Organized in 1867 from Territory in Kiskiminetas and Plum Creek -- The Thirty-five Original Land Warrants -- The Pioneers and First Owners of the Several Tracts -- Transfers of Property -- "Captain Tom's Hunting Camp" -- A Political Meeting of 1810 -- Woodward's Mills -- Postoffice -- Blockhouse Built by the Early Settlers -- Churches -- Primitive Schoolhouses and Pioneer Pedagogues -- Later Schools -- Miscellaneous Items -- Census and Other Statistics -- Mechanical Industries.
On the 17th day of April, 1867, the petition of divers inhabitants of Kiskiminetas and Plum Creek townships -- that is, of those within the boundaries of the then proposed new township, -- setting forth that they labored under great inconvenience for the want of a new township to be composed of part of those two townships, was presented to the court of quarter sessions of this county. Whereupon, after considering the same, the court appointed Reuben Allshouse, James Y. Jackson and John Smith viewers or commissioners, to inquire into the propriety of granting the prayer of the petitioners. This report in favor of erected the new township, to be called South Bend, as prayed for by the petitioners, accompanied by a draft thereof, was presented to the court, and ordered to be filed June 4, 1867. Three days afterward, June 7, the court ordered that an election of the qualified voters of those parts of Kiskiminetas and Plum Creek townships, within the boundaries of the proposed new township, be held at the usual place of holding elections in the former, on Friday, June 28, then instant, and to be conducted as other township elections, on fifteen days' notice to be given by the constable of Kiskiminetas township. The returns of that special election were made by the election officers, and filed July 1, then next ensuing. The vote was, for dividing those two old townships and erecting the new one, 152, and against the same, 90. The court thereupon ordered and decreed that the township of South Bend be erected according to law and the lines of division reported by the viewers, and appointed James Fulmer, judge, and James Armstrong and Jonathan Crum, inspectors, to hold and conduct the then next general and spring elections.
The boundaries reported by the viewers or commissioners are: Beginning at a corner of Burrell township, on land of Jacob Hart; thence south 29 degrees east 1 mile and 120 perches to A. Walker's; thence south 2 miles to the top of a hill on I. Horn's land; thence south 34 degrees east 1 mile and 108 perches to the Indiana county line, on or near to land of Robert Elder; thence by Indiana county line north 37 1/2 degrees east 6 miles and 172 perches to a point on land of John Ramsey; thence north 40 degrees west 220 perches on the bank of Crooked creek, near Reuben Allshouse's (Idaho) mill; thence down said creek north 80 degrees west 150 perches; thence across said creek north 50 degrees west 3 miles on land of Isaac Rowley, deceased; thence south 87 degrees west 1 mile and 97 perches, on land of M. Davis; thence by the line of Burrell township south 15 degrees east 1 mile and 258 perches to Linsbigler's run; thence down said run south 70 degrees west 110 perches; thence south 56 degrees west 64 perches to Crooked creek; thence 31 degrees west 1 mile and 308 perches to the place of beginning, containing about 23 square miles, to be called South Bend. The name is derived from a great southern bend in Crooked creek, the extreme southern part of which is in the southeastern part of the township, about 75 rods from the Indiana County line. Along that portion of that creek in this township some of the earliest settlements by the whites in this county were made.
The warrants for some of the thirty-five original tracts, as they are indicated on the ancient county map, are dated as early as 1773. Those tracts are: James Gray, 364 1/2 acres, partly in Indiana county; Abraham Hunt, mostly in Kiskiminetas township, 301.9 acres, seated by Samuel Hancock; James Elder, 158 1/2 acres, partly in Indiana county, seated by James Smith; Robert Lettis Hooper (of Northampton county, an assistant deputy commissary of purchases in 1779), 321 acres, partly in Kiskiminetas; William Forbes, 335.3 acres, partly in Kiskiminetas; Stephen Duncan, 322.3 acres; Joseph Speer, 352 acres, partly in Indiana county; Ann Kirk, 346.6 acres, seated by Samuel Fleming; Daniel Drinker, 322 1/2 acres, seated by Charles Hancock; Alexander Todd, 319.8, partly in Kiskiminetas, seated by Andrew Cunningham; John Bringhurst, 285.3 acres, partly in Kiskiminetas, seated by Jacob Snow; Walter Finney, 390 1/2 acres, seated by Peter Henry; Samuel Sloan, 314 1/2 acres; Samuel Massey, 321.6 acres, seated by Wm. Heffelfinger and Christopher Miller, the latter 160 acres; Joseph Saunders, 326.4 acres, partly in Indiana county; John Finney, 337.7 acres, seated by Henry Allshouse; Matthew Irwin, 360 acres, seated by Jacob George, now owned chiefly by John and James Wherry; John Walker, 374.2 acres, seated by John Householder; James Davis, Sr., 421.4 acres; James Davis, Jr., 422 acres; Erasmus Beatty, 428 1/4 acres, partly in Kiskiminetas and Burrell, seated by Nicholas Fulmer; John Righter, 163.2 acres, seated by William Eakman; George Woods, 297.3 acres, seated by H. and Geo. Rupert; John Levering, 316 acres, seated by Peter and Christopher Rupert; Samuel Dixon, 315 1/4 acres; James Skullknot, 334 acres, seated by George Smith; Robert Dick, 159 acres; Elizabeth Pile, 346.3 acres, seated by Widow Smith; Hannah Gregory, 246 acres, seated by ------ Rankin; John Sloan, 201 acres, 69 perches; David Todd and William Wason, 570 acres, seated by Philip Rearigh, 170, Joseph Lowrey, 107, and Alexander George; Rowland Chambers, 225 3/4 acres, seated by Joseph Lowrey; Hugh Neely, 267 acres, 146 perches, mostly in Indiana county, seated by Anthony Montgomery. Another tract, making the thirty-fifth, covers territory within the great bend of Crooked creek above mentioned, which originally contained 299 acres, for which a warrant was issued to John Ladd Howell, dated February 8, 1776. As a part of this tract has for many years been a prominent point in this region, its various transfers may not be without interest to the reader. By deed dated May 22, 1776, Howell conveyed his interest in the entire tract to John Vanderen, of Philadelphia (miller), for five shillings, Vanderen's executors, being so authorized by the will of their testator, conveyed it to Charles Campbell by deed dated July 18, 1795, for �59 4s. Campbell, by deed, dated May 17, 1813, conveyed it to James Clark for $2,000; Clark, by deed dated May 20, 1813, conveyed it to Jacob France, or, as spelled in later times, Frantz, for $3.000, who by his will, proven April 28, 1832, devised it to his children, from whom David Ralston, at divers times from 1837 until 1855, bought portions including the mill, aggregating 75 acres, which, with the mill, he conveyed for $13,000 to Chambers Orr, by deed dated June 14, 1859, who, by deed dated May 22, 1865, conveyed it to the present owners, Robert and Henry Townsend, for $14,000. In the deed from Howell to Venderen a mill-seat is mentioned as included in the tract. A grist and saw mill must have been erected thereon while it was owned by Campbell, for as early as 1805, James and William Clark were assessed in Allegheny township, in which this territory was then included, with one of each kind. For many years afterward Frantz's mill was resorted to by settlers from the lower part of the county, it being then the nearest to them. By act of March 16, 1819, Crooked creek was declared a public highway from its mouth to that mill.
The names given to some of these tracts are as follows: The Samuel Dixon tract was called "Partrenship"--so it is spelled; the Hannah Gregory tract "Pised"; the Elizabeth Pile tract, "Phoenicia;" the Matthew Irwin tract, "Truxillo;" the Rowland Chambers tract, "Cha--;" the John Shaw tract, "Brabant"; the Abraham Hunt tract, "Hunt's Forest;" the William Forbes tract, "Franconia;" the John Bringhurst tract, "White Oak Plains;" the Alexander Todd tract, "Todd's Plains;" the Daniel Drinker tract, "Hickory Ridge;" the Samuel Sloan tract, "Long Meadow;" the Samuel Massey tract, "Limestone Runs;" the Joseph Saunders tract, "Desart Sin;" the James Davis, Jr., tract, Stephenton;" the Alexander Craig tract, a very small portion of which is in this county, "Craig's Farm." As described in the deed from Absalom Woodward to Robert C. Peebles, dated April 20, 1815, this last-mentioned tract was "situate on a large run emptying into Crook creek, opposite to a place known by the name of Capt. Tom's Hunting Camp, in Plum Creek township." That "large run" must be the one that empties from the southeast in Crooked creek about eighty rods northeast from the lowest point in its great southern bend, so that "Capt. Tom's Hunting Camp" must have been on the John Ladd Howell tract, about a hundred rods southeast from the "mill-seat," mentioned in the deed from Howell to Vanderen, the present site of the Townsend mills, on the right bank of that creek. Who Capt. Tom was, or whence he came, the writer has not yet ascertained. He probably made annual hunting excursions to this region from one of the older and more densely settled counties. The writer has not yet met with anyone who can correctly inform him concerning the exact locality of that "hunting camp," which was one of the old landmarks. Strange it is, that none of those born and raised in its immediate and more remote vicinity, of whom he has inquired, had ever heard of it! One who has resided in its neighborhood for more than forty years thinks it was about three miles below, on the farm now owned by Jared McCandlers, which is a part of "Phoenicia." Another, who has passed his four score and ten years, and who in early life was familiar with this region, thinks it must have been at the mouth of "Horny Camp Run," which is in the southwest corner of Kittanning township, several miles further down the creek. The writer has, to his own satisfaction at least, ascertained its locality by putting together certain facts, points and boundaries, mentioned in several old deeds for different tracts.
AN EARLY POLITICAL DELEGATE MEETING
The following is from the Western Eagle of September 20, 1810:
At a meeting of the delegates appointed by the democratic-republicans of Armstrong and Indiana counties, for the purpose of consulting and recommending a proper person to represent this district in the legislature of this state, and when met agreeably to appointment at the house of Samuel Sloan (on the John Sloan tract next below the John Ladd Howell tract), near Crooked creek, on Thursday, 9th day of August last, JOHN BRANDON, Esq., of Armstrong county, was chosen chairman, and ALEXANDER TAYLER, Esq., of Indiana County, secretary, eleven delegates from the two counties being present.
The following resolutions were adopted by the meeting:
"1st. Resolved, with the exception of one dissenting voice, That James Sloan, Esquire, of Armstrong county, be and is hereby recommended to our fellow-citizens to represent the counties of Armstrong, Indiana and Jefferson in the legislature of this commonwealth.
"2nd. Resolved, That a committee of three members be appointed to prepare and send forward copies of these resolutions to the editors of The Commonwealth in Pittsburgh and of the Farmer's Register in Greensburgh for publication, and that Jonathan King, John Davidson and John Brandon, Esquires, compose the aforesaid committee.
"3rd. Resolved, That when the tickets are printed for the ensuing election, 1,000 shall be delivered to John Brandon, of Kittanning, and 1,000 to Alexander Tayler, of Indiana, who are hereby requested to have the same distributed in their respective counties previous to the election.
"4th. Resolved, That the above resolutions be signed by the chairman and attested by the secretary, and that the original copy thereof be lodged with John Brandon, in the town of Kittanning.
"JOHN BRANDON, Chairman.
"ALEXANDER TAYLER, Secretary."
That nominee was not elected that year: James McComb was.
Absalom Woodward was first assessed with grist and saw mills in 1811, which he had erected on the southeastern part of the William Cowden tract, on the south side of Plum creek, in the northeastern part of the present township of South Bend, where he resided for many years, and where he died in August, 1833.
These mills were, for a long time after their erection, a noted point in this region of country. He devised the William Cowden tract, including these mill and various other tracts, to his son Absalom. The mill property has been subsequently and successively owned by Stacy B. Barcroft, George S. Christy and Reuben Allshouse, the present proprieter, who has changed its name to that of "Idaho," to which name he is probably partial on account of the valuable mineral acquisitions which he had the good fortune to make in the Territory of Idaho.
Hugh Brown's store was located two miles below this point more than seventy years ago. He was assessed as a "store-keeper" in 1805. How many years before that he opened his store there, the writer has not been able to learn.
The only postoffice between Kittanning and Indiana sixty years ago was at Absalom Woodward's. The record of its establishment having been destroyed by the burning of the postoffice building in Washington, in 1836, there is but little knowledge of it left. A postoffice was kept there in 1817-18, when Josiah Copley carried the mail from Indiana to Butler. He presumes that Absalom Woodward was then the postmaster, because he opened the mails. That office was probably discontinued when the one either at Elderton or Shelacta was established. In this connection, though not in the chronological order of events, it may be stated that the Frantz's Mill postoffice was established February 21, 1843. James Mitchell, Jr., was the first postmaster, and the South Bend postoffice was established April 6, 1848, at the same point, and its first postmaster was James Johnston, Jr.; the Olivet postoffice was established April 10, 1850, and John McGeary was its first postmaster.
Prior to 1795, or to the time when the Indians ceased to be troublesome and dangerous in this region, there was a blockhouse on the John Shaw tract, on what is now called Jones' hill, about a mile a little east of south from the junction of Crooked and Plum creeks, or Idaho. According to a tradition which has come down from the earliest settlers, there was, in those times, another blockhouse, called by some a fort, at or near the present site of the Townsend mills, and the South Bend postoffice. Abraham Frantz and others formerly found many bullets in the ground thereabout. Numerous flint arrow-heads of various sizes are still found on the Hugh Neely tract, now Alexander J. Montgomery's farm, and elsewhere in the vicinity of those blockhouses.
The general, especially the early, history of this township is nearly identical with that of Plum Creek and Kiskiminetas townships; the dangers, hardships and inconveniences of its early settlers were similar to those of those two townships. It was along that part of Crooked creek in this township that the earliest settlements by the whites were made in this county. Early settlers, as indicated by the assessment list of Allegheny township for 1805, within whose limits the present territory of this township was then included, were Hugh Brown, James and William Clark, Barnard Davers (mason), George and Henry Hoover, John Householder, John and Adam Johnston, Samuel George, George King, Daniel Linsinbigler, Peter Rupert, Sr., Peter Rupert (weaver), Samuel Sloan, John Sloan, Joseph Thorn (blacksmith), David Todd, and Absalom Woodward (?). It may be that the last-named then resided on the George Campbell tract, nearly two miles above Idaho, on Plum creek,
Twenty years or so later, Henry Allshouse, on the John Finney tract, Samuel Fleming on the Ann Kirk tract, Nicholas Fulmer, on the Erasmus Beatty tract, Jacob George, on the Matthew Irwin tract, William Heffelfinger, on the Samuel Massey tract, Nicholas Jordan, on the John Levering tract, Joseph Lowery, on the Rowland Chambers tract, Anthony Montgomery, on the Hugh Neely tract, JohnMcCain, on the John Levering tract, George and Henry Rupert, on the George Woods tract, James Smith, on the James Elder tract, Jacob Snow on the John Bringhurst tract, were residents in those parts of Allegheny and Plum Creek townships now included in South Bend township. Among the residents, eight or nine years later, were John and Peter Dice, Alexander Lowry, John and Robert Smith, Robert Townsend, James and John Wherry in the Kiskiminetas portion; Jacob Allshouse, John and Jonathan Crum, Jacob, John Samuel and Abraham Frantz, Peter, Samuel and Jacob George, Thomas Kinnard, Joseph Lowry, Frederick and Peter Rupert, John Shoup, Robert W. Smith--not this writer,--Samuel Sloan, Sr. and Jr., John Windgrove, William Wilkison, and Absalom Woodward, Jr., in the Plum Creek portion of South Bend township. There may have been others in both sections of the township, and it is possible that some of the above-mentioned were at the time residents of Plum Creek township. The writer has formed his judgment as to their residence chiefly from the assessment lists of those various periods.
Ten or fifteen years ago Robert Townsend, as related by his son, S. P. Townsend, found a mattock on his farm, near Whiskey run. It was struck by the plow, at the depth of about ten inches, in good soil. Several bunches of oxide of iron, about the size of hen's eggs, were on it. Its ends were steel, which he had sharpened at the blacksmith's. It is still extant on that farm, on the ridge or watershed from which the runs flow into Crooked creek and the Kiskiminetas. From six to ten inches below the surface, in a gravelly soil, on the same farm, various Indian relics have been found: A stone implement, shaped somewhat like a wedge, with one end sharp like the bit of an ax, while near the other end was a groove, probably for holding a strap, used, probably, for skinning animals; several very hard stone utensils, some of which were a foot in diameter, the interior of which was somewhat like an apothecary's mortar, some holding a quart and others two quarts of water, which were probably used for breaking and grinding corn; numerous flint arrow-heads; a mound of stones, which must have been brought some distance, as the field in which it is is clear of stone, about twenty feet in diameter, and two feet high, its shape being circular, and under which no bones have been found.
There is on that farm a white-oak tree, which is twenty-one feet in circumference.
For many years after the first settlement of this township and region, there was no church edifice in what is now this township, except the log one, mentioned in the sketch of Plum Creek township. Clergymen of different denominations, who were itinerant missionaries rather than pastors, conducted religious services in private homes, barns and groves.
The St. Jacob's Evangelical Lutheran and the St. Jacob's Reformed churches occupy the same edifice, a commodious frame structure, about two-thirds of a mile nearly north of the South Bend postoffice and mills.
Zion's Valley Reformed church was organized June 20, 1868. The edifice owned by the society is frame and of adequate dimensions for the present wants of the congregation. Members, 64; Sabbath-school scholars, 50. This church was incorporated by the proper court, March 14, 1873, and William G. King, Absalom Klingensmith, H. G. Allshouse and Joseph Heisley were named trustees in the charter, to serve until the first election. The meeting-house is situated one mile east of the most western point or angle of the township, on the right bank of a large run emptying into Crooked creek, in "Barrel Valley." The pastor is Rev. John McConnell. His predecessors were Revs. James Grant and H. N. Hoffmeir.
The United Presbyterian church, at Olivet, on the Robert Lettis Hooper tract, one mile and a fourth from the eastern southern angle of the township, was organized as a settlement of the Associate Reformed church, in April, 1840. There had, however, been occasional preaching since 1836, in a tent near the site of the present meeting-house. The congregation, at the time of its organization, took the name of Olivet, from which the name of this point, or locality was derived. The original number of church members was twenty. The pastors have been Revs. Alexander McCahan, from 1843 until 1846; M. H. Wilson, from 1848 until 1857; Samuel Anderson, from 1859 until 1867, and John C. Telford, the present one. This church has borne the name of United Presbyterian since the union of the Associate and Associate Reformed churches. The present number of members is 67; Sabbath-school scholars 500. The church edifice is frame, 40X40 feet, built in 1849.
During the war of the rebellion there was a Soldier's Aid Society which consisted of members of the Olivet U. P. and Elder's Ridge Presbyterian congregations. Says a correspondent (*1): "No records exist of the contributions of this society, but it is believed that its disbursements were not less liberal than those of sister congregations.
For awhile after the first settlement of this region, pay or subscription schools were taught in private houses in different parts of the then settled part of the township, which was chiefly along and in the vicinity of Crooked creek. The first schoolhouse, a primitive log one, was erected probably about 1803, near the present site of St. Jacob's Lutheran and Reformed church edifice, in which the first teacher, or least one of the earliest, was James Allison. Mrs. Nancy Kirkpatrick, widow of James Kirkpatrick, remembers that schoolhouse, and that before its erection schools were taught here and there as above stated.
In the earlier settlement of the southern part of the township there was an ancient schoolhouse about 200 rods southwest of Olivet, on the present farm of Joseph Coulter, and another about a mile and a half a little west of north from Olivet, on the present farm of David Finley. The first schoolhouse at Olivet was built in or about 1820, on the present site of G. W. Steer's blacksmith shop, and was known as the "Big Run schoolhouse," which continued to be used until 1834-5.
About a mile distant from Olivet, across the Indiana county line, is Elder's Ridge Academy, whose beneficent influence in promoting educational interests in this region has for many years been effective.
The slight opposition which the common school system encountered in this part of the county was readily overcome by its more numerous friends, prominent among whom were William Davis, Joseph and Alexander A. Lowry, Anthony Montgomery and John Wherry, as the writer is informed. The further preparation of the history of that system, except some statistics, belongs to the school department.
The first school year in which this has been a distinct school district was 1868. Its first annual report was for 1869, when the number of schools was 6; average number months taught, 4; male teachers, 4; female teachers, 2; average salaries of male per month, $38.25; average salaries of female per month, $35; male scholars, 288; female, 244; average number attending school, 433; cost of teaching each per month, 64 cents; amount levied for school purposes, $902.84; minimum occupation, 211; total amount levied, $1,113.84; received from collectors, unseated land, etc., $1,200,44; cost of instruction, $892; fuel and contingencies, $152,72; repairing schoolhouses, etc., $55.66; balance on hand, $1,000,00.
In 1876 the number of schools was 6; average number months taught, 5; male teachers, 6; average monthly salaries, $35; number male scholars, 182; number female scholars, 179; average number attending school, 298; cost per month, 64 cents; amount levied for school and building purposes, $1,179.30; received from state appropriation, $237.15; received from taxes and other sources; $1,233.71; paid for teachers' wages, $1,050; paid for fuel and contingencies, collectors' fees, etc., $196.25.
The settlement of the lower or southern part of the township occurred much later than that of the northern part. Robert Townsend remembers that at and around the pleasant hamlet of Olivet, on the Robert Lettis Hooper tract, there were but few settlers in 1833. It had then the appearance of a wilderness rather than of a settled region. He remembers that a primitive log schoolhouse was there in 1834, which had the appearance of having been erected a few years. The only wagon in the neighborhood in 1833 belonged to John Smith. The nearest gristmill was that at South Bend. The people packed their grists to mill on horseback. There were no wagon-roads except the one from Saltsburgh. The state road was not opened until 1843. A year or two before then emigrants from Washington county, the Ewings and others, settled here.
The generally good farming land in this township has steadily attracted to it increasing numbers of those engaged in agricultural pursuits, together with an adequate number engaged in other branches of business incident to and usual in an agricultural community. According to the census of 1870, the only one taken since the organization of this township, its population was then: White, 1,126; colored,1; native 1,116; foreign,, 11. The number of taxables this centennial year is 273, making its present population 1,255, the great mass of which are farmers and their families.
Besides the sawmills at Idaho and South Bend, there are four others, viz., one a short distance west of Olivet, one on Craig's run, about 50 rods from its mouth, one on the most westerly run emptying into Crooked creek about 250 rods above its mouth, and the other on the same run, or its eastern branch, a mile or so higher up.
In 1875 James McNees & Co. commenced the manufacture of stone crocks at their pottery, on a run 220 230 rods east of the second angle in the western boundary line below the northwest corner of the township, the daily product being 200 gallons, and in the spring of 1876 the manufacture of stone pumps and pipes. Twelve pumps and 200 feet of pipe have been made in a day. The capacity of the works is such that the daily product of the latter can be increased to 1,000 feet. The building is 90X28 feet, and the machinery is worked by horse-power.
The Mutual Fire Insurance Company of South Bend township was incorporated by the proper court December 15, 1875. According to the original charter the members and insurers were to be persons owning land in and adjoining this township, but that limiting clause was subsequently stricken out by an amendment to the charter granted by the court. The object of this company, like that of the Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company, of Plum Creek township, seems to be to effect insurance on such property as is peculiar to farmers, and at a lower rate than in other companies, for the charter provides that its officers are to be paid only for such services as are necessarily rendered, and no dividends are to be made. The passing remark may here be made that disastrous fires have not been frequent in this township. The most serious one, perhaps, occurred November 29, 1836, by which the house of Anthony Montgomery and its contents, including about $200 in money, were destroyed.
Official.-- Sheriff, Alexander J. Montgomery.
The stores assessed this year are five in the fourteenth and one in the thirteenth class.
The assessment list for this year shows: Laborers, 27; blacksmiths, 7; shoemakers, 4; carpenters, 2; millers, 2; wagon-makers, 2; teachers, 2; invalids, 2; preacher, 1; agent, 1; clerk, 1; cooper, 1; apprentice, 1; and 26 single men. Will they all be single at the close of this leap year?
The geological features of this township are generally similar to those presented in the sketches of Plum Creek and Kiskiminetas townships. There is a vein of bituminous coal in the southeastern part of the township on the Townsend farm which, including three feet of slate, is fifteen feet thick--twelve feet of pure coal of excellent quality.
*1 Robert H. Wilson
Source: Page(s) 394-399, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert
Walker Smith, Esq. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed June 2000 by James R. Hindman for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by James R. Hindman for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)
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