South Bend Township is located in the southwest edge of Armstrong County. It is bounded on the north by Plumcreek Twp, on the northwest by Burrell Twp, and on the south by Kiskiminitis Twp. On the eastern edge, it borders Armstrong Township in Indiana County, not to be confused with Armstrong County.
About three miles west of the Indiana Co. line, Crooked Creek makes a distinct U-shaped bend to the south. Within this bend, a settlement was founded in 1867 and thus called South Bend.
The first business establishments in South Bend were a blacksmith shop, a grist mill and an ice house. They were all located right along the creek with easy access to the water. The dam was just upstream from the mill and provided water to power the mill to do the grinding.
The waters of Crooked Creek also boasted a bountiful supply of fish. Hallie Silvis would often tell of how the fish would be caught in the intake of the mill and would have to be dug out to continue the process. In the winter, the ice would be cut off the creek in blocks and hauled into the ice house by teams of horses. Here it would be stored in layers of sawdust for future use.
The election house, Townsend’s Store, King’s Mortuary and Dr. Lowrey’s office completed the business district. Later a post office was established by Fergus Moorehead at the site of the present South Bend Store. His daughter, Mrs. Harvey Hanna was the post mistress. When Townsend’s Store went out of business, she sold some candy at the post office.
Nevin Smith would bring the mail to South Bend by horse and buggy from Apollo. Later Harvey Hanna, Mrs. Hanna’s husband, took over the post office and bought the general business.
In 1942, William and Nellie Wissinger bought the South Bend Store from Mr. Hanna. He also took over the post office. About 1958, the post office was moved from Wissinger’s General Store to a small builing across Route 156. Here Jack Rearick served as postmaster for a short time. The mail system for South Bend residents was then converted to general deliveries, being Star Route, Spring Church, PA and R.D. #3, Shelocta, PA.
A one-room school stood on the hill above the store and overlooked Crooked Creek. Here all eight grades were taught. After South Bend grew in population, only first and second grades were held in this building. Many times we would wade the snowdrifts that gathered along the township road only to be taken inside and dried out by the big coal and wood-fired pot belly stove.
When the townships formed a jointure with Kittanning Township, Elderton Borough and Plum Creek Township, the school was closed and the property was returned to the landowner at the time which was William Wissinger. In 1951 he sold the original school property to Harry and Carol Smith. The school house was removed in 1952.
In South Bend there are two churches. The St. Jacob’s United Church of Christ, formerly the St. Jacob’s Reformed, is located right next to Crooked Creek. The conerstone was laid in 1890. The St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church sits on the the hill above the settlement. This church was built in 1872. Both churches have been kept in good repair and are in use today. (Ed. Note: this was written in 1979.)
A cemetery is located across the township road from this church. It is maintained by both churches. The first person buried was a school teacher named John Allison on May 10, 1823. Since its origin, two pieces of land adjacent to the cemetery have been bought.
In 1913, most of the land and houses in South Bend were owned by D. S. Townsend. When he went out of business, Walter Myers bought the land in the bend by the creek and the ground north and parallel to the creek. Here he raised vegetables that were marketed in various places throughout Pennsylvania.
He also sold produce from a roadside stand operated many years by Frank Silvis. In 1978 a larger produce market was built by Mr. Myer's daughter, Barbara, and her husband, Robert Tedesco. Today, Walter is noted for raising pumpkins and sweet corn.
Harry Andes bought the remaining land and sold part of it to William Wissinger. To the present time, this land has changed hands many times. Many of the dwellings are still standing and have been kept in repair and are being lived in now. The old log house still stands on the west side of the creek. It is occupied by the Silvis family whose ancestors erected it several generations ago.
All the original business establishments have been torn down except the store. It has changed proprietorship several times. Harvey Hanna sold it to William Wissinger in 1942. He operated the store and filling station, selling tires, automotive parts and Esso gasoline.
In 1959 Harold and Ada Uptegraph bought the business from Mr. Wissinger and continued the same retail operations. Debbie (Mr. Wissinger’s daughter) and Alan Blystone bought Uptegraph’s market in 1978. Jack and Kathy Rearick took over the operation of the business in 1980.
In 1963, the election site was changed to a building along Route 156 west of South Bend. Bobby Lee Townsend bought the old election house, which had been turned into a dwelling, and later was torn down.
Between 1913 and the 1920s, more cars were coming into use. Early on they had to be cranked to get the engine started. Al Martin, who owned a Chevrolet, drove down to Townsend’s store to do his marketing and parked in front of the store in park. When he went out to go home, he cranked his car; it jumped forward and killed him. Raul Rupert and Henry Townsend pushed it off him. Thus the first auto fatality in South Bend.
A new paved road was laid through the village in 1928-1930. At this time, the two old one-lane iron and plank bridges were replaced with a modern concrete one that allowed two-lane traffic over Crooked Creek.
The first automobile accident on the new bridge happened on the east end of the bridge when Mr. Stefanini from Elders Ridge and two companions drove into the sand bin. Later, about 1950, the bridge was widened because of the many wrecks that occurred.
Campers came out from Vandergrift and Apollo and camped up at the Montgomery bridge. They sure had a lot of fun. Many a loaf of bread and pies Hallis Silvis baked for them in her bake oven. Sam Miller was a drowning victim while swimming up at the bridge.
Many new homes have been erected in South Bend since 1913. The boundaries have been extended to include Keystone Mobile Home Court and a natural gas pumping station. The mobile home park is owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Speer. It is located on the Shoupe farm. Nearby was a one-room school; the Shoupe School which was torn down about 1935.
Another school was built on the Wherry Farm. During the 1920’s, the Wherry School burned and was rebuilt. Also a one-room school stood at Barrell Valley. This area was named for a barrell factory that was located there. There was also a church located beside the school. The school was torn down by George Weaver and a house built from it. The church was made into a dwelling house and is owned by J. C. Haney.
The South Bend area in 1913 was noted for its farming and dairy cattle. Henry Townsend had one of the nicest herds of cattle and teams of horses to work the fields. Today tractors and modern machinery have replaced the horse-drawn equipment. Fred Pugliese, Robert Coleman, Ezra Dunmire, Robert Cashdollar and John Deemer operate large farms and have dairy herds or beef cattle in this area today.
Natural gas is also abundant in the South Bend district today. Numerous wells have been “plugged” or out of service, but new wells produce an ample supply of gas. In 1950, New York State Natural Gas - nowConsolidated Gas, bought land from Dan Jones and erected a pumping station. It is located a little east of the South Bend Village.
In the early spring of 1936, Crooked Creek overflowed it banks. The water was up around all the buildings. You could boat ride back of St. Jacob’s Reformed church and all around the church. Frank Laughlin, who had a large flock of chickens, lost them all in the flood of 1936.
In June of 1972, South Bend received over eleven inches of rain in three days, causing another large flood in the low areas along the creek. The water came up so high that St. Jacob’s ( now called St. Jacob’s UCC) church was completely surrounded with the basement flooded to the ceiling.
Two men from Vandergrift and Apollo put a raft in the creek up at Shelocta, and, boy, did they have fun bobbing about in the water till they got to South Bend where they decided it was enough of that and tried to get out. One got a hold on a limb of a tree and hung there and the other one was washed down creek a few yards and lodged against a tree. The Elderton Fire Company was called to rescue them.
A small children’s playhouse belonging the the Maurice Tosi’s was swept away and was later sighted piled up against the Cochran’s Mills bridge.
Today South Bend is still a pleasant place to live. It is a just-close-enough-neighbors area in a country setting. The younger generation’s ideas are flavored with the older folks’ sentiment. This kind of an environment makes for a happy living.
The log house located in South Bend near the Crooked Creek bridge was first built on the Wherry Farm located about one mile from where it now stands. John (Squire) Wherry built the log house during the 1830s. He later gave the house to Paul Rupert.
When Paul got married, he took the house down log by log and hauled it by a horse-drawn wagon to his father’s farm. When his father, George Rupert died, the house was put up for sale and Hallis Silvis bought it for $175.00.
The house still has the original fireplace as when it was built. Three windows in the back have been replaced, but the two front ones are the original ones. The house has been partitioned off into four rooms, two upstairs and two downstairs.
The house was the home of Reuben and Hallie (Rupert) Silvis who reared ten children there. Eugene and Ruth Silvis later raised ten children in this log house. The house is still standing. It’s the only log house with anyone living in it at the present time (1979) in Armstrong County.
The first inhabitants of the Village of Idaho were Indians. At Spruce Bank in Idaho, there were nine Indian graves and an Indian Corn Hill. Someone in later years stole part of the grinding stone and the stone left was taken to a farmer’s lawn.
Crooked Creek flows along the entire length of Idaho. The only date given for Idaho was carved on a large rock at the “Old Swimming Hole” at Spruce Bank. The date was April 28, 1894, carved by Charles Johnson, the son of the owner of the grist mill.
Idaho had to be settled before this date as there was a school, a store, a post office, a livery stable, an ice house, a grist mill and a blacksmith shop.
The flour mill had so much business it was kept busy around the clock. Men on the night shift would put fishing poles in the mill dam and would catch enough fish for their breakfast. Also a woman named Mrs. Henderson would go fishing at the creek near her home and catch a large string of fish for herself. The flour from the mill was shipped to West Virginia.
Some of the early settlers were the Rosensteels, Remaleys and the Moreheads. Mr. Morehead at one time owned about half the land in Idaho.
The store carried many items, and it even sold ladies’ hats. People took their butter and eggs there in exchange for groceries. The school house served as a meeting place for Sunday School and social gatherings.
On Memorial Day, people gathered at the school house for a community picnic each year. On New Year’s Eve, the school teacher, Miss Miller, would go to the school house and ring the school bell to usher in the new year.
A high iron bridge connected Idaho and Plumcreek Township. Heavy floods came one summer and took all the famers’ grain that was cut and shocked in the fields. Two chickens were stranded on a shock of oats surrounded by water. Two young men got a rowboat and went out and rescued the chickens. The water was so high anyone who sat on the edge of the bridge could put their feet in the water. Sometimes the water would rise to the second story of the mill. A man could put his arm out the window and touch the water.
An old log house stood in the center of Idaho. We were told it had been used by the Indians before the white settlers took over.
There was a swinging bridge by the gas company that crossed the creek near “the old swimming hole.” Many young people enjoyed walking over this swinging bridge.
The iron bridge, which was an old landmark, was torn down in 1966 when the Keystone Power Plant was built and a new road was built to Elderton. Without the bridge, Idaho is now on a dead-end road.
While the power plant was being built, there were sixteen families in Idaho. Today there is a population of 39, with only fourteen dwelling houses.
Girty is located along Crooked Creek in South Bend Township, Armstrong County. Its population is very small. Early settlement of Girty was about 1850. The village at this time had abundant forests and furnished material for lumber. Saw mills were erected along the creek a short distance from the village. This was something new. The village at this time was known as Clayton. One lasting impression left by the water saw mill was one of the men had his arm crushed in the machinery. He was taken to the nearest home and his arm was amputated.
About 1868 a man by the name of McNess came from Tennessee to inspect the clay beds. He found the clay suitable for making pottery. He set up a shop in Apollo so he would be near a railroad. He continued making pottery there for several years. The clay was hauled by horse and wagon. Finally he set up a shop in Girty. Here he made jugs, crocks and other items. This provided work for the people of this area. Industrialization caused him to close his shop in 1890.
Girty had natural gas in the community in about 1891. A gas compressing station was installed in 1895. First, engines were run by steam. As more wells were drilled, they had to make changes. In 1901, the steam engines were replaced by engines that had 180 horsepower gasoline engines. In 1916 new buildings were built and a gasoline plant added. In 1920 the compression station was remodeled and bigger engines added. In 1924 these stations were replaced by larger ones. This station pumped gas to Derry, Johnstown, Altoona and Blairsville.
Girty also had large quantities of limestone used by the farmers. Each farmer quarried the amount of limestone needed for his own use and paid accordingly. It is rumored that there is clay suitable for making Chinaware, but no investigation has been made.
In 1890, a post office was obtained and the name had to be changed from Clayton to Girty because of another town named Clayton in Pennsylvania. It was then named Girty after the postmaster employed at that time. Girty had three post offices. One was operated by Uriah George, the second by Joe Coulter and the third by Dean Wood. The post offices are all closed now and mail delivery is now being delivered from Spring Church.
Three deep coal mines were once in this town but none are in operation now. Girty had one blacksmith shop which was owned and operated by Robert Scott and no long exists. Another interesting spot near Girty which attracts people is Laurel Loop. At this point, Crooked Creek makes a complet turn, flowing back for a while in the direction it came from.
Walton and Ray Smith, had a maple sugar camp handy to Girty. They tapped trees in what they called Sugar Holow, but the sugar camp in now abandoned. They made many gallons of maple syrup.
Also Burton Townsend and Sons operate a fruit orchard and grows a wide variety of fruit. He also has a produce market there and sells his fresh fruits and vegetables.
A one-room school completed the village of Girty. The school house in still standing. It is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Cockroft. It now contains a vat where the Cockroft’s dip and refinished furniture.
To the northwest of Girty is a little place called Stony Point. It got its name from the exposed rock in the area. Bill Knappenberger and Emma Miller, who were school teachers, gave Stony Point its name. It consisted of a one-room schoolhouse which has been converted into a house owned by the Cavanaugh family. There is still a church in the area known as the Mt. Zion Methodist Church. Rev. Thomas Verner is the pastor.
Wilmer Flickinger is the oldest resident there being one hundred years old in 1979. He was born in a log house and at the age of six moved to the new house on the same property where he resides today. Mr. Flickinger got his education in the Stony Point school except for two summers of summer school at Mr. Union.
South Bend Township, formed in 1867, is a small township with about 40 miles of township roads and 20 miles of state roads. The farmers here have much to be proud of with their beef cattle, corn, wheat and hay fields. The township has grown in population and many new homes have been built.
We, the people of South Bend Township, are proud of this small area of Armstrong Country.