Chapter 12, Section 2


Contiguous to "Springfield" on the northwest and extending up the Allegheny between its left bank and the line of the Holland Company�s lands was a tract containing about 400 acres, on which appears to have been an improvement made by David Hull prior to 1825. His name is upon it on the map of original tracts. The assessment list of Toby township, made in 1824, shows that 200 acres of this "improvement" were seated by Oliver Gray, in 1819, and by John and Daniel Guld, in 1824, and purchased as unseated by the county commissioners in 1825. John Guld probably settled on this tract in 1821, when he was first assessed in Toby township with 200 acres and one cow at $206. Henry Hamilton appears to have been assessed with another hundred acres, in 1819, at $50, and with which Aaron Gray was assessed, in 1824, at $50.62 �. Isaac Hull appears to have been assessed with the whole 400 acres, one horse and one cow, at $130, in 1817, and thereafter with the land until 1820. David Lawson also appears, not, however, from the records, to have subsequently had some title to or interest in this tract, for he conveyed those 400 acres, except Aaron Gray�s improvement, 100 acres, and 100 acres on both sides of the line between old Toby and old Red Bank townships, as surveyed by Lawson, to Robert Orr, November 5, 1835, for $200, and the excepted 100 acres the same day, for $200. Orr obtained a warrant for this tract July 21, 1840, and a patent March 29, 1848. He conveyed 108 acres and 99 perches of the western part to Oliver Gray March 3, 1849, for $50, who had been first assessed with 206 acres and one horse in Toby township at $111, in 1818, 5 acres and 122 perches of which the latter conveyed to Robert Thompson, January 5, 1855, for $1400. This point has for many years been known by the name Gray�s Eddy, where Gray built the first house about 1840, and where Thompson kept a store, hotel and warehouse for several years, and where considerable freight was delivered until the completion of the railroad. Since then this has been a less brisk mart. In the lower part is the portion included in the sale to Jeremiah Bonner, and by the latter to Charles P. Badger, and by him to Wesley Wilson in trust for the Mahoning Coal Company.4 That company erected their works about 125 rods above the mouth of Mahoning on this tract, in 1872, and commenced operations in October, a month or more before the date of the conveyance to them. The president is Wm. D. Mullin. The first superintendent was James Van Horn � the present one I. B. Stevenson. The number of employes is eighty-five. The average daily production is 125 tons of coal from the Lower Freeport vein, one-fourth of a mile from the scaffold which is on the Allegheny Valley Railroad. This coal is shipped to Buffalo, New York, and is the fuel used by the New York Central and Hudson River railroads. The company�s store is at Orrsville, and does an extensive business.5

Contiguous to the last-mentioned tract was the John Nicholson one, covered by warrant No. 5161, dated February 15, 1794, 459 � acres, chiefly depreciated land, which is numbered 5161 in the unseated assessment lists of Toby township from 1808 to 1816, and thereafter 1161 until 1819, when it is not numbered; continues so until 1822, and from then until 1834 the tract itself was dropped from the list. It then reappeared unnumbered on the assessment list as containing 400 acres until 1836, and thereafter permanently disappeared. The list shows that it was seated by John Mock in 1835. Nicholson conveyed his interest in it to James Buchanan June 28, 1797; Buchanan to Thomas Hamilton June 28, 1806; and Adam Elliott, treasurer of this county, to Hamilton June 20, 1811. Nicholson had also conveyed to some one else besides Buchanan, whose interest became vested in Robert Orr. Thus from Nicholson down there were two titles. This tract was included in Hamilton�s devise to Thomas McConnell, Sr., and in the latter�s devise to Thomas McConnell, Jr. Under the act of assembly of April 16, 1840, which was passed to facilitate the settlement of the estates of John Nicholson and Peter Boynton, a board of commissioners was appointed with full authority to make compromises with and to release the claims of the commonwealth to such persons as were entitled thereto. The lien or claim which the commonwealth had upon or against Nicholson�s interest in this tract was released to the present Thomas McConnell and Isaac H. Pritner by deed of Anson V. Parsons, secretary of the commonwealth, January 21, 1843, for $75, and thus ended the conflict between those two titles. McConnell and Pritner conveyed 126 acres and 57 perches to Robert Hooks April 3, 1843, for $453.75. Hooks settled on this parcel in 1837-8. He was first assessed in the latter year with 127 acres and two cattle on the Madison township list at $405.

While sinking one of the postholes for a board fence he was building, in or about 1843, near the left bank of the Allegheny, about thirty rods above his house, he discovered a grave, in which were the remains of a man, probably a French trader. The root of a chestnut-tree, says William, a brother of Robert Hooks, who was present when the grave was opened, had extended or grown over the middle of the body. These articles were found in the grave: A French cutlas, two feet and two inches long and one and one-fourth inches wide, on which was an impression of a light horse; a butcher-knife, on the blade of which was impressed the name of "Wilson;" a copper kettle, considerably dented, in which was a quantity of large beads with square ends, and a number of what appeared to be gold finger rings; and a manuscript in French, enveloped in a piece of thin oiled silk, which Robert took to some scholar who understood the French language to be translated, but what it contained William never learned. James Stewart has informed the writer that when he was surveying on this parcel Robert told him about finding that skeleton while building a fence where the Allegheny Valley Railroad now is on his farm, and with it a copper kettle about half full of beads and rings imitating gold, and a ball of wax containing a piece of parchment on which there was some small handwriting in French, which he took or sent to Athens, Ohio, to be translated, which gave the man�s history, and that after leaving Fort Pitt he was wounded on the road and was taken care of by a squaw. John Jamison, afterward proprietor of the American Furnace, where he resided, in a letter to the writer, says: "In regard to Robert Hook, as I was informed, that in digging postholes for a fence he discovered a grave, supposed to be an Indian�s, in which he found a lot of brass rings (I got one of them), a brass kettle, and a tin case enclosing a paper on which was written in French, describing a place where some treasure was buried. Hooks got it translated by the Catholic priest in Freeport. The neighbors thought it � the treasure � was on the old trail between Kittanning and Franklin. At any rate, Robert, as it were, disappeared shortly after and was absent for a considerable time. When he returned he gave no account of himself, but had plenty of money -�so the story goes." Robert admitted to the writer that he had found the skeleton, kettle and trinkets, but denied having found the French manuscript. His brother William, on the other hand, told the writer that there was no use of Robert�s denying that, for he did find that manuscript. Robert told John Rimer that he found it, as the latter informed the writer.

McConnell & Pritner conveyed 291 acres of this tract (No, 5161) to Samuel Crow, May 19, 1843, for $875.30. The latter conveyed 101 acres thereof to William Crow, July 14, 1855, for $300. John Crow conveyed about 47 acres to David Guld, June 16, 1857, which was a part of the parcel of 118 acres which Guld agreed to sell to John H. and William G. Himer, July 15, 1873, for $3,200. The other part of this parcel consisted of about 62 acres, being a part of the 150 acres lying north of No. 5161, for which John Guld obtained a warrant, dated January 16, and a patent January 28, 1851, for 150 acres which had long ago been claimed by David Lawson. Between the tract covered by the Guld warrant and patent and the above-mentioned parcel conveyed to Oliver Gray was a tract containing 168 acres and 80 perches, improved by Elijah French in April, 1821, whose uninterrupted possession it had continued until it was surveyed by J. E. Meredith, June 24, 1839, and thereafter. The warrant to French is dated May 1, 1852, and resurveyed by Meredith on the 18th. French was first assessed with 500 acres and 1 house in Toby township in 1817. Fifty-four acres and 150 perches in the southern part of his tract had been included in the Hewlett Smith survey. Adjoining this tract and the Oliver Gray parcel on the south, and skirting the northern bend in the Allegheny river, is another parcel containing about 110 acres, on which Benedict Haas settled in 1842, and which he purchased from Gen. Orr. He was impressed with the belief that somewhere on this parcel was a large quantity of gold, and was fully persuaded that on a certain occasion he almost had it in his grasp, but alas! His wife spoke when she ought not to have spoken, and that valuable treasure became intangible.

Adjoining the northern part of the Guld tract on the west was one which in 1837 was claimed or occupied by Isaac Cousins, who had been assessed with it and other land as early as 1830, and with which 160 acres, one horse and two cattle, George O. Young was first assessed in this township at $250 in 1840, and which was afterward known as the Young tract, but for which a warrant was granted to Robert Orr December 11, 1851,and which he conveyed to John Wills, August 31, 1858, for $576. It was occupied by Young and Wills, each one-half, until 1868, then by I. Lawrence and B. Miller.

Adjoining the southern part of the Guld tract on the west and the northwestern part of the Nicholson tract (No. 5161) was the tract, 175 acres and 128 perches, surveyed to Christopher Byerly December 11, 1837, on warrant to him November 14, which Byerly conveyed to Henry Reigle August 10, 1838, for $1, his "decent and Christian-like maintenance during his natural life," and the payment of all the just debts which he then owed. These conditions must have been performed by Reigle, for he conveyed this tract to John Rimer March 9, 1847, for $800.

Adjoining the Cousins-Young-Wills tract on the west was the main part of the one, containing 239 acres and 120 perches, to which Samuel T. Crow acquired title by "settler�s right," with 200 acres of which, a gristmill, one horse and one cow, he was first assessed at $126 in 1834. That mill was built in 1832 by Thos. Ramsey, a colored man, who sold it to Crow. George Craig (big) aided in building that mill, which was a log one with two runs of stone. It is related that he carried the summer beam, which was from twenty to twenty-five feet long and sixteen or eighteen inches square, on his shoulder up the side of the building, it being steadied with pike-poles held by others, and put it in its place. This tract was conveyed by Crow to David Cowan March 26, 1840, for $1,000, who in 1842 was also assessed with a sawmill. Cowan exchanged this property with Samuel Duff July 3, 1848, for 145 acres of land in Red Bank township, Clarion county. Duff conveyed this property to Aaron Whittaker�s administrator February 2, 1849, for $1500, who had conveyed the same and other lands in this township to George Ledlie. Thus it became a part of the American Furnace property.

Adjoining the last two mentioned tracts on the south and the Nicholson one � No. 5161 � on the west, and skirted by the Allegheny river on the northwest was the tract, containing about 270 acres, to which Robert Orr acquired an inchoate title, which he conveyed in two parcels November 18, 1851, and August 19, 1853, to John Jamison for $808, the latter to obtain the title from the Commonwealth at the former�s expense.

The project of erecting the American Furnace near the mouth of the run on the former of these parcels was inaugurated by Aaron Whittaker of Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, in 1846, when he was first assessed with 494 acres in this township. He, John Jamison and George Ledlie April 24, 1847, associated themselves under the firm name of Whittaker, Jamison & co. in the art and business of making pig-iron at that furnace. Whittaker transferred to them the undivided two-thirds of the furnace and its appurtenances, and of about 800 acres of land in this township at two-thirds of the cost thereof, leaving the other undivided third as his share, and $1,000 as his compensation for his personal services thus far in the erection of the works. Whittaker�s administrator conveyed all of Whittaker�s interest in the furnace and lands and other things appurtenant to Ledlie December 23, 1848, for $4,000, and the amount of liens of purchase-money then due to divers persons. Ledlie conveyed all his interest in furnace and lands and other property belonging to it to Jamison July 12, 1854, for $8, 000. This was originally a hot-blast charcoal furnace, 8 feet across the bosh and 28 feet high, and made 1,600 tons of forge metal in 41 weeks in 1856, averaged 33 tons per week until 1858, when it was changed to a coke furnace and thereafter averaged 50 tons a week, when in blast, out of fossiliferous limestone ore, outcropping horizontally among the coal measures in all directions within a circuit of three miles around the furnace, until 1860, when it ceased to be operated. Jamison leased it and all property connected with it, July 11, to R. C. Loomis, to whom the title subsequently passed. He conveyed 788 acres, including the furnace, to John Rimer November 10, 1864, for $2,500. This point has since been called Rimerton, an important railroad station; sixteen town lots, with areas varying from one-fourth to three-fourths acre on both sides Mill run, have been laid out. The Rimer postoffice, John Rimer, postmaster, was established here December 9, 1868. The first separate assessment list of Rimerton was in 1867, according to which there were then in it 19 taxables, 1 innkeeper, 1 merchant and 1 laborer. The real estate was valued at $2,229; personal $44; and occupations, $150.

That in 1876 shows: 19 taxables, 2 storekeepers 1 innkeeper, 7 laborers and 1 shoemaker. The telegraph office was established here in �����.

Rev. B. B. Killkelly preached here monthly in 1853.

Next above the American Furnace tract along the Allegheny river was the "Andrew Early Improvement," as it is designated on the map of original tracts. Andrew Early was first assessed with 200 acres "imp." and one cow at $158 in Toby township in 1819. Among drafts in J. E. Meredith�s possession is one in the handwriting of Thomas Barr, one of the deputy surveyors of this county: Beginning at a linnwood on the Allegheny river; thence north 1 degree east 120 perches to a post; thence north 25 degrees west 220 perches to a post; thence south 31 degrees west 170 perches to a black oak on the river; thence down the river by five different courses and distances 280 perches to the place of beginning, containing 207 acres and 35 perches; surveyed July 14, to Early, in pursuance of a warrant dated April 5, 1820. Meredith surveyed 1689 acres and 30 perches of this tract to Christopher Ruffner February 22, 1841, with 100 acres of which the latter was first assessed in 1843, and a few years afterward with the entire parcel, which now belongs to his heirs. Another parcel of 75 acres and 80 perches was conveyed by Earley to Aaron Jeffries July 17, 1846, for $200, which passed by sheriff�s sale to William Hindman March 17, 1857, who, through his attorney-in-fact, conveyed it to John Jamison June 28, when it was included in the American Furnace property.

Next above the last-mentioned tract, along the river up to the line of Holland land, was the one to which Samuel Earley, the father of Andrew, acquired title by settler�s right, which at first included 340 acres. He was first assessed with 200 acres of it, 2 horses and 2 cows, at $200, in 1806, and the next year with 1 horse, 1 cow, and 120 acres, "the rest taken by Holland company" at $120. He was subsequently assessed with 200 acres until 1828, and thereafter his widow until 1831, and thereafter his son John Earley, Sr., to whom the patent was granted, May 11, 1854. He conveyed 25 acres of it to John Paxton, April 1, 1863, for $400, and the latter, 20 acres to Ernest H. Cramer and Isaac Fair, April 1, 1867, for $600, on which the former and W. J. Kromer commenced the manufacture of wagons and wagon-spokes in the spring of 1868, which the former still continues. Paxton conveyed 2 acres to Benjamin Blanchard, January 19, 1867, for $800, and the latter the same to Isaac Mast, December 15, 1870, for $900.

Passing, for the present, the contiguous Holland tract bordering on the river, another Nicholson tract, No. 1151, is reached. The warrant to Nicholson is dated April 20, 1792, and covers 1,000 acres. Nicholson having become indebted to the commonwealth, the act of March 31, 1806, for the more speedy and effectual collection of her debts, and its supplement of March 19, 1807, were passed. Cadwallader Evans, Jr., and John Lyon, two of the commissioners appointed by virtue of the former of these acts, certified that at a public sale of the lands belonging to the estate of Nicholson, subject to the lien of the Commonwealth upon them, held at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 7, 1807, this tract, supposed to contain 1,000 acres, at the mouth and on both sides of the Red Bank creek, was purchased by Thomas Hamilton, then of Greensburgh, Pennsylvania. The patent for it was granted to him November 1, 1811. It was one of the tracts which he directed his executors to sell for the payment of certain legacies.6 They accordingly conveyed it to Richard Reynolds January 21, 1837, for $1,000, who settled the same year on that part of it on the Allegheny river below the mouth of Red Bank, whose executor conveyed 538 acres to Andrew Schall, May 11, 1859, for $6,000, which proved to be a fortunate purchase, for he conveyed 14 64/100 acres to the Allegheny Valley Railroad Company, January 2, 1871, for $6,645; to Robert Hays 15 acres and 20 perches, December 7, 1872, for $1,000; 1 acre to Emanuel Wiser, November 13, 1873, for $1,200; and 20 acres to Allen Anchors, March 13, 1876, for $11,000, or about 231 acres for $19,845, leaving a residue of over 300 acres unsold.

East of the mouth of Red Bank 2 11/32 miles in an airline was the western boundary of another Nicholson tract, No. 1150, 1,000 acres, which, like the last-mentioned one, does not appear on the assessment list until 1813. The northwestern portion of it traversed by the Red Bank, whose course here is southern, at a point on which, nearly west from what is now called Hawk schoolhouse, the Indians had a smelting furnace. A prisoner who had been with them seven years told the late James Watterson that he had carried to it lead ore from where the Indians dug it out of the ground, between it and Dogwood flat, which must have been one of the places in which they concealed the ore, transported thither from some other region where it abounds. The geological features do not indicate � no one has yet found � the presence of a vein of such ore anywhere along this stream. It has been mentioned to the writer that a prisoner among the Indians by the name of Guthrie stated that their mode of concealing lead and silver ore was in an excavation made in the earth in which the ore was placed, and then so skillfully covered that persons not cognizant of the deposit would not notice that the surface of the ground had been broken. The depositors could describe it to others only by certain trees, streams, or other natural indexes at or near the place of deposit, from which the ore was sometimes carried in blankets to the smelting furnaces.

This tract, like the last preceding one, was conveyed to Thomas Hamilton by the Commonwealth. The earliest settler on it was probably Philip Essex, who was first assessed in Toby township with 2 cows, at $10, in 1806; with 200 acres "imp.," and 1 cow, at $30, in 1807; with 100 acres in 1812, and 200 acres in 1813. The tract must have been divided into six parcels, with various areas. Essex occupied the eastern end of the northwestern one, which was traversed by an old Indian trail from the mouth of Mahoning across the Red Bank at Lawsonham, and thence northwesterly, along which Jerry Lochery, it is said, was wounded while on one of his scouting expeditions in the olden time. Benjamin Leasure was first assessed with 100 acres between Essex and the Red Bank, at $107, in 1816. The map of original tracts indicates that Fleming Davidson occupied that portion of this parcel on the west, or Clarion side of the Red Bank. Hamilton agreed, September 7, 1813, to sell 156 acres of this parcel to Leasure and Essex. They not having paid any of the purchase money, and not having been able to do so, renounced, released and quitclaimed those 150 acres "on the road from Kittanning to David Lawson�s," September 16, 1820, which Hamilton�s executor conveyed to Leasure September 1, 1832, for $82. Hamilton devised this tract to Thomas McConnell, who devised it to "the children, male, and female, of Richard Reynolds." They conveyed 882 acres of it to their father February 19, 1846, for $3,000, and he conveyed 769 acres to Reynolds and Richey, March 23, 1846, for $3,845.

Another early occupant of this tract was Charles Edwards, who first assessed with 100 acres of it and 1 cow, at $106, in 1821. He was succeeded by George Howk, who was first assessed as a single man, and with 125 acres, including the last-mentioned 100 in Toby township, in 1823, at $125, to whom Reynolds and Richey conveyed 183 acres and 135 perches, June 19, 1854, for $1,500, on which parcel is situated the last-mentioned schoolhouse, on the road to Lawsonham. Hawk in his lifetime, June 11, 1864, conveyed 46 acres and 92 perches to Samuel Hawk for $460. Reynolds and Richey conveyed another parcel, 169 acres and 130 perches to Joseph Earley, April 29, for $1,190, of which the latter conveyed 61 acres and 27 perches to John W. Paine (who was captured by the rebels at the battle of Gettysburg, and confined as a prisoner for several months at Belle Isle), April 7, 1869, for $1,000.

In a deep bend in the Mahoning, in the southeastern part of this township, was a tract, 330 acres, warranted to Joseph Cook, the patent for which was granted to John Davis March 12, 1798. The southern part of it having become vested in Andrew W. and Robert W. Porter, of Indiana county, they assigned it to Richard B. McCabe in June 1839, who conveyed it to Alexander Colwell September 28, 1841, for $90, and Colwell to Owen Sullivan, 131 acres, December 5, 1857, for $1,000. Davis conveyed the upper or northern part to Christopher Repine, November 1, 1801; Repine to James Hannegan, May 24, 1833; Hannegan to Colwell, September 14, 1839; and Colwell to George Martin, 104 acres and 60 perches, November 9, 1841, for $500.

There was a strip of vacant land, extending from the western line of the Herman LeRoy & Co. tract, No. 3001, skirting "Springfield" on the east and north, along the Allegheny river and the southern boundary of Holland lands to where the latter strikes the river, about eighty rods above the second run below the mouth of the Red Bank, the width of which was varied by the bends and courses of the river. The eastern portion of that vacant land was occupied by Jacob Moyers as early, probably, as 1801-2. His name does not appear at all on the Toby township assessment list, and not on that of Red Bank township until 1816, when he was assessed as John Moyers, with 400 acres, two horses and two cows, at $194. The mistake in his Christian name was corrected on the next year�s list, i. e., changed from John to Jacob, by erasing the former and substituting the latter. He must have escaped the notice of the assessor for fourteen or fifteen years, for Philip Mechling remembers having seen him at Kittanning soon after his father and family removed thither in 1805. Moyers obtained a warrant for 440 acres, dated December 2, 1837, which was surveyed to him by J. E. Meredith, deputy surveyor, February 12, 1839, to the acceptance of whose return of survey Aaron Gray and Robert Orr filed their caveat, alleging that Moyers had lately purchased a part of the vacant land from the Holland Company without the knowledge of their agent, thereby defrauding the commonwealth of the purchase money for about one hundred and fifty acres, and throwing out at another place a vacancy where it did not adjoin the remaining vacancy on the west, which would likely be a loss to the commonwealth and every other person except Moyer; and that he had surveyed on his warrant 440 acres instead of 400 acres, thus encroaching still further west upon and depriving them of their right to a full tract of 400 acres. They were, however, willing for him to have 400 acres surveyed on his warrant west of the Holland land, i. e., the above-mentioned tract covered by warrant No. 3001, but not to throw out and take in the vacancy where he pleased for the purpose of encroaching upon them further to the west. The result was an action of ejectment by Orr against Moyer, to No. 34 September term, 1840, in the court of common pleas of this county. The case was tried at December term, 1841, and the verdict of the jury, on the 21st, was for the plaintiff, by establishing the line running north from the Black Oak corner on the line of John Elliott ("Springfield") as his eastern boundary, as marked on the general diagram, and found for him all the land west of that line, with nominal amounts for damages and costs, on which judgment was entered. John Smith, of Kiskiminetas township, this county, and David Peeler, of Indiana county, were the surveyors under the rule of court. Moyer obtained his patent for 400 acres east of that line, March 17, 1846, the tract having been resurveyed on the 2d by order of the board of property.

Source: Page(s) 259-285, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed December 1998 by Jeffrey Bish for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Jeffrey Bish for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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