Aldrich History Project

Chapter XXXI

History of Chest Township

On the 16th day of October, A. D. 1826, Josiah W. Smith, Martin Hoover and A. B. Reed, who had been appointed as a committee to investigate the facts and circumstances presented with an application for a new township, made their report. Together with the report was a draft laying down the boundary lines, corners, etc. The committee reported that they considered it would be "of advantage and beneficial to the inhabitants of Pike township and Beccaria township, to have a new township to be called Chest, struck off the said townships as follows: Beginning at a maple on the Cambria county line on Frederick Daugherty tract; thence north forty west two miles to a maple; thence fifty east thirteen hundred and eighty perches to a hemlock on Robert Martin's tract; thence north forty west nine miles to a post; thence from the post to a maple fifty perches; thence to a red oak on the Susquehanna fifty perches; thence up the said river after crossing the same, to a white oak corner of John Nicholson's tract; thence north fifteen degrees west two hundred and forty-five perches to a spruce on said tract; thence south sixty-three east one hundred and ninety perches to a black oak; thence north thirteen east three hundred and forty-eight perches to a spruce; thence north forty west to a white oak one hundred and eighteen perches; thence south sixty and two-thirds perches west four hundred and forty-six perches to a post; thence south sixty-two and two-thirds degrees west seven hundred and two perches to a birch; thence south fifty and a fourth degrees west to a birch six hundred and seventy perches; thence south thirty and a fourth degrees west seven hundred and fifty-six perches to a post; thence south twenty-three and a fourth degrees west one hundred and forty perches to a post; thence west on hundred and ninety perches to a post on the Indiana county line; thence south along the said line eight miles to the Cherry Tree, the boundary corner of Clearfield county; thence east along the line of Cambria county eleven miles to the place of beginning." This report was received and the new township became such in the same year. Subsequently to this formation of Chest the township of Burnside was composed by contribution from Chest. And before this division was allowed the citizens and inhabitants of Chest strongly opposed any curtailment of their boundaries, which was desired by forming a new township from parts of Chest and Pike. In a petition they presented to court it is stated that they believe such a measure was calculated in many respects to injure the local interest and advantages of Chest township, and "to render it altogether shapeless and less adapted to and convenient for the transaction of the township concerns." This was a question which caused much discussion, and the people of the township in order to prevent the forming of this township from parts of Pike and Chest, express themselves in the same petition in which they opposed it, in this way: "We would therefore respectfully ask the privilege of forming from or out of the said township of Chest a new township to consist of six squares miles, and we as in duty bound will ever pray." This was then followed by the formation of Burnside township, but somewhat larger than the boundaries named in the petition. We now find Chest township bounded on the north and northeast by Bell, Ferguson and Jordan townships, on the southeast by Beccaria, on the south by Cambria county, and on the west by Burnside township. The population has increased steadily since the forming of the township, until at the present time they have from two to three thousand people, many valuable farms have been cleared, and much timber has been floated from their township to the eastern markets.

Among the early settlers in the township were Daniel Snider and Lewis Snider, jr., and Sebastian and Jacob Snider, of whose descendants many are now living. Also John Rorabaugh, jr., Wm. Ramsay, John Lees, Henry Ross, Jacob P. Lingafelter, John Smith, James McGhee, Cyrus Thurstin, Elias Hurd, George Smith, Gilbert and Thomas Tozier, David Rorabaugh, William Carson and Salmon T. Tozier, Joseph Michael, Nathaniel N. Sabin and Christopher Rorabaugh. All of these are men who were living at the time, in the territory which composed the new township, and each one above named signed the petition opposing the one to be formed from Pike and Chest, and advocating the formation of Burnside. Although the entire area of the township is underlaid to a greater or less extent with valuable coal, the coal interest has been but slightly developed, owing to the want of shipping facilities. The new railroads which intersect Beccaria township touch Chest, but far to the northern end. Valuable timber was found by the earlier settlers, and upon a market being opened, the greater part of it was cut and floated down; this was then followed in the townships which surround Chest, by the development of the coal interest, and many towns sprung up, and thrived through the influence and capital required to open the coal and ship it to market. But in Chest the settlers devoted their time and attention to farming; and as a result we find many large farms which have been brought to a high state of cultivation, covering the hillsides and valleys. From these causes, notwithstanding the fact that in many instances the land was more difficult to cultivate than in other townships, the population has become of a more permanent character, although on the other hand, the increase has not been so rapid as in the adjacent townships. The people, as a rule, settle down and clear farms, and continue to reside on them for years, while the towns and villages, partaking of the same influences, differ widely from the spontaneous, and sometimes short-lived mining towns. In these the people or inhabitants which make up the town are employed but for a short time, the coal at that place is exhausted, etc., etc., and the place settles down to a dependence on the local interests and farm trade. In Chest, as a rule, such small settlements as were made, were encouraged by less energetic, but a more substantial class of people; and so we find several old villages where growth is "slow but sure." Situated in different parts of the township are small openings of coal, which are used for local purposes, and which sufficiently indicate good workable veins, that have already been purchased by capitalists, and will soon be developed. In addition to the coal, there are deposits of fire-Clay, which appear in some places to be in great abundance, also iron ore exists, but it has never been demonstrated as to the quantity, quality, or value. Yet with all this natural wealth, the farms, the class of people, etc., etc., there will, in a few years, have been a great change in the whole township. It cannot be far distant, with the opportunities for creating the shipping facilities without unusual effort. Towns will spring up, railroads will be built, eastern and western capitalists will come in to develop the interests now lying dormant, and will reap the profit from these sources of wealth, which could as well have been to the advantage of the people of the township, had it not been for the want of sufficient capital to effect this object themselves. As a rule, coal land sold in 1886, and 1887, in all parts of the township for $12.50 to $15 an acre; sometimes $16 was realized, but only by those who believed themselves able to hold their lands until such improvements were made as would advance their value.

The first step towards realizing benefit from succeeding enterprises is visible in and along the northeastern and northern boundary. Here new life seems added to the country and people. Upon the heretofore deserted land and among the woods from which the valuable timber has been cut, and bark for tannery use has been removed, houses and little stores are dotted along until the advance seems wonderful. This is brought about by a new railroad.

Railroads.- With the extension of the Bell's Gap Railroad from Irvona, in Clearfield county, to Punxsutawney, in Jefferson County, by the Clearfield and Jefferson Railroad Company, the first railroad was constructed in Chest township in 1887. It passes through the extreme northern end of the township, and at the village of Newburg, one of the old towns of the township, has sprung up a flourishing town. From the southern boundary, through the whole length of the township, and to the northwestern corner flows Chest Creek, which has its source in Clearfield township, Cambria county. Situated on this creek were some of the oldest lumber camps in the county. The creek is unusually tortuous, and the difficulties attendant upon the floating of rafts on its waters are recalled by many a sudden termination to the life of some well known raftsmen. Upon the banks of Chest Creek, near the northern boundary of the township, on the line of the Clearfield and Jefferson Railroad, and not far from New Washington, in Burnside township, is the first settlement which assumed the proportions of a town. It was first called Hurd Post-office, deriving its name from the large family of Hurds which then resided and still continue to reside in that vicinity. Mr. Henry Hurd erected the first dwelling on the site of the present town of Newburg, and indeed the Hurd family are closely identified with every branch of improvement or advance in that part of the township. They are substantial, money-making people, and with liberal spirit for the general good encourage every movement or advance which will benefit the people. In addition to the family which are left in Chest township, they are found located in the adjoining townships. The town then became known after its incorporation as a borough, in 1885 as Newburg borough, while the post-office has retained the name of Hurd.

The growth of the town was comparatively slow until the extension of the Bell's Gap Railroad was completed by the Clearfield and Jefferson Company to Mahaffey. The interest in its growth was then pushed forward. Mr. George Jose built a large and commodious hotel, which was first licensed by the court in 1886, and from that time the town imbibed new life and spirit, with a population in 1887 of from three to four hundred. The new facilities for transportation, the opening of new mines, the shipment of bark for the large tanneries at Irvona, in Beccaria township, and the one at Mahaffey, in Bell township, and with new people continually locating there, the town was greatly improved. Several well stocked stores were opened and conducted by substantial men, trade was brought in by the new railroad, and it was at once placed upon different footing, and brightest prospects. Near Newburg, with a large farm, well cultivated, underlaid with coal and fire-clay, is the home of ex-Associate Judge John Hockenberry; elected by the people in 1884, he continued on the bench in the County Court at Clearfield, in Clearfield county, until the session in January, 1887, when his term expired, together with his associate judge, John L. Cuttle, of Clearfield. Large of stature and well known throughout all the courts, honest as tried metal, Judge Hockenberry retired from the bench with the good will of all.

Near the eastern center of the township and about equidistant from Newburg, or Hurd, on the south and Westover on the north, is a settlement never aspiring to the proportions of a town, but with a post-office, two stores, a fine church, and a school-house, and with good people, surrounded by the best farms in the county, and from one hundred to one hundred and fifty souls, they were ever content, and always prosperous. This place was made a post-office, and from a name, which is always known in Chest township as on of the most reliable and influential names in the section, it received the name of McGarvey Post-office. One mile from this post-office lay the farms of Anthony McGarvey and Adam Hagey. Here they have continued to reside for many years, until now the large farm of Mr. McGarvey has been improved to such an extent as surprises his own neighbors. A large and commodious homestead, a barn covering 60 by 95 feet of surface, well stocked, and a fine truck garden surrounds the now aged Mr. McGarvey and wife. Immediately adjoining Mr. McGarvey's farm, and to the north, is the home of Adam Hagey. Both are men who are closely identified with the history of that part of the county, and their children are now residing in different parts of the county. This seems to indicate by its very nature as a town the general history of Chest township. Nowhere prior to 1887 was any advance or excitement sufficient to create a town made by coal, or other operations, but through the whole extent of the township the steady advance was continued, and never allowed to retard, and so we find in traversing the township from Newburg on the south, to McGarveys in the center, no towns, but abundance of farm and timber land, with frame houses dotted along every road or turnpike, and continuing on from McGarvey's to the south at Westover the same condition exists; here in 1887 was still remaining much hemlock, from which the bark was taken for use at the tanneries; quantities of land were in process of cultivation, in many instances the first clearing being just made, and from Newburg to McGarvey we go the south of the township and find that here situated in the southern part of the township, and on the banks of Chest Creek, was the home of Mr. William Westover, and throughout that entire section of the township the Westover family resided, having first come to the place in 1837. From the large number of Westovers, their different interests and being substantial men, the new town and post-office on the land of Joseph Fry was called Westover. Although the land of Joseph Fry when the town first started it was afterward conveyed to James McEwen, and by him was sold in lots. The town never grew rapidly owing to no effort being made to develop the coal, which was probably due to a want of shipping facilities. The first coal opened was by Jos. Fry, and used only for local purposes. Immediately adjacent to the town and surrounding it are vast field of coal which show veins from three and one-half feet in thickness to four and one-half feet. The first house upon the site of the present town was built by T. S. Williams about the year 1840. Between the years 1857 and 1859 the Rev. Samuel Miles, who had charge of the Baptist congregation in that neighborhood, and who had worked diligently to keep them together, attempted to build a church at Westover. The effort was attended with great success; the church was built and paid for, and in after years became, and is yet, a flourishing congregation. They still worship in the old church. The Rev. Samuel Miles is now the oldest active minister of any persuasion in the county. He has seen active service in the cause of the Baptist faith, and has in some localities accomplished wonderful results. In 1887 he was an active old man, doing hard work for the cause of the church at Ansonville, in Jordan township, Pa. During the first years of the civil war, in 1861 and 1862, a school-house was built in the town, and still continues in use. William and James Westover being among the first to settle in that section, cut much valuable pine timber, as well as lumber of all kinds. They or their descendants still hold vast fields of coal, which will soon be opened. A saw-mill was built about 1840 by Mr. Jas. McEwen, and has since been repaired and refitted at different times, until now it has become the property of George Carson, and is run as a saw-mill and shingle-mill. An extensive business if carried on by Mr. Carson in this way and many men are employed. While not a mining town it is surrounded by excellent farming county, and this, together with the lumber interest, contribute to the support of a thriving business in the several branches of trade. The postmaster, Mr. J. R. McKee, is a son of W. H. McKee, esq., one of the earliest settlers in that section. A large hotel has been built by Mr. Jacob Roland, and being licensed by the court, has a large patronage. It is known as the Roland House. Another name well known in that vicinity is that of Addleman, and here at the same place in which the business was first started, John Addleman now carries on a blacksmith shop, where all the surrounding country come to have their shoeing done. The general merchandise business is better adapted to that county than any other branch of business, and we find the large and commodious store of W. H. McKee well fitted up and filled with a large stock of goods. They supply hardware, dry goods, groceries, etc., etc., to customers, and have an old and established stand. F. S. Fry & Co. are situated in a large building on the main street, and have for sale everything that can be found in a general merchandise store. Another place of business of the same kind, it being stocked with a large supply of general merchandise, is the store of James McEwen; James McEwen, from his large connection, and his family having lived for some time in this section, is well known throughout the whole township. In addition to these establishments already mentioned is the store which was opened to help supply the increasing demand of the people by Michaels & Straw, both names being familiar names in the township for many years, and closely allied to the history of the township in whatever branch we may follow it. C. T. Moore also has a place of business, and makes boots and shoes. As a striking feature the town of Westover seems to include only such men as are generally permanently located and substantial, well-to-do business men. The citizens take a deep interest in the progress and improvement of the village, and look forward to the building of a railroad in 1888, when a large town is assured to them. Names familiar to any resident in Chest are among those already mentioned, viz, the Sniders, the Rorabaughs, McEwens, Hockenberrys, Ramsays, Lamvorns, McGarveys, Rosses, Smiths, Toziers, Westovers, Hurds, Carsons, Michaels, Sabins, McAllisters, Frys, Hayeys.


Source: Pages 495-501, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.
Transcribed July 1999 by Terry L. Fillow for the Clearfield County Aldrich Project
Contributed for use by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project (

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