organized and the English language took its place. The history of St. Matthew�s is given in a later paragraph.

The Pennsylvania railroad has a branch line into the town from Freeport.

The different resident physicians here have been Dr. Ellis Simpkins, 1846; Dr. John Kennedy, 1860; Drs. Robert McClelland and A.D. Johnston, 1868.


This village is noted as the site of the first Presbyterian congregation in Armstrong county, and is situated almost on the line of East Franklin township. The first postmaster here was George F. Keener, in 1837. J.E. Boyd held the office in 1876. John Brown was the pioneer storekeeper here in 1858. Here also was located in early days the second schoolhouse in the township.

This stronghold of the Presbyterian denomination had its inception in 1802, when steps were taken by the widely separated settlers to organize for worship and religious communion. This was the first date at which attention was called to this little circle of Presbyterians, although it is believed that they had held service as early as 1798. At that time there was no church edifice of this denomination in Armstrong county, so a subscription paper was made up and a call issued for a pastor. The call was answered by Rev. John Boyd, who served until 1810, the respect in which he was held being evidenced by the title given the church in those days of "Boyd�s Lower Meetinghouse."

After his departure the church was dependent upon supplies for five years, when another call was issued, to Rev. John Reddick, who came in 1815 and remained until 1848, when infirmities caused him to ask to be relieved. He died in 1850 and was buried near the church he had served so long and faithfully.

The next pastors in chronological order were: Rev. William F. Kean, 1849-64; Rev. Thomas C. Anderson, 1865-68; Rev. John H. Aughey, 1869-72; Rev. William M. Kain, 1872-73; Rev. B.F. Boyle, 1873-82; Rev. John C. McCracken, 1882. The present pastor is Rev. George Stewart, of Freeport, who has in addition the care of Shrader�s Grove Church.

The first church was a log one, date of erection not known. It was replaced in 1830 by a brick edifice, the bricks being burned at the spot where the operations of erection were carried on. James Hill, John Rea and James Smith were the building committee. This structure, owing probably to its "home-made" bricks, was found unsafe, at one time the floor gave way, the ceiling cracked, and the walls showed signs of falling. This occurred while services were in operation and caused such a panic as to result in the injury of several persons in the rush for exit. After this, although repaired and occupied, the congregation did not feel safe in holding constant services in it, and in 1843 tore it down and put up a frame structure. This building was used until 1869 and was then sold to George B. Sloan, who used the materials to build the Slate Lick Classical Institute.

The present building, brick, 65 by 44 feet, is the result of the efforts of John Boyd, John Graham and David Robison, the building committee, under whose auspices it was erected in 1871-72. The total cost was $7,600. Further details of this congregation will be found in the general church history of the county.


This school was started in 1865 with Rev. David S. Tappan as principal. He was a graduate of the Western Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church and he was so popular as a teacher that for a time the school was called "Tappan�s Institute." A permanent organization was made in 1866, a board of trustees elected and the name "Slate Lick Classical Institute" adopted. The first trustees are not known, but among them were probably Rev. T.C. Anderson, James Rayburn, David and Robert McCaslin, A.F. Boyd and James Brown.

The second teacher was Mr. Hugh W. Parks, who was followed by D.H. Sloan, Rev. Robert McCaslin, J.C. Dinsmore, Rev. John S. Plumer, Calvin Rayburn, Rev. Leslie E. Hawk, Rev. L. McCampbell, Rev. G.E. Carnahan, J.C. Pickens, A.W. McClurkan, J.S. Hill.

This school was at a disadvantage, never having had a permanent home. Exercises were held in the old Presbyterian church until 1870, for a time in the unfinished auditorium of the new church, for several years in the house of George B. Sloan, who gave it free of rent, and in the last years in the basement of the Presbyterian church. Notwithstanding these drawbacks the school graduated in its lifetime over one thousand students who have made important places for themselves in the history of Armstrong county.


The Slate Lick United Presbyterian Church was organized about the year 1812. The preaching on that occasion and for some time afterward was in a tent where the present church stands, though occasionally the meetings were held in the woods at other points. Rev. Mr. McClintick, of Bear creek, was the first preacher of this denomination who labored here, coming as a supply as early as 1808, and preaching in the log cabins of the settlers. The first church was a log structure, 33 feet square, built by Abram Smith and William Minteer in 1815. The men of the congregation felled the timber for this house, and it is remembered that the wall plate was haulted up the hill by a big yoke of oxen, owned by Joseph Miller. Rev. John Dickey, the first settled pastor, came here about 1812 and remained thirty-five years. He was succeeded by Revs. Galbraith and Robertson, and then came Rev. L. McCampbell. The congregation now has a frame structure about 40 feet square near the settlement of McVill, erected in 1844. This church was incorporated by the proper court Dec. 1, 1862. The trustees named in the charter were Robert Galbraith, Robert Huston, David McCune, Robert Ralston and James Rayburn. Its membership is 80; Sabbath school scholars, 70.


St. Matthew�s Lutheran Church was organized by members of the old "Blue Slate" church, in 1844. Rev. David Earhart was the first pastor and Rev. L.M. Kuhns the second, in 1852. Since then it has been under the Freeport charge. Their building was erected in 1846 by John Myers and Jacob Hawk. The membership has never been very large. It was incorporated by the proper court June 22, 1848. The trustees named in the charter, to serve until the third Saturday in March, 1849, were Rev. David Earhart, John Myers, George Grinder, George Baker and Jacob Somers. The church edifice, about 25 by 38 feet, frame with clay filling between studs, and hence called "the mud church," was erected during Rev. Mr. Earhart�s pastorate. The ground of the graveyard was cleared by Charles Sipe, Sr., in 1796, and put in corn. It is located almost in the center of the township.

Prior to 1859 the members of the Methodist denomination in the middle eastern portion of this township numbered but two individuals, Robert Rodgers and George Venables; but they had been accustomed, for several years, to holding religious services in their houses. At this date, considerable interest being evinced in the religious services of this particular denomination, they decided to erect a house of worship. Accordingly a modest, unpretentious church building was erected on the farm of S.A. Forrester, who donated the land for this purpose. The church was completed in 1861, and a church organization effected with the following officers: Robert Rodgers, George Venables and S.A. Forrester. The church, which bears the name of Rodgers Chapel, was dedicated this same year, the dedicatory sermon being preached by I.C. Pershing. Rev. D. Rhodes first officiated as pastor, and during the first year the church obtained a membership of about 40.

Mr. Rodgers gave liberally to the support of this church, and upon his death left $500 as a permanent fund for the church, the proceeds only to be used. A cemetery, known as the Union cemetery, was also established on the farm of Mr. Forrester.

After its organization the church, although having but few wealthy adherents, enjoyed great prosperity, its membership in 1880 being about 80. In September of 1882 it was decided to erect a new building to accommodate the largely increased congregation, and accordingly an elegant frame church edifice, 32 by 55 feet, graced with a lofty spire, was erected at an expense of about $2,500 and dedicated to the service of God. Rev. R. Cartwright was the pastor at that time. The trustees were: S.A. Forrester, J. Bush, A.G. Mahaffey and C. Saltmer. S.A. Forrester and C. Saltmer were also stewards.

During the period between 1893 and 1900 the Sunday school became a thriving adjunct of the church, under the superintendency of James M. Hudson. For several years the Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans of this community held annual cooperative celebrations on the Fourth of July, which were attended by the entire population, even drawing visitors from Freeport and Kittanning.

The congregation is under the charge now of the pastor at Freeport, Rev. S.E. Rodkey.

Through the generosity of Andrew Shrader, Sr., the little congregation of seven families were provided with the lot on which the present Shrader�s Grove Presbyterian church stands. Their organization occurred in 1871, but not till they had demonstrated their strength by erecting a $2,000 edifice. The first members were James Shields, Rebecca Shields, John G. Weaver, Margaret Weaver, Joseph Weaver, Jacob Weaver, Andrew C. Shrader, Eleanor Shrader, Andrew Shrader, Sr., Elizabeth Shrader, Robert J. Hill, Mary Hill, William Hill, Elizabeth Hill, Rachel B. Hill, Elizabeth Hill, Jr., M.H. Boyd, Elizabeth Boyd, William Sloan, Mary Sloan, John G. Bowser, Elizabeth Bowser.

The church has usually been supplied from Slate Lick, the different pastors in early days having been Revs. J.H. Aughey, W.M. Kain, B.F. Boyle and John C. McCracken, from 1869 to 1882. Slate Lick pastors have since given this congregation part of their time. The present pastor is Rev. George Stewart, of Freeport.

The building and burial ground are located almost in the center of the township, northeast of Freeport.

A Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in 1843 with Abraham Frantz, John H. Keener and Henry Shoup, trustees. A small frame church was built on the road from Kittanning, about a mile east of Slate Lick. For some years occasional services were held here, but the congregation finally disbanded and the building was sold to J.F. Keener, who now uses it as a bungalow in summer.


It is interesting to note that the first Masonic lodge instituted in this county met in the upper room of the log home of John Ralston, in the extreme northwestern part of this township, some time between 1814 and 1820. Who the first members were we have not been able to ascertain.


The first schoolhouse within the limits of South Buffalo township was built in 1800 on the Weaver-McElwain-Dampman tract, about sixty rods west of Big run. The first teacher was James Clark. The second teacher was Evangelus Jones, one of whose pupils studied the German and another the Latin language.

The second schoolhouse was situated about 275 rods in an airline northeasterly from the first one mentioned; the third one about 250 rods northwesterly from the first; the fourth one in Stony Hollow, about a mile north of Freeport; and the fifth one about 250 rods from the mouth of and a few rods south Daugherty�s run. One of the teachers in the last two was William W. Gibson.

Following are school statistics: 1860 - Schools, 10; average number months taught, 4; male teachers, 6; female, 4; average monthly salaries of male teachers, $19.38; average monthly salaries of female teachers, $16.88; male scholars 273; female scholars, 263; average number attending school, 293; cost of teaching each scholar per month, 40 cents; amount levied for school purposes, $871.86; received from State appropriation, $116.82; from collectors, $830; cost of instruction, $735.20; fuel, etc., $120.81; cost of schoolhouses, repairing, etc., $6.

1876 - Schools, 11; average number months taught, 5; male teachers, 8; female teachers, 3; average monthly salaries of male and female teachers, $33; male scholars, 250; female scholars, 258; average number attending school, 337; cost per month, 78 cents; tax levied for school and building purposes. $2,581.45; received from State appropriation, $343.17; from taxes, etc., $2,272.77; paid for teachers� wages, $1,815; paid for fuel, etc., $207.80.

The number of schools in 1913 was 10; average months taught, 7; male teacher, 1; female teachers, 9; average salaries, male, $40, female, $42; male scholars, 142; female scholars, 145; average attendance, 180; cost per month, $1.83; tax levied, $3,601.80; received from State, $1,774.06; other sources, $4,508.25; value of schoolhouses, $13,500; teachers� wages, $2,940; fuel, fees, etc., $2,893.69.

The school directors are: J.A. Spangler, president; M.W. Frantz, secretary; W.H. Beckett, treasurer; S.H. Keener, L.B. Arp.


The population of South Buffalo in 1850 was 1,266; in 1860, 1,571; in 1870, 1,633; in 1880, 1,715; in 1890, 1,634; in 1900, 1,365; in 1910, 1,398.

The assessment returns for 1913 show: Number of acres, timber, 3,743, clear, 12,287, valued at $322,707; houses and lots, 198, value, $65,602, average, $331.32; horses, 299, value, $13,071, average, $43.71; cows, 325, value, $5,227, average, $16.08; taxable occupations, 585; amount, $10,150; total valuation, $492,264. Money at interest, $114,969.10.


The uplands consist entirely of the lower barrens, the areas of the lower productives being confined to the valleys of the Buffalo creek and Allegheny river. Only a portion of the lower productive group is above water level, the section extending only down to the lower Kittanning coal, the ferriferous limestone not being above water level. The lower Kittanning is 3 feet thick, but obtainable above water level only in the region opposite Logansport. The upper Freeport coal is, however, in a favorable position for mining, 3 1/2 feet yielding tolerably good coal. This bed supplies Freeport with fuel, and in fact the whole township. Its geographical name was derived from Freeport, where it is about 125 feet above the river level. The lower Freeport coal is 35 feet below it, and in the vicinity of Freeport partakes of the cannel nature, and was once mined and distilled for oil. It ranges from a few inches to 7 feet thick, but little dependence can be placed on it, the bed thinning out and often disappearing at short intervals.

The Freeport sandstone is massive and makes a line of cliffs above the borough. It shows some sudden and curious changes in shale round about there. The same rock shows similar changes in the long cut near the rolling mill at Kittanning, where the change is beautifully displayed. The upper Kittanning coal is present at Freeport, but worthless.

The Mahoning sandstone in the vicinity of Freeport, is a very compact and massive deposit, yielding good stone for building purposes. Opposite the borough on the Westmoreland side it makes a line of bold cliffs 50 feet high. Above, in South Buffalo township, soft, argillaceous shales come in, making easy slopes along the little valleys by which the township back from the river is diversified. This is the smooth grade land stretching north from Freeport to Slate Lick, famous for good pasture lands and fair yield of crops when properly tilled. Near Slate Lick on this upland, the green fossiliferous limestone may be seen on the William Rea farm near the hilltop. No coalbeds of remarkable dimensions may be sought for in this vicinity, but along Buffalo creek and Pine run the upper Freeport coal is above water level as already described.

The McHaddon anticlinal axis which crosses the Allegheny river near the mouth of Mahoning, and Limestone run near Adrian, has weakened to such an extent before reaching this township that it exerts but little influence here. It is on this account that the lower barren rocks occupy so much of the surface. Had this axis the same force here as there, we should find the same conditions repeated about Freeport that we find about the mouth of Mahoning, or nearly so. But the axis, though weakened, is yet recognizable in the gentle southeast dips which prevail just west of Freeport. Otherwise the rocks are nearly horizontal.

The highest point is located at the center of this township, and is 1,443 feet above the sea level.

Source: Page(s) 295-300, 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 (

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