Burrell Township History
Written by Robert Walker Smith & Published in 1883
Named after Judge Burrell-Organization-Indian Names of Crooked Creek-Original Owners of the Soil- Warrants Dated in 1776-Names of the Citizens of the Township in 1805-Strange Conjugal Arrangements- Powder-Mills - Captain Sam Brady’s Autograph-An Eccentric Manufacturer of Plows-”Williamsburg”-Salt Works-Religious History-Primitive Schools-Recent Educational Statistics-Mercantile and Other Occupations-Population.
BURRELL TOWNSHIP was named after the late Judge Burrell, who was at the time of its organization president judge of the tenth judicial district, which was then composed of Armstrong, Indiana and Westmoreland counties. An unsuccessful attempt, as elsewhere mentioned,* was made to organize a new township to embrace most of the territory of which Burrell now consists. In 1853-4 another attempt was made, which, the objectionable feature in some of the boundaries, which were first prayed for, having been removed, succeeded against a somewhat formidable opposition. The remonstrance of citizens of Allegheny township set forth that they were not unwilling to part with a portion of their territory, but objected to the cutting up of their school districts, which they feared would result. The remonstrance of the citizens of Kittanning township set forth that the formation of the new township would derange the school districts, and since Manor township had been, a few years before, formed out of Kittanning, the taking of another part of it off would leave it too small for township purposes. The court, however, appointed James Stewart, Archibald Glenn and William McIntosh viewers or commissioners, whose report in favor of the formation of the new township was filed March 22, 1854, which was subsequently, in 1855, approved, and the organization of Burrell township consummated.
Its boundaries are: Beginning at Crooked creek, at the end of Walker’s tunnel; thence through the territory of Kittanning township south eighty degrees, east four miles and one hundred and sixty-six perches, to a maple on Cherry run, near the house of Samuel George; thence south fifteen degrees west three hundred and thirty-nine perches, to a buttonwood at the forks of Cherry run; thence through the territory of Plum creek township south fifteen degrees east two miles and eighty-four perches, to Lindsey Argler’s run; thence down said run south seventy degrees west one hundred and ten perches, and south fifty-six degrees west sixty-four perches, to Crooked creek; thence through the territory of Kiskiminetas township south thirty degrees west one mile and three hundred and eight perches, to a white-oak on land of Jacob Hart; thence north eighty-six degrees west one mile and a half; thence north forty-seven and a half degrees west one mile and two hundred and forty-five perches, to a post on the line between the townships of Allegheny and Kiskiminetas; thence through the territory of Allegheny township north twenty-five degrees west two hundred and twenty perches to a post; thence north forty-five degrees west one hundred and seventy-six perches, to M. Lane’s, taking him into the new township; thence due north three miles and seventy-six perches, to a black-oak on the bank of Crooked creek; thence down said creek north forty-seven degrees west fourteen perches, south eighty-four degrees west ninety-two perches, north eighty-four degrees west thirty perches, north forty-one degrees east fifty-four perches, north sixty-two degrees west twenty-six perches , north sixty-seven degrees east ninety-three perches, north forty-four degrees east sixteen perches, north twenty-one degrees east thirty-six perches, and north forty degrees east fifteen perches, to the place of beginning. (*In sketch of Kiskiminetas township.)
The chief stream in this township is Crooked creek, whose ten large bends, between the points at which the eastern and western boundary lines crosss it, make its course very crooked. These and numerous other great bends in other parts of the territory through which it flows make it a very crooked stream. Hence the Indians called it Woak-hanne, Crooked Stream, the Stream with Large Bends, Woak-tschin, to bend; Woak-tsche-n, crooked.
The ancient county map shows that the thirty-six original tracts, exclusive of the Clemons tract, within the present limits of this township, were; Reading Beatty, 436.7 acres, seated by Jacob Hart; James Shields, 261 acres 62 perches, partly in South Bend; Robert Finney, Jr., 385.9 acres; William Palmer, 437 ¼ acres, a small portion in Kiskiminetas; Robert Carnahan, 396 ½ acres, seated by John Wagle:** James Vanhorn, 450 acres, partly in Allegheny, seated by Adam Fiscus; Jacob Beer, 313 acres 109 perches, seated by William Kerr; Thomas York, 346 acres, partly in Allegheny, seated by George Elliott; John Brown, 357.8 acres, partly in Allegheny, seated by John Beck; James Renwick, 305 acres, seated by John Pitts; James Clark, 418 acres, seated by John Schall; William Sykes, 329 ½ acres, seated by Michael Schall, Sr.; William Eckart, 361 acres. The foregoing tracts are on the lower, or southerly and southwesterly, side of Crooked creek.
The following are on the opposite side of that creek: John Salter, 327 acres; Christopher Hoover, 192 acres, seated by himself; Agnes kyle, 221.5 acres; Robert Adams, 321.65 acres, partly in South Bend, seated by Isaac Wagle and _____ Wilson; Samuel Kyle, 215.6 acres, partly in South Bend, seated by David Sloan; Joseph Shoemaker, 382 acres; Henry Davis, 200 acres, seated by himself; R. Cogley, in right of Malcolm Campbell, 257 acres, seated by George Shoemaker, heirs of William Clark; R. Cogley, 91 ½ acres; Adam Wilhelm, 140 acres, seated by ____; John Craig, 205 ½ acres, seated by George Helffrich, patent to Craig, dated September 21, 1789, deed from Craig to R. Cogley, May 1, 1790, consideration £50, Cogley to Michael Schall, December 31, 1805, consideration £200, Schall to George Peter Sheffer, January 27, 1806, for 185 ½ acres, consideration £150; Francis Cooper, 308 ½ acres, afterward John Davison’s; George Risler, 345.8 acres, seated by Andrew Beck; Isaac Mechlin, 325 acres, seated by John Robb and George A. King; Mary Field, 318 acres, 109 perches; Michael Huffnagle, 382.9 acres, seated by Robert Walker. Huffnagle was captain of one of the volunteer companies raised in Westmoreland county for the defense of the frontiers, served as major of two companies under appointment of the lieutenant of that county, from February 11 until July 1, 1779, was favorable mentioned by Col. Daniel Brodhead in his letter to President Reed of April 27, 1780.
In 1783 he had charge of the timber and the land of the reserved tract opposite Pittsburgh. In the course of his varied correspondence with Major, afterward General John Armstrong, Jr., who was then Secretary of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, is a letter from the Secretary to Huffnagle, then prothonotary of Westmoreland county, dated at Philadelphia, November 15, 1783, in which he said: “The licentious disposition discovered in Manellan township is not a little alarming, and in the opinion of council requires an early and rigorous correction. Upon receipt of this you will therefore assemble the magistracy of that part of the county and with them adopt the most efficient measures to investigate the business and enforce the laws.” (**This tract was sold by the sheriff of Westmoreland county for taxes to Jacob Beck, the deed for which is dated October 20, 1807, who, by deed dated January 15, 1844, conveyed it in trust for the heirs of John Wagle to Catherine Wagle, an equal share to herself, for $7. The bulk of this tract is southwesterly from the mouth of Pine run, in the southwestern part of what is now Burrell township.)
Returning to the original tracts: James Arnold, 49 acres; Valentine Shallus, 445 acres, called “Mount Joy,” seated by Michael Schall; Thomas Milliken, 228 acres, seated by George P. Sheffer, warrant dated October 3, 1778, deed to R. Cogley, January 17, 1789, consideration 10 shillings; Cogley to Michael Schall, May 8, 1806, for 225 acres, consideration £200; Schall to George P. Sheffer, July 9, for 2228 acres, consideration £350; Joseph Sansom, 401 ½ acres; jacob Shallus, 327.4 acres, seated by Isaac Wagle; John and Samuel Hall, 314.14 acres, seated by James Hall; Isaac Mather, 325 acres, seated by Peter Rupert, warrant dated August 20, 1776; Mather to John Paul, November 10; Paul to John Vanderen, Jr., June 3, 1779; Vanderen to Michael hillegas, who was for several years treasurer of this state, and of the United States, before the close of the revolutionary war; Hillegas to Lazarus de Francy, then late of Auteen, France, May 1, 1780; Madam Philebert Guichet de Francy, by her attorney-in-fact, William Reynolds of Bedford, Pennsylvania, to the heirs and devises of James Hamilton, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Thomas Hamilton, Greensburgh, Pennsylvania, February 19, 1830, from whom the present owners have more immediately derived their titles.
This tract was for many years adversely claimed by different parties, and there was much litigation respecting it, before two verdicts and judgements in favor of the validity of the title by which the present owners hold it. From the ancient county map and descriptions in some old deeds there appears to have been a vacant tract of considerable extent skirting Crooked creek from its first large bend above the mouth of Cherry run and the Malcolm Campbell tract, and that runs up to the southern boundary of the Joseph and William Sansom tracts, and adjoins the northern, southeastern and eastern boundaries of the Joseph Shoemaker tract.
The John Wilson tract, called “Wilsonburgh,” mostly in Allegheny and Kiskiminetas townships, appears to ahve been looked after quite early. The order or application for a warrant is dated April 13, 1769. The warrant is dated July 26 and the patent July 31, 1781. Joseph Landis and wife conveyed 60 acres of “Wilsonburg” to Joseph Beck October 31, 1856, for $475.
The warrant for the Michael Huffnagle tract, called “Isaac’s lot,” is dated September 5, 1776. Huffnagle conveyed his interest in it to John Vanderen July 10, 1778, who conveyed it to Isaac Vanhorn, January 24, 1782, whose executors, by James Brady, of Greensburgh, Pennsylvania, their attorney-in-fact, conveyed it to John Shotz, the consideration expressed in the deed being $1, August 7, 1810, and he conveyed 280 acres of it to Alexander Walker, January 22, 1814, for $1,250.
The warrants for several of those tracts are dated in 1776, one of them as early as the 4th of February; those for other tracts are dated one, two, eight and twelve years later. The surveys of some are dated a few days, and others a few months, after those of the warrants.
The John Brown tract, called “Engina,” or “Algenal,” has remained in the ownership of the Clemens family during the last century. The patent for it to Paul Engle, or Angle, is dated September 7, 1781, which subsequently became vested in Jacob Clemens, who devised it to Charles W. Clemens.
So far as the writer can determine from the assessment list of Allegheny township for 1805-6, the following are the assessments then made in that part thereof now included in Burrell: George Beck, 160 acres, three horses and four cattle, appraised at $210 in 1805, and $205 in 1806; John Henry, 63 acres and three cattle, $33.90 in 1805, and $18 in 1806; James Hall, 250 acres, one distillery, two horses and two cattle, $242.50 both years; Christopher Hoover, 200 acres, one horse, two cattle, $120 both years; George Helffreid (Helffreich), one horse, one head of cattle, $15 in 1806; George Painter, 98 acres, one gristmill, one sawmill, one head of cattle, $119 in 1805, and $10 in 1806; George Peter Sheffer, 400 acres, one horse, one head of cattle, $315 in 1806; Michael Schall, Sr., 400 acres, one head of cattle, $305 in 1805 and $233 in 1806; Michael Schall, Jr., 275 acres, two horses, two cattle, $167.50 each year; John Schall, blacksmith, $10 in 1805, $183 in 1806; Adam Wilhelm, 160 acres, one horse, two cattle, $100 each year; Isaac Wagle, 50 acres, $75 in 1806. There must then have been a population of about sixty. The valuation of those tracts of land then varied from twenty-five to fifty, sixty-nine and seventy-nine cents an acre. The portion of that list showing the returns of unseated land for those years is not accessible - it is probably lost. Such land, a few years later, was generally valued at fifty cents an acre.
More or less of the tracts, like those in the adjoining townships, probably had particular names. “Rotterdam,” for instance, is the one given to the R. Cogley (91 ½ acres) tract lying partly on Cherry run and partly on Crooked creek, above the mouth of that run. There must have been a mill of some kind, probably a gristmill, on this tract, at or near the mouth of Cherry run, as early as, or before, 1802, (Painter built a mill some distance up Cherry run, it is said, in 1800, and at the mouth in 1802.) for in the act of assembly of that year fixing the place for holding the elections in Allegheny township at the house of George Painter, at the mouth of that run, he is described as “miller.” He was assessed with a gristmill and a sawmill in 1804. Indeed, “Rotterdam” has been a prominent point in this region ever since. The warrant for it to R. Cogley is dated April 3, 1789, the patent to Michael Schall June 14, 1806; the deed from Schall to George Painter, July 29 of that year; deed from Painter to Isaac Wagle, June 9, 1809, two tracts, one for 11 acres and the other for 42 acres and 53 perches, for £600; deed from Wagle to Robert Richards, February 13, 1816, for $1,650; Richards to Andrew Craig, January 18, 1820, for $2,000, the above-mentioned 53 acres and 53 perches; release from the heirs of Andrew Craig to William Craig; William Craig to Adam Thompson and John Wright, August 27, 1825; Wright agreed, March 18, 1829, to convey his interest therein to John and Samuel Pitts; that contract having been proven in proceedings in the Orphans’ Court, Wright was directed to deliver one moiety to John Pitts for himself, and the other moiety to him in trust for Salona, the sole heir of Samuel Pitts, deceased, which was done, the deed having been executed in 1839; the interest of Salona Pitts was conveyed by herself and her husband, David Speer, to John Jack for $500; a contract was entered into between John Pitts in his lifetime to convey his interest to John Jack, which, after his death, having been duly proven in proceedings in the Orphans’ Court of this county, Robert Walker (of A.), administrator of the estate of John Pitts, was directed by the court to make Jack a deed therefor (except 25 acres) of the mill tract and parcel of land, which deed is dated March 29, 1840; Jack to Michael Cocran, April 19, 1845 (except 1 acre, sold by John Pitts in his lifetime to Daniel Ruffner), one undivided half-part for $1,000.
The transfers of the other moiety are: Adam Thompson, February 26, 1830, an undivided half to Daniel Shoemaker and Peter Hine; transfer by Hine of his interest to Shoemaker; Shoemaker to Jacob Hart, April 15, 1837; Hart to Joseph Miller, April 29, 1843, for $1,000; Miller to Michael Cochran, June 2, 1849, for $1,200; Michael Davis to Michael Cochran, March 21, 1858, for 112 perches of the Henry Davis tract, for eighty cents; Cochran’s executors - his heirs having refused to take the property at its appraisement in proceedings in partition - to John Schwalm and W. H. Carnahan, June 30, 1871, for $17,000, who are the present owners. The present site of their mills is the most ancient mill-seat in what is now Burrell township. These mills, prior to 1830, were, perhaps, known as Painter’s, Wagle’s, Richards’, Craig’s, Davis’, and Wright & Thompson’s mills. They have since been called Pitts’ and Cochran’s mills, which last-mentioned name they and their locality still bear,* though recently changed to that of Carnahan’s. The first store at this point was opened by Michael Cochran in 1849-50, which he continued while he owned the property. A grange store is now kept here by Schwalm & Carnahan.
(*To show the mutations both in the ownership and the value of this property for a series of years, or the variations of value in the estimates of the assessors, the following facts are collected from assessment lists of Plum Creek township, in which this portion of Burrell township formerly was: In 1832, Pitts and Shoemaker were assessed with 101 acres and one gristmill, valued at $501; in 1833, Latimer & Shoemaker 101 acres and one gristmill, transferred to Wm. Calhoun. To whom they were assessed, together with one fourth-rate horse and one head of second-rate cattle, at a total valuation of $544; in 1834, Pitts & Calhoun, 101 acres and one second-rate gristmill, $501; in 1835, John Pitts, 100 acres, fourteenth-rate, and one fourth-rate gristmill, $225; in 1836, Pitts & shoemaker, 100 acres, etc. same as in preceding year; in 1837, Pitts, J. Hart, & Abraham Liningbigler, 100 acres, etc., $325; in 1838, Hart $ Pitts, 103 acres, seventeenth-rate, and one gristmill, third-rate, $803; in 1839, Hart & Pitts, same as in preceding year; in 1840, Miller & Pitts, 103 acres, seventeenth-rate, and one gristmill, third-rate, $803; in 1841, Miller & Pitts, 103 acres, seventeenth-rate, and one gristmill, third-rate, $500; in 1842, Miller & Jack, 24 acres at $2 per acre, and one gristmill, $450, total $498; in 1843, Jack & Miller, 50 acres at $2 per acre, and one gristmill, $400, total $500; in 1844, Jack & Miller, 50 acres and one gristmill $670; in 1845, 50 acres at $4 per acre, and one gristmill at $300, total, $500; in 1846, Michael Cochran, 50 acres and one gristmill, $650.)
On December 21, 1822, Irwin & McClelland advertised - Robert Irwin having been first assessed as a carder in 1821- that they “continued as usual, fulling and dressing cloth at the mouth of cherry run.” Anthony Helffreich was first assessed with that fulling-mill (and with a sawmill) in 1824-5, and for several years afterward. He announced in his advertisement in October, 1826, that he intended to have everything necessary to full, dye and dress cloth in the best manner. Isaac Kinnard was first assessed there as a carder in 1834. He subsequently became the proprietor of the fulling-mill that he ultimately converted into a woolen-factory, which is now operated by him and his son.
This point has ever since its settlement, been supplied with an adequate number of such mechanics as are usual in such a place.
A substantial county bridge, with stone pier and abutments and wooden superstructure, has for many years spanned Crooked creek between the mouth of Cherry run and Cochran’s mills.
Thus it is, that “Rotterdam” has been, from the beginning of this century, an important point for business for the surrounding country.
During the late rebellion, flagrante bello, when the success of the Union forces was essential to the preservation and perpetuity of our national integrity, this was, as it were, a focus of the peace element of the adjacent region, which was an obstruction-to say the least - an irrational, illogical obstruction - to the successful prosecution of the war, to obviate which in a portion of this region required, at a certain stage of the war, the presence of a detachment of United States troops to prevent the partial nullification of the equable and necessary demand of the government for additional forces. Yet even this point was not then barren of that other element, which regarded the vigorous prosecution of that war as indispensable to securing, conquering a permanent peace by the effective triumph of the national arms.
Among the early settlers on the territory included in this township, George Shoemaker was noted as a thrifty and successful farmer. He seated the tract called “Monmouth,” designated on the ancient county map as the one warranted to “R. Cogley in right of Malcolm Campbell,” which contained 257 acres, the patent to him bearing date March 20, 1801.* Its territory asoriginally surveyed, lay about a mile south of “Rotterdam,” in a large western bend of Crooked creek. His wife must have been an efficient helpmeet, as many another wife is. He must not only have cherished a strong affection for her, but have had a high appreciation of and great confidence in her as a woman of sound judgement and excellent business capacity, for by his last will and testament, registered October 1, 1821, he gave to her all his personal and real property, provided his eldest sons and one of his daughters would have what had already been advanced to them. He further directed that the rest of his children should have “schooling equal to that of their eldest brothers and sister - then as each of them come of age, with good behavior and due respect to their mother’s advice, shall have to the amount of what the estate will possibly admit of.”
The writer has not learned that any of them has ever forfeited his or her right to a share of that patrimony. Mrs. George - or rather Margaret, for ladies in their widowhood resume their maiden Christian names - Shoemaker, a comely lady, was, in due time after her husband’s death, wooed by Barnard Davers, who lived near the South Bend. She, however, would not be won, unless he would enter an agreement respecting the separate use, occupation and management of their respective lands and other property, to which the wooing widower assented. An “indenture” was accordingly prepared, dated December 14, 1824, and executed by them and Eben Smith Kelly, the preamble of which set forth that, whereas, a marriage was intended, by permission of God, to be shortly had and solemnized between the said Barnard Davers and the said Margaret Shoemaker, wherefore, in consideration of that intended marriage Barnard Davers covenanted, promised and agreed to and with the said Eben Smith Kelly, that in case that marriage should take place, it should be lawful for the said Margaret Shoemaker, from time to time, and at all times during their joint lives, to have the possession and enjoyment of all and singular the goods and chattels, moneys and personal property of whatever description, also of all the rents, issues and profits of her lands and tenements, or those of her late husband, then in her possession, and to sell and dispose of the same or any part thereof to such person or persons and in such manner as she should think proper, notwithstanding the said intended marriage, and as if she were sole and unmarried, and without being subject to the debts, contracts, disposal or engagement of the said Davers, or of any person or persons claiming under him; that after her death the same should go to her children or such other persons as she might by her last will and testament appoint; and in case she should survive him, then his heirs, executors or administrators should not claim, challenge or demand any right of, in to or out of those goods, chattels, rents, issues and profits; thatt she should be at liberty to carry into execution the last will and testament of her deceased husband in all respects, and be free to act therein just as if she were sole and unmarried,
It was also declared and agreed by and between all these three parties, and she thereby agreed and consented, to accept and take the provision thus made for her in lieu of her dower or third part of the rents, issues and profits of the lands and tenements which the said Barnard Davers then had, and of her part of the personal property which she possessed under the laws of this state. The marriage occurred early in 1825, and they used, managed and occupied there separate extates as distinctly and independently of each other, pleasantly and harmoniously, until Davers death in December, 1829. ( *As showing the value of land in this section in the early part of this century, the passing remark is made that George Shoemaker sold thirty-three acres of that tract, May 29, 1805, to Henry Davis, for $99.
That tract "Monmouth" was surveyed April 25, 1790, by warrant dated March 7, 1788, "Situated on the north side of Crooked creek, and near the mouth of Cherry run, in Armstrong township, Westmoreland county.")
In due time another suitor, George A. King, a substantial farmer, who owned and cultivated, besides other lands, a part of “Edgeware,” as the Isaac Mechlin tract was called, west of the western branch of Pine run, and north of the Isaac Mather tract, known also as the Samuel Peebles tract, to whom the patent was granted, whose heirs sold to John Robb 301 acres of it September 5, 1810 for $602, who sold 121 acres of it to George A. King June 16, 1812, for $242, sought her hand. Her children had then grown up, some of them were married, and with her were cultivating and managing the fertile acres of “Monmouth,” which their father had devised to her. In that emergency - as related by the then editor of the Pittsburgh American, and whose statement is reproduced in Sherman Day’s Historical Collections of Pennsylvania- she consulted the late Samuel Houston, of Kittanning, her factor and confidential merchant. When she had stated to him her intention to marry again, he is reported to have said, “I should suppose that one so happily situated as you are, with everything rich and comfortable about you, and your sons and daughters grown up, would not think of such a thing at your time of life. I would advise you by no means to entangle yourself again in any marriage alliance.” “You tink not, Mr. Houston?” “Why, it is very sincerely the advice I would give you, if that is what you want.” “Well, dat may be all very well and very goot; but see here, a man I want, and a man I will have!” “O, that is a very different thing altogether, and in that case, I would advise you by all means to marry.” She, however, would not accept her new suitor’s proposal, unless he, too, would enter into a ante-nuptial agreement, like that with Barnard Davers, which he did. The parties to the agreement in this instance were Geo. A. King, of the first part, James E. Brown, of the second part, and Margaret Davers, of the third part. The date of the this second agreement is March 8, 1832.
They were subsequently married, and managed their respective estates as she and Davers had done. In both instances husband and wife were separate, on their farms, from Monday morning until Saturday night each week; their accounts were kept separately; they knew hardly any more about each other’s business affairs than if they were single. There were no clashing interests, no coveting of each other’s possessions, to cause trouble and discord. At the death of her third husband, in the spring of 1843, as at that of her second one, the Shoemaker estate was left intact. She never claimed dower in either Davers’ or Kings’ estate. From loyalty to her first husband’s estate, not from stinginess, did she, by ante-nuptial stipulations, require each of her last two husbands to pay, as they cheerfully and regularly did, an annual stipend in flour for his boarding and horsekeeping from Saturday night until Monday morning of each week of their singular, and, in this county, unprecedented, conjugal lives. She is said to have been well educated in German. She survived her last husband several years, having enjoyed the affection of her kindred, and the esteem of friends and acquaintances, to which the good qualities of her heart and mind justly entitled her.
As early as 1811 George Beck, Sr., commenced the manufacture of powder near the mouth of Pine run, on the George Risler tract, which was continued by him and his sons until Thursday, June 29, 1826, when an explosion of about fifty pounds of powder in the mortar occurred, caused, it was supposed, by a spark elicited by one of the pounders. John and Daniel Beck were at the time employed in the mill. The latter was thrown out of the door and so injured that he afterward died. The former was severely but not fatally injured. A part of the roof was also carried away by the explosion, but thee building was saved. Willow charcoal, the writer is informed, was used in making powder at that mill. The reputation of Beck’s powder stood high at home and abroad. Large quantities of it were transported to Pittsburgh in canoes. Some of the Kittanning merchants made prominent mention of it in their advertisements.
In September, 1875, Thomas Logan, Jr., deputy-sheriff, found, near the junction of Pine run with Crooked creek, a flagstone which had apparently been detached from the face of a rock, on which is this inscription: “Capt. S. Brdy, 1780,” the figures being under the central part of the words. This relic is now in the possession of Col. Wm. Sirwell of Kittanning.
It is said by some of the oldest inhabitants that there was another powdermill at the mouth of a run above Cochran’s mills, either Fageley’s or the one lower down, in what was formerly a part of Plum creek township. It does not appear that anyone was ever assessed with a powdermill in that township. But George Beck’s name with the initials “P. W.” after it, being those probably of powderworks, appears on the assessment lists for 1817-18. The lowest of the three rates then fixed for powdermills was $50. George Beck’s occupation, one horse and two cattle were assessed at only $38 in 1817, and $36 in 181, so that although he then manufactured powder he must have done so on too small a scale to be assessed with a powdermill.
John R. Shaeffer erected a powdermill in 1822 near Pine run, about 100 rods south of the present northern boundary line of the township, near W. and L. Shaeffer’s present residences. About two years thereafter an explosion, probably caused by friction, occurred while the proprietor and his employe were returning from the house, whither they had gone a short while before. It was afterward converted into a distillery, which was operated for several years by Shaeffer.
More than half a century ago Frederick Altman commenced, and continued for some years, the manufacture of plows with wooden moldboards. He advertised in the Kittanning Gazette, September 21, 1825, that he was then making half-patent plows, that is, those with cast-iron moldboards and wrought-iron colters. His plows of both kinds are still remembered as having been excellent ones. The locality where he made them is in the northern part of the township, near the head of a spring run which empties into Pine run about 230 rods above its junction with Crooked creek. That locality is on the Valentine Shallas tract, which became vested in Michael Shall. Altman must have been endowed with a good degree of mechanical ingenuity and inventive genius. Besides guns and other things, he made a good pocket-knife with twelve blades, and invented an auger with a chisel attachment, by which he bored holes in his wooden moldboards, etc., which were nearly square.* He was certainly eccentric enough to have been a man of genius. (*There was on exhibition a similar invention at the International Exposition in Paris in 1878, which attracted much attention.)
One of his eccentricities was his constant refraining from speaking to any of his children. Their mother was the medium of communication from him to them, except on one occasion, which was when he and one or more of them were going to Kittanning in a wagon. When they were descending, or about to descend a hill he said to his son Isaac, in German, perhaps involuntarily, “Nun yetz der wagon must gespert sein!” “Now the wagon must be locked,” equivalent to “down brakes” on railroad cars.
A patent dated June 9, 1818, was issued to William Fiscus, Sr., for 138 acres of a tract adjoining the Henry Davis, Agnes Kyle and Joseph Shoemaker tracts, which must have been the major part of the Christian Hoover tract, on which Fiscus soon afterward laid out the town of “Williamsburgh,” with 51 in-lots and 6 out-lots, and convenient streets and alleys. The lots were numbered and the streets named Main and Market. The records show that the proprietor conveyed lot No. 11, containing one-quarter of an acre, on the corner of Main and Market streets, August 15, 1818, to Canady Hunter for $31. Hunter assigned his interest therein to John Pounds, September 9, 1818; Pounds assigned his interest to Edward Carlton December 1, 1819; Carlton conveyed the same to Rachel Pounds, April 2, 1823 for $1, and there endeth the record. It is not apparent to the writer that another of these lots was ever sold. The passing remark may here come in that William Fiscus was assessed as a “hatter” from 1811 until 1816. Perhaps some of the oldest inhabitants of that region remember whether his manufacture of hats was extensive and lucrative enough to warrant the expense incident to purchasing the ground for, and the laying out of, a town.
From 1820 until 1822, inclusive, these lots were assessed separately; the tax on each varied from ten to twenty, fifty, seventy-five cents and one dollar. The assessor and his assistants returned in 1823 that the value of the lots was so small that “the tax could not be got off them.” They therefor agreed with Fiscus to aggregate the 24 of them on the list that year at 6 acres, on which they assessed a tax of $6.
South of “Williamsburgh” and below and adjoining the western projection of the Henry Davis tract, in a southern bend of Crooked creek, was “Ganges,” as the John Salter tract was called, which extended several rods across the creek, and was surveyed May 22, by warrant of February 4, 1776. Opposite to “Ganges,” on the west side of the creek, was “Nemidid,” on the William Eckhart tract, surveyed May 21 by warrant of February 12, 1776.
Some time prior to 1820, perhaps as early as 1812, a salt well was bored and the salt manufacture commenced on the southern part of the above-mentioned Christopher Hoover tract, on that part of it called “Hooversburgh.” These “saltworks” were for the first time assessed to W. R. Richards in 1841, and then successively until 1844. The patent for sixty-nine acres of that tract was issued to Christian Hoover June 10, 1809, who conveyed the same to James Richards, November 18, next thereafter for $139, who by deed dated March 18, 1820, conveyed two-fifths of the sixty-nine acres, on which “Crooked creek salt works are erected,” to William R. Richards for $80, who by deed of March 5, 1857, conveyed one-fifth thereof to David Ralston for $100.
Another salt-well, called the “lower saltworks,” was drilled, about 1824m a half a mile or so below Cochran’s, no Carnahan’s mill, on the Francis Cooper, afterward John Duncan tract, on the upper or north side of Crooked creek, by Michael Townsend, who with the intent, Jacob-like, of deceiving his father, as Michael Davis relates, showed a bottle of salt water to his father, as having been obtained from that well. The father, thus induced to believe that the well would yield a good supply of the briny fluid, erected a shed and procured pans which were put in place. When he discovered that the well did not yield that kind of water, he became so disgusted that he burned the shed. LeFevre and John Parks made salt several years, which they hauled away by teams. It was not a profitable well, and was of course abandoned.
The First Evangelical Lutheran church within the present limits of this county is the St. Michael’s, which was organized in 1806, by Rev. Michael Steck, Sr., of Greensburgh, Pennsylvania. The original members of this church were twenty-four, namely: John George Helfferich and George Peter Shaeffer, elders; John Philip Shaeffer, Michael Schall, Sr., Isaac Wagley, Sr., Jacob Waltenbaugh, Henry Davis, Jacob George, Sr., Wm. Heffelfinger, Adam Wilhelm, Philip Hartman, George A. King and their wives. The number increased rapidly. At least two other Lutheran churches have sprung from this one.
Before the regular organization of churches in this region, clergymen, chiefly Lutheran and German Reformed, itinerated and held religious services at private houses, one of which, in what is now Burrell township, was George Peter Shaeffer’s, frequently mentioned in Rev. Gabriel A. Reichert’s diary, which was in the vicinity of the mouth of Cherry run, near which Mr. Reichert resided several years before he was called, in 1837, to the pastorate of Christ’s and Immanuel churches in Philadelphia. Previous to his removal thither, his itinerations had extended east to the Allegheny furnace, then to Huntingdon, now in Blair county, north to Venango and Crawford counties, and through the western and southern parts of this county, so that his ministrations occurred at Shaeffer’s but once in four weeks. He preached a trial sermon there, July 6, 1823. A congregational meeting was held there August 3, when St. Michael’s church was reorganized, and it was determined that his salary should be paid from the 1st day of July. The officers were installed August 31. His diary shows that on April 11, 1824, he baptized four children, two of whom were John Householder’s, and then or about that time, confirmed twenty-five persons, the youngest of whom was fourteen years of age, and the oldest fifty-five. Of that number Peter George is known to be still living. There were then sixty-four church members. The number present at the communion, August 11, 1827, was small, on account of a difficulty or controversy in one of the largest families, that is, a family consisting of a large number of persons, with extensive family connections.
The first church edifice, 30 x 40 feet, was constructed of square hewed logs, about 1820. Its site was about a mile and a half northwest of the mouth of Cherry run, on the northwestern part of the mouth of the John Craig tract, on land then owned by George P. Shaeffer, which continued to be used until 1852. Shaeffer for $1, conveyed, August 3, 1830, five acres and eight perches of that land to John P. Shaeffer and Peter Rupert, “trustees for the German Evangelical Lutheran and German Reformed churches in the townships of Allegheny, Kittanning and Plum Creek,” meaning, probably, that the members of these churches then consisted of persons residing in those townships.
It was announced in the Kittanning Gazette that the Evangelical Lutheran church near George P. Shaeffer’s, was consecrated on Sunday, September 16, 1832, when Revs. Steck and Hacke, of Greensburgh, Pennsylvania officiated - the former a Lutheran, and the latter a German Reformed clergyman. The Lutheran church was then under the charge of Rev. G. A. Reichert.
The St. Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran church was incorporated by the proper court, March 20, 1850. The charter officers were: Rev. George F. Ehrenfeldt, pastor; Isaac Kinnard and George King, elders; Peter Hileman, Samuel Woodward and George Riggle, deacons, wwho were to serve until an election should be held.
The second church edifice, brick, 44 x 60 feet, height of ceiling fourteen feet, was erected in 1852, at the crossroads on Anthony Helfferich’s land, and was dedicated soon after its completion, by Rev. David Earhart and others. It was razed to the ground by one of the violent storms in the summer of 1860. The present brick edifice was soon after erected, through the exertions, in part at least, of Rev. Michael Swigert, on the same site, which is probably on the southwestern part of the Jacob Shallas tract.
Members in 1876, 225; Sabbath-school scholars, 100.
The church of Christian Brethren was organized about 1852. The edifice is a one-story frame. It was incorporated by the proper court June 7, 1853. The charter officers were: Jos. Shoemaker, elder; Jos. B. McKee, Thos. A. McKee, deacons; Samuel Wilcox, Jr., John Carnahan, Daniel Shoemaker, Daniel Keefer, David Rarich, trustees.
The Methodist Episcopal church was also organized about the same time as the last-mentioned one. Its edifice is one-story frame.
Both of these edifices appear to be near the central part of the William Sykes tract. The former is possibly on the southwestern part of another ancient tract, designated “vacant” on the map of the original tracts.
Not record evidence but reliable tradition says, that before 1807 some of the more forehanded citizens employed teachers to instruct their children in their families. That is probably what Mrs. Kirkpatrick means when she says that she remembers of schools being kept here and there in private houses in the locality where she spent her childhood, several miles up Crooked creek.* (*See sketch of South Bend township.) A primitive log schoolhouse, according to reliable tradition, was built on the Christopher Hoover tract, perhaps on the “Hooversburgh” part of it, in 1807, then Allegheny township. Whether the first teacher in that house was Jacob Shall or William Smith, or James Moor, who were assessed as “schoolmasters” somewhere in Allegheny township in 1805-6 and afterward, or someone else, is not manifest to the writer. Reliable tradition indicates that some, if not the mass, of early settlers of the territory included in Burrell township paid a due degree of attention to the education of their children. It is but fair to infer that thorough and accurate teachers were sought, that is, thorough and accurate in their limited degree of advancement, and that the desire for thorough and accurate teaching has been transmitted, at least such is the writer’s conclusion from his past observations, made in the discharge of his official duties in the educational service. A fair type of the early teachers, probably, is Isaac Kinnard, who, before and since the adoption of the common school system, taught twenty-three consecutive seasons. His penmanship was neat and legible, and so far as he had progressed in the other branches, he was thorough and accurate.
This feature is not mentioned here as exclusively peculiar to Burrell township, but rather as illustrative of the force and effect of a good beginning, a right start in the early settlement of a place or section of country. Prominent among the goodd and zealous teachers, under the common school system, was Samuel Murphy, who had become a veteran in this important branch of public services, in Burrell and Allegheny townships, in both of which he trained a goodly number in his schoolrooms and normal classes to be thorough, accurate and acceptable teachers. A peculiar feature of the Teachers’ District Institute in Burrell, for one term at least, was the presence of a number of pupils selected from the respective schools, who were formed into classes for drills, which were conducted by the different teachers, one session of which the writer had the pleasure of attending and observing the good effect of that feature upon teachers and pupils and upon the parents who were thus induced to be present.
In 1860 the number of schools was 8; average number months taught, 4; male teachers, 8; average salaries per month, $16.88; male scholars, 172; female scholars, 177; cost of instructing each scholar per month, 49 cents; amount levied for school purposes, $664.87; received from state appropriation, $60.62; from collector, $500; cost of instruction, $540; fuel and contingencies, $24.
In 1870 the number of schools was 8; average number of months taught, 5; male teachers, 7; female teachers, 2; average salaries of males per month, $31.55; average salaries females per month, $30.69; male scholars, 185; female scholars, 131; average number attending school, 224; cost per month, 83 cents; amount tax levied for school and building purposes, $1,164.60; received from state appropriation, $209.25; From taxes, etc., $1,283.74; cost of schoolhouses, $64.75; paid for teachers’ wages, $1,254.72; paid for fuel, collector’s fees, etc., $133.45.
Pitts’ Mill postoffice was established June 16, 1843, whose first postmaster was Joseph Miller, and the Cochran’s mills one August 1, 1855, Robert A. Paul postmaster, both at the same point.
MERCANTILE AND OTHER OCCUPATIONS
The stores were appraised this year thus: In 10th class, 1; in 13th class, 1; in 14th class, 1. The number assessed as merchants, 4.
The assessment list for 1876 shows, besides 127 farmers, laborers, 62; blacksmiths, 4; carpenters, 3; teachers, 3; preachers, 2; physicians, 2; wagonmakers, 2; professor, 1; civil engineer, 1; miller, 1; shoemaker, 1.
According to the census of 1860, the first one after the organization of this township, the number of whites was 830, colored 3. In 1870, native, 941, foreign, 23; total, 964. The number of taxables in 1876 is 253, which indicates the present population to be 1,163, showing an increase of 199 in the last six years.
For the geological features of this township the reader is referred to those presented in the sketches of Plum creek township and Elderton.
Source: Page(s) 364-372, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq.
Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed June 2000 by Linda Mockenhaupt for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
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