East St Clair Township

A Glance Backward- Pioneer Life- Characteristics of the Early Settlers- Early Mills and Manufactories- Sketches of Families- The Borough of St. Clairsville- First House- First Store- First Tavern- Osterburg- A Young but Growing Village- Churches- The Friends- Reformed, Lutheran, Etc.

ST. CLAIR township was organized in 1794. What remained of the territory included in its limits, then reduced by the successive formation of other townships from year to year, was divided into East and West St. Clair in 1875.

The early settlers of this township were generally native Pennsylvanians, either of Scotch-Irish or German descent, who came from the eastern part of the state. Among them were a number of Quakers, the descendants of whom still remain, retaining the customs and religion of their ancestors. The county has no more upright and worthy citizens than this class.

The pioneers were bold, upright and honest. Generally they were poor. Some, however, left comfortable homes and good properties behind them- left the privileges of home, society, churches and schools, and advanced fearlessly into the "western wilds," as they termed them, to prepare the way for the grand march of civilization throughout the length and breadth of our land. Whether they were conscious of it or not, the pioneers of Western Pennsylvania performed a great and noble work; they not only developed the resources of territory hitherto worthless, but paved the way for the outspreading of population in the great and fertile valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi.

William Crisman was one of the first settlers of St. Clair township. He served two terms in the state legislature at the time when it was customary for members of that body to carry their outfits in knapsacks to the capital. He was justice of the peace a number of years. He died in 1843. He was the father of nine children, all of whom are dead- John, Mary (Wisegarver), Betsey E. (Wisegarver), William, George, Eve (Wisegarver), Daniel and Rebecca (Barnet). William Crisman, Jr., was born in St. Clair township in 1795, and followed farming. He died in 1849. His children were: Rebecca (Shimer), John W., Eva (Beegle), Eliza (Ickes), William, Andrew J., Samuel (deceased), Daniel, Moses, Miranda (Riddle), deceased, and Joseph. John W. Crisman lives on the old homestead. He owns a fine farm of three hundred acres, and also a store at Cessna. Mr. Crisman served a term as county auditor.

John Griffith was an early settler on the farm now owned by Joseph Griffith. He came from York county. Of his children, William and John lived in this county, William upon the old homestead. The children of William and Hannah (Messenheimer) Griffith were William, John (deceased), Samuel (deceased), Daniel, Josiah, Joseph, James (deceased), Abner, Mary A. (Jones), deceased, Hannah (Imler), Sarah (Ake), Maria (Oster) and Elizabeth (Miller), deceased.

William Griffith, Sr., made the first improvement on the Griffith farm. He erected a tannery in 1833, which was run by him and his sons until he died, in 1845. The tannery was then run by Joseph Griffith. It burned in 1864, but was rebuilt by Mr. Joseph Griffith, who then turned the business over to his son John, who still conducts it in connection with farming.

James Taylor, an early settler of Bedford township, moved to Napier township, where he died about 1817. Jacob Taylor his son, was born in Bedford township in 1786. He moved to Napier township when young, and there resided until his death in 1833. He married Susan Bushman, and reared eight children: Eliza (Vore), James, Henry, Jacob, Susan (Cuppett), John, Samuel and Achor. Of these, James, Henry and Samuel are still living. Henry Taylor lived in Napier until 1861, when he sold his farm there and moved to his present place in St. Clair. He has cleared up the farm, erected new buildings and made great improvements.

Jesse Blackburn came from Adams county to St. Clair township in 1818. In 1824 he married Edith Miller, and in 1828 he purchased a farm of George Berbeck in partnership with Jacob Miller. This farm was afterward divided, and Mr. Blackburn lived on his part of it until 1852, when he purchased and settled upon a farm near Oak Shade. Jesse Blackburn and his wife both died in 1872. Their children were Hiram, Israel (deceased), Mary (Mickle), Maria (Cleaver), Ruth (Cleaver), deceased, Uriah, Enoch, Angelina (deceased), and Jane (deceased).

Hiram Blackburn was born in this township. He followed school-teaching, surveying and farming until 1852, then married and settled on the farm where his father had formerly lived. He purchased the farm in 1857 and resided upon it until 1869. He then moved to his present residence. Mr. Blackburn is a well-known surveyor, having followed that occupation since 1847. In 1871 he was elected county surveyor, in which office he served three years.

Elias, son of Hiram Blackburn, is now managing one of his father's farms on Chestnut ridge. He has followed teaching for six terms.

The first gristmill in the township was built by Joseph Blackburn, at Spring Hope, very early. It is a log building, to which a frame addition was built in 1839. The Blackburn mill was largely patronized by the early settlers, and it still continues to receive a large custom. The owners of this mill have been Joseph Blackburn, Thomas W. Blackburn and George W. Blackburn.

J.E. Blackburn, born on the old Blackburn homestead, went west at the age of nineteen, and remained until 1869. He then engaged in milling, which he followed most of the time up to 1883. He now resides at the Point and is engaged in buying and selling stock.

Henry Horn, a revolutionary soldier, was a native of Germany. He was an early settler and lived and died in this township. One of his sons, Henry, is still living in the West.

An early gristmill, a small log structure, was built by Isaac Kenworthy, a Quaker, near the borough of St. Clairsville. Later (about 1828), it became the Bowser mill and was destroyed by fire. The present mill was then erected. It is now owned by Thomas Imler.

A discovery of pure alum was made at an early day on the farm then owned by Thomas Vickroy. The "Alum Bank farm," situated near Spring Meadow, is now subdivided and has several owners.

In 1810 there was a great flood on Bobb's creek, which caused much damage to crops. The event is still spoken of as the "pumpkin flood," from the fact that so many cornfields contributed their stock of pumpkins to it that the water was literally full of them. In 1847, on October 10, the "corn-flood" washed away great quantities of corn from fields situated on the creek.

The first houses were hastily constructed. Many of them had no floor, save the ground, and no doors or windows, except holes cut through the log walls. There was no sawed lumber- every timber in a building must be fashioned by the ax. Nails were almost unknown. A new settler was always welcome, and those who were already comfortably established gladly assisted him in erecting a cabin and making a small clearing for a field. There was hospitality, helpfulness and a fraternal spirit. A "frolic" instituted for the accomplishment of any piece of work brought together all the neighbors- and at that time a man who lived five miles away was regarded as a "near neighbor."

David Bowser was a native of Switzerland, who, prior to the revolutionary war, came to this county, took up land and began improving. Indian encroachments upon the settlers caused him to flee to Conococheague. After the danger had passed he returned to his farm, found his cabin still standing and his goods (which he had hidden) safe. He had two sons, David and John. The former went west. John died in Napier township. His son, John, lives on the old homestead of David Bowser.

Nathan H. Wolf was born in 1794, near Mount Smith Methodist Episcopal church, in the vicinity of Bedford. There his father, John Smith, one of the early surveyors of this county, lived. The family moved from Adams county at an early date. John Smith had but two children, Nathan H. and Elizabeth (Griffith). Nathan followed farming and died near Spring mill in 1868. He married Sarah Blackburn, by whom he had nine children. John, the oldest son, lives on the old homestead in East St. Clair township. Zachariah, another of the sons, has followed milling for thirty-seven years and is now miller at Hall's mill in Hopewell township.

Philip Albaugh, was born in Maryland, in 1786, and died in St. Clair township in 1824. He was a millwright, and worked at his trade in Bedford, Somerset and Cambria counties. His wife, also a native of Maryland, was born in 1798 and died in 1883. She married again in 1829. Philip Albaugh's children were John, Margaret, William and Henry. Henry Albaugh was brought up in Napier township. In 1848 he married and settled in St. Clair township. In 1869 he engaged in the mercantile business at Spring Hope. He succeeded in getting a postoffice established at that place and was postmaster from 1868 to 1883. In 1846 Mr. Albaugh was elected first lieutenant of militia, and in 1847 promoted to captain, in which office he served until the militia law was repealed.

Lewis Riseling moved from Napier township to East St. Clair in 1842, and purchased a small carding-mill of J.W. Sleek. In 1846 he enlarged his business, obtained new machinery and began the manufacture of cloth. He ran the mill until 1860, then rented it to his son Valentine. Mr. Riseling died in 1865. He was the father of eleven children, four of whom are living. Valentine, the oldest, was born in Bedford township. He worked for his father until 1860, when he began business for himself. Mr. Riseling has enlarged his factory, put in a new engine and is doing a good business. His factory is 34X60 feet and three stories high. It his a capacity for using fifteen thousand pounds of wool per year. Mr. Riseling manufactures all kinds of woolen goods and yarn, and keeps one team upon the road disposing of the products and purchasing wool. He also owns the home farm of two hundred and seven acres, which he bought in 1879.

Simon L. Hammaker, a native of Washington county, Maryland, and a carriage-maker by trade, came to this county in 1852 and followed his trade in Schellsburg until 1865. He then sold his shop and removed to East St. Clair township, where he has since been engaged in farming.

William Kirk came from York county to Fishertown in 1839, learned the potter's trade and worked at it several years in Fishertown and in other parts of the state. He was in partnership with Jacob Fisher in the manufacture of pottery from 1852 until 1855, when the pottery was burned. Mr. Kirk then purchased twenty-seven acres of land and erected a new pottery, which he still continues to run. He served in the army in the 149th regt. Penn. Vols. from February until May, 1865. Mr. Kirk was jury commissioner five years and mercantile appraiser two years. In 1862 he was United States deputy marshal of St. Clair township. In 1870 he took the census of several townships and boroughs. He has served as school director and in 1883 was elected justice of the peace.

John W. Miller moved from Shade township, Somerset county, in 1833, and settled on the farm which his son Joseph now owns. This property was originally settled by William Griffith, better known as "Long Bill." Mr. Miller died in 1878. Jane (Davis), Eli (deceased), Ruth (Jones), Joseph, Thomas, Sarah (Griffith), Armstrong, Charles, William and John S. (deceased), are his children. Joseph Miller enlisted in Co. H, 55th regt. Penn. Vols. in September, 1861; re-enlisted in January, 1864, and served until the close of the war. In 1879 he purchased the homestead farm on which he now lives.

James Way, a native of Union township, moved to St. Clair township in 1816 and bought of Thomas Griffith the farm on which his son Thomas Way now lives. Mr. Way died in 1832; his widow (nee Frances Miller) in 1883. They had two children- Thomas and Samuel. Thomas Way, Esq., learned the blacksmith's trade, but has never followed it. He resides on the old homestead. Mr. Way has been justice of the peace in this township ten years.

Hon. John Nelson, associate judge of Bedford county, moved from Centre county to Huntingdon county in 1840, and thence in 1856 to Hopewell, Bedford county, and engaged in milling. In 1852 he married Susan Cypher, of Bedford county. In 1858 he moved to Bedford and ran the almshouse mill. From October 1862, to May, 1864, he served in Col. K, 18th Penn. cav. He was commissioned first lieutenant December 16, 1862. February 25, 1863, he was shot by Mosby's men, necessitating the amputation of his right leg. At the same time he was wounded in the shoulder. In 1864 he purchased of Jacob Bowser seventy-three acres of land and mill property at Cessna station, and has since followed milling. His mill is 40x50 feet and four stories high, containing four runs of stones and having a capacity of two hundred barrels per day. In 1878 Mr. Nelson was elected associate judge of Bedford county, which office he is now filling very acceptably.

Thomas R. McLellan, son of Abraham McLellan, late of Colerain township, lived in that township until twenty-five years of age, and has since resided in Cumberland Valley and Dutch Corner. In 1882, he came to East St. Clair township, and purchased the far of two hundred and twenty-five acres on which he now lives. Mr. McLellan learned the tanner's trade, and followed it for two and one-half years.

Josiah McLellan lived in Colerain township and purchased a farm. In 1883, he sold out and purchased his present farm. Mr. McLellan enlisted in Co. K, 133d regt. Penn. Vols. in October, 1862; was wounded in the forehead at Fredericksburg, Virginia; honorably discharged in June, 1863.

A.M. Pheasant is a native of Huntingdon county, and followed the mercantile business in that county from 1876 to 1883. He then moved to Spring Meadow, and in partnership with Josiah McLellan purchased the Spring Meadow property, known as the "Trout Home," embracing a farm of four hundred acres, a gristmill and a store. Messrs. Pheasant & McLellan are now engaged in farming, milling and dealing in general merchandise. The spring on their farm is widely known and is always filled with lively trout.

Robert P. McCormick came from Green county in 1881, purchased two hundred acres of land on Dunning's creek from Henry Taylor, and is now engaged in farming and stock-dealing.

Fishertown is a small village, deriving its name from Jacob Fisher, who owned the land on which it is built. Mr. Fisher built a blacksmith and wagon shop, and carried on the manufacture of pottery at this place a number of years and until 1862. Fishertown has one wagon-shop, two blacksmith's shops, one weaver's shop and one cabinetmaker's shop.


St. Clairsville is a small but attractive town, situated in the northeastern part of East St. Clair township. It was laid out about 1820, on land owned by Henry Beckley, who was an early settler here. The village was created a borough September 6, 1867. It now has two stores, one hotel, two saddlers' shops, one blacksmith and wagon shop, one cabinetmaker, one shoemaker, one tailor, one dentist and one physician. There are three fine churches near the borough.

The first house in St. Clairsville was built by Henry Beckley. The first hotel was Peter A. Amick's. The first store was started by Edwin Vickroy in a log building erected by George Bowser.

Peter A. Amick was commissioned the first postmaster of St. Clairsville June 5, 1832. The office has since been in the Amick family, with but few changes.

A substantial school-building was erected by the borough in 1882, at a cost of thirteen hundred dollars. The board of directors then consisted of John Beckley, Prest.; T. Howard Beckley, Secy.; John Roudabush, Treas.; George B. Amick, James E. Over, Lewis H. Geisler. The number of scholars in attendance in 1883 was sixty-five. C.W. Karns was the first principal in the new building. G.W.L. Oster is the present principal.

James Sill is a son of Samuel Sill, an early settler of St. Clairsville. Samuel Sill was born at Dutch Corner in the year 1781, moved to the present site of St. Clairsville in 1811, and established the first tannery in 1812. He continued the business until his death in 1861. James Sill was the father of eleven children- George, Josiah, James, Samuel, David, Jacob, John, Joseph, Henry, Alexander and William. Of these, James, John, Henry and William are living. James learned the tanner's trade of his father, started in business for himself in 1837, and still continues to follow his trade.

George F. Sill, son of William Sill, of St. Clairsville, was born in this town. He at present follows farming in summer, and teaches school in winter.

Peter A. Amick came from Adams county in 1815. He afterward married Eve Bowser, of Dutch Corner, and settled in St. Clair township on land where the borough of St. Clairsville now stands. Mr. and Mrs. Amick moved into a log house which was without windows or doors. At first, they hung up bedquilts, which served in the place of doors. Shortly after settling here, Mr. Amick began keeping tavern, and, as his means permitted, built additions to his house and otherwise improved it. He followed hotelkeeping and worked at his trade, coopering, until 1877, when he died in the eighty-fifth year of his age. He was the father of eight children- George B., John, Margaret (Bean), Jacob, John B., Matilda, Sarah (Hite) and William - all dead except George B. and Sarah. William, who was a member of Co. E, 138th regt. Penn. Vols., was killed at the battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864.

George B. Amick engaged in the mercantile business in St. Clairsville in 1848, which he still follows. He married Mary P. Hammond, and is the father of eleven children, all living but three. He has been prominent in the Lutheran church since its organization in this place, and also a member of the school board for several years.


St. Clairsville Lodge, No. 922, I.O.O.F., was instituted December 4, 1875, with the following charter members: John H. Zinn, N.G.; Joseph Hoenstine, V.G.;D.A. Plank, Secy.; Samuel R. Oster, Asst. Secy.; Lewis H. Geisler, Treas.; Alexander Ickes, Joseph Kirby, Thomas Steinman, Abraham Colebaugh, John H. Imler, A.B. Riddle, W.H. Imler, Dr. John A. Clark, A.H. Amick, E. Claycomb, F.B. Stambaugh and George H. Imler. Present membership, seventy-seven; value of the lodge property, one thousand two hundred and forty-five dollars and eighty-nine cents.


Osterburg is a pretty and growing village situated in East St. Clair and King townships, containing one store, one hotel, two gristmills, one sawmill, one wagon and blacksmith shop, one shoeshop and one creamery.

John V. Oster came to this county in 1771 from Hagerstown, Maryland. He purchased, in 1789, a tract of land which had been warranted in 1763, paying one dollar and fifty cents per acre for the same. Mr. Oster followed farming and cabinetmaking. His children were Henry, Frederick, Magdalena (Garn) and Susan (Crisman). Frederick Oster, born in 1785, lived on the old homestead farm, and was a farmer and cabinetmaker. He died in 1870. His children were Samuel, Jacob, Josiah, George, John, Valentine, John F.J. and William. Jacob, Josiah, George and John are dead. William Oster, who succeeded his father in the ownership of the Oster homestead, lived on the farm until 1882, then moved to Osterburg. Mr. Oster is extensively engaged in business, and is constantly making improvements in the growing village of Osterburg.

The village was laid out by William Oster in 1876. He erected the first store- the building now occupied by Oster & Shaffer- and has also built a two-story band hall, a three-story brick dwelling, etc. Mr. Oster owns a store in Pavia, and a one-half interest in the store of Oster & Burns, Bedford. In 1871, he purchased the Oster mill and the site of the village, consisting of seventeen acres of land, for eight thousand five hundred and fifty dollars. The mill is four stories high, 42X48 feet, and contains four runs of stones. The first mill on this site was a log structure built by Philip Crisman, in 1798. The present mill was built by Jacob Oster, in 1852. Philip Crisman also built a sawmill, which Mr. William Oster rebuilt in 1876.

David M. Shaffer, of the firm of Oster & Shaffer, Osterburg, is a native of this county and a son of Samuel Shaffer, of Three Spring valley. David lived on the farm until twenty-three years old; attended select school in Rainsburg and Everett. In 1870 he clerked at Sarah Furnace. In 1871 he married Sarah, daughter of William Oster, of Osterburg. In 1872 Mr. Shaffer began clerking for G.R. Oster & Co., of Bedford, with whom he remained five years. In 1878 he engaged in business for himself at Osterburg as a member of the firm of Oster & Shaffer.


The Friends.-The first meeting of the Orthodox Friends' church at Spring Meadow was held prior to 1793. A large number of the early settlers of this locality were Friends in religious belief. The early meetings were held in a log church, situated south of Spring Meadow. The next church, also log, was built at Spring Meadow. In 1829, under Elias Hicks, a portion of the church withdrew and formed the "Hicksite church," so called. This sect obtained possession of the meeting-house, and the orthodox members worshiped elsewhere. In 1832 the latter body erected a log church. They are now building a new house of worship near Fishertown. This church is now a subordinate branch of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, held on Eutaw street, Baltimore. Monthly meetings were established in 1803.

The Hicksite Friends worshiped from 1829 until 1867 in the log church already mentioned. They then erected their present frame church on the same ground, at a cost of thirteen hundred dollars. Members, in 1867, seventy-six; present membership, about one hundred. Monthly meetings were established in 1803. Dunning's Creek Monthly Meeting is a branch of Center Quarter Branch of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, held on Lombard street, Baltimore.

Reformed.- Bobb's Creek Reformed and Lutheran church was organized during the pastorate of Rev. Henry Gerhart, who began preaching in this county in 1812, and served about seventeen years as pastor of several congregations. A union church, of logs, was erected in 1824 under the direction of John Berkheimer and Philip Crisman (Reformed), and Jacob Berkheimer and Conrad Claycomb (Lutherans). Among the early members of the old log church were the Osters, Crismans, Berkheimers, Bowsers, Riddles, Imlers, Weisels and Mocks. In 1871 the Lutherans became a distinct organization. During the same year, under the pastorate of Rev. C.U. Heilman, the Reformed congregation erected a fine brick church, 42 X 70 feet, at a cost of six thousand six hundred and sixty-one dollars. The building was dedicated June 25, 1871. The building committee were William Oster, Henry Beckley and Thaddeus Hoenstine. Since the new church was built the pastors have been Rev. A.C. Gary, Rev. D.N. Dittmar and Rev. C.J. Musser. The present membership of the church is one hundred and seventy, and of the Sabbath school one hundred and seventy-five.

St. Luke's Reformed church, Fishertown, was organized in 1871, with twenty members. Prior to that date meetings had been held in schoolhouses and dwellings. In 1870-1 a brick church, 35X45 feet, was erected at a cost of twenty-two hundred dollars. The building committee were Michael Miller, Charles Miller and Valentine Fickes. The present membership is about fifty. The pastors have been Revs. C.U. Heilman, A.C. Garry, D.N. Dittmar, C.J. Musser and C.S. Slagle. The church is a part of Dunning's Creek charge.

Lutheran.- The organization of St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran church, St. Clairsville, is cotemporary with that of the Reformed church, before mentioned. The congregation worshiped in the old log union church until 1871. Among the early Lutheran members were the Riddle, Amick, Ickes, Sill, Imler, Garn, and other families. The new brick church, commenced in 1869, was completed in 1871 and dedicated on the 1st of January. It is 32 X 40 feet in size and cost five thousand dollars. The building committee were Abraham Moses, John T. Ake, J.W. Berkheimer, Josiah Imler and T.W. Steiman. Board of trustees, Thomas Imler, George B. Amick, Mr. Amick being treasurer. The church was built during the pastorate of Rev. Jacob Peter, who has been succeeded by Revs. John H. Zinn and John H. Rice, the present pastor. At the time the church was built the membership was one hundred and forty; present membership about the same; number of Sabbath-school scholars, one hundred and twenty.

Center Evangelical Lutheran church at Fishertown was organized by Rev. D.S. Aultman in the year 1848. For a few years services were held in the United Brethren church, and afterward in private houses. In 1857 the present house of worship was erected at a cost of about one thousand dollars. Present membership: church, thirty-five; Sabbath school, ninety. The pastors have been Revs. D.S. Altman, William Ruthrauf, J. Kast, William Kopp, J.A. Kunkleman, B.H. Hunt, J.H.A. Kitzmiller, J.F. Dietrich, Abel Thompson, C.B. Gruver and J.H. Walterick.

Methodist.- The Methodist Episcopal church of St. Clairsville was organized in 1881 by Rev. Mr. Pennington, of Pleasantville, with a small membership. The society purchased a small meeting-house from the Presbyterians for four hundred dollars. The membership is still small.

River Brethren.- This sect have had a small organization for several years. In 1879 they built a frame church thirty by forty feet, at a cost of eight hundred and fifty dollars. This church is in Morrison's Cove charge and has a membership of thirty-five. George Feighter, minister, and George Feighter and Philip Hoover, trustees.

United Brethren.- The United Brethren have a small society which worships in a church on Chestnut ridge, near Fishertown. We could ascertain no particulars concerning the congregation. The stone church in which the congregation worships is an old building.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 282-287, History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties

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