At the point where Muddy Run crosses the line of Cambria and Clearfield counties is found the extreme southeastern point of Beccaria township. Muddy Run is one of the small mountain streams, having its source in White township, Cambria county. From this point along the dividing line of the two counties westward to the crossing of Witmer Run in Clearfield county, we have the southern boundary of Beccaria township. Along this southern boundary and for a mile or two to the north, the earliest settlers of Clearfield county, as well as in Beccaria township, located their homes.
In its present formation it extends from the county line on the south northward along the line of Muddy Run, to the village of Madera, with Geulich township on the east. From a position a little north of Madera to the southern county line just west of Witmer Run, we find the third side of a triangle, which is the general outline of the township. The present area, as compared with the original, is much the smaller; for from this township as first laid out, a large part has successively been contributed to the formation of Jordon, Chest and Knox townships; these three last named townships lying on the west and northwest. In 1798 these five townships were a dense wilderness, while Geulich township remained so for many years afterward. In the latter part of 1798, or the early part of the following year, an old revolutionary soldier, in company with a party of Indians, came to the place now known as Keaggy's Dead Water, on Clearfield Creek. Although it is not definitely know, it is generally supposed that only one white man was in this party. Not later than 1799, this white man returned to Keaggy's Dead Water, bringing with him his wife and two dogs.
The woods being impassable for horses and cattle, they were obliged to float on the creek wither in canoes or on rafts. The family records of the Ricketts family distinctly point to this man as Captain Edward Ricketts. Not long after his settlement at this place the hardships and exposure, together with an injury received while hunting, caused the old man's death. Four days afterwards his wife died, and both now lie buried along the bank of the creek a Keaggy's Dead Water. In 1801 he was followed into the wilderness by his sons James and Edward. They found their father and mother surrounded by Indians. Their means of subsistence was by hunting and fishing; elk, deer, bear and wolves being in abundance. Some records preserved by James and Edward indicate fifty wolves taken from his traps in one season.
From this early date, at which Captain Ricketts settled in the township, we know him to be not only the first settler in the township, but the first in Clearfield county. (This matter is traced and more data given to support the assertion in the general history of the county). In 1814, discouraged in their endeavors to clear the land, James and Edward Ricketts left the little hut at Keaggy's Water, and James moved to what he considered a better location. This place he called Mount Pleasant, by which name it was called until it became the town of Utahville. At the time when James moved to Mount Pleasant, Mr. Issac Ricketts, senior, who is now a resident of Utahville, was but four weeks old, and he has continued to reside there until the present time.
The present township was decreed by the court and the boundaries confirmed in 1830, being covered in all its area with forests of pine, hemlock and oak. It was not calculated to encourage much farming, and as a consequence the first settlers did not come into the township with the idea of permanent location. There were some few undaunted by the difficulties in clearing up forest land for farms, and to them we are indebted for whatever we have in the way of improved land.
The difficulties which attended the attempt to make farms in Beccaria township cannot be appreciated by any one who has not experienced the trial. Timber was in abundance, but there were not the hands to work it, and it must not only be cut down, but that which was not necessary for their immediate use must be destroyed. To secure laborers to help them they must travel long distances. Provision they could not produce themselves until the land was prepared, but at last an attempt to make roads was made; it was of necessity a very inefficient one. Provision and the necessities of life could not be procured except by long journeys through an uninhabited country. Bridges were unknown, and the tracks which were followed by travelers, called roads, led up to and over steep and abrupt hills. Those who had wagons or vehicles for purposes of transportation, and who had procured horses, mules or oxen, resorted to many novel plans for traveling with safety. And instance to exhibit the means by which they overcame the dangers of a steep descent, is this: "The traveler fells a small tree, leaving the branches on the trunk. This he fastens to the rear of the vehicle , causing it to drag behind, and so retards it."
Wheat, grain and provision were commonly carried by the new settlers in bags and boxes swung across their shoulders, traveling afoot and from such a distance as Philipsburg and other points in Centre county, subjected to every deprivation, sufferers from every hardship. Many who first came into the township, little knowing what treasures were in their possession, battled against such strong odds for years, when as the time approached for reaping their reward from the timber, coal, etc., allowed their lands to be sold for taxes and moved to other places. Some, indeed, overcame these obstacles and continued to reside where they first settled.
Such men as John Cree, Hugh Carson and his brothers, James Ray, the Turners, John Hegarty, John and James Gill, Henry Dillen, Joseph Leonard, James McNeal, Edwin and James icketts, and Samuel Smiley, all paid tax on farm land in 1810-12, and today we have their descendants, the most substantial business men in the township.
About the year 1813 a road was cut across the mountains to Tyrone for the purpose of disposing of, or hauling to market, the first result or benefit from the timber. This was in the shape of long lap-shingles, made by hand, and not put up in bunches as at the present day. Of these, one man would make from twenty-five to forty a day, haul them across the mountain road, through Tyrone to Birmingham, Huntingdon county; there they were sold at four and five dollars a thousand in store goods. This opened at last some avenue by which to realize benefit from the abundance of timber, and eventually lead to the manufacture of the big joint shingles; and then the square timber, being sold at five and six cents per cubic foot. This was then followed by the old-fashioned and ill-arranged water-mill, where the best pine boards brought but six or seven dollars per thousand. The first mill of this kind was built as a saw-mill and grist-mill by Samuel Turner, on Turner Run. This mill was followed by saw-mills more complete in their arrangement, and located on every desirable creek and run.
Although the inhabitants of the township numbered less that seventy-five in 1813, a church was built at Mt. Pleasant or Utahville about the year 1814. It was built by the Baptist people of the township, who procured the services of Dr. John Keaggy. He preached each Sunday in the little log church to a congregation which, at first, numbered by three or four. This same Dr. Keaggy, during the week, devoted himself to the practice of medicine; and still further we find Dr. Keaggy, in 1819, on his way to Huntingdon county for iron to build a mill, and being thrown from his horse he was killed. This left the church without a pastor for three years.
The year following the building of the Mt. Pleasant Church the first school-house was erected, near where the Williams school-house now stands, built of round logs and with clapboard roof.
In 1810 John Gill made the first opening of bituminous coal that was made in the township. He discovered a vein fourteen inches thick, which he used exclusively for blacksmith purposes. Other veins of the proportions were opened by farmers in all parts of the township, until the first opening made for shipping purposes was made by Samuel Hagarty, at the place where he is now operating.
The coal field of Beccaria township is peculiar in its development, and it is not necessary to go a great distance in any direction to observe striking changes in its composition. As is always the case with nearly horizontal beds of coal, there are gentle undulations, amounting, in many cases, to only a few feet, which throw the dip one way in one place and the other way in another, while the steady and main dip is always toward the center of the basin. It may be noted that this coal is frequently termed semi-bituminous coal. It is truly bituminous, having over twenty per cent. of volatile matters on the average. Its formation is indeed peculiar. The bottom conglomerate, shows on the surface in lumps and boulders, and the basin is sharply edged up in that direction. The coling qualities of this coal are unusually perfect.
The coke manufactured from it is sought after and desired on account of being least injurious for those furnaces in which it is used. In addition to this, fire-clay is found in this section, but, as a rule, is rather sandy; the coal, twenty feet above the creek, is only partially opened on the out-crop. Then, again, there is some iron ore about sixty feet above the creek. It is not opened fully, however, but seems to show three layers of carbonate of iron ore, six, three, and four inches respectively, making thirteen inches in all. The ore is carbonate, minutely crystalline, and of a dark gray color. The coal and minerals although abundant, are not the only pursuits to which the citizens are devoted. Many valuable stone quarries are found in the township, and add greatly to the facilities for building. Then again, the country is adapted to raising grain and produce.
Many farms have been cleared and brought to a high state of cultivation in different sections; orchards are planted, sheep, cattle, hogs, chickens, geese, and turkeys are raised in abundance, until we find, in traversing the township roads, every indication of increasing prosperity on all sides.
The work of the lumber man is scarcely finished, until, with plow and hoe, shovel and firebrand, the ground is cleared for farming purposes.
The valleys, the side-hills, and indeed the tops of the mountains have been wrested from the grasp of the forest, and now show themselves laden with large crops of wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn, potatoes, hay, and produce.
Some have chosen deep valleys, sheltered by high gills on all sides, where they have built their homes while others climb to the highest points and perch their cosy cottages, from which they constantly view the surrounding country for miles.
Railroads. -- Into and along these farms, through forest and across the creeks and streams, railroads have at length brought their busy turmoil into the township. Two roads, tributary to the Pennsylvania Railroad, now traverse the township from south to north. The Bell's Gap Railroad extends from Bell's Mills, or Bellwood, Blair county, Pa., through parts of Blair and Cambria counties into Beccaria township, and on to Irvona, where is its terminus; covering a distance between the termini of twenty-three miles.
This road, however, in 1886 and 1887, was taken up and continued by a new company, under the name of the Clearfield and Jefferson Railroad Company, from the terminus of the Bell's Gap Railroad, at Irvona, to Punxsutawney, in Jefferson county, a distance of forty miles more. This makes a thoroughfare along which large quantities of coal, coke, and lumber are shipped, and on account of its varied, diversified, and wild scenery, is much resorted to by excursionists during the summer months.
During the year 1886 a second railroad was completed, extending from the Pennsylvania Railroad a Cresson, Cambria county, to Irvona, in Beccaria township, and under the charter name of the Cresson, Clearfield County, and New York Short Route Railroad Company, although commonly known as the Cresson and Coalport Railroad. This road was largely due to the untiring energy of Hon. John Dean, president judge of Cambria county, for its construction, and opens a rich district of coal, timber, and fire clay.
It is already surveyed, located and prospected from Irvona along Clearfield Creek to an intersection with the Beech Creek, Clearfield, and Southwestern Railroad, at a point some ten miles above the mouth of Clearfield Creek.
With the march of new settlers into the township, villages and towns sprung up in different sections, the location at first being controlled by the established stage routs or turnpikes, the water facilities, or later on the railroads or prospected railroads.
Towns. -- While the first settlement to assume the proportions of a village was the old Mount Pleasant, where the Ricketts boys had moved from Keaggy's Dead Water, and from which has come our present town of Utahville, it was soon followed by the village of Glen Hope, situated near the northern end of the township, on clearfield Creek. Here at this time is a borough of from 400 to 500 people. Its industries are a shingle and planing-mill. It is on the mail route between Houtzdale, Pa., and Ansonville, Pa. They have three churches and a school-house, a large and commodious three story brick hotel. They are surrounded by good farming country, which supports four or five large general stores, and with the building of the railroad now surveyed through that section, a busy, flourishing town will soon replace the old village of Glen Hope. One of the oldest residents of the township still resides here in the person of Mr. John Wright, a well-to-do farmer, honored and respected by all, and here the late D. C. Caldwell, M. D., resided for many years, and traversed the country in response to the professional calls made upon him.
Among other of the present business men are Ed. C. Haley, postmaster; ex-Deputy Sheriff C. J. Keagy; J. Esselman, landlord of the Washington House, and Messrs. Hindman and Brattun, esqs., justices of the peace, and Messrs. Caldwell, Rumery, Williamson, Dickey, and Wilson. Old Mount Pleasant, or Utahville, nearer the southern county line, while not a borough, has the distinction of being the first village or town in the township, with Mr. Issac Ricketts, Sr., still residing on the old farm. The Bell's Gap Railroad added largely to the value of Mr Ricketts's land. The people of the town are good, substantial families, and support a good hotel, a church, and three stores. The hotel is owned and conducted by Mr. Issac Ricketts, Jr. T. C. Flick and the Erhards, with Dr. _____postmaster, have the stores, while Mr. S. McFarland deals in timber and coal, and J. C. Smith is railroad agent.
West of old Mount Pleasant and nearer the Cambria county line on Clearfield Creek, and about one and a half miles from the mouth of Witmer Run is the site of an old saw-mill, first run by water-power, and built by John Gee. A short distance from the site of this mill stands an old house, now the property of Francis Moran. These buildings, surrounded by a farm lying between the hills and along the creek, and joining with the land of Samnel Spangle on the north, were sold to William Mays, who on the 21st day of October, A. D. 1876, sold to James Haines, esq. Around this old home the town of Coalport has sprung up, and continued to grow and expand until it has become phenomenal in its growth. At the time when the farm, which is now the location of the town of Coalport, was bought by Mr. Haines, it was not a promising piece of land, but soon application was made to Mr. Haines to sell lots for building purposes. The narrow gauge road, which extended from Bellwood to Lloydsville in Cambria county, was extended by the Bell's Gap Railroad Company to Coalport and Irvona, and was soon made a broad gauge. The old mill has successively changed hands from Mr Haines to the Coalport Lumber Company, then to John Elliott & Co., then to Franciscus & Woods of Tyrone, and finally to P. & A. Flynn, one of the most extensive lumber firms in the State. The natural advantages for a town at Coalport made such a demand upon Mr. Haines and Messrs. S. M. & J. D. Spangle for building lots that these gentlemen concluded to make it a borough.
Previous to the year 1882 the post-office had been known as Reilley post-office, but upon the incorporation of the borough in 1883 it was changed to Coalport. The situation is one of the naturally advantageous places for a town, but twenty three miles from Altoona, railroad connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Bellwood and at Cresson, each but twenty-five miles distant, the same distance from Clearfield town and Ebensburg, the county seats of Clearfield and Cambria counties, but fourteen miles from Houtzdale, Lumber City and Burnside in Clearfield county, immediately adjacent to extensive coal fields, located on Clearfield Creek for lumber and trade and its manufactories. The place made rapid strides until on the north and west it stretched its buildings up to and beyond the borough lines, until Blaine City and Rose Bud, two villages equal to the borough, were soon created. Then the building after a space of little over a mile formed itself into another town called Irvona, from its founder, Colonel E. A. Irvin of Curwensville, Clearfield county. This place was encouraged and created in fact by the Witmer Land and Coal Company of which Colonel Irvin was a member. Here is one of the largest tanneries in the State, superintended by Mr. Charles McKean, of Watsontown, Pa., and owned by Boston, Mass., capitalists. Two large hotels, the general stores of Messrs. Herman, Houpt & Thompson, and McManigal. The shingle-mill of R. J. Walker, of Osceola, Pa., and the town is located at the mouth of Witmer Run on Clearfield Creek. The other principal business men are those connected with the tannery, J. H. Bamfield, M. D., Messrs. McNeil, Michaels, Lightner, McEwen, Williams, etc.
Here also are located the headquarters of the Baker, Whiteby Coal and Coke Company, who have opened extensive mines and built many coke ovens.
With the present increase in population the towns of Irvona and Coalport will soon be so nearly united as to form one place. The borough proper of Coalport has now from 1,200 to 1,500 inhabitants, but in connection with Blaine City and Rose Bud numbers 3,000 people. The buildings are substantial and commodious; the progress and improvement of the town is remarkable. It includes five churches, the Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, the United Brethren, Roman Catholic and Evangelical Association. The pastors are: Revs C. A. Biddle, M. A. Wolf, B. J. Hummel, J. C. McEntee and R. D. Leibhardt. There are three commodious public schools, located, one in the borough, one in Blaine City, and one in Rose Bud. The Irvona Coal and Coke Company have erected ninety coke ovens, which are kept burning. There are five hotels, with Messrs. M. Carroll, W. J. Smith, Jos. Rhody, Jos. F Durbin and Jos. A. Adams, as landlords; five coal mines shipping coal; two planing-mills, owned by Berger & McGarvey and Hannah & Klohe & Co.; the extensive saw-mill of P. & A. Flynn, and in connection with their lumber mill. the Hon. James Flynn, ex-state senator from this district, resides here with his family, having moved from Janesville, Geulich township, some two years past. The general merchandise stores are those of Samuel Hegarty, P. and A. Flynn, Thompson & McManigal, J. B. Wilber & Col., J. B. Lydick, A. J. Harber, J. S. Stiner, J. W. & P. C. Gates, C. A. Lamborn & Co. Coalport has also a good bank, which owes its existence to the business energy and enterprise of the Hon. John Patton, present member of Congress of Curwensville, Clearfield county, Pa. Samuel Hegarty is president, and F. G. Patton, esq., cashier of this institution. Mr. Samuel Hegarty, a descendant from one of the oldest families in the township, is one of the leading business men and coal operators of the county; he operates a mine a Coalport, caries on an extensive business in general merchandise and furniture, and has contributed largely to the building of the town. D. C. Flynn is postmaster. The burgesses of the borough have been James Haines, esq., two terms; J. D. Spangle, esq., P. C. Gates, esq., two terms and the present burgess, Capt. John Elliott. James Haines and V. Stevens are justices of the peace. The physicians are J. Herbert Hogue, M. D.; C. B. Elliott, M. D., and Drs. C. D. Woods and J. E. Bolinger. Dentists, W. H. Craft and T. H. Sexton. Attorneys at law, Alonzo P. Madeon and G. M. Bigler. R. R. Agents, Hon. Jno. C. Gates, ex-member of Legislature from Cambria county, and W. H. Ott. Hardware men, R. A. Holden and the firm of A. C. Buck & Co., whose business is conducted by J. E. Scanlan, esq., one of the firm.
Druggists, W. C. McCartney and C. H. Statler. Dry goods and clothing, W. F. Wagner, J. E. Kolbenschlag, and Sol. Wartelsky. Butchers, Swan & White, F. V. Perry, W. P. McNaul, Miles Anthony. Millinery and fancy goods, M Daugherty and Co., Mrs J. E. Kolbenschlag, B. Weld. Contractors and builders are J. M. Beers, T. G. Lightner, S. E. Bartholomew, J. D. Weld, William Bratton, M McMullin. P. G. Niebauer, owner of the Coalport brewery, and other business men are, T. M. Lambert, J. W. Weakland, Captain F. M. Flannigan, E. S. Lindsey, D. Rosenberg, J. W. Hollis, J. W. Gill, J. I. Miller, J. K. Charles, Jos, W. Hull, S. M. Spangle, Jas. Spangle, treasurer of Beccaria township. William Walton, etc. Mr. C. P. Pannebaker, editor and proprietor of the Coalport Standard, successfully carries on that paper as a weekly journal, devoted to the interest of Coalport borough and vicinity. The present borough council: Captain John Elliott, burgess, with W. J. MCManigal, W. C. McCartney, I. W. Gates, Daniel Kline, Charles Kibler and John Lamborn, councilmen.
Source: Pages 407-414, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.
Transcribed August 1999 by James M. Shawley for the Clearfield County Aldrich Project
Contributed for use by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/~clearfield/)
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