History of Westmoreland County
Volume 1, Chapter 40

Donegal Township - Derry Township - Livermore Borough - Franklin Township - Murryville - Washington Township

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Donegal was another of the original townships into which the county was divided by our court, at its first sitting, at Robert Hanna's, April 6, 1773. This has always been the name which designated this portion of the country, even while it was included within the limits of Bedford county. Its original boundaries were much larger than at present, for it then embraced the greater portion of Ligonier Valley. It was a very important township in the early historic days, when Fort Ligonier was one of the two all important places here in southwestern Pennsylvania. The first officers elected were John Cavenot, (who was probably the ancestor of the Cavens), as constable; Samuel Shannon and Edward McDowell as overseers of the poor; and George Glenn as supervisor.

Fayette county was taken from Westmoreland shortly after the Revolutionary war, and part of the original township of Donegal lay within its limits. In 1855 Cook township was stricken from the northern part of Donegal township. It is, therefore, bounded on the north by Cook township; on the east by Laurel Hill, that is, by the county line between Somerset and Westmoreland; on the south by Fayette county line, and on the west by Chestnut Ridge. Like all parts of Ligonier Valley, the sides touching the ranges of mountains on the east and west are rocky and abrupt, and of little value for agricultural purposes. Along the center and about the bottom of streams the surface is more even, and is well adapted to farming, which is the chief pursuit of its inhabitants. For many years, however, the lumber business has furnished employment for a great many people, and along with the lumber business, the peeling of the bark of oak and hemlock trees for use in tanning, has been a great industry. The principal streams of Donegal township are Indian Creek and Roaring Run in the southern part, and Four Mile Run in the northwestern part. The first two streams flow southward into the Youghiogheny, and the latter flows into the Loyalhanna. The township is underlaid with the Freeport seam of coal. It also has an abundance of fire-clay, limestone and iron ore. In the early days when iron was made by charcoal, there were two furnaces built within the limits of the township, but these have long since been out of blast.

Among the old families was the Kistler family, the father, Andrew, coming from Germany to Maryland, and then moving to Donegal township in 1796. Other early settlers were Andrew Harman, who was killed by the Indians; William R. Hunter, the Millhoffs, Wirsings, Shaeffers, Hayses, Gettemys, Jones, Blackburns.

The turnpike from Somerset to Mt. Pleasant and West Newton passed through the township from east to west. On this turnpike was located the town of Donegal and the village of Jones' Mills. Both of them are very small, and were identified with the wagon days of the old turnpike, which was largely traveled for many years. This turnpike afforded a wagon and stage route east from the headwaters of navigation at Elizabeth on the Monongahela, and at West Newton on the Youghiogheny, across the mountains to Somerset, and thence to the National Pike at Cumberland, Maryland. The pike, as we have seen before, was planked, and for a long time was known as the Plank Road. From this pike there has always been a much traveled highway leading north from Donegal through Stahlstown to Ligonier. The village of Donegal has not increased much in the last forty years. It was formerly a convergent point for the whole southern end of the valley. Here they met on preliminary parade days, rifle matches, hunting days, and to engage in all kinds of rural contests and village sports. It was also an important place in stage -coach days. It is now little less than a country hamlet, though a very pretty one, and is the smallest borough in Westmoreland county. The petition for the incorporation was presented to the court in 1867, mainly through the efforts of the late William R. Hunter, a prominent merchant in Donegal at that time. The village was incorporated on the 20th of August, 1867, and the first election was held on the 20th day of September, at the house of Mrs. Nancy Hays. Jeremiah Wirsing was judge of the election, and Jacob Gettemy and Ely P. Fry were inspectors. William R. Hunter probably did more for Donegal borough and this community than any other man of that section. For many years he was the leading merchant of the place, and took great interest in its churches and schools and in its general advancement. 

Jones Mills has been frequented a great deal by travelers in pursuit of all kinds of rural sports. It has a fine country hotel. The turnpike passed through the village, which, like Donegal, has seen its best days. It has, however, one of the best streams of water in the county, which flows directly from the "Big Springs" on Laurel Hill, a spring whose daily output is large enough to turn, and did at one time turn, an old-fashioned saw-mill within a few rods of its source.

It is on the limpid waters of this spring that the Pike Run Country Club located. The club owns some two hundred and fifty acres of well timbered land, and has erected a splendid club house on it. It is on the famous turnpike, and is about fourteen miles from either Mt. Pleasant, Ligonier or Somerset. The club is patronized largely by Mt. Pleasant people, but has members in Greensburg and in other sections of the county. It is in Donegal township. It was founded in 1903, and is for its age a most promising club.

The first religious denomination in Donegal township were the Presbyterians. We are unable to give the date of their organization. With a later generation came the Methodists, who probably surpass the Presbyterians in numbers. The Baptists and the Dunkards came later, the latter being mostly families who had moved to Donegal from Somerset county. Among the original settlers were many Germans, who were regularly preached to in the early days of last century by Rev. Weber, of Greensburg. He established a congregation at Donegal, which really belonged to the Mt. Pleasant charge. They were ministered to after him by Rev. Weinel, Rev. Voight and Rev. A. J. Heller. The Baptist Church was organized in Donegal on June 13, 1834, with Rev. John P. Rockefeller as pastor.

About 1801 the citizens along the banks of Four Mile Run in the northern part of Donegal township erected a school house on the farm lately belonging to David Fiscus, and James Wilson was its first teacher. It was the first school house of which we have any knowledge in the southern part of the valley. It was followed, of course, by others. The school houses were almost invariably built of unhewn logs, and the spaces between them were filled with clay. They had puncheon floors generally, but not always, for sometimes the floors were made of clay. They had clapboard roofs and a large fireplace which extended almost along the entire building. The teachers were men of limited education. If they could read, write and cipher as far as the single rule of three, and were muscularly strong enough to whip the boys, they could find employment and were regarded as good teachers. Among the early teachers were James Wilson, Charles Johnston, James Alexander, James Henry and others. In Donegal they built two school houses of a substantial nature in 1818. Hays' School was built in 1820; Stahlstown in 1821, and Union School was built in 1828 or 1829. This last school was built by members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was used during the week in the winter time for a school house, and all the year around on Sunday for church purposes.

Stahlstown is rather a thriving village, eight miles south of Ligonier, on the main road leading from Ligonier to Donegal. It is not incorporated but is a very pretty and cleanly kept village.

When the common school system went into operation in 1834 the citizens of Donegal township were greatly opposed to it. The first directors were Peter Kistler, James W. Jones, William Campbell and Hugh Caven, who were bitterly opposed to the system, and Thomas Richards and Peter Gay, who were favorable to it. The majority of the board of directors being opposed to it, the operation of the law was crippled from the beginning. Its opponents finally yielded and laid the township off into subdistricts, levied school taxes, etc. In 1838 another vote was taken in Donegal township on the school system, and it was carried in favor of the system by a small majority. Among the leading directors from the years 1834 to 1850 were David Bell, Thomas Johnston, Simon Snyder and William Fetter, while the leading supporters of the school system were John Caven, William R. Hunter, John Weimer, John Johnston and others. The Bible was the principal text-book. The examination of teachers as to their qualifications to teach was very superficial. The writer's informant has told him that in 1845 the committee appointed to examine a teacher heard him read and gave him one example in simple interest, which he solved correctly and so was allowed to teach. A great deal of progress has been made in education and church work in the last fifty years, so that the township and the borough of Donegal take rank with any rural community in our county in this direction. The township has eleven schools with three hundred and fifty-five pupils enrolled. 


One of the largest and most important townships in the county is the township of Derry. It was established and organized by the court of quarter sessions at April term of court, held in Hannastown in 1775. It was, moreover, the first township erected after the original ones erected when the county was formed. The original boundaries began at the Loyalhanna and ran thence along the Fairfield line to Blacklick Creek, thence to the Conemaugh River and down the river to the Kiskiminetas; and thence by the Loyalhanna to the place of beginning. It was therefore much larger originally than at the present time. It was cut down by the formation of Indiana county; and by the formation of Loyalhanna township on the Westmoreland side. The township is now bounded on the north by the Conemaugh River, which separates Westmoreland from Indiana county; on the east by the townships of Fairfield and Ligonier, the dividing line being the crest of Chestnut Ridge; on the south by the townships of Unity and Salem, the natural boundary line being Loyalhanna Creek; and on the northwest by the township of Loyalhanna. The boroughs within the limits of the township are: Latrobe, New Alexandria, Livermore, Derry and Cokeville.

The first settlement made in Derry township was almost as early as the earliest in the county. Some of the soldiers who came west with Forbes' army settled there as early as 1762, and were there as pioneers and citizens when Pontiac's war came in 1763. Among the very first, if not the first settlers, was John Pomroy. He had been a farmer in the Cumberland valley, and was of Scotch-Irish descent. He had heard of the large quantity of land in this section from the soldiers that had returned with Forbes' army, and he made up his mind to leave the rich Cumberland valley and come and locate west of the Alleghany mountains. He came west on the Forbes road and stopped at Fort Ligonier, where he had relatives living, and who were compelled to live under the shadow of the garrison because of the Indians. He did not remain in the valley, but crossed the Chestnut Ridge, selected a piece of land, and took possession of it. Upon it he built a rude log cabin. Not long after that another white man came to visit him and located on a tract of land nearby. His name was James Wilson. Both names are familiar to all who are conversant with our pioneer history. These two tracts of land were near the present site of New Derry. They assisted each other in improving them, and Pomroy assisted Wilson in building his cabin, which was about a mile from Pomroy's. During the first summer, which was probably the summer of 1762, they raised some corn and potatoes and cleared small pieces of ground upon which they sowed wheat and rye. They had brought the seed from the garrison of Fort Ligonier, it being one of the provisions of the English government while it held dominion in western Pennsylvania, that seeds of all kinds must be furnished to the settlers. This has been treated of in former chapters. Late in the fall they killed some game and stored it away that they might get it in the spring, and then they set out for a trip east of the mountains, where their friends lived. They passed the winter in the east, and when spring came they met by previous arrangement and started for their new homes west of the Alleghany mountains, then known only as the extreme frontier of Cumberland county, for it was many years before the formation of Bedford county. On this second trip they were accompanied by an Irishman named Dunlap, who came for the purpose of buying skins and furs from the Indians. He had heard great stories about the love of the Indians for knives, beads and trinkets, and came well supplied with these, as well as with a stock of rum, all of which he brought west on horseback. The pioneers found their cabins undisturbed, though there were signs that the Indians had visited them. Word was soon sent abroad among the Indians, and a great many of them made their appearance at Pomroy's camp laden with furs and peltry of all kinds. The bartering went on very rapidly, for the anxiety of the Indians to obtain trinkets, brooches, knives, etc., that Dunlap had brought made them offer almost any valuable fur they had for them. Finally the rum was brought out, and this pleased the Indians still more. They had formerly learned the effects of this drink upon their race, and had established a system, which they exercised here; that is, before giving themselves entirely to its effects, they selected one of their number who should drink nothing, that he might watch the interests of the rest. All the skins which they had, which included the entire work of the winter before, were soon traded to Dunlap for trinkets and for a few canteens of rum. The latter was greatly relished by the Indians, who became very dangerous in the night. As the Indians drank more, Dunlap weakened the rum with water that its effects might be less upon the Indians' mind, for he feared these hostile men when they drank too much. Dunlap refused ever to go into the business again. Pomroy and Wilson escorted him part of the way home, that is to Ligonier, where he fell in with some others returning east from Fort Pitt. Then the two pioneers returned to their clearings and devoted themselves, like honest men, to the clearing away of the forest, and the breaking up of the soil. The second winter they again visited their old homes in the east, and when they came back each brought with him a wife. Pomroy's wife was Isabel Barr, the daughter of a neighbor in Cumberland valley, who himself subsequently migrated to Derry township. With him came his two sons, James and Alexander Barr, also William Guthrie and Richard Wallace, and others whose names are lost to us. These two women were the first to locate in western Pennsylvania. It is said that they often went out with the men when they were surveying land, being afraid to remain at home because of the treacherous Indians who were scouting around. 

George Findley very early settled in this same community, being a near neighbor of Pomroy's and Wilson's. Both were there before the treaty of 1768, and therefore had no legal right to the land upon which they lived. About 1776 Findley brought his wife out from Hagerstown, Maryland, and they lived in a cabin which he had previously erected. They had to repeatedly seek shelter in Fort Palmer, in Fairfield township, and in Fort Ligonier. 

Samuel Craig was another settler of Derry township. He removed from New Jersey to Westmoreland county about 1770, and purchased a large farm on the Loyalhanna, where the Crabtree run flows into it. He entered the Revolutionary war and was with Washington in a number of campaigns. His three sons, John, Alexander and Samuel, were also soldiers in the Revolution. After the father returned from the war he took an active part in the defense of the frontiers from the Indians, and filled several military offices among the Home Guards. The duties of one of these offices called him to Fort Ligonier, a place he had frequently visited. He started out one morning and was never heard of again. His horse was found on Chestnut Ridge, between his home and the fort, with eight bullet holes in it, but all efforts of the family to obtain any information about Captain Craig were fruitless. The Craig boys were active soldiers in the Revolutionary war. Alexander at one time had a lock of hair shot off his head by a bullet from the enemy. In 1793 he was commissioned a colonel in the militia, and was a brigadier in 1807 and again in 1811. He was, however, better known as Captain Craig, and with the Shields, Sloans, Wilsons and Wallaces, formed a strong band of fighting men who in an early day defended the settlers of Derry township from the meandering Indians. He is buried in Congruity churchyard, about eight miles north of Greensburg. His brother John afterwards moved to a farm near Freeport, and earned the high respect of his neighbors in that community. He lived to be ninety-five years old.

Fort Barr and Fort Wallace were two early forts in Derry township. They were used in Dunmore's war, but were built some years before that to protect the citizens against the Indians. Some claim that they were erected as early as 1764 or 1765, but there was no settlement in Derry township at that time sufficiently strong to warrant the building of a fort. There were but few forts built in the county prior to 1770. Fort Barr was located on the farm of one of the Barrs, and was about a mile north of New Derry. By some it was called Fort Gilson. Fort Wallace was about five miles distant, and was erected on a farm belonging to a man named Wallace, on McGee's run. Craig's Fort on the Loyalhanna, near New Alexandria, came later, as did the fort on the John Shields place, within four miles of Hannastown. Both of these forts were erected about 1774, as a protection against the Indians and against marauding armies in Dunmore's war. 

All these, while called forts, were in reality only blockhouses, and have been sufficiently described in previous chapters. There was a signal which was agreed upon among the settlers, that when three rifle shots were fired in quick succession the men must flee to the blockhouses or forts. Colonel James Wilson used to relate that he stood rifle in hand watching for ambushing Indians while his wife went to the spring for water. Richard Wallace was taken a prisoner by the Indians and was taken to various points in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. He was finally sent to Montreal, where he was exchanged and came home after an absence of eighteen months. The last hostile demonstration about Fort Wallace was after the Revolutionary war, in 1783. At that time a half-breed, who had been in the British service, approached the fort with a flag which he used as a decoy. But the settlers had been frequently deceived in this manner, and they made short work of him by shooting him before he reached the fort. He was buried where he fell. It was Richard Wallace, who after he had put his farm in fine order, erected a mill with one set of stones. Before this the grain raised by the settlers was pounded in mortars with stones. 

James Wilson was one of the foremost men in Derry township. His farm near New Derry contained about eight hundred acres, and is now a very valuable piece of land, but in that day he had hard work to procure enough money from one year's end to another to pay the tax collector. He lived on this farm until 1820, the year in which he died. In appearance he was a typical pioneer, over six feet tall, and very straight and active. His remains and those of his wife and a married daughter, a Mrs. Knott, are buried on the farm near their home.

Colonel Wallace and James Pomroy remained close friends, and were only separated by death. Pomroy was never as much of a military leader as Wallace was, but was a more prominent leader in civil life. He, it will be remembered, was one of the five commissioners appointed by the Act of Assembly in 1785 to locate a county seat, which appointment resulted in the selection of Greensburg. When Alexander Allison was on the bench, Pomroy was an associate judge and served this county in that capacity for many years. He had a brother, Francis Pomroy, who lived near him, and who was likewise held in high esteem.

William Guthrie was another early settler of Derry township. He made application for three hundred and fifty acres of land when the Land Office was opened, in 1769, and it has been kept by his descendants almost continually since. He also took an active part in the border troubles, and was a militia officer in 1794. His son, James, served in the war of 1812. William Guthrie built a stone house on his farm in 1799.

Captain John Shields came from Adams county to Westmoreland in 1766. He was a man of great physical strength, well suited to bear the hardships incident to pioneer life. The land he purchased was near the present town of New Alexandria. He was a captain in the Revolutionary war, and faithfully performed his duties. Mr. Shields was a man of more than ordinary education. He was also a blacksmith, and had made pinchers and tools with which he could extract teeth, there being no dentists, and most of the time no physicians within reach. He could also reduce a fractured leg or arm. He was one of the five commissioners appointed in 1785 to purchase land in trust for the inhabitants of the county upon which to erect a court house. He was also a justice of the peace, and for many years a ruling elder in the Congruity Church, when Rev. Samuel Porter was pastor. He died November 3, 1821, aged eighty two years, and was buried in Congruity cemetery. 

Other settlers in this township were Thomas Allison, George Trimble, Alexander Taylor, John Lytle, Daniel Elgin, Conrad Rice, Thomas Wilkins, Daniel McKisson, James Mitchell, Andrew Dixon, John Agey, Thomas McCree, Thomas Burns, William Lowry, John Wilson, Robert Pilson, John Thompson, Patrick Lydick, James Simpson, Christopher Stutchall, William Smith, Nathaniel, Jonathan and Zebulon Doty, Joseph Pounds and Alexander McCurdy and others. 

Few townships have as many interesting incidents in their history as has Derry township. It was peculiarly laid open to Indian incursions as they came down from the north. They were moreover annoyed a great deal because of wild animals. Bears in great numbers harbored within the limits of the ridge, and came down from the wilds north of the Conemaugh river. For many years in the early part of last century the farmers had to keep their hogs enclosed during most of the year, and sheep were continually carried off by the wolves. At night these animals made hideous sounds as they prowled around homesteads in search of domestic animals, so that the country was literally then nothing more than a "howling wilderness." There was no howl more dismal to an early settler and his family than the howl of a famished wolf, unless it was the blood-curdling war-cry of the Indian, which was frequently heard by the early inhabitants of Derry township. Other wild animals, such as panthers, catamounts and foxes, were common in this region, and were for many years a great impediment to agriculture. 

General Alexander Craig referred to above, was born November 20, 1755. He was married to Jane Clark, the second daughter of James Clark. The marriage ceremony was performed by the noted pioneer minister, Rev. James Power. The bride was arrayed in a home-grown and home-spun linen dress, bleached until it was perfectly white. General Craig was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of militia in 1793, and a brigadier-general in 1807 and again in 1811. When the war of 1812 broke out he was greatly excited, and at length said, "I have but one son, and he is too delicate to perform military duties, but if I can be of any use, though growing old, I am willing to enlist." The farm upon which he lived had been purchased in 1773 from Samuel Wallace, a merchant of Philadelphia, who had purchased it in 1769 from Loveday Allen. After the trouble with the Indians was over, General Craig often met with them, for he was a surveyor and did much outside work. He often visited camps, and displayed such skill in shooting at a mark that they thought there must be some charm or witchery about his gun. The whites in Derry township, as elsewhere, were always prejudiced against the Indians, but General Craig sympathized with them as far as possible, and treated them kindly. He was for several years agent of Governor Mifflin for lands which he owned in this section, which was then called the backwoods. He did not have the advantage of as liberal an education as many of his day, but he had good judgment, was fond of reading, and had a retentive memory. In his old age therefore his mind was well stored with useful knowledge. He was about six feet tall, and very muscular. His death occurred on the 29th of October, 1832, aged seventy-seven years, and he was buried at Congruity cemetery.

Thomas Anderson, another Revolutionary leader, lived with Colonel Guthrie, the elder, and died in his home in 1827. Michael Churn, Sr., settled in Derry township in 1782. John McGuire, a neighbor of Churn's, settled near him in 1778. Robert Armstrong was another early settler near Salem church, and at his house were held the first itinerate services of the Methodist church in that community. Lorenzo Dow, the noted and eloquent preacher, so famous in the Christian world a century ago, was frequently a guest at his house. Peter Knight settled near the village of St. Clair, and was one of the ancestors of the Saxman's and Schall's. Andrew Allison took up land on the banks of the Loyalhanna between Latrobe and Kingston, near the Kingston House. His daughter was married to Charles Mitchell. John Sloan was also a near neighbor, and of these in the Indian days we have spoken in another chapter. Thomas Culbertson settled in an early date north of Latrobe. To him is given the honor of building the first stone house in that part of the country. William Hugus was another of the early settlers. His oldest son was said to be the first male child born in Derry township, but of this we are not certain. James Cummins settled near the Chestnut Ridge about the close of the Revolutionary war. Hugh Cannon was one of the first settlers on the land near Derry Station. He was a teamster, and brought flour and salt from the eastern side of the mountain, and lived until 1818. He had a son Alexander Cannon, who died in 1842 in the seventy-second year of his age, who often spoke of the hardships he had endured in the pioneer days.

A great natural curiosity of Derry township is commonly called the "Bear Cave." It is a cavern among the rocks on Chestnut Ridge, and is closest to Hillside Station, on the Pennsylvania railroad. There have been many descriptions of it in newspapers and periodicals. It was first made known throughout the press in 1840, when it seems to have been thoroughly explored. In 1842 it was explored by a party of young men and women from Blairsville. After entering they divided into two parties, one going to the right hand and the other to the left. They passed over many deep fissures, and could hear water gurgling far below them, so far below that the light of their torches did not reveal it. In some places, when passing through the cave, one must crawl on his hands and knees, and at other times he must stoop slightly, but for the greater part of the distance the rocks above him are higher than his head. Writers have said that they have explored as high as forty-nine different rooms in the cave, all varying in size from eight to thirty or forty feet square. Large quantities of carbonate of lime are found on every hand. Among the names chiseled on the rocks is that of Norman McLeod. Many of the chambers are studded with stalactites, and inhabited by bats. There are many chasms and long dark halls reaching from one room to another. Rooms have been given high sounding names by the inhabitants and by those who frequently visit them, such as "Snake Chamber," the "Altar Room," and "Senate Chamber."

The early schools of Derry township were all built of logs, as was the case throughout other townships, and, as we have said elsewhere, until 1825 there was not a frame school house within the limits of Derry township nor were there any in the county. The desks were, as usual, fastened around the wall, and the seats, called "peg seats," without backs, were the best found in any school in the township. An early teacher was Tawny Hill. James McCallip taught the McClelland school about 1830. William Cochran taught the first free school at McClelland's after the adoption of the free school law. His teaching was notable because of its religious features. He opened school with prayer, had a Bible class twice a day, and read in the New Testament four times a day. The Shorter Catechism was the leading text-book. His mode of punishment was to compel the unruly pupils to commit part of the Catechism or verses of the Bible. He was succeeded by Mr. Wheeler, from one of the eastern states. It is worthy of mention in this connection that both John W. Geary, afterwards a governor of Pennsylvania, and his father, Edward Geary, were at one time teachers in Derry township.

The Salem Presbyterian Church made a call for a pastor to the Red Stone Presbytery in October, 1786, so that they must have been formed some time prior to that date. They were preached to by supplies for four or five years after 1786. They had no meeting house, but used a tent as a place of worship. Later they built a log house, put a stove in it, and called it a Session House, but this was used only in cold weather or on wet days, for they preferred holding services outside in mild weather. Before the close of last century they had built a much larger log church, certainly the largest then in the county. It was seventy by forty feet in the main, and in the center it was forty-six feet wide. The recess on the inside was utilized for the pulpit. There was a sounding board over the preacher's head, and his platform was about eight steps above the congregation. There was a door in each end of the old log church, and there were afterwards seventy-one long seats in it, and six or eight hundred people could be accommodated in the church at once. For many years there were no seats at all, and then after a while the communicants began to bring sawed planks for seats, and sometimes they used a wide rail which with four pins in it for legs, afforded a comparatively good seat. This church for a good many years did not have a stove in it, and the Session House, which stood close to it, was used in extremely cold weather for those who got very cold to warm up in. In 1832 the log church was sealed with boards and plastered on the side walls. In 1848 a boy in kindling the fire put shavings into the stove, and some of the sparks fell on the old wooden roof, and when the people assembled for prayer meeting, the time honored house, which they had cherished so long, and reverenced so deeply because of its early history, was rapidly being consumed by the flames. In 1790 this church (that is, Salem Church) with the Unity Church, called Rev. John McPherrin to minister to them. He was installed on the 20th of September, and preached there for thirteen years. In 1803 the two churches had some difficulty and he was released from further services at the Unity Church. From there he went to Butler county, where he spent the remainder of his life as a minister, dying there February 10, 1823, in the sixty-fifth year of his age. He was regarded by most of the Salem Church communicants as one of the ablest preachers of his day. Rev. Thomas Moore was called to preach there in 1804, but there is no record of his installation. He was dismissed in 1809, and the congregation was supplied with various pastors until 1813, when, on April 21st, Robert Lee was called and installed shortly afterwards. He was a tall slender man, with a thundering voice, and, it is said, would not allow a child to sleep in church. He was released by the Salem Church in 1819, and moved to Ohio. Thomas Davis, an Englishman, who had long been an elder in the Second Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, had been licensed to preach by the Red Stone Presbytery when over fifty years of age. He was sent to Salem and West Union as a supply, but they were so pleased with him that they retained him, and in October, 1822, he was installed as the regular pastor of Salem Church. He preached to them about nineteen years, although in the meantime he had been crippled for life by the fall of a limb from a tree, and his labors were attended with great difficulty. He died May 28, 1848, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. The old log church was burned down but a short time before he died. After the burning of the church they held services in a barn belonging to John Robinson. Rev. Davis was a plain, earnest and impressive talker, and with a better preliminary education might have ranked as one of the great pastors of his day. Rev. George Hill began to preach at Salem and Blairsville churches in 1840, following Rev. Davis. From March, 1841, he preached regularly until his death. After a vacancy Rev. Reuben Lewis was installed as pastor in 1851. He was released in January, 1855, and his successor, J. P. Fullerton, was installed in 1857. Rev. William F. Hamilton began to preach there in 1868.

The New Alexandria Presbyterian Church was organized October 4, 1836. It consisted then of about seventy-one members. Rev. Adam Torrance was its first pastor, being installed June 13, 1838. The charge has always had a high standing in Presbyterianism in the county because of the high standing and character of its members.

The Livermore Presbyterian Church was organized in 1851, with Rev. George Morton as its pastor. He was released on April 1, 1853. During several succeeding years there were few supplies, and they were seldom ministered to. In May, 1861, Rev. J. B. Dickey was installed for half of the time. Rev. Dickey was released in June of 1863, and in October, 1865, Rev. David Harbison was called and supplied this church for half the time for eighteen months, after which he moved to New Salem Church. Rev. W. F. Hamilton was his successor, and divided his time between Livermore and Salem. He was installed on September 14, 1868. The first house of worship at Livermore was a frame structure, in which the Baptists had a share. At present it is a comfortable brick house, which was built in 1862.

As has been seen in the general history of the Roman Catholic Church in Westmoreland county, in an early day they had a small site in Derry township. In 1844 Rev. J. J. Stillinger began to minister to the people between Blairsville and St. Vincent's, at a log church called Mt. Carmel. The church in Derry was erected in 1856, with Rev. Alto, of St. Vincent's, as pastor, until 1861, when Rev. T. Kearney, who had the charge at Latrobe, took charge of it at the same time. The line of public works, the first canal, the railroad, etc., running through the township, brought a large number of foreign laborers into it, a large proportion of whom were Catholics, and the erection of churches to accommodate them became a necessity. The number of Catholics who became permanent inhabitants of Derry township increased correspondingly. They were supplied regularly from the monastery at St. Vincent's until 1856. The township of Derry has fifty-one schools, with 2,192 pupils enrolled.


Livermore borough is also within the limits of Derry township, and was formerly a canal town. It was laid out in 1827 by John Livermore, who named it after himself. It has not increased greatly, though it maintains several stores, and three churches - the Methodist, Presbyterian and United Brethren. It was incorporated by the Westmoreland courts on February 13, 1865. The men principally interested in its incorporation were John Hill, Richard Freeland, James Duncan and G. M. Beham. It has one school with thirty-two pupils.

The village of New Derry is one of the old time villages of the county and is much older than Derry, which is near by and in the same township.


Derry is a modern railroad town situated forty-five miles east of Pittsburgh, and at the base of the Chestnut Ridge. It has grown up entirely since the building of the railroad, and mostly since 1870. The Pennsylvania railroad has many sidings there, and it is the end of a "run." Resultant from this arrangement a great many railroad men live in the town, and it is essentially a railroad town. It was formerly called Derry Station, and was incorporated under its present name the 22nd of October, 1881. The first election was held on Tuesday, November 8th, following, at the schoolhouse No. 28, in Derry township. Henry Neely was appointed judge of the election, and Messrs. Wynn and Sweeney were appointed inspectors. Derry has sixteen schools, with 648 pupils enrolled.


It is impossible from the court house records to determine the date of the organization of Franklin township. It was some time between 1785 and 1788, for in 1785 it is not mentioned in the list of townships, but in 1788 it and Salem are both mentioned as having constables in attendance at court. The early settlers were William Meanor, Robert Hays, Michael Rugh, Finley, Stitt, John Hill, Matthew Gordan, and others. William Meanor is said to have bought a piece of land from an Indian for a keg of tobacco and a rifle, and upon this land he built the first house in the township. This was about 1759. On April 3, 1769, immediately upon the opening of the land office, Robert Hays applied for a piece of land in this township, the price of which was forty five pounds, two shillings and six pence. He was granted a tract of 339� acres. Soon after this he built a house upon it, close to a house afterwards built and lately occupied by David Steel. They were both built of logs, with puncheon floors and wooden chimneys. The wooden chimney was made of small ends of logs with plastering between them, and the plastering was made thick enough to overlap and thoroughly cover the inside of the logs or sticks composing the chimney, so that the smoke and sparks would in no way touch the logs. The furniture consisted of rude wooden tables, split logs for benches, deer horn rifle racks, etc. The first settlers came from the counties east of the Alleghany mountains. They were prosperous, and others followed rapidly, so that the wilderness was transformed into fertile fields even before the Revolutionary war. They had great troubles with the Indians, because their northern boundary lay near the Indian country across the Kiskiminetas, then the central part of Westmoreland county. In 1788 Michael Rugh and his wife, son and daughter, were captured by the Indians and taken to their camp in the northern part of the state. They were kept there in captivity during the winter of 1778 and 1779, and from there in the spring of 1779 they were taken to Canada and held there for three years, after which, at the close of the Revolution, they were sent to New York city, from which place they made their way back to their home, which has since descended to John Haymaker, the present owner. Michael Rugh resided on his home until his death in 1820. During their captivity their son died, but his wife survived all these hardships, and died in 1809. His daughter, who was also taken a captive, survived, and was married to Jacob Haymaker, in 1794. Michael Rugh was elected to the house of representatives after the state government was formed. Robert Hays and son were also early settlers, and were captured by the Indians, and held by them for three years, during which time the son acquired a taste for the wild life of the Indians, and was with difficulty persuaded to leave them. Even after he returned to Westmoreland, it is said that he spent nearly all of his time in fishing and hunting. When his father was released he returned to his farm, and at a later raid of the Indians, when he was assisting in the defense of his home, he was killed in his own doorway.

The first constable elected in Franklin township was Samuel Sword, and the first schools we have any information concerning were established in 1800. In these reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic were the only branches taught. An early grist-mill was built at Murrysville, and a saw-mill of William McWilliams was built near by, at which the timber for the surrounding meeting house was sawed. About 1776 Jonathan Hill, father of Jacob Hill, took up a tract of land near the township line. The land is now owned by the Geigers, Slocum, Silvis, Steel and others. In the spring he set out to procure apple trees to plant on his land. On his return he was waylaid on the hill near Joseph Lauffer's house, and scalped by the Indians and killed. He was buried on the site where Drum's Church is erected. His son, Jacob Hill, inherited his property and erected an old fashioned distillery on it. Among the early settlers in the county were the Wilsons, Borlands, Humes, Bethumes, Riddles, Wallaces, Beemers, Remaleys, Andersons, Walps, Hamiltons, Lairds, Longs, Elwoods, Fergusons, Hays, Pattersons, McCutcheons, Haymakers, Berlins, McCalls, Rughs, Kings, Chambers, Snyders, Kuhns, Oglees, McAlisters, Tallants, Dibles, Wigles, Beacons, Parks and Taylors. In 1794 one of the soldiers who came from eastern Pennsylvania to put down the Whisky Insurrection was Jacob Berlin. Prior to that an uncle of his, Jacob Berlin, had removed to that part of Franklin township now included in Penn township. The young soldier was released from military service in Pittsburgh and came to visit his uncle. He liked the country so well that a year later he returned with a young wife and made his home in Franklin township. The maiden name of his wife was Eve Carbaugh. Later he settled on the Fink and Lauffer farms. Many of the early citizens of this township walked to Brush creek, fifteen miles away, regularly on Sunday to attend church, because there was no nearer house of worship. There their children were baptized by Rev. John William Weber. Near Emanuel Church, as it is now known, formerly stood a log dwelling where Rev. Weber frequently preached prior to his death, which occurred in 1816. In 1828 the Lutherans in connection with the Reformed Church built a church which was called Union Church. The site for it was donated by Philip Drum and Peter Hill, both members of the Reformed Church. Philip Drum was a Revolutionary soldier, and lived in this community until he was ninety-six years old. The members of this church hewed logs on their own farms and hauled them to the place where the church was built, and when they had a sufficient number on the ground they called in their neighbors and erected the church. The women of the country met on the same day and provided a good dinner. The principal men who took part in this church building were Philip Drum, John Kemerer, Philip Cline, Michael Cline, John Cline, Peter Hill, John Lauffer of the Reformed Church, and George Hobaugh of the Lutheran Church. The church was seated with rough boards or trestles. In 1845 this church was enlarged by cutting out the one end and adding to it a frame structure of fourteen feet. The whole building was at the same time weather-boarded, and a high pulpit, known as the "Wine Glass Pulpit," was constructed. Rev. Weinel ministered to these people until 1852 and 1853, when there were seventy-three communicants. After him came Nicholas P. Hacke, who held services there over four years, preaching one-half of the time in German and one-half of the time in English. In 1856 a building committee was appointed, and they erected a new building of brick, sixty-five by forty-four feet, and twenty-eight feet to the square. It was of Gothic structure and cost a little less than $3,000.00. It was dedicated on Easter Sunday, in April, 1858. Dr. Hacke was its pastor until 1867. His successor was J. F. Snyder. In 1873 this charge was united with that of the Olive charge, and in 1876 a parsonage was erected on a lot donated by Peter Pifer. The first Lutheran pastor who preached at this church was Michael John Steck, who was succeeded by Jonas Mechling, Zimmerman Myers, A. Yetter, S. J. Fink and others. The Olive Reformed Church was built by old settlers, who were called together by Rev. Weinel in 1816. A congregation was organized, but the date is not exactly known. Two lots were offered to them, and two log houses were built in 1817. One was known as the Beemer Church, and the other was known as the Hankey Church, taking their names from the man who had donated the lots upon which they were built. Mr. Weinel preached to both these people until 1837. He was followed by Rev. Voight in 1840, who continued to preach to them for sixteen years, when age compelled him to retire, in 1858. Rev. R. P. Thomas then supplied the Hankey Church, and the Beemer Church was so dilapidated and out of repair by this time that it was abandoned. In the meantime both congregations had been almost entirely absorbed by the Lutheran Church, because neither places had had regular services. At a meeting of the Westmoreland Classis in 1867 the Beemer-Hankey Church matter was brought up, and Rev. T. F. Stauffer was appointed to preach to them and unite the congregations. Hankey's Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1856, though preaching had been held in the old log structure known as Hankey's Union Church since 1817. The corner stone of the new edifice was laid in 1859. The first pastor was Rev. L. M. Kuhns, and the membership at that time was quite large. 

The Murrysville Presbyterian Church was organized in 1830 by Rev. Francis Laird, and services were first held in the house of the founder of Murrysville, Jeremiah Murry. He ministered to them until 1850, and died April 6, 1851, aged eighty-one years, and in the fifty-fourth year of his ministry. He was followed by Rev. L. L. Conrad, who also preached at this church and at Cross Roads, and who was followed in 1854 by Rev. William Edgar. In 1866 Rev. G. M. Spargrove began preaching there. In 1869, however, a brick house in which the members had worshipped from 1840 become too small, and in its stead a two-story brick structure was erected. A year or two later a tornado carried off a large part of the roof and greatly damaged the house. Mr. Spargrove continued pastor of this church until his death, October 30, 1880.

The old town of Murrysville has in the past twenty-five years become greatly noted because of a gas well which was struck there in 1878. The town was laid out by Jeremiah Murry. He had been born in Ireland, and we believe his name was McMurry, he having dropped the "Mc" before coming to America. The town was on the northern turnpike, and was built about 1820. Murry came to this country in 1781, in his twenty-second year, living first in the Cumberland valley, where he stayed but a few months. He then crossed the Alleghany mountains on foot, as a peddler, with his pack on his back. His first stop in this county was at Anderson's blockhouse. After selling his goods he invested in land upon which he located his farm and selected a mill site, which was clearly observable to his keen eye, but had not been noticed by prior settlers. He and a man named Cole, the latter a hunter whose cabin was destroyed by the Indians, were the first settlers in this section. The old Forbes road crossed Turtle creek near where the town of Murrysville is now located. The old Franktown road crosses the stream at nearly the same place. Both are marked by a sulphur spring. Murry built a cabin and kept a little store on the bank of the creek near where the Presbyterian church is erected. When the turnpike was made he established the town and built a brick residence which was the first house of any pretension in the town. He was a storekeeper all his life. He had married Ann Montgomery in Cumberland valley. One of his daughters, Sarah, was married to Dr. Benjamin Burrell, who was the father of Judge Jeremiah Murry Burrell, of the Westmoreland courts. Dr. Burrell died December 21, 1832, aged nearly forty-one years.

Near the house built by Murry, Dr. Stewart built a brick house in 1832, and a man named McWilliams also erected a brick tavern which was for many years kept as a public house in that place. Dr. Burrell was the first physician in Murrysville, and at his death came Dr. Charles J. Kenley and Dr. Z. G. Stewart. Dr. Zachariah G. Stewart was born in Huntingdon county, in 1805, and was the son of Thomas H. and Anna Harris Stewart. He read medicine in the east and located in Pittsburgh. After practicing there a short time he removed to Murrysville in 1828. There he was married to Jane, a daughter of Rev. Francis Laird. He remained in the practice of medicine in Murrysville until 1858, when he removed to Canonsburg that he might better educate his children. He died in Canonsburg in 1863 from overexertion on the Gettysburg battlefield, where he had hastened with many other physicians when the news of the great battle in Pennsylvania called for medical aid from all sections of the state. His wife died February 23, 1879. She was the sister of Harrison P. and John M. Laird, late of Greensburg. Jeremiah Murry was for many years the leading business man, merchant, justice of the peace, etc., of the neighborhood. He was a man of much native intellect, energy, and enterprise, and was very wealthy for that age. It is said that in one direction to the northeast of Murrysville, he could travel five miles on his own land, much of which had been purchased with merchandise sold from his store. He had a son, General James Murry, who was a man of considerable talent and fine address. Dr. J. S. Murry, a son of James Murry, was a noted physician. J. M. Carpenter, a prominent attorney of the Pittsburgh bar at the present time, is a great-grandson of the original Jeremiah Murry.

An old academy of note at this place was the Turtle Creek Academy, which was founded in 1861 by Francis Laird Stewart, a son of Dr. Z. G. Stewart. For some years it was held in a frame building belonging to the Doctor. When the new Presbyterian Church was built it was held in the basement of the church. Mr. Stewart was succeeded as principal by Rev. G. M. Spargrove, who conducted it until his death, in October, 1880, and was succeeded by Rev. J. I. Blackburn.

The celebrated Murrysville gas well was the most noted feature of the old town. It was found on real estate owned by Henry Remaley, on the bank of the Turtle Creek. They were boring for oil when they struck an immense gas well at a depth of fourteen hundred feet. It was the first gas well in this county, and its equal in output has never since been struck. For some years it was allowed to blow, and all its power went to waste. In 1880 it was utilized for the first time by Haymaker Brothers and H. J. Brunot, who erected a lampblack works there and carried on the manufacture of lampblack from the escaping gas on an extensive scale until September 18, 1881, when the works caught fire and burned to the ground. It was a very cheap method of manufacturing carbon, and was one of the wonders of the age. The well was said to be the largest in the world. Its flaming fire issuing from the earth could be seen at night a distance of eight or ten miles, and its roaring sound was distinctly heard for five or six miles. It was visited by hundreds of people who came from all parts of the world. Among them were many distinguished scientists of that day who wished to examine into its working and to analyze its gas. Later the gas of this well was piped to Pittsburgh, and other wells were bored in the same community, which doubtless struck the same vein and produced the same quality of gas, though of less quantity. Gas lines were laid from this region to Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Greensburg, and various other surrounding localities, and for some years gave a great impetus to the industries of western Pennsylvania. The reckless manner in which the gas was wasted soon brought about a diminution in the output, the popular opinion being at first that the supply was inexhaustible. To-day the Murrysville field produces but little gas, and the supply for these places has been searched for and found in other localities.


Washington township was organized in 1789 on the petition of certain inhabitants of Salem township, which set forth that the division of Salem and the formation of a new township would greatly benefit the citizens in the way of attending elections and conducting the business of the township in general. The court, considering the large territory in Salem, ordered that part of Salem beginning at a line between Salem and Franklin townships, thence by an eastern course to the head of a branch of Beaver run; thence down the said branch to where it empties into the main branch; and thence eastwardly where the land strikes the Kiskiminetas or Loyalhanna, should be called Washington township. The principal stream in Washington township is Beaver run, which was more famous in the early history than it has been since. In the central and southern part of the township there are extensive veins of coal, which is being mined. Outside of the coal industry the principal occupation of its citizens is agriculture.

Among the early settlers of the township were the Walters, Sloans, McKowns, Kearns, Branthoovers, McKillips, Chambers, Hills, Rughs, Calhouns, Steels, Georges, Bairs, Yockeys, Thompsons, McQuilkins, McQuaides, McCutcheons, etc. The first school in the township was organized in 1808 in a small building on the land of David Hilty. Its first teacher was Timothy Collins. The house was a typical pioneer schoolhouse, built of logs and lighted by strips of greased paper pasted on crevices between the logs, and heated by an old-fashioned fireplace. About the same time a man named Charles Foster taught school in an old deserted log building. Joseph Muffley also taught several sessions in the same township, and raised the grade of instruction considerably. The township adopted the free school system in 1836, after a sharply contested election. Among the first school directors were Alexander Thompson, John Reed, Adam Bowman. The first teachers were John McCormick, John Duff, Samuel McCormick and others. These were usually examined by John Craig, who himself had been a teacher in the early days.

One of the oldest churches is known as Poke Run Presbyterian Church, and was founded in 1783 or 1784 by Joseph Thorn, William Hill, John Hamilton, John Paul, David Carnahan and others. They applied to the Presbytery to have preaching by supplies at an old house on the banks of Poke Run, and from this it took its name. The house was used as a dwelling house and also as a preaching place. In 1789 the Poke Run congregation erected a log house there seventy feet by thirty, for by this time the membership had increased considerably. Rev. Samuel Porter was the first pastor in 1790. It was then on the front settlement and exposed to the Indians. Not infrequently did the people assemble there on Sunday morning for worship, each one bringing with him his rifle, powder-horn and bullet-pouch, for they knew not how soon a hostile band of Indians might pounce down on the congregation. When Rev. Porter first came to the community with his family he encamped by a large fallen tree, against which he leaned two forks or small saplings ten or twelve feet long, laid a pole across the forks, and on this laid others to serve as rafters, and stripped bark enough from trees to cover these rafters, and under this rudely constructed shed he and his family slept, and he prepared his sermons until their regular house could be built. Their meals were cooked on a fire made by the side of a log in the woods. Rev. Porter resigned in 1798 and took exclusive charge of the Congruity congregation. After him came Rev. Francis Laird, the progenitor of the Laird family of Greensburg, and the son-in-law of Judge John Moore. Rev. Laird had come from the east of the mountains, and at first preached to the Poke Run and Plum Creek congregations unitedly. He was installed on June 22, 1800. He served these people with great ability for twenty-nine years and a half, and then removed to Murrysville. Revs. Alexander and Martin followed him at Poke Run. Martin turned out to be an imposter, and was soon dismissed. In 1833 James Campbell was pastor, and he was followed in 1834 by Rev. David Kirkpatrick, who preached to them as a supply until 1838, when he was installed their regular pastor. He preached in the old log church until the brick church was built, which was in 1836. By this time they had grown enough to require his entire time as pastor, and they raised his salary to six hundred dollars a year. He was the father of the late Judge John M. Kirkpatrick, of Pittsburgh. Rev. Kirkpatrick continued to be pastor of this church until his death, January 5, 1869, a period of thirty years. He died at his residence near Oakland. He was one of the leading pastors in the Presbyterian Church, and was known far and wide as a scholar and a theologian. He was born in Ireland, and was a graduate of the University of Belfast. On his arrival in America he was engaged as principal of an academy at Milton, Pennsylvania, and while there had some students who became eminent in life. Among others were Governor Andrew G. Curtin. All his life he was more or less of a teacher, having under his pupilage young men who wanted to enter the ministry or other vocations in life, and he instructed them under the most rigid discipline. He won the highest respect of his neighbors, and all the community in general. Rev. Henry Bain succeeded Rev. Kirkpatrick in 1869. He came from Ohio and ministered to them with great intelligence and zeal. Through his efforts largely a new brick church, the present one, was built on the site of the old log church, and was dedicated in 1881. Rev. Bain came directly to them from the Theological Seminary. He had been bred a United Presbyterian, but joined the Presbyterian Church in Haysville, Ohio. He entirely remodeled and greatly improved the style of worship at Poke Run. When he came they used "tokens," "table seats," and a Scotch version of the Psalms. But these have all given away to the modern customs of Presbyterianism.

The Methodist Church at Oakland Cross Roads was erected in 1875 and was dedicated that fall, but there were few Methodists in the neighborhood.

The Pine Run Reformed Church was organized in North Washington township in 1861, with about twenty-seven members. The most of them originally belonged to the St. James Church at Salina, but they had a long distance to travel to worship, and therefore formed a new congregation. By contributing various sums from five to one hundred dollars, they secured enough money to build their church. Rev. R. P. Thomas was the pastor, and continued with them until 1863, when he was succeeded by Rev. Thomas J. Barklay, who remained in charge until the end of 1866. Rev. T. F. Stauffer succeeded him in 1867, and gave one-half of his time to St. James Church and one-half to the Poke Run congregation. He resigned in 1871 and removed to Allegheny county. His successor was Rev. J. B. Welty in 1872, who remained one year. After him came Rev. John Grant, and then Rev. John McConnell, who served as a supply, and in 1875 the congregation was able to maintain a pastor of its own, and Rev. Henry Bair took charge of it.

Washington township has fourteen schools, with 306 pupils enrolled.

Source: Page(s) 534 - 553, History of Westmoreland County, Volume I, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed February 2006 by Ronald J. Gray for the Westmoreland County History Project 
Contributed by Ronald J. Gray for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)

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