ELDERTON Is on the tract called "Wheatfield," which was originally surveyed on a warrant, dated August 18, 1786, to Sarah Elder, to whom a patent therefor was issued, April 14, 1799. By her last will and testament she devised that tract to Joshua Elder, who by deed of gift, dated June 19,1818, conveyed it to Robert J. Elder, who, November 20, 1822, laid out 14½ acres thereof into 41 town lots, fronting on Turnpike and Saline streets, which cross each other at right angles. Their width is sixty feet, and that of the various alleys is from twelve to sixteen feet. These lots were surveyed by James White. They are all, except three, 66X165 feet. The course of Turnpike street is north 22 degrees west; of Saline street, south 78 degrees west; and that of the southeasterly line of the town plot is north 89 degrees west. The original shape of the town was nearly that of a cross.
Mr. Elder, when he laid it out, named it New Middletown, and it is so designated in some of the early court records and assessment lists. The first house erected in it was a small log one, which was kept as a tavern by William Elgin, whose sign was about 18X8 inches, nailed to a stick stuck in a stump with this inscription on it: "Oats and whiskey for sale.” Mr. Elder then lived in a house afterward occupied by John R. Adams, on a farm now owned by Matthew Pettigrew.
The first assessment list of New Middletown appears to have been in 1824, thus: Thomas Armstrong, lot No.10, valued at $1: William D. Barclay, lots Nos. 17, 20, 21, 2 houses, $8; William Coulter, lot No. 3,1 house, $2.50; Daniel Elgin, lots Nos. 6, 7, 8, 9, 38, 1 house, $5.68; Samuel George, lot No.13, $1; John George, lot No.12, $1; Dr. Leonce Hoover, lots Nos. 19, 34,1 house, 1 horse, 1 head cattle, $8.50; John Kees, blacksmith, 1 house, 2 lots, $25; William McLaughlin, 1 house, 3 lots, $25; Moses Miller, lot No. 31, $1.12; Samuel Sturgeon, lots Nos. 41, 15, $3.50; Robert Woodward, lots Nos. 27, 28, 29, $3.50. The respective valuations of 20 unseated lots varied from 29 cents to $5. Among the earliest citizens of this town were Thomas Armstrong, tailor, afterward justice of the peace; Zack Kerr, chairmaker; Hamlet Totten, shoemaker; Joseph Klingenberger, saddler; William Lytle and William D. Barclay, merchants; Daniel Elgin and William Coulter, innkeepers, the latter of whom was justice of the peace for nineteen years; John and William Elgin, Robert Richey, George Shryock, A. W. Clark, George Smith, James Clark, now of Indiana, Pennsylvania, who established the tannery now owned by Charles Rosborough. John Ralston traded a horse with the late Robert Woodward for the lot on which he still lives, which he grubbed with his own hands. He and William Lytle entered into partnership in the mercantile business in 1831, which they carried on in the room now occupied by Dr. J. M. St. Clair.
Among the later settlers were, as the writer is informed, Andrew Kimmel, Drs. Meeker, Kelly and Allison. The last-named was a surgeon in the army during the war of the rebellion, and for several years past, he and his son, a native of Elderton, have practiced in Kittanning. It was in Elderton that Dr. David Alter first experimented in telegraphing, respecting which he says in a recent letter to the present writer:
"In 1836, while engaged in experimenting in electro-magnetism, in Elderton, I received the idea that the galvanic current could be made available for telegraphing by causing the deflection of magnetic needles, and in accordance made a plan for pointing out the letters of the alphabet by deflection, and was successful at the distance of 120 feet. But having no time nor means to pursue the subject then, I neglected it and did not apply for a patent." There was presented December 8, 1858, to the proper court of this county, a petition of citizens of the town of Elderton, then in Plum creek township, setting forth that they labored under many disadvantages and inconveniencies for want of corporate privileges, and praying to be incorporated under the act of April 3, 1851. That petition was referred to the grand jury, who returned to the court that it was expedient to grant the prayer of the petitioners. On the next day, March 9, the court made the requisite decree incorporating that town into the borough of Elderton. It is provided by that decree that the electors of the borough of Elderton and the township of Plum creek might join in electing a judge and two inspectors of election, before whom the elections of the township and the borough might thereafter be held-the ballots to be deposited in separate ballot boxes, except those cast for judge and inspectors.
The boundaries of the borough were: "Beginning at a post on lands of William Bleakney; thence south 71½ degrees west 120 perches to a post in land of John Ralston; thence north 18½ degrees west 183 perches to a stump on land of John R. Adams; thence north 71½ degrees, east 120 perches to a post in land of Robert M. Gibson; thence south 18½ degrees east 183 perches to the place of beginning," containing 137¼ acres.
The first borough election was directed to he held at the house of Henry Smith, on the first Friday of April, 1859, of which Robert Martin was appointed judge and Robert T. Robinson and William S. Cummins, inspectors. Notice of that election was to be given by the constable of Plum creek township. Subsequent borough elections were to be held at the time of holding elections of township officers, which was on Friday next preceding the first Monday of March until changed to the third Tuesday of February by section three, article eight, of the present constitution of this state. The first borough officers were: Burgess, William Lytle; members of town council, Robert Martin, William S. Cummins, Robert T. Robinson, Bryson Henderson, Joseph Henderson; street commissioner, John Ralston; assessor, Henry Smith, assistant assessors, R. M. Gibson, G. W. Burkett; auditor, D. W. Hawk; constable, Elias Kepple; overseers of the poor, William Alexander, Noah Keifer; school directors, John H. Morrison, Joseph Klingenberger, Anderson Henderson, William Haslett, G. W. Burkett, Charles Rosborough.
By act of March 28, 1865, the burgess and town council were empowered to vacate and supply so much of the Ebensburgh and Butler pike as lay within the borough limits.
By act of March 9, 1872, the burgess and town council were authorized to compel by ordinance the owners of property fronting on any of the streets to pave the sidewalks ten feet in front of their respective lots and keep them in good order and repair. In case any owner or owners refuse or neglect to pave, the borough authorities can have the paving of such sidewalks done and enter up liens for the cost of the labor and material within sixty days of the completion of the work, having first given thirty days' notice.
CHURCHES. The United Presbyterian congregation of Elderton was organized December 25, 1854, as an Associate Presbyterian congregation, with thirty-two members, as follows: Wm. Lytle, Mrs. Mary Lytle, Miss Elizabeth Lytle, Mrs. Nancy Henderson, W. S. Cummins, Hugh Elgin, Mrs. Mary Elgin, James Elgin, Mrs. Mary Elgin, Jr., Samuel George, Mrs. Eliza George, Miss Sarah McCreight, Mrs. Elizabeth Rupert, Mrs. Jane Clark, Mrs. Eliza Montgomery, Mrs. Martha Martin, John Ralston, Mrs. Jane Ralston, Mrs. Nancy Mitchell, Miss Nancy Mitchell, David McCullough, Sr., Robert McCullough, Mrs. Nancy Cullough, David Rankin, Mrs. L A Rankin, Mathew Rankin, Mrs. Margaret Rankin, Mrs. Mary Rankin, Sr., John Rankin, Mrs. Mary Rankin, Jr., Mrs. Jane Henderson, James McCreight.
Wm. Lytle and James McCreight were elected ruling elders at the time of the organization. Rev. Byron Porter, the first pastor, was installed in July, 1856. For three years Mr. Porter preached at Elderton one-third of his time, and from that until his death, which occurred November 28, 1876, one-half time. Mr. Porter's pastorate was quite prosperous, the congregation having a membership of over one hundred at his death. Until 1862 the congregation worshiped in a brick house which had been erected in 1849 as a Union church by the Presbyterians and Associate Presbyterians of the community. In 1862 the United Presbyterian congregation built the present house of worship, a single-story frame structure, at a cost of about $3,000. The house was not completed and occupied until 1868. Robert McIntosh and David Rankin were ordained elders August 16, 1856. Brice Henderson, W. S. Cummins, Robert McCullough and William Smith were ordained elders November 15, 1861. The session was further strengthened by the addition of S. B. McNeal, November 5, 1864; Alexander Hunter, October 21, 1865; and Thomas Sturgeon and John M. Hunter, October 3,1879. Wm. Lytle died August 17, 1873, S. B. McNeal in 187--, and David Rankin October 6, 1880. William Smith and Alexander Hunter were certified in 1878, and W. S. Cummins in 1878; Messrs. McCreight, McIntosh, Henderson, McCullough, Sturgeon and J. M. Hunter form the session at this time.
Rev. J. Buff-Jackson was installed pastor of this congregation in connection with Shelocta, Indiana county, December 11, 1877, and so continues at this time. There are at present one hundred and thirty names on the roll of the congregation.
The following are the names of the present members given as nearly as possible in the order of their admission:
Mrs. Mary Lytle, James Elgin, Mrs. Mary Elgin, Mrs. Jane Clark, Mrs. Eliza Montgomery, Mrs. Martha Martin, Robert McCullough, Mrs. L. A. Rankin, John Rankin, Mrs. Mary Rankin, Harvey M. Rankin, Mrs. Bell J. Clarke, Miss Clara B. Rankin, Mrs. Permelia Sturgeon, R. A. McCracken, Mrs. Bell McCullough, Mrs. Nancy B. McCullough, Hugh E. Rankin, Hugh H. Elgin, Mrs. Annie M. Rankin, Miss M. Ella Sturgeon, Mrs. Carrie M. Jackson, Miss M. N. Henderson, John M. Kepple, Cyrus M. Yount, Byron Porter, Joseph Fry, Mrs. Jane Fry, Mrs. Mary M. McCullough, Miss Maggie J. McCullough, Miss Amanda J. Elgin, Miss Mary A. Bleakney, Miss Iris J. Armstrong, Miss Annie M. McCreight, Miss Ella Hunter, E. L. Porter, John M. Rankin, Mrs. Mary A. Rankin, Mrs. Agnes J. McCullough, Miss Bell J. Rankin, Alexander Rankin, Mrs. Clara E. Rankin, Mrs. M. E. Harman, Miss Emma J. Painter, Miss Nancy J. Sturgeon, Miss Mary E. Lytle, Mrs. H. J. Ralston, Mrs. Elizabeth Keener, Miss A. B. Montgomery, Mrs. M. J. Ramsey, A. W. Bleakney, R. M. Keener, Mrs. E. J. Ralston, Mrs. Emma Smith, Mrs. S. A. Henderson, John R. Porter, W. D. McCullough, Mrs. Lizzie Lightner, Miss Bell J. Sturgeon, Miss Miss N.E. McCullough, T. N. Ralston, James A. Smith, John Ramsey, Mrs. Mary Ramsey, William Ramsey, L. C. Gibson, Mrs. C. Gibson, W. B. Sturgeon, A. B. Ramaley, Mrs. M. Kepple, Mrs. Bell Kaylor, Mrs. Callie Yount, Miss Clara I. Sturgeon, Miss Mary E. McNeal, James Smith, Mrs. Margaret Smith, Mrs. Nancy Schrecengost, Miss Della M. Rankin, Miss Bell H. Elgin, Alexander Clarke, Thomas A. McCullough, Alexander McCullough, Mrs. Jane Moore, James McCreight, Robert McIntosh, John McCullough, Mrs. Elizabeth McCullough, Mrs. Nancy M. Sturgeon, Brice Henderson, Thomas Sturgeon, Mrs. M. A. McIntosh, Mrs. Lois Armstrong, Mrs. Catherine Clark, Mrs. Julia A. Smith, Miss Maggie McIntosh, Miss Ellen McIntosh, Mrs. Mary Bleakney, Mrs. Jane McCreight, B. W. Armstrong, Mrs. Mary J. Armstrong, William Sturgeon, Mrs. Nancy Sturgeon, Mrs. Jane Sturgeon, Miss Nancy Bleakney, Mrs. Nancy McConnell, Mrs. Elizabeth Dixon, Miss Sarah Smith, William Armstrong, Mrs. Sarah Sturgeon, Mrs. Lydia A. Frailey, Mrs. M. J. Henderson, Mrs. Mary A. Elgin, John M. Hunter, Mrs. Emma Hunter, D. A. Ralston, Mrs. Catherine Bleakney, Mrs. M. J. Ramaley, Mrs. A. M. Porter, M. C. Ramaley, S. W. Smith, Miss E. I. Montgomery, Mrs. S. J. McCullough, Miss Ella E. Armstrong, Miss Alice B. Graham, W. Hays Elgin, T. Porter Sturgeon. The Presbyterian church was organized by the Blairsville Presbytery in 1855. Rev. Wm. F. Morgan was its pastor one-third of the time until his death. The edifice is frame, 40X50 feet, on the northwest corner of Turnpike street and the street leading into the Rural Village road. Members, 85; Sabbath-school scholars, 75.
The Methodist Episcopal church is one of the churches belonging to the Elderton circuit, at present under the charge of the Rev. A. Cameron. The edifice is frame, and is situated on the extreme lot, as yet laid out and occupied, on the right-hand side of Saline street, as the observer faces southwest, near the present borough line. Members in that circuit, 230; Sabbath-school scholars, 280.
SCHOOLS. As early as, perhaps earlier than, 1826 there was an organization called the "New Middletown Schoolhouse Stockholders," to whom Robert J. Elder conveyed, for the sum of ten dollars, a lot containing ninety-two and seven-tenths perches adjoining, or nearly so, this town, on which a schoolhouse was erected, and the first school taught in it by Josiah Elder in 1828. That lot has been for years included within the borough limits. The building is frame. The school board contemplate securing the two lots adjoining that one and erecting thereon a creditable brick school house.
In 1860 the number of schools was 1; months taught, 7; male teacher, 1; salary per month, $20; male scholars, 31; female scholars, 34; average number attending school, 53; cost teaching each per month, 39 cents; amount levied for school purposes, $175; received from collector, $175; expended -- cost of instruction, $150; fuel and contingencies, $25.
In 1876 there was one school; months taught, 7; male teacher, 1; salary per month, $40; male scholars, 30; female scholars, 35; average number attending school, 56; cost per month, 66 cents; levied for school and building purses, $281.92; received -- from state appropriation, $75.33; from taxes, etc., $315.92; cost of schoolhouse, $14; teacher's salary, $280; fuel, contingencies, etc., $32.94.
The Elderton Academy was founded in 1865. The edifice is frame, one story, eighteen feet high, about 60X30 feet, with two rooms, and situated on the left-hand side of Turnpike street, the observer facing southeast, on the ninth block below Saline street The instructors have been competent, and the average attendance of students about forty.
A brass band, consisting of fifteen pieces, organized few years since, is one of the best in the county.
TEMPERANCE. There has been for many years a strong temperance element in this place. The vote against granting license was 30, and for it, 8. SOLDIERS' AID SOCIETY.
On the reception of the news of the first great battle in the war of the rebellion, and on the first intimation given that various articles were needed to make the sick and wounded Union soldiers comfortable, the ladies of Elderton and Plum Creek immediately, even on the Sabbath day, commenced preparing lint and bandages and collecting delicacies to be forwarded to the suffering with all possible dispatch, and this was continued for a considerable time before an association was regularly organized. Much -- there is no record of how much -- was thus done, some sending their contributions to individual soldiers whom they knew. Toward the latter part of the war an account was kept of the money and articles contributed. The aggregate of the former was $169.99, which the society expended for material on which they expended their labor. Thirteen pages, thirteen by eight inches, are filled with entries of shirts, drawers, packages of bandages, dried fruits, canned fruits, vegetables, etc., received and forwarded through the sanitary commission to the army. The money value of all the contributions made by this society from first to last cannot now he estimated, but it is fair to state that the gross amount, if accurately known, would appear to be highly creditable to the humanity and patriotism of those by whom it was contributed.
GEOLOGICAL. An approximate idea of the geological features around Elderton and throughout Plum creek township is derivable from the following compilation from "Rogers' Geology of Pennsylvania:"
On Crooked creek, 2½ miles below Plum creek, the upper Freeport coal is seen 12 feet above the creek, and 42 inches thick as exposed; it soon dips under the stream. In the bend of Crooked creek the red and variegated shales of the Barren measures, with nodules of hematitic ore, occur 45 feet above the stream and fragments of green fossiliferous limestone 30 feet above it- The Pittsburgh coal occurs upon the upland surface three-quarters of a mile southeast of this point on Crooked creek.
The black limestone strata are seen rising west under the greenish strata, one quarter of a mile below the bend, and 20 feet above the creek. Over a dark greenish stratum 10 inches thick lies a nodular limestone 5 inches thick; this, again, is capped by green shales. Half a mile below this the upper Freeport coal rises to a hight of 51 feet above the water level, and is opened 3½ feet thick; roof bituminous shale, 1½ feet thick.
The ferriferous limestone rises from the creek at Heath's; it is full of small bivalves (terebratula, etc.) is flinty, thinly stratified, dark blue, and 5 feet thick. A quarry of silicious sandstone, greenish-gray and splitting into slabs, has been blasted in the strata, 20 feet above the limestone, which slate are used for tombstones in Elderton. Sandstones are largely developed in the bed of the creek below the next sawmill. A coal bed 1½ feet thick is there, from 20 to 25 feet above the water; the limestone is nowhere visible. A section made in the lofty sides of the valley at that place is as follows: Mahoning massive sandstone, 50 feet; upper Freeport coal, irregular (estimated to be 200 feet above the creek), 3 feet; unknown, 15 feet; Freeport limestone, 18 inches; unknown, 10 feet; sandstone and shale, 40 feet; Freeport sandstone, 50 feet; coal, a few inches; shale, 16 feet; sandstone, 4 feet; unknown, 41 feet.
Kittanning coal (possibly the ferriferous coal), 1½ feet; unknown down to the creek and full of fossils, 6 feet thick. Depth of salt well is said to be 500 feet. A little to the east of this appears to run the highest or axis line of the third anticlinal flexure. The Freeport limestone, bearing its characteristic minute fossils, has fallen so far in its level by the time it has reached Cochran's mill, 300 yards above the next saltworks, that it is but 24 feet above the dam; it is seminodular, and 2 feet thick. The upper Freeport coal overlies it 2½ feet, and is itself 3 feet thick. It is a thicker bed some hundred yards southwest, and the coal outcrop is 10 feet above it. A coalbed is seen at a level 100 feet higher in the hillside. Beneath it is seen a massive sandstone, but the fossils of the limestone seem decisive against that supposition. At the lower saltworks is a coalbed 3 feet thick and 60 feet above the stream.
Turning from the southern to somewhat beyond the northern boundary of Plum Creek town at Patterson's mill, on the Cowanshannock creek, the Kittanning bed, covered by 40 feet of shale, reads thus: Bituminous shale, 3 feet; coal and slate interleaved, vegetable impressions numerous, 12 inches; coal, 12 inches, 7 feet above level of water; floor, black slate. Lower down it reads thus: Black slate, 5 feet; coal, 5 inches; bituminous pyritous slate, 18 inches; coal, 15 inches; slaty coal, 14 inches.
Two miles west of Rural village, on a farm formerly known as Smith's tract, the upper Freeport coalbed is 150 or more feet above the creek, and is 4 feet thick, of good quality, but with a little sulphur. Ten feet below it is the ferriferous limestone, 5 feet thick. Fifty feet below the limestone is seen the lower Freeport coal, said to be 1½ feet thick. Upwards of 100 feet lower down, near the creek level, is the Kittanning coalbed, thickness unknown. This locality is on the east side of the fourth axis, and distant from it about 2½ miles; dip southeast.
Such are the geological features of the territory between Crooked and Cowanshannock creeks, in the scope of country comprised within the limits of Plum Creek township.
* Samuel Morris, Sr., was an original member of the Board of War, appointed by the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, March 12, 1777. * The question whether the Centennial anniversary of American independence should be suitably commemorated began to be agitated by the patriotic people of Plum Creek Townships and Elderton in the fore part of March 1876. A committee of arrangements was appointed at a public meeting held soon after, consisting of J.A. Blaney, chairman; D.B. Coulter, secretary; John Ralston, Robert McIntosh, L.C. Gibson, J.M. Hunter, D. S. Fraily, T.A. McKee, N. S. McMillen, Wm. Cessna and N. Reifer, Sr., who discharged their duties effectively and acceptably. A desire to partake in this celebration seized many patriotic people of the adjoining townships, so that early this morning large numbers started in carriages, wagons, on horseback and afoot from all directions for this point, this grove where a platform has been erected and other suitable arrangements made for the proper celebration of this Fourth of July, 1876. The number assembled here is estimated to have been nearly 3,000. Precisely at 10 o'clock A.M. Robert McIntosh, the chairman, announced that President Grant's proclamation suggesting and recommending the proper observance of this day would be read.
The order of exercises arranged for this occasion was partly carried out, thus:
Reading of the President's proclamation by the chairman. An eloquent and patriotic prayer by Rev. Byron Porter. Whittier's Centennial Hymn, well rendered by a chorus of a hundred voices, accompanied by a part of the Elderton Cornet band. Reading the Declaration of Independence by James M. Patton. Rendering the national hymn “America” by the chorus, accompanied by the band. Offering by the chairman the sentiment, “The Day We Celebrate,” which elicited an eloquent and patriotic response from Rev. A. Cameron. Recess for dinner, which was bountifully spread from numerous baskets on white cloths upon the ground, and keenly relished by the multitude who partook of the choice edibles which good housewives and fair maidens had neatly and carefully prepared. The recalling of the assemblage to the platform by a spirit-stirring piece, well rendered by the Kittanning cornet band. And, finally, the delivery of a portion of this historical sketch of Armstrong county, when, before the portion intended for this occasion was half completed, the vast audience was suddenly dispersed by the unexpected approach of a violent storm of rain, thunder and lightning, and thus the remaining exercises that had been arranged for the remainder of the day were, by a stern necessity, omitted. *See sketch of Cowanshannock township.
*The charter members of the Lutheran congregation were – Rev. J. Wright, the pastor, Wm. Davis, Andrew Dunmire, S.A. Snappenberger, David Landis, A. Linsenbigler, Adam Long, Alvah, Andrew, David, Edward, James, Philip (of J.) and Samuel Rupert, John Sheafer, Samuel and Joseph Young.
Of the Reformed Congregation – Rev. Frederick Wise, pastor; Samuel __, Josiah Boyer, Adam, E.W., F.M., G.W., Josiah F., Joseph, Obadiah, Philip, Ralston and Wilson Rupert, J.F. Shoup and A. Smith.
Source: Pages 201-213, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq.
Transcribed December 2000 by M.D. Bloemker for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Published 2000 by the Armstrong County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project.