Burrell Township History
Written by H. J. Beers & Published in 1914
FORMATION-LANDOWNERS-ASSESSMENT LIST OF 1805-06-INDUSTRIES-GUNPOWDER FACTORIES- A "PAPER" TOWN-SALT WORKS-BRICK CHURCH-GEOLOGICAL
Burrell township, which was formed in 1855 out of parts of Kittanning, Kiskaminetas and Plum Creek townships, was named after the late Judge Burrell, who was president judge of the Tenth Judicial district, composed of Armstrong, Indiana and Westmoreland counties. Its boundaries are Plum Creek and South Bend townships on the east, Kiskiminetas, Parks and Bethel on the south and west, and Kittaning township on the north. The principal stream running through the township is called Crooked creek, which amply justifies its name. The Indians called it Woak-hanne, the stream with large bends.
There were thirty-six tracts in the present limits of this township in the period of settlement, and the landowners and settlers were: Reading Beatty, Jacob Hart, James Shields, Robert Finney, William Palmer, Robert Carnahan, John Wagle, James VanHorn, Adam Fiscus, Jacob Beer, William Kerr, Thomas York, George Elliott, John Brown, John Beck, James Renwick, John Pitts, James Clark, John Schall, William Sykes, Michael Schall, William Eckhart, John Salter, Christopher Hoover, Agnes Kyle, Robert Adams, Isaac Wagle, David Sloan, Joseph Shoemaker, Henry Davis, Malcolm Campbell, George Shoemaker, William Clark, Robert Cogley, Adam Wilhelm, John Craig, George Helffreich, Michael Schall, George P. Scheffer, Francis Cooper, John Davison, George Risler, Andrew Beck, Isaac Mechlin, John Robb, George A. King, Michael Huffnagle, James Arnold, Valentine Shallus, Thomas Milliken, Joseph Sansom, Isaac Mather, Peter Rupert, John Vanderen, Michael Hillegas, James Hamilton, Thomas Hamilton, James Hall.
Michael Huffnagle was one of the captains of volunteers raised in Westmoreland county for the defense of the frontiers in 1779, and was afterward commissioned lieutenant. In 1783 he had charged of the timber and reserved land of the tract opposite Pittsburgh. He was later prothonotary of Westmoreland.
Michael Hillegas was for several years before the Revolutionary war United States treasurer.
Warrants for several of the tracts of the settlers mentioned above were dated as early as 1776.
OLD ASSESSMENT LIST
The following were the assessments made in this townhip in 1805-06, when it was a part of Allegheny: 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 sawmill, one head of cattle, $110 in 1805, and $10 in 1806; George Peter Shaeffer, 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; Jacob Schall, single man; George Shoemaker, 225 acres, two cattle, $178.75 in 1805, $183 in 1806; Adam Wilhelm, 160 acres, one horse, two cattle, $100 each year; Isaac Wagel, 50 acres, $75 in 1806. There must then have been a population of about sixty. The valuation of these tracts of land then varied from twenty-five to fifty, sixty-nine and seventy-nine cents and 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.
The only settlement of importance in this township is Cochran's Mille, which is the oldest mill-site in the township, having been located in 1800 by George Painter. He was assessed with a grist mil and sawmill in 1804. These mills through various periods have been known as Wagle's, Richards', Craig's, Davis', and Wright & Thompson's mills. Michael Cochran became possessed of them in 1858 and his name has stuck to this locality ever since. John Schwalm and W. H. Carnahan bought the land and mills from the executors of Cochran in 1871 for $17,000. The present proprietor is H. A. King.
In 1822 Irwin & McClelland were assessed with fulling mills at this point. In 1826 Anthony Helffreich announced that he had everything necessary to full, dye and dress cloth n the best manner. Isaac Kinnard started a fulling mill here in 1834, subsequently converting it into a woolen factory, which was operated by him and his son until 1880.
The first store was opened here by Michael Cochran in 1849. A Grange store was also operated there for a number of years by Schwalm & Carnahan.
The first bridge at this point was a wooden one with stone piers, built in 1865. The present one is of steel.
Pitts' Mill post office was established in 1843, with Joseph Miller as postmaster. It was changed to Cochran's Mills in 1855, with Robert A. Paul as the official in charge. Francis T. McKee is the present postmaster.
O.J. King and F. T. McKee are the storekeepers at Cochran's Mills in 1913, and G. W. Riffer is the village blacksmith. The resident dentist is Dr. A. J. Elliott.
Mateer is a small settlement in the southern part of the township named from the original owner of the tract, and has a few houses and a store kept by J. A. Klingensmith, who is also the postmaster.
ANCIENT POWDER MILLS
About 1811 George Beck, Sr., commenced to manufacture gunpowder on Pine run, near its mouth, and continued to carry on the business in partnership with his sons until 1826, when an explosion which killed one man, and partially destroyed the buildings, caused a cessation of the work. His powder was made with willow charcoal and enjoyed a high reputation in Pittsburgh and Kittaning, as well as further east.
Another powder-mill was operated in 1817 on Crooked creek just above Cochran's Mills by George Beck.
John R. Schaeffer erected the third powdermill on Pine run, near the extreme northern line of the township, in 1822. An explosion occurred there in 1824, just after all the employees had left, which badly damaged the works. It was soon afterward converted into a linseed oil mill, and later into a distillery, which has long since been closed.
A "PAPER" TOWN
"Williamsburg" was laid out in 1818 by William Fiscus, Sr., on the Hoover tract in the southern part of the township, and the streets given various names. This was as far as the town ever went, for in 1823 the assessor stated that there were no residents and the lots were so low in value that "the tax could not be got off them." He therefore assessed the plot as six acres at the valuation of $6.
Some time prior to 1820 a salt well was bored on the banks of Crooked creek in the southern part of the township by James Richards. Another well was bored on the creek below Cochran's Mills by Michael Townsend in 1824. Later on this works was operated by John Parks. None of these wells was very profitable and they were afterward abandoned.
In 1876 there were in this township 127 farmers, 62 laborers, 4 blacksmiths, 3 carpenters, 3 teachers, 2 preachers, 2 physicians, 2 wagonmakers, 1 civil engineer, 4 merchants, 1 miller and 1 shoemaker.
The census of 1860 gives the population of Burrell township as 833. In 1870 it was 964; in 1880, 1,047; in 1890, 922; in 1900, 893; in 1910, 833.
The 1913 assessment returns of Burrell township show: Number of acres of timber land, 3,334, cleared land, 10,209, valued at $212,900; houses and lots, 23, value $6,489, average, $282.13; 263 cows, valued at $3,809, average value, $14.48; 245 horses, valued at $7,303, average value $29.80; total valuation, $237,000. Taxables, 282. Money at interest, $77,146.
One of the old log schools of the early days of settlement in this county was built several miles up Crooked creek, thus placing it about in the territory of Burrell. It is not known who was the first teacher. There were three assessed in Allegheny township at that time-James Shall, William Smith and James Moore. Isaac Kinnard and Samuel Murphy were later teachers in this township.
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, 114; average number attending school, 177; cost of instruction 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 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 attendance, 224; cost per month, 83 cents; amount of tax, $1,164.60; State appropriation, $209.25; taxes, $1,283.74; cost of schoolhouses, $64.75; teachers' wages, $1,254.72; paid for fuel, fees, etc., $135.45.
In 1913 the number of schools was 8; average number months taught, 7; male teachers, 3; female teachers, 5; average salaries, male, $40; females, $42; male scholars, 111; female scholars, 113, average attendance, 148; cost per month, $2; tax levied, $1,726.65; received form State, $1,462.66; other sources, $1,784.34; value of schoolhouses, $5,200; teachers' wages, $2,310; fuel, fees, etc., $842.91.
The school directors were: T. J. Lemmon, president; E. E. Shaffer, secretary; J. A. Myers, treasurer; J. F. Riggle, W. M. Knepshield.
The name of this little settlement arose from the fact that at this point was built one of the first brick churches in this county. Most of the early edifices were of plain frame construction and a brick building was a luxury in those days.
The first Evangelical Lutheran Church within the presents limits of this county was St. Michael's, whic was organized in 1806, by Rev. Michael Steck, Sr., of Greensburg. The original members of the church were twenty-four, namely: John George Helfferich and George Peter Schaeffer, elders; John Philip Schaeffer, Michael Schall, Sr., Isaac Wagley, Sr., Jacob Waltenbaugh, Henry Davis, Jacob George, Sr., William 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 churcher 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 Schaeffer'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 in 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 Schaeffersut once in four weeks. He preached a trial sermon there, July 6, 1823.
A congregational meeting was held there August 3d, when St. Michael's Church was reorganized, and it was determined that his salary would be paid from the first day of July. The officers were installed August 31st. 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 was known to be still living in 1876. There were then sixty-five members.
The first church edifice, 30 by 40 feet, was constructed of square hewed logs, about 1820. Its site was about a mile and a half northeast of the mouth of Cherry run.
It was announced in the Kittanning Gazette that the Evangelical Lutheran church, near George P. Schaeffer's, was consecrated on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1832, when Revs. Steck and Hacke, of Greensburg, Pa., 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.
St. Michael's Evangelical lutheran Church was incorporated in 1850. The charter officers were: Rev. George F. Ehrenfeldt, pastor; Isaac Kinnard and George King, elders; Peter Hileman, Samuel Woodward and George Riggle, deacons. The second church edifice, brick, 44 by 60 feet, height of ceiling 14 feet, was erected in 1852, at the crossroads on Anthony Helfferich's land about a mile north of the old site, and was dedicated soon after its completion, by Rev. Daniel 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. Members in 1876, 225; Sabbath school scholars, one hundred.
Rev. J. N. Wright was pastor in 1913. The officers are: Fred Held and E. E. Schaeffer, elders; J. E. Kinnard and J. E. Yount, deacons. The little settlement which surrounds the brick church possesses one store, kept by H. A. King, who is postmaster, and a blacksmith shop, operated by F. J. Works.
The Church of Christian Brethren was organized about 1852. The edifice was a one-story frame. It was incorporated by the proper court June 7, 1853. The charter officers were: Joseph Shoemaker, elder; Joseph B. McKee, Thomas A. McKee, deacons; Samuel Wilcox, Jr., John Carnahan, Daniel Shoemaker, Daniel Keefer, David Rarich, trustees. The church is now abandoned.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was also organized about the same time as the last-mentioned one. Its edifice is one-story frame.
The Apollo synclinal runs directly through the center of this township, from northeast to southwest. The general structure of the strata is similar to that of Plum Creek. Crooked creek winds its tortuos way through the middle of the township and forms a maze of short and steep valleys, diverting the roads into many twists and turns.
The highest point in the township is almost the border of Parks township, in the southwestern portion, and is 1,561 feet above the sea.
Source: Pages 187-190, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114
Transcribed July 1998 by Donna E. Mohney for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Published 1998 by the Armstrong County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project
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