Importance of the Township Politically � The Townships of Armstrong and Wheatfield in 1792 � Original Divisions of the County � Allegheny � Buffalo � Toby � Origin of Names � Subdivisions of the Original Townships.
IN passing from a general sketch of our county to the more narrowly local sketches of its subdivisions into city, townships, and boroughs, the passing remark may here be pertinent, that when the communal and municipal organizations, or what we call cities, towns, and boroughs, which had been crushed out by the Eastern Emperors, began to be re-invigorated, in the eleventh century, the first municipal, or as we would say, city, township, or borough elections were held in the Sclavic city of Ragusa, in that part of Dalmatia inhabited by people of Sclavic origin.
It is said that the commune, or township, is the fountain-head, the corner-stone of American society. The township was the primitive state from which the start was made. The township, therefore, still remains in its function, the generating power, the foundation, the nursery of self-government and of American social order. In the township, as well as everywhere else in this country, observes De Tocqueville, the people are the only source of power; but in no stage of government does the body of citizens exercise a more immediate influence. On the self-government of the townships, says another foreign observer of American institutions, reposes the freedom of the state, and from it is evolved in wider and wider all-embracing circles the whole existing political structure.
In the early days of the Province and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, those important sub-divisions embraced large areas of territory within their limits. A map of Pennsylvania, by Reading Howells, published in 1792, for the use of which the writer is indebted to Grier C. Orr, shows only two townships � Armstrong and Wheatfiled � as before stated, north of the Kiskiminetas and Conemaugh rivers, in the territory of which Armstrong and Indiana counties are now composed.
�At a Court of General Quarter Session of the Peace, held at Robert Hanna�s, Esquire, for the county of Westmoreland, the sixth day of April, in the thirteenth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord, George the third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc. And in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-three, before William Crawford, Esquire, and his associate justices of the same court.
�The court proceeded to divide the said county into the following townships by the limits and descriptions hereinafter following, viz.:
�Fairfield * * * Donegal * * * Huntington * * * Mount Pleasant * * * Hempfield * * * Pitt * * * Tyrone * * * Spring Hill * * * Manallan * * * Rostraver * * * Armstrong. Beginning where the line of the county crosses the Connemach� � nearly midway between Conemaugh Furnace and Sang Hollow, on the Pennsylvania Railroad � �then running with that river to the line of Fairfield, along that line to the Loyal Haunon, then down the Loyal Haunon and the Kiskiminetas to the Allegheny, then up the Allegheny to the Kittanning, then with a straight line to the headwaters of Two Lick or Black Lick Creek, and thence with a straight line to the beginning.� (Vide minutes of said court.) So that Armstrong township must have embraced a large portion of the territory out of which Wheatfield township was afterward formed.
In 1773 the constable of Armstrong township and Andrew Mitchell, and the supervisor John Pomeroy. April sessions, 1790, constable, James McLean; supervisors, Isaac Ardem and James Smith. The returns made by the county treasurer for this township in 1796, were: Costs, �98 6s 6d; state tax �11 18s 9d; county tax �360 9s 3d.
On that map are marks or characters indicating the locations of dwelling-houses, furnaces, houses of worship, mills, roads, and Indian paths, none of which are thus indicated within which are now the limits of this county, except an Indian town near the mouth of Mahoning, and an Indiana path, by which the Indians of the West communicated with the Susquehanna country, extending southeast from the site of Kittanning to, or at least in the direction of Kittanning Point on the Allegheny Mountain, which was so called because of the Indian path diverged therefrom to Kittanning. On Scull�s map it is named the Ohio path. By the act of March 29, 1792, the freemen of the first district of Westmoreland county were directed to meet for holding election at the house then occupied by William Neil, in Armstrong township.
It was customary, prior to 1803, for the Courts of Quarter Session, without legislative authority, to erect townships in their respective counties, and send up their proceeding for approval to the council under the Proprietary Government, and to the legislature after the Province became a state.
This county, when organized in 1800, contained within its limits only two organized townships, viz., Allegheny and Buffalo. Toby township was organized soon afterward. Those were the three original townships of this county, and the only ones mentioned in the settlement of account between this and Westmoreland county for the year 1802, 1804, and 1805, there was due this county the before-stated balance of $2,978.11.
was organized by the Court of Quarter Sessions of Westmoreland county, December 1795. Its boundaries were specified in the petition of the inhabitants of Armstrong township for a division of the latter; �A line beginning at the mouth of Altman�s run� � now in Indiana county, about half a mile below Livermore ��thence up said run to Wm. Neil�s, and thence to James Smith, Esq., both farms to be included on the east side of said line, and running thence to Plum creek, and up the north branch of said creek to the purchase line, and make a suitable division of said township, which the petitioners pray the court will grant and establish.� Order or decree of the court: �June sessions, 1795. The said petition read and continued, and now, to wit, December sessions, 1795, the court divide the said township agreeably to the prayer of the petitions, and order the southwest division to be erected into a new township to be hereafter known by the name of Allegheny township,� which was bounded on the east by the Allegheny river, and on the east by the aforesaid line from the mouth of Altman�s run, and of course embraced portions of what are now Armstrong and Indiana counties. By the Act of March 29, 1802, it was erected into an election district, and the elections were directed to be held at the house of George Painter, miller, at the mouth of Cherry run in hat township, near what are now Carnahan�s mills. The taxes laid on the land in this ancient township, in 1802, were: seated $187.37; unseated $512.82. In 1804, $206.24 seated; $516.80 unseated. In 1805, $276.10 seated; $384.68 unseated. The assessment list for 1805-6 shows the seated lands to have been then valued at $29,028.55; number of horses, 337; number of cattle, 545. The only store-keeper was Hugh Brown, whose occupation was valued at $40. Mechanics � Bernhard Davers, mason; George Beer, gunsmith; Peter Rupert, weaver; John Steele, wheelwright; John Schall and Joseph Thorn, blacksmiths; Smith McMillin and John King, tailors. Each one�s trade was valued at $10, except Thorn�s, which was valued at $20. Wm. Sheerer�s tanyard, $15. Mills � Samuel Beer, one grist and one saw-mill; James Findley and Thos. Dickey, ditto; Daniel Linsibigler, one sawmill; George Painter, one grist and one saw-mill; the occupation of Findley & Dickey was valued at $30. Schoolmasters � James Moore, Jacob Schell and Wm. Smith. Distilleries � John Willis�, valued at $15; Thos. Gallagher�s at $25; James Hall�s, $25; Church Smith�s, $30; Robert Sloan�s, $15. All the foregoing were out of the town of Kittanning which was then partly in that township. Ferries � Jas. Cunningham, Peter LeFevre, Patrick O�Donnell and John Postlethwaite, were each assessed with one.
is a descendant from Pitt township. At December sessions, 1788, of the Court of Quarter Sessions of Allegheny county, Moore, St. Clair, Mifflin, Elizabeth, Versailles, Plumb and Pitt townships were organized. The boundaries of the last named were: �Beginning at the mouth of Pickety�s run, thence up the Allegheny river and by the line of the county� � which then extended alone the river to the northern boundary of Pennsylvania, Lake Erie and the western boundary line of the State � �to the mouth of Flaherty�s run; thence up the river to the mouth of the Monogahela river; thence up said river to the mouth of Turtle creek; thence by line of Plumb township to the place beginning,� which last mentioned line was changed somewhat at the next June session. At the same session Deer and Pine townships were formed out of Pitt. As to the former, it was �ordered that Gapen�s and Moore�s surveyor districts be erected into a new township called Deer township.� It is necessary in order to form and adequate idea of the area of that township to know the areas of these two districts. The former began �at the southeast corner of District No. 3; from thence extending by the same due west to the corner of District No. 4� � about five miles slightly east of south from the Borough of Mercer � �thence due south about nineteen miles� � along the western line of Butler county � �to the corner of Daniel and Jonathan Leet�s districts; thence by Jonathan Leet�s and Stephen Gapen�s districts due east to the river Allegheny, near Mohulbaughtitem� � Mahoning � �and from thence up the Allegheny river by the several courses thereof to the place of beginning,� which must have been near what is now Rockland, in Venango county. The latter began �at northeast corner of District No. 9� � at on near the center of Butler county � �thence south to the Allegheny river; thence up the same by the courses and distances thereof to the mouth of Mohulbaughtitem creek; thence west by the northern boundary of the late Depreciation district to the beginning,� being what were afterward the Cunningham and Elder districts. By the act of Assembly of April 4, 1798, such parts of Allegheny county as lay within Elder�s district, being a part of the township of Deer, were made an election district, and the house of James McCormick, in the town of Freeport, was designated as the place for holding elections.
On the petition of the inhabitants of Pine and Deer townships the court of quarter sessions of Allegheny county, December, 1797, made the following order, it having been represented by the county commissioners, as well from the information and complaints of others as from their own knowledge, that those two last-mentioned townships were too large and inconvenient for the assessment and collection of taxes: �It is ordered that the said township of Pine be divided, etc., �and that the township of Deer be divided by the east line of Cunningham�s surveyor district� � which extended from a point near Springdale on the Allegheny river due north to the line between the Depreciation and Donation lands, but the new township line extended to the northern line of Moore�s district above-mentioned � �and that the upper division thereof be a new township called Buffalo township,� which embrace portions of Allegheny, Butler and Venango counties, and all of that portion of Armstrong county on the west side of the Allegheny river. The places for holding election in Buffalo township were: By act of March 12, 1800, at the house of John Smith, which was in the western part of what is not North Buffalo township; by act of February 7, 1803, at the house of John McDowel, which was about two mile northeast of where Worthington now is, and by act of April 11, 1811, at the house of Jacob Young, which is near Slate Lick. The last one was designated after the organization of Sugar creek township.
In 1802, the taxes on seated land were $517.23, on unseated, $129.50; in 1804, on seated, $555.60, on unseated, $129.50; in 1805, on seated, $491.83, on unseated, $68.43.
was organized by the court of quarter session of Westmoreland county, at September sessions, 1801, with the following boundaries, on the application of the commissioners of that county, the whole of Armstrong county being then within the jurisdiction of that count, as provided by the act of March 12, 1800: �Bounded on the north by the Allegheny river, on the east by Toby�s creek, on the south by the line between Hamilton and Wood�s (late) district, on the west by the old purchase line, to be hereafter known by the name of Toby township.� A glance at the map will show that either the clerk of the court erred in recording these boundaries, or the commissioners erred in setting them forth in their application � the original papers cannot be found � for the original boundaries were: Bounded on the north and northeast by Toby�s creek, on the east by the line between the Hamilton and Wood�s districts, which was a little east of what is now the western boundary of Jefferson county, on the south by the old purchase line, and on the west by the Allegheny river, including, of course, until September 18, 1806, all that portion of what is now the borough of Kittanning north of that purchase line which crosses that borough diagonally in the easterly direction from a point a few yards above the mouth of Truby�s run. The course of that line from Cherry Tree, on the west back of the Susquehanna, to the Allegheny river, is 79_ west.
Taxes laid in 1802 on seated land, $76.23, on unseated, $429.27; in 1804, on seated, $110.64, on unseated, $1,110.76; in 1805, on seated, $170.69, on unseated, $920.50)**
The place for holding election in this township was directed by act of April 3, 1804, to be at the house of Abraham Standford, who then lived near what is now Currlsville.
The total valuation of unseated lands in this township for 1805 was $229,434.11. In 1806, the following persons were assessed with other occupation that agricultural: James Calhoun, William Cochran, William Frazier, John Love and Robert Wilson, weavers; William Kelly, schoolmaster; William Sypes, potter; John Guthrie, carpenter. John Simpkins, wagon maker; John Wilson, tanner; James McElhenry, wheelwright; and Alexander Moore, one house and lot, $90. McElhenry and Moore were within the present limits of the borough of Kittanning, and Sypes somewhere between Crooked and Mahoning creeks, James Calhoun and William Cochran within the present limits of Pine.
The township was named from Toby�s creek, which skirted its northwestern border. The Indians must have named the stream from the Toby-hanna, an eastern tributary of the Lehigh river in what is now Monroe county, Pennsylvania. Toby, according to Heckewelder, is Tobeco � from Toby-hanna, corrupted from Topi-hanna, signifying alder stream, i.e., a stream whose banks are fringed with alders. This tributary of the Allegheny bore the name of Toby more than a century ago. Toby was its original name, prior to 1758. The traditions that it was named after certain individuals at later periods are mere figments of the imagination, as is manifest from the journal kept by Christian Frederick Post of his mission from the government of Pennsylvania to the Delawares and other Indians at Kuskuskking, Sakonk, and other points west of the Allegheny, in the last-mentioned year. He was sent on that mission to prevail on them to withdraw from the French interest. His journal begins July 15 and ends September 20. He says, under date of August 3: �We came to a part of a river called Tobeco� � probably Little Toby � �over the mountains.� Under date of August 5: �We set our early this day, and mad a good long stretch, crossing the big river Tobeco� � Toby�s creek � where he and the Indian chief, Pisquetomen, who traveled with him, �lodged between two mountains,� as he called the hills. On that day he lost his pocket-book, containing three pounds and five shillings and some other things, among which were some writings which he alone could read. The next day they �passed the big river Weshwaucks� � probably either Point or East Sandy creek � and �crossed a fine meadow two miles in length,� where they slept that night, without anything to eat. On the 7th they �came in sight of Fort Venango,� afterward called Fort Franklin.
It is said that Toby�s creek was, in the latter part of the last or fore part of this century, called Stump creek for a comparatively short distance above its mouth, by lumbermen and others who descended the Allegheny river. It was declared a public highway from its mouth to the second fork by the act of March 21, 1798. Two hundred dollars were appropriated by act of March 24, 1817, for improving it. Thomas R. Peters and his heirs were authorized by act of April 2, 1822, to erect and forever maintain a dam or dyke across it near Turkey run. In the last mentioned act it is called �Toby�s creek, or Clarion river,� and that is the first act in which it is designated by the latter name, which it must have received before the last-mentioned year, but not, as some suppose, by legislative enactment. After careful inquiry, the writer is persuaded that this change of name originated in the suggestion of the late David Lawson.
SUBDIVISION OF THE ORIGINAL TOWNSHIPS.
The act of March 24, 1803, authorized the courts of quarter sessions of the several counties of this state to erect new townships, divide any township already erected, or to alter the lines of any two or more adjoining townships so as to suit the inhabitants thereof, upon application made to them by petition, upon which they were required to appoint three impartial men, if necessary, to inquire into the propriety of granting the prayer of the petitioners, whose duty was to make a plot or draft of the township proposed to by altered, or to change the lines of any two or more adjoining townships, as the case might be, if the same could not be fully designated by natural lines and boundaries, all of which they, or any two of them, were to report to the next court of quarter sessions, together with their opinion of the same, and at the next court after that to which the report was to be made, the court should confirm or set aside the same as to them should seem just and reasonable.
The petition of sundry inhabitants of Armstrong county was presented to the proper court as December sessions, 1805, setting forth that the then townships were too extensive for the performance of the duties of the township officers; that the petitioners experienced great inconvenience from the township divisions, and praying the court to appoint proper persons to divide the county into several townships, so as to suit the convenience of the inhabitants. Whereupon the court appointed Robert Beatty, John Corbett and John McDowell for that purpose, who were required to report to the then next, or March, Courts of Quarter Sessions. The presentation of their report having been continued at the March and June sessions, was made at September sessions, 1806, in which they expressed the opinion that the county ought to be divided into six townships, as designated in the accompanying plot or draft:
�No. 1, Toby township, beginning at Bucanon�s most eastern district line� � 4_ 18 43/100� west longitude from Philadelphia � �where the same crosses Toby�s creek; thence south by said line to where the same creek crosses Mahoning creek, thence down said creek to the mouth on Allegheny river, thence up said river to the mouth of Toby�s creek, thence up said creek to the place of beginning.� Erected into a separate election district and general election directed to be held at the house then occupied by Thos. McKibbins, by act of April 11, 1807, about four miles east of Parker�s Landing.
�No. 2, Red Bank township, beginning on the aforesaid district line on Toby�s creek, thence by the said line of Toby township to the Mahoning creek, thence up said creek to the line of Indiana county, thence north by said county line and the line of Jefferson county to Toby�s creek, thence down said creek to the place of beginning.� Erected into a separate election district and election directed to be held at the house then occupied by Samuel C. Orr. Act of April 11, 1807.
A glance at a township map will show that all the present townships between Clarion river and Red Bank creek, in Clarion county, have descended, so to speak, primarily from Toby township and secondarily from Toby and Red Bank townships.
�No. 3, Kittanning township, beginning at the mouth of Mahoning creek, on the Allegheny river, thence up said creek to the line of Indiana county, thence by the line of said county south to the old purchase line (of 1768), from thence along the line of said county to a small run, a branch of Crooked creek, thence sown said run to the mouth putting into Crooked creek, the first run above the brest of Esquire Clark�s mill-dam� � now owned by Townsend & Bro. � �thence down said creek to the mouth on the Allegheny river, thence up said river to the place of beginning.� Erected into a separate election district and general election directed to be held at the commissioner�s office in the town of Kittanning. Act of April 11, 1807.
�No. 4, Allegheny township beginning at the mouth of Crooked creek, thence own the Allegheny river to the mouth of Kiskiminetas river, thence up said river to the county line, thence along said line to the above run, the line of Kittanning township, thence along said line to the place of beginning.� Erected into a separate election district and general election directed to be held at the mouse then occupied by Solomon Shoemaker. Act of April 11, 1807. Place of election changed to house of Eliab Eakman by act of March 29, 1813.
�No. 5, Buffalo township, beginning at the mouth of the Buffalo creek, thence up the Allegheny river to the mouth of Limestone run, thence west to the line of Armstrong county, thence along said line to the line of Buffalo township, thence along said line to the place of beginning.� By act of April 11, 1807, this township was erected into an election district, the elections to be held at the house fixed as Jacob Young�s/
�No. 6, Sugar Creek township, beginning at the mouth of Limestone run, on the Allegheny river, thence up said river to the line of Armstrong county� � the northwest corner of the county � �thence along said line to the line of Buffalo township, thence east along said line to the place of beginning.� By Act of April 11, 1807, this township was erected into an election district, the election to be held at the house then occupied by Jost Weiles.
The report of the viewers, or commissioners, recommending the foregoing divisions and organizations of townships, was confirmed by the court September 18, 1806.
Source: Page(s) 101-105, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed March 2000 by Carl Waltenbaugh for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Carl Waltenbaugh for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)
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