Chapter 28

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Organization - Dr. Simon Hovey - The Early Settlers - Discovery of Oil - Wonderful Production of the Robinson Farm - Thom�s Run - The Bridge Across the Allegheny - Miscellaneous Information.

HOVEY is a new township, formed in 1870, from a part of Perry. In 1873 its dimensions were much reduced by the formation of Parker City from the southern part of its territory.

The township derives its name from Dr. Simeon Hovey, who was one of the pioneer settlers, and a very prominent man in the early history of the county. Dr. Hovey was a native of Connecticut, a man of liberal education and fine abilities. He served as a surgeon under Gen. Wayne during the Indian campaigns of the latter, and afterward settled at Greensburg. In 1797 he came into the then sparsely settled region west of the Allegheny river, and located on a tract of land within the present limits of this township. Why a man of his talents should desire to escape from civilization and bury himself in the wilderness, it is not our province to determine. It may have been that he was actuated by a love of adventure. He established himself upon his land and remained about three years. He then returned to Greensburg, where he practiced medicine about five years, then returned to his former habitation in this county. His knowledge and skill as a medical adviser became known, and as physicians were then very few in this section, he was kept constantly busy ministering to the sick and afflicted in all the surrounding region. His opinions were highly valued, and he ranked among the best and most skilled physicians in the county. He was employed night and day visiting patients in localities far remote from his home, besides often being called to consult with the physician of Kittanning, Clarion, Butler and neighboring towns. His life was one of usefulness and good works, and he was widely esteemed. He was a perfect gentleman in appearance and character. He died about 1837, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. His nephew, Elisha Robinson, inherited his property. Dr. Hovey was married, but left no children, and, but for the memory of the older people of this county who knew him and rightly estimated his worth, his name might long since have been forgotten.

Alexander Gibson was one of the first settlers of the township. He took up land and made a small improvement, but disposed of it to Dr. Hovey.

Elisha Robinson, a native of Windham, Connecticut, came to this county in 1812, while a young man, and began improving a part of the tract belonging to his uncle, Dr. Hovey. Soon after his arrival he started a tannery, where he carried on the business of tanning and making shoes for over fifty years. He was a man possessed of true Yankee spirit and enterprise. commencing life with nothing but his hands and his trade as a means of support, he gradually acquired land and property until he became the possessor of 1,100 acres in his home farm, besides holding other interests which it is not necessary to specify. He was honest, upright and benevolent. He married Elizabeth Rohrer, of Greensburg, a niece of Dr. Hovey�s wife, and had a family of six children, who reached mature years: Mary A. (Bovard), Manorville; Olive (McConnell) deceased; William D., Kittanning; Simeon H., Samuel M. and Elisha, Hovey township.

Mr. Robinson died in 1874 at a very advanced age. His sons, Elisha and Samuel, wealthy and prominent farmers, now own the homestead farm.

Mr. Robinson�s first purchase of land was the "Thom�s run" property, a 400-acre tract, which he paid for in shoes and leather. The Grant farm in Butler county, which became famous as oil territory and produced from $200,000 to $300,000 worth of petroleum, was sold by Mr. Robinson to Abel Grant for $100, and was never paid for until its value as oil property was discovered. The Robinson farm became one of the most noted properties in the entire oil region. Upon it was made the first discovery of oil which led to the development of the Parker and Butler county fields. In 1865 a portion of the farm was purchased by a Philadelphia company and a well was sunk under the superintendence of W.D. Robinson. Oil was struck October 10, 1865. The well proved to have a production of about twenty-five barrels per day, which was an important yield at the price of oil which then prevailed - $8.50 per barrel. This well was controlled by the Clarion and Allegheny River Oil Company, and was known as Clarion No. 1. Three other wells were put down in the neighborhood prior to 1869, one on the Robinson farm and two on the Parker farm. Then came the excitement and wells multiplied in every direction. Mr. Robinson received one-eighth royalty from the production of the wells as his share, and for a continuous period of six or seven months this royalty netted him from $30,000 to $40,000 per month. Mr. W. D. Robinson, of Kittanning, estimates that the oil pumped from this farm from the first discovery up to the present time must have reached the value of nearly $2,000,000. There are still several producing wells yielding from 200 to 300 barrels daily.

Robert Mena and Hamilton Redick were the first settlers upon the land which subsequently became the Graham farm. Gen. Thomas Graham, a land surveyor, came from the eastern part of the state and settled upon this farm soon after Robinson settled in the township. Graham had been a militia general in former years. He devoted himself to farming and surveying. He as a man of contentious disposition and did not get along well with his neighbors. He once sued Dr. Hovey, charging him with slander. The case attracted much attention. Distinguished counsel were employed on both sides. The jury brought in a verdict for the plaintiff, placing the damage at six cents. Gen. Graham�s death resulted from a horse kicking him upon the head. After this sad event, his family scattered. The farm is now owned by the Fox heirs and others, and has proved valuable oil territory. James Fowler, a prominent and respected citizen of this township, purchased part of the Graham tract which is his present home in 1850. Mr. Fowler is a native of Parker township, Butler county, where his father, John Fowler, was one of the pioneer settlers. A small oil town was built upon his farm, opposite Foxburg. The first discovery of oil on this farm was made in 1869 by the Ridgeway Oil Company.

John Lowrie, a Scotchman, settled in Butler county, near Emlenton, in 1796. His land extended to the river and included the most northern portion of Armstrong county. He was the father of Hon. Walter Lowrie, afterward United States senator, secretary of the senate, and secretary of the American Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian church. Another of his sons, Hon. Matthew B. Lowrie, became a prominent citizen of Pittsburgh, and was the father of the late Judge Lowrie, of the supreme court of this state.

A revolutionary soldier named Joseph Thom was a pioneer settler on the stream which is still known as Thom�s run. He built the first sawmill in this part of the county and operated it for several years. He sold his tract to Elisha Robinson and moved away.

Hovey is a small township both in territory and in population. In 1880 the inhabitants numbered 560. There are two schools in the township but no churches.

In 1873 a strong iron bridge was built over the Allegheny river between Foxburg and Hovey township. Its cost was $64,000. James Fowler and the Fox estate were the largest stockholders in the enterprise, each having invested $20,000. The bridge has recently been sold for $50,000 to the Pittsburgh & Western and the Pittsburgh, Bradford & Buffalo Railroad Companies. These owners have removed the iron bridge and are now replacing it by a wooden structure which is to have a railroad, carriage-road and foot-walk across it. The railroad from Foxburg to Parker was built in 1881-2.

Source: Page(s) 475-576, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed March 2000 by Lisa Strobel for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Lisa Strobel for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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