Liberty Township History

(Source: The History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania, 1884, Waterman, Watkins & Co., pp. 330-335...transcribed by Henry Gerhardt.)


Liberty township was organized about 1845. It was a part of Hopewell township originally. The township is rich in minerals, and contains some excellent agricultural lands.

The township was among the earliest settlements of the county, and the pioneers encountered their full share of perils and hardships. Most of the early settlers were Germans, and their traits of thrift and enterprise are still evinced by their prosperity.

Among the earliest of the pioneers of that part of the county which is now Liberty township was Martin Stoler. He was an energetic German, and was undoubtedly one of the most prominent of the early settlers in that part of the county. For an extended history of him and his family the reader is referred to a biographical sketch of the family in another part of this chapter.

Sebastian Shoup, a German, was one of the very first settlers. He located where Saxton now is prior to the revolution. During the period of Indian hostilities he built a fort or blockhouse very near the spot where the railroad depot now stand. To this shelter the neighboring families resorted until the depredations became so violent that they felt compelled to seek a more secure fortification. The Shoups and their neighbors accordingly left and did not return until the war had closed. Shoup erected a gristmill very early. His children were: Joseph, Henry Abraham, Mary (Knepper), Susan (Fetter), Catherine (Elder) and Mrs. Swartz, from whom a numerous posterity is descended.


Woodcock valley extends from Huntingdon to Everett, and lies between Tussey�s mountain on the west and warrior ridge on the east. It was among the earliest settled portions of the vast territory once included in Bedford county. In this valley occurred some of the most desperate of the many bloody encounters between the whites and the Indians during the revolutionary period.

Tradition locates the scene of the massacre of Capt. Phillips� scout at a point on the bank of the Raystown branch, a short distance east of woodcock valley, and very near where the Powellton furnace now stands.

During the summer of 1780* Phillips, and experienced and energetic pioneer, who had been appointed a captain by Col. Piper, was authorized to raise a company to protect the settlements against savage incursions. Phillips then resided near Williamsburg. It being harvest time, he succeeded in collecting but ten men, and with these he determined to scout through Morrison�s cove and Woodcock valley, as it was well known that there was a large number of savages in the neighborhood of these settlements, and that the latter were consequently in need of protection.

Capt. Phillips and his party set out on July 15, 1780, and marched from the cove across the mountains. Entering the valley, they found most of the houses deserted, but no signs of Indians. Late on Saturday evening they arrived at a house which had been abandoned by its owner. This house belonged o a settler named Frederick Heater, who had fled to Harsock�s fort. The house had been pierced with loopholes to serve as a temporary fortress. Here Capt. Phillips decided to remain over Sunday. His entire force consisted of himself and his son, Elijah, aged fourteen, Philip and Hugh Skelly, P. and T. Sanders, Richard Shirley, M. Davis, Thomas Gaitrell, Daniel Kelly, and two others.

They passed the night in safety. While preparing breakfast, one of the Skellys, looking out of the door, discovered that the house was surrounded by Indians. The savages numbered at least sixty, and among them were two white men, painted and dressed like the rest. It appears that the Indians has tracked the scouts to their halting-place. Phillips commanded silence and awaited the further movements of the enemy. Through the window he could see the savages grouped upon an eminence, in consultation. About ten of them had rifles and the remainder bows and arrows. Presently an Indian discharged his rifle. This was regarded as a ruse to draw the men from the house, and no notice was taken of it. At length an Indian venturing near the house was shot at and wounded by Gaitrell. The war-hoop was then raised, and the savages, expecting an immediate engagement, concealed themselves behind trees some seventy yards from the house.

The next action of the savages was firing a volley upon the house, riddling the door and window. The white men stood bravely at their posts, firing whenever a savage appeared within rifle-range. In this manner two Indians were killed and two wounded. The enemy kept up a succession of shots upon the door and window, but wounded no one. Thus the fight continued until about the middle of the afternoon, when Philip Skelly shot the chief through the cheek. This so exasperated the Indians that they again raised the war-cry and seemed determined upon vengeance. Just at this juncture, so Capt. Phillips stated, the muzzle of Davis� rifle, which was held at a loophole, was so effectually spiked by an arrow, driven into it by a skillful Indian archer, that the efforts of four men were necessary to withdraw it.

The Indians next fired the cabin, and Capt. Phillips was compelled to surrender. One of the renegade white men acted as spokesman, and demanded, first, that all arms should be given up; second, that the men should suffer themselves to be pinioned. The men were powerless to resist, and their hands were securely tied behind their backs. In this condition the captors and prisoners started, as the Indians said, for Kittaning. But they had proceeded only a shirt distance when a halt was ordered. Five or six Indians, having in charge Capt. Phillips and his son, continued their journey, while the remainder stayed behind with their prisoners. The fate of the latter was not known until the next day, when they were found tied to trees, each man killed and scalped, and with from three to five arrows sticking in each body. They bodies were buried near the spot where they were found, and not even the rudest mark was made to indicate their final resting-place or perpetuate their memory.


Daniel Cypher, an early settler, served in the revolution and settled in the county soon after the war. His children were Anna (Stoler), Polly, Daniel, Jacob and David. Polly died young, and her body was probably the first one buried in the cemetery of the reformed church in the Stoler neighborhood.

Among the early settlers on the river were Abraham and Jacob Steel, who came from the vicinity of Reading. Jacob, a son of Abraham, was born in 1801, and is now living near Steeltown, where he located in 1828. His father was a cooper and a farmer. His uncle, Jacob, was a farmer and a boatman, and for many years carried on an extensive business shipping flour, grain and produce, for the Morrison�s cove settlers, down the river to market. He made use of large flat-bottomed boats which were known as �arks�. They were about sixteen feet wide and from seventy to eighty feet long, the sides built up and tightly boarded to the height of five or six feet. The �arks� once loaded, required no propulsion, but floated with the current, guided by steersmen. When they reached their destination they were taken apart and sold for timber.

Jacob Rhodes and family moved to Liberty township in 1813. His son George resided on the farm until about 1861, when he removed to Rhodes� bridge, near Stonerstown, where he erected a gristmill. The mill is now owned and run by James Rhodes, son of George, who has conducted the business in connection with farming since 1866. Mr. Rhodes married Anna Rowser in 1876.

The sons and daughters of George Rhodes are: James, Jacob, Thomas, Daniel, Mary A., Catharine and Charlotte, living; and David, George, Margaret and Lydia, deceased. Jacob resides on the home farm, and is married to Eliza, daughter of David Bridenstine. Mr. Rhodes is an energetic and successful farmer.

Elias Hoover, a prominent farmer and mill-owner, is a native of this county and a son of Martin Hoover, who came to this township several years ago. Jonathan Hoover, grandfather of Elias, was an early resident of Morrison�s cove.


This village is one of the oldest in the northern part of the county, having existed for more than seventy-five years. It formerly a very flourishing place, supporting several stores, taverns and industries of various kinds. The building of the railroad diverted most of the business to Saxton, and Stonerstown sank into quiet and obscurity. The place now contains one store, a foundry, a blacksmith-shop, cabinet-shop and saddlery-shop.

James Dunlap moved from Shover�s run, near Bedford, to Riddlesburg about 1811. In 1820 he settled with his family at Stonerstown. His children were: Jane, James, William, Mary, John, Sarah, Elizabeth, David and Andrew J. William Dunlap, of Stonerstown, was born in this county in 1807.


The building of the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain railroad, in 1855-6, gave birth to the now thrifty and prosperous town of Saxton. The town was laid out on land purchased from Henry and David Shoup, in 1853 and 1855, by James Saxton and Jacob Fockler, of Huntingdon. The growth of the place was rapid at the start, and the town soon assumed all the evidences of substantial and permanent prosperity. It now contains business interests of vast importance, among which may be mentioned the Powellton furnace and the railroad repair and car shops. There are three general stores, one clothing store, three hotels, several shops of various kinds, and one gristmill. Saxton also supports two physicians, two churches and a newspaper.

The village was incorporated as a borough on February 14, 1866. The first page of the borough records makes mention of the following officers: C. W. Moore, chief burgess; James L. Prince, J. A. Raum, C. S. Faxon, S. S. Flucke, C. W. Moore, council.

The borough has erected a commodious two-story brick school-building, the cost of which was about twenty-six hundred dollars. The report of the borough schools for 1882 shows two schools, two teachers, eighty-five pupils enrolled, and two thousand eight hundred and two dollars ad nineteen cents expended for school purposes.

N. Hyssong, Esq., moved to Saxton from Woodberry township in 1864, and worked at his trade, patternmaking, for five years. He removed to Stonerstown, where he carried on undertaking for nine years. While there he was twice elected justice f the peace. Returning to Saxton in 1880, he has since kept temperance hotel and carried on undertaking. He is serving a second term as constable. Mr. Hyssong�s father, Martin Hyssong, was a native of Middle Woodbery township. He died in Stonerstown in 1879. N. Hyssong married Elizabeth Coy.

The store of J. A. & E. Eichelberger, at Saxton, was started in 1867 by its present proprietors, who are doing a very flourishing business, and have the best store in town. The Messrs. Eichelberger are sons of James Eichelberger, of Hopewell, at which place they also carry on a mercantile business.

Capt. E. Eichelberger began his mercantile career in boyhood. At the age of twenty-one he enlisted in Co. F, 8th Penn. Reserves, as first lieutenant, and was promoted to captain in 1863. At the Wilderness, May 6, 1864, he was wounded. After the war he superintended Hopewell furnace one year.

Rank little came from Maryland in 1803, and settled in Hopewell, whence, in 1805, he removed to Raver�s run. Frank and Susanna (shields) Little were the parents of eight children: Elizabeth, John, Polly, Rebecca, William, Susanna, Scisly, and Archibald. Capt. I. K. Little is the son of William Little. He married M.A. Rhodes, daughter of George Rhodes. In 1863 he enlisted in the 5th Dis. Cav. Washington, D.C. and served as captain of Co. F. From 1867 to 1875 he had charge of the construction department of the Huntingdon & Broad top Mountain Railroad Company. He next engaged in milling, which he followed until 180. He is now engaged in the lumber business. Capt. Little�s father, William Little, born in 1800, is still living. He married Mary Flucke, and had eight sons and three daughters.

Tobias Snider was born in Hopewell township. His maternal grandfather, Mr. Helsel, was an early settler on Dunning�s creek. His father, Abraham Snider, came from Adams county when young, and located in the same settlement. Tobias was one of en children. He settled in Woodcock valley, where he married Susan, daughter of George F. Steel. Wile living in the valley he worked at gunsmithing. In 1863-4 he was in the government employ at Washington. In 1867 he came to Saxton, kept the Burnet house, and was contractor on the railroad. In 1869 Mr. Snider engaged in general mercantile business as one of the firm of Snider, Berkstresser & Rhodes. In 1870-1 he carried on the business alone. Fir the last six years he has been engaged in the lumber and bark trade.

T. C. Sanderson, Esq., came to Bedford county in 1873, and was station agent at Hopewell for four and a half years. He also served as justice of the peace while there. In 1878 he removed to Saxton, where he was weighmaster for three years. In 1881 he assumed his present position as train dispatcher at this point.

Little�s gristmill at Saxton was erected about 1873 by I. K. Little, D. M. Stoler and William Stapleton. Mr. Little is now sole owner, and rents the mill to S. B.& D. M. Stoler. On the site of this mill, Sebastian Shoup built a gristmill prior to 1800.


This furnace, one of the most important industries of Bedford county, was built by Withrow & Gordon, of Pittsburgh, for proprietor, Robert Hare Powell, of Philadelphia. It was begun in 1879 and put in blast in October, 1882. Its full capacity is one hundred tons of iron per day. The furnace is now run by a one-thousand horsepower steam-engine; a second engine of the same power is soon to be added. The owner of the furnace is Robert hare Powell; De Veaux Powell is general business manager, and E. J. Bird, furnace manager.

The ore mines which supply the furnace are in Tussey�s mountain, extending about fifteen miles in Huntingdon and Bedford counties. The coke ovens, numbering one hundred and five new Belgian ovens, are six miles from the furnace, in Huntingdon county.


Odd-fellows. Saxton lodge, No. 594, I.O.O.F., was chartered November 20, 1866. The following are the names of the charter members and first officers: Isaac Paxson, P. G.; F. O. Alleman, N. G.; David M. Jones, V. G.; S. S. Fluck, Secy.; S. B. Stoler, Asst. Secy.; G. W. Gibbony, Treas.; J. L. Prince, W.; J. M. Barkstresser, E. A. Fockler, F. M. Fryburg, Samuel M. Carney, Joseph S. Cook, Samuel Bridenstine, Isaac L. Elder, L. F. Stoler, O. P. Ross. The present membership is forty-five; total assets of the lodge at the last report, two thousand nine hundred and eighty-six dollars and nineteen cents.

Zion Encampment was moved from Coalmont to Saxton in 1881. Officers: O. P. Ross, C. P.; H. Speece, S.W.; D. B. Gibbony, J. W.; William B. Barr, H. P.; F. M. Fryburg, Secy.; John A. Hickes, Treas.

Grand Army � Heffner Post, No. 166, G. A. R., was organized May 4, 1880, with sixteen charter members. The first officers were as follows: William Barkla, P.C.; William Estep, S. V. C.; Silas White, J. V. C.; J. O. Hoffman, O. D.; Levi Quarry, O. G.; Daniel McFarland, O. S.; William Homan, Q. M.S.; T. C. Sanderson, s.; J. L. Meloy, Adjt.; O. P. Ross. Q. M.; M. B. Breneman, Post Surg. The post is in a flourishing condition, with a membership of thirty-one. Meetings are held at Stonerstown the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.


Among the first preachers who visited this part of the county was Alex. Boyd, a Presbyterian, who preached in a barn in 1811. The earliest Methodist preachers of which we have any account were Rev. Sewall and Dr. Jeremiah Duval. A Baptist named Davis preached at Stonerstown early.

Reformed Church � The first preacher of the reformed denomination was Rev. Gerhart, as early as 1822. When a congregation was organized we have no means of knowing. A stone building was erected in the Stoler neighborhood in 1843-4, and dedicated by the pastor, Rev. Frederick A. Rupley. The present building, a neat frame structure, was erected in 1872 at a cost of about two thousand two hundred dollars. The church is known as St. Luke�s, and belongs to the Martinsburg charge. It has a membership of about eighty, and the same number of Sabbath-school pupils. I. K. Little, Jacob Rhodes and D. M. Stoler are the elders.

Catholic � While the railroad was building, and for two or three years thereafter, the Catholics supported a church at Stonerstown. The building has since blown down.

Methodist � the Methodist society of Saxton has been in existence since about 1858, holding meetings in a Lutheran church at Stonerstown, which the society owned until recently. The new church at Saxton as completed in 1881 at a cost of four thousand dollars. It is 36 x 60 feet, well built and well furnished. The membership of the church is eighty; sabbath school, ninety. The Saxton circuit is now in charge of revs. M. C. Piper and J. K. Lloyd. The trustees of Saxton church are: W. Barkla, E. Eichelberger and T. M. Barr, J. Carrothers, S. V. Rodkey and G. E. Taylor. Class-leaders: E. Eichelberger and T. M. Barr.

Lutheran. � St. Matthew�s Evangelical Lutheran church, Stonerstown, was organized in December, 1856, by Rev. Henry Sifert, the first pastor, with thirty-three members. The first church officers were John V. Besser, Henry Kensinger and George W. Gibbony.

The first Lutheran preacher in the place was Rev.Richards, under whom, in 1854, the erection of the church was begun. The building is of logs, boarded outside. It was competed in 1856 and dedicated by Rev. Henry Sifert, Lutheran, and Rev. Mr. Miller, reformed. About 1858 the church was sold by the sheriff and purchased by the Methodists. Henry Zook purchased it from the latter denomination, and in turn sold it to the Lutherans in 1882. The Lutherans were without a pastor from 1858 to 1882. Rev. M.G.Boyer, the present pastor, was then installed. The church numbers thirty-two members.

Presbyterian � The first Presbyterian minister who labored in Saxton was Rev. John Peeples, Huntingdon, in the summer of 1854. In November, 1856, Rev. John Elliot was sent here by the Huntingdon presbytery, and organized a church. In 1857 Rev. Samuel Lawrence began preaching in Martinsburg, Saxton and Broad Top, and continued until 1864. Rev. Banks was next installed (as the first pastor) over Saxton and Yellow Creek churches. He was succeeded by Rev. Hardy, who was installed in 1866. In 1865-6 the Presbyterian church of Saxton was built at a cost of thirty-five hundred dollars. The first officers were: John Fulton, elder, and James L. Prince and F. O. Alleman, deacons.

In 1869 Rev. R. J. Graves became pastor. Rev. J. W. Boal was pastor, 1871-5; Rev. E. P. Forsman 1875-7; Rev. J. H. Baird, 1877-80. Since 1880 the church has been supplied twice a month by appointees of the presbytery. The congregation, which once numbered one hundred and fifty members, is now reduced to twenty-five. The membership of the sabbath school is ninety.

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