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Somerset History, Somerset County


Mar 28, 2015

The borough of Somerset is situated in the central part of the county, of which it has been the seat of justice since September, 1795, and enjoys the proud distinction of being the highest county-seat in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Prior to the beginning of the revolutionary war, this vicinity was part of Quemahoning township, of Bedford county and was sparsely settled. A few of the names of those who settled in the vicinity of the site of Somerset prior to the year of 1795 were: John Penrod, a hunter; Harmon Husband, Henry Bruner, George Bruner, Ulrich Bruner, Jonathan Buck, Peter Ankeny and Adam Schneider. It appears that Husband was the original owner of part of the town site. At an early day he transferred one hundred acres to the Bruners, who, before the year 1787, laid out town lots, streets, etc., and named the locality “Brunerstown.” Subsequently Adam Schneider became the owner of Brunerstown.

In the autumn of 1795–the 12th day of September to be exact–the town was renamed Somerset and became the seat of justice for the recently created county of Somerset. After this event, the town increased rapidly in numbers.

On March 5, 1804, by an act of the general assembly, the town was made a borough, and its corporate officers were thus empowered to assume the title of “the burgesses and town council of the borough of Somerset in the county of Somerset.”

The year 1808 witnessed a memorable Fourth-of-July celebration in Somerset. Also in 1808, an act was passed by the state legislature, authorizing certain citizens of Somerset to institute a lottery for the purpose of raising $3,000, with which to build a church. The commissioners named to attend to the matter were: Abraham Morrison, Peter Kimmel, Abraham Miller; John Tantlinger, Jacob Schneider and James Clark. This, doubtless, was the beginning of the movement which resulted in the building of the Union ”Stone Church” in 1810.

The Somerset Academy, another important adjunct to the town at an early day, was established by an act of the general assembly, passed March 9, 1810. It has been stated that Gen. Alexander Ogle, then state senator, secured the passage of the act and an appropriation of two thousand dollars. The building was completed about the year 1813 (upon grounds set apart for such purposes by Adam Schneider in 1795), and Mr. Cartell, a resident and “schoolmaster” in 1807, became its first principal. About the same time, 1812, the first newspaper printed in the English language was established by John Patton.

There were three major fires in the borough, all of which occurred on a Thursday. The first occurred on October 16, 1833, and had an estimated loss of $80,000. The”Great Fire of May 9, 1872″, ended with an estimated loss of between $800,000 and one million dollars, making it the most costly. The third fire occurred on a Thursday in the first part of May, 1876.

In 1883, the town had a total of 433 taxpayers, 208 dwelling houses, one gristmill, one machine-shop, one foundry, two school buildings, one banking house, six churches, and three hotels. It also contained the public buildings of the county and had the Somerset & Cambria branch of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad.

(Source: extracted from History of Bedford, Somerset & Fulton Counties, PA; 1884)

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