County Buildings - Townships and Boroughs


Commissioners Appointed in 1771, to Select Site for Court-House and Prison - Their Proceedings - A Court-House Built In 1774-5 - Another Public Building Erected in 1795 for Use of County Officials - The Court-House of the Present Built In 1826-9 The Jail in 1836 -Their Builders-Final Disposition of the Old Structures - Original Townships of the County - Sixteen of them Embrace the Entire Southwest Quarter of the Province - Date of Erection of Subsequent Ones- Occasional Descriptions of Original Boundaries -Names of the Twenty-Three Townships and Eleven Boroughs Existing at the Present Time.


THE act of 1771, providing for the erection of Bedford county, also contained the clause: "That it shall and may be lawful to and for Arthur St. Clair, Barnard Dougherty, esquires; Thomas Coulter, William Proctor and George Woods, gentlemen; or any of them, to purchase and take assurance to them and their heirs of a piece of land, situate in some convenient place in said town (Bedford), in trust and for the use of the inhabitants of the said county, and thereon to erect and build a court-house and prison, sufficient to accommodate the public service of said county, and for the use and conveniency of the inhabitants."

On November 13, 1171, in accordance with the provisions of the act quoted above, "Arthur St. Clair, Barnard Dougherty, George Woods and William Proctor, esquires, and Thomas Coulter, gentleman, trustees appointed by the general assembly of the said province to erect a gaol and court-house in the county of Bedford aforesaid," purchased of James McCashlin, of the town and county of Bedford, "all that messuage and tenement and lot or piece of ground, situate on the main cross street in the town of Bedford aforesaid, known by (No. 6) in the general plan of the said town. Bounded on the west by the said street, on the south partly by the public square and partly by lot No. 7, on the east by a twenty-foot alley, and on the north by lot No. 5. Containing in breadth on the said street sixty feet, and in depth two hundred and forty feet."

For the land, "tenement," etc., McCashlin was paid 100. But why the public buildings were not erected on lot No. 6, and were built on the northwest corner of Juliana and Penn streets, it is now impossible to determine. Early residents have stated, however, that the first court-house - a rude log structure - was erected on the corner of lot No. 6, and near by it a low, one-story log jail, and that these primitive buildings served as the public edifices of the county while the stone courthouse and jail-building, combined, was undergoing the slow process of construction.

It appears that the old provincial court-house and prison, which for so many years occupied the corner north and directly opposite the present court-house, was chiefly built during the years 1774-5. As proof of this assertion we find that at a meeting of the board of county commissioners held May 31, 1783:

George Woods, Esquire, drew an order for the sum of 43:10: 0, it being for 116 days service attending at the Building of the Court House & prison at 7 shillings 6 pence per Day as Trustee in the years 1774 & 1775.

It is not shown how much the building referred to cost, but it was an extensive and substantial building for that period; it walls being constructed of massive blocks of blue limestone obtained in the vicinity. John Mower, Esq., the oldest living member of the Bedford county bar, has drawn, from memory, a pencil sketch of this historic structure, which is pronounced, by those who saw the building years before its demolition, as perfect. The jail with its dark dungeon for convicts, its cell for ordinary criminals, and its debtors' prison with the grated window, occupied the lower story to the left of the center door. The balance of the first floor, on the right, was the jailer's residence, in the wings of which, in early days, the elections were held. The courtroom comprised the entire second story, and was entered by the staircase from without. In one corner of the courtroom a flight of steps led to the third story, or attic, under the high roof, in which were the grand jury and other jury rooms. We will add that within the jail yard, which was enclosed by a high wall, also constructed of limestone, stood the dreaded whipping-post and pillory alluded to in other pages of this work.

Meanwhile, and until about the year 1795, the offices of the county officials were located in various places about the town. Thus, Capt. (afterward Maj.-Gen.) Arthur St. Clair, the first prothonotary, register, recorder, etc., of the county, occupied, during the years 1771 and 1772, the basement of the rear building known as the "Espy house," a building which still survives the ravages of time, and around which additional interest clusters by reason of the fact that within its walls in October, 1794, President George Washington sought rest and retirement for two or three days at the time of his visit to Bedford during the whisky insurrection; where Gen. St. Clair's immediate successors in office, namely, Col. Thomas Smith, Col. Robert Galbraith and Col. David Espy, held forth officially.

As for the county commissioners their business meetings were held in rooms provided by the enterprising innkeepers of that day, notably Frederick Nawgel, George Funk, Henry Wertz and Anthony Nawgel. About 1795, however, a building which is mentioned in the records as the "Public Building," was erected for the purpose of supplying the county officers with permanent official quarters. It was constructed of brick, and fronting on Penn street, stood between the old provincial court-house and the site of the present Lutheran church.

Although the structures heretofore described were neither convenient nor commodious, and notwithstanding the fact that grand juries had frequently declared the jail "insufficient for the confinement of criminals," they sufficed until the expiration of the first quarter of the present century. It was then considered that for public purposes they had outlived their usefulness, and during the year 1826 county commissioners Richard Silver, Abraham Folck and John Bowser contracted with Solomon Filler for the erection of a new (the present) courthouse. Filler agreed to complete the building for seven thousand five hundred dollars, and his sureties for double that amount were J.S. Morrison and John Keeffe. The structure was finished and occupied in 1829. In August, 1832, commissioners John Bennett, William Clark, Jr., and George Fore ordered that the courthouse "shall not be used in any way but for the purpose of the business of the courts, the public offices of the sheriff, prothonotary and commissioners, the remainder only to be used for business relating to courts and county purposes, and for the meeting of the council of the borough of Bedford, and holding the several elections for the borough and county."

In August, 1833, the grand jury again condemned the old jail and advised the erection of a new one. On the 8th of April, 1834, Henry Leader agreed to deliver at the court-house two hundred thousand feet of lumber at the rate of four dollars and twenty-five cents per thousand feet, "to be used in the construction of a new jail." The commissioners were authorized to build a new jail at the April sessions of the court of quarter sessions in 1835, and on the 8th day of March, 1836, commissioners Gibson, Sipe and James concluded a contract with Abraham Kerns, the latter agreeing to construct a new jail for the sum of seven thousand nine hundred and forty dollars. Mr. Kerns completed the work of construction promptly, and the structure, although extensive repairs have since been made, is still used as the county prison.

On April 21, 1842, the old provincial "courthouse and jail, standing on the center square of Bedford," also the " public building," were sold by the county commissioners to Alexander Henry and William Fletcher, for the sum of ninety-three dollars. The court-house and jail building erected in 1774-5 was demolished in 1842, but the building which had formerly been occupied by the county officers remained a few years longer and ultimately afforded material for a warmly contested suit in the court of quarter sessions.

The building was used for the occupancy of the various county officers from the time of its erection until the year 1829, when a new building was erected in which the respective public offices above mentioned have been kept since that time. A part of the said building mentioned in the indictment was used at the time of the suit as an office by one of the defendants, who was the county treasurer, and the other part was occupied by the other defendant as a printing-office, the commissioners having leased it to him, receiving a certain yearly rent to be paid into the county treasury.

"The house is built on the great square of the town of Bedford, as laid out on the plan remaining in the surveyor-general's office, pro ut certified copy thereof. The town was laid out by the proprietary in 1766. The building aforesaid is built at the place on the Great Square marked with red ink on the copy of the plan referred to. The square is three hundred and twenty feet long by three hundred feet wide. The court-house, with offices, etc., which is now used as such, is built on the same great square at the place marked on the plan in dotted lines in red ink. The building used by the county as court-house and jail previous to 1829 was also built on the great square at the place marked on the plan in dotted lines of black ink."

In March, 1857, the county commissioners appropriated two hundred and fifty dollars for the town clock, which from the tower of the edifice now marks the passing hours. On the 3d of March, 1876, the court issued an order authorizing the enlargement and repair of the courthouse. The contract to perform the work for the sum of twelve thousand dollars was let to William L. Horn, April 5 of that year, and before the beginning of the following October the work (besides various repairs to the jail building) was completed in a very satisfactory manner. Although the exterior of the Bedford county court-house of today does not present a very pleasing appearance, yet its interior arrangements are ample and convenient. The courtroom and the public offices are well lighted and ventilated. Spacious fireproof vaults afford protection for records of great value, which have accumulated during a period of more than one hundred and twelve years.


Since the organization of Bedford county, by the passage of the act of March 9, 1871, the following townships and boroughs have formed part of it:

Air township (now written Ayr) was created by the Cumberland county court prior to 1761. At the October sessions, 1767, Dublin, Colerain, Cumberland, Bedford and Barree townships were created - Dublin "bounded by Air and Fannet townships on the one side and Colraine and Barre townships on the top of Sidling Hill on the other side." " Colraine, bounded by Dublin township as above, by the provincial line and top of Dunning's mountain (so as to join Cumberland and Bedford townships) to the gap of Morrison's cove; from thence to the mouth of Yellow creek (joining Barre township) to strike Sidling Hill." *

BEDFORD, still forming part of Bedford county, was organized as a township in Cumberland county. It is mentioned for the first time in the records of that county, in 1769, but the court minutes fail to show any proceedings giving metes and bounds.

CUMBERLAND (now termed Cumberland Valley) was formed as a township in Cumberland county, at the same time, probably, as Bedford township.

BARREE, organized as a township in Cumberland county prior to 1771, now forms part of Huntingdon county.

DUBLIN, same as Barree.

COLERAIN (originally written Colerane), same as Bedford and Cumberland Valley townships.

BROTHER'S VALLEY, which originally comprised all the territory lying between the crest of the Allegheny mountain, the Youghiogheny river and the western foot of Laurel Hill, and from the Maryland line northward to the Conemaugh river, was formed as a township in Bedford county during the first session of the Bedford county court, April 16, 1771. It was the first township organized west of the Alleghenies in the province of Pennsylvania.

FAIRFIELD, organized during the April sessions in 1771, is now within the limits of Westmoreland county.

MOUNT PLEASANT, same as Fairfield.

HEMPFIELD, same as Fairfield and Mount Pleasant.

PITT, which originally embraced large portions of the present counties of Allegheny, Beaver and Washington, was organized during April sessions, 1771. The term has become obsolete in the counties mentioned.

TYRONE was formed at April sessions, 1771, and then included portions of the present counties of Westmoreland and Fayette. The name is still perpetuated in the latter county.

SPRING HILL was organized during April sessions, 1771. Originally it included the whole of the present county of Greene, part of Washington, and nearly the whole of Fayette. The name still exists in Greene and Fayette counties.

ROSS STRAVER, organized at April sessions, 1771, then embraced parts of the present counties of Allegheny and Westmoreland. The name is still maintained in the latter county, though now written Rostraver.

ARMSTRONG was also organized at April sessions, 1771. Within its original limits were embraced portions of the present counties of Cambria, Westmoreland, Armstrong, Indiana and Clearfield. The name has been perpetuated in Indiana county.

TULLILEAGUE, the last township organized at April sessions, in 1771, embraced parts of the divisions now known as Blair, Centre, Clearfield and Cambria counties. The name, though unusual and rather musical, has not been preserved in these counties or in any other part of the state.

The foregoing were the sixteen townships with which the grand old county of Bedford began its existence in 1771. Their boundaries are fully described in the ninth chapter of this work. Since 1771 townships and boroughs have been organized as indicated below. The readier must bear in mind, however, that part of Northumberland, in 1772, Westmoreland (including Fayette, Washington and Greene, and part of Allegheny, Armstrong, Indiana and Cambria), in 1773, Huntingdon (including the major part of Blair and parts of Cambria, Centre and Clearfield), in 1787, Somerset, in 1795, part of Cambria, in 1804, the southern part of Blair, in 1846, and the whole of Fulton, in 1850, were all carved from the magnificent domain once known as the county of Bedford.

BETHEL, erected in January, 1773, is now a township in Fulton county.

TURKEY-FOOT, now part of Somerset county, was erected from Brother's Valley during July session, 1773. Its original boundaries were as follows: "Beginning where the chestnut ridge crosses the line, dividing this province from Maryland, thence along the summit of the said chestnut ridge to where it crosses the great mad leading from Bedford to Fort Pitt, thence along the said road to where it crosses the Quemahoning creek, thence down the said creek to its junction with Stoney creek, thence down Stoney creek to the mouth of Little Conemaugh thence down Conemaugh to where the line dividing Bedford county from Westmoreland crosses it, thence along the said line to the provincial line, and thence along the provincial line to the place of beginning." James Spencer was the constable appointed in 1773

HOPEWELL, now forming part of Bedford county, was organized from Barree township during the October sessions in 1773. Originally it included "all the waters that empty into the Raystown branch of the Juniata, below the mouth of Yellow creek, and up that creek to Tussey's Mountain."

Quemahoning, now part of Somerset county, was organized from Brother's Valley township during the April sessions of court in 1775. Originally its boundary lines ran as follows: "Beginning where the Great road, which is laid out through the Glades, crosses the Allegheny mountain near Burd's gap, and along the said road to where it crosses the Laurel Hill at Matthias Ditch's gap, then along the Laurel Hill by the line of Westmoreland county, to the head of Little Conemaugh, and from thence along the dividing ridge between the waters of the Susquehannah and Little Conemaugh to the Allegheny mountain, and by the same mountain to the place of beginning."

FRANKSTOWN, now part of Blair county, was formed from portions of Bedford and Barree townships during April sessions in 1775.

PROVIDENCE, now divided into East and West Providence in Bedford county, was organized as early as 1780, but the court records do not show the precise date, nor its original extent.

HUNTINGDON and SHIRLEY, now in Huntingdon county, and MILFORD, now part of Somerset county, were also organized about the year 1780, but the records fail to show anything definite.

ELK LICK, now part of Somerset; LONDONDERRY, now part of Bedford; BELFAST, now part of Fulton, and WOODBERRY, now lying partly in Bedford and partly in Blair counties, were organized about the year 1785, but (as with many other townships organized in Bedford and Somerset counties) the records are defective and fail to show date of formation or boundaries.

TYRONE; now part of Blair county, was formed about 1786.

DUBLIN, now part of Fulton county, was organized about 1790.

STONEY CREEK, now part of Somerset county, was erected about 1792.

ST CLAIR, now divided into East and West St. Clair, Bedford county, was formed about 1794.

BEDFORD borough was incorporated in 1795.

After the erection of Somerset county in 1795; the twelve townships remaining in Bedford county were Ayr, Bedford, Bethel, Belfast, Colerain, Cumberland Valley, Dublin, Hopewell, Londonderry, Providence, St. Clair and Woodberry. In 1797, the total amount of taxes levied upon the owners of property in these townships was as follows: Ayr, $304.96 Bedford, including the town of Bedford, $671.15 ; Bethel, $235.46 ; Belfast, $165.90; Colerain, $271.55; Cumberland Valley, $210.20; Dublin, $187.05 ; Hopewell, $197.09; Londonderry, $211.07 ; Providence, $406.41 ; St. Clair, $415.39; Woodberry, $489.16.

GREENFIELD, now a township in Blair county, was formed from Woodberry and St. Clair townships during the November sessions in 1798. The following is a description of its original boundaries: "Beginning in the road leading from Bedford to Frankstown on the ridge which divides the waters of Dunning's creek and the Three Springs branch, at the place where the division line between Col. Boquet's two tracts of land crosses said road. Thence north fifty-five degrees west, such a distance as to intersect an east line run from the top of the Allegheny mountain, dividing eight tracts of land, namely, Henry Flip and John Deverin, John Dunbar and Charles Young, John Simpson and William Dunning, and James Dunlap and Hugh Doyle, thence by the said line west to the line of Somerset county on top of the Allegheny, thence by Somerset county or summit of the said Allegheny mountain to the line of Huntingdon county, thence by the same to the middle of the Frankstown gap of Morris' cove, thence by the summit of Dunning's mountain so far southwardly as to extend a line from thence south fifty-five degrees west to strike the place of beginning."

SOUTHAMPTON, now part of Bedford county, was erected by order of the court of quarter sessions during the April term in 1799. Its boundaries were then described as follows: "Beginning at the province line near the house of Joshua Lewman, thence along the top of Evitt's mountain to the dividing ridge between the waters of Flintstone and the Cove creek about nine miles, thence along the top of said ridge to Terrace mountain about two miles, thence along the top of said mountain to the dividing ridge between the waters of Town creek and Sideling hill creek and the waters of Juniata about six miles, thence along the top of said ridge to the top of Town hill about ten miles, thence along the top of said hill to the province line about ten miles, thence by said line to place of beginning."

NAPIER was organized about the year 1811.

McCONNELLSBURG, the county seat of Fulton county, was incorporated as a borough about 1816.

MARTINSBURG, a town in the present county of Blair, was incorporated about 1830.

UNION township was erected about 1834.

LICKING CREEK, a township in the present county of Fulton, was also formed about the year 1834.

BROAD TOP was organized about 1835.

NORTH WOODBERRY, now a township in Blair county, was erected from Woodberry, about the year 1838.

SOUTH WOODBERRY, of Bedford county, was also formed from Woodberry about 1838. The term Woodberry then becoming obsolete.

SCHELLSBURG borough was incorporated March 19, 1838.

HARRISON township was organized during the days of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" -about 1840.

MONROE, erected from parts of Providence and Southampton, was also organized about the year 1840.

MIDDLE WOODBERRY, now known as Woodberry, in the county of Bedford, was formed from portions of North and South Woodberry, about 1843.

EAST and WEST PROVIDENCE were organized from the old township of Providence, about 1844, when the latter term was dropped.

LIBERTY was erected about 1845.

THOMSON (named after Judge Thomson), now forming part of Fulton county, was organized about the year 1847.

TAYLOR, TOD (named after Judge John Tod) and WELLS townships, in Fulton county, were erected with that county in 1850, but during the year last mentioned were assessed as townships in Bedford county.

Thus we find that after Bedford county was shorn down to its present proportions by the organization of Fulton county in 1850, the seventeen townships and two boroughs remaining in the old county were as follows: Bedford, Broad Top, Cumberland Valley, Colerain, East Providence, Harrison, Hopewell, Londonderry, Liberty, Monroe, Middle Woodberry, Napier, St. Clair, Southampton, South Woodberry, Union and West Providence townships, and Bedford and Schellsburg boroughs. Since 1850, the following townships and boroughs have been organized or incorporated:

JUNIATA township, which was erected from Napier and Harrison, in 1852.

RAINSBURG borough, incorporated during November term, 1856.

SNAKE SPRING township, formed from Colerain and West Providence, in 1857.

BLOODY RUN borough, incorporated during November term, 1860. Name changed to EVERETT, its present title, February 13, 1873.

COALDALE borough, incorporated September 9, 1865.

SAXTON borough, incorporated February 14, 1866.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE borough, incorporated September 6, 1867.

WOODBERRY borough, incorporated June 23, 1868.

PLEASANTVILLE borough, incorporated March 10, 1871.

EAST and WEST ST. CLAIR townships, which were organized December 18, 1875, from St. Clair.

MANN township, erected December 8, 1876, from Southampton.

KING (named after Judge Alexander King) township, formed from Union, December 8, 1876.

BLOOMFIELD township, formed from Middle Woodberry, December 8, 1876.

NEW BRIDGEPORT borough, incorporated September 22, 1877. Name changed to HYNDMAN, its present title, December 8, 1877.

NEW PARIS borough, incorporated September 7, 1882.

At this date (June, 1883) the county contains thirty-four townships and boroughs, which are designated as follows: Bedford, Broad Top, Bloomfield, Cumberland Valley, Colerain, Harrison, Hopewell, Juniata, King, Liberty, Londonderry, Mann, Monroe, Napier, East Providence, West Providence, Snake Spring, Southampton, East St. Clair, West St. Clair, Union Woodberry (formerly called Middle Woodberry) and South Woodberry townships, Bedford, Coaldale, Everett, Hyndman, New Paris, Pleasantville, Rainsburg, Schellsburg, St. Clairsville, Saxton and Woodberry boroughs.


William Maclay Hall was born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, November 3, 1828. His father was Rev. William Maclay Hall, a Presbyterian minister. Rev. William Maclay Hall was the son of Dr. Henry Hall, of Harrisburg. Dr. Hall married Hester Maclay, daughter of Hon. William Maclay, of Harrisburg, who was a member of the bar of York and Dauphin counties, and a man of wide reputation. He and Robert Morris were the first United States senators from Pennsylvania. William Maclay Hall moved to Bedford with his parents in October, 1844, his father then taking charge of the Bedford congregation of the Presbyterian church. Prior to this, however, he had received a thorough preparatory education, and entered Marshall College, Mercersburg. Pennsylvania. He completed his college course and graduated in July, 1846, delivering the valedictory oration-the highest honor of his class. After reading law in Bedford, in the office of William Lyon, Esq., he was admitted to the bar in August, 1849. He at once entered upon the practice of his profession, and soon achieved honorable distinction as a member of the Bedford bar. Judge Hall was appointed judge advocate, with the rank of major, by President Lincoln, in January, 1865, and served one year. During this term, as inspector of military prisons and camps, he was engaged, under the special direction of Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, secretary of war, in examining the cases of military prisoners with a view to their being pardoned by the president when it could be done without prejudice to the service or injury to the country. In 1868 Judge Hall served on a commission to revise the statutes of the State of Pennsylvania with Judge Derrickson and Wayne McVeagh. After the death of Judge King, in January, 1871, he was appointed by Gov. Geary president judge of the sixteenth judicial district, then comprising the counties of Bedford, Somerset, Franklin and Fulton. At the next election, in the fall of 1871, as the candidate of the republican party, he was elected to the same important office, receiving a majority of two hundred and seventy-seven votes in the district. The democratic nominee was Hon. William J. Baer, of Somerset, the present president judge of the district. When Judge Hall came to the bench the legal business of the district was far behind, and a large number of cases awaited the attention of the court, Scarcely had this overplus of work been disposed of when the panic of 1873 came upon the land, causing a large amount of litigation. The building of railroads also added largely to the work of the courts of this district. Throughout the entire term of Judge Hall the business of the district was great, and an unusually large number of cases of importance was adjudicated. Justice was administered with wisdom, combined with all possible dispatch. After declining to be a candidate for renomination, Judge Hall quitted the bench on the 1st of January, 1882 (the judicial term having been extended one month by the constitution of 1874). He is deeply versed in the law, and was well prepared by a long and successful practice at the bar for the important position to which he was called. He is eloquent in expression, concise and forcible in statement. During his able administration very few reversals of his decisions were made by the supreme court. Since leaving the bench, Judge Hall has not actively engaged in the practice of law, but has devoted himself to literary pursuits. He has resided since the year 1858 in his pleasant rural home on Echovale farm, in Bedford township, adjoining Bedford borough. Judge Hall was married in 1859 to Miss Ellen Rowan Cramer, of Cumberland, Maryland, and is the father of six children living: Julia Katherine, William Maclay, Jr., George Louis, Emily Rowan, Eleanor Maclay and Richard Cecil.


* These data were furnished by Hon. J. Simpson, Africa.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 196-200, History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties

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