Chapter XX - Roaringcreek Township
History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania
Roaringcreek, the third township formed from Catawissa, embraced, when erected in 1832, the townships of Locust and Conyngham in addition to its present limited area. A semi-circular spur of the Little mountain forms the eastern boundary, and extends farther only a short distance until it is merged into the Catawissa range. This natural barrier separates Roaring creek from the adjoining county of Schuylkill. It formerly included the head waters of both branches of the creek, from which circumstance with great pro priety it received its name. When this designation was first applied to the stream cannot be definitely ascertained. Under its Indian name of Popeme tunk, it is mentioned at various times by early visitors to the region; but in the earliest warrants for surveys the Indian name is nowhere mentioned, the stream being always referred to as Roaring creek.
In the year 1850 the township was reduced to its present limits by the formation of Montour county. There had for some time been a desire for a division of the township; however, as may be learned from the history of Locust, the provisions, under which the division was at first effected, failed to entirely satisfy those most concerned. By a re-adjustment of the county line it was proposed to again include in Roaringcreek the territory taken from it; but meanwhile both divisions of the original township had elected their respective officers. This arrangement was abandoned in view of the complications which would have inevitably resulted, and the township has been neither increased nor diminished since 1850.
Among the first persons who located within the present limits of Roaringcreek were Samuel Hunter and Bezaliel Hayhurst. The former secured a patent under date of July 25, 1774, for a tract of land known as "Trout Springs" farm. He died in 1784, having made his will in a house on the land now owned by John Whitner. From Alexander Hunter, who succeeded to the ownership of part of this tract, it passed into possession of George Randall, and from him to Abram Whitner, the father of the present owner. Other persons who secured tracts in the southern part of the township at the head waters of Roaring creek were Samuel Morris and Anthony Morris, Hugh and Michael Hughes, Francis Artilla and Barbara Artilla, Henry Hurtzel, Andrew Helwig, John Hemminger, John Harmon, George Groh, George Duvald, Stephen Peabody and George Dewees.
"Four Springs Farm," along Mill creek, was patented to Adam Zantzinger November 9, 1784, although the warrant for its survey had been issued ten years previous to that date. It adjoined the lands of Jonathan Person, Bartholomew Wambech and the Wilson and Robinson tract. Christian Immel, Peter Minnich, Frederick Wagoner, William Lamon and Christian Shultz owned the mountain lands above the Mill creek. What has since proved to be the best farming land in the township was originally surveyed for Matthew McGlath, Charles Truckenmiller, John McKay, Jacob Shakespear and Thomas Fisher.
Some of these persons, the Immels, Hayhursts, Hughes and others, planted their homes here and are now resting in unmarked graves in the Friends' Roaringcreek burial-ground. Of scarcely a single tract can it be said that it remains in the family of the original owners. German families, the Whitners, Rarigs, Kunkles, Driesbachs, Houcks, Holstines, Kreischers and Songenbargers, followed in the wake of the Quakers, and rapidly gained the ascendancy in population and wealth. They followed the Reading and Sunbury state road from their former homes in Berks and Northampton counties to a point beyond Ashland where it was intersected by a turnpike leading northward: this was traveled to Bear Gap, in Locust township, from which the distance to the upper branch of Roaring creek was comparatively short and easy.
A road from Catawissa direct to Reading, entering the present limits of the township at its northern boundary, and, crossing the Little mountain in a southeast direction, gave to the people on this upper branch the same advantages conferred by the turnpike to the people at the Gap, and by the other Reading road to the farmers midway between the two. At first, wheat was the only article for which there was any market; the best white wheat had to be hauled to Reading in order to be worth forty or fifty cents a bushel. Subsequently, when the orchards first planted began to bear, dried apples became a valuable commodity. Stage coaches were run on this road for a few years immediately after it was opened, about the year 1812. The road as far as Ashland, and thence to Catawissa, caused their transfer to the latter road. The highway to Reading through the valley of upper Roaring creek has certainly done much to develop the timber resources of the region. It has been, and is still the route over which nearly all the produce of the farms finds a market in the mining towns of Schuylkill county.
The first mill in the township was erected about the year 1816, shortly after this road opened. James Hibbs, Senior, was the proprietor, and the place is still known as Hibbs'mill. March 13, 1793, in partnership with Joseph Hampton, he bought a tract of land from John Nixon and Alexander Foster, Philadelphia merchants, who, under date of Sept. 26, 1783, had secured a patent for it. Judah Cherington in 1856 built the present mill, which is now owned by Peter Swank. Abner Hampton, a son of Joseph Hampton just mentioned, built a small mill on Mill creek some years after the Hibbs mill was built. It subsequently came into possession of William Heupka, who removed it and erected the present building. It is now owned by John Mourer.
A few houses were built around Hibbs mill, eventually forming the village of Mill Grove. Judah Cherington opened the only store in the township in 1859; it is now owned by O. W. Cherington, who, as the result of his energetic persistence, opened a post-office a few years since. It is the only one in the township and certainly a great convenience to the people.
The Hibbs name is also associated with the first school in the township. In the year 1816, in a dwelling owned by Mahlon Hibbs, a son of James Hibbs, Senior, Joseph Stokes opened a subscription school. In the following year Thomas Cherington, a teacher of thirty-six years' experience in Berks county, entered the township. He was also a surveyor; a work on mathematics prepared by him and still preserved in manuscript form evinces considerable ability and carefulness. It was for the purpose of instructing the family of his son Samuel, who was a mill-wright, that he was first induced to come over the mountains. He cheerfully took the children of neighboring families into his school, however, and continued it several winters. Samuel Cherington succeeded his father and remained a teacher for many years. In 1821 the school in Mahlon Hibbs' house was reopened by Charles Brush. David Chase was another early teacher. The first house used exclusively for school purposes was built in 1830 where number two school is now held. In this school-house for twenty-three years the only religious organization in the township held its services.
The Roaringcreek appointment of the Methodist Episcopal church has had an existence of seventy years. Previous to the building of the school-house, people of this faith met in the barn of John Yocum, about a mile from the school-building, on the farm now owned by Elijah Horn. Mrs. Yocum's family, the MacIntyres of Catawissa township, may well be called the leaders of Methodism in this whole section. Among those who worshiped here were Phoebe Dyer, J. J. Thomas, Joseph Jesse, and Ezra Yocun and Samuel Horn. The first preachers were Reverends Oliver Ege, Alem Brittain and Thomas Taneyhill.
In the year 1853 measures were taken to erect a church-building. William Yocum, David Case, J. J. Thomas and William Rhoades, trustees, pushed the work and energy, and on the ninth day of June, in that year, the corner-stone was laid. The dedication service was held in the following autumn. The congregation since then has been served by Reverends Black, Tongue, Mendenhall, John Haughawant, Frank Gearhart, T. A. Cleese, S. V. Savage, John F. Brown and Jonathan Guilden.
In 1873 William Yeager, who had but recently entered the township from Parks county, offered one-hundred dollars and an acre of ground to any denomination of Christians who would build a house of worship thereon. Two years later Reverend M. P. Saunders, of the United Brethren church, held a bush-meeting in the vicinity, which resulted in the conversion of fourteen persons. The Free-Will congregation, United Brethren in Christ, was organized, and the erection of a church-building on the land of Mr. Yeager at once begun. It was dedicated in the autumn of 1876, and a revival held the following winter increased the membership to sixty. The pastors since have been Reverends S. R. Kramer, H. S. Gable and G. W. Herrold, at present in charge.
Roaringcreek is distinctively an agricultural township. It does not have the rare advantage of an exceptionally fertile soil, not are the markets for its products as accessible or convenient as would be desirable. But, in the transition from the log-houses and rude stables of fifty years ago to the substantial dwellings and barns of to-day; and in the contrast of the neglected, uninviting appearance of church and school buildings but twenty years ago with the comfortable, attractive structures of the present, there are evidences of a material prosperity and certain progress, slowly apparent, but nevertheless permanent in its character.
SOURCE: Page(s) 298-301. History of Columbia and
Montour Counties. Battle, J.H., Chicago: A. Warner, 1887. Transcribed by Alice