Chapter XIX - Beaver Township
History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania
BEAVER TOWNSHIP, the fifth in order of time formed from the original
territory of Catawissa, derives its name from a small stream, Beaver run, which flows through a valley of the same name, and empties its waters into the Catawissa creek after a course of ten miles from its source at the Luzerne county line. The region drained by this stream is a comparatively narrow valley between Buck and McCauley mountains. The former terminates abruptly a short distance from the point where these two streams unite. The latter is an interesting and peculiar feature of the topography. Rising to a considerable altitude above the surface of the valley at a point just within Columbia county, it extends westward in an unbroken trend for a distance of five miles, where, by a gradual slope, it sinks to the level of Catawissa creek; northward from the McCauley ridge is Nescopeck mountain - a natural and effective barrier, appropriately utilized as the boundary between Beaver and Mifflin townships. The regular and symmetrical proportions of these elevations appear in strong contrast with the varying characteristics of the Catawissa range. Distinguished by the spurs and foothills which mark its northern slope, it encloses Beaver township within its semi-circular convolutions. At its base the valley of Scotch run, a small tributary stream whose course marks the lowest depression between the Nescopeck and McCauley mountains.
A region of alternating elevations and depressions, with no advantages of fertile soil or accessible location, did not attract settlement and improvement until the more desirable lands were no longer available. As early as 1774, however, Beaver valley was entered by Alexander McCauley, an account of whose mysterious disappearance is given in the history of Locust township. It is said that at this time his nearest neighbors were in the vicinity of Catawissa, excepting a community of beavers, who erected a dam on the stream, which derives it name from this circumstance, a short distance above its junction with Catawissa creek. The regions known as "Beaverswamps" included the area drained by both the affluents of this creek, Scotch run and Beaver run. The beaver, bear and deer were followed to these fastnesses by a class of men with whom danger and distance were no unfavorable considerations. Alexander McCauley retired from the frontier in 1776, none too soon to escape the ravages of the border warfare; but Andrew Harger, his neighbor on Catawissa creek, with more courage than prudence, remained until summarily avducted by a party of hostile savages. For some days his captors pursued their jouney in a northerly directions, their destination apparently being what was then known as Upper Canada. Without any apparent reason they turned about when they had reached a point in western New York, and after several weeks of suspense and anxiety Harger realized that he was somewhere in the vicinity of the north branch of the Susquehanna. He had now been in captivity nearly a year, but was not guarded as closely as at first. Embracing a fovorable opportunity of escape, he made his way to the river by night, and concealed himself beneath a pile of drift wood. With a surprising degree of physical endurance, he kept his body beneath the water, while, through the crevices between the logs, his foes were plainly seen engaged in the search. For seven days he continued his journey, subsisting on such roots and herbs as were nutritious, and on a maimed turkey he was fortunate as to capture. Greatly emaciated, he at last reached a frontier settlement wiser by one year's experience as an Indian prisoner.
No attempt was made to resume the settlement of the "Beaverswamps" until after the close of the revolution. No considerable number of people were yet residents at the time Mifflin township was formed, in 1799. Thomas Wilkinson, an Englishman, lived in a cave along Catawissa creek near the site of an Indian town and burying ground, but does not appear to have extended a very cordial welcome to the settlers who followed him and invaded the solitudes he seemed to have regarded as his exclusive property. James Van Clargan, the Klingamans, Oaks, Rarig, Mensinger, Swank, Longenberger and Fisher families were among the first to become permanent settlers. The Van Clargans cleared the farm now occupied by Charles Michael. The farms owned by the Klingamans were claimed by Daniel Oaks, and Englishman from New Jersey, but his rights were disputed by Reuben Eyerly. Oaks and all his family were onenight burned in their house. Eyerly was seen in the neighborhood the preceding evening; there was not, however, sufficient evidence to criminate him, and he was set at liberty. He was subsequently hanged on a similar charge. About 1810 John Dalins, a German rom Lehigh county, made an improvement near Catawissa creek, at the foot of the mountain. Following the course of the creek John Rarig, Ludwig Mensinger and John Hoats, from Berks county, cleared the land on what is now the Catawissa and Ringtown road. John and Christian Shuman, from Catawissa, erected a tannery and saw mill on the site of the present tannery at Shumantown.
The route followed by these persons from the southern counties was the Reading road to Catawissa, and from that point a way opened by themselves along Catawissa creek. This road was subsequently extended to Reading but was not umproved until 1852, although traveled extensively long before that time. For many years the hotel of Adam Michael, at the foot of Buck mountain, was a prominent place of social resort. When Mifflin township was erected in 1799 Mifflinville was the voting place for the popuation of Beaver valley; subsequently the Paxton election district, so named in honor of Colonel Joseph Paxton, was formed out of the region south of Nescopeck mountain, and a voting place was established at Michael's hotel; finally in November, 1845, the township of Beaver was erected, comprising nearly the same area previously included in the separate election district. While these changes were being made in the political organization of the region, plans were being matured the execution of which promised to revolutionize the industrial character of its people. The object of those who projected these changes was the development of rich deposits of coal suuposed to exist in the McCauley and Buck mountains.
As early as 1826 the presence of coal in the McCauley mountain was an established fact. Ten years later Nicholas BIddle and other proected the Catawissa railroad, and graded various sections of the line in Beaver township. Not until 1853, however, was the road open to traffic and travel. The attention of the capitalists and others was then directed to the coal measures of the McCauley and Buck mountains thus brought within reach of transportation facilities. By an act approved May 5, 1854, the McCauley railroad company was incorporated, the rail-road projected being a line five miles in length to connect the coal veins of McCauley mountain with the Catawissa rail-road. By an act approved April 27, 1855, Charles B. Penrose, Lee W. Buffington, M. D., and John C. Sims were constituted the Columbia Coal and Iron company. By the provisions of its charter the capital stock was fixed at five-hundred thousand dollars, and its operations confined to Columbia and Montour counties. By an act approved April 19, 1858, the McCauley rail-road comapany was consolidated with the COlumbia Coal and Iron company. The construction of the rail-road and of an extensive coal breaker was begun, a tract of land embracing two-thousand four-hundred acres having previously been purchased. It embraces four tracts, originally surveyed for John Reese, John Brady, Jeremiah Jackson and Robert Gray, in pursuance of their warrants issued December 7, 1793. In 1867 coal shipments from the McCauley colliery were begun. The same year Simon P. Case erected another breaker, and formed the Beaver creek Cole company. In September, 1869, both breakers and the track of the McCauley rail-road were removed. THe shaft of the Columiba Coal and Iron company is under lease from James Long, James Hunter and P. W. Shaffer, its successors, to Allen Mann, who operates it to a limited extent to supply local consumption.
Although the mining of coal on the east side of McCauley mountain had resulted disastrouly to the corporations which attempted it, Simon P. Case, having completed the construction of the Danville, Hazelton and Wilkesbarre rail-road, as pretended owner of a tract of land on the line of that road and the west slope of the McCauley mountain, leased the Glen City colliery to J. H. Losee for a period of ten years. After several years of litigation between Simon P. Case and George Longenberger, the latter secured a verdict in his favor as rightful owner of the Glen City colliery. The lease of J. H. Lossee expired April 1, 1881, when the collierywas suspended for five years. In 1886 James and Mary McAlarney completed improvements and repairs about the works, which resumed operations under favorable circumstances. Adjoining the Glen City colliery, Allen mann and F. L. Shuman, as lessees of Long, Fisher and Shaffer, successors of the Columbia Coarl and Iron company, operated the McCauley colliery from 1873 to 1876. With reference to the development of the coal product of Beaver township, it is only necessary to state further that Coxe Brothers & Company are the operators of a colliery at Gowen, in Luzerne county, the excavations of which extend into Columbia county, following the Buck mountain vein. The coal measures at this point have not, as yet, been exhausted.
In addition to the rail-road above mentioned, Beaver is traversed by the Tide-Water Pipe-Lone, the features of which, as factor in distributing an important commodity of the state, are of an entirely different character. The economy and convenience of transporting petroleum from the wells to shipping points by means of pipe-lines was realized by proprietors of oil-wells at an early period in the development of the oil region of Pennsylvania. Until 1880, however, no pipe-line of any extent had been successfully operated. In that year, the Standard Oil Company practically demonstrated the feasibility of transporting crude petroleum long distances through iron tubes, the principle being to take advantage of the action of gravity upon the flowing liquid whenever possible, and surmount the obstacles of varying elevation by powerful force pumps when necessary. With the object of lessening the expense of transporting oil to distributing points on the sea-board, the Tide-Water Pipe Line Company in 1882 secured the right of way for a pipe-line from Rixford, in McKean county, to Tamanend in Schuylkill, a distance of one-hundred and eighty miles. Notwithstanding the violent opposition of rival corporations, the enterprise was successfully consummated in the autumn of the same year. The course surveyed enters Columbia county after crossing the Muncy hills, passes several miles north of Jerseytown and about the same distance south of Buckhorn, crossing the Fishing creek and Susquehanna at the mouth of the former stream. The course of Catawissa creek is followed through the townships of Main and Beaver. The mains are six inches n diameter, the cost of construction aggregating six-thousand dollars per mile. Although involving this enormous expense, the financial success of the enterprise may be inferred from the act that it has reduced the cost of oil transportation to one-twentieth of the former freight charges. A telegraph line connects the office of the general superintendent at Williamsport with the several pumping stations along the route. These are located at Rixford, McKean county; Olmstead, Potter county; County-line and Muncy, in Lycoming; and Shuman's, in Columbia. The distance between the last named two is one-hundred miles; between Shuman's and Tamanend, the terminus of the line, seventeen miles. Owing to the presence of a considerable elevation between Shuman's and Tamanend, the pumping apparatus is there constructed on a larger scale than at Muncy. The altitude to be surmounted, and not the distance, determines the amount of force necessary to propel the stream of oil.
Shuman's pumping station is situated in Beaver valley, near the ine of the Catawissa rail-road. The buildings and grounds comprise an area of five acres. The plant consists of an oil tank, furnace and boiler, a steam engine and pumping apparatus. The oil tank is thirty feet high and ninety-five feet in diameter; wrought-iron plates, a half-inch in thickness, and a canvass roof enclose an air-tight compartment with a capacity of thirty-five-thousand barrels. The two pumps are capable, respectively, of elevating fifteen-thousand and ten-thousand barrels of iol in twenty-four house to an altitude of one-thousand three-hundred and twenty-five feet, the vertical distance from Beaver valley to the summit. A battery of three "Riter and Conley" boilers, and a "Murphy smokeless furnace" generate the power which performs this work, while the machine which applies it is a Holly engine of three-hundred horsepower. By means of an elaborate system of gauges, the superintendent is enabled to compute with mathematical exactness the amount of work performed by every pound of coal or gallon of water consumed. The buildings throughout are equipped with every appliance of convenience and comfort. Cleanliness, order and discipline are everywhere apparent, the results of a rigid personal supervisoin by Mr. F. G. Laner, who has now (September, 1886) been superintendent for several years. The ceaseless whirr of the machinery is the only disturbing element in the quiet of the surrounding neighborhood.
Beaver Valley Mills. -- The present mill structure was commenced in 1876, the old building having been destroyed by fire while the proprietor, F. L. Shuman, was at the Centennial at Philadelphia. In 1881 Mr. Shuman sold the mills to Charles Reichart, who was the proprietor until December, 1885, when he sold to Dr. A. P. Heller of Millville, who bought for his son, Sherman Heller, and April 1, 1886, the present firm, McHenry & Heller, was organized. The building is 36x40 feet, three stories high, and equipped with two run of buhrs, one chop stone, and the roller process for buckwheat. The power to move the mill is supplied from a dam across Catawissa creek. M. W. McHenry, one of the firm, is the miller.
Failing to give more than a temporary impetus to the industrial pursuits of Beaver township, the erection of railroads has also failed to impart permanent benefit to the schools and churches of the region. In 1821 Isaac Davis taught the first school in the township, at Kostenbander's mill. Four years later he opened another n his dwelling, in the southern part of the township. In the same yar Henry Schell taught in a dwelling near Beaver church, and Adam Holocher near theold Michael hotel. Education was conducted by these pedagogues with a primitive simplicity admirable imitated by their successors at the present day.
The first Methodist sermon in Beaver was delivered in the year 1815 in the house of David Davis. Reverends Dawson, Rhoads, Taneyhill and Monroe continued these services, the last named cleryman in the winter of 1822-23 organizing a congregation. Owing to a lack of harmony among its members, it was subsequently disbanded. THe house of worship is now occupied by an Evangelical congregation.
A union house of worship, built by the Lutheran and Reformed denominations, has long been known as the "Beaver Church." Both congregations have had many pastoral changes, and are now served by the pastors at Ringtown, Schuylkill county.
SOURCE: Page(s) 294-298. History of Columbia and
Montour Counties. Battle, J.H., Chicago: A. Warner, 1887. Transcribed by Rosanna