Chapter 13, Section 6

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This township was not well supplied with good public roads until 1845. The Kittanning and Smicksburgh turnpike was authorized to be made ten or twelve years before. Its original route diverged from near Patterson�s mill in Valley township to the left to the Anderson creek road. The present route through Rural village was adopted by the pledges given by the inhabitants of that place and vicinity to make several miles of the pike, if the route were changed, which they did.

Some of the early schoolhouses within the present limits of this township were built prior to 1820. The first one was on the Ormond farm, about 75 rods south of the Cowanshannock. The second one was about 400 rods southwest of that one, near J. T. Sloan�s. The third one was 1 mile and 80 rods northwest of Atwood, on land now owned by D. McCoy. It was a square building of round logs, one end of which was devoted to a triangularly shaped chimney, and in other respects it resembled other primitive schoolhouses in this county. The first teacher in this house was John Russel. Four years afterward he taught in the upper story of a stillhouse, nearly a mile southeast of Atwood, in the bend of the public road extending from that village to Indiana, near the present residence of Christopher Hoover. The heating apparatus consisted of an iron kettle, with coals, instead of wood, for fuel. The fourth one, after 1820, was situated about 900 rods nearly east of Rural village, at the present cross-roads, about 50 rods southwest of where James Morrow�s blacksmith shop now is. The fifth one was about 200 rods a little north of east of the fourth one. The sixth one was about one mile east of Rural village at the present crossroads, near what is now Centerville. The seventy one was 2 miles and 60 rods south of Rural village, near Black�s or Templeton�s sawmill. The eighth one was northeast of Rural village, and about 150 rods slightly south of west from the present site of the Barnard schoolhouse. The ninth one was about a mile northeast of Atwood, and 100 rods west of the Derimney schoolhouse. When the common school system went into operation, most of the comparatively few persons who then inhabited parts of Wayne and Plum Creek townships which are now included in this township readily adopted it.

In 1860, the number of schools was 15; average number of months taught, 4; male teachers, 11; female teachers, 4; average monthly salaries of male, $14.45; average monthly salaries of female, $13.50; male scholars, 340; female scholars, 334; average number attending school, 405; cost of teaching each scholar per month, 34 cents; amount levied for school purposes, $1,192; received from state appropriation, $130.70; from collectors, $682; cost of instruction, $854; fuel and contingencies, $64.70; repairing schoolhouses, etc., $18.

In 1876, the number of schools was 16; average number of months taught, 5; male teachers, 11; female teachers, 5; average monthly salaries of male, $34; salaries of female, $35; male scholars, 407; female scholars, 352; average number attending school, 532; cost per month, 85 cents; amount of tax levied for school and building purposes, $3,700. Receipts- From state appropriation, $493.83; from taxes, etc., $3,666.06; cost of schoolhouses, $564; teachers� wages, $2,745; fuel, contingencies, etc., $597.29.


The census of 1850, the first one after the organization of this township, shows its population, including that of the villages, to have then been: white, 1,318; colored 0. In 1860, white, 1,963; colored, 1. In 1870, white, 2,246; colored, 0; native, 2,155; foreign, 91. The number of taxable in 1876, is 599, and the population, estimated on that basis, 2,755. The assessed valuation of this township, in 1850, was: real estate, $90,020; personal property, $$13,295; single men, $2,900; occupations, $400; money at interest, $1,651; carriages, $325; watches, 50 cents. Total, $107,791.50. The total valuation of the same, single men omitted, in 1876, is $817,051.

Occupations, other than agricultural, exclusive of Atwood and Rural village, not wholly according to the assessment list for 1876: Laborers,28; blacksmiths, 5; merchants, 5; carpenters, 8; stonemasons, 6; miners,2; shoemakers, 2; teachers,3; harness makers, 3; painter, 1; gristmills 2; sawmills, stationary, 5; portable, 1; tanneries, 2. According to the mercantile appraiser�s list, there are twenty-one merchants of the fourteenth and two of the thirteenth class.

The vote on the local option law, including Atwood and Rural village- for license, 124; against license, 152.


In the summer of 1836, John Patterson laid out Rural village on that part of the west end of the Pickering & Co. tract No. 11, which he had, as elsewhere stated, purchased from Hamlet Totten. The town plot has not been recorded. If it is still extant, it is not accessible. Forty lots, each 62 � x 165 feet, part of them on each side of the turnpike, or Main street, were surveyed by the late Major James White; Hamlet Totten remembers that he was the surveyor. They were shortly afterward offered for sale. Archibald L. Robinson cried them, and his recollection is, that about twenty-five were bid off the first day. The following conveyances from Patterson to the purchasers indicate the general values of those lots at that time, in the old plot of the village, which extended 80x25 rods eastward on the Pickering & Co. tract 11, from the present alley between the Presbyterian church and the Odd Fellow�s hall, including Main street and the alleys. On the 12th of October, 1836, he conveyed to Judge Buffington lots Nos. 38 and 39 for $40; to Thompson Purviance lot No. 6 adjoining "an alley 19 feet wide," for $34; to William W. Gibson lot No.4, for $20; to Jacob Pence lot No. 10 for $39.50; to Samuel R. Ramage lot No. 3 for $13; to Samuel Smith lots Nos. 8 and 9 for $154; September 20, 1837, to Andrew L. McCloskey lot No. 7, for $117.50; February 4, to Zachariah Knoight lot No. 5, for $400; September 12, 1838, to James Gourley, 2 lots for $39; October 2, 1839, lots Nos. 17,18, 19 to Thompson Purviance for $40; April 28, 1840, to Findley Patterson lots Nos. 20,21 for $35.

Alexander Foster, Sr., conveyed, January 27, 1837, to Alexander Foster, Jr., the 150 acres of Pickering tract No. 176, which he had about ten years before purchased from Mrs. Latimore. In the summer or fall of 1839, the elder and younger Foster laid out the new plot of Rural village on that part of the Pickering & Co. tract last mentioned, adjoining on the west the alley between the present sites of the Presbyterian church and Odd Fellows hall. This new plot consisted of 20 lots, partly on each side of Main street, 62 � feet in front on the street, and extending back, some 165 and others 150 feet. They were surveyed by Jonathan E. Meredith October 10, 1839. Alexander Foster Sr., conveyed some, but Alexander Foster, Jr., conveyed most of those lots which were sold. Conveyances of them dated November 9, 1839: To Robert A. Robinson, lot No. 1, for $55; to Zachariah Knight, lot No. 23, for $51; to Wesley Knight, lot No. 4, for $27.85 � ; November 11, to Dr. William Aitkin, lot No. 13, for $47.56 �; December 14, to Andrew L. McCloskey, lot No. 8, for $17.50; January 10, 1840, to Benjamin Schrecongost, lot No. 8, for $15.31; to Jacob Beer, lot No.9, for $16; January 25, to Peter Brown, lot No. 6, for $25; April 16, 1844, to James R. Woods, lot No. 15 for $15; May 21, to Catherine Jones, lot No. 14, for $15; January 28, 1851, to Hugh R. Morrison, lot No. 11, for $40.

The first separate assessment list of this village was in 1839, and included only the pld plot, and is: Joseph Buffington, lots No. 38 and 39, valuation, $20; Samuel Cassady, valuation $10; Alexander Foster, Esq., lots Nos. 15 and 16, $20; William W. Gibson, lot No. 3 (4?), $10; James Gourley, blacksmith, lots Nos. 11 and 12, 1 head of cattle, $100; Zachariah Knight, lot No. 5, tavern13, 2 cattle, $116; Andrew McCloskey, carpenter, lots No. 7, 1 head cattle, $150; John Patterson, 1 house and lot $300, and lots Nos. 17, 18, 19, 20, $40; Samuel Potts, 2 house and lot, $50; Samuel Ramage, lot No. 4 (3?), $10; Archibald L. Robinson, lots Nos. 32,33, $20; Martin Schrecongost, lot No. 30, $10; Samuel Smith, lots Nos. 8, 9, $20; James Strain, lot No. 10, $10.

The first separate assessment list of the new plot is that of 1841. It is meager, except as to lots and their value: William Aitkens, lot No. 13, $14; Jacob Beer, lot No. 9, $5; James Boyd, lot No. 14, $5; Peter Brown, lots Nos. 6,8, $10; Richard Crim, lot No. 5, $5; Archibald Findley, lot No. 12, $5; Alexander Foster, Esq., lot No. 15, $5; James Gibson, lots Nos. 7, 17, $10; Wesley W. Knight, lot No. 4, $5; Robert A. Robinson, lots Nos. 2,3, $325; Benjamin Schrecongost, lot No. 18, $5; Robert Stoops, lots Nos. 3,16, $10; John Uplinger, lot no. 22, $5.

This portion of this beautiful valley and its vicinity proved to be especially attractive to those desiring to settle in this region after 1830. Hence it was that John Patterson changed his base of operations and laid out the old plot of Rural village, which soon became the central commercial point for a considerable scope of the surrounding country. Merchants regarded it as a favorable opening for their branch of business. Thompson Purviance was the pioneer merchant of this village. He must have opened his store here in 1836, for he was first assessed as a merchant here in 1837; David Patterson the next year. The former died about the middle of September , 1840, and the latter removed to Kittanning in 1841, where he has ever since continued to carry on the mercantile business. Among their successors have been Robert A. Robinson, John McEroy, Joseph Alcorn, who for several years had charge of a kind of cooperative company store, which was not, like some others of the kind, a financial success. George B. McFarland and James E. Brown had a store here several years, which was transferred to Phoenix Furnace after they had acquired an interest in it. Among the later merchants of this village are George A. Gourley, Andrew Gallagher, Joseph K. Patterson and James McFarland. The mechanical trades and other occupations have kept pace with the increase of the population here and in the surrounding country.

The first resident clergyman was Rev. James D. Mason, and the first resident physician, William Aitkins.

The assessment list for this year (1876) shows; Merchants, 4, mason, 1; physician, 1; tinsmith, 1; peddler, 1; printer, 1; blacksmiths, 5; carpenters, 2; justice of the peace, 1; wagonmakers, 3; laborers, 4; shoemakers, 2; tailor, 1; artist, 1; innkeepers,2. The number of taxables is 43, giving a population of 197. The first school within what are now the limits of this village was taught before 1836, in the first log cabin built here by Thomas McElhinney, afterward a member of the bar of this county, and the author of several treatises on "Love, Courtship and Marriage," and "Getting through the World." He also wrote and published a biography of Martin Van Buren.

A select school in which the higher English branches and the Latin and Greek languages were taught, was opened by Rev. James D. Mason in the first church edifice, in 1845, which he continued to teach until 1847. Among his pupils were Dr. Alcorn, the late John K. Calhoun, a member of the bar of this county and of the house of representatives of this state, and Rev. ____ Marshall, of Iowa. His immediate successor was Rev. Cochran Forbes. The number of pupils, male and female, ranged from 25 to 35. John McElroy, a few years after the latter left, opened a similar school in the same building, until he erected a school building on his own premises, in which, like his predecessors, he devoted himself to the thorough instruction of his pupils, the usual number of which, of both sexes, was from 25 to 30, among whom were Dr. John W. Morrow and other successful teachers of common schools. His successors have been Mr. Talmadge, L. R. Ewing, Louis Kimmel, Joseph Beer, _____ Belden, James Morrow, Joseph Buyers and J. A. Ewing, the number of their pupils ranging from 25 to 35.

The earliest church in this village is the Presbyterian. On November 27, 1833, the trustees of the Presbyterian church at Kittanning, in accordance with the unanimous wish of its members, "and of some of the prominent citizens of Rural valley," invited Rev. Joseph Painter "to take charge of these two congregations as stated pastor," pledging themselves for the payment to him of $500 annually for his services while he should continue to be their pastor. That invitation having been accepted and a call moderated for two-thirds of his time at Kittanning, September 23, 1834, he thereafter preached to the Rural valley congregation one-fourth of his time. By direction of the Blairsville Presbytery, Rev. Joseph Painter and E.D. Barrett organized this church August 1,1835. The first elders were Richard E. Carothers, WiIliam McIntosh and Ebenezer Smith, who were ordained and installed on the 20th. The first sacrament in the log edifice was on the 22nd, and the third and last one there was November 19, 1837. The next one was in the brick edifice, June 17, 1838. The latter was at first small, but it having increased, the Presbytery the next spring directed the Presbyterian church of Rural valley to be organized, which was accordingly don, and he, as its pastor, preached to it one-third of his time for several years. The first church edifice was a log one, 24x24 feet, situated on the two acres of the Findley tract No. 3833, which John Findley, as heretofore mentioned, gave for and dedicated to church and school purposes. The pulpit consisted of a ten-bushel store box set endwise, and the seats of oak slabs, the sawed sides upward, and each supported by four wooden legs. The pastor�s stipulated salary was $80 a year, payable in flour, meat, oats and other products at the market prices in Kittanning. Services continued to be held in that primitive temple in the wilderness for a year or more. Then the question of a change of location to Rural valley began to be agitated, on which it was provided that each subscriber to the fund for defraying the expenses of the church should be entitled to vote. In this, as in most other instances, the question of location became an exciting one. The members of the congregation, pro and con, were deeply exercised as to its ultimate disposition. A congregational meeting was held in that edifice on a warm afternoon in May, 1836. Ebenezer Smith was called to the chair, and Archibald L. Robinson was appointed secretary. The word "fillibustering" had not then been coined. So William McCain, who lived over on Pine creek, a zealous opponent to a change of location and a ready and voluble speaker, undertook to prevent the taking of a vote by "killing time" with one of his long speeches. After having gained the floor, and having proceeded at some length, he was interrupted by John Patterson, who proposed that the motion or resolution before the meeting should be reduced to writing. When that was done, Patterson cut short McCain�s time-killing speech by calling for the previous question, which, having been put, was decided in favor of the proposed change of location by a large majority. That question having been thus settled, John Patterson gave two of his in-lots, Nos. 2 and 2 on the north side of Main street, in the old plot of Rural village, for the erection of a new edifice, graveyard, and other church purposes, but, the people preferring to have their new edifice on higher ground and a little out of the town, Alexander Foster, Sr., gave an acre of the tract which he had purchased from the Robertses, the John Craig tract called "Leeds." Their deeds are respectively dated October 28, 1836, and the consideration expressed in each is $2. Both of them conveyed to John Stoops, William McCain and Robert McIntosh, trustees of the First Presbyterian church in Rural village, and their successors in office, to be appointed, chosen and elected according to the rules and established practice of this church. The work of erecting the new one-story brick edifice, 30x40 feet, on the acre off "Leeds" given by Alexander Foster, was commenced soon after the congregational meeting had decided in favor of changing the location, and was rapidly completed. The material was not of the best quality, its architectural style was not of the highest order; still it was a fair building, adapted, at the time, to the wants of the increasing population of this region. The pastor, Rev. Joseph Painter, regarded the alacrity and celerity with which the material aid was obtained and the work was completed as wonderful. As he viewed it, he may have recalled Virgil�s description of a hive of busy bees in comparing to them the industry of the Carthaginians in erecting the buildings and other improvements of their city, especially the words: "Fervet opus" 14 - "the work goes briskly on," which he had conned at Amwell academy. The graveyard, provided for in the donation of this acre of land, is immediately north of that edifice.

The church membership having increase to eighty-five, the congregation desired one-half of a pastor�s time, which Mr. Painter could not give them. His successors were Rev. James D. Mason, from 1843 until his resignation in 1847; Rev. Cochran Forbes, from 1849 until he resigned in 1854, on account of "bitter and persevering opposition chiefly from outside the church:" Rev. William F. Morgan, two-thirds of his time from 1856 until his death in 187-. It is said of him that he acted with caution, attended to his own business, and meddled not with that of any other individual. He was an active and acceptable co-worker in advancing the educational interests of Cowanshannock township. The membership of this church in 1876 is 154, and the number of Sabbath school scholars 100. This church was incorporated as " the Rural Valley church of Rural village, " by the proper court, March 23, 1842. John Cowan, Robert A. Robinson, James Reed, Gouin Wallace, William Aitken, John Stoops, and Isaac Rhea were the trustees named in the charter, who were to serve until the third Wednesday of November, the time designated for the annual election of the corporate officers.

A new frame edifice, 51x61 feet, was erected in 1850, on one or the other , or on parts, of the two in-lots given to the congregation by John Patterson, on the north side of Main street and adjoining the widest alley. The congregation sold their brick edifice to the Cowanshannock school district, which was almost exclusively used for school purposes while it stood. A new building, better adapted for school purposes, has been erected on its foundation. It was in this building that the writer, in the discharge of his official duty, held an annual examination of the teachers of this and several of the adjacent townships, and an institute in combination, which commenced on Tuesday, October 27, 1857, and continued until Friday, the 30th. Large numbers of teachers and interested spectators were present. Much attention was devoted to the rudiments, these first things in the books, the foundation work of education, which had been too much neglected. The teachers generally thought their examination in these things was "awfully severe," but their attention having thus been called to the importance of a familiar knowledge of the rudiments, they began to study them and the writer was gratified to find on his visits the next winter to their schools that even their young pupils were more familiar with those rudiments than they were when they were examined. The exercises in the day session were confined to examination and illustrations, and the night sessions were devoted to lectures and discussions of various topics of peculiar interest to teachers. Among the former was and interesting and instructive one by Rev. E. D. Barrett on language and the application thereto of the principles of grammar.

The Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1851-2, and has since belonged to the Dayton circuit. Its edifice is situated on the second lot west of the widest alley on the north side of Main street. It is a frame structure, 31x45 feet, erected in 1852.

The Rural valley postoffice was removed to this village along with the removal hither of John Patterson. His successors as postmaster have been Thompson Purviance, Robert A. Robinson, Joseph Alcor, John Colwell, Zachariah Knight, Henry Keck, Dr. Wm. Aitkin, and the present one George Gourley.

The eastern part of Rural village is traversed by Craig�s run, so called either after John Craig, the warrantee of the adjoining tract called "Leeds," or after John Craig of Loyal Hannon, who, in the latter part of last century, had his hunting camp on that part of it within the present limits of the village.

The Rural Valley Lodge, No. 766, of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was instituted here, June 16, 1871, the original number of members being twenty-one. The present number is fifty-four. This lodge first purchased in-lot No. 30 in the old plot, but sold it to Josiah Miller for $85- the deed to him being dated April 3, 1876. Their hall is situated on the north side of Main street, at its intersection with the widest alley. It is a suitable two-story frame structure, 48x20 feet, which was dedicated in October, 1875.

A brass band, thirteen pieces, was organized here in September, 1875, which has thus far made fair progress.

In the absence of desirable statistics, the writer cheerfully states that the people of this village and of Cowanshannock township generously contributed to the aid of the Union army during the war of the rebellion.


In addition to what we have given in the sketch of Plum Creek and Elderton, the following has been kindly furnished by Mr. W. G. Platt who has in charge the second geological survey of this county: Nearly all the surface rocks of this township are lower barrens. The country along the creek is famous for its smooth, fertile soils. The lower productive rocks are above water level for about a mile along the north branch of Plum creek, extending into Indiana county. A small area extends southward from Wayne township up the valley of Pine creek to Gourley�s. A much larger and more important area projects eastward from Valley township. The lowest rock exposed is the ferriferous limestone, only in the extreme western edge of the township.

The rocks are nearly horizontal, the township representing the edges and center of the synclinal of which Rural village is about the center.

Source: Page(s) 286-309, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed December 1999 by Pamela Clark for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Pamela Clark for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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