The township of Woodward was formed and taken from the township of Decatur in 1846. On the 3rd of September, 1845, the court of Quarter Sessions of Clearfield county appointed Abraham K. Wright, Jacob Pearce, and George Wilson commissioners to divide Decatur township. They performed that duty and reported for confirmation to the court on the 3rd of February, 1846, suggesting the name of "Woodward" for the new township, in honor of Judge Woodward.
The boundary lines of the new township, as reported by the commissioners, were as follows: On the east Moshannon Creek; on the south the Huntingdon county line (now Cambria county); on the west Muddy Run to its confluence with Clearfield Creek, thence along that creek to line of (now) Boggs township; on the north Boggs township, thence along line of warrants to John Vrought, Casper Haines, Thomas Wharton, William Sheaff, Benjamin Johnson, William Holliday, Henry Shafner, Hugh Rallston, John Cannon, Mary Sandwich, E. Hoolman, George Whitehead, H. Fannon, and Joseph Forest; on the north and east to the place of beginning.
The major portion of the lands in this township were owned by Hardman Philips, and were settled upon by the same class of people who settled Decatur township, and who bought their lands from Mr. Philips.
This gentleman sold his lands to these pioneers on credit, and as they were very poor he never expected to get very much of them in payment, but would take a sack of meal, a bushel of potatoes, or oats, or wheat, or anything they could spare in settlement of what they owed him. Or, if they could not pay anything, it was all the same. On his return to England he placed his accounts in the hands of Josiah W. Smith, esq., of Clearfield, who was a lenient as the owner.
One of the oldest settlers in this township was Henry Cross, an Irishman, who settled on a farm now in sight of Beulah Church, in 1818. The farm is now owned by John M. Jordan.
Another old settler was the father of Mathew McCully, who settled near Mr. Cross, in 1827, on a piece of land now immediately in front of Beulah Church, and now owned by T.C. Heims. Mr. McCully lives at present in Osceola Mills, and he loved to chat of his pioneer days. He was but two years old when his father carried him to that farm, or rather that spot in the forest, and he has spent a long and happy life in the wilds of Clearfield county.
Robert Stewart moved into the Wheatland Settlement in 1829, having come from Chester county. He died during the year 1886, aged nearly one hundred and five years.
In 1837 Hugh Henderson moved from Philipsburg to a piece of land he has purchased from James Allport, one hundred and forty-seven acres, near what is now called the Sanborn Settlement. Mr. Henderson had emigrated ten years before from the parish of Donahachie, County Tyrone, Ireland. He was the father of six children-five boys and one girl-Thomas, Robert, William, Samuel, James, and Margaret. Thomas, William, and Margaret still live on the old homestead; Robert lives in the Nittany Valley, James, on Buffalo Run, Centre county, and Samuel at Fostoria, Blair county.
The boys of this family, being hard workers, soon acquired sufficient means to purchase additional lands, and marrying, they branched out for themselves, buying lands near the parent farm, and thus helping to clear this township. As proved afterwards, all the lands in this and Decatur township were underlaid with coal, though these old settlers never dreamt of such a thing, or at least it they knew it, did not suppose it would be of any value to them. Coal was opened and worked for smithing, and local consumption as early as 1804, on the Hawkins place, near Philipsburg, but was not accounted of much value to its owner.
The farm bought by Samuel Henderson at the head of Goss Run, was sold in 1873 to John Whitehead, and the celebrated Ocean colliery was opened upon it.
James Hegarty was another pioneer of this township, emigrating with his father from Ireland when eleven years old, in 1808, and settling on lands now known as the "X Roads" farm, in 1820. This farm comprised one hundred and thirty acres. He afterwards purchased three hundred acres in what is now known as Geulich township. Mr. Hegarty died on the 31st of May, 1846, leaving a family of four children.
Rev. John M. Chase is another old settler, having early cleared a farm on Clearfield Creek, in Happy Valley. Mr. Chase is a minister of the Baptist Church, having been ordained a pastor of the church near his place in 181. He owns large tracts of lands in different parts of the county.
Christian Shoff, now living in Osceola Mills, may be called another old settler of this township. Mr. Shoff's grandfather settled near the village of Puseyville, at the lower ford, near the present bridge, very early. The exact date has been lost. That his father, Samuel Shoff, settled near Glen Hope in 1811, is known, and Christian was born there in 1830. When five years old his father moved to Wheatland, now called Amesville. This, then, may be called the first settlement of the hamlet of Amesville. Shoff, the father, moved in company with Benjamin Wright, Billy Myrtle, Abraham Kady, Robert Haggerty, and John Whiteside, the descendants of whom still inhabit the farm in and around this place.
The Alexander family are later additions to the township, but still can be styled old settlers.
Lumbering occupied the time of these old pioneers as much as farming. The township being covered with a most magnificent pine and hemlock forest, they, in winter, felled the pine trees, squared them, rafted the timber, and ran it to market by way of Clearfield Creek and the Susquehanna River. Wages for hewers in those days was sixty-two and one-half cents per day of twelve hours.
Logging, or cutting the trees into logs different lengths, was not commenced for some time after the lumbering, or the making of square timber, and when the first logs were placed in the creek to be run out on the first flood, the anger of the lumbermen was so raised against the loggers that a number of them proceeded to chop the logs to pieces, while others drove nails and spikes into the logs so that they could not be sawed. A lawsuit was the result, which was gained by the loggers, and thereafter logs and rafts had equal rights to the water. William R. Dickinson was the first man to run logs, and his logs were the ones destroyed.
In 1847 a very heavy flood occurred in the waters leading from the county, the river being ten feet higher than has been known since. In 1865 another flood occurred, but not so disastrous as the preceding one.
Mills for the manufacturing of lumber were built as early as the forties, but it was not until 1854 that the first mill was built in the township. This was Houtz, Reed & Co.'s mill at Houtzville (now Brisbin). Another mill was built above Houtzdale, about a mile, by Dull & Kesslet, in 1867. The lumber from these two mills was hauled by tram-road to Moshannon mines in 1868, and shipped by rail.
The Reeds built another mill in what is now Houtzdale in 1869, and from that date on numerous mills were built, notably Heim's mill, in 1871, situated two miles west of Osceola Mills; Kephart & Bailey's "bill mill," in 1873, one mile west of the same place. Isaac Taylor also built a mill on Coal Run in 1869, and S.S. Kephart has a mill there yet. Jesse Diggins built a mill on Goss Run, a little below Houtz, Reed & Co.'s mill, in 1873, and a man named McOmber had a portable mill at the head of Goss Run as early as 1868, while J.A.G. White built the first shingle-mill near Osceola Mills in 1867.
Thomas Henderson also built a mill near his farm in 1877, and a Mr. Alport one at the head of Coal Run the same year. McCaulley & Ramey built a mill at Stirling in 1870, and another one at a point now called Ramey in 1874. The timber of this region was so fine that sticks squared one foot, and seventy-six feet long, were furnished for the Centennial buildings, and seventy-two feet long for the insane asylum at Norristown.
Beyer & Kirk built a mill near Morgan Run in 1882, and another near Madera in 1885. Messrs. Fryberger & Fee had a shingle-mill in operation near Houtzdale in 1881, and Walker Brothers one on Morgan Run, and William Luther one at Madera, while Frederick Ramey had another at Osceola Mills.
There was another saw-mill one mile south of Osceola Mills, and another three miles west of the same place, and though these last two were in Centre county, just over the line, yet they helped to clear the forests of this side of the county line.
Mr. Mays and John Hamerly built a planning-mill one mile west of Houtzdale in 1874. This mill was afterwards sold to Samuel T. Henderson, and by him to Giles Walker in 1885, but Mr. Walker re-sold the mill to Henderson in 1886, by whom it is now operated.
The shipment of lumber from this region from 1867 to 1884 was 1,082,-742 tons, averaging two tons per thousand feet, aggregating 541,371,000 feet of lumber. This only represents the amount manufactured in the townships under review. There was a large amount of logs cut and floated to market. Jacob Kepler logged the southern side of the A.B. Long tract as early as 1858, while Howard Matley and John Bordeaux logged the Moshannon Coal Company's tract in 1869.
Of course there was not much business done in the township until the Moshannon Branch Railroad was built in 1869, but from that time improvements have followed each other very fast. The population in 1872, when Houtzdale was taken from it, was eighteen hundred, while in 1885 it was over ten thousand, by adding the boroughs and townships erected within its borders since the former date.
This is also historic ground. A most sanguinary battle, so tradition has it, was fought between General Anthony Wayne and the Indians, about half a mile south of Houtzdale, and the graves of the slain can be distinctly traced. Many relics, bones, arrow-heads and other relics have been picked up around the spot, and the trees bore many a mark of the conflict. In fact, when these trees were felled and hauled to the mills to be sawed they often destroyed the saws and endangered the life of the sawyer by coming in contact with some stone implement or arrow-head imbedded in the wood.
Before the advent of the railroad, however, Dr. Houtz, who had bought large tracts of lands in the township, and on which Houtzdale, Brisbin, and a number of villages stand, determined to make a way to get his lumber to market, and, with this end in view, he deputized his son-in-law, George M. Brisbin, to come into the township and see what could be done. Mr. Brisbin came here, then, before the advent of railroads, though the Tyrone and Clearfield railway was talked about. He proposed and actually surveyed a route for a plank road from Osceola Mills to Jeansville, and Madera, about ten miles. This was to be supplemented by a tramroad, so as to enable them to haul their lumber to the railroad. This plank and tramroad was never destined to be built, however, for when Mr. Brisbin had everything ready to commence, the Messrs. Knight, who owned the extensive coal lands at Moshannon, came along and asked Dr. Houtz to join with them and build a railroad three miles long. The doctor agreed to this, as it would bring his lands within one mile of an outlet, and the road was built. This was the first of the Moshannon Branch. Mr. Brisbin then built a tramroad from the mills at "Houtzville," as it was then called, to Moshannon, one mile long, and hauled his lumber to that point and shipped it. In 1869 the railroad was graded to Dr. Houtz's lands, and thus, step by step, this Moshannon was built, until today it is seventeen miles long, one branch six miles long, one four miles long, three branches one mile long, one branch two miles, and double-tracked for five miles. All this was accomplished within twenty-one years.
The cause of the sudden increase of population was the opening the coal beds. If has not been all prosperity, however. The miners did not always work, but created an occasional disturbance by striking. The first general strike occurred in January, 1869, but it did not last very long. Wages were advanced about fifteen per cent. The next strike commenced November 15, 1872, and lasted until February, 1873. The men were receiving seventy cents per ton of 2,240 pounds for digging coal, but were not satisfied, and struck for eighty cents. Some rioting occurred during this strike, and the tipple of the Stirling mine was destroyed by fire.
The men rested satisfied until 1875, when, in May and June of that year, master and men locked horns once more against a reduction, but the men were beaten. During this strike a large amount of rioting occurred, and the military were ordered out to protect property, but through the efficiency of the then sheriff, W.R. McPherson, all trouble was stopped without having recourse to that arm of the law.
The next strike occurred in 1877, during what is known as the railroad strike, but was not for any principle or price connected with the mining of coal, but in sympathy with the railroad hands. This price of mining, however, had been reduced to forty cents by this time, but were raised to fifty cents in 1878.
In 1880 another strike took place, the men wanting sixty cents per ton, but they did not get it. Thus matters progressed until 1882, when it was deemed advisable to try another strike for sixty cents, but the men were again defeated, the price remaining at fifty cents. In April, 1884, the price for mining was again reduced to forty cents; and in 1886 another strike was made to get ten cents per ton advance, but again failure attended the efforts of the miners, and the price remained forty cents per ton until March 1, 1887, when the operators voluntarily advanced the price to fifty cents per ton.
There are a number of houses of worship in the township outside of the boroughs, the oldest being known as "Beulah," organized May 25, 1859, and situated about half a mile from the village of Ramey, and belonging to the Presbyterian Society. It was an off-shoot from the Mount Pleasant Church, Hegarty's "X Roads." It was about the first church erected in the township. Its first pastor was Rev. A.N. Holloway, who officiated from 1863 to 1867; Rev. William Prideaux from 1867 to 1872, and Rev. William Gemmil from 1872 until August, 1887. Rev. A.N. Bird followed Mr. Gemmil.
The Methodist Episcopal Society dedicated a church at Ramey, January 7, 1883, and in 1885 they opened another at Centre, Decator township.
The Primitive Methodists have a church at West Moshannon, and the Angelicans one at Victor Mines. Besides these regular consecrated houses of worship, the ministers of the different denominations go through the township and hold services at the school-houses, or in private houses.
There are a large number of school-buildings in the township. In the beginning of 1882 there were over eleven hundred children attending the schools, but the number has increased over thirty-three per cent since.
The population of the township increased so rapidly that it was impossible to receive the votes at one polling place, therefore the court was petitioned to appoint a commission to inquire into the expediency of creating three more polling places. On the 10th of March, 1882, this commission, consisting of John I. Patterson and S.C. Smith, of the borough of Clearfield, and George M. Brisbin, of the borough of Osceola Mills, met at Houtzdale, and, with the advice and assistance of the voters of the township, determined to ask the court to confirm the wish of the citizens, that three more polling places be made, and at the fall term of court for that year their desire was granted. The first district was called the Madera district; the second the Happy Valley district; the third the West Houtzdale district, and the fourth the North Houtzdale district.
Madera is a village situated on the east side of Clearfield Creek, four miles from Houtzdale. It was formerly called Puseyville, after Charles Pusey, who owned the land upon which it was built, and who erected saw-mills and a large grist-mill near the town site. The town is surrounded with hills in which are numerous coal beds. There are a number of fine residences in the town, notably the Hagerty houses. The extension of the Moshannon Branch Railroad to the place gave the town an impetus that will in a very short time place it on a level with the others in the coal regions.
The borough of Houtzdale is the outcome of the energy and enterprise of George M. Brisbin, who, feeling assured that it was only a question of time when railroads would be built to and open up the region, caused the town to be surveyed in 1869, and commenced selling lots. The town was named in honor of Dr. Daniel Houtz, of Alexandria, PA, so often named in this history as owning a vast number of acres of land in this vicinity, and upon a portion of whose lands the town was projected.
Up to the year 1869 there was no trace of a habitation further than a lumber camp. There were no roads, literally nothing, except big pine and hemlock trees, and rhododendron underbrush, commonly known as "big" laurel.
L.G. Lingle (now deceased) was the engineer who laid out the town, and a person who now looks upon its streets can have no idea of what it was to lay out and survey for a town on this site. The pine trees had been cut down during the spring of 1869, and the logs which they made were hauled to the mill, but their tops and butts, together with old fallen logs, standing hemlock trees, and the aforesaid underbrush, made it nearly impassable; but to the credit of Mr. Lingle, thirteen years afterwards when the borough was re-surveyed, the streets then being opened, there was very little difference in the two plots.
Houtzdale is situated on the Moshannon Branch Railroad, six miles from Osceola Mills, where the road ends, and is the center of the semi-bituminous coal region. It was made a borough on the 20th day of March, 1872, and now, 1887, contains a population of about two thousand. The borough is surrounded with numerous smaller towns, which join up to her limits, so that a stranger cannot tell where the town begins and ends. For three miles along the railroad the traveler is continuously passing through towns and villages-Stirling on the east, West Houtzdale on the west, Loraine joining West Houtzdale further west, and Atlantic joining Loraine still further west, while Brisbin borough's south line is Houtzdale's north line. The population tributary to the post-office at Houtzdale is, therefore, in the neighborhood of ten thousand souls.
The first house built in the borough is the log house now owned by P.J. McCullough, on Brisbin street, and which was formerly a lumbering camp. The second house in the borough limits was the boarding shanty that stood just east of the residence of Dr. D.A. Hogue, and which is now destroyed. The houses the mill company built on the eastern line of the town were the next addition, though at the time the houses mentioned were built, there was no borough, or had the survey been made. Therefore the first house built after the town had been laid out, was the house next to the present opera house, and which erected by Jesse Diggins, and afterwards sold to Timothy McCarthy.
George Charlton, Sr., Richard Jays, Charles Charlton, Benjamin Charlton, William Charlton, Thomas Gleghorn, Mrs. Ann Higgins, William Hollingsworth, Arthur Hoaxley, and John Argyle were the next to purchase lots and erect houses-in fact these parties all bought and built at the same time. George M. Brisbin next erected the store building now occupied by R.R. Fleming, and also the first depot and warehouse, with a town hall overhead; the latter building occupied the ground where stands the handsome brick store built by Frank, Liverright & Co., but now owned by the Eureka Supply Company.
The first hotel was built by David Persing on the corner of Hannah and Brisbin streets. The hotel was burnt in 1872, and for a while thereafter a shanty occupied the ground, built by Jesse Williams; but the ground being afterwards bought by James Dunn, he erected the present Exchange Hotel on it, afterwards selling it to Morris Lang.
The railroad reached Houtzdale in 1870. Previous to that all supplies for that point were delivered at Stirling, a half mile east, and then re-loaded on trams and hauled to its destination. When the railroad reached the "burg," however, all this changed. The first passenger train consisted of a coach behind a coal train, but as the population increased, regular passenger trains were run, and now four daily trains each way are required to do the business and carry the people, and a local freight train of never less than ten cars is needed to bring in the supplies.
The town grew very rapidly from the beginning. The coal surrounding the borough was proven to be the best then, or now, known, and therefore capital rushed in to secure the prize. As the colleries multiplied, the population increased and houses went up as if by magic.
A post-office was granted the borough in 1870, John Brisbin being the first postmaster. He kept the office in the depot building. The first mails were semi-weekly. (The colleries had their mails carried from Osceola Mills, daily by private messenger.) Mr. Brisbin moved the office, soon after, to a building that is now situated immediately west of Dr. Hogue's. In the mean time the mill company had built a store immediately south of Dr. Hogue, and Mr. Bergstresser was store-keeper. Mr. Brisbin resigning the office, Mr. Bergstresser was appointed postmaster, and moved the office to the store. A daily mail was soon granted to the town thereafter. The office was retained in this store until Frank, Liveright & Co. built the (now) Telephone Exchange, when the office was moved into that building. In 1880 Mr. Bergstresser built an office on Good street and moved the office therein. This was burnt on the night of May 6th, 1881, and the office was opened temporarily in VanDusen's old store building opposite, and remained there until the burned building could be replaced, when the office was again moved to its old quarters. Theodore Van Dusen succeeded Mr. Bergstresser in 1883, and George W. Dickey succeeded Mr. Van Dusen in 1887.
The first church building erected was on the corner of Charles and Clara streets, a union church, but it afterwards passed into the hands of the Methodist Episcopal society. This building, before completion, was destroyed by an incendiary fire, on the night of August 6th, 1872. The congregation immediately re-built, however, and on the 8th of December of the same year, the present building was dedicated. Rev. J.F. Bell was the minister at that time. The first Methodist services were held in Brisbin Hall, in 1871, and Houtzdale was connected with the Osceola circuit until 1884, the pulpit being supplied by the same ministers who supplied Osceola Mills. In the latter year the Houtzdale church was made a "station," with Rev. A.W. Guyer as pastor. He was followed by Rev. J.A. De Moyer.
In March, 1881, the Methodists sold this old church building to the German Reformed society for $400. This denomination supplied their pulpit by missionaries until August 27, 1882, when the Rev. C.W.E. Seigel was duly installed pastor of the congregation, resigning in 1887. Since this society purchased the old church, they have added a residence for their minister to the rear of the building, and have otherwise beautified the property.
The Methodists, before selling their first church, had erected an unique and tasteful church on their lot, corner of Good and Clara streets, which was dedicated December 4th, 1881. Under the charge of Rev. De Moyer they have built a parsonage back of this last church, and which was first occupied in 1886.
On December 15, 1874, the Rev. Martin Meagher, Roman Catholic missionary, first celebrated mass in Brisbin Hall, and during that year the Rev. gentleman traveled from Osceola Mills, to minister to the wants of his people. In April, 1875, the foundation of the present St. Lawrence Church was commenced. The Roman Catholic congregation was poor, however, and the work did not progress very fast. The building committee, P.J. McCullough, Frank Bolger, David Buckley, James Dunn and John Garrity, entered into a contract with David C. Nelson, to erect a suitable church building for them; said church to be ninety feet long, forty-five feet wide and thirty-eight feet high from the floor to the comb of the roof. The church was so far completed by May 11, 1876, that the contractor thought the congregation might occupy it for service, and so notified the committee. But unfortunately, he had not supported the floor properly, and the weight of a large number of people caused the joists to break immediately under the gallery at the rear, and the floor went down, carrying with it all that were in that portion, and the gallery. Mr. Nelson was immediately under the gallery, and was killed by the falling timbers, while numbers of others sustained broken bones and bruises. The church was repaired as soon as possible and pushed on to completion. It was consecrated in 1882, and is a very fine edifice, built in a Gothic form, with open roof timbers, and tastefully frescoed. On the 20th of August, 1879, H.C. Parks built a parsonage is occupied by the priest in charge (Rev. Meagher), who was their first and still remains pastor. In March, 1883, Father Meagher associated with him Rev. Father McGinley, who assisted in the arduous labors of this mission, but the outlying districts being places under the charge of another priest, Father McGinley was removed to another field.
The Presbyterian society built a neat and commodious place of worship on the corner of South Brisbin street and Centennial Avenue, in 1878. In 1886 they added a church parlor on the rear of their lot. Rev. William Gemmil was the first pastor, followed by the Rev. A.N. Bird. Mr. Gemmil is the clergyman who officiated at Beulah Church, mentioned in the history of Woodward township. The Presyterian congregation is a large one, made up mostly from the Scotch and Protestant Irish. The church was first organized July 17, 1875, with nineteen members.
The Methodist Protestant denomination built a church on the northeast corner of Brisbin and Sue street, in 1876. This is a small sect and unable to keep a regular pastor. The congregation is made up mostly of English.
In 1884 the Protestant Episcopal congregation erected for themselves, on the northwest corner of Brisbin and Sue street, a very handsome little church. The style is Gothic, with open roof timbers, and recessed chancel. The altar is beautifully decorated, while two candelabra with seven candles on each, light it at night. The chancel furniture is in keeping, and altogether the Anglican Catholics can congratulate themselves on having a very handsomely arranged church. This communion is made up mostly of English, former members of the Church of England. They are miners with few exceptions, and unable to support a priest alone. The church is under the charge of Rev. A.S.R. Richards, missionary, with the Rev. F.C. Cowper, of Philipsburg, priest in charge of Clearfield county south of the Susquehanna River.
The Swedish Lutherans also erected a very handsome church, across the street from the German Reform Church, in 1885. Rev. Linholm, missionary in charge. This church is what might be called a High Lutheran Church. The ritual is very elaborate. They hold to the doctrines of the Augsberg Confession, and to those taught direct by Martin Luther.
A frame school building was erected in 1874 on the corner of George and Mary streets. This was soon found to be too small, and in 1881, the school-board proceeded to erect a large brick building, on the lots bounded by Clara and McAteer streets, and Deer and Pine alleys. When nearly finished, it was found that the foundation was too weak to support the building, and it had to be taken down, the foundation strengthened and rebuilt. This, when done, gave Houtzdale as fine a school-building as any in the county, and one large enough to satisfy all wants for years to come. The old frame building was sold to the Roman Catholics in 1883, who had it greatly enlarged, and refitted it with the newest apparatus, opened it with a parochial school, in 1886, under charge of the Sisters of Mercy, for of whom are stationed in the town.
George M. Brisbin was the first railroad agent for the town. When he sold his store and depot building in 1873, to H.S. Frank, he also resigned the agency, and Mr. Frank succeeded him. The last named gentleman did not keep it long; on August 11, 1873, Morris Liveright succeeded him, with R. R. Fleming as assistant. Mr. Liveright resigned July 1, 1885, and J.P. Stroup was then appointed. During the early part of Mr. Fleming's agency the telegraph was introduced, and the Adams Express Company opened an office.
In the spring of 1871 Father Meagher, priest of St. Lawrence Church, secured from the Houtz heirs two acres of ground, on the southwest line of the borough, which her had carefully cleared and fenced in, and laid out for cemetery, in which the members of his communion could be laid to rest.
A Building and Load Association was formed May 23, 1871, and named Washington. This association did much towards the building of the town. It helped its members to build homes for themselves and others, and may be said to be the first beneficial society.
The first Houtzdale newspaper published was a little 9 by 12 sheet, issued by L.A. Fraser, in the early part of 1878, and called Houtzdale Squib. In November it was changed to a four-column quarto, its name to the Houtzdale News, and published by W.R. and L.A. Fraser. The News lived until January 13, 1880, when it was discontinued.
On the 15th of December, 1881, the first copy of the Houtzdale Observer was issued; a five-column quarto, and published by the Observer Publishing Company. This last paper was issued until April, 1882, when W.R. Fraser altered it to a six-column quarto, and published it until December of the same year. L.A. Fraser then took charge, and continued its publication until March 15, 1883, when B.W. Hess bought the material, and published it for two weeks. He then sold to B.F. Defibaugh, who published it for a short time, when he sold the concern to White Nixon, who made a Labor paper of it, and continues to do so. The Frasers published the Observer as a temperance paper.
A job printing office was opened in what is now the Telephone Exchange, by Capt. Amos Row, of the Raftsman's Journal, Clearfield, 1878. This office Mr. Row kept open until June, 1879, when he retired from the field, and sold his material to L.A. Fraser & Bro.
Kinsloe & Kinsloe started a weekly paper in April, 1886, which they called the Clearfield Region Mining Record, with Donald St. George Fraser editor. This paper, after two months, they altered to a semi-weekly, and is now published in Osceola Mills as a Labor organ.
At present Houtzdale depends altogether for its business on the mining industry. The timber is all cut in and around the town, therefore the sawmills are abandoned. The old mill on the eastern side of the borough, near the Eureka No. I Colliery, and which was built by E.N. Conn & Co., in 1868, afterwards sold to Frank, Liverright & Co., and which cut the major portion of the timber on Dr. Houtz's land, was destroyed by the fire in the summer of 1876. The site of the mill pond is now covered by stately residences, the Presbyterian Church, the railroad depot and business places. It would be hard to find the marks of the old pond, or where it was except that the Beaver Run is still meandering along its old way. The trestle work of the Harrison Coal Company is built in front of where the breast of the stood.
There are a number of good hotels in Houtzdale. Mention has already been made of the Persing Hotel. In 1871 Wm. Parker built the "Blue House," on the corner of George and Eliza streets, while James Haley built the "Houtzdale," on Brisbin street. In the year 1871, William Parker built the "Central," now leased by George H. Woodin, while E.C. Howe built the "St. Cloud." In 1877 Fred Wrese built the "Arlington," and during these early times Patrick Donelly built the "St. Charles," Patrick Shields the "Union Hotel," William Curran the "St. Elmo," Richard Mardigan the "Washington," Frank, Liveright & Co. the "Mansion," Lewis Lashance the "New York House," and James Kelly the "Clearfield House." This is enough to show that Houtzdale had sufficient hotel accommodations for man and beast.
The Houtzdale Bank, Charles R. Houtz, cashier, was opened January 1st, 1881, in the office of the Houtz heirs, corner of South Brisbin street and the railroad. In 1882 the Houtz heirs commenced the erection of the stone building on Hannah street, and which the bank occupied for the first time in November, 1882. Mr. Houtz, the cashier, is one of the best men in the region, having been raised in and around the town.
Houtzdale can boast of some fine business houses. The largest is the brick store, corner of Brisbin and Hannah streets, and which is owned by the Eureka Supply Company, limited. The next largest is the frame store, on the corner of Good and Hannah streets, and which is owned and occupied by G.W. Dickey & Co. Next is the large brick store owned and occupied by Lang, Feldman & Co.; the brick building of Dr. Rhodes, druggist, and Haggerty's brick building; Gleason's frame building on the corner of Brisbin and Eliza streets; the large frame on the northwest corner of Good and Hannah streets, and occupied by Frederick Dando, green-grocer and J.W. Moore, as a meat market; next there are Andy Ashton and S.J. Fries, merchant, while R.R. Fleming and Galer & Bro. Own large hardware stores W.C. Langsford, clothing, and Langsford & Co., tobacco, barber shop and book store.
Houtzdale has many societies, that is to say, secret societies. Moshannon Tribe No. 233, I.O. or R.M., was instituted on the 30th Sunflower Moon, G.S.D. 385, or common era, May 30th, 1876, and still meets regularly on the sleep of the Friday's sun.
Pacific Lodge, No. 450, K. of P., was instituted June 30th, 1876, and meet on each Thursday night.
Houtzdale Lodge, No. 990, I.O.O.F., was instituted Thursday, October 26, 1882. They occupy the hall over the store of D.C. Conrad, and meet on Thursday evenings.
William H. Kincaid Post, No. 293, G.A.R., was organized on Tuesday, November 20, 1882, by members of Jno. W. Geary Post, and meet on Monday evenings in Parker's Hall.
Edward L. Miller Post, No. 13, Sons of Veterans, was organized November 16, 1883, but it had been discontinued.
There are also two Catholic societies that are not secret, the St. Joseph Total Abstinence and the Emerald societies.
The Knights of Labor have large lodges in the town, which embrace both male and female members, but as they do not desire publication, the dates of their organization cannot be ascertained.
Though Houtzdale is essentially a wooded town, yet there had been but two destructive fires in the borough limits, the first being the burning of the Barney Kinney house and up as far as the Exchange hotel, in 1877; and the second, the burning of the block at the corner of Good and Hannah streets, in May, 1881. True there have been numerous single buildings burned, but the fire did not spread to contiguous property.
There are not many costly residences within the borough, but numerous tasty and cheerful homes dot the streets here and there. The residence built by Theodore Van Dusen, must not be passed over. This house is built in the style of Queen Anne, and cost, with the spacious grounds, about $7,000. The residence of Lindsay, the Jeweler, is a quaint building, and of a peculiar style in architecture.
Houtzdale supports a first class brass band, a fife and drum corps, a string band, choral society, and a local dramatic troupe.
The 1866, a company of the citizens projected and commenced an opera house. This building is one-hundred feet wide, one hundred and twenty-five feet deep and thirty-five feet high. It has a large balcony, dress circle and parquet, and has a seating capacity of about fourteen-hundred. The house is lighted with gas manufactured in the building. Its stage is very large and the scenery magnificent. All its doors open outwardly, and two large doors are placed on each side, for the escape of the audience in case of fire.
Telephonic communication with all mines, business places, and surrounding towns is had, and some of the streets are filled with a network of wires. Taken altogether, Houtzdale is a busy and energetic borough, and from all known facts is likely to remain so for a great number of years to come.
James Wiseman, and old resident of the town, and one of the pioneers of Madera, can lay just claim to being the first person who explored for coal near the town, as he was at work for Charles Pusey, agent of the Madera Improvement Company, in January, 1866.
W.C. Langsford & Co. opened a mine on Bed F, near the Eureka No. 10 colliery, in 1883. This bed proves to be a good coal, and the persons who opened it coke the slack, and sell both it and "lump" to the citizens for household use. The mine is on the lands of the Houtz heirs.
This borough was named in honor of George M. Brisbin, esq., of Osceola Mills. Mr. Brisbin was the first settler on the lands now comprised in the town, he having erected a log camp on or near the present residence of J.B. Douglass, in 1854, when a primeval forest stretched for miles all around. His nearest neighbor on the side was Isaac Goss, who lived where Samuel Henderson's farm was cultivated afterwards, and James Parsons near the present hamlet of Parsonville.
As mentioned elsewhere in this chapter, Dr. Daniel Houtz owned the lands upon which Brisbin is now built, and Mr. Brisbin took up his residence here for the purpose of advancing Dr. Houtz's interests.
Looking toward that end, a firm styled Houtz, Reed & Co. built a saw-mill in September, 1854, in front of what is now George Rhodes's "Seven Stars Hotel," which mill was run successfully until the spring of 1869, when, the timber having been cut off, the mill was moved to the site of Houtzdale. The village which sprang up around the mill was called "Houtzville," and the name continued to be used as long as the mill remained there.
Mr. Brisbin being thus shut in by thick woods, having no amusements (and being a printer, amusement was necessary to him), used to stroll through the forest communing with nature, and hunting the game so plentiful at the time. About half a mile above the mill, near the present colliery of Loraine, he happened to see what he thought was the signs of coal (and being a Pittsburg lad none knew the signs better than himself), he returned to camp, and getting a pick and shovel, returned, accompanied by "Red Bill" and a man named Hahn. He set them to work, and in a short time uncovered a vein nearly six feet thick. This was important, so Mr. Brisbin explored further, for he believed in the doctrine that the pick and shovel would discover more geology than could theory, and in a few months be discovered that all the lands of Dr. Houtz were underlaid with a bed of the best quality of semi-bituminous coal. After years proved that the first report was not exaggerated, for eight large collieres were opened upon these lands, and four are still working. These veins were all on Bed E, the other beds not having been touched as yet.
In 1870, as the mines were being opened around the village, the land owners laid out a town and prepared to sell lots, and numerous houses were erected. The place was then called North Houtzdale. When the railroad reached the place, in 1874, an impetus was given to it that looked as if it would rival its neighbor over the hill. In 1880 Hoover, Hughes & Co. bought the timber on the Haggerty estate from Wallace, Redding & Richey, for about $65,000, and erected a large mill in the northern part of the town. This mill was burnt May 27, 1881, but the proprietors immediately rebuilt, and in August of the same year the mill was re-started.
Towards the latter part of 1876 the Welch Baptist congregation erected a neat little church on the hill near the Stirling No. 2 colliery, and, in the following year the Welsh Congregationalists erected another place of worship, a little lower down the hill, but close to the Baptists.
In the fall of 1881 the English Baptists built a church near the saw-mill, while members of the Church of God (Evangelical Methodists), worshipped in the school-houses, of which there were three. So, altogether, both the religious and educational privileges of the people were well looked after.
Hotels innumerable also sprang up, and North Houtzdale only wanted a passenger train and a post-office to complete its municipal arrangement.
There was an Odd Fellows Lodge started here in 1876, which, from the first, was a success; it was named Goss Run Lodge No. 919. In November, 1877, this lodge secured from the Houtz heirs the free gift of a tract of land for burial purposes. This piece of land is situated on the knoll between the Goss Run and a run on the south not named. The ground slopes to the east. The lodge prepared at once to clear and fence in this tract, and open it for the purpose intended. This they did, and today it is a beautiful spot, the only cemetery, except the Roman Catholic, for miles around. In the year 1886 the lodge was compelled to purchase a large tract adjoining so as to enlarge their friends there for their last long rest.
On the 20th day of February, 1883, Garfield Encampment No. 260, I.O.O.F., was organized, with a membership of one hundred and ninety. This is a higher branch of Odd Fellowship, conferring three more degrees on the members of the subordinate lodge. The success of this encampment and lodge, and therefore the cemetery, was due to the untiring efforts of D. St. George Fraser. Mr. Fraser was a civil engineer by profession; came to the region in 1871. He surveyed nearly all the country around, while every mine in the region at the time, and later, bore his imprint on their walls.
January 8, 1883, North Houtzdale was no more, for the courts of the county decreed that thereafter the place should be known as the borough of Brisbin. On June 20, the same year, a post-office was granted the borough and John E. Vaughn was commissioned postmaster. The mail was made up in the office at Houtzdale and carried over the hill. The distance from the center of Hannah street, Houtzdale, to the center of Irvin street, Brisbin (both the streets named being about the center of the respective towns), is less than a mile. The southern line of Brisbin and the northern line of Houtzdale touch, a hill about four hundred feet high being between. This hill disappears a mile east, so that the railroad running through Brisbin joins the Houtzdale branch a mile from the town.
On the 2nd day of May, 1884, Brisbin was totally destroyed by fire. Like the day when Osceola Mills was destroyed, a heavy wind was blowing. A fire in the woods, towards the west, that had been burning for some days, was helped along rapidly by the high wind, until at noon, on the day mentioned, the fire reached and kindled Hoover, Hughes & Co.'s mill, and from there it was only a short time until the place was entirely destroyed. So rapid was the spread of the fire that the inhabitants could not save anything, and were forced to flee for their lives. Only one life was lost, however, an aged lady, who had reached a place of safety, west back to look after her cow, and was smothered by the smoke and gases arising from the burning buildings.
The people did not rest content however, and though the greater portion of the houses were owned by the mining population, some of whom came home from the "bank" only to find that all the goods they possessed in the world was destroyed, yet they went bravely to work to restore their loss, and built another home. The Brisbin of today shows how well they succeeded. The town is about as large as formerly, with a number of fine business places and large hotels.
In 1883 the Brisbin Opera House Company had erected a very large and commodious opera house. This house was fitted up with the best scenery, opera chairs, and all the conveniences necessary for the production of plays, operas, and other amusements. This hall was destroyed with the rest in the fire of 1884. The company, however, rebuilt their house larger than at first.
In the fall of 1885 the Pennsylvania Railroad Company caused the passenger trains of the Moshannon Branch to run into Brisbin. This they do by running in one mile from the main stem and then backing out. The Adams Express Company at the same time opened an office in the town.
Maurice Barron had succeeded Mr. Vaughn as postmaster by this time, as the government had been changed in 1884 by the election of Mr. Cleveland, and the first incumbent was not of the dominant party. In the spring of 1886 the government granted a bag to this office and the mails were dispatched direct.
In the fall of 1886 the English Baptist Church was burned, but the congregation rebuilt the edifice in the spring of 1887, larger than before.
Brisbin is surrounded by numerous other towns that are not incorporated; on the east is the town of Stirling. The town was named by John F. Blandy, from Stirling Castle, or the town of Stirling, in Scotland; on the west is "Irish-town;" on the north is Dogtown, Spruceville, and Blairsville; on the northeast is Parsonville, while, as already stated, on the south is Houtzdale.
The population of the town is about eleven hundred. The only manufacturing industries within the limits of Brisbin borough, or in its immediate vicinity, are the mills of Hoover, Hughes & Co., and a lager beer brewery. The chief occupation of the town and neighborhood is its extensive mining operations. The first coal mined from Bed E was taken from this region, and that only for the purpose of supplying fuel for the mills.
Source: Pages 658-673, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.
Transcribed August 1999 by Louise Muniak 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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