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…bringing our past into the future

Ursina, Somerset County


Mar 28, 2015

Ursina occupies the site of the Ream farm, and was the point of one of the earliest settlements in the Turkeyfoot region. Evidences of Indian occupation are abundant. Arrow and spear heads and other stone implements of the aboriginal race are frequently found, even at this day, in the soil along the river. There is a tradition that the settlers once had a sort of rude fortification on the bank of the stream near the lower end of the town, close beside the tree that bears the name of “The Fort Oak.” There is evidence that this was actually the case, a part of the works still being visible, while some of the logs, covered by the water of the river, are tolerably well- preserved. It is said that the old fort- house was connected with the, river by a covered passageway, so that the occupants of the building could procure water without exposing themselves to danger from the Indians.

Ursina received its somewhat fanciful name from the fact that it was laid out by Hon. William J. Baer,* now the president judge of this district, and who at that time owned the land on which the town was plotted. The town was laid out in 1868, H. L. Baer and R. J. Botzer being the surveyors.

The first house was built by Ephraim Kreger, in 1868, and was occupied as a hotel for several years. It is now a private dwelling.

The first store was erected in, 1868, by Isaac A. Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins still carries on the mercantile business. In 1881 he began the erection of a three-story frame addition to his store, 51 x 60 feet.

The first blacksmith-shop was built by Judge Baer, in 1868. John Anderson was the first blacksmith. The same year Judge Baer erected a sawmill, which was in operation for several years. A gristmill, which is still in operation, was added in 1871.

The first saddler was Amelius Hoffmeier; the first shoemaker, Norman Lichliter.

While the railroad was building, and for several years succeeding, the town grew quite rapidly, and many good and substantial buildings were erected.

In 1871 a stave factory was built and put in operation by Norman Lichliter. The building has recently been converted into a keg factory, owned by the Citizens’ Oil Refining Company and operated by Edward Alcott.

Joseph A.T. Hunter is a native of Bucks county. He came to Ursina in 1872, and at first worked at shoemaking. In 1878 he engaged in the mercantile business, which he still follows. One of Mr. Hunter’s Sons, Napoleon B., served in the late war, in the 18th Penn. Cay. He contracted disease, died, and was buried at Harper’s Ferry.

James Albright, merchant, was born and reared in Cumberland, Maryland. In 1859 he came to Somerset county and engaged in the mercantile business at Petersburg, for about four years. Thence he removed to Lavansville, where he followed the same occupation for about nine years. He then came to Ursina, built a store and engaged in business. Mr. Albright has held several borough offices.

Thomas Holliday, a shoemaker by trade, settled at Paddytown in 1803. He died in 1854 of a family of eleven children which he reared, there is only one survivor— Andrew, who is a shoemaker in Ursina.

Peter H. Sellers is a native of Bedford county. His grandfather, Jacob Sellers, and his father, John Sellers, were both residents of the same county. P.H. Sellers came to Somerset county in 1866, and settled at Shanksville. In 1869 he came to Ursina, built the store which he now occupies, and engaged in the mercantile business which he still follows. Mr. Sellers has held various borough offices.

The Ursina Branch railroad, built in 1871-2, was in operation for about three years, adding to the industries of this section the coal mines along its route.

A schoolhouse was erected in 1810, at a cost of about thirteen hundred dollars. The first teacher was John Griffith. In 1872 a two story brick school-building, 34 x 44 feet, with a seating capacity of three hundred, was erected at a cost of between seven thousand and eight thousand dollars. There is no better school- building in Somerset county.

Ursina was incorporated as a borough in 1872. In 1883 it had an estimated population of six hundred, and contained seven stores, one blacksmith-shop, two saddleryshops, three hotels, three shoeshops, two millinershops, one keg factory, three churches and two physicians.
*Ursus (Latin) signifies bear.

(History of Bedford, Somerset, & Fulton Counties, PA; 1884)

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